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Thread: Affordable Preamps & amplifiers? Thoughts on Carver Gear?

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    Senior Member DerekTheGreat's Avatar
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    Affordable Preamps & amplifiers? Thoughts on Carver Gear?

    Hello everyone!

    What do you guys think of Carver gear? The interwebs seem to be very polar about his stuff, very like or hate and it reminds me of Bose.. Being that my XPL200's won the showdown against the L150A's, I'd like to find 300-400 watt monoblock amplifiers, four total, to run the XPL's. I'm coming from two Adcom GFA 555 II's, a Marantz 3600 pre and an Ashly XR1000. The GFA's in stereo & vertical bi-amp just don't give me the SPL's needed like with the GFA's bridged with the L150A's, it's close, but not quite there. Which is why I estimate I need at least double the power to get the extra 3 or 6dB I'd like. My trouble is, I'm not sure what to buy and what sounds good. Carver made a lot of stuff, and after a lot of reading I decided to try the TFM series, two 55x's to be specific. Well, the Adcom was leaps and bounds better than the 510M (Yeah, I almost cried over that), so much so I could drop the equalizer from the system. My wife and I pitted the 555 II against the 55x and found the 55x to be sonically better than the Adcom. It's more musical, detailed and provided tighter bass. Although inside the thing isn't much to speak of and on paper, it's junk. Dinky capacitors and a rink-tink appearing transformer. <0.5% THD and a damping factor that says >150 while supposedly delivering 380wpc. The Adcom seems to have more steam or grunt, thanks to it's larger caps & better transformer. By comparison, the meter lights on the 55x really flicker when cranked and the amp's meters aren't a really good indicator for clipping. Frequently they'd indicate an average of about 60w and then soar above the indicated 380 for certain stuff. I like me a good light which is instantaneous. The Adcoms have that but they don't have the sound quality.. Both seem to play just as loud, the Carver might be slightly louder. Oh, the second Carver hasn't arrived yet (thanks USPS) so we did our listening on the XPL's without bi-amping. Anyway, thanks for reading the rant. I'd like to hear what you guys think of Carver and their preamps as well. Thats the next thing I'd like to improve on. I would also like to go the monoblock amp route so I'd like suggestions there as well. There is so much stuff out there! Suggestions don't have to be Carver but I'd like balanced outputs and maybe a remote as well as tone defeat out of a pre amp. My one buddy was right- if the gear is good, you don't need equalization.

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    Senior Member gferrell's Avatar
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    I don't know anything about carvers but I have tried many amps on my XPL200's and and the best amps I have found are the Ashly FET-2000M and FTX-2001. These are mosfet amps with lot of power. I bi-amp them using a DX-1 crossover. Since I am a budget guy I was able to find some for about $100.00 each, I have 6. One is powering my XPL160's no Biamp. These have the Hitachi Mosfets which are very fast and have powered some great sounding amps in the past. I am in the process of putting new power supply caps in them and have put new caps on the boards also. I just don't trust 30 year old caps. I also put 5 volt silent fans in them because the fans were a little annoying. You mentioned you had Adcom 555's powering them. I tried those in the past but the Ashlys sound better to me and have a lot more power.
    For what its worth.
    XPL 200's w DX1, XPL 160's, XPL 140's, L7's, L5's, L3's, L1's Homemade L Center, 4412's, 4406, L60T's, L20T's

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    Administrator Mr. Widget's Avatar
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    I have owned the original Phase Linear 400, the Carver M-400 cube, and some other cool gray Carver amp whose details escape me. None have particularly impressed me. I do think Bob Carver is a very clever designer, but haven't been wowed by any of his amps that I have tried or owned.


    Widget

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    Administrator Robh3606's Avatar
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    The only carver gear I have ever owned was the Phase 4000 preamp. I loved it but it died. On the amp front when I had my XPL's and DX-1 running I used crown amps with them and never had an issue with power they were all PS-200's with a strapped pair on the woofers. On a more modern front I like the Emotiva gear and use a pair of their HC-1 mono blocks on my sorta M2 Passive wanabees. Great amps supper quiet never sound the least bit strained even at nuts levels.

    Rob
    "I could be arguing in my spare time"

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    Senior Member HCSGuy's Avatar
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    If you are regularly running GFA-555ís into clipping on your XPLís, how about saving the money on equipment and looking at upgrading your speakers again? I am not a loud music guy, but when I dragged my XPL-200ís to my dadís house to compare them with his 250Tiís, I remember that the louder we played, the farther ahead the 250Tiís pulled. They stayed punchy and dynamic when the XPLís sounded like the bass was compressing. We were listening through a Dbx BX-3mkii amp, which is 400w/ch in 2ch mode. That Dbx was/is a great amp for bass. I bought it off my friend at Bose, who used to use it to power 901ís on their 18 wheeler demo truck. Btw, worst amp weíve tried? Onkyo M-504. Beautiful amp, with huge power meters, but no guts, even though rated at 165w/ch.

    Otherwise, my only experience with Carver stuff is getting it fixed. We used to sell the Sunfire True Subwoofer, or whatever it was called, and everyone we sold has either been rebuilt or replaced. I have also had to repair a few of the early 90ís Carver amps when we did A/V installations. One of them was my techís fault - I think he connected hot to hot on an auto former install and burned the traces off the amp board. The other we donít know. Client says the amp worked great until we touched it. This was about 6mos after the autoformer accident. Incidentally, I refused to repair the amp - I gave him an Adcom GFA-555ii I had at the shop in its place.

    I donít know what youíre going to find that is good, reliable, affordable, and a mono block. Other than the last part, I would look at Parasound or B&K
    That the internet contains a blog documenting your life does not constitute proof that your existence is valid. Sorry.

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    Senior Member DerekTheGreat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gferrell View Post
    I don't know anything about carvers but I have tried many amps on my XPL200's and and the best amps I have found are the Ashly FET-2000M and FTX-2001. These are mosfet amps with lot of power. I bi-amp them using a DX-1 crossover. Since I am a budget guy I was able to find some for about $100.00 each, I have 6. One is powering my XPL160's no Biamp. These have the Hitachi Mosfets which are very fast and have powered some great sounding amps in the past. I am in the process of putting new power supply caps in them and have put new caps on the boards also. I just don't trust 30 year old caps. I also put 5 volt silent fans in them because the fans were a little annoying. You mentioned you had Adcom 555's powering them. I tried those in the past but the Ashlys sound better to me and have a lot more power.
    For what its worth.
    Thanks for the suggestions! I haven't seen anything about Ashly amplifiers, but every thread I do come across regarding Ashly gear is always positive. Least before they succumbed to & sailed the China express.. Looks like I have more research to do!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Widget View Post
    I have owned the original Phase Linear 400, the Carver M-400 cube, and some other cool gray Carver amp whose details escape me. None have particularly impressed me. I do think Bob Carver is a very clever designer, but haven't been wowed by any of his amps that I have tried or owned.

    Widget
    Good to know.. Although I'm open to stuff outside of Carver. Would you happen to have any budget/used suggestions? I originally went with Carver because I figured I'd give his stuff a shot before condemning or embracing it. The TFM 55x is alright for what it is and the price. Sonically, it bests the Adcom GFA 555 II. Although, I see it as a stop gap, they'll be replaced once I find & settle on better gear. But, finding the gear is the hard part, so much stuff out there and opinions are hard to trust. Here, you guys all like and run JBL gear, not to mention have more experience as well discriminating tastes so I value all of the input I get.

    Quote Originally Posted by Robh3606 View Post
    The only carver gear I have ever owned was the Phase 4000 preamp. I loved it but it died. On the amp front when I had my XPL's and DX-1 running I used crown amps with them and never had an issue with power they were all PS-200's with a strapped pair on the woofers. On a more modern front I like the Emotiva gear and use a pair of their HC-1 mono blocks on my sorta M2 Passive wanabees. Great amps supper quiet never sound the least bit strained even at nuts levels.

    Rob
    Thanks Rob! "Strapped pair" on woofers? Mind elaborating? You mean bridged?? I looked up the PS200, not enough powah.. On a whim, I searched for "PS400" and am intrigued.. 330wpc and much better specs than these Carvers. Any experience with them? They look a little old.. Four of them bridged would be pretty rad, but perhaps just two in vertical config would be dandy. If only I'd known of these before the Carvers, but, had I not tried out Carver I'd still be curious about them..

    I've looked into Emotiva.. Audioholics have bench tested their amplifiers and have great things to say about their output, watts per dollar type of thing. However, consumer response seems to differ- in the sense that they don't sound too good. Dry and harsh in the upper registers. What is your opinion of them? What other amplifiers of renown would you say they've bested? Any surprises?

    Quote Originally Posted by HCSGuy View Post
    If you are regularly running GFA-555ís into clipping on your XPLís, how about saving the money on equipment and looking at upgrading your speakers again? I am not a loud music guy, but when I dragged my XPL-200ís to my dadís house to compare them with his 250Tiís, I remember that the louder we played, the farther ahead the 250Tiís pulled. They stayed punchy and dynamic when the XPLís sounded like the bass was compressing. We were listening through a Dbx BX-3mkii amp, which is 400w/ch in 2ch mode. That Dbx was/is a great amp for bass. I bought it off my friend at Bose, who used to use it to power 901ís on their 18 wheeler demo truck. Btw, worst amp weíve tried? Onkyo M-504. Beautiful amp, with huge power meters, but no guts, even though rated at 165w/ch.

    Otherwise, my only experience with Carver stuff is getting it fixed. We used to sell the Sunfire True Subwoofer, or whatever it was called, and everyone we sold has either been rebuilt or replaced. I have also had to repair a few of the early 90ís Carver amps when we did A/V installations. One of them was my techís fault - I think he connected hot to hot on an auto former install and burned the traces off the amp board. The other we donít know. Client says the amp worked great until we touched it. This was about 6mos after the autoformer accident. Incidentally, I refused to repair the amp - I gave him an Adcom GFA-555ii I had at the shop in its place.

    I donít know what youíre going to find that is good, reliable, affordable, and a mono block. Other than the last part, I would look at Parasound or B&K
    I suspect you weren't running your XPL's biamped with an active crossover. These things really wake up & come to life when done that way, played with just a single amp, yes, what you've described is accurate. GT himself acknowledges that, but he didn't have the money to build a better crossover network for 'em.. But, since they're 6 ohm, minimum I can run using the 555 II's bridged is an 8 ohm speaker. Otherwise, I'd just buy two more of the Adcoms, I really like 'em. But LoL, not going to save any money on equipment by trying to pick up a set of 250Ti's. Believe me, I've been looking. The prices are way out there too, not to mention the cabinets all fubar as well as the drivers despite the price. There is a nice set somewhere in New York or whatever right now. Guy keeps going between $3,500 and $4,200 for them. I got my XPL's for $1,400 and they are MINT. So, with that in mind, I think the cheaper route would be to keep them. Bi amped, they are punchy and dynamic. My L150A's are better on the bottom end though, it's weird, but I like the texture you get with a PR. However, up top, they don't sparkle or handle the transients as well or clearly like the XPL's do. At lower volumes, the XPL's absolutely sparkle. Tracks like the Doors "Love Street" sound fabulous, Ray's notes on the piano just sound so warm, balanced & buttery, like he is right in room.And, the XPL's are just like the L150A's in that they sound great no matter how much I throw at them. Every JBL I've ever tried performs like that.

    I'll keep the DBX amp in mind, thank you for your suggestion! Which B&K's would you recommend? I have been eyeing Parasound gear, but the A21+'s are new and still fairly pricy.. Any pre amp suggestions?

  7. #7
    Senior Member SEAWOLF97's Avatar
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    I've had a couple of pieces of older CARVER gear , they havn't seemed to
    hold up well to the wages of time.

    My 2 BGW amps are still going & sounding strong.
    I know my life would look all right ..
    if I could see it on the silver screen

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    Senior Member jbl4ever's Avatar
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    If you looking to Bi Amp the low end these will give you all the headroom you need at over 1000WPC at 8 ohms. I think this is by you on CL Crown Macro Tech 5000VZ. Use the other 2 for your mid/highs

    https://detroit.craigslist.org/okl/m...262739649.html

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    Senior Member RMC's Avatar
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    I remember that BGW made preamps, models 103 and 203. However, balanced and affordable? As well as Crown, with the same question marks.

    I used for decades the more affordable Spectro Acoustics preamp model 217R (R for rackmount version) and the no frills EQ model 2102 (removable rackmount supplied), both have been quite reliable (35+ years), still going when i gave them away. Spectro was founded by former engineering collegues of Bob Carver at Phase Linear. Those are not balanced though.

    You could also use the preamp section of an integrated amp, one that can be easily separated signal wise from the amp section with metal "U" shape jumpers at the back, as i have on a NAD integrated, but not balanced.

    In case you have difficulty finding the right Preamp, another possible option is to consider getting a small balanced mixer and use it as a preamp, which i also do, if you don't require a phono preamp. In case you do, then simply purchase a small separate phono preamp to connect into RCA inputs on the mixer. Additional food for thought. Regards,

    Richard

  10. #10
    Senior Member grumpy's Avatar
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    Gonna need a 30A circuit for that beast, or 220-240VAC @15A:

    If you looking to Bi Amp the low end these will give you all the headroom you need at over 1000WPC at 8 ohms. I think this is by you on CL Crown Macro Tech 5000VZ.

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    Senior Member SEAWOLF97's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RMC View Post
    I remember that BGW made preamps, models 103 and 203. However, balanced and affordable?
    Richard
    I have a BGW 203 . had a tantulum cap changed a while back ... tech was impressed
    "it is build like MILSPEC with high qual components" ... it has gain & tone controls on each channel . Has 2 amp outputs* ... not too expensive, but not balanced.

    *each going to sperate amps and systems ... needing only 1 cd & 1 md player to be shared with 2 amp & speaker systems.

    Preamps ?? there is a fine thread abt them on this site ... if you are really doing vinyl, an APT Holman is the one. My Adcom GTP 500 -2 pre is good and has basic remote and a tuner.

    Preamp recommendations ?

    http://www.audioheritage.org/vbullet...hlight=preamps


    Quote Originally Posted by SEAWOLF97 View Post
    I also have a 203 that controls both my BGW 750D & 250D. I really like it. Did a little research and found it sold for about $1,300 in 1978, and they still fetch about $300 on eBay to this day.

    Have been unable to find the manual, but the 202 one is easily found and I think is basically the same.


    LHF member "Loach71" is the master on all things BGW and can probably answer a tech question, but he is a very busy guy, so if you do ask ... make sure it's not a trivial question.
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    Administrator Robh3606's Avatar
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    Thanks Rob! "Strapped pair" on woofers? Mind elaborating? You mean bridged?? I looked up the PS200, not enough powah.. On a whim, I searched for "PS400" and am intrigued.. 330wpc and much better specs than these Carvers. Any experience with them? They look a little old.. Four of them bridged would be pretty rad, but perhaps just two in vertical config would be dandy. If only I'd known of these before the Carvers, but, had I not tried out Carver I'd still be curious about them..
    Good luck with that I doubt you are going to find 4 PS-400. I have 1 PS400 and 6 PS 200 in service. The PS 400 and 3 PS 200 in my HT and 3 in a bi-amp set-up. Had most of them checked out after I purchased them. They are great amps but getting long in tooth. If you do find them definitely have them checked out.


    I've looked into Emotiva.. Audioholics have bench tested their amplifiers and have great things to say about their output, watts per dollar type of thing. However, consumer response seems to differ- in the sense that they don't sound too good. Dry and harsh in the upper registers. What is your opinion of them? What other amplifiers of renown would you say they've bested? Any surprises?
    Well I can't speak to what others hear or think but I have never had an issue with the ones I have owned and the only time they sounded harsh was when it was on the recording.

    Good luck on your search!

    Rob
    "I could be arguing in my spare time"

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    Senior Member RMC's Avatar
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    Depending on one's needs and budget, some other & maybe more affordable preamp ideas, those are MADE IN THE GOOD OLE USA (note that Bellari is a division of Rolls):

    Bellari PP 532 Passive preamp; similar Rolls SS 412 Audio Source Selector

    Bellari PA 555 Preamplifier (tube, all analog)

    Bellari PA 550 Three Channel Preamp with Phono

    The above are not balanced, but easy to balance their output using an Aphex 124A or B (Audio Level Interface) if need be.

    Purchased a couple of years ago two Rolls MOSFET amps (RCA or balanced on 1/4" TRS), a Rolls Sonic exciter (RCA or balanced on XLR), plus a Bellari RCA phono preamp, its outputs balanced using an Aphex 124A, and must say build quality of all these is good, no problems to report, pretty satisfied with the units. Don't use the NAD integrated often, have way more flexibility using a mixer as preamp, like the chance of balancing all signals. Regards,

    Richard

    SEA: The Spectro Acoustic 217 preamp was a turntable/cart heaven, in addition to other features: Two phono inputs, cart capacitance adjustments, load resistance selection, phono gain choice, and steep switchable sub sonic filter. Not frequent that you got all this in the same package. Only one pair of main outputs, however with their low impedance and 10+ volt capability it could easily drive separate amps using "Y" cables. The good old days...

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    Senior Member DerekTheGreat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SEAWOLF97 View Post
    I've had a couple of pieces of older CARVER gear , they havn't seemed to
    hold up well to the wages of time.

    My 2 BGW amps are still going & sounding strong.
    Looks like neat old gear, but too ancient..

    That said, my Marantz 3600 is long in the tooth too. But, without the fuzzy 510M, it's actually a pretty good preamp. I like everything it does and offers. But because the 510M was such a pile (Very, very handsome pile..), I've been bitten by the bug which suggests there is better out there for the money. I think I paid $400 for the thing, so I'm not opposed to paying that or 1.5x to net me something with better results..

    Quote Originally Posted by jbl4ever View Post
    If you looking to Bi Amp the low end these will give you all the headroom you need at over 1000WPC at 8 ohms. I think this is by you on CL Crown Macro Tech 5000VZ. Use the other 2 for your mid/highs

    https://detroit.craigslist.org/okl/m...262739649.html
    Quote Originally Posted by grumpy View Post
    Gonna need a 30A circuit for that beast, or 220-240VAC @15A:
    Listing was deleted, but I think I saw that amp a little while ago. Like grumpy said though, it needs more current then I can supply it. Also, I was a horizontal bi amper until I tried vertical biamping. Although I could try horizontal again. Actually, this gave me an idea.. I could run both my GFA 555 II's bridged to supply ~600watts to the 2214H's and use the Carver TFM 55x to run the top end.. Although I don't know what the nominal impedance of them is... Anyone know? Should I try it?

    Quote Originally Posted by RMC View Post
    I remember that BGW made preamps, models 103 and 203. However, balanced and affordable? As well as Crown, with the same question marks.

    I used for decades the more affordable Spectro Acoustics preamp model 217R (R for rackmount version) and the no frills EQ model 2102 (removable rackmount supplied), both have been quite reliable (35+ years), still going when i gave them away. Spectro was founded by former engineering collegues of Bob Carver at Phase Linear. Those are not balanced though...

    Richard
    Quote Originally Posted by RMC View Post
    Depending on one's needs and budget, some other & maybe more affordable preamp ideas, those are MADE IN THE GOOD OLE USA (note that Bellari is a division of Rolls):

    Bellari PP 532 Passive preamp; similar Rolls SS 412 Audio Source Selector

    Bellari PA 555 Preamplifier (tube, all analog)

    Bellari PA 550 Three Channel Preamp with Phono

    The above are not balanced, but easy to balance their output using an Aphex 124A or B (Audio Level Interface) if need be.

    Purchased a couple of years ago two Rolls MOSFET amps (RCA or balanced on 1/4" TRS), a Rolls Sonic exciter (RCA or balanced on XLR), plus a Bellari RCA phono preamp, its outputs balanced using an Aphex 124A, and must say build quality of all these is good, no problems to report, pretty satisfied with the units. Don't use the NAD integrated often, have way more flexibility using a mixer as preamp, like the chance of balancing all signals. Regards,

    Richard...
    Thanks Richard. I do indeed have a soft spot for "Made in USA" but I broke that by going with the Adcom's.. I'm familiar with Bellari! They own Rolls or vice versa, right? I believe I've got a Rolls VP30 phono preamp. The only tube gear I want to own, heard those are rather finicky.

    Quote Originally Posted by Robh3606 View Post
    Good luck with that I doubt you are going to find 4 PS-400. I have 1 PS400 and 6 PS 200 in service. The PS 400 and 3 PS 200 in my HT and 3 in a bi-amp set-up. Had most of them checked out after I purchased them. They are great amps but getting long in tooth. If you do find them definitely have them checked out.


    Well I can't speak to what others hear or think but I have never had an issue with the ones I have owned and the only time they sounded harsh was when it was on the recording.

    Good luck on your search!

    Rob
    Thanks Rob. Good luck indeed. However, there is one on the 'bay right now for $500. Not sure if that's a deal or not. I don't mind going through stuff but I'd at least like to check how they sound & approve that signature before dumping another ~$500 to have them refurbed. When I got my Marantz 510M back from service, I didn't notice any differences in sound but I felt better about running it.

    Did you compare your Emotivas to any other amps? I'd like to know which amps they beat to your ears.

  15. #15
    Senior Member BMWCCA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robh3606 View Post
    Good luck with that I doubt you are going to find 4 PS-400. I have 1 PS400 and 6 PS 200 in service. The PS 400 and 3 PS 200 in my HT and 3 in a bi-amp set-up. Had most of them checked out after I purchased them. They are great amps but getting long in tooth. If you do find them definitely have them checked out.
    I have several PS400s and PS200s. My main system powering the 4345s uses one of each. Liked them enough to keep spares. Doubt I ever paid over $200 each for gently used studio stuff. Never thought of them as particularly powerful but the 4345s are fairly efficient and I've never seen an IOC lamp lit even at fairly stupid volume levels. I previously used the Crown DC300A Series-II but I like the PS better for several reasons. I also have a Crown Studio Reference-II I bought for my 250tis but I don't consider those really affordable these days since they generally go for over $1,000. They are rated at 355wpc @ 8ohms and 1,000wpc bridged.
    ". . . as you have no doubt noticed, no one told the 4345 that it can't work correctly so it does anyway."óGreg Timbers

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