I want to briefly share my experience without being long winded. If anyone has any questions to ask me, please do so. I purchased my set of 8ohm Pendragons a few months ago, 2/2016, after a few phone calls to Eric.
I run them for 90% music while listening to everything under the sun including rap and electronic. Normal listening volume is AVG 90 dB but often found at 100 dB when cleaning the house (C weighted Radio Shack SPL meter at listening position in 2300 cu ft room 10 ft from speaker positions). Originally hoped to power them on a budget but soon realized my speakers were totally bada$$ and needed something up to snuff. This is my adventure with amplification. Please keep in mind I'm not a purist audiophile, I listen to what sounds good not what measures or markets well. After breaking the speakers and test amps I've realized the Pendragons do as they are told and are quite neutral. The amplification and DAC choice is important to get the desired sonic characteristic. I wanted something that would sound great and get very loud.
1. Red Wine Audio Signature 15
w/ upgraded miniwatt tube and charger - $700 - Very smooth amp, liquid and non-fatiguing. Not harsh, brittle or grainy. Good bass but did not do well with Rap at higher listening volumes. Does really well with any music at 90db but nearing 98db it fell on it's face. Like this amp for what it is, but it did not have the balls I needed.
2. Sophia Electric Music Baby
- $600 - I want to emphasize what I'm about to say because I've put in months of work finding something better. I thought the Red Wine would be much better because of 6moons review but I was quickly reminded these guys get paid to write that stuff. This little tube amp kick's freaking ass. Wide open soundstage, huge presence and instruments and vocals are just incredibly organic. Read this review
. For the money this setup is spectacular and totally stomped out most of what I listened to at all the high end shops in DC area at volumes at or below 95db. A seriously good sounding amp and for $600 street value you can't beat it. Budget audiophiles listen up. This tube amp sounds better than what I was hearing from Rogue (Cronus Magnum II), Line Magnetic (216ia) and Prima Luna (prologue classic). Sure the others had more headroom but most people don't listen to music loud like me and could totally get away with using this 10wpc tube amp. Love it but didn't have the balls I needed.
3. Crown XLS 2002
- $500 - Harsh, grainy, unforgiving, no emotion, little soundstage, huge power, dynamic. I really wanted this amp to work after reading the threads and pages listed all over the internet that pair this series amp with the Pendragons. I broke-in this amp in for a few weeks and it just never sounded anything even remotely close to the Sophia or RWA. As a matter of fact I had a tough time listening to it for very long, was way too bright and edgy. Tried several DAC's, sources, cables ect. The main issue I had was at lower listening levels the above amps were just better. Yet power was everywhere and I could crank the Pendragon's and really have it bang hard. At higher listening volumes the treble was so sharp and unforgiving it took away from the raw power of the Crown. Keep in mind I have a great listening room and I tried many angles and variations with no winning solutions.
4. Parasound Halo Integrated 2.1
- $2500 - Not at smooth as the Red Wine Audio, had good power but got sloppy in bass when turned up (100+db), wonderful features, decent DAC, ****ty volume knob (crackled when turning it). I really wanted to love this amp too, mostly because it's so strongly recommended by the professional reviewing community. My results did not line up and it was at this point I stopped trusting online reviews. Don't get me wrong, this is a good amp which had power, features and was not terrible like the Crown but it lacked emotion, tonality and got bright all too quickly. Pretty good for movies or someone looking for home theater but the Sophia sounds so much better I sent this sucker back.
I did end up finding a winner tube amp from a local source. Significantly more powerful than the Sophia Baby and more musical. I can now fill the house with some very serious SPL and continue to sound better than anything I could find in a local shop under 20k. If you want more information contact Bruce
about the Dynaco's. I cannot comment yet because I'm doing a video review and don't want to spoil the fun.
Pendragons are true full range speakers. By default they will provide more octaves of listening pleasure vs just about anything out there even close to 2k. No replacement for displacement. They are neutral so you should try to get an amp and supporting gear that sounds right. I found tube amps sound, far and away, much better than solid state with no comparison. Even people visiting who know nothing about audio would prefer the tube amp's to the SS's. This happened more times than I could count. DAC I used was an Emotiva XDA-2 v2 with a Yamaha CD player or Tidal.