Amp recommendations for Tannoy Canterbury SE

I have just purchased the Tannoy Canterbury SE speakers and am driving them with my existing Ayon Audio Triton II KT88-based monoblocks delivering 100 Watts per channel. My only source Ayon CD-5 is connected directly to the Ayon monos, since the CD-5 has got a decent volume control. I listen to mostly very fast and dynamic music including rock, techno and others.

My initial impressions are that I am not getting speed, punch and tight bass. I am wondering if this is possibly due to an amp mismatch. While the tube amp's 100 Watts seem more than adequate for Canterburys 8 ohms and 96db spec, I wish I could get better results.

I am seeking recommendations on what could be the best suitable amp for the Tannoy Canterburies. I am open to both tubes and solid state.
- What could be some of the best Tube Amps as well as Solid State Amps that could be a good match ?
- Existing Tannoy Prestige series speaker owners - what amps do you use ?
- Should I be looking at tube amps which are based on tubes other than KT-88 ?

If you have any other recommendations in positioning/configuring the Canterburies please let me know too.

Many thanks in advance
Hello Wilfred,

I don't have Canterburys, but I do drive a pair of custom-built Tannoy HPD 315's (12" Dual Concentric, ca 1975, but with new woofers with the updated Prestige "Hard Edge" surrounds). So far, the best amp I have found is an old VAC PA 35.35, an EL 34 push-pull amp with tremendous current delivery capability, though they are only 35Wpc.

I also have a Plinius SA 100 MKIII, at 100Wpc, but the VAC is by far the better match. I listen to very dynamic symphonic music, jazz, r'n'r, and blues. This amp/speaker combination is well-suited for any type of music, the ability to deliver high energy transients is quite often enough to scare the daylights out of me.
I like the VAC so much, I sent it in to Kevin and company at the factory for a Signature upgrade, and it's even better than before. You might consider looking into VAC, this amp has done great for me.

Best of luck,
It might be that the speakers just aren’t as fast and punchy as the one’s your used to. I can’t see any reason why your amp shouldn’t work well with these speakers. But, as always, it all comes down to personal preference. That’s why some people prefer relatively powerful solid state amps, even with efficient Tannoys. I would love to hear the Canterburys with my amp and it is only a 25 watt push-pull 300b.

FWIW, I believe Tannoy recommends amplifiers rated between 50-275 watts.
Best to find a dealer that will loan you some solid state units, 100 watts+. Often the only way to really find out what best suits the SE's is the 'try' way. Theory will get you know where. I have heard the SE's at a dealer's showroom with various amps, none of which made the speakers appeal to me. Finally went with the JBL Everest speakers. The first high end speaker I owned, in the late fifties, was Tannoy. At that time I choose it over a K-Horn.
Thanks for your inputs. I believe the current delivery capability matters most here. I am wondering what is the equivalent of the older VAC model you mentioned available nowadays. I see only high powered amps on their website now.

Thanks for your observation. For my personal preference, perhaps powerful solid-state is the way to go...
Buconero117, I see your point. I hope to get a few names/types which people found to be matching well with Canterburies, I will have this shortlist as a starting point in my search.
I haven't heard the Canterbury SE yet, but damn do I lust for them. I've had no problems with Rogue Apollo tube monoblocks (250 Watts/ch) on my Kensington SE, or on the Yorkminster SE. In fact, you can run the gamut of sonic flavors/attributes - from lean bass to heavy bass to a wonderful balance - by tube rolling. Both small-signal and output tubes yield huge impact on the Prestige models I've heard. Preamp/phono/etc. Actually, at this point, pretty much every little detail imparts a huge impact. The EH KT90 comes to mind as a good tube for making the bass sound leaner and (seemingly) faster without sacrificing *too* much impact. The Tung-Sol KT120, on the other hand, is perfect if your system is a bit lean. I've also used a Rogue Hera II preamp as well as a VAC Ren Mk III. Both excellent, both with notably different sonic results.

The Yokie's 95dB was clearly advantageous over the Kensington's 93dB (the latter showing restricted dynamics on < 80 Watts). I can't imagine the Canterbury, at 96dB, would pose any problems for a 100W tube amp. You've definitely got to dial these speakers in with the right positioning, seating location, toe-in, etc, and then lock in the right tube recipe. Say 6-9 ft apart and 6-9 feet to seating - a slightly elongated equaliateral triangle - tends to work well for many Tannoys. Give them at least a meter from the front wall. Also, doesn't the Canterbury SE feature a variable tuning port? That's yet another significant parameter to play with :)

I've also heard the Yorkminster SE on a VAC Beta 160 integrated (80 Watts/ch tube) - once again, sounded great, with no issues in the bass. BTW, the Yorkies have absolutely stunning bass - speed, impact, and extension. No discernable dips/bumps; absolutely PERFECT integration with the midrange. Have to admit, they clobber my Kensingtons in this respect. I can't imagine that the Canterbury are too far off that, unless they're stuffed into a really bad room. On the other hand, there are flavor differences along the Prestige line, and (at least compared to the Kensington) the Yorkminster sounds more up you alley.

You're not going to make a Tannoy Prestige sound like a Wilson, a YGA, etc. But if you're one that drinks the dual-concentric kool aid (like me), then you're in for a lovely time once you get all these parameters set to your liking.
Also, as mentioned above - for tube amps with a triode/UL switch, that can make a big difference too! I easily prefer Ultralinear mode on my Rogue Apollos; the dynamics, bass snap & impact just sound muted in triode. The mids are a tiny bit smoother and more seductive in triode, but the differences in bass are not so subtle.
2 more options in addition to the ones that I mentioned in the other thread:

1) Rogue M-180's

2) Bel Canto Ref500m or Ref1000m

I've used both of these with really very good results with the Prestige series. If you would like to go solid state, I was quite taken back by how good the Bel Cantos sounded with the Tannoys. The Rogue M-180's also seem to be a very, very nice match.

I've never heard the Ayons you have in person, but I am somewhat surprised that they are not giving you your desired results.

***Tannoy, Rogue and Bel Canto dealer disclaimer***
Are your Canterburys broken-in? If not, my pair of Kensington needed 1000-1500 hours.

Mulveling makes good points. You have to work with placement, tubes and stuff before you give up on Ayon. Tannoys with pepperpot and alnico are very transparent to every little change.

From my experience Manley amps are dream stuff with high-end Tannoys.

- Manley importer disclaimer -
Dover, I am using the Pentode mode. Although I tried the Triode mode on couple of occasions with different speakers, it appeared so lifeless to me that I actually wondered why the Triode mode was there at all. Perhaps it was bcos of my speakers/system, I could only enjoy the Pentode mode.
Mulveling, thank you very much for your detailed and encouraging response.

It's a relief to know that a 100 watt tube amp should reasonably drive these speakers. Also good to know that you are running 250 W amps. At one point, I was wondering if I should upgrade to the Ayon Orthos II amps which are 200 watts.

As for tube rolling, I am currently using Shuguang Black Treasure KT88s which are nice and on the warmer side. My amp supports KT88 and KT120 tubes. I want to try KT120 later. Not sure if the EH KT90 tubes you mentioned can work on my amps bcos only KT88 and KT120 is written on the amp. Will need to check with Ayon.

Will try the positioning and variable port tuning as you suggested. I must admit that I haven't yet put them on the pointed footers yet since I am still experimenting with position. I guess putting them on the footer might tighten things up. Will give an update soon.
Goldprintaudio and Musicophile, thanks for your recommendations too.

This tempts me to hook up my previous Nuforce Ref9V3SE amps with the Tannoys to check the results.

The VAC Phi 200, at 100 Wpc in stereo mode, is a direct descendant of the PA 35.35. The layout of the tubes and transformers are identical. They can be used as mono-blocs as well. I bought my VAC right here on A'gon for the nominal sum of $1200. You may consider purchasing a used amp, see if you like it, then move up in the line with new models. For what it's worth, when I talked to Kevin Hayes to thank him for how my amp now sounds, I found out he is very interested in Tannoys, we had quite a discussion about them. He has been using Tannoy Westminster and the Royals ( can't remember rest of their name) at shows lately.

Best of luck, and regards,
If you have the Nuforce amps handy, you should try them out for sure. It's worth a shot!
My best friend Kwame has Canterbury SE and has used amps in the 25-35 watts with excellent results. Currently using a Thor 30 watt mono-block that has sounded exceptional. Wonderful speaker.
Dan, Thanks, I shall look into VAC Phi 200. Glad to know that VAC is well experienced with Tannoys. Also nice to hear that you love your updated amps ! Enjoy !
Sksos1, thanks, I guess as mentioned earlier in the thread, the current delivery capability maybe more important than the watts specification itself. Will read more about the Thor.
Wilfredt ~ there's also more than just watts that goes into the equation. Consider the gain in the pre-amp as a big part of that equation. Using a passive pre may require more watts and using a pre with 20 + of gain (although never heard a pre with a lot of gain I liked myself....YMMV) would require a lot less watts. Room size, type of music, levels you like to play all should be factored in. But again at Kwame's place we listen loud and never have any issues with the 25-30 watts of power.
I don't know how much you can extrapolate from this, but as Islandmandan mentioned above, Kevin Hayes had been using various Tannoy models at the shows lately.
At the last CES he used the top of the line Tannoy Kingdom Royal speakers with his Statement stereo amp (450 Wt/Ch) and it sounded pretty good. I would imagine, the lesser VAC amplifiers to be a good match with your speakers, provided, they have adequate power to drive them. Don't let "high" sensitivity rating fool you.
On the other hand, I think your Ayon Triton should be perfectly fine, as well.
The answer to your concern lies elsewhere- room placement, acoustic treatments, support system under the speakers, etc.
i can tell you from my experience, that moving a chair just a few inches made a difference b/w "no bass", "boomy bass" and "good bass". Had I not spent time with the setup, I'd be chasing different amps, cables and speakers right about now with the corresponding spending budget.
Mulveling is absolutely correct- the most return on the investment ($0- $ minimal)comes from the careful system setup.
Slightly more expensive, but still much better option is to hire a setup specialist. As a matter of fact, Jim Smith, the author of the "Get Better Sound" book, just purchased your exact speaker, and posted here, how much he loves them.
Just hire him!!!
IMO, the Canterburys sound pretty good set up any old way. But they do benefit from voicing, right down to very small adjustments.

It's unlike any other speaker I've worked with in that way.

Once broken in, they are so musically compelling, it's almost like, "why fix it if it ain't broke?"

But once they are dialed in, it's all over for most folks - their "desert island" speaker has arrived.

Re amplification, I've had good luck with amps in the 30 watt region, both SS & tube. The first pair I voiced a few years ago had a 60 watt amplifier on them.

I'd like to hear if a more powerful amp might sound even better but then we get back to "if it ain't broke..." ☺
Maril555, thanks a lot for your inputs. I have very high regard for Jim Smith and the fact that he had bought the same speakers also motivated me to go for the Canterburies. You are absolutely right, I would have loved to hire Jim Smith, however I am outside US and am based in Dubai and hence not practical.

I am right now going thru the "Get Better Sound" Book and DVD to position the speakers properly. Hopefully I can get it better...
Sksos1, you have pointed out another important area - the gain in the preamp. In my case, I don't have a preamp and also just switched from Ayon CD5 to Oppo BDP-95 to play directly into the amps. This could be a problem area too and I need to revert back to CD5 and play with the gain settings on the CD Player to see the effect.
Canterburys sound good with both solid state and tubes, imo. I wonder how a bi-amp configuration would sounds with tubes on the midrange/tweeter, and solid state for the bass.
I have been listening to Tannoy GRF Pro's and 15" Monitor Golds in Canterbury sized cabinets for over 15 years. In my view tubes are not the way to go - I've had Futterman OTL's, Quicksilvers, Conrads, EAR etc high power, low power , pentode, triode, ultralinear 6550's, EL34's, 8417's, 211's etc. The ear opening experience I had was listening to von Karajan's Beethoven 5th on the GRF Pro's with 500 watts of heavily modified Perreaux 5150B - as in the only thing original was the power supply and mosfets. Even though the speakers are hugely efficient the big power amp's headroom and control over the speakers clearly enabled the relentlessness of this performance to be communicated which I never previously heard. My supposition is that high power amps provide better control over the driver, Tannoys own reference amplifier was a 250wpc mosfet amp. I have come to the view that if you value speed and timing high current solid state is the way to go, I use a 50watt high current ss amp. I would look at something like MBL's or Pass Labs.
I would also echo the views above, speaker positioning and angling adjustments of even 1/2 an inch can yield significant changes in openness, balance and bottom end.
Hornguys, thank you for your response. Appreciate your inputs on couple of points :

1. I had initially toed in the speakers as per the manual in "intensity stereo toe in" mode or "crossfiring" mode. However, yesterday I followed the "Get Better Sound" book to toe them in such a way that they crossfire 1 feet behind listening position. Is there any recommendation on what is the best approach that works for the Canterburies ?

2. Are there any tips in setting up the fine tuning settings in front of the speaker ie "Energy" and "Roll off" ? I could not get much difference between these settings; perhaps bcos I didn't play the right music that covered those frequencies. In any case, I guess these are the final tuning parameters once the speakers are dialed in, correct ?

Appreciate your inputs.
Dover and Dave72, thanks for your responses. It appears that good powerful amp is preferred to control the base. To implement Dave72's suggestion, I would need a preamp with two outputs. Nevertheless, it is an interesting point to understand theoretically if there are any disadvantages in combining solid-state with tube or rather two different types of amplifiers. My own opinion is that this may not be a good idea since both amps' will have different characteristics including gain etc which might compromise heavily on the "coherence" and/or "integration of the sound", due to lack of a better word. But will be curious to see if someone has got good results by setting up this way.
You guys gushing about the Canterbury are not helping my medium-term financial situation... AT ALL :)

I never liked extreme toe-in (i.e. crossing in front of your head). I've had mine crossing just a touch behind my head. As for the crossover controls: always ended back at 0dB flat. There are times I've *wanted* to dial the treble down a couple dBs, but those controls always seemed too heavy handed; also felt like some of the dynamics and detail were being robbed. That's on the Kensington SE, though. With the right tubes in my amp now, I get the perfect balance on 0dB settings.

Must warn you I've also become a die-hard tube & vinyl fanatic; I just won't give SS a 2nd look these days. That's my prejudice to bear :)

As for a passive vs. active preamp - with the LOMC carts I use, passive preamps are not a great option; need that extra gain. The Rogue Hera II and VAC Renaissance Mk III are excellent sounding preamps with high gain (> 20dB), though note that will be *too much* gain for somes systems, especially those with a digital front end. With your 96dB Canterbury SE, you would likely hear a soft noise floor from your seating location (with no music playing) using such a high gain tube preamp - perhaps 9 to 16dB gain would be more ideal, there.
You may already be aware that it looks like Jim Smith has been powering his Canterbury SEs with Viva 845 amps - if not, check out Jeff Day's blog. Sounds like he was a pretty happy camper as of a couple months ago...
Mulveling, thanks for your tips. I will need to introduce a good preamp with the right gain as you suggested, at some point in time in the future. But that's when my own financial situation improves ;) or after I sell my Dali MS5 speakers !
Cfluxa - yes, I believe Jim is quite happy with the excellent Viva 845 amps. Unfortunately the Viva amps are too expensive for me now. I need to sell my Dali MS5 speakers first !

Also, I am trying to understand the differences between 845 based amps and KT88 based amps, as I have only heard KT88s. For the kind of fast, dynamic music, I am not sure if I would be better off with the punch given by KT88s and whether 845 based amps also can provide that kind of dynamics and punch.
Cfluxa, some time back I was going thru Jeff Day's blog, and it was interesting to see that Jeff was using the famous Leben CS660p Amp with the Tannoy Westminster Royal SE speakers. Just when I was drawn to this amp as it was more affordable than the Viva amp, I noticed that Jeff sold it off and is now planning to use a 300b based amp. Perhaps this is something to consider in future, but the question is whether 300b amps can drive the Canterburies and deliver speed, dynamics and punch.
I don`t know how similar the Tannoy Westminster(easier load?) to the Canterbury model. Jeff Day says the Sophia 300b SET amp was significantly better than the Leben or any other amplifier he`s use with his Westminters. May not apply to the Canterbury however. I suspect an active gain preamp would do wonders.
Mulveling -

Since you are in the Atlanta area, you're invited to hear my set-up.

In fact, I just sold the Vivas, so I will be using other (actually less expensive) amplification.

I think you'll like it - except for the money issue... :)
Wilfred - I'm not sure what your requirements for dynamics and punch are, but in my experience the 845 tubes can deliver plenty of it - I'm guessing this would especially be the case with Jim Smith's Viva mono blocks, which appear to be sporting a small regiment of 845s there.

Aside from that, to my ears the 845 is a far superior tube to the KT88. While the latter are fast with extended highs and tight bass, they lack that SET magic that the 845s do have a taste of, and which I would certainly be seeking to get with a pair of Westminsters.

In that regard, I also find Jeff Day's comments about the synergy with the 300Bs quite intriguing. Indeed, I'm guessing that this is more a question of synergy than outright power. If I were you, I'd be seeking out the former rather than the latter. I'd also certainly be pinging Jeff Day for his thoughts - I have no doubt he'd be more than happy to disgorge his wisdom for you.
Charles1dad, you are right. Going by the specs, the Westminster is 99db versus Canterburies which are 96db. Nevertheless it will be worth to try the 300b amps whenever possible. And yes, your point regarding active gain preamp is something I would definitely try.
Cfluxa - thanks for your encouraging feedback on 845 tubes.

As we speak(well, post), Jim has sold the Viva amps and apparently has found a better matching amplifier.

I shall consult Jim Smith and Jeff Day to seek their advice.
Wilfredt - I use a variety of amps on the Canterburys. There is not that big of a difference in the areas you describe. Yes, there is a difference, but it's not overwhelming - whether it's the Viva 845 amp which only has one 845 output (the 3 211s per amp are rectifiers & drivers), a ss Pass XA 30.5 or other amps I have on hand.

I tend to think your issue is more about how your Canterburys are "playing the room."

Of course, I could be very wrong, but those are the symptoms you describe.

A particular tube or even an amp is not likely to solve the issues you have described.

Worrying about how the electrons flow through a device is miniscule compared to addressing the acoustic wave launch into the room and how it is received - IMO, of course...
Another difference factor between the two Tannoys could be load impedance(yours is rated at 4 ohms).My speaker is 94db sensitive(less than your Caturbery). However the load is 14 ohms(minimum 10 ohms). I drive these speakers effortlessly with an 8 watt SET 300b amp(my experience and sucess with SET 300b amps is identical to Jeff Day`s) What`s the load impedance of the Westminster?
Wilfredt, the biggest difference between the Westminster and the Canterbury is that the Westminster is a back loaded horn design. This means that the driver movement is heavily rebutted by the backwave in the horn. The Canterbury is a distributed port design, more like a base reflex, so the driver has considerably less back pressure and can move back and forth much more freely. The main differences in sound are that the back loaded horn, by dampening cone movement, provides a cleaner more neutral midrange. On the GRF PRO's which are also back loaded horns, they provide a much more even midrange. The base reflex will give a lumpier bottom end and the midrange can be a little more uneven. I do think that the Canterbury's require more control than valve amps generally provide. There are exceptions such as the unity coupled EAR 519's & 549's and MacIntosh's or OTL's. You should probably try a few different amps on your speakers at home so you can get a feel for what works in your system.
Charles1dad, the nominal impedance of both Canterbury and Westminster is rated at 8 ohms.
Dover, thanks so much for your inputs. Looks like I will need to try a few different amps to find the best match.
Hello Wilfredt, all,

A lot of good input on this thread. FWIW, I thought I would mention I have been using a Sonic Euphoria tranformer-based passive line stage for years, and have always been happy with the gain (or, more rightly, attenuation) provided. Since I've switched back to Tannoy and tubes, I've been curious what an active line stage would do, but resources always seem to go elswhere.

I have used from 100-300 Wpc SS amps with my current Tannoys, but the VAC PA 35.35 remains the best match of what has been avaiable to me. Actually, I take that back, Zsolt Mathe brought one of his Z-Infinity Z-100 (50Wpc) amps over (he wanted to hear it through my speakers), and it actually sounded better to me than my VAC. I don't know how the two amps would stack up now that the VAC had its factory upgrade, but I think it would be close.

Anyway, an enjoyable discussion-
Good news is that this weekend I spent some time playing with the speaker positioning which has yielded good results. I may still have to spend more time in fine tuning though.

Another big improvement I got was when I used the provided spikes. The base became tight and the overall presentation became effortless. I was not expecting such a change and was pleasantly surprised.

I will be interested in knowing whether the Canterbury owners use the stock spikes or any better spikes or vibration control accessories. Also, I am wondering what is the size / measurement for the spikes, if I were to explore some other vibration control mechanism.
Now that I got some idea on the Amp possibilities, my next question would be what are the best interconnect/speaker cables that would match with the Tannoy Canterbury SE.
I currently use Gabriel Gold Reflection Interconnect and Acoustic Zen Absolute Speaker cables, which are both Silver based. I am wondering which brand cables worked best for you or copper/silver based cables in general.
Wilfredt, prepare for a thousand different views. For me I value speed timing and coherence and I run MIT Oracle/Reference through the whole system. Cardas Golden Reference - sounded warm, coloured and confused, Kondo Silver - pleasant at low levels, but discombobulated in the upper midrange and little or no coherency, Nordost ??? mega$ - thin, bright lacking harmonic structure.
I really like LFD silver cables with Tannoy. Tannoy often use LFD cables inside.

I do not sell LFD.
Your impression of Kondo silver is surprising. I `ve read several sources that state this is one of the very best and natural cables available(high resale value also).I certainly though it would be coherent, intersting opinion.