AVS Special Member
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: New York, NY, USA
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Dave Wilson uses both tubes and solid state from what I understand.
I've seen pictures of his home system that incorporated the ARC Reference tube preamp with solid state mono-block monster Levinson 33s, and I've heard him demo specifically with ARC Ref 600 tube mono amps on the West Coast at a Stereophile show (S.F., I think) , and previously with cj Premier 8 tubed monos at Sterophile in NYC (a combination also used by Mr. Wilson at Sound By Singer at an audio meet-and-greet night), just to name two among many other tube front end/Wilson speaker combinations that have been heard at shows (Nagra, CAT, Jadis, VAC, and VTL are some others tubed units I can think of that stand out).
This year at HE2002, Wilson's were used with VTL tube amps for not the first time. At CES in January, he had transistor Spectral DMA 360 monos prominently displayed with the Sophias, but played a gotcha on everybody by driving them with a cheapo solid state $650 Parasound amplifier. In the VTL room at CES, it was mega tubed VTL MB-750 Reference Monos (what amps!) driving the W/P 6s. He also supposedly has an $85K (!) single-ended Ongaku flea tube amp for his personal use that drives Wilson speakers nicely. They'll even work well with OTLs, as I've heard for myself (exploding Futerman's anybody?).
Interetsingy for solid state fans, when he introduced the W/P 6s at the Stereophile show in L.A, if memory serves, he used a set of Wadia Power DACs witha full Wadia font end, of course. I've had more than one dealer tell me that he has voiced Watt Puppies in the past using a quite modest Spectral DMA90 solid state amp. I know a couple of industry insiders who swear by the Wilson/Spectral components combination, but it rarely works in the systems I've heard because the best expensive Spectral gear is so demanding of proper set up. That's not to say it can't be done, and done sensationally, but be prepared to spend beaucoup dollars on gear and room treatment at full retail to have a stellar dealer do the set up -- of which there are precious few in North America, less than half a dozen I would say. Frankly, very, very few dealers can handle and are committed enough to keep going back until it's absolutely right, in my opinion. But if you do get it right...!
On the other hand, you can just about throw any very good tube amp at a Watt/Puppy 6 or System 7, position the speakers fairly haphazardly, and still get pretty good sound. Not what the speaker is capable of mind you, but a reasonable facsimile -- without even trying really. And if you do try, and who wouldn't at these prices, and you've got a top amp like my favored VAC 70/70, well, it's sheer Nirvana.
But no matter what you do, feed 'em a pure DSD recording - or top notch vinyl -- to see what it is you've really paid for!