Coming soon! As soon as this evening! An amp face off....

Discussion in 'Everything Audio' started by JohnVF, Dec 6, 2017.

  1. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator

    It's warming up now. The air is coming in, and I should note that its currently on the 4ohm taps. I recall the 8ohm taps being a bit more airy but with less definition to the sound. I'll try that before I switch it out.

    This is an AWESOME sounding amp. Things have been crazy here and I've never had it with all my best gear at once, nor with my speakers on their much better Foundation stands.

    The midrange is thick and palpable, the image is out into the room. The 'you are there' or, "they're here with me" aspect off the charts with this amp as paired with the transformer volume control.

    Let me switch the taps and see what happens.
    fiddlefye likes this.
  2. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator

    Ok, we're on the 8ohm taps now. Things are slight bit more bright with more air, but with a hint less impact. I have no idea why, but I'm sure some of you do. It's not a case of better or worse, its just different. I really don't know which I prefer. I'll leave it like this for now.
  3. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator

    I've pulled out some vinyl. M. Ward's "Post War". This is a very well recorded album, I think it was recorded to tape despite being a fairly recent recording. The song "Post War" has Matt Ward hanging in the air, the instruments arranged beside and behind him. I've heard the "room" more on this recording but the palpability of this is striking.
  4. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator

    I think I have a feeling for this beast. Now onto the solid state contender!
  5. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator

    Well dang if the challenger doesn't come out swinging. Wow! I've never compared this amps this thoroughly, head to head. The first striking thing is just how similar they sound. One is obviously tube, the other obviously solid state. But they're like if you made a solid state and tube version of the same amp. Which of course makes no sense, because it would then be a totally different amp and some audio folks are much too logical for that but... anyway. They sound very similar.

    There is more of a sense of the hall/room with this amp. It's a more detailed amp and subtleties are better conveyed...and some of that comes across in reverb/hall sound. Which actually helps push the soundstage farther to the walls. But the performers themselves aren't as tangibly out in the room. They're also a bit more accurately scaled. Bass is tighter but subjectively seems less prominent. It's not lacking, its just not beastly like the VAC.

    I have to say, you get a room full of 20 people and I bet 10 would go for each. This is not really a decision I can make with any degree of certainty.

    What's it going to be????
    guiller likes this.
  6. Redboy

    Redboy Active Member

    Throw the bones, and let The Fates decide...?
  7. fiddlefye

    fiddlefye Senior Member

    If the amps are that close and it were me I'd give some thought to what the listening patterns are going to be over the next while. If I were going to be doing mostly sit down and listen without distraction time I'd go for the tubes. If there is going to be more distraction I'd run the solid state amp. Tubes ain't cheap...
  8. fiddlefye

    fiddlefye Senior Member

    I'v got a few like that - look for where the iron is and hold that closest is the rule. Carrying something like that with the weight out at the end of your arms is a great way to hurt something.
  9. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator

    I feel I've had such a lead-up here that I need a dramatic ending. But honestly, this is going to be a decision made because of sonics. They both sound absolutely fantastic. In so many similar ways. They don't sound the same, but they are amps that I think would please one person. I can't imagine somebody loving one and hating the other.

    The T+A has a more quiet background. As in, pitch black. There's no noise. The VAC has a slight tubey hiss way back in the background. I can't really hear it, but notice its gone when the T+A is in.

    Strengths of the VAC: Image palpability. Things are bit more fleshed out. Bass is subjectively deeper. Has a big fun sound.

    Drawbacks: The background is quiet, but its not dead quiet. I makes me put my phono pre in weird places to avoid a buzz (random nitpick). There's a slight lack of subtlety that comes at the price of its big fun. Not in comparison to many amps, but certainly the T+A.

    Strengths of the T+A a1530r: It's very clean sounding, without being sterile. Its a solid state amp that a tube lover could stand to have a fling with. The image is more open. The hall sound is more obvious and imaging is more specific leading to more instances of "woah, there's something happening behind me!" Again, these are to small degrees. There are zero obvious failings with either amp.

    Drawbacks: It's slightly less organic sounding. It's more of an open window to the recording, which isn't good for every recording...but not to a point of making things unlistenable or unenjoyable (I won't own amps like that). Its name makes you giggle because Germans didn't know what T+A refers to. That's either a drawback or plus depending on mood. (German voice of my grandparents: Vas? T ploos A referst to Theory und Application! Das ist nicht kinky vas so evah!)

    Ok with that behind us....there is no winner. They tied! But one gets to stay. And the one that gets to stay?
    guiller and Don C like this.
  10. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator

    MikeyFresh and Don C like this.
  11. Redboy

    Redboy Active Member

    Aaaargh! Put on some pants, man!!
    Thermionics and JohnVF like this.
  12. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator

    I honestly hauled the VAC down here because I thought it was going to run away with this. Turns out, I really love the A1530r. I think some of that is because it just something different and with them so similar, I want to hear what I haven't heard as much. I've had the VAC in this setup before, and for long periods of time...but never with everything quite as sorted as it is now.

    The T+A is a 170wpc amp, for anybody wondering. It was, when new, a $7500 amp in the standard casing, with the rare Chrome option being a premium of some sort on top of might have even been custom for the original dealer. I bought it used many years ago on the basis of an in-store audition, immediately taken by it's sound. The amp I auditioned was black. When the store owner, a friend of mine, said he also had a chrome one, well....

    Theory + Application is a large and seemingly popular company in Europe but largely unheard of in the United States.
  13. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator

    I had to windex it for the photo. It was 100% fingerprints. The things I do for you guys.
  14. TubeHiFiNut

    TubeHiFiNut Administrator

    Looks like it must have been cold that day. ;) ;) ;) ;) ;)
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2017
  15. marantzfan

    marantzfan Administrator


  16. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator

    Yes, it's done. But is it over?

    Ask me tomorrow, and I'll probably just want to put the VAC in. Which is, of course, why I keep both of these amps around. I've been up early, listening to the solid state amp and yes, it holds up overnight. I've not heard either of these amps sound this good.

    It's amazing how everything around an amp can change what you attribute to the amp itself.
    Fran604g, Redboy and TubeHiFiNut like this.
  17. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator

    Possible solution. If I put banana plugs on the speaker cable I can do the switch in 15 seconds. 98BA18E0-4F80-4CBE-9623-5DCF7AB10186.jpeg
    Thermionics likes this.
  18. mhardy6647

    mhardy6647 Senior Member

    I've had the face off many of the amps here at one time or another...

    [​IMG]P2170005 by Mark Hardy, on Flickr

    Thermionics likes this.
  19. TubeHiFiNut

    TubeHiFiNut Administrator

    That sure is a beautiful amp. :)
  20. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator

    As predicted I put it back in today, not leaving well enough alone. I switched the input/splitter and driver tubes around and put the speakers back on the 8ohm tap and I like it. It's still not a "better than" situation, just different. I wish I had some different KT88s, something with more air.

    Also, I learned today that there's a VAC upgrade for this amp, to get it closer to their current wares.
    Thermionics likes this.

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