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S.E.T impressions


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My original post suggesting that one "sell everything and buy S.E.T" was based on initial impressions. I try hard not to embellish, or overstate the differences in the sound of my system when something has been changed -- but it is difficult for me. I am more prone to this kind of thing after making a major change -- like when I went from the Bryston 3B-St to the Super Amp, or from the Sonic Frontiers Line 1 to the AE-3 DJH. I typically don't get too excited over a tube or cable change.

To most people, any "major" change in my system would barely be discernable, while to me -- the change usually seems significant. My daughter, who is 13, believes me to be insane, and has told me as much several times. She seems to notice no differences at all, while my wife only notices miniscule differences. I explain that this is why it is my hobby, and not theirs. This is important, because it shows that many of us don't just listen to music, we also listen to the parts that make up the music. We are an accursed breed, never being able to enjoy the whole, if the parts are not in perfect place.

The "upgrade bug" is not a misnomer; it is a real disease known only to those who are sick with it. The disease is curable however. One only needs to find the combination of gear that puts the parts in place to a degree that they can enjoy the whole -- that which we call "music".

I was actually "cured" last year after owning only my 6th amp, and 4th preamp in 25 years. Half of these "attempts" were experienced in the last year or so, and I found good medicine in the AES AE-25 and AE-3 tubed offerings. I was so pleased with the amp that I quickly upgraded to the DJH version of the same. I was very satisfied with the sound until a course of events led me to sell the amp. If you're interested, you can read about the fiasco here:


... and a thread dealing with my next amp choice here:


I had heard so much about SET for so long, from so many different people -- that it was just something I wanted to try. It is not what I really wanted, but I did very badly want to try it while I still had the opportunity. If you've read the post regarding my initial impressions, then you know I'm pretty happy with these amps. If you haven't read it, then you can find it here:


If someone were to steal the Apollos, and replace them with the Super Amp DJH -- I would not be reduced to weeping. With the RF7's, the Super Amp is great, and since I can't think of one bad thing to say about it -- I won't. I think if you're contemplating going from a good solid-state amp to tubes, a good triode push-pull amp should be at the top of your list for consideration. If you're concerned about power, don't be. It would simply shock you how much SPL you can pull with 15 watts of triode. No, it won't jolt you out of your chair with a pressure wave -- but it sounds so good, you will simply not care. You only need worry if you have an unusually large listening room. Of course, if you're doing Scalas or K-horns -- you need not worry at all!

I don't buy this idea that "tubes are not for everyone". That's total B.S. If you're a Klipsch or horn owner, and enjoy 2-channel sound -- then tubes are for YOU. What does a tube amp give you that a good solid-state amp doesn't (comparatively speaking, because good solid state amps sound very good)? Clarity. Simple, unadulterated clarity. As good as I thought the Bryston sounded, it was completely humbled by the Super Amp. By comparison (direct), the Bryston seemed to put a milky "film" across the music, and the high damping factor -- in spite of giving a solid, tight bass -- didn't sound natural. The AE-25 was just clearer, more open, and the bass -- though not as tight, actually filled the room better. This paragraph is mostly to give the new folks, and those who consider tubes too "weak" - something to think about.

O.K., so what of this S.E.T business? I was asked by several why I went SET considering my musical tastes and propensity for moderate to high listening levels. I feel the need to clear some things up.

My musical tastes

I am NOT a metal head. I own one (1) Metallica CD, and one (1) Pantera CD. I like them both quite a bit though. They are extremely well recorded, and I like the music. However, everything else I've heard by these two bands suck. I don't like any of it. I also own Judas Priests' 2nd recording, and everything they did after that...sucks. I do use these three CD's when checking out new gear, because they are very dynamic and the mixing on them is excellent.

I'm a product of the early 70's. Most of my recordings are 70's and 80's rock, one (1) eighties pop CD (Tears for Fears), and some recent stuff that's pretty darn good on a musical level. I'm basically into "Classic Rock", and not all of it is "hard". The Moody Blues, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Bad Company, ELP, Jethro Tull, Babe Ruth, Yes, Genesis, etc. I also listen to quite a few Christian artists; Margaret Becker, Susan Ashton, Out of the Grey, The Kry, Sixpence None the Richer, etc. No Classical (ZZZ...zzzz), no jazz (ZZZ...zzzz). The bottom line: You won't find me in a Mosh Pit.

My listening habits

The biggest kept secret in audio circles is how good Rock, and some Metal sounds on good speakers with good gear at low to moderate listening levels. I typically listen at around 95db. I think this is a level that imparts a sense of realism to the music. A 100db to me is LOUD. I like some power underneath my systems for the HEADROOM. With the RF7's, I'm probably only pushing 3 watts 90% of the time. If I push the envelope, I don't want the amp's distortion levels to go too high, and I certainly want to avoid clipping if I can. The bottom line: I am not the guy in the Maxell ad.


I was ready to just go another Triode p-p amp. Some of the things I looked at were either too much money, or basically the same as what I had. I had even considered stepping back to solid-state, when Kelly slapped me back into reality. I had decided I would take my time and be patient. Since I had the DQ-10 system up and running, I didnt feel pressed into making a decision. Within days, the AudiogoN ad came up with the Welborne Labs Apollos. Obnoxious SET. High Current. 16 watts. I would have preferred the Laurels - but the Laurels were not there, and the Apollos were. I thought about the headroom, the possible impedance issues with the RF7s, and the fact that the amps looked very nice. So much for patience.

Set for S.E.T.

S.E.T. stands for Sensitive - Everything Transmitted

No? In spite of the great sound, the first two days with them was hell. A ground loop, transformer buzzing, microphonic tubes, and a possible problem with the way the Apollos and AE-3 were seeing each other - had me seriously questioning my decision.

I spent most of Friday night going over the whole system. I decided to do some common sense things, and later in the week, Im hoping I can find time to follow the instructions in a link Kelly provided me -- dealing with polarity. Kelly also suggested I try moving the AE-3 away from the amps - and so I started there.

I had the Apollos going through the HTS1000, on the same circuit. After I moved the AE-3, I then proceed to rewire the whole system. Our house was built in 1956, and I decided I would replace the two receptacles I would be plugging the amps into. When I finished, I had the amps on two separate circuits, and I then put the AE-3 on an adapter plug. All interconnects were examined and cleaned with IPA, as well as RCA inputs on the amps and preamp. When I finished, all connectors were tightened as tight as I could get them, on the equipment and interconnects. I then cleaned all the tube sockets, and tube contacts with IPA using pipe cleaners and Q-tips. The only other thing I did was switch the KRB300BXLS tubes between the amps to see if the image drift problem I had moved to the other channel. After I finished, I decided I would do the cleaning twice a year. The total dirt accumulated on more than a dozen pipe cleaners and Qtips was not pretty. The entire ordeal took almost 3 hours.


It was finally time to fire everything up. The only thing missing was the damping solution for the amps. Ive got it narrowed down to the Vibrapods and the Bright Start Isopods. Im leaning towards the Isopods. They each support 10 lbs, and I will probably get 6 for each amp. Im adding a couple of extra because of the heat the amps put out, and Im figuring the heat will cause the feet to mush up under the weight. Im adding two on each amp to help offset the additional compression. Im using some acoustic foam around the amps to help control the ringing of the tubes.

Since my 2 year old daughter, Temple, was with me at the time - I grabbed her personal favorite, The Tears for Fears 20th Anniversary Edition from Capitol Records. Its a good recording, and she loves to hop around the room while its going. I was going for broke here.

Upon power up, it was apparent that I had solved the ground loop problem, and transformer hum was down to a minimum. There was no discernable buzzing, and on the whole, didnt seem any louder than the Super Amp DJH. Taking a reading with the SPL meter set to 60db (lowest possible setting), less than an inch from each driver - produced no movement on the meter.

The CD goes in and Im met with a much better sound than I had the other night. I think its more mental than anything. There is something soothing about having all your is dotted, and ts crossed, that puts you in a better frame of mind for listening. It did seem a bit more detailed, and not quite as lush - of course, the amps werent really warmed up yet.

Half way through the CD, Temple headed for mom - and I decided to make some additional changes. These amps were telling me to give them more room. I cant explain this. It just seemed that I could afford to spread the speakers even further apart, and pull my chair back a little more. In the end, I ended up with RF7s 7 feet apart, 26 inches from the back wall, and 18 inches from the side walls. My chair ended up almost 10 feet back. Things really opened up at this point, and its very impressive. The Super Amp didnt do very well with this placement, as the center image collapsed. The Apollos have no problem keeping the image stable from side to side or back to front. When I say 7 feet apart, I mean center horn to center horn. These things fire out quite an image.

I think Ive decided there is almost as much difference between the Apollos and the Super Amp DJH, as there was between my Anthem Amp1 and 1st Super Amp. Its still tubes, but a fairly significant difference in sound. The highs seem a little rolled off, but seem to have more definition somehow. The midrange is warmer, but still sounds detailed. The bass does its thing without sounding bloated. Definitely more slam with the Super Amp - but Im happy with the tradeoff. The bass is articulate and warm, blending in nicely with the lower midrange, but it wont win any awards in the authority department. Overall, the presentation feels seem-less and without effort. Well, almost.

I will never see the full potential of these amps with my present setup. Anything much past 92db or so, and the tubes begin to ring. I can only hope additional damping will help, but I wont know until I install the isopods and add some foam between the speakers and the tubes. Simply put - the amps are just too close to the sides of the speakers. I so much enjoy the sound of these things that I will put up with this small inconvenience for now. Hopefully, the Isopods will allow me to get my 95 or 96 db.

Ive said many times that I can live with almost anything as long as its clean, and I sometimes find it difficult to describe sound because of this. I hear differences in a general kind of way, and its hard for me to nail down the specifics. I can say it sounds great. That it sounds better than the Super Amp I just sold, and that the sound is not so much intense as it is musical. Its just fun to listen too. There is definitely more ambience to the sound, and I think thats what made me want to spread things out a little more. Its warmer, but not to the point of sounding thick, or giving up detail. It sounds less like a woofer and a tweeter, and more like a single sound coming from the baffles.

I dont think I can really describe the sound of tube amps, much less SET - in conventional terms. I will try something different, and if it helps, thats good -- and if not, then let it go, and do not dwell on it too long.

A beautiful woman you have never met before, approaches you, and kisses you. Your senses are aroused, but you do not quite know what to make of it. Then she is gone. You realize that you can only decide what to make of it -- if it happens again. When it happens again, you find you still cannot decide what to make of it. There is a bit of confusion and disorientation - in spite of the excitement of it all. This is somewhat like the solid-state experience. It is exciting, but not complete. You spend much time analyzing the experience, but can never quite get a handle on what is missing.

Tube gear OTOH, sounds very much like what a potholder looks like. Yes, a potholder. Not just any potholder however. The one I have in mind is the one I made in fourth grade using the vibrant colored nylon yarn on a makeshift frame. Maybe youve seen them, or made one yourself. You hold it in you hand, and the clarity and intensity of the colors command your attention. You can trace any single piece of yarn from one end to the other without confusion. Tube gear does this for the sound. There is not much more I can say about it.

S.E.T is like being on a date with your wife, and at the end of the night she brushes her face against your cheek. You are aware of her in a complete way. The smell of her hair, the look of her eyes, and everything has a rightness about it that brings comfort, and in her hand -- she has a potholder.

As always, thanks goes to Kelly for the arm twisting, and especially for building the nice page. If you want to see the page Kelly built, and see some pics of the amps, just click on the link below my signature.

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So Solid state is a beautiful woman and SET is a potholder...

Somehow the analogies dont help.

But seriously, in about a month I am going to join you in this SET thing and then find out for myself about the joys of holding pots.

Interestingly, and reading between the lines, the bass issue of SET may be something I wont suffer from. The sub has been filling in for absent bass for so long (initially with the Heresies and latterly with the Sansui's) that I think it will just continue the job. It may require some adjustment in the crossover but I am fully expecting it to immunize my system from this lack of body.

Good post though - enjoyed reading it immensely.

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Great post! There must be some middle ground here somewhere, though!

My first wife sure didn't seem right for anymore, potholder or no! SET's might remind me of my ex.


All my girlfriends accuse me of being a playboy, why do they get upset over a little bit of lipstick, whazzup widdat!?! I'm shopping, okay!...

Do they suspect me of "upgrade fever". Told'em I love them all! Does this lock me into a solid state existence, hopping from SS receiver to receiver?! Could get expensive....

Maybe short term the fix for me is pentodes....

Sexy, shapely little EL34's, 7868's and 7591's (triodes DO look like matronly lightbulbs) that'll do the dishes once in a while and won't mind too much when I go out with the boys and light up a transistor once in a while......

Yeah, that's it, that's the ticket.....


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Outstanding post, Dean! If I can find a job in the next couple of months, I'm sure SET will be in my future as well. Here's hoping you get everything figured out. BTW, I do most of my serious listening at 100 - 105db. I'm wondering with a good SET if I can lower that a little bit? Which makes me wonder whether or not I need this kind of volume to get the dynamics I'm looking for. Or, I could just like it loud and hard! 9.gif


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"I do most of my serious listening at 100 - 105db"

I hope you do not do that for prolonged periods. I had a table kicking around somewhere with guidelines on spl and ear damage and from what I remember more than an hour or so a day exposure to that level will cause permanent damage.

Maybe you should go set if only to protect your ears...

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Amusing post... Ever since you got your own little equipement page, you have seemingly gone off the deep end. Now you have even progressed into the "change of font" disease. What has SET done to you?

I think a good stand and platform will help you here. You might need some dedicated stands for the beasts (looks ulta impressive, as well). Surprised you dont have an equipment stand already. Add in your monoblock stands with your isolation platforms and you are all fired up and ready to go.

I have to be honest in stating I have not had any tube ringing/microphonics problems with any of my SETs as stated. I think a good stand isolation device would help your cause. Glad you got some of the hum issues out; I had a feeling it was setup issues that were at work.

As for you sound description, I dont think the amps are as much rolled off as just more natural in their top end. I have to be honest and report that I found the Super Amp to be slightly on the electronic/bright side of the equation. This not compared to most amps where it proved the winner...but in comparison to REALLY top notch gear, including some vintage.

One thing I need to say... What the hell are you doing with those Monster Cable IC? IF there is a more lame sounding interconnect than Monster Cable, I am having a hard time remembering it! heh... I dont know about that specific model, but I have never liked their low-mid price IC at all. To me, they seem bright and a bit grainy. I havent heard their IC in about 12 years, but after a client of mine loaded up on various versions of Interlink, I tried them once again...and there was the characteristic brightness with grain and veil. Maybe that is a better version.

Anyway, next up for you is stands and isolation platforms, rolling tubes, interconnects, new carpet...heh, and some damn 50s-60s small group jazz! Stop messing around!

Glad something is working over there....


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Mike, I seriously cant believe you do most of your listening at this level. LORD. Does your system need to be cranked up in order for the dynamics to bloom? I played in many a rock band and like it loud but this seems REALLY up there for dedicated listening ALL the time.

104dB? What does the system sound like at 95-98 or so?


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On 11/11/2002 10:46:28 AM mobile homeless wrote:

Mike, I seriously cant believe you do most of your listening at this level. LORD. Does your system need to be cranked up in order for the dynamics to bloom? I played in many a rock band and like it loud but this seems REALLY up there for dedicated listening ALL the time.

104dB? What does the system sound like at 95-98 or so?



I work from home and listen to a lot of music during the day hours. Unfortunately, my office is at the end of the hall and it is during these times when I have my volume at the 100 - 105db level. Like most others here, I probably listen at the 90 - 100db level. During demos and drunken stupors however, I have been known to open it up a bit. 9.gif


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Great review.

Stay away from the pods. I could tell no difference with my Wrights.

I agree with you about seperate breakers for your system. My house was also built in the early 50's. I upgraded the breaker box form a 100A to a 200A. I have a dedicated breaker just for my amps. All Hiss went away.

I am ordering a pair of FIM880 outlets to replace my Lowes outlets. I will let you know what if any differnce it makes.

After ready the many SET post's, I am so glad I went with the Wrights.

Keep up the post's.


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Now Max, having a little trouble thinking in the abstract? :) I did not say the bass lacked "body", in fact, I said the complete opposite. It completely fills the room, and blends seemlessly with the lower midrange. What I said was that it lacked "slam" as compared to the Super Amp. The character of the bass is unique, it will be interesting to see if you can integrate your sub into the mix without upsetting the character.

John, actually -- it's very low maintenance once you get things set up. I only replaced the receptacles because the old ones were unable to give me a good solid connection with the power cord plugs. They allowed the plugs to wiggle loose from the outlet. I just wanted the tightest fit I could get.

Ed, see attached pic

see link http://www.kraudio.com/Tubes.htm

This tube is extremely complex, and microphonic as hell. It appears to be very sensitive to acoustical vibration. I think the pods are necessary. I have to get a grip on mechanical vibration first. Tube dampers are not available for power tubes of this size. I am currently investigating the use of a high temperature gasket forming material. At any rate, as long as I don't get carried away -- they do fine.

Mike, you crank your Scalas in an attempt to gain realism. I'm starting to think the realism comes from a soundfield that is more enveloping, which comes from an increase in ambient information. I've lost some dynamics, but have gained better tone and air galore. You won't listen as loud because there will appear to be more sound at lower volume levels.

Kelly, sorry about the font. The network was down most of the day at work yesterday, so I did the post in Word. When things came back up I just pasted it into the post.

My equipment rack was used for the DQ system. The Klipsch system upstairs is more like a hole I crawl into. No one ever goes up there to listen or do anything except me -- so I'm not overly concerned about asthetics. Some dedicated amp stands would be nice -- but I need money first.

Hee hee, yeah -- love those Monster 550i's. One of the few middle of the road cables that uses two center conductors, instead of using the damn shield as the return path/ground. I wish they used a better dialectric, but all in all -- it's actually a very good cable. I borrowed some extremely high dollar Tributaries about a year ago, and tried as I might -- I couldn't hear squat of a difference. I hear slight differences in speaker cable, but nothing earth shattering. I sometimes think it's more mental than auditory. The only other interconnects that remotely get me excited are made of silver $$$+. I do like the design of the Cardas Quadralinks, but again -- out of money for now. Any future upgrades will have to wait. BTW -- isolation platforms that can support more than 50 lbs are very expensive. I think I can lick the problem without going broke.


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I had zero problem with ringing KR-2A3 as well. I just had OTHER problems with them, notably a complete lack of SOUL and midrange warmth. The KR-2A3 has to be the tube for fans of solid state!

Dean, on the rack issue, it is not for aethetics, although it helps, but sonics. I personally thought a good stand made a difference in my system (I made a Deluxe Justarack copy).

IF I were you, I would make some sort of sandfilled box base on your own. Then use cones on top of that between your amp and base.


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Dean, Kelly

Just an uninformed shot here. The "tube ringing" sounds more of a KR or this particular pair of tubes problem. Attacking the tube ringing from the standpoint of the monoblock platform or base is ASSUMING all is right with the tubes. Did you get a second pair of 300B tubes(whatever is equiv.), or does the seller have an pair of alternative tubes he may still have, and be willing to swap(loan) for the KR's just to see if it makes a difference? It would be shame to chase the problem in a hundred different little ways which could cost more in total than a new set of WE 300s, before determining if it's the tubes first. Just my two cents.

Klipsch out.

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Well, Dean made several references to info he had read concerning the KR 300BXLS being a tube that has had trouble with microphonics, or so I thought. I made this notice about KR tubes in general, and I assumed he had dome some reading on this. Edster and I were just pointing out our experience based on the KR2A3 to show that ringing was not a problem in those. In addition, the Apollos really need a specialized tube like the KR 300BXLS to run at those ultra high voltages. Indid the amp was made for the VT52 tube. A normal 300B tube would probably not last too long in that rig! I imagine using some spare 300B would not be an easy task.

On the whole, I would put them on a good base anyway. If you remember, I believed the former owner might have mentioned something about the isolation he used.

Still, it would be good to hear other tubes for this beast, but there arent a lot that fit the bill.


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Very enjoyable and informative post and following discussion. You clearly made some educated tradeoffs on the set choice for RF-7. I'm leaning on the lower power side, but my interest in using the 4 Ohm out doesn't leave much gain in the 2A3 designs. I may go for 300B for that reason.

Thanks for the detailed and very original report.


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I could use the vv52 -- but some things inside the amp would have to be changed. The only other drop in tube is the KR842 -- which is supposed to sound very good in this amp.

Yes, KR had some problems with early production runs of the 300BXLS. Reliability and ringing were two of them. The new version uses a thicker glass envelope and I believe they made a design change at the bottom of the tube to increase stability and help ward off mechanical vibration from the chassis.

The seller (Dave, who is a first rate individual), believes he was sent the new version of the tube, but admitted that he couldn't be 100% sure. I would love to get a new set, but, uhh -- $480.00 a pair means I'm going to wait for the present pair to go up in smoke first. It's a hefty chunk of change -- but really doesn't cost any more than a NOS retube of the Super Amp, which I just did before I sold it. I'm sort of 'tubed out' for now.

Hey! Got two matched pairs of Amperex 7308's. Anyone want to buy them and support my new tube habit.

Yes, I could make my own isolation platforms, that's actually a rather good idea. Yeesh, back to the workroom for a while.

KR owners, anyone know the 'true' life of these things? I've read anywhere from 40,000 hours to 3 days:)

Kelly, these tubes on my system sound anything but solid-state like. If what you are saying is true, then I'm afraid anything else might completely emasculate the treble.

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Dean---You said "I don't buy this idea that tubes are not for everyone. That's total B.S. If you're a Klipsch or horn owner, and enjoy 2-channel sound -- then tubes are for YOU."


Bold talk from a fella that doesn't own real horns, just hornettes, or have much experience with them.

While it's great that you're pleased with your amp it's presumptuous to say what's "total BS" for others.

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I guess I can agree with the former statement. I probably could have just said that given a chance, tube gear sould have little trouble winning over anyone commited to solid-state gear. Even before getting to this point, as of last year -- it is difficult for me to imagine anyone preferring solid-state over tubes at any given price point. You're right however, to each his own.

As far as the hornettes go, they seem to sound like horns to anyone else who hears them. Doing a search on the RF7's at various forums will quickly show the main problem people have with them is that "they sound too much like horns".

Hmm. If it looks like a horn, and sounds like a horn -- well, it must be a horn.

I will probably add some horns that take on the midrange at some point, however, taken on their own merit -- the RF7's are an excellent sounding loudspeaker. That's the bottom line to me -- how they sound.

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