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Solid State rocker discovers tubes and horns!

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I made the trip down to the ATL this weekend, to the distinguished domain of the edster00, to pick up the used Chorus pair that he had been holding for me. That was enough reason to drive down there, but I had alterior motives as well. Since I knew what electronics edster00 has in his stable (Welbourne Labs Moondog Monoblocks, Cary Audio preamp, McIntosh CD and Khorns), I saw this as an opportunity to see and hear what all of the ruckus about tubes and horns was about........

On my terms - that is to say, MY music!!!

I'm a Solid State rock and roll addict by trade. I have attended hundreds of rock concerts since my teens, encompassing such acts as the Grateful Dead, Phish, Pink Floyd, Crosby Stills and Nash, The Who, The Rolling Stones, and my latest addiction, the Colorado based String Cheese Incident. So I have naturally become accustomed to high wattage Solid State amplification, with high output horn loaded PA speakers. My love for Klipsch is based on their ability to give that big concert sound in the home - the only consumer line product capable of doing so, without going with pro gear. This setup does have drawbacks - it "rocks the nation" - but can be a bit overwhelming for conversational listening. Ed explained this as being like a sports car driving in town - it longs to be driven, but is overkill for a slow Sunday cruise. That said, my HT would likely rank in the best 1 or 2% of all systems out there, but quiet listening is not a strength of my system - rocking it out is.

I'll first say that edster00 is a good salesman, and a gentleman. My friend and I arrived on Saturday morning, and Ed led us to the downstairs listening room (which is under construction, but still adequate for a sound demo). My Chorus-in-waiting are hooked up to the Welbourne Labs Moondogs, playing softly in the background. The difference in the Solid State and tube setup is immediately apparent - silky smooth, captivating sound that draws you in. This is with softer jazz/instumental music though - and Ed wasted no time by inviting me to pop in some of the music that I brought along. I will mention that I like Ed's musical taste too - I spotted such morsels in his collection as Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, Weather Report, and Pink Floyd's DSOTM (Mobile Fidelity version too!) So much for stereotyping tube-o-philes as strictly the easy listening type!

The session began with String Cheese Incident's newest release Outside Inside, which gave me a chance to see just how well those flea-powered SET amps drive rock and roll through Klipsch speakers. This studio CD release offers hard driving rock tracks, groove, and rootsy bluegrass material - this band covers a wide range of musical styles, and can shift gears on a dime. In addition, the band's instumental setup is a bit unusual for a rock and roll band - they feature Michael Kang, who plays electric and acoustic mandolins and fiddles - he functions as the electric guitar with the electric mando when the music calls for it. Bill Nershi is an accomplished bluegrass flat picker, and Kyle Hollingsworth plays all manner of keys and has an extensive jazz background - he is IMO the best individual player in the band. Travis on drums and Keith on bass form a rock solid, tight rhythm unit. SCI is incredibly "tight" live - they perform 80 shows a year, and honed their skills doing 150+ shows per year in the first five years of the band's existence. The CD also features Karl Denson on saxophone. This recipe makes for a wide range of tone and musical feel - ideal for testing the Chorus/Moondogs.

We turned it up a bit, beyond conversational level, about 80 db or so. This is where the SET combo excels - low to moderate volume where the ultimate in soundstage and tonal quality is desired. And do they deliver! It's easy to understand the allure of Klipsch with tubes - it truly is like a fine wine or ale - something you really SAVORSmile.gif I was genuinely prepared for a letdown when the increase in volume came - where I expected the SET amp to fall short of expectations.

I tried to be realistic about this. I knew that the 115+ db levels acheivable with SS amplification wasn't going to happen with 3.5 watts of SET. However, I was looking for some ability to rock the house a littleSmile.gif As the volume was increased to the low 90's db range, the sound remained tight - along with that great tone and image. Above that, the sound begins to run together a bit - not annoyingly so, but certainly noticeable to these SS ears.

Now it's time to load up the bass. The next selection is Phish's live version of the Talking Heads' classic "Cities". Bass player Mike Gordon plays a Modulus bass - similar to the one used by Grateful Dead's Phil Lesh. Saying that Gordon's bass has presence in the mix is like saying that a bull has presence in a china closet. This otta make those little Moondogs pukeSmile.gif

The setup hung right in there - much better than expected. I have heard this cut repeatedly, and use it to test bass in other systems, and was very impressed. Again, low 90's volume levels was very tight and controlled, but lost a bit of the "tightness" above that level. This track is demanding though - and I must say that I was very pleasantly surprised with the volume overall. Listening at 90-95db is really quite full volume, if not ear splitting, but is quite enough where the best image, smoothness, and clarity is desired.

Now completely satisfied with the sound of the Chorus, we now switch the Moondogs over to the Klipschorns. Since Ed's listening room is not finished (sheetrock yet to be installed) the Khorns are not ideally set up, but they were certainly serviceable - mostly lacking a bit in bass response, but still worth the listen. The extra 3db efficiency and horn loaded woofage make all of the difference with the SET. The difference is jaw-droppingSmile.gif This is the ultimate combo. The Klipschorns have such presence and image - drool, droolSmile.gif Back to String Cheese incident again, this time a 20 minute live version of "Impressions". This was too good to be true. Ed, you've addicted me, and cost me future dollars....all of you tube geeks (and I mean this in a good way) were right on the money. And for those of you who believe that these tube setups are for classical/jazz/doctors office music lovers only, as PWK would say, "bulls#it".

Then Ed made an interesting suggestion, selecting some Christmas music to play through the setup. I'll go with the flow! Vocal and cello. I never knew that a vocal could be so /involving/ - this gear really does suck you into the music. Owning such gear has this additional benefit - it keeps you listening to new and varied music. Music that would not interest me much otherwise completely becomes an experience with the tube/Khorn combo. I can picture listening to such a setup, as Colin would say "lights out and tubes glowing", on Christmas Eve.

Unfortunately, time was getting away from us - we shot almost 4 hours in what seemed like no time at all. We loaded up the Chorus into the borrowed Volvo (which would later sustain $6100 in damage in a golfball/baseball sized hailstorm coming back to Illinois) and headed downtown, as we had tickets for - you guessed it - the String Cheese Incident at the Fox Theatre. My friend Mark commented during the show from our front row center Loge seats, "It sounds as good as the Khorns".

Big thanks to you Ed, for putting all of the reviews and Klipsch/tube discussion into something tangible - nothing like real proof. I cannot thank you enough for how welcome you made us feel, and for showing us the goods! I sincerely hope that we cross paths again - it was a pleasure to deal with you, and to come to "The ATL". Hopefully I will have occasion to do it again sometime. If it were not for the fact that I have a schedule, I might still be listening to your Klipschorns. Like the old joke goes - How do you know when a Deadhead/Klipschhead has been at your house - A: He's still thereSmile.gif

Also a huge thanks to all who have discussed this subject on the 2 channel forum. The lively debate really kindled my interest in this topic, and your posts have convinced yet another Klipsch forum member of the virtues of tubes and horns. I now have a long term goal of acquiring a set of Khorns so I can start playing with tubes. I will not replace my SS HT anytime soon, but now see the benefits of a dedicated 2 channel system.

Tubes and Klipschorns are like the rock band Phish:

Both are "Ice cream for the ears"cwm9.gif


First we Rock, then we Roll!

A Beast is Lurking.........To be unleashed May 2002

This message has been edited by dndphishin on 04-24-2002 at 12:22 AM

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Wow - sounds like you had a ball!! Excellent write up - very involving!!!

I do wonder, however, if a 300B based setup might suit your newfound Chorus speakers better than 2A3's. The sound is similar but with 8 watts as opposed to 3.5 there is just that bit more headroom to play with.

I cannot remember the sensitivity of the Chorus but with 300B's you should be able to push to 100 dB or more without any clipping or running together (your words).

Kinda makes me wish I could take a trip over to the US to hear what you heard.

Still - with the input I have been getting from the ACA people I cant complain!!

Just a few thoughts - welcome to the world of tubes!!


My System: http://aca.gr/pop_maxg.htm

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Thanks to you for sharing that experience, and edster for making it possible. Considering some of the recent remarks by a member of this Forum, observations by a self confessed, "Solid State rock and roll addict" may help dispell some of the myths and misinformation about "flea powered SET amps". Admittedly, SET amps are not everyones cup of tea, and all SET amps are not created equal, but generally their ability to draw one into the music is part of the "magic" of tubes and horns. BTW, I also own a pair of 2A3 Moondogs, driving a pair of Belle Klipsch and love the combination.

I'll look forward to reading your review of YOUR 2 channel system which I know is coming sooner than you think.

Klipsch out.

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Congrats on the Chorus & a very nice post on your SET experience. Brings back memories. Sorry about the damage to the Volvo. As Max stated you may want to consider a 300B. If you feel a little additional headroom is needed.

Thanks for sharing your experience.




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seems we have quite a bit in common

3 watts might not get it, but 15 watts certainly does

You need and AE-25 Super Amp

check out my Rock & Metal playback system



Cary AE-25f>s>c>Super Ampf>s>c>

Sonic Frontiers Line 1

Sony DVP-S9000ES

Klipsch RF7f>s>c>'s

SVS 20-39PCf>s>c>ic>


Toshiba 36"f>s>c>

Inside every small problem is a large problem struggling to get outf>s>-- 2nd Law of Blissful Ignorancef>s>c>

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Awesome Post. Makes me want to deliver the Scott 299 rather than ship it to Ed when I get it done LOL !!!


HH Scott 299 Amp

HH Scott LT-110B Tuner

HH Scott P-87 Turn Table

Grado cartridge

Sony CDP315 CD Drive

1985 Walnut Heresey I

KSW-15 Subs>c>

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Although I have alot of different music tastes, I am also, at heart, a rocker!!! Nothin like a bit of Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way" to assist the first cup of mornin coffee in getting me moving for the day Smile.gif

I also love the sound Klipsch heritage series when powered by a good tube amp...even though I currently have only my old trusty ss Harmon/Kardon to crank up.

Many folks have asked me, when I would get on the subject of tube vs. SS, why I like the tube more. It was hard to describe without my drawing an analogy...

"I can work as either a machinist or a woodworker...I have relatively equal skills in either one, but I choose woodworking over being a machinist(even though I may be able to earn more as a machinist) because I like the medium better...wood has a warmth to it that metal just doesn't have...I like that warmth! Tubes have that same warmth!"

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Great review 'phishin'!

First let me say that it was my pleasure to meet you and Mark, and to have some "new ears" to listen to my little system.

I find that there are a couple of advantages to having folks over to listen to my gear besides making new friends...

1. I get more diverse opinions on the best orientation (toe in angle) of the K-horns for best overall sound performance and,

2. I always ask people to bring music that they enjoy and that they are most familiar with so they have a point of reference...and I get to hear other folks favorite tunes!

I went out that afternoon and bought a Phish album and the String Cheese Incident album that we listened to. I am a rock 'n roller at heart also, but I have added music of all sorts to my collection. You said it best "this gear really does suck you into the music".

My wife even ventures into the dungeon once in awhile to listen to some tunes with me (two of her favorites are Meatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell I & II").

So I am really happy you enjoyed the dual purpose trip, sorry about the damage to the car, and I hope to see you again sometime soon! Thanks for the kind words also Smile.gif!


If this is still your slow time of the year by all means head on down!


2 Channel System:

'78 Khorns w/ALK networks

Welborne Labs Moondog 2A3 amps

AES AE-3 Superpreamp DJH mods

McIntosh MCD 7007 CD

McIntosh MR-78 Tuner

DIYCable Twisted Cross Connects

DIYCable Superlatives (preamp/amp)

DH Labs Silver Pulse interconnects (sources/preamp)



This message has been edited by edster00 on 04-24-2002 at 04:58 PM

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Wow, great review dnd! As a Colorado native, and a rocker, it sounds like I need to look up SCI! It would be nice to find some good rock and roll in today's pop land. Hope I can find it at my local MediaPlay.


Sounds like you have quite the system. I have never heard tubes and think I could be won over as dnd was. Of course, then my wallet might be forever sorry. Smile.gif Where in Atlanta are you? My job has me down there about every 1-2 months, northeast up 285 to our teleport facility. Let me know if the "dungeon" would be willing to share its secrets again. It was certainly a pleasure getting to visit with Tony Reed when I was in Hope.


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Rob (and anyone else curious about SCI), go here:

SCI Fidelity sounds page

There are MP3's of recent SCI performances on this page. I highly recommend the top three tracks on the page! If one of these is not to your liking, try another, as SCI covers a wide range of styles. Good stuff herecwm30.gif


First we Rock, then we Roll!

A Beast is Lurking.........To be unleashed May 2002

*** Alpha Testing Complete ***

This message has been edited by dndphishin on 05-04-2002 at 08:55 AM

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