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  1. #51
    RGA
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    I am reviewing the LS3/5a - not planning to buy it. As a reviewer I have to factor in several things not just what I would buy. The combined price of the LS3/5a and both subs (that serve as Stands is about $2,000 less than the AN J with stands.

    The AN J sounds better and has more bass depth and can play a LOT louder. The LS3/5a handles 30 watts and is an 83db sensitive speaker - so it tops out at around 94db.

    That said it offers other factors that I will get into in my review.

    There is no question that SET is king in my book, and HE speakers and some other types. But budget is a factor for readers.

    The impressive thing about the Audio Space amps is bang for dollar. They have impressive macro dynamics speed and openness in the treble that is absolutely wondrous on brass instruments and very good transient/decay behavior. What it doesn't have that the AN's have is the depth and richness on tonality and overtones or the nuance - but then again these are stock tubes with stock caps. And AN's SE amps start at double the price with no headphone output. So to be fair here there is only so much you can do at a given budget - but IMO it mops the floor with stuff I've heard from Jolida, ASL, or ARC and several other amplifiers that cost more - and that's why it's here - and it better my OTO on certain aspects (albeit not overall). I would like to hear comparably prices AS amplifiers as they make 300B Sets and 2a3 and interesting 300B push pull amps. The advantage of the Audio Space is that it can be used as a power amp only and I can run a SET preamp - possibly an Audio Note M6 with phono if I can find a used one.

    I will likely ship my AN J/SPe to myself as well as my OTO which apparently is a dual primary transformer so it takes a couple of minutes with a soldering iron to convert it to 220v.

    The turntable unfortunately is a no-go because the cycles need to be changed and frequency converters cost in the thousands - there is a VPI device but those too are pricey.

    I may sell it and put the money to a second hand table in HK.

  2. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA View Post
    I am reviewing the LS3/5a - not planning to buy it. As a reviewer I have to factor in several things not just what I would buy. The combined price of the LS3/5a and both subs (that serve as Stands is about $2,000 less than the AN J with stands.

    The AN J sounds better and has more bass depth and can play a LOT louder. The LS3/5a handles 30 watts and is an 83db sensitive speaker - so it tops out at around 94db.

    That said it offers other factors that I will get into in my review.

    There is no question that SET is king in my book, and HE speakers and some other types. But budget is a factor for readers.

    The impressive thing about the Audio Space amps is bang for dollar. They have impressive macro dynamics speed and openness in the treble that is absolutely wondrous on brass instruments and very good transient/decay behavior. What it doesn't have that the AN's have is the depth and richness on tonality and overtones or the nuance - but then again these are stock tubes with stock caps. And AN's SE amps start at double the price with no headphone output. So to be fair here there is only so much you can do at a given budget - but IMO it mops the floor with stuff I've heard from Jolida, ASL, or ARC and several other amplifiers that cost more - and that's why it's here - and it better my OTO on certain aspects (albeit not overall). I would like to hear comparably prices AS amplifiers as they make 300B Sets and 2a3 and interesting 300B push pull amps. The advantage of the Audio Space is that it can be used as a power amp only and I can run a SET preamp - possibly an Audio Note M6 with phono if I can find a used one.

    I will likely ship my AN J/SPe to myself as well as my OTO which apparently is a dual primary transformer so it takes a couple of minutes with a soldering iron to convert it to 220v.

    The turntable unfortunately is a no-go because the cycles need to be changed and frequency converters cost in the thousands - there is a VPI device but those too are pricey.

    I may sell it and put the money to a second hand table in HK.
    Well my decades old Audio Research D-70 amp, Mark II is SPECTACULAR on brass, macro and micro dynamics, and simply KILLS any EL 34 amp on the correct attack of notes. Yes, EL 34s get the decay of notes mostly correct, but they are slow and soft, missing correct attack. Listen to a guitar live. Not only do the notes have decay, they also have stunning attack. Any set of audio components that fails to reproduce the leading edge of notes, as well as the decay of notes, is, in a word, boring. Combine that kind of amp with the typical British sound of the 3/5 speakers, which are similarly rich and slow (compared to the best amps and speakers), and you will certainly get a pleasant, but boring presentation. Yes, of course, IMO. Then is the question of your review. 95%+ of "reviews" are mainly positive. IMO, if a reviewer gives honest negative analysis of components, he, or she, will soon be an ex-reviewer.

  3. #53
    RGA
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    Most reviewers provide the pros and cons of any product. I have heard several ARC amps and I'm sorry to say I find all of them to be overpriced over-hyped underperforming pieces - I have heard them for 20 years and all of them in any system have left me perplexed and roundly unimpressed.

    Amplifiers are 9/10 the transformer which is why you don't read Audio Note articles on tube selection.

    I have heard EL 34 amps a lot over the years and some sound slow and bloomy and sluggish and some have sounded bright as hell lacked warmth and you'd have a tough time telling them from a SS Bryston. It is far too simplistic to say all EL 34 amps sound one way because they don't at all sound even remotely the same.

    I said this 10 years ago comparing directly the Jolida 302B vs the ASL AQ 1003DT. You could not get a different sounding pair of amplifiers - both used the same tubes and they look the same with around the same power. The 302B sounds warm has decay but sluggish transients which are round soft. The ASL was excellent on transients but not decay didn't have the warmth and sounded more analytical. They both do some things right but not enough for me to buy them. Soundhounds no longer carries either brand(or ARC). Audio Note nevertheless remains.

    As for positive reviews well we review things we like - which is why I auditioned the speaker for 2 hours to be sure before I brought them in. I felt that the speaker quite easily competes and beats most standmount designs under $2k if one is willing to put up with their limitations. Adding the sub is a game changer for them IMO but it raises the price to around $3k which I then had to compare to "new" floorstanders for the same money.

    My job is to try and state what I hear and what I think the pros and cons are and comparing to other designs. I have no lore factor at play because I didn't grow up with them. I hate the Quad 63 because I heard it and it sounds like a pile of poo - and yet it's viewed as a classic. I am not swayed by classic titles. New Quads sound far far better than old quads because nostalgia isn't an overriding influence for me. I'm not 65 where when I was 20 I salivated over owning a Quad and 40 years later when I have lots of money I buy that 40 year old speaker and claim it's the best and nothing I have heard since betters it and blah blah blah. Most reviews of the LS3/5a compares it 13 other versions of the same speaker. I'll be comparing it to other small monitors designed for small rooms.

    And I would make the point that current tube companies are using vastly better parts than they did even 20 years ago. Even Audio Note is making an EL34 based amplifier in PP because with good parts and good transformers there is something to them that sure isn't there with the Dynaco ST70 - an amplifier that is considered a classic that I found to be comically terrible. Audio Note Kits - L6 Series Power Amplifier - EL34 Edition

    The other reality is that most people don't own SET friendly loudspeakers. 3 to 10 watts isn't enough. Enter PP amps that is basically EL34 and KT88 - I prefer the former for sound and they're also less expensive so it's a win-win. KT 88s have tended to bully the speakers I like. They're far better suited for difficult to drive speakers and in fact sounded better than ASi EL34 based amp on the LS3/5a speaker. I liked the sound of the KT 88 as I did with Grant Fidelity Rita but it has a leaner presentation to my ear and sounds "brighter" and yes more tactile on transients. The Mini-2 I felt was the best of both worlds from their KT88 and their lower EL34 as it has a different circuit design. The ultralinear mode with the switch set to more feedback emulates the KT88 very nicely. Running it in Triode mode with min feedback sounds warmer and more polite and inviting.

  4. #54
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    I agree RGA. SETs have certainly spoiled me.

  5. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA View Post
    Most reviewers provide the pros and cons of any product. I have heard several ARC amps and I'm sorry to say I find all of them to be overpriced over-hyped underperforming pieces - I have heard them for 20 years and all of them in any system have left me perplexed and roundly unimpressed.

    Amplifiers are 9/10 the transformer which is why you don't read Audio Note articles on tube selection.

    I have heard EL 34 amps a lot over the years and some sound slow and bloomy and sluggish and some have sounded bright as hell lacked warmth and you'd have a tough time telling them from a SS Bryston. It is far too simplistic to say all EL 34 amps sound one way because they don't at all sound even remotely the same.

    I said this 10 years ago comparing directly the Jolida 302B vs the ASL AQ 1003DT. You could not get a different sounding pair of amplifiers - both used the same tubes and they look the same with around the same power. The 302B sounds warm has decay but sluggish transients which are round soft. The ASL was excellent on transients but not decay didn't have the warmth and sounded more analytical. They both do some things right but not enough for me to buy them. Soundhounds no longer carries either brand(or ARC). Audio Note nevertheless remains.

    As for positive reviews well we review things we like - which is why I auditioned the speaker for 2 hours to be sure before I brought them in. I felt that the speaker quite easily competes and beats most standmount designs under $2k if one is willing to put up with their limitations. Adding the sub is a game changer for them IMO but it raises the price to around $3k which I then had to compare to "new" floorstanders for the same money.

    My job is to try and state what I hear and what I think the pros and cons are and comparing to other designs. I have no lore factor at play because I didn't grow up with them. I hate the Quad 63 because I heard it and it sounds like a pile of poo - and yet it's viewed as a classic. I am not swayed by classic titles. New Quads sound far far better than old quads because nostalgia isn't an overriding influence for me. I'm not 65 where when I was 20 I salivated over owning a Quad and 40 years later when I have lots of money I buy that 40 year old speaker and claim it's the best and nothing I have heard since betters it and blah blah blah. Most reviews of the LS3/5a compares it 13 other versions of the same speaker. I'll be comparing it to other small monitors designed for small rooms.

    And I would make the point that current tube companies are using vastly better parts than they did even 20 years ago. Even Audio Note is making an EL34 based amplifier in PP because with good parts and good transformers there is something to them that sure isn't there with the Dynaco ST70 - an amplifier that is considered a classic that I found to be comically terrible. Audio Note Kits - L6 Series Power Amplifier - EL34 Edition

    The other reality is that most people don't own SET friendly loudspeakers. 3 to 10 watts isn't enough. Enter PP amps that is basically EL34 and KT88 - I prefer the former for sound and they're also less expensive so it's a win-win. KT 88s have tended to bully the speakers I like. They're far better suited for difficult to drive speakers and in fact sounded better than ASi EL34 based amp on the LS3/5a speaker. I liked the sound of the KT 88 as I did with Grant Fidelity Rita but it has a leaner presentation to my ear and sounds "brighter" and yes more tactile on transients. The Mini-2 I felt was the best of both worlds from their KT88 and their lower EL34 as it has a different circuit design. The ultralinear mode with the switch set to more feedback emulates the KT88 very nicely. Running it in Triode mode with min feedback sounds warmer and more polite and inviting.
    Well, you are in the "sounds good" audio camp, so it's really impossible to argue with anyone from that school. Of course, no one from that camp can really argue with anyone else either! However, if we are talking about the absolute sound (live acoustic music), then the 34 based amps (yes, of course, all those I have heard), all sound slow and fat compared to live music (yes, especially in the leading edge of notes or in producing transients that are tactile). The combination of a 34 amp and a 3/5 speaker will sound pleasant, easy to listen to, but boring. And, of course, that combination will have virtually NO jump factor or dynamics! Just listen to the fantastic Hugh Masekela vinyl record "hope". On the "Coal Train" cut, the sound is just scary: totally uncompressed. the sound just keeps getting louder and louder (without ANY distortion). Few systems can reproduce the dynamics of this record, and no 34 amp I have heard comes even remotely close. BTW, Jack Roberts has done a good job on the Audio Space 3/5 in his review over at Drago.

  6. #56
    RGA
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    I love how YOU think you're the arbiter of "The Absolute Sound" and that whatever you like is the final truth on what IS and is NOT accurate. I've seen mountains smaller than your ego. And coming from me that is saying something.

    If you think ARC is accurate to the live event then I can't help you. Newsflash - they ain't. ARC can't even decide is tubes are better than SS - they sell both because they have zero interest in the absolutes and only care about selling boxes. If they believed in tube amps that's all they'd sell. Like McIntosh it's only about the money for them.

    SET amplifiers are BY FAR the most truthful accurate amplifiers. They're the most linear true amplifying devices and the reason they're liked is they sound more accurate and natural to live acoustic instruments. That is why people like them - not because they sound pleasant. Live natural and right does tend to sound pleasant though.

    All other non Single Ended topologies or that use on-off switching chips are less accurate. Discussions over distortion is idiotic since that distortion ONLY EVER exists when the amp is pushed. HE speakers mean that that never happens.

    As a poster on AA noted - the best amps in his view

    1) The amp must be Class A or high bias AB (around 15-20 watts A)
    2) The amp must have little to no negative feedback or at least no global feedback
    3) The amp must have a large, low impedance power supply
    4) If the amp is tube output it must have LARGE output transformers that do not easily saturate, or be an OTL without much negative feedback
    5) It should be simple in design, having only 2 or 3 total stages from input to output.
    My criteria for a POTENTIALLY good sounding amp - morricab - Amp/Preamp Asylum

    The actual tube types are slight variations used to do a job for the type of transformer.

    I think you need to audition a quality current EL34 based amplifier because it is apparent you have not.

    PS I agree with poultry and as I noted before I am not claiming EL34 Audio Space to be the absolute sound - but it sure as hell ain't some KT 88 from ARC I can tell you that. Both are inaccurate in different ways.

    It's a SET - so if you are interested in the "Absolute Sound" most accurate to the LIVE event then you need to dump your PP KT 88 amp and get the best. The best will be a SET whether a low powered one with HE speakers or a high powered one for tough to drive speakers.

  7. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA View Post
    I love how YOU think you're the arbiter of "The Absolute Sound" and that whatever you like is the final truth on what IS and is NOT accurate. I've seen mountains smaller than your ego. And coming from me that is saying something.

    If you think ARC is accurate to the live event then I can't help you. Newsflash - they ain't. ARC can't even decide is tubes are better than SS - they sell both because they have zero interest in the absolutes and only care about selling boxes. If they believed in tube amps that's all they'd sell. Like McIntosh it's only about the money for them.

    SET amplifiers are BY FAR the most truthful accurate amplifiers. They're the most linear true amplifying devices and the reason they're liked is they sound more accurate and natural to live acoustic instruments. That is why people like them - not because they sound pleasant. Live natural and right does tend to sound pleasant though.

    All other non Single Ended topologies or that use on-off switching chips are less accurate. Discussions over distortion is idiotic since that distortion ONLY EVER exists when the amp is pushed. HE speakers mean that that never happens.

    As a poster on AA noted - the best amps in his view

    1) The amp must be Class A or high bias AB (around 15-20 watts A)
    2) The amp must have little to no negative feedback or at least no global feedback
    3) The amp must have a large, low impedance power supply
    4) If the amp is tube output it must have LARGE output transformers that do not easily saturate, or be an OTL without much negative feedback
    5) It should be simple in design, having only 2 or 3 total stages from input to output.
    My criteria for a POTENTIALLY good sounding amp - morricab - Amp/Preamp Asylum

    The actual tube types are slight variations used to do a job for the type of transformer.

    I think you need to audition a quality current EL34 based amplifier because it is apparent you have not.

    PS I agree with poultry and as I noted before I am not claiming EL34 Audio Space to be the absolute sound - but it sure as hell ain't some KT 88 from ARC I can tell you that. Both are inaccurate in different ways.

    It's a SET - so if you are interested in the "Absolute Sound" most accurate to the LIVE event then you need to dump your PP KT 88 amp and get the best. The best will be a SET whether a low powered one with HE speakers or a high powered one for tough to drive speakers.
    I have done blind listening tests, comparing my Audio Research D70 with several 34 based tubes, all current units. In all cases, both I and the other listeners preferred the D70. That preference was determined by listening, not by measurements. BTW, many audio reviewers own Audio Research preamps and amps and use them as references. Here is a quote from Dick Olsher (who has reviewed many 34 based amps) in his review of the current Conrad-Johnson L125 M SE power amp and ET 5 preamp: "Well, tube warmth is not a given, and certainly not when it comes to the ET5. Its sound was neither warm nor fuzzy like that of vintage tube preamps. Its intrinsic character could never be described as lush or romantic. Instead, its delivery was solid-state-like in the sense of emphasizing harmonic accuracy. Of course, should you desire a bit of romance, all you need to do is team it up with the right power amp. My latest, used acquisition, an Audio Research D70 Mk II, did the trick. The result was a glorious midrange with rich organic textures and sufficient residual detail to satisfy any music lover." In JA's current review of the$46,000 + Lansche Audio 5.1 speakers, he admits that, with all the ss amps he had on hand, "the Lansches sounded clean, detailed, and transparent, but the system didn't properly jell until I drove them with the tubed Audio Research amplifier. Only then could I properly appreciate the magical qualities of that 'singing flame' tweeter." JA said much the same thing when reviewing the $80,000 Acapella speaker: they only sounded realistic when driven by Audio Research tubes (here JA had both ss and several tube units for comparison). RGA, you have claimed, COUNTLESS times, that a speaker must be able to play all types of music in order to be highly valued. COUNTLESS times! And, yet, here you are defending a speaker (and amp) that CANNOT play house, trance, pop, or rock at live levels!!! And, NO they won't be able to play classical music at live levels either (where it counts, in the climaxes).

    And, NO, I don't think SET amps are perfect: they are too slow on transients, too prominent in the mid-bass, and too rolled off in the treble. Yes, they have true coherency (which no non-class A amp has). Thus, IMO, the best SET amps are great, IN SPITE OF their limitations in reproduction of leading edges of notes, in bass, and in extended treble. All the 34 amps I have heard (and, yes, I have heard an Audio Space amp at the 2011 CAS with their 3/5 speaker) are too slow, lacking in bass control, and rolled off in high frequencies, and certainly, compressed on popular music and louder jazz and classical. Yes, compared to live music OR to my vintage Audio Research tube units. The 34 based amps have the flaws of SET amps, WITHOUT their stunning coherency!

  8. #58
    RGA
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    Audio Research beating an expensive SS amp or American reviewers loving American products isn't of interest to me. Acapella uses Einstein Amps which are significantly better better than any ARC - that is why they use them and they don't use ARC.

    I have never said it must play at live levels - I have said it must sound lifelike and like live instruments. I see no reason to play at ear damaging levels - it's not at all necessary. More on this below.

    I am not exactly sure where you come from - you like Magnepan 1.7 and Teresonic which are COMPLETE AND UTTER jokes on house trance rock and neither play well loud (and nowhere near live levels) - though Maggie will play louder than a stat in general. The Ingenium which you like (as do I) has serious limitations here and costs $14,000 but if an $1800 standmount has the same limitation it is unforgivable. WTF? The 1.7 has no dynamics, pathetic "impact" bass response and lacks 3 dimensions and yes it has strengths but your so called absolutes seem to be a very big sliding scale and you choose to overlook the weaknesses wherever it so suits you.

    You can't hold the LS3/5a and AS integrated up to the best $100k systems for the ability to play loud with bass at "live" levels and then turn around and say other similar priced speakers mated to Bryston SS that ALSO don't remotely compete with those $100k systems suddenly get a pass from the harsh criticism.

    Play the evil nine at 95db on the Maggies(any Maggie regardless of price) and laugh. It's a complete joke. It's a complete joke on the LS3/5a too but at least with the subs in a small room it's competent. Can't say that for the Ingenium which struggles with Sarah McLachlan and Delerium's "Silence" badly compressing at moderately high volumes and costs 5 times the price. Sure the Ingenium does other things better but it's not better everywhere. And those speakers can't do the Evil Nine and ALSO won't fit in a small room.

    Sure I want a system to play everything well but compromises MUST be made at lower end of the price spectrum or based on the music one listens to (and room size). No one is buying an LS3/5a or Magnepan 1.7 or Quad, or Totem Model One if their music taste is House and Trance.

    The reality - you know the real world, is that people have different room sizes where sorry but 20.1s and massive 18 foot high 10 feet wide horns won't fit. This is why you see makers making different sized speakers. If you have a big room you buy a Soundlab U1 if you have a small room you get a Maggie MMG - you work with the limitations you have.

    As for the KT 88 and EL34 I auditioned the Audio Space EL 34 and KT 88s (two models of each). I auditioned a Melody KT88 and EL34 and Line Magnetic's EL 34 and KT88 on four different loudspeakers.

    I am not going to sit here and say the EL 34 is better - I will say that the EL 34 amps in each and every case allowed me to sit back in the chair and listen to music rather than sit forward in the chair listening to "sound." Ultimately they were more enjoyable to listen to which is also why I kept my EL84 based OTO over the KT-88 GF Rita.

    SETs have issues with frequency response behavior related to impedance matching of loudspeakers so yes they exhibit bass and treble roll-off when partnered with inefficient loudspeakers. Some SETs exhibit that sound regardless.

    Once again I am not saying the EL34 is better - I preferred it with the music I brought to each of those auditions. With the Zu audio speakers the KT 88s sounded too bright - with the ATC 150 the KT 88 sounded leaner and had more air and bigger stereo spread - it sounded more hi-fi - the EL34 was smaller but had better foundation and bass. With that speaker it was a toss-up. On the LS 3/5a same kind of deal. One EL 34 was far too dark - their ASi model - the Mini-2 uses a different circuit and a better driver tube.

    Philip Holmes noted that amplifiers using 12AX7 tubes as the preamp stage tend to sound worse than any other kind - and I think based on limited experience he is correct - the input tube is more important and he notes that in every case the 12AX7 is best avoided.

    The stupid thing about this entire argument is synergy. The fact is amplifiers, including solid state amplifiers, work better with different kinds of speakers. SETS need simple easy to drive speakers (single driver or two ways at most). Audio Note speakers don't like high power high damping factor SS amplifiers. They like SETs or SE amps. EL34 for PP is clearly more suitable for their speakers than KT 88 which is why Audio Note makes an EL 34 amp and doesn't make a KT88.

    It's not that the KT 88 based amps are bad - but I get the sense that they are what I refer to as "control freak" amplifiers. If you have a speaker using any sort of long throw or high excursion woofer then you need far better control of the woofer cone which requires more power and drive of a KT 88 over the likes of the softer lower powered EL84 and 34 types. So If I owned a Wilson or big PMC, B&W Paradigm etc then I would likely opt for the GF Rita or Audio Space Galaxy 88 or Line Magnetic's award winning 216ia. But the KT 88 Rita bullies AN speakers and makes them sound thinner and compressed because they "control" the drivers too much and they lose their magic.

    Reviews:
    I went into reviewing because I felt most of the major publications were sending people down the wrong path with stuff that I felt was overpriced under-performing junk. Looking over Stereophile's recommended lists and and TAS award winners frankly makes me sick.

  9. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA View Post
    Audio Research beating an expensive SS amp or American reviewers loving American products isn't of interest to me. Acapella uses Einstein Amps which are significantly better better than any ARC - that is why they use them and they don't use ARC.

    I have never said it must play at live levels - I have said it must sound lifelike and like live instruments. I see no reason to play at ear damaging levels - it's not at all necessary. More on this below.

    I am not exactly sure where you come from - you like Magnepan 1.7 and Teresonic which are COMPLETE AND UTTER jokes on house trance rock and neither play well loud (and nowhere near live levels) - though Maggie will play louder than a stat in general. The Ingenium which you like (as do I) has serious limitations here and costs $14,000 but if an $1800 standmount has the same limitation it is unforgivable. WTF? The 1.7 has no dynamics, pathetic "impact" bass response and lacks 3 dimensions and yes it has strengths but your so called absolutes seem to be a very big sliding scale and you choose to overlook the weaknesses wherever it so suits you.

    You can't hold the LS3/5a and AS integrated up to the best $100k systems for the ability to play loud with bass at "live" levels and then turn around and say other similar priced speakers mated to Bryston SS that ALSO don't remotely compete with those $100k systems suddenly get a pass from the harsh criticism.

    Play the evil nine at 95db on the Maggies(any Maggie regardless of price) and laugh. It's a complete joke. It's a complete joke on the LS3/5a too but at least with the subs in a small room it's competent. Can't say that for the Ingenium which struggles with Sarah McLachlan and Delerium's "Silence" badly compressing at moderately high volumes and costs 5 times the price. Sure the Ingenium does other things better but it's not better everywhere. And those speakers can't do the Evil Nine and ALSO won't fit in a small room.

    Sure I want a system to play everything well but compromises MUST be made at lower end of the price spectrum or based on the music one listens to (and room size). No one is buying an LS3/5a or Magnepan 1.7 or Quad, or Totem Model One if their music taste is House and Trance.

    The reality - you know the real world, is that people have different room sizes where sorry but 20.1s and massive 18 foot high 10 feet wide horns won't fit. This is why you see makers making different sized speakers. If you have a big room you buy a Soundlab U1 if you have a small room you get a Maggie MMG - you work with the limitations you have.

    As for the KT 88 and EL34 I auditioned the Audio Space EL 34 and KT 88s (two models of each). I auditioned a Melody KT88 and EL34 and Line Magnetic's EL 34 and KT88 on four different loudspeakers.

    I am not going to sit here and say the EL 34 is better - I will say that the EL 34 amps in each and every case allowed me to sit back in the chair and listen to music rather than sit forward in the chair listening to "sound." Ultimately they were more enjoyable to listen to which is also why I kept my EL84 based OTO over the KT-88 GF Rita.

    SETs have issues with frequency response behavior related to impedance matching of loudspeakers so yes they exhibit bass and treble roll-off when partnered with inefficient loudspeakers. Some SETs exhibit that sound regardless.

    Once again I am not saying the EL34 is better - I preferred it with the music I brought to each of those auditions. With the Zu audio speakers the KT 88s sounded too bright - with the ATC 150 the KT 88 sounded leaner and had more air and bigger stereo spread - it sounded more hi-fi - the EL34 was smaller but had better foundation and bass. With that speaker it was a toss-up. On the LS 3/5a same kind of deal. One EL 34 was far too dark - their ASi model - the Mini-2 uses a different circuit and a better driver tube.

    Philip Holmes noted that amplifiers using 12AX7 tubes as the preamp stage tend to sound worse than any other kind - and I think based on limited experience he is correct - the input tube is more important and he notes that in every case the 12AX7 is best avoided.

    The stupid thing about this entire argument is synergy. The fact is amplifiers, including solid state amplifiers, work better with different kinds of speakers. SETS need simple easy to drive speakers (single driver or two ways at most). Audio Note speakers don't like high power high damping factor SS amplifiers. They like SETs or SE amps. EL34 for PP is clearly more suitable for their speakers than KT 88 which is why Audio Note makes an EL 34 amp and doesn't make a KT88.

    It's not that the KT 88 based amps are bad - but I get the sense that they are what I refer to as "control freak" amplifiers. If you have a speaker using any sort of long throw or high excursion woofer then you need far better control of the woofer cone which requires more power and drive of a KT 88 over the likes of the softer lower powered EL84 and 34 types. So If I owned a Wilson or big PMC, B&W Paradigm etc then I would likely opt for the GF Rita or Audio Space Galaxy 88 or Line Magnetic's award winning 216ia. But the KT 88 Rita bullies AN speakers and makes them sound thinner and compressed because they "control" the drivers too much and they lose their magic.

    Reviews:
    I went into reviewing because I felt most of the major publications were sending people down the wrong path with stuff that I felt was overpriced under-performing junk. Looking over Stereophile's recommended lists and and TAS award winners frankly makes me sick.
    The AS 3/5 is simply HORRIBLY inefficient (what? about 82 db!!!), and will not come close to suggesting the dynamics of live music, be that pop, house, jazz, or classical. A similarly priced Sonist or Usher or Gallo speaker WILL come close to the dynamics of live music. At the 2011 CAS I heard an inexpensive Usher speaker reproduce the spectacular Masekela "Coal Train" cut with absolutely NO compression! NONE! The Sonist room had no tt, but I suspect that they too would be able to reveal the dynamics on the "Coal Train" track. The Gallo will reproduce correct dynamics, but demand more power than the Usher or Sonist speakers. My favorite room at the 2011 CAS was the Sonist, and it was certainly one of the least costly (they were using an under $1,000 SET amp and analogue tapes!!!). The AS 3/5 system was about my 15th favorite room. Better than the HORRIBLY expensive MBL or Wilson rooms, but that's faint praise. BTW, the MBL room was, BY FAR, the worst I have ever heard, either at an audio show, or at a store, or even in someone's home. EVERYTHING in the MBL was strident, harsh, compressed, and two-dimensional! The MBL approach (thousand watt ss amps and inefficient speakers) is the unfortunate direction that too much of today's "high end" has taken. The horrible MBL system must have cost upwards of $500,000!!! The AS 3/5 sounded pleasant, soft, and smooth. No fatigue, but no real dynamics. The Usher and Sonist speakers show you that there is no need to compromise, even in the $2,000 to $3,000 price range. IMO, the Audio Note Js are surely worth the extra money versus the AS 3/5 s with a sub. Not that much a difference in price. A HUGE difference in sound! Ditto for the Usher and Sonist speakers which can be used with low power SET amps. BTW, the Audio Note J and E speakers sound fantastic driven by my low power Audio Research D70 tube amp (new caps and tubes).

  10. #60
    RGA
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    We probably agree 90% of the time which in audio is miraculous. Even if you like one speaker over what I like best generally what you liked best is in my top 2-3. For instance Sonist was one of my favorites at CES 2010, MBL sounded off.

    But MBL is an extremely difficult speaker to set-up. I am the one who always says - don't blame the room for poor sound because they should work in most any room - but MBL is an exception because of the omni-directional design which will take more effort than most to get right. They can actually sound very good - although yes I think they'd be better if they used someone else's amplifiers.

    The LS3/5a is a very easy to drive loudspeaker. Yes it has a low sensitivity of 82.5db but they operate mostly at 11ohms and don't dip under 7 ohms(and they used to make 16ohm version). They're very gentle to SET amplifiers. In fact the load behavior is more important than sensitivity - a 95db sensitive speaker that drops to under 4ohms (like the AN E) is in some ways more difficult to drive and requires a much beefier tube amplifier.

    The LS3/5a with their two dedicated subwoofers essentially makes them a 3 way floorstander with significant bass response and veryt acceptable loudness capabilities. Remember they're strictly designed for small living rooms/bedrooms/small studios. The midrange and treble are first rate and based on what I heard at CES integrate considerably better than the vast majority. The sub does a superb job of seamlessly integrating with the standmount - and apparently there is a better method whereby you place the LS3/5a on it's own stand and have the subwoofer portions in front or behind the speaker. Regardless bass depth is very well rendered and that is likely because it uses the same driver - can't get anymore integrated than that. In fact it's so good that I want to suggest a few other speaker makers look into a similar approach to bass columns.

    This approach is better than a floorstander sharing the same cabinet because you can move the subwoofer columns around - a floorstander you can't.

    I would not give up on the AS LS3/5a just yet. Try them in a smaller room and the subs are a must. Jack was somewhat waffling on the speakers as standmounts because there is a lot of competition and he has a pretty large room.

    Like I said before there are other speakers I prefer but taking the room size into account and their easy impedance characteristics, size and vocal abilities they're better than most.

  11. #61
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    If I am as impressed at the 2012 CAS by SET amps as I was at the 2010 and 2011, an SET amp will be my next purchase. I suspect that, once the signal is divided in non-SET amps, all attempts to correctly put that signal back are as doomed as digital is in trying to put the original analogue signal back together. So far, I have been most impressed with the Jinro, but the price is probably too steep for me. There are a few SET amps that cost under half of what the mighty Jinro costs. BTW, the Audio Note Es, driven by the Jinro, were one of the best systems I have ever heard. They cost a cool $24,000. I love my Audio Research D70, especially compared to ss and other non-SET tube amps, but the SET amps I have heard have a direct purity that matches live music.

  12. #62
    RGA
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    It is nice to return home to Canada to listen to the big system to remind myself why I spent the extra cash back in the day. I love the little system but turn on the old OTO after around 11 months and put in the brilliantly recorded test disc (which has nice music not just a test disc like the TAS and ISO-Mike stuff) and turn the dial and get the massive landscape and decay and a much more complete sense of everything.

    I had contemplated selling my OTO but after the first notes I think I'll have them change it to 220V and ship it to myself. The J's are going nowhere. I could sell them for what I paid for them 6 years ago (same for the OTO). But the replacements are much more expensive so I don't really get anywhere. I know why the OTO/J/Spe is one of their biggest selling combinations. The J lives for acoustic classical - cello was OMG - funny how one forgets after 10 months what they had. I saw a second hand pair of AN E's in Hong Kong but they wanted $3,000US for them. When I go back I may do it. I can use the AX twos as rears (make it fit somehow) and go that route for home theater than the orb balls. Then I won't need a sub since the E goes lower than any cheap sub. The center channel is the issue.

    I have put my TT2/arm3/IQ3 up for consignment at Soundhounds at a bit of a cut rate ($3k) in the hopes of selling it within a month. I hate doing it but there was too much involved in changing it over to the HK frequency as they'd have to re cut the thing to move the motor and pulleys. They felt it would be expensive and that the VPI device doesn't do a good enough job on their tables.

  13. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA View Post
    It is nice to return home to Canada to listen to the big system to remind myself why I spent the extra cash back in the day. I love the little system but turn on the old OTO after around 11 months and put in the brilliantly recorded test disc (which has nice music not just a test disc like the TAS and ISO-Mike stuff) and turn the dial and get the massive landscape and decay and a much more complete sense of everything.

    I had contemplated selling my OTO but after the first notes I think I'll have them change it to 220V and ship it to myself. The J's are going nowhere. I could sell them for what I paid for them 6 years ago (same for the OTO). But the replacements are much more expensive so I don't really get anywhere. I know why the OTO/J/Spe is one of their biggest selling combinations. The J lives for acoustic classical - cello was OMG - funny how one forgets after 10 months what they had. I saw a second hand pair of AN E's in Hong Kong but they wanted $3,000US for them. When I go back I may do it. I can use the AX twos as rears (make it fit somehow) and go that route for home theater than the orb balls. Then I won't need a sub since the E goes lower than any cheap sub. The center channel is the issue.

    I have put my TT2/arm3/IQ3 up for consignment at Soundhounds at a bit of a cut rate ($3k) in the hopes of selling it within a month. I hate doing it but there was too much involved in changing it over to the HK frequency as they'd have to re cut the thing to move the motor and pulleys. They felt it would be expensive and that the VPI device doesn't do a good enough job on their tables.
    In a small room, I actually prefer the ANJs to the ANEs. ANEs for $3,000 are a STEAL!!! If I am correct, high efficient, high impedance speakers are the way to go, because SET amps are MANDATORY if you want an effortless, musical, detailed, dynamic sound. If you go to the 2012 CAS, check out the deHavilland SET amps.

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    I see that Line Magnetic is appearing at audio shows with a LM-2101 SET integrated driving a new De Vore Orangtang wide baffle, two way speaker. I hope that combination is at the 2012 CAS.

  15. #65
    RGA
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    Yes this amp I have my eye on as it is considerably more affordable than the Meishu. I don't know who is attending outside the small list posted at the CAS page. There is no phono stage with LM amps though.

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