Zero Distortion: The General's System - Pnoe, Thomas Mayer, Vyger, Original LPs

Ron Resnick

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Jan 25, 2015
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#41

KeithR

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#42
IIRC, Dave Wilson also loved to use an old Spectral DMA-90 in development. He also went to a Stereophile show with a Parasound amp, hidden under a table, vs. the DMA 360s at the time in the room.

Seems he always thought the speaker was the dominant factor, not amplification. I certainly wouldn't judge an amp on his choices.
 

tima

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
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#43
:rolleyes:

From the number of amps commercially available in the world, and from the fact that David had only two amps in his system, I deduce that he liked both the VTLs and the D’Agostinos.

Sincerely,

Sherlock Holmes
For at least the last five years Wilson has shown with Momentums + DAG linestage, dcs, and TA wire.
 
May 30, 2010
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#44
I do think purest sound from tubes come with lower wattage. Designers of high wattage tube amps (60 watts+) would like to keep the good traits of tubes, while "pushing" them to do high watts to meet comsumers demand of using them with lower efficiency speakers like yours, so they choose different tubes that still carry these traits but not all, and build the best amps they could with these premises. The pureness of sound from these high watt tube amps is then compromised but they achieve their objectives of being able to drive the less efficient speakers with "just enough" oomphs and "beautiful" but not purest of tone. Some mentioned the Siegfried playing the WAMM at Wilson's wonderfully because they have them there. I dont doubt that. They might even used the VTL during the WAMM's development process because I believe they have been having these amps in the house since forever. (I doubt Gryphon used the VTL during the development process of your speakers though.) But wonderful and better than wonderful is a different thing. I am talking top of the elites. Ones with opportunity should compare playing the Siegfried vs. Relentless to hear oomphs, and Siegfried vs Lamm to hear tone on the new WAMM, to see if my midway observation hold true. I think MikeL (sorry for keep referring you sir) did scratch his itches doing that with comparable amps and even with his far from less efficient speakers. We already read his impression of the three amps and his final decision to keep just the Ironman.

I form my opinion using data points from people who have been reliable to me, info from two designer/owner of tube amp manufacturers , and my personal experiences.

kind regards,
Tang ;)
Dear Tang,

I would not enter debating in this thread if you were only commenting on SETs - my experience is limited mainly to one brand and model and some casual short listening with others ... :) However, since it turned to comparison with medium/high power tube amplifiers, I will post on it.

IMHO what you call purity is simply a spectra of harmonic distortion that seems to complement some vinyl systems tuned to this type of sound. Although we can have magic in sound systems, there is no magic in electronics. Considering that medium/high power tubes , designed with different objectives, fail to reach the supreme sound quality seems to me to be a distorted view of reality. Some people want to use the amplifiers as a microscope to expose some particular features of a few loved recordings, others just want to enjoy other aspects of music. Both will have different views of "purity".

Each of us has very different objectives in sound reproduction and we are a very small number in WBF . I enjoy a lot reading the narratives, but IMHO no firm rules can be established analyzing a few cases that are fortunately reported with an high level of bias - it is an indication of happy owners.
 

KeithR

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May 7, 2010
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#45
IMHO what you call purity is simply a spectra of harmonic distortion that seems to complement some vinyl systems tuned to this type of sound. Although we can have magic in sound systems, there is no magic in electronics. Considering that medium/high power tubes , designed with different objectives, fail to reach the supreme sound quality seems to me to be a distorted view of reality. Some people want to use the amplifiers as a microscope to expose some particular features of a few loved recordings, others just want to enjoy other aspects of music. Both will have different views of "purity".
I concur - to me a simple P/P amp sounds better than the SET amps that others recommend as I prefer (likely) 3rd harmonic distortion profiles
 
Apr 27, 2014
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Orchard Lake, MI
#46
I'm just not into horns and 2 watt SE amps. I have heard SE systems without horns that do sound good. The sound is very musical. My problem is that the colorations play too much in the final sound. I have heard solid state Gamut with the Gamut speakers that sound similar to me like good SE. I personally would go this route if I wanted this sound in my home. I may just pursue this in the future.
 

Tango

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Mar 12, 2017
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#47
Dear Tang,

I would not enter debating in this thread if you were only commenting on SETs - my experience is limited mainly to one brand and model and some casual short listening with others ... :) However, since it turned to comparison with medium/high power tube amplifiers, I will post on it.

IMHO what you call purity is simply a spectra of harmonic distortion that seems to complement some vinyl systems tuned to this type of sound. Although we can have magic in sound systems, there is no magic in electronics. Considering that medium/high power tubes , designed with different objectives, fail to reach the supreme sound quality seems to me to be a distorted view of reality. Some people want to use the amplifiers as a microscope to expose some particular features of a few loved recordings, others just want to enjoy other aspects of music. Both will have different views of "purity".

Each of us has very different objectives in sound reproduction and we are a very small number in WBF . I enjoy a lot reading the narratives, but IMHO no firm rules can be established analyzing a few cases that are fortunately reported with an high level of bias - it is an indication of happy owners.
I am happy that you take my comment as "distortion" as I suggested to Ron. I am also very honored that you view it as a "harmonic" one Micro :D.

Kind regards,
Tang
 

the sound of Tao

Well-Known Member
Jul 18, 2014
1,169
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#49
Thanks Ron.

To answer your PS, The General does not have a digital playback system.

What you learn from here is to respect transparency to recordings. One need not have a Pnoe with Thomas Mayer for that. I prefer Devore Orangutan O96 to Wilson, Magico, and such much more now because with a simple integrated SET amp they let me enjoy performances much more rather than just a bit of oomph in a woofer that sounds impressive initially and bores me by the time I put on the 4th LP. Horns obviously do both, and of two horns I liked, I recently eliminated one because it sounded two consistent on recordings. You will also find phonostages that color recordings - I have stopped looking at bass, stage, layout. These exist on good recordings done by good engineers. If you let them show, you will get the soundstage etc. I cannot stress how much musical enjoyment goes up when this happens.

The general's system might not sound good on digital, I cannot say - Pietro's sounds very good on digital and reissues. The general's system is made to play the purest vinyl - he has set it up that way, so naturally the compression and the tweaking done by Classic records and Speakers Corner will show through. That's his life.

So, should somebody who plays CDs and reissues buy the pnoe? I do not know the answer to that. If I had the budget for the horn, I would have the budget for a 1000 good pressings. Then the question is what is a good number of superb LP pressings you want, how many average pressings (there are some good reissues) are you willing to have for the music you care about less, and how much are you willing to stream. You along with Bill know best my transition from I don't care for analog to now.

Look at the analog only systems around you, you will see a lot of Sets, if not with horns, then with Devore, AN E (I still don't like them), etc. There is a reason for this.

Another way to look at it is, If after trying 5 records your system is not showing differences it is not set up for analog, something needs to change in the chain, that is a way to identify an issue.

I am sleeping now so won't reply till morning
Another great report Ked.

It’s fantastic that the General allows us all (through your efforts) this wildly fascinating glimpse into this room and his world, all the gear and the music. There’s clearly no shortage of passion going on here.

This would seem to be the perfect retreat and as most would hope there’s no impacts of some threatened mass Brextinction across in your great country but do feel this space would be a great place to keep up your resilience if things do get a bit tough.

I see from the closing sentence in the post above you have also now taken to writing in your sleep. Impressive Ked!!!

Many thanks as always for the valuable and enjoyable read.
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
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#50
Another great report Ked.

It’s fantastic that the General allows us all (through your efforts) this wildly fascinating glimpse into this room and his world, all the gear and the music. There’s clearly no shortage of passion going on here.

This would seem to be the perfect retreat and as most would hope there’s no impacts of some threatened mass Brextinction across in your great country but do feel this space would be a great place to keep up your resilience if things do get a bit tough.

I see from the closing sentence in the post above you have also now taken to writing in your sleep. Impressive Ked!!!

Many thanks as always for the valuable and enjoyable read.
Retreat is the right word. At some point, hopefully soon, the LP archive will go onto a resort on a hill where people can go... Free... to listen to music. You can just sit there as others play it for you. Apart from pnoe, I am not sure through what other speakers but probably quads, LS3 5/a, etc
 
#51
Ron, there's no doubt that if there's a sting in the tail in our hobby, it's this v concept.

That the more refined and resolving a system, esp the spkrs, whilst many pressings will have a dreamlike quality impossible to achieve on lesser systems, so many recordings will become challenging, unrefined, hard to enjoy.

It's a big reason why I'm unlikely to ever go to horns where the forensic effect on my choice of music will be a day to day sticking point. Even with a more transparent presentation, my choice of music is best served by my current gear.

I couldn't imagine living day to day w The General's system pulling apart every thread in my less than pristinely recorded music.
Ron, I can get where your coming from here. Different situation perhaps, but my previous Stax headphone setup with the 009s and maxed out DIY KGSShv Carbon electrostatic amplifier. That amp and headphone combo had the fastest and most transparent sonics you can imagine. But alas, even on my then Audio Note DAC 5 tubed R-2R DAC, a growing number of recording started to bug me. The 009s were not kind to sibilance and forward treble energy in those recordings.

In this hobby, it is about emotion and connection to the music. A system must have enough cues, details to keep us connected, create the 'illusion' but not so much that you feel like you are sat right in front of the violins for example. A bit like studio monitors don't generally work in a home setting, as they are a stethoscope to the music, or in a studio's case the mixing desk.

I feel a great system using SETs and efficient speakers can get really close to that emotional connection I personally need. Less so IMO on SS amplification. I can understand the need to huge power to drive inefficient speakers, get the dynamics up to match a horn speaker for example, but I question the logic in designing nowadays such an inefficient speaker in the first place? You need huge amount of power to keep pace with efficient horns. And if that power comes with local or global feedback, biasing the Class A into A/B or B, why do that?

So to recap, I think a system that works has to have good balance, system synergy between the separate stages and have enough detail, the maximum we can get away with that still works with real world LPs and digital files. If we focus on the next level of super transparency, and obsess over hard to find recording simply based on the sonics if those, surely we are going to a 'concert' of someone we don't particularly like, just because the acoustics of the venue are great. And of course it focussed my mind back into 'music autopsy mode' picking part the elements, looking for the parts that sound wrong, instead of enjoying the 90+% that is perfect to my ears and chilling out to it.

Might appear silly, but some of the best live performances I have heard had a good deal of distortion actually, Sisters of Mercy in Leeds March 16th 1985 is an example that comes to mind. Not saying we want more distortion but you get my point.
 

wisnon

Well-Known Member
Dec 12, 2011
2,704
109
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#52
I think its less about total watts (power) and more about crushing impedance drops when the music hits inflection points (where the magic of music is) and whether the amp can deal with less than a 1 ohm load for a millisecond without clipping or if it clips, whether its clips in a pleasing way.

Loud female vocals with a grand piano is guaranteed to cause distress to an amp. I recall listening to Chie Ayado's Tennessee waltz at 90+db volume level and seeing the Dartzeel NHB458 monoblocs read out peaks of 1,007 watts and regularly surpassed 700w.

Even with HE horns, these inflection points will present challenging loads. SET amps can deliver lots of current for short bursts and when they clip, they are most harmonic and harmonious, so hence a good match to the horns. Well designed SS amps with clever implementations will do an excellent job as well and it will come down to flavour and "magic" qualities. Great SS amp designers can mimic the magic of SET if they spend the R&D dollars and take the time.
 
Last edited:

morricab

Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
3,138
375
83
Switzerland
#53
Thanks Ron.

To answer your PS, The General does not have a digital playback system.

What you learn from here is to respect transparency to recordings. One need not have a Pnoe with Thomas Mayer for that. I prefer Devore Orangutan O96 to Wilson, Magico, and such much more now because with a simple integrated SET amp they let me enjoy performances much more rather than just a bit of oomph in a woofer that sounds impressive initially and bores me by the time I put on the 4th LP. Horns obviously do both, and of two horns I liked, I recently eliminated one because it sounded two consistent on recordings. You will also find phonostages that color recordings - I have stopped looking at bass, stage, layout. These exist on good recordings done by good engineers. If you let them show, you will get the soundstage etc. I cannot stress how much musical enjoyment goes up when this happens.

The general's system might not sound good on digital, I cannot say - Pietro's sounds very good on digital and reissues. The general's system is made to play the purest vinyl - he has set it up that way, so naturally the compression and the tweaking done by Classic records and Speakers Corner will show through. That's his life.

So, should somebody who plays CDs and reissues buy the pnoe? I do not know the answer to that. If I had the budget for the horn, I would have the budget for a 1000 good pressings. Then the question is what is a good number of superb LP pressings you want, how many average pressings (there are some good reissues) are you willing to have for the music you care about less, and how much are you willing to stream. You along with Bill know best my transition from I don't care for analog to now.

Look at the analog only systems around you, you will see a lot of Sets, if not with horns, then with Devore, AN E (I still don't like them), etc. There is a reason for this.

Another way to look at it is, If after trying 5 records your system is not showing differences it is not set up for analog, something needs to change in the chain, that is a way to identify an issue.

I am sleeping now so won't reply till morning
A lot of what you are saying is why I own horns and SETs as I like to hear clearly what is going on in the recording and I hear sometimes radical differences in recordings and smaller differences in all recordings. This, IMO, is one of the main strengths such systems. However, I do not think hearing differences means that only a few recordings are really suitable for an enjoyable or even somewhat realistic listening experiences. If a system really makes most recordings (talking Jazz or Classical here...not necessarily rock music) sound not very good and only the absolute best sound as one might expect, then I would argue that system is flawed to exaggerate some aspect of reproduction.
 

morricab

Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
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375
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Switzerland
#54
Dear Ron,

Please hold my opinion just as "noise." I think you are standing half way on a bridge. You have a Pendragon that imo should mate better with excellent high power SS amps. While you like the magic of SETs that don't do high power. I also don't think you can extract the true intended magic from tube with higher power tube amplifiers. If you do high power tube amps you will be compromising its true nature. All in all, your system could stand in the middle of somewhere compromising not heading north, south, east or west. MikeL went all they way in one direction. And you just read theGeneral went all the way in the other direction. I am going all the way in one direction too. I don't think you can have it both way. This case your speakers dictate where you should go and you are stuck with sunk cost. Once again I am just making "distortions" if you will.

Kind regards,
Tang
Nice post Tang. But how do you feel about the need, based on Ked's report, to going down to 1-3 watts of power for your Cessaros? ;)
 

morricab

Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
3,138
375
83
Switzerland
#55
Not distortions at all, Tang! Thank you for your thoughts.

But I’m not sure what you (and now, I see, Kedar) are talking about?

Aren’t you both doing the same kind of speculative theorizing that Kedar sometimes criticizes me for?

I think the proposition that lower power SET is good and high-power solid-state is good but high-power tube is in the middle and this bad is ideological and not obviously logically or sonically valid.

David Wilson (now the Wilson family) still has high-power push-pull (VTL Siegfrieds) in the main listening room with the Master Chronosonics. By so doing was David compromising in the middle?

Was Andy Payor comprising in the middle when he used high-power push-pull on the Arrakis?

I really don’t understand on what you’re basing your proposition.

I would argue that high-power tubes is a fine and cosmopolitan compromise: some of the magic of tubes combined with some of the oomph of solid-state.

In any event you know how I feel for myself in my own system about solid-state. Show me a solid-state amp you like, and I will show you a hybrid amp or an all-tube amp I like the sound of better.
Well, I think some of us who are so extreme to say there is no good high power amps, tube or transistor, period! Power corrupts!
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
11,205
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#56
A lot of what you are saying is why I own horns and SETs as I like to hear clearly what is going on in the recording and I hear sometimes radical differences in recordings and smaller differences in all recordings. This, IMO, is one of the main strengths such systems. However, I do not think hearing differences means that only a few recordings are really suitable for an enjoyable or even somewhat realistic listening experiences. If a system really makes most recordings (talking Jazz or Classical here...not necessarily rock music) sound not very good and only the absolute best sound as one might expect, then I would argue that system is flawed to exaggerate some aspect of reproduction.
I haven't heard the la boheme, but I prefer cones to Odeon 28, 32, and 38.
 

morricab

Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
3,138
375
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Switzerland
#57
Hi Ron, yes, he chose the type of amps and then the speaker. In some ways, he already knew he wanted a full range crossoverless speaker with the highest sensitivity possible, to drive it with 2a3 or 45. At some point he chases Thomas to produce a 46 amp for him. I believe he took a punt on the pnoe/AER based on its design, and then worked towards upgrading the Pnoe-Mayer combo. Readers should know there is another Pnoe, made in Greece, which is different sounding. This one is from Germany.

Regarding tubes - it depends on the speaker application. Most horns cannot be driven by SE 2a3 or 45s. Even by PSETs. So you need 211 or 845, and yes you would lose a bit of speed and nuance. I rotated some amps on the Universum, and then we put in the AN Empress 2a3 of 6w. This was sounding tonally the purest with greater speed and detail of the inflections, but unfortunately it was getting shrill every time the volume went up, and it could not do much else on that speaker - would be quite different if you put in on AN E or horns fp 10m, or of course the Pnoe. That said, I personally would never buy the AN E or the horns fp10/15 over the Universum and some other horns just because I could run lower wattage amps. It would then have to be this Pnoe. So yes lower wattage is the right direction but the speaker will drive how low you go, until you can find the right speaker for the lowest wattage amp, like the General did.

I recently compared the NAF 2a3 12w to Jadis integrated 100w, Silvercore 833c 20w, and a 550 valve 20w German amp - I preferred the NAF 2a3 the best. Yet I don't think NAF is a good 2a3 amp, but it was better than the other amps on the Orangutan O96. On the Lansche, the dynamic range was highly compressed with the NAF and the Jadis sounded the best. The Lansche did the best overall balance of bass and mids if you wanted consistency across LPs, but the Devores were just more transparent to the recordings and for me, more musical, and played best with NAF.

Wavac and NATs and KR are to be used for for applications where you want to drive cones with SETs - withthe right match it would be more pure than some other amps that can drive such cones, but there is no point comparing them to a 2w 2a3 amp as you just cannot do that comparison on the same speaker. But you will hear much more from the 2w on the Pnoe than you will with the 100w SET on an appropriate speaker. And I would buy that cone with the Wavac or NAT or KR instead of an AN E with a 2a3. So you have to go back and forth on a case by case basis.

I think Thomas himself makes 845 for higher powered requirements. I haven't heard that or the Wavac, but for cones I have heard the KR VA 200 sounding better than some SS. I will write a report on that later.

There could be exceptions of a freak ultralinear circuit with Pentodes sounding good somewhere, but these might exist on a highly modded DIY basis rather than the usual commercial stuff.
I have found my "big" Odeons work well with everything from about 11 watts (small Mastersound SEP) up to at least 100 (that is the highest I tried on them). Each sounds radically different and some clearly better than others. it seems that between 20-35 watts is a sweet spot for the speaker as the four best amps I have had on the speakers (Aries Cerat Genus, KR VA350i, Ayon Crossfire III and Wall Audio Opus M50) were in this power range. My JJ, which is a 20 watt 300B PSET is also good and has nice delicacy but is too restricted in bass and high extension to qualify in the top 4. I have not tried a single digit amp yet...perhaps I should...
 

PeterA

Well-Known Member
Dec 7, 2011
5,526
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North Shore of Boston
#59
Pictures show the D'Agostino Monomemtum's, the VTL Siegfried II and the Nagra HD in the Wilson room. I have read reports of listening sessions with the D'Agostiono and the VTL, but never with Nagra HD.
I've also seen photos of the Wilson listening room with big Pass monos, but rarely. It could have something to do with dealer/distributor relationships as well. Why spend much time voicing your speakers with amps that are not sold through your dealer network?
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
11,205
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#60
I do think purest sound from tubes come with lower wattage. Designers of high wattage tube amps (60 watts+) would like to keep the good traits of tubes, while "pushing" them to do high watts to meet comsumers demand of using them with lower efficiency speakers like yours, so they choose different tubes that still carry these traits but not all, and build the best amps they could with these premises. The pureness of sound from these high watt tube amps is then compromised but they achieve their objectives of being able to drive the less efficient speakers with "just enough" oomphs and "beautiful" but not purest of tone. Some mentioned the Siegfried playing the WAMM at Wilson's wonderfully because they have them there. I dont doubt that. They might even used the VTL during the WAMM's development process because I believe they have been having these amps in the house since forever. (I doubt Gryphon used the VTL during the development process of your speakers though.) But wonderful and better than wonderful is a different thing. I am talking top of the elites. Ones with opportunity should compare playing the Siegfried vs. Relentless to hear oomphs, and Siegfried vs Lamm to hear tone on the new WAMM, to see if my midway observation hold true. I think MikeL (sorry for keep referring you sir) did scratch his itches doing that with comparable amps and even with his far from less efficient speakers. We already read his impression of the three amps and his final decision to keep just the Ironman.

I form my opinion using data points from people who have been reliable to me, info from two designer/owner of tube amp manufacturers , and my personal experiences.

kind regards,
Tang ;)
Didn't the SET lovers jointly invalidate Mike's findings because he listens too loud for 5 hours a day? :p
 

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