Best amp/preamp to go with SL?

home Forums General Discussion Best amp/preamp to go with SL?

Viewing 11 posts - 16 through 26 (of 26 total)
  • Author
  • #217

    I use Audio Research but like everything else it is a case of matching. If you use low input impedance solid state amps, tube preamps are likely not ideal. Since I use VTL tube amps with high input Z, tubes work great.


    My Triangle Art TA 200 mono and Krell CX as amps have input impedance around 100K ohms so they have no problem matching with tube pre amps.You are right Ralph.Btw,I forgot to mention in my first post Atmasphere MA-2 OTL amps sounded superb with Soundlabs I heard at audio shows too.

    John V

    Those of you using Atma=Sphere MA-2 with their Soundlabs have you
    any problems with amplifier clipping with dynamic source material?

    I just acquired a pair of MA-2 MK3.3’s to run my U890PX/BF, current backplates but have not connected them as yet. I normally listen to Jazz, Large Scale Orhestral including Soundtracks at fairly healthy volume levels.

    Up to this point the panels have been driven with bridged solid state but I’m looking for something with more finesse and delicacy, hence the MA-2’s but am a bit concerned about their ability to drive the panels without any difficulty.


    • This reply was modified 1 year, 2 months ago by John V.

    Hi John, they played high volume at these Stereophile shows.How far up are you turning your preamp volume control?Mine at most between 12 and 1.I did not hear any clipping or strains between atm and soundlab at the show.The loudness is similar at my home and at the show.

    John V

    Hi Khai,

    Thanks for your response. It would be difficult to draw a direct comparison as the volume control position for output level as it will depend upon the output level of the source connected to the pre-amp. That being said, I’m glad to hear the MA2’s handled the levels you experienced both at home and at the show without audible distress.


    Your question reminds me of my experience when switching from a Levinson 336 to CAT-JL1’s almost 20-years ago. Before this, my mind was stuck in the measuring/comparing wattage mire. That is: how could the CAT JL-1’s at 100W/Ch drive my then M1 Soundlabs (no PX panels, Torrid II or Hot Rod electronic upgrades) better than the Levinson 336 at 350W/Ch? Thus, I delayed dragging the pre-owned CAT’s — 190lb (each monoblock) — home from my audio dealer’s for an audition. But I convinced myself to not only try the CAT’s but Parasound JC1 Halos. Upon hooking up the CAT’s, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The entire frequency spectrum was better and I could find nothing worse, only better (harmonics, immediacy, imaging, sound stage, et al! However, drive was the big difference. Bass was better, but what about treble, it too was better….there were no downsides, only pluses!!

    The CAT’s controlled/drove the Soundlab’s like nothing else I had heard to that point in 2006! The difference was so great that I jumped up from my listening chair and let out of few expletives while pacing to and fro. I had finally heard for myself what all the tube-talk fuss with Soundlabs was about! Of course the CAT’s (as I imagine the VTL’s are), are anything but run of the mill tube amps!!

    At any rate, the MA-2’s should drive Soundlab’s — let alone PX Panels with Torrid II (Consummate) Backplates — with aplomb. My MA-1’s perform very nicely with my M1PX’s with current SOTA backplates.

    When I first obtained the MA-1’s, I frequently watched the meters when I thought I may be pushing things, but the meters never exceeded their limits, nor did I hear any signs of clipping. So, with my rig/room, the MA-1’s are more than satisfactory.

    As a side note, I heard the MA-1’s and MA-2’s back-to-back in a large room and the 2’s were a tad/bit better. However, “better” simply means that the MA-2’s drove the U1PX’s with a little more gravitas, for lack of a better word to describe the difference. My point in saying this is, I can’t imagine the MA-2’s will run out of gas.

    However, it would be beneficial if you would report your actual findings after you install the MA-2’s. If you haven’t heard the MA-2’s and Soundlabs, my experiences suggest that you are in for a real treat!!

    John V

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks so much for your very thoughtful post.
    Your right regarding the “wattage mire” as being from the technical repair, measurement camp I do tend to get fixated on that. I have had poor experiences in the distant past with some tube equipment trying to drive my earlier U1’s, hence the present concern.

    Will report back once everything is up and running, and you are right, I’ve not heard the MA2’s on any SL’s up to this point.


    I have been impressed with the fact that one can pull and switch tubes from the Atma-shpere’s while they’re running. Of course some highly insulated “grilling gloves are necessary, unless fried fingers are on the menu that day.

    I also asked Ralph Karsten a similar question about switching speaker cables and interconnects and whether it was prudent to do so with the amps in standby. Ralph said standby was fine. But he then advised that he usually didn’t bother with standby and just left the amp on, saying it was “pretty good that way”.


    You will likely find the MA-2 to handle those panels easily. Mine don’t get pushed too hard, and I have my panels in a big open area due to an open floor plan in current house. Even the MA-1s did a darn nice job. As pointed out by many, not really easy to compare SS watts with Atma-Sphere watts on Soundlabs.


    In my opinion, Sound Lab speakers need a very good match with the amplifier to really come to life and show their potential.That said, it is my belief the optimal choice of preamp is an entirely different issue, one that has more to do with system/room synergy and personal preferences rather than the speakers themselves.As mentioned by others, SL speakers being highly revealing, will show the character and quality of a preamp clearly. Your budget will be a factor. Everything matters. Clean power, vibration control, etc. are also important.


    “….SL speakers being highly revealing, will show the character and quality of a preamp clearly.” “Your budget will be a factor. Everything matters. Clean power, vibration control, etc. are also important.”

    I couldn’t agree more TWB!! SL’s are only held back by the upstream equipment. My experiences with this concept make me wonder how much better could SL’s actually sound!?! I think I’m pretty much at their best, but…??

    Soundlabs are amazing transducers. Before replacing my M1’s in 2013 with M1PX’s, my son and I attended the 2012 RMAF mainly to audition speakers. With the exception of some open baffle designs, horns, electrostats and other planars, nothing else provided the “effortless” presentation of those types of speakers.

    My personal ownership experiences and findings suggest that potential speaker buyers should listen to as many different types of speakers as possible — cones & domes, stats, horns, ribbons et al. From those, down select to a type and then proceed to audition speakers within that type. This may be a bit simplistic, but definitely a way to pare down the myriad of available speakers to audition.

Viewing 11 posts - 16 through 26 (of 26 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.