by Rafe Arnott
Another room at T.H.E. Show and another mix of solid state amplification and tubed pre-amplification to please my ears and make me wonder if valves are making inroads with the transistor set when it comes to getting the most out of fat, mega-watt, solid-state monoblocks.
Not that I’d say Herron Audio is part of the transistor set, but many in the listening public (from what I saw and heard in Newport) seem to be digging the grunt that solid state amps like Herron’s 150 watt into 8 Ohms (275 watts into 4 Ohms) M1A Monoaural Power Ampllifiers ($6,850 US pair) are adding to the sweet smoothness and harmonic goodness of valved pre-amps and phono stages like Herron’s VTSP-3A pre ($6,550 US) utilizing six E88CC (6922) triodes and the VTPH-2 phono ($3,650 US) with a mix of 12AX7 and 12AT7 tubes.
The Herron gear in this room was loomed up with some major yardage of Audience cabling and power conditioning that added up to about $13,500 US.
Speakers were the venerable German, multi-woofer/driver Audio Physic Avanti IIIs ($11,000 US) pair. A Rega RP6 with an Ortofon Cadenza Red MC cart and a Meridan G08 24-bit CD player rounded out the source duties.
Nothing stood out in this room, and to me that’s a good thing.
It smacked of synergy and everything seemed to vibe with each other – always a good sign in a multi-manufacturer system – and had a rich, engaging and non-fatiguing sound.
If you’ve got speakers that provide a challenging load to an amp, or are less than 90 dB efficient, and are running all solid state amps and pres, I think you owe it to yourself to try some tubes up front and see what you get.
You might be pleasantly surprised at what the valve/transistor mix is capable of producing.