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Best amplifier for K-horns?

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I use the K-Horn base horns, and for the midrange I use the Altec 311-90 horns and the Altec 290-16K drivers. The tweeters are the JBL 2404-H models. A custom network was designed for these speakers. I experimented with a number of midrange horns and drivers before making my final desision to use the ones mentioned above. The results are a much smoother, warmer, cleaner and open sounding top end. The harshness & ringing sound of the stock Klipschorn is gone.

I use 10 channels of solid state McIntosh power amps. 2) MC202 two channel power amps with 200 watts per channel. 1) MC206 six channel power amp with 200 watts per channel. The MC202 sounds nicer then the six channel power amp. I tried lesser power McIntosh amps 80 to 120 watts per channel, but at high volume listening levels the power guard circuits would light up telling me that I was clipping the amps. This occurred with bass heavy material.

The McIntosh amps give me a warmer sound on top and tighter & louder bass then what I tried before. I never heard any Mark Levinson amps.

I sit back about 18' from the mains and center channel. The rears are about 10' behind me, and the side surrounds are about 8' from me and slightly behind.

I gave someone a demo about a year ago, and one of his comments was this. " The sound is right here." As he held his hand 1' in front of his face. This statement to me doesn't mean that the sound is harsh.

My McIntosh dealer & Frank at Audio Classics both tell me that I should move up to the MC252 or 352 amps, not because I need more power, but because the sound improves again with these amps. I want to try this someday.

Q-Man, It seems that we are on the same wave length. I am also using the JBL 2404 tweeter with the Khorn bass. However, my approach to the midrange is a little different. I'm using the standard Khorn midrange driver with Al Klappenberger's crossovers and wooden horns to get much smoother, non ringing, three dimensional results. You may want to check out his website. alkeng.com and look for Klipsch upgrades. The problem is that ss amps don't have the feeling of a "live performance" that tubes have.

I listened to the MC-402 400 watts per channel ss amp and was impressed as far as ss amps go, but it did not have that "tube" sound of warmth, clarity, and the feelig of "you are there". I'm planning on biamping using the Mark Levinson 334 ss amp which has a rock solid bass along with a tube amp for the upper horns for warmth, clarity, and realism.

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One company that I've been looking at is http://www.Vincentaudio.com.au

They have what they call Hybrid amps., the best of tubes and solid state in one amp.

I've been reading about them in Absolute Sound and Audio Adviser.

The price is cheap compared to McIntosh. I may have to try one.

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Vincent Audio - SP-331 Hybrid Power Amplifier

Vincent Audio - SP-331 Hybrid Power Amplifier
Vincent Audio - SP-331 Hybrid Power Amplifier Vincent Audio - SP-331 Hybrid Power Amplifier Vincent Audio - SP-331 Hybrid Power Amplifier Vincent Audio - SP-331 Hybrid Power Amplifier
Item Number: VISP331
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The Absolute Sound "Best Tube Amplifier" 2008/2009

"Power Amplifier of the Year" The Absolute Sound Magazine


"Editors' Choice" Award, The Absolute Sound, 2007


"Best-sounding Sub-$1,200 Amp I've Heard"

Vincent's SP-331 wins the "Power Amplifier of the Year" award in the January 2008 issue of The Absolute Sound magazine. "Plan on using a very good preamp in order to hear what the high-resolution Vincent can really do," suggests Chris Martens.

"One of the Sweetest Deals in Audio"

The Absolute Sound magazine rated the Vincent SP-331 as the "Best Tube Amplifier" in the Winter 08 / Spring 09 issue, calling it "one of the best-sounding power amplifiers we're heard in the sub-[twelve-hundred-dollar]-category."

"Let me not mince words," says Martens in the August 2007 issue of The Absolute Sound. "The SP-331 is the best-sounding sub-$1200 amplifier I've yet heard, and I therefore regard it as one of the sweetest deals in high-end audio today."

"Richness and Subtlety"

The October 2007 issue ofThe Absolute Sound magazine awarded the Vincent SP-331 its "Editors' Choice" recommendation. "It combines the richness and subtlety of fine tube designs -- especially through the midrange -- with the sheer low-frequency grunt, control, and agility of a good solid-state amplifier."

No Nonsense Luxury in a Hybrid Tube Design

Its front panel design says elegance. Its gorgeous chassis testifies to the premium build quality. And its sound… well, its sound is a little slice of heaven, combining the legendary warmth of tube electronics with the speed, control, and reliability of solid-state designs.

The words 'no nonsense' and 'luxurious' usually don't go together, but the Vincent SP-331 power amplifier is a rule breaker. Thanks to German engineering, the look and sound are clean as a whistle. And the price is far less than you would expect to pay for a component of this high quality.

Plenty of Power, Oodles of Style

The SP-331 boasts a power delivery of 150-watts-per-channel at eight ohms, and a full 300-watts-per-channel at four ohms. That means you harness plenty of 'oomph' for the full effect of realistic orchestral crescendos and complex music passages. And when added to a home theater system, the SP-331 is pure audio dynamite for film scores and special effects.

You can't do better than a hybrid circuit design when it comes to appealing audio performance. The SP-133 offers the best of both vacuum tube and solid state technology. The input stage relies on two 6N16 tubes for liquid, effortless sounding audio. The output stage gets its muscle from six Toshiba transistors per channel.

A Titan of a Power Supply

A mighty power amp requires a titan of a power supply, and that's exactly what's on tap with the Vincent. Its precision-designed oversize toroidal core transformer of 1,000-watts x 2 offers energy storage capacity of 80,000 µF per channel. In fact, the power supply will even accommodate speaker loads of two ohms without any difficulty.

Two pairs of high-quality speaker binding posts give you bi-wiring options. The rear panel also includes a connection for the included IEC-style power cord, one pair of unbalanced RCA-style inputs, and a replaceable fuse.

  • Hybrid vacuum tube / solid-state power amplifier
  • German engineered
  • Input stage: 2 6N16 tubes per channel
  • Output stage: 12 Toshiba transistors per channel
  • Oversize toroidal core transformer of 1,000-watts x 2
  • 80,000 µF per channel power reserves
  • Two pairs of high-quality speaker binding posts
  • Rear-panel replaceable fuse
  • IEC-style power cord
  • Frequency range: 10 Hz – 20 kHz, +/- 0.5 dB
  • Nominal output power 8 Ohm: 2 x 150 Watt
  • Nominal output power 4 Ohm: 2 x 300 Watt
  • Input sensitivity: 1.2 V
  • Total harmonic distortion: < 0.1 % max. (1 kHz, 1 Watt)
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: > 90 dB
  • Input Impedance: 47 kOhm
  • Inputs: 2 x RCA
  • Outputs: 4 x 2 speaker terminals
  • Dimensions: 17" wide, 6.3" high, 17.7" deep
  • Weight: 41.5 lbs.

"Vincent's SP-331 amp, like its SA-31 preamp, has midrange subtlety and richness in spades. Connect the SP-331 with a sufficiently revealing preamplifier… and the Vincent will reward you with vivid midrange tonal colors and a delightfully holographic 3-D presentation that reveals the finely contoured edges of notes…"

"The SP-331 does more things right than any other sub-$1200 amplifier I've heard."

- Chris Martens, The Absolute Sound, August 2007

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I have no experiences with KHorns but with LaScalas. My ones also have ALK Xover.

As a 300B SET which I use in another chain has sufficient power on the paper, I prefer the sound of my Mcintosh MC275 MK4 driving the LaScalas. Some speakers seem to like more stabil kind of power regardless of their sensitivity. (stabil in the sense that impedance interaction shoud be avoided).

I prefer the MC275 MK4 also in comparison to a MC2102 which I also have used for more than 4 years. The MC2102 has more power, bass and stage. But it lacks the finer inner detail which takes the music closer to the heart. And 75 Watts pc are plenty for a Khorn. And, a note worth, a friend has a MC275CE back from the nineties. For me it sounds significantly worse against the new production.

Another very good sounding pair of amps which I have bought 18 years ago and restored are Quad II monos, 15W KT66 in combination with the LaScalas. At the end of the day the MC275 ist the best allrounder soundwise I know.

I would avoid biamping if possible because there is allways the risk that homogeneity and timing could suffer.

Another story is, if you have to go biamping. My Jubilles are now driven using the 300B to feed the mid/high K402. They sound very good, because they have not to deal with coils and capacitors in the path. The DSP is in front of the amp.

Of course I do not have such a broad experience and of course all of what I am saying here is my very subjective point of view.

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If you want to "soften the image", use the tool designed to do that - an equalizer. An amplifier multiplies the voltage, and changing amplification to affect tonal balance is, well, an incorrect application of amplifier technology.

Reducing the energy between 2 kHz and 6 kHz by 2 or 3 dB takes the bite and forward sounding characteristics right out of any loudspeaker. In fact, the famed BBC monitors are designed with that sort of EQ built into their crossovers for that very reason.

But if you wish, you can get on the merry-go-round of amp rolling. You might stumble onto a combination that does what you want or maybe not. But what happens when you get a well recorded album that does not need such EQ? Change amps again? Suffer through mediocrity so that bad records sound good? With an EQ, simply hit the bypass switch.

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My two cents: I think that for those of us who feel our k-horns are too "in your face" or "hot" on top with quality SS amplication (like your Levinson) the answer is to be found in tubes.

I think the roundness and softness you are looking for is more eaily found in DHT tube amps, 2A3, 300B or 45. Choose your poison based on output power needs.

If DHT are too low in power (I use PP 2A3 for a solid 10-13 watts, pick my amp's real output depending on who you believe) your best choice, again IMHO, would be classic EL84 or EL34 based amps (think Pilot SA-232 or Dynaco ST-35 for EL84 and Marantz 8b or Dynaco mkIV for EL34...etc.) perhaps some classic Scott component?

These all give a warm, round sound that tames the hotness you are complaining about. I dont want to comment on whether these alternatives are as accurate, etc. as state of the art SS or tube based amplifiers because I don't think about that too often these days. I prefer to simply enjoy what I am listening to, I prefer that over knowing my components will reproduce a sine or square wave perfectly. This is a personal choice of mine, one that you may find you share..or not.

I heartily recommend auditioning amp in your system before making a decision; by asking friends to bring over amps, borrowing amps from dealers and perhaps visiting near-by people with k-horns and tubes you can quickly see where your taste lies, then make a final decision. I heard a LOT of tube amps in my system (due to my kind friends who brought them over for "shoot-outs", these included modern and classic SET, PP and hybrid amps) before settling on my particular amp. I also heard a wide variety of SS amps in my system before maknig the decision to stay with tubes (everthing from krell and levinson to mcintosh and classic marantz SS).

best of luck on your search and let us know how you progress.

warm regards,

Tony

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my 2 cents

in my 30 yr old k horns i have had old ss crappy amps: sony and pioneer, when i was broke in the 80s. a good adcom ?525 that i paid $400 for aound 1987-about $800 in todays dollars for a 60w/ch stereo amp. it was great. temp mac tube amp back then too.

post katrina i bought 2535 and 555 adcoms, old and still nice, but for other purposes. an outlaw audio 750 165 x 5, also nice. i now have 2 mc 240s (both bought used and cheap and each with diff tubes), as i intended to biamp my khorns. have not done so yet. h*ll i haven't even redone the x overs yet, and that will be an issue for me-
which xover sets to buy in consideration of biamping. i am not sure any of the other postings has addressed this
can alk / deanG / bob crites / or popbumper chime in on this?
another issue: how many amps do you want to deal with
for me: k horn, bi-amped (if i do it), 2 amps, center acad and lascalas rear, another amp - the 750, i will have 4 BIG subs running, 1 amp each. Yup, 7 amps total. realistically, few of us have a chance to sample diff amps. for SET or PP (mac) amps try to get some idea of prices, quality, etc from various forums and audigon, audio circle, etc. Can you DIY? if so, this route might be best/cheapest for good quality. try bottlehead and their forum. to thine own ear be true!!!! if you can't demo anything, well i suggest figuring out your realistic budget. likely whatever you do you will be happy-if you want to be. the tube rollers in the new orleans audio club all seem like wonderful people. but they all have the wanderlust. and there is no cure for that. for ss amps, read lots of reviews and a quality newer used product to save some $$.
bon chance

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All horns, even very good ones -- are "in your face". Tubes will "soften" the presentation -- but they will still sound like horns.

shut up Dean

jk

M

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To me this in your face sound does't occur untill you hit 100 to 110 dB on the rat shack sound level meter in my room. I listen to music at 96 to 100 dB.all the time. When I want to feel all the energy I crank it up to a min. of 104 dB. You can only listen to it at these levels for about 10 min. at a time. Then you have to give your ears a break. Again, this is when the sound begins to over power you and gets in your face and is even scarry. I havn't found the max. volume of my system in my room. It seems like it can keep going without distorting. It gets dangerous, because the music still sounds so clean and clear. You need to check the sound level meter and only go to these levels for short sessions. I'm used to looking at the meters on the amps. When I see a constent 10 to 20 watts with peeks at around 150 I know that I'm at around 104 dB in my room.

For me, I am there. There will be no more tweaking of the speakers. The sound is to my taste and one that I have been seeking for many years. Amps may be another story, because I have never tried tubes.

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To me this in your face sound does't occur untill you hit 100 to 110 dB on the rat shack sound level meter in my room. I listen to music at 96 to 100 dB.all the time. When I want to feel all the energy I crank it up to a min. of 104 dB. You can only listen to it at these levels for about 10 min. at a time. Then you have to give your ears a break. Again, this is when the sound begins to over power you and gets in your face and is even scarry. I havn't found the max. volume of my system in my room. It seems like it can keep going without distorting. It gets dangerous, because the music still sounds so clean and clear. You need to check the sound level meter and only go to these levels for short sessions. I'm used to looking at the meters on the amps. When I see a constent 10 to 20 watts with peeks at around 150 I know that I'm at around 104 dB in my room.

For me, I am there. There will be no more tweaking of the speakers. The sound is to my taste and one that I have been seeking for many years. Amps may be another story, because I have never tried tubes.

The Q-man is back! I glad to see that you didn"t give up.

My Khorns and LaScala have been perfected to my taste as well.

To me "in your face" is not a matter of volume (my maximum is around 90dB with an average listening level of 78dB), but rather where you are positioned in the theater. Khorns using ss amps make the image seem like you are in the front row. This is fine for those that want to be in the front row. I prefer sitting half way back in the orchestral section where you can hear the subtleties of sound details, decay, and nuances that can be obtained only from tubes.

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When I said that I give up, I ment that I give up trying to post links to web sites.

Although, since I finished my speakers a couple of years ago I havn't been on the Forum that much.

But, I do have one bass horn that I want to mess with one of these days.

I fell in love with Klipschorns when I was 12 years old. My next door neighbor had a pair. I've been seeking that same sound ever since then. The thing is, he was using McIntosh tube amps. I kept tweaking speakers to get that sound. Now that I have the speakers voiced the way that I like, I guess the tubes have to come next. I bought my McIntosh SS amps hopeing that would do it. Then too, those were the days of turn tables, before digital CD's.

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I love my combination of quality, low power, solid-state amplifier driving the bass bins with quality, low power tube amplifiers driving the mid and upper range horns. I believe ultra-efficient horns expose the glassy edge of second order harmonics in the critical midrange and the upper mids of most solid-state most amplifiers. It wears out your ears. I went for assembled Bottlehead 2A3 Paramours, with a 45-pound vintage Pioneer class A solid-state amplifier driving my bass bins. My two channel recommendations are:

  • The Sonic Impact and Trends Audio are great class T chip amplifiers for super-efficient big ole horns and maybe all that you ever need <$200
  • So are the vintage twin transformer Harmon Kardon receivers 430, etc. (always get vintage equipment refurbished before you judge the sound) <$500.
  • Next in price, but wonderful values nonetheless, are refurbished vintage integrated tube amplifiers, such as the ones that poster NOSvalues offers <$1K
  • I have seriously auditioned several tube and solid-state amplifiers on Khorns, LaScallas and Cornwalls, plus heard them on other big ole horns. I heard NOSvalves’ VRD amplifiers on Mike Lindsay’s modified LaScalas. IM humble O, while it is very hard to compete with the value that low cost chip amplifiers, twin transformer vintage Harmon Kardon recivers and refurbished integrated tube amplifiers provide, the VRDS represent some of the best value money can buy in a tube amplifier for big ole horns.

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I love my combination of quality, low power, solid-state amplifier driving the bass bins with quality, low power tube amplifiers driving the mid and upper range horns. I believe ultra-efficient horns expose the glassy edge of second order harmonics in the critical midrange and the upper mids of most solid-state most amplifiers. It wears out your ears. I went for assembled Bottlehead 2A3 Paramours, with a 45-pound vintage Pioneer class A solid-state amplifier driving my bass bins.poster NOSvalues offers <$1K

As I read your reply, it was like I was hit in the head with a baseball bat. I then realized after listening to Khorns for over thirty years, most of the 125 watt power in my ss amp is directed by the crossover to the bass while very little energy goes to the midrange and tweeter. Otherwise those speakers would be burned up in no time. Therefore, with biamping, all that I will need is an inexpensive low wattage tube amp for the upper two horns. The expense of an amplifier is largely based on power which in my case won't be needed. I have finally seen the light, but boy do I feel stupid! Yes, it's never too late for an old dog to learn new tricks.

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That’s great, but I want to be the first to warn you that proper bi-amping requires an active 3-way stereo crossover unit, which is expensive and tricky to set up properly, plus properly matched amplifiers. In my case, the 2A3 Paramours run out of steam at about 6-watts. This seems to be a good match for my Pioneer, because it provides up to 60-watts per channel.

The bass from the massive $150 Pioneer is more solid than any other amplifier I auditioned on my big ole horns. At low power, it sounds the same as the amazing Pass X250. Of course, at mid to high volumes, the Pass smokes everything in every aspect (except price).

From what I understand, the bass drivers in the Khorn operate full range. They are not choked off by the crossover. Instead, the crossover limits the bottom extension of the mid-horn and protects the tweeter horn. Therefore, you can power the bass drivers with good quality, low power amplifier directly.

The output of my two amplifiers turns out to be close to the perfect power ratio (can’t even begin to tell you the math) for passive bi-amping. It takes about ten times more output to drive the bass bins to a certain SPL compared to the mid and high horns.

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Whatever you do, get a home audition on your speakers of whatever you buy before buying.

I say this because I, and many others here, have used QSC pro amps with great sucess with K Horns. No harshness.

I am really surprised that a Levinson 334 has any harshness with these speakers. Levinson is not known for harshness, they are actually known to be very smooth and laid back amps. If you had a Krell amp I'd say just go for another amp without an audition but it may be hard to get a smoother amp than teh Levinson.

What preamp and source are you using?

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I am really surprised that a Levinson 334 has any harshness with these speakers. Levinson is not known for harshness, they are actually known to be very smooth and laid back amps. If you had a Krell amp I'd say just go for another amp without an audition but it may be hard to get a smoother amp than teh Levinson.

What preamp and source are you using?

Harshness has never been a problem with the ML334 amp. The lack of nuance, suble detail is the culprit. As I said before, I would rather seem like I'm in the middle of the orchestral seats then in the front row which is how I feel now. The source is the Esoteric X-3; and the preamp is the Placette active with two of the passive preamps as volume controls. As you can see, quality is not an issue, but solid state is.

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The output of my two amplifiers turns out to be close to the perfect power ratio (can’t even begin to tell you the math) for passive bi-amping. It takes about ten times more output to drive the bass bins to a certain SPL compared to the mid and high horns.

I have Al's universal passive crossover which has two inputs: one for bass and one for the upper two horns. Couldn't I apply a passive line volume control to the tube amp and match it with the higher volume ss amp? At that point, the master volume control could work both amps simultaneously.

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I think you're talking about passive bi-amping. It's not recommended, you should go with an active x-over if bi-amping.

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