What's best in tube-friendly loudspeakers?

KeithR

VIP/Donor
May 7, 2010
3,214
169
63
Marina del Rey, CA
#1
It seems there are fewer and fewer of these out there and, surprisingly, we don't have a thread on this topic.

I will define tube-friendly as being able to be properly driven by a 100-watt tube amplifier. That's probably 90db efficient or so in most rooms.

What are your favorite tube-friendly speakers/brands and why?
 

DaveyF

Well-Known Member
Aug 1, 2010
6,072
100
63
La Jolla, Calif USA
#2
Interesting thread and topic. I think the Sonus Faber line prefers tubes. Others that seem to work best with tubes are Harbeths and some Wilson’s. However, there may be more speakers these days that work best with ss than with tubes.Not sure why this is the case.
 

DonH50

Member Sponsor & WBF Technical Expert
Jun 23, 2010
3,563
24
38
Monument, CO
#3
Magnepan! Not terribly sensitive, well misses your 90 dB/W/m target, but impedance is pretty flat and not highly reactive so the high output impedance of a tube amp is less an issue.

ESLs sound great with tubes but bass and highs suffer IME so I prefer SS. Still, gorgeous midrange...

Horns tend to be hybrids and despite their high efficiency can have fairly wide impedance variations so a tube amp will color the sound more. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes not...

I'm with @DaveyF -- these days designers are pushing frequency extremes and making other design choices that impact sensitivity and input (load) impedance so many current speakers are less tube-friendly. In the early days 16-ohm and even 32-ohm speakers were used to take better advantage of high output voltage but limited current available from tube amps. and they were pretty sensitive because a few watts was all most had, and 25 W/ch was a "big" amp.
 

Al M.

VIP/Donor
Sep 10, 2013
4,122
130
63
Greater Boston
#4
Reference 3A. My two monitors from the company thus far (MM DeCapo BE, Reflector) are specified at 92 dB sensitivity and an 8 ohm load. They could be driven by my 15 W/ch tube monoblocks very dynamically. Currently I use a tube amp of 100 W/ch into 8 ohms, with even more dynamics.

Some floor standers by Reference 3A are also specified at high sensitivity, and as tube-friendly 8 ohm load.
 
Aug 2, 2013
233
10
18
#7
The never ending association with tubes having to be used with full range/horn loaded speakers will never go away in my lifetime. I will never understand the dogma over tubes. I drove 4 hours to hear some big horn loaded speakers years ago ( think Khorns on steroids ...104db. Eff) and the guy had a tube amp driving them. After my first demo song I asked " is that all they can do?" So he switched over to a 200 watt/ch SS amp and we finally got the SPL and dynamics to fill up the room. He said, "I guess I'm going to be selling the tube amp next week". So I have no idea what speakers work great with tubes and be able to give you full range (20-20K hz), and realistic sitting in the middle of the musicians sound, not the 30th row sound.
 
Last edited:
Jan 16, 2013
322
19
18
NYC
#10

KeithR

VIP/Donor
May 7, 2010
3,214
169
63
Marina del Rey, CA
#11
After my first demo song I asked " is that all they can do?" So he switched over to a 200 watt/ch SS amp and we finally got the SPL and dynamics to fill up the room.
My guess is you just heard a bad tube amp. Prob 90% of old Klipsch owners use tubes. Not to mention, tube amps excel in other important areas than ultimate SPL.

There is only 1 SS amp I'd own (DartZeel) - that's how rare good ones are. Ymmv.
 

shakti

Active Member
May 9, 2015
351
98
28
Cologne, Germany
#12
standard tube amps gain is voltage driven
standard solid state amps gain is current driven

a speaker is a electrical load .

if the speaker impedance changes in a wide range,

- and the solid state can provide the needed current, the frequency response will be fine.

- the tube amp will mostly fail and the frequency response will be no good

if the speakers is designed for tubes, the impedance curve is flat, to overcome this.
or, the frequency curve is following the impedance curve in that way, that a tube amp will provide a flat response
(but than a solid state will not fit) , speaker example is "Zingali"

But there are also solid state out there, which will like horn or flat impedance speakers.
Boulder for example are "voltage" gain amplifiers, there "sinus" power response does not increase on lower speaker impedance. They are designed to work on those type of speakers as well.

Than there is the "damping factor"....

new story :)

I like on tubes:

- Zingali
- Verity Audio
- hORNS
- Zu
- BD- Acoustic
- AER
- Pnoe
- RD Acoustic
- Cube
- Ayon
- Lumen White
- some Tannoy
- some Gryphon
- some Wilson Audio
- Living Voice
- many others


-
 

Audiophile Bill

Well-Known Member
Mar 23, 2015
1,627
161
63
UK
#13
Obvious *cones* to add:

> Living Voice OBX range
> Heco Direkt range
> Some triangle speakers
> The big Focals actually sound better with big push pull valves
> Audio Note E and K
> Lansche audio - various speakers
> Azzolina Audio - various models
> Blumenhofer - various models
Etc. List is very big actually if I start to think.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
5,575
317
83
Beverly Hills, CA
#14
Stenheim Alumine 3 Way, 94dB

But my real answer, as you know, is 250w + all-tube push-pull or hybrid Aesthetix or Lamm hybrid amplifiers driving whichever Rockport you think is the right size for your room.
 
Last edited:
May 30, 2010
14,529
227
63
Portugal
#15
standard tube amps gain is voltage driven
standard solid state amps gain is current driven
Can you explain what you mean by this strange statements? What do you mean by "standard" in this case?

a speaker is a electrical load .

if the speaker impedance changes in a wide range,

- and the solid state can provide the needed current, the frequency response will be fine.

- the tube amp will mostly fail and the frequency response will be no good
IMHO if the amplifier can not supply the needed current we get distortion, much worst than frequency response. Measurements of maximum power of an amplifier are carried for a defined distortion threshold.

if the speakers is designed for tubes, the impedance curve is flat, to overcome this.
or, the frequency curve is following the impedance curve in that way, that a tube amp will provide a flat response
(but than a solid state will not fit) , speaker example is "Zingali"

But there are also solid state out there, which will like horn or flat impedance speakers.
Boulder for example are "voltage" gain amplifiers, there "sinus" power response does not increase on lower speaker impedance. They are designed to work on those type of speakers as well.

Than there is the "damping factor"....
I think you are oversimplifying too much the question - the main question is usually the low impedance dips and efficiency. And the Boulder 2150 is rated at 1000W at 8ohm, 2000W at 4ohm and 4000W at 2 ohm.

IMHO most of the time only experience tells us how well a speaker subjectively matches an amplifier, although we can sometimes exclude a priory some combinations. There are very few speakers I do not like on tubes ... :)
 

morricab

Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
2,629
155
63
Switzerland
#16
It seems there are fewer and fewer of these out there and, surprisingly, we don't have a thread on this topic.

I will define tube-friendly as being able to be properly driven by a 100-watt tube amplifier. That's probably 90db efficient or so in most rooms.

What are your favorite tube-friendly speakers/brands and why?
Lots of speakers 90db and up and with reasonable impedance
 

morricab

Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
2,629
155
63
Switzerland
#17
Obvious *cones* to add:

> Living Voice OBX range
> Heco Direkt range
> Some triangle speakers
> The big Focals actually sound better with big push pull valves
> Audio Note E and K
> Lansche audio - various speakers
> Azzolina Audio - various models
> Blumenhofer - various models
Etc. List is very big actually if I start to think.
I would add Supravox . Also, big Focsls sound best with good SET!
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
9,613
365
83
London
#18
It seems there are fewer and fewer of these out there and, surprisingly, we don't have a thread on this topic.

I will define tube-friendly as being able to be properly driven by a 100-watt tube amplifier. That's probably 90db efficient or so in most rooms.

What are your favorite tube-friendly speakers/brands and why?
I increasingly favor tubes only at lower watts, 50 or so, not liking powerful push pulls much. The KR va 200 is very good for a high wattage tube amp, and the Berning quads have tubes at 200w. Those aside, on speakers that need higher power and drive I prefer SS.
 
May 30, 2010
14,529
227
63
Portugal
#19
Lots of speakers 90db and up and with reasonable impedance
Yes, but reasonable impedance is too subjective, specially because most time people ignore the phase effects.
 
May 30, 2010
14,529
227
63
Portugal
#20
I increasingly favor tubes only at lower watts, 50 or so, not liking powerful push pulls much. The KR va 200 is very good for a high wattage tube amp, and the Berning quads have tubes at 200w. Those aside, on speakers that need higher power and drive I prefer SS.
Only because of heat and tube replacement. IMHO, powerful tube amplifiers, such as VTL 750 or Siegfrieds, ARC REF250 or 750 or conrad Johnson LP275s or ART can sound really great.
 

About us

  • What’s Best Forum is THE forum for high end audio, product reviews, advice and sharing experiences on the best of everything else. A place where audiophiles and audio companies discuss existing and new audio products, music servers, music streamers and computer audio, digital to audio convertors (DACS), turntables, phono stages, cartridges, reel to reel, speakers, headphones, tube amplifiers and solid state amplification. Founded in 2010 What's Best Forum invites intelligent and courteous people of all interests and backgrounds to describe and discuss the best of everything. From beginners to life-long hobbyists to industry professionals we enjoy learning about new things and meeting new people and participating in spirited debates.

Quick Navigation

User Menu

Steve Williams
Site Founder | Site Owner | Administrator
Ron Resnick
Site Co-Owner | Administrator
Julian (The Fixer)
Website Build | Marketing Managersing