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Amplifier recommendations for 3A Signatures


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The time has come for a new amplifier for the 3A Signatures. I have been away from the equipment world for 20 years and things have changed a bit - no where to go demo equipment, take it home, make a decision.  Any counsel would be greatly appreciated.

My listening area is a lightly furnished 14 ft x 24 ft room with speakers 2 ft off the 14 ft wall, 10 ft apart from each other. My listening chair is 10 ft from the speakers. Spousal consideration dictates that this can not change (much).

Today's integrated amps look intriguing. Seems like the quality has really improved, but I'm not totally bought in to giving up separates. A couple amps that have pointed me in the integrated direction and begun to set my budget expectations:

Belles Aria Dual Mono Integrated

Musical Fidelity M6/M5 si

McIntosh MA 5300

Comments on any of these paired with the 3's, or other recommendations?

 

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1 hour ago, kpsc3A said:

The time has come for a new amplifier for the 3A Signatures. I have been away from the equipment world for 20 years and things have changed a bit - no where to go demo equipment, take it home, make a decision.  Any counsel would be greatly appreciated.

My listening area is a lightly furnished 14 ft x 24 ft room with speakers 2 ft off the 14 ft wall, 10 ft apart from each other. My listening chair is 10 ft from the speakers. Spousal consideration dictates that this can not change (much).

Today's integrated amps look intriguing. Seems like the quality has really improved, but I'm not totally bought in to giving up separates. A couple amps that have pointed me in the integrated direction and begun to set my budget expectations:

Belles Aria Dual Mono Integrated

Musical Fidelity M6/M5 si

 

McIntosh MA 5300

Comments on any of these paired with the 3's, or other recommendations?

 

DO NOT MAKE THIS KIND OF DECISION WITHOUT DOING THE DEMO!  It is not that difficult to get into the car or airplane and visit a dealer and do some listening (the cost of a mistake will cost a lot more).  The Model threes are 4 ohms and need a lot of control for great base so an integrated is not likely to be your best choice.  If you are going to accept this compromise for connivence you only can make that judgement.   RV

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I have always favoured running a mono block behind each speaker.
(I favour them in front of the speaker, but the mrs favours behind them.)

And if your front end gear is RCA or XLR/balanced, then it has a bearing on what mono blocks may be best.

But I am not an integrated amp type of fellow, and also like to keep speaker cables short.

 

5 hours ago, kpsc3A said:

Today's integrated amps look intriguing. Seems like the quality has really improved, but I'm not totally bought in to giving up separates. A couple amps that have pointed me in the integrated direction and begun to set my budget expectations:

Belles Aria Dual Mono Integrated

Musical Fidelity M6/M5 si

 

McIntosh MA 5300

Comments on any of these paired with the 3's, or other recommendations?

I got a few $70 AIYAMA (A-07) amps for AVR channels, and would suggest one behind each speaker and just running things with those until your searching finds something good.
Then just give to a niece/nephew/etc. when you are done.
Granted it was the Audible Illusions or Nagra preamp feeding them, but for $70/each, they are good enough to “scratch the itches” while one takes their time looking and working through global shipping delays.

I am also not sure if those coupled with a nice preamp is not about as good as an integrated with long speaker cables.
(Probably not, but they are surprisingly OK)

 

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What kind of budget to you have.  I assume you'll need both the pre and amp???  What's the rest of the system (source and cabling).  You will get a lot of opinions and none of us has your ears or listen in your room.  Every time I got audition and think I'm leaning a certain way, I end up changing my mind. My original Treo's were goign to be ProAc D1's to replace my Proac floor standers I had for over 20yrs.  I met Johnny Rutan that way and he FORCED me to audition the Treo's that were out of my budget at the time. My brother and dad were with me and they blew me away. I came up with. the money to make the Treo's happen.  Then I built a system around them.  

I ran the Ayre AX5/20 for a few years with the Treo's and then the Quatro's, but once I upgraded to Richard's mono's and shortened the speaker cables, it was a no brainer.  Those short speaker cables are so important with speakers that are in these price ranges.  

Where do you live?  Most Vandy dealers will have Aesthetix, Rotel, NAD (don't sleep on their higher end separates), Belles is a Rutan fav

Most will tell you to spend money on a top preamp and then get the mono's you can afford after the pre.  

Setting up the 3's is extremely important too obviously and that's just following what's on the Vandy site which is simple.  Sim Moon is carried by Jon Spelt's crew in Milwaukee area and sounds great with the Steen's too.

Keep us posted.

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Didn't Richard say that you lose the time and phase correctness when using Class D as it's digital?  For most Vandy users, I'd think they would want to stick with a zero feedback design and stay away from Class D amps.  I've heard the 3's in an all Rotel system and they sounded great.  I heard the last gen 2's with Sim Moon and they sang.  The Belles gear is also outstanding and for the price, it's hard to beat.  

This is why it may be worth a road trip that he sets up ahead of time to make sure the dealer has at least three brands in his price range to audition.  

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Yes Pete, Richard did say that… but Ralph seems like he only does top shelf gear, and I sort of trust him as well.
And I am not sure which Class-D Richard was referring to… But he probably has access to more amps than the average person.

Ralph’s new Class-D is 35dB of feedback, and HD is < 0.1% at full power, and IMD is < 0.04%
http://atma-sphere.com/en/classD.html

So I think if someone is leaning towards Class-D then, it is about as good as it gets.
(But the new Purifi is probably also worth a listen for Class-D)
 

 

Maybe I should upgrade from the 2C, as it always sounds pretty good with most amps.
(e.g. the first PSE Studio-2, a pair of VTL Compact 100, the Mrs. old NAD 3220E, Prima luna Dialogue Premium HP, and even a $70 AIYAMA sounded so good it was scary.

The only one that was hideous was a Topping PA-05, which hissed worse than a pack of snakes at a church revival. 
I was going to use it as a surround channel amp, but it was not going to work, so I’ll use a few of the AIYAMAs on the surrounds and center channel. 

But maybe the speakers are not resolving enough to really show what the good amps do?
The problem is that I still like the speakers, and visiting friends usually have a bit of jaw drop when it is playing.
I just wish that the amps lasted as long, and with tube prices gone mad, I sort of am considering Class-D.

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3 hours ago, Holmz said:

Yes Pete, Richard did say that… but Ralph seems like he only does top shelf gear, and I sort of trust him as well.
And I am not sure which Class-D Richard was referring to… But he probably has access to more amps than the average person.

Ralph’s new Class-D is 35dB of feedback, and HD is < 0.1% at full power, and IMD is < 0.04%
http://atma-sphere.com/en/classD.html

So I think if someone is leaning towards Class-D then, it is about as good as it gets.
(But the new Purifi is probably also worth a listen for Class-D)
 

 

Maybe I should upgrade from the 2C, as it always sounds pretty good with most amps.
(e.g. the first PSE Studio-2, a pair of VTL Compact 100, the Mrs. old NAD 3220E, Prima luna Dialogue Premium HP, and even a $70 AIYAMA sounded so good it was scary.

The only one that was hideous was a Topping PA-05, which hissed worse than a pack of snakes at a church revival. 
I was going to use it as a surround channel amp, but it was not going to work, so I’ll use a few of the AIYAMAs on the surrounds and center channel. 

But maybe the speakers are not resolving enough to really show what the good amps do?
The problem is that I still like the speakers, and visiting friends usually have a bit of jaw drop when it is playing.
I just wish that the amps lasted as long, and with tube prices gone mad, I sort of am considering Class-D.

I don't like for people to misunderstand what I say so I will say my observation again.  Class "D" amplifiers are dangerous because most of them sound good to very good!  For those of us who are TIME AND PHASE sensitive (NOT EVERYONE) they do disconnect emotionally which causes what I call "Audio Fidgeting" jumping around from one recording to another, not relaxed, riding the volume control resulting in shorter less enjoyable listening sessions yet sounding great with no obvious sonic problems.  Again, not everyone has this issue, but I have observed many who gravitate to Vandersteen especially on analog do.  Less noticeable if at all on digital sources but then I have the same experience with digital anyway but love its connivence for background music.  RV

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Thanks for all the great help and advice. This has caused me to slow down and adjust my approach.

To answer some of the questions:

I live in the San Francisco bay area. There is a Vandersteen dealer in S.F. and down in central CA. I have been in touch with both to see what they can offer - initial responses are recommending integrated amplifiers.

Budget is an ongoing negotiation (candlelight dinners do not have the same magic they used to), but I'm starting in the $5k range. That gives me some room to move if I hear something that knocks my socks off, and if I'm willing to spend more time in the dog house.

Physical constraints are more challenging. I can not have the amps located between the speakers. It is highly unlikely (still working on it) that I can not have a mono behind each speaker - although I really like that idea. I can not have heavy cable laid across the floor. I have a cabinet that is 20 ft from the furthest speaker with 2 runs of 16 awg under the house to each speaker - all 4 runs are the same length.

My primary source is an Arcam Alpha 9 CD assembled in the Eisenhower administration. This will be replaced asap depending on how much I exceed my amp budget.

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3 minutes ago, kpsc3A said:

My primary source is an Arcam Alpha 9 CD assembled in the Eisenhower administration.

Well, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but I get the point.😉

 

Are you going to listen to CD's? What about streaming?

Digital is another rabbit hole, but speaking for the community, we are here to help.

 

Regarding the amp placement-

If you can't put them between the speakers, and you can't put them behind the speakers, where are you going to put them?

Bob

 

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8 minutes ago, GdnrBob said:

Well, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but I get the point.😉

 

Are you going to listen to CD's? What about streaming?

Digital is another rabbit hole, but speaking for the community, we are here to help.

 

Regarding the amp placement-

If you can't put them between the speakers, and you can't put them behind the speakers, where are you going to put them?

Bob

 

My primary interests continue to be CD and Vinyl, but I will keep streaming in mind as I demo and decide.

At this time, the amps are destined for the cabinet.

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2 hours ago, kpsc3A said:

Physical constraints are more challenging. I can not have the amps located between the speakers. It is highly unlikely (still working on it) that I can not have a mono behind each speaker - although I really like that idea. I can not have heavy cable laid across the floor. I have a cabinet that is 20 ft from the furthest speaker with 2 runs of 16 awg under the house to each speaker - all 4 runs are the same length.

If the power and XLR cables could go where the speakers are going (under the floor), then it seems like it could open up the option of mono blocks.
To me the speakers cables seem to get more important as they get longer and longer.

 

2 hours ago, kpsc3A said:

… This has caused me to slow down and adjust my approach.

That is usually better in the long run, and in the recent times it has been hard to find places open, and the supply chain has been a similar catastrophe.

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20 foot runs for speaker wire is pretty long.

As you have the existing cables under the room, In my opinion, it would make more sense to get monoblocks. If your equipment is truly balanced (using the AES 47 standard), then XLR cables would be the way to go, as you can use long runs with the cables introducing minimal sound characteristics, as well as spending a lot less on cabling (Mogami does just fine). 

Short speaker cables introduce less coloration, so you could also save on expense in that area, too.

 

And, I mentioned streaming as I misread your post, and thought replacing the CD player meant you wanted a better DAC, or something. In any case, as Emily Litela said  'never mind.'

My 2 cents...

B

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3 hours ago, Stringreen said:

Why such a value on Class D......those guys are probably driving Teslas

I dunno - mostly interested in whether they sound good.
I am not overly committed to Greenpeace, “saving the whales”, and not advocating that people stop driving.

 

4 hours ago, GdnrBob said:

20 foot runs for speaker wire is pretty long.

As you have the existing cables under the room, In my opinion, it would make more sense to get monoblocks. If your equipment is truly balanced (using the AES 47 standard), then XLR cables would be the way to go, as you can use long runs with the cables introducing minimal sound characteristics, as well as spending a lot less on cabling (Mogami does just fine). 

Short speaker cables introduce less coloration, so you could also save on expense in that area, too.

 

I am not overly cabled up in terms of high end cables like most on here are.
But the Mogami cable and Neutrik ends, and a soldering iron allow me to get the stuff hooked up and working.

I did order about $400 of cotton insulated 20ga silver for ICs, and some varnished cotton over 12ga copper for speaker cables… (yesterday or the day before)
So I will do the TT to phono, phono to preamp, and  likely keep the pre amp to amp using the Mogami.

If I go class-D then I can use the XLR from the preamp to the amps.
But with the Primaluna it is RCAs, and they seem to work with the DIY cables.

@kpsc3A could, for instance, could always use the DIY cables and test stuff out with mono blocks, integrated, etc… and then later if they wanted - could get the special cables.
it kind of helps to have enough cable, ends, and tools, to hook stuff up in case some place decides to allow a home demo of electronics. (IMO)

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18 hours ago, Holmz said:

If I go class-D then I can use the XLR from the preamp to the amps.

Though I haven't heard them, the only Class D amps I would buy are Atamasphere's (I have been meaning to call Ralph about the feedback in the Class D amps, and how it might affect Time and Phase). In any case, if Ralph thinks they are good enough to sell, then they must be good.

Regarding XLR cables, remember I did mention the AES standard, if your equipment uses it (I know nothing of Primaluna), then you get the benefits of reduced cable coloration.

B

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48 minutes ago, GdnrBob said:


Regarding XLR cables, remember I did mention the AES standard, if your equipment uses it (I know nothing of Primaluna), then you get the benefits of reduced cable coloration...

 

Yeah Bob, the PL is 100% RCAs, but the preamp does both RCA and XLR out…
Just I do not believe that it is balanced in the true AES sense.

And the preamp has one XLR input, plus an XLR pass through, and 4 RCA inputs.
And XLR output and 2 sets of RCA outputs.

So a Class-D would replace the PrimaLuna… which I am not unhappy with, but not totally enamoured with either.
It seems pretty good, and it works. Just I need long cables, and it is not overly easy to link with the AVR.
I would need to turn on the preamp to use the PL amp, and with XLRs, I do not need to even turn on the preamp… it just passes through.
(I suppose I could use an XLR to RCA and then it would be fine… I’ll try that next week.)

 

48 minutes ago, GdnrBob said:

Though I haven't heard them, the only Class D amps I would buy are Atamasphere's (I have been meaning to call Ralph about the feedback in the Class D amps, and how it might affect Time and Phase). In any case, if Ralph thinks they are good enough to sell, then they must be good.

Please let me know what you hear from him.
I am not sure who in Ralph’s dealer network also does Vandersteen.

Whether it fits in with the spirit of this thread or not, it would be good to know if Ralph’s amps work with our speakers.

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I just called Ralph and he explained much to me, but as a non-technical person, I really wouldn't do his words justice. So, I asked him to respond directly via the forum.

Hopefully this won't be a problem.

While I was speaking to him, I decided to order a pair of his monoblocks. About a 2 month wait, but I think it will be an interesting comparison to what I am now using.

I'd like to take them to Audioconnection and see what Johnny thinks. Hopefully, @ctsooner can join us.

Bob

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On 9/9/2022 at 9:45 AM, Richard Vandersteen said:

I don't like for people to misunderstand what I say so I will say my observation again.  Class "D" amplifiers are dangerous because most of them sound good to very good!  For those of us who are TIME AND PHASE sensitive (NOT EVERYONE) they do disconnect emotionally which causes what I call "Audio Fidgeting" jumping around from one recording to another, not relaxed, riding the volume control resulting in shorter less enjoyable listening sessions yet sounding great with no obvious sonic problems. 

IME its not timing so much as the distortion signature (which is related) that can cause an amplifier to lack emotional involvement. A lot of designers design to measurements, but oddly don't seem to understand what measurements are actually important as it relates to the ear. You can't just have low distortion; you have to also have a proper distortion spectra such that any higher ordered harmonics are masked by lower orders (which is how tube amps can sound smooth and involving despite actually having more higher ordered harmonic distortion than most solid state amps). The ear uses the higher orders to sense sound pressure, and also assigns a tonality to any distortion; to the higher orders are assigned 'harsh and bright'.

If a class D amp (or any other amp for that matter) has the right distortion spectra and if the distortion does not rise with frequency, it stands a good chance of being involving. This isn't due to some property of the amplifier: at that point the emotional response, the involvement, is coming from the music itself.

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Hopefully, we can all agree to disagree.

But, I invited Mr. Karsten to the forum because I didn't feel I could put our conversation into the words that he gave to me.

In any case, there was one thing he did mention, Gain Balance Feedback.

It seems that Class D amps allow the use of this to an extent that A. A/B amps cannont achieve. The result being that his new amps take advantage of this and the resulting sound is 'more relaxed' and does not introduce the harshness typically found in amplifiers that utilize feedback. Whether this affects time/phase coherancy, I would leave to more experienced minds.

Bob

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14 minutes ago, GdnrBob said:

Hopefully, we can all agree to disagree.

But, I invited Mr. Karsten to the forum because I didn't feel I could put our conversation into the words that he gave to me.

In any case, there was one thing he did mention, Gain Balance Feedback.

It seems that Class D amps allow the use of this to an extent that A. A/B amps cannont achieve. The result being that his new amps take advantage of this and the resulting sound is 'more relaxed' and does not introduce the harshness typically found in amplifiers that utilize feedback. Whether this affects time/phase coherancy, I would leave to more experienced minds.

Bob

Bob, the customer is always right because he or she buys what sounds good to them.  I participate only to explain why I do what I do and how it has impacted our products!  This forum is for Vandersteen owners exclusively sharing their experiences.  There is always more than one way to our goal as it is a personal journey in search of musical enjoyment.  If you make your buying decisions based on sonic performance (or not) there is no agreeing to disagree, YOU ARE THE BOSS!  RV

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