Best speakers for 2A3 SET amplifier?

What is the best speaker for a 3.5 watt/channel amplifier?
avantgarde acoustics - uno's, duo's, or trios, depending upon the size of your room/budget. or, jadis eurythmies, which require room & budget size of the trios.
I am hoping to set up a second system, when I move into a new home later this year. My plan is for it to be in a smaller sized room, using a 2A3 based amp. I know there are the usual suspects; Coincident, Soliloquy, Silverline out there. But, I also am intrigued by Edgarhorns. Would like to give them a serious look. Based on what I read about Avantgarde, the Edgarhorn speakers look even more impressive. More real world in terms of size, price, ability to fit into a room, etc. Not a lot of information on them, though. I hope to find them available for an in-depth audition.
hi trelja; haven't heard the edgarhorns, so i can't pass direct judgment; however i have heard from others that they are very coloured. the avantgarde duos i heard sounded like music, even when driven by a 1.5wpc flea-amp. this was a couple years ago - the latest version has even better subs-n-crossovers. read the most recent (sept '00?) s'phile review of the uno's - the reviewer's room was 14'x16'!?! he *still* thought it was the closest thing to live he's ever heard... doug
Thanks, Doug! The most I have read about the Edgarhorns is via Dick Olsher's From what I remember, the reviewer's liked them(including Dick, whose opinion I used to often agree with when he was at Stereophile). And, it led me to check out their site. I saw some manufacturer's horn site(that said theirs overcame coloration), but I don't remember if this was a different company or not. But, it was someone's horn(other than Avantgarde). It's been a long time, and I looked at countless sites since in pursuit of this hobby... I would look into Avantgarde were it not for their price. I am sure that horns/SET's will get a mojor boost via the Stereophile review. Many people have been lusting for SET, but speakers were the limiting factor. I now believe that horns will again become fashionable.
Trelja, I am also setting up a second system with the 2A3 amplifier. The amp is the only component that is set (no pun intended!), i.e. I just ordered a Fi Super X from Don Garber. I have considered Avant Garde DUOs, but I am put off a little by the size and cost. Have you looked into the Pioneer speakers (, I heard that they are very nice. Any opinions on the old Klipschhorns? There was a nice pair for sale recently on Audiogon (unfortunately, I don't have a house with 2 unobstructed adjacent corners!
Coincident work really well with these types of amps very easy to drive.The soundstage and image are incredible at their price points.
Don't forget the Kochel's. 97db, nice looking too. Kind of halfway between a horn like Avantgarde and normal dynamic speakers. Great sound, best piano I've ever heard. I have a pair and use a 300B SET amp on them.
Hi all, I have heard the Avantgarde, Edgarhorns and Kockels. I thought the Kockels sounded best. For the money don't forget the Klipsch KLF 30. Thats what I ended up using with my 5 watt system to save $ (kids factor)
Thanks Jls3! I think the Kochels were the speakers I was trying to remember! Klipsch speakers have never done it for me. Just provide me with none of the emotional experience that the kind of audio equiment we lust for does. Not to say they are not good, just not good for me. I will investigate the Edgarhorns. Have a really nice pair in the $4k range(I recall?), and will fit into the room(sized/look more like "regular" speakers). I can say nothing against Avantegarde. But, I am pretty sure I will not buy because: I can't spend that kind of money, and they are too big for me(DOMINATE the room). Maybe in another life...
Trelja, As additional info for you, Kochel has two models, the larger 3-way K300 and the newer, smaller (36-12-15) 2-way K200 ($3k). Weblink for K200 & K300 information: Weblink for K200 review:
Thanks Tmhaudio. Sorry, I did visit Kochel before. But, in going there just now, I realize it was NOT the horn company I was thinking of. Still, I am know Kochel are top drawer in anyone's eyes(or ears). By the way, Edgarhorn makes a $1800 horn, but it is not the best(just checked Dick Olsher's site). Their better horns are well regarded by people like Harvey Rosenberg(think I'll check into his site now that we are into this 2A3 dialog). Now, that I think about it, there was another loudspeaker manufacturer I visited that looked VERY interesting. They make dynamic loudspeakers aimed at this market, and no one has ever heard of them(name has something nature or out west related - sort of like Montana loudspeaker, but we KNOW that they are not the company). I will try to get the name for everyone. Just give me a little time. I think we should all be proud of this thread. Great information, discussion, exchange of ideas, without the vitriol, personal attacks, ego, etc. that poisons many of the threads these days.
here's an set-tube-amp www that gives links for speakers they say work well w/'em: also, i've heard interesting things about hedlund horns, built w/lowther drivers: regards, doug
Wihtout knowing the size of your room, the type of music to which you listen, and how loud you ultimately want to go, it's rather hard to make appropriate suggestions. However, the received wisdom that you NEED, e.g., "at least 97 dB" or a "a horn over 100 dB sensitivity" is not true in all, and I would say most, cases. Many speakers that, on specs alone, would seem not to work well theoretically do in fact produce supremely wonderful sound in a reasonably-sized (say, up to a 10' x 20') room. In this category of smallish and easily affordable speakers would be the lower priced ProAcs and Audio Notes, Dick Sequerra's Metronome II and III, j.c. morrison's wonderful Pipedreams (before that name was filched by another company), Tannoys, and some of the simpler Zalytron designs. If you're handy with a saw, you might also consider a TQWT design -- you can build a pair of outrageously wonderful speakers, including single driver units with amazing coherence, for what is essentially dinner money! There's simply no need to spend 10K+ for a monstrous pair of horn-loaded speakers; I'd say you should consider trying a lot of alternatives first. Have fun coming up with your own "Best of Show" speaker!
The classic Tannoy dual concentrics are tops in my book. I feel it is only with one of these super-quality, super high sensitivity monitors that you can extract all the beauty inherent in the 2A3. However, if these are not your bag, I would consider Lowthers. For a good source, see: Also, I would suggest you go to the Welborne Labs' website at:, and check out the Oris Horns and then, the rest of their "Recommended Speakers for SE Amps." at: Finally, in case you are not aware, Dr. Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg, self-proclaimed Guildmeister of the Triode Guild has THE definitive, must-read website for SE lovers, at: Good luck!
Thanks for all your advice. I've learned a lot and will be able to make a better informed choice. But the job is not getting easier, and I'll have to spend a lot of time auditioning speakers (which will be part of the fun!).
Mjm, how can an opinion be true or false? I would NOT be satisfied with any non-horn speaker of less than 100 dB sensitivity with a single ended 2A3 amplifier.
Phill, your last response belies your blood alcohol level: "I would NOT be satisfied with any NON-horn speaker of LESS than 100 dB..." Is that a double or triple negative? And you wonder if an opinion can be true or false? Just what SET 2A3 amp were you thinking of?
Perhaps I should have been more specific when I first posted this thread. I have a parallel 845 SET and Coincident Super Eclipses for the system in my living room. I would like to set up a second system in a separate medium sized room (12x15) with a Fi Super X amplifier. This would be for mostly quiet listening of an assortment of music including vocal, jazz, chamber or orchestral. I suppose that I could use the Coincidents with the 2A3 amps and get some less efficient speakers for the parallel 845 (40 watts), but I am also exploring what options I would have if I were doing things from scratch with the 2A3 amps.
Phil, I wasn't denying your right to your opinion -- I didn't say that everyone would be happy with less efficient speakers, as you obviously would not be. But if you read Kweifi's latest post, you might agree, given the size of the room and the intended use, that he could possibly be satisfied with lesser dynamics or sheer loudness than might satisfy you in favor of other trade-offs, so your blanket rule might not apply to his particular case. So enjoy your system in peace -- but please don't state that your "need" applies to everyone, as I, for one, certainly don't "need" 100+ dB horns to enjoy my 2A3 and 300B-based systems, okay? You didn't say that "you" need those horns and he might too -- you made a rule for everyone, everywhere, who owns 2A3 amps, that horns, and 100+ dB ones at that, are "needed," thus denying anyone else the right to an opinion that differs from yours. BTW, what horns do you have? I'm curious if I've ever heard them, or if you designed and built them yourself. Regards, Mjm
Mjm, his original question asked what is the BEST speaker for a 3.5 watt amp. He didn't specify anything else in his original question. As such, I recommended a horn. Why? Because a quality horn will play all types of music well. A dynamic speaker can't play symphonic music at anything close to realistic levels on 3.5 watts. I have Avantgarde Duos.
Phill -- Not to beat a dead horse, but there are many who think that horns play no music well (I hasten to add I'm not in that camp -- but also to add that I've never heard a horn that plays "everything" well). And your response was, to quote fully: "You need a horn over 100 dB sensitivity." That's it -- no more. Any "quality" horn? Klipsches? Altec VOTs? Or only your multi-kilobuck horns? What defines "quality?" You've heard horns that fully reproduce the bottom octave? Where? You've heard every dynamic speaker, and not one will reproduce music well on 3.5 watts? Brentworths? Lowthers? And what are "realistic levels?" The average low 80s dB of the concert hall? Or must realistic levels include ear damage and pants flapping? Most audiophile society meetings I've attended have featured music at headache-inducing levels -- is this realistic enough? I can attest that both ProAcs and Von Schweikerts, for example, will do full-scale concert dynamics in a 10 x 20 room, with overhead to spare, on a typical 2A3 amp. And there are many other candidates...have you heard all of them? Any of them? Or are you just telling everybody that you like your speakers, and everyone else needs 100+ dB horns because you do? Or is it possible that your best is not the best for everyone, everywhere?
It is impossible for any Proac or Von Schweikert to do full-scale concert dynamics in a 10x20 room on a typical 2A3 amp. Haven't heard the Brentworth, but don't bother to mention that Lowther junk! I'd rather take a drill to my head than listen to Lowthers.
I agree with the statement disputing the claim, both "ProAcs and Von Schweikerts, for example, will do full-scale concert dynamics in a 10 x 20 room, with overhead to spare, on a typical 2A3 amp." To me, "full scale concert dynamics" range from 100 - 110+ dB. A 5 watt amp, powering even a flat 8 ohm, 93 dB sensitive speaker, would not be able to reach those levels "with room to spare". I am love with a certain 3.6 watt 2A3(and will hopefully buy one). As great as this amp is, with the dynamic speakers I have listened to it with(more benign loads than any Von Schweikert), it never had this kind of drive. Yes, it is ADEQUATE(and a WONDERFUL) amp, but you are making a similar analogy to a car being able to pull a freight train. Ain't going to happen. Let's rejoice in the beauty of a great 2A3(and its superior sound compared to a 300B), but we need to remain realistic.
Trelja -- Is 100 - 110 Db necessary to replicate the full dynamic scale of an orchestra? Having sat in the orchestra with SPL meter in hand, even Wagnerian climaxes barely nudged into the 95- 97 Db range, orchestra in fullest throat. I think what happens is that people confuse the sheer volume pressure of air being moved by the orchestra with loudness (even a soft tympani strike will move lots of air, albeit at very low volume) -- and no home speaker of any stripe will reproduce that effect with realism, horn, planar, or dynamic design. So instead, the volume control moves skyward to compensate, to give us that feeling of being enveloped in huge masses of air -- and we wind up listening at levels that far exceed the actual concert levels (please note that this applies to an unamplified symphonic concert orchestra -- the last Who concert I attended went waaaay over 110 Db, but then, my ears rang for quite some time afterward! Have you ever left a 3 hour Mahler concert complaining of the loudness?). So in my former living room, peaks in the mid-nineties were indeed sufficient to reproduce realistic levels, i.e., the actual concert level -- but as noted, no speaker will allow you to believe that 120 instruments are playing in that same 10' x 20' room.
Mjm, I understand your points. I myself, do not listen very loudly(80 - 90 dB). I am basically relating my experience in dealing with a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra. He came to a store I was involved with for audio equipment. He listened SO loudly 115 db and higher, we all had to leave him to his own devices. Absolutley ear bleeding. He maintained that this was the realistic volume of an orchestra(I guess from where he was sitting). He demanded his equipment be able to play that loud. I would wager that he is not the owner of a 2A3 based system. As I have evolved from quantity of sound to quality of sound, 80 - 90 db is fine for me. This level is certainly attainable with tube or SET amps, and easy to drive loudspeakers. So, I really don't worry. I also maintain that horn or dynamic speaker, if you are happy with your system, THAT is all that matters. Happy listening.
Check out speaker suggestions at Wellborne labs website. They have a comprehensive listing for tube friendly speakers along with links to mfrs.
I recently listened to the new Silverline Sonatina and Sonata driven by a 2A3 SET amp and was blown away. The Sonata was fantastic, with great sound reproduction over a wide frequency range, excellent resolution, air, soundstaging, etc. Moreover, the stated efficiency was 96 dB with an even impedance of 8 ohms. A number of us thought that the sound was comparable or better than the JMLab Utopia at 1/5th the cost! I am going to sell my Coincident Super Eclipses and buy a pair of Sonatas!
Way to go Kweifi selling your current speaker and upgrading to the Silverline Sonatas! I have the sonatinas in my bedroom with Audioprism Mantissa R signature and Bel Canto SET 40 amp wired with silverline audio cables.
Kweifi and Mburnstein, I heard the Sonatina at CES in January. It's no horn, but it's quite the musical value and puts many more expensive dynamic speakers to shame.
I believe that the Sonatinas are VERY good, comparable to or better than my Coincident Super Eclipses, but the Sonatas are fantastic, with much more space, resolution, and imaging! Silverline just makes fantastic speakers!
I agree Kweifi, but for the size of my bedroom, the sonatinas were a better match than the sonatas.
I agree completely , M. Burnstein. Actually, for small rooms, the new Silverline monitor sounds pretty good as well.
I sold my Cary 572s Series 1 (which I loved except for the short life of the power tubes) and bought Cary 2A3SEs. I have Proac Response 2.5s which I also love. However, I found that this sytem simply does not have the dynamic freedom, both high, mid, and low level, that I need to enjoy the jazz and classical music I primarily listen to. Also, the high frequencies are somewhat closed in and lack the right amount of air and extension neccessary. However! I bought a wonderful OTL 25 watt amp(Transcendent Sound, I don't even know the model name) and at $1,900.00 direct from the manufacturer, it is an amazing bargin. I do not use a preamp (I use a Creek Audio OBH12) and I discovered a slight peakiness in the highs. About a week ago, just for fun, I bi-amped my Proacs (Transcendent on the woofer and the Carys on the tweeter) and the sound is almost wonderful. Does anyone know how to, when bi-amping, increase the tweeter output by maybe 2dbs? Or maybe I should check out the Silverlines and keep my Carys. Anyway...
Please see my update under Sound Advice, "Sonata/Sonatina with 3-5 Watts???????" dated 11/11/2000.
Trelja.. I agree with your comments. A 2A3 amp is best suited for horns or 100+db sensitive speakers. You will get sound from them, but you will not get the magic these low powered amps have to offer. I had a Cary 2A3 on my Vonschweikert VR-6's at one time. I thought it sounded great. After some time I realized that it was not a good match. I then bi-amped and ran the Cary 2A3's on the mid/tweet module and the sound really opened up and came alive. I also heard the 2A3 on the silverlines. Not a good match at all. The Vonschweikerts, Silverlines and similar dynamic speakers need at least 20 - 30 watts to overcome the x-over and the dynamic drivers. I now have a Bel Canto SET 40 on my Vonschweikert VR-7's. The sound is wonderful. Good bass control, great dynamics and the fabulous SET mid-range. The flea power amps are best suited for 100+db horns or lowthers. The 845 , 211 based SET amps can offer a SET sound for those with speakers about 90+db. mike
Excellent string, folks. I have learned a lot from all of the above, so thought I would ask a question. I don't mean to change the subject, since this thread is very enlightening, so ignore this post if you want. However, I intend to purchase the Electronics Audio Supply SE1, which I understand works with 300B and 2A3 tubes, at about 7 watts. For other times/music I have your typical arc-welder solid state job. Question then is a speaker that will do justice to both, with the least (but necessary) compromises. Currently auditioning the Soliloquy 5.3 and Triangle Antal xs (can you tell my desired price range is just under US$2,000?). Anybody listened to both, and any comments on strategy for a neophyte?
money no object ? and avantgarde....they use lowthers. If you are on the the DIY kind. Look up lowthers on the web and you will be surprised with most companies using their drive unit and they support the DIY community too. An interesting site is bdesign
Personnely I have tried the Klipschorn with a Cary CAD2A3SE.
at maxi of 5 watts was a knock out.The best sound was using a Mac275 had very good bass extension.Mids and highs was very close to the SET 2A3.The Advangarde Uno was good on highs but the Mids/low end had a hole in the middle. I think it seems that the active bass end was not matched.
What ever you decide your ears are the final judgement but getting information narrows down your search for the best.
Have fun.
the soliloquy SM2A3 was designed to work low power SET amps. It is outstanding in this regard.
I do not know if you are still reading this thread of not, but here it goes. I decided to make myself a pair of Voigt Pipes, as it was seen in a website. Materials for the cabinets might have cost me about $100 and the drivers, a pair of Fostex 208Sigmas went for about $350. After all the work, which is more a matter of space and sawdust, also be a little proficient with electric tools, I had the speaker set up. The efficiency with these drivers is about 97db if a little more, but the sound that you get is veritable to something that can easily run you about 3 to 4K. Very detailed, very smooth, quick, although there is not a great deal with bass, but then, you can add one of these folded horn subs from DECWARE, the guys who make the ZEN amp. I think there is a lot you can get with a premade speaker, but making it, and having it sound like heaven with a couple hundred dollars is not all that bad.
I followed this thread when I was researching a SET amp for my Silverline Sonatinas. Now that I have lived with my SET amp - Moth s45 - for a month I though I'd share with everyone my experience.