Need some advise..

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George

Post by George » Mon Feb 06, 2006 10:13 pm

Hello, This Canadian is a little lost and looking for some directions.

Recently after purchasing a pair of the latest Gershman GAP 828 I find out my current Sonic Frontier tube amp (50 Watts) is way under power to produce the music spectrum I'm seeking for. After talking to Gilbert, he suggested that I should perhaps post a note on this forum for some suggestions on which amplifier and preamp I should look into. My criteria for selections are as follows,
- This wonderful country of ours has been very good to me and my family, my first choice is to seek out a well built Canadian make amplifier.
- Minimums 150 Watts per channel under 8 Ohms, preferably higher power. The Gershman is rated Sensitivity: 88dB @ 1w/1m, Nominal impedance: 8 Ohms, Frequency Response: 22Hz-24kHz.
- Love the tube warmth sound but I?m getting tired of the long warm up period and concern for tube replacement. Hence, I?m looking to move away to either a hybrid or solid state system
- Yes the old question of budget.. I?m hopping to get a good system by spending not more than $7k (unrealistic?).

The following are amplifiers I?m considering, a used Classe, Bryston, SAR MOS 400, and perhaps Blue Circle although here in Calgary we have no dealer. For non Canadian Amps, I like the sound of PASS X250.5, and Musical Fidelity KW500.
Does any one have any experience with SAR MOS 400 a company out of Winnipeg?

Music I listen to varies from Classical to mostly Jass tunes.
Thanks for reading my long winded posting and any comments you might have for me are well cherished.
Cheers.

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Post by Chowder_head » Tue Feb 07, 2006 2:40 pm

I don't know your speakers. Unless they dip well down under 4 Ohms you shouldn't need 150 watts. That's a lot of power, believe it or not. The NSCS should work for you or the new hybrid (FFTF or something like that)- both by BC.

What is so nice about BC integrateds? Well, you'll have to talk to NSCS owners. What I ike the most about my CS is the musicality. This is a complete SS unit that has some of the colour of tubes in the mid-range, but all the best aspects of SS, too. MY CS is absolutely NOT bright; does not sound like a wounded elk gasping for air (Bryston).

I am told that the NSCS is far better than the CS in every department, but I love my little CS too much to believe this is possible.


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Post by PhilNYC » Tue Feb 07, 2006 3:26 pm

George,

Here are some thoughts...obviously since you are posting this on a Blue Circle forum, and I am a Blue Circle dealer, there is going to be some clear biases behind these comments. But I'll try to keep the thoughts as objective as I can.

If you move from a pure tube amp to a pure solid state amp, you will undoubtedly be struck by the improvements you hear regarding speed (particularly bass impact), pace, and extension. You'll also notice a reduced amount of tonal richness. How you react to this will be a personal one, but I can only recommend that you not make a quick decision....often in this hobby, we all find that what sometimes strikes you as impressive initially will eventually turn into a coloration that makes you love it or grow tired of it. (and this also applies the other way, going from solid state to tubes)...

Your speakers will probably like power, but wattage is not always the best measure of this. High current delivery is usually more important than absolute wattage (although these two traits are often related). I'm not sure I'd set the bar at 150wpc. I have heard lower power amps (in the 100wpc area) that have excellent impact and speed because of their high current-delivery.

Regarding the specific amps you mentioned, I have spent much time with amps from Classe, Bryston, MF and Pass Labs. Of these, Pass Labs is my favorite (although Pass Labs and Bryston are the only amps here I have experienced paired with a preamp of the same brand, so there may be some synergy influence). Most often, I have seen Classe and Bryston used for home theater applications, and I don't see them as strong amps for musical tastes that require some sophistication and tonal delicacy. In general, I am not a fan of Musical Fideltiy amps, although oddly I have more speaker customers using MF amps than any other. So taste obviously plays a big part.

So...the obvious answer on this forum is to take a look at some of the Blue Circle amps; the hybrid amps (200-series) are the likely candidates that can delivery both impact and refinement. But as always, synergy with your source and preamp is important. Regarding the tube replacement for these amps, the stock 6922EH tubes seem to work well (I have a customer who has tried all sorts of NOS tubes with his BC206, and his conclusion was that the EH tubes were his second favorite on a list of half-a-dozen or so of very high-priced tubes, and 6922EH tubes aren't much more than $10-12 each. I leave my amps on 24/7, and find that I need to replace them about once a year.

The BC202 is within your budget, and the BC204 is a little bit above...

Hope this helps...
NY/NJ Metro Blue Circle Dealer
Sonic Spirits Inc.
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Post by Guest » Tue Feb 07, 2006 4:29 pm

MY CS is absolutely NOT bright; does not sound like a wounded elk gasping for air (Bryston).

Chowder Head

Good Lord I have never heard anyone slam (dunk ?) a product like that.

My bryston 3BSST sounds fine.

I am checking out this forum because I plan on purchasing a BC product. I have owned amps from Classe, Bryston, and Meitner. Maybe time for a BC.


In any case the wounded elk comparision was undeserved.


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Post by esoxhntr » Tue Feb 07, 2006 5:17 pm

George,

A couple of options for you...

Your speakers would be quite happy with the BC28 ($3995 U.S.), BC202 ($5295 U.S.), or the BC204 ($7795 U.S.). Having said that, I believe you are looking to spend $7K on an amp/preamp combo, correct?

If this is the case, then your options are...

BC21.1pre ($1650 U.S.) / BC24 power ($2450 U.S.)
BC21.1pre ($1650 U.S.) / BC28 power ($3995 U.S.)
BC3 Despina MkII ($3495 U.S.) / BC24 power ($2450 U.S.)
FtTh integrated ($4795 U.S.) with dual Shallco attenuators

There is no need to feel intimidated tube-wise, Blue Circle equipment uses 6922 tubes, which are inexpensive and last over a year's time in most cases (this is with gear left on all the time). My choice would be either the FtTH integrated (great bang for the buck, no need for interconnect, sell your preamp and save $$$ :), or the BC3 Despina mkII/BC24 which has the best sound quality of the combinations listed above, and would provide more oomph for your speakers than the Sonic Frontiers because of it's solid state output on the power amp.

I suspect that any of the combinations listed above would satisfy your needs more than adequately.

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Post by PhilNYC » Tue Feb 07, 2006 5:40 pm

Eso...while the component combos you suggested are very good, I suspect the Gershman GAP 828 (retail $13000) deserve to be matched with higher-end components...
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Post by esoxhntr » Tue Feb 07, 2006 6:25 pm

Phil,

Agreed, but he did mention a budget of $7K, did he not?

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Post by esoxhntr » Tue Feb 07, 2006 7:32 pm

Lou,

While I agree that the "wounded elk" comment may be a little over the top, the man is welcome to his opinion, and Bryston (like every other brand on the planet) has it's detractors. I am a Bryston fan myself; I appreciate their attitude towards their equipment, and their warranty is unbelievable. However, I just sold a beautiful 4B (just over 15 years old, but in spectacular condition) because when hooked up in my upstairs system, it was simply not quite as satisfying to my ears as my CS integrated. It was far more robust, but in pretty much every other way I preferred the musical priorities of the CS integrated.

What are the variables? Well, I was running it with a Blue Circle BC101 solid state preamp, and I have no idea if this was synergistically speaking a good match for the Bryston. The BC100 power amp certainly kicked it's ass in comparison. And, as always, it's a "your ears - my ears" comparison, but as a recent former Bryston owner with an opportunity to do an A/B comparison, I would have to admit that the CS integrated was the winner in this particular shootout. Trust me, if the Bryston was capable of doing a better job than the CS, I would certainly have kept it. In retrospect, maybe I should have just to be able to convince those who think I am full of s***.

The moral of the story? Bryston good, CS integrated better. I'm trying in my mind to reproduce the sound of a wounded elk gasping for air. It's not pretty...

George

Post by George » Tue Feb 07, 2006 8:22 pm

Hello! Since my posting last night, I was a little concern when I check earlier this morning that I might not get any advise or response. Wow, sure glad to see that I'm getting lots of response. Once again, thanks for all the inputs and keep them coming... I'm absorbing it all! As for the $7k budget, I did intentionally left it vague. With this hobby of ours, there is almost no limit on what one can spend. It just seems never enough $.

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Post by PhilNYC » Tue Feb 07, 2006 9:54 pm

esoxhntr wrote: Agreed, but he did mention a budget of $7K, did he not?
Yes, although I had assumed from the title of the thread that $7K was for just the amp.
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Post by PhilNYC » Tue Feb 07, 2006 9:58 pm

George,

I have not heard the Gershmans, but if they perform at a level that is comparable to others I've heard in the price class, you are definitely going to be looking for an amp (and preamp) at least in the class of the 200-series. The caveat to this point is an assumption that you've got a listening room with good acoustics that will really let the equipment shine.
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Post by esoxhntr » Tue Feb 07, 2006 10:12 pm

Phil,

Again I agree - at certain points George mentions both amps and preamps, so bluntly I ask:

George, are you looking for an amp, or both amp and preamp? Inquiring minds (well, at least Phil and I) want to know. Your speakers certainly merit a BC3 Galatea mkII/BC204 pre/power combo, but there you are looking at about $13K U.S. Also, you might want to tell us a bit about your source, and your room size so that we can be a bit more specific with our suggestions.

No worries George, P-Dawg and Dr. E are on the case, yo.


George

Post by George » Wed Feb 08, 2006 1:40 am

In all honesty, I started out seeking for an integrated amp. The reasons are mostly both economic and the purity of the system. What I meant by purity is, with the integrated solution the sound generated by the amp will be true to the designer or the creator's intention. I.e. No interconnection, where one can "manipulate" the sound of the system. Hence, I was contemplating the Musical Fidelity (MF) KW500.

However, I had the opportunity to listen to a MF preamp connected to a PASS amp (Either the X250.5 or X300.5) to a pair of speakers ($1k+) and the sound was absolutely wonderful! To date I must admit, I?m leaning more and more towards a pre amp and stereo amp solution.

On the subject of Bryston,
A friend of mine was kind enough to loan me his 4 BSST, it makes the Gershman sings? Patricia Barber & Ayako Hosokawa sound sweet and for a moment I?m convince Patricia was on my lap singing to me! ; )
I must say the setup seems to be better than my last tryout with an Ayres K5Xe Preamp and C5Xe Amp.

Current system,
- A highly modified Sonic Frontier Integrated Amp (SFC-1, 50 Watts) by PartsConnexion. I.e. Black caps, mill resistors, NOS tubes, etc. Which I spend over $2k? Regretfully I found out I had a mismatch with the Gershman. Hence the journey of searching continues.
- Virtual Dynamic Master Cabling. Amazing sounding cable.. Check their web site http://www.virtualdynamics.ca
- Gershman GAP 828 speakers
- As for source, I must say is probably my weakest link. A Pioneer Elite DV-38A which I use as a ?transport? digitally (Coax) connected to a Benchmark DAC. Someday, when I grow up I?ll look forward to upgrading the source component.
- Powervar (12 amp output), power conditioning

Room size,
Listening room size is apprx 28?L x 16?W x 8?H

Budget of $7k,
The eternal question of not enough $.
From the info gathered so far from this forum, if I choose BC the direction seems to be pointing towards a separate system. Possibly a hybrid?

Current status,
Since acquiring the GAPs, I have been going thru a withdrawal with the underpowered SFC-1. For the time being I?m getting a temporary fix using the Bryston before returning to the rightful owner in a few days.

Dilemma,
Just been informed that the current wait for a new BC amp is 10 to 12 weeks! That?s 3 months from now? Know of any good used BC system for sale or a dealer who has some equipment in stock?

Hello Phil, it appears that you are located in NY? I?m heading your way in late March perhaps if I have the time I might drop by for a visit.

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Post by PhilNYC » Thu Feb 09, 2006 11:23 am

George,

I am actually based just outside of NYC (about 20-30 minutes north), but certainly if you are in the city, we can arrange something (I can help with transportation).

I once heard a system that consisted of a Bryston 4SST (I think...it was definitely a 4, but not sure about which version), Wadia CDP, and Vandersteen 3 speakers, using a Blue Circle BC3000mkII preamp, and the match was actually quite good.

However, I think you have definitely identified a significant mismatch with the Benchmark DAC1. In a tubed system, it is ok, but I evaluated one in my Blue Circle (BC3/BC202) system driving Focus Audio FS888, and the sound was definitely on the hard/edgy side; maybe in a tubed system, the hard edges might smooth out, but if the rest of your system has a lot of detail, the DAC1 definitely sounds a bit fatiguing.

Phil
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Sonic Spirits Inc.
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Post by bish » Thu Feb 09, 2006 10:50 pm

Greetings George --

Congratulations on your speaker selection. Your GAP 828 speakers are indeed an impressive offering. Now if only I could sell my better half on the idea of purchasing a pair! :blink:

In fairness I'll start with an attempt to avoid any vendor specific recommendations. A long story short the GAP' does warrant investment in an amplifier that can provide a reasonable amount of current. The Gershmans as a family are rather dynamic & your model in particular has a low frequency impact that trumps most units out there. To be honest when I heard them I kept looking for where the subwoofer was hiding. In fact there was none.

I do feel an amp with a hybrid topology would well compliment the voicing of your speakers. You'll gain some of the speed & impact of the solid state in conjunction with the grain/warmth of the tubes. The costs to tube roll in such a scenario, if even needed, is nominal compared to the all tube behemoths. Imaging is also a key for the Gershman's to reach their full potential

Seriously though I hope this helps. Having just reviewed my post I do concede this does come across as a bit biased -- albeit not an intentional plug for Blue Circle :)

Best of wishes with your search. BTW - Thanks for the tip about Virtual Dynamic Master Cabling.

Cheers - Bish

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