Agoners: Need Advice! Have 3K to spend on an Amp, what do I do with no way to audition?
Looking for a solid State Amp, something that will go for 30 years or more (My Last Amp), so I don't need high maintenance, with at least 200 WPC @ 8 ohm load. SO many to choose from...I've narrowed my choices down to several brands, due to the consistency of great reviews; Krell, Pass Labs, Audio Research, McIntosh, Mark Levinson, Classe. Now looking serious at a couple by Krell or Pass. I love most types of music, classical, jazz, rock, punk, electronica, metal, but not Rap & Country. I love great detail in my music, fast and bold but rich and warm, played soft or loud with a big soundstage, love bass slam and crisp highs, too much midrange hurts my ears. Which amp does it all??? Wife has me limited to this, you know how that is :(...Please help me out here folks...I've been in this dilemma for a few years, it's time to make a decision and buy!
cohicks4, I searched the forums for amps recommended as a good match for my speakers and that worked out well. I bought used - I assume for $3K you are too with those brands - so no problem if I didn't like the amp. I would resell and try again, if it came to that. My speakers have level adjust on the tweeters and mids. Oddly enough, I find a hot tweeter level is the source of the intolerable "midrange glare" while the midrange level has little effect.
1. You should add the Aesthetix Atlas to your list 2. When amps get old they need service like capacitor replacement which can be expensive. Make sure you understand the service needs of whatever you are purchasing.
So you're saying to buy what I want, and keep looking trading until I find the perfect one? I'm running B&W 802 Matrix 2s, so no adjustment on the tones, they are midrange strong in many cases so having a bass/treble adjustment on preamp is almost a must.
Thank you, for the recommendation. have seen a few of the Aesthetix amps, the used ones are still out of my price range. I'm aware of the recapping process needing to be completed, I've seen an average of every 10-20 years, depending on amount of amp use. So I am willing to put up with it, just making sure to buy American for that reason as well.
None, sorry. Asking any component to offer great detail, but also be rich and warm is asking the impossible. When looking for a newer component, it helps if one knows which general direction they want to proceed in. Generally speaking, fast, detail, transparent is one direction, while warmth, musicality, and richness is the opposite direction. One cannot head east and west at the same time.
The best you can do is find an amp that will balance these attributes to your personal tastes. Anyone can tell you what works well for them in their system. However, that does not mean that the same amp will work well with your gear and suit your musical tastes. All of the amp manufacturers that you list will have their fans, and have had success in certain systems.
That said, I own a pair of Pass Labs XA-100.5 monoblock amps. I would describe their sound as leaning towards the warm and musical side of neutral. Many who use Pass Labs will try to add a bit more detail with more revealing speakers, preamp, etc. Many, like myself, will use an ARC preamp with the Pass Labs amps to help provide a bit more resolution, and steer the sound back to neutral. My speakers are also very revealing, so the Pass Labs amps add a bit of musicality and warmth to balance the detail and resolution of my preamp and speakers.
too much midrange hurts my ears
That is an interesting comment. I don't recall hearing that before. Could you describe what "too much midrange" sounds like?
It is too bad you cannot listen to the different competitors since amplifier-speaker interaction can be important and is not always evident by looking at specs. One thing I have found by listening is that with SS amps, the output stage has a significant effect on how they sound to me. I almost always enjoy SS amplifiers with bi-polar output devices more than those using MOSFETs and that has remained constant at almost all price ranges up through Lamm's M1.2 Reference monoblocks at over $20K.
Here are a couple of amps you may consider that should sound very good on your 802s;
I had pretty good luck with Cary's discontinued CAD 500MB monos, which you can maybe find used in your price range. I believe these would not only provide the richness, warmth, and body you are looking for but would also provide exceptional control of the 802s. Do not get their newer SA-500.1 amps, which in my system did not have the same magic. Cary is still around to support repairs. I have had good luck with McCormack amps, although they sound very clean and clear, and do not add much mid-bass emphasis that you may need for the rich, warm presentation you are desire. You may even find a used DNA-500 in your price range. Pretty much built like a tank and Steve McCormack is still upgrading his amps and providing outstanding customer support at SMc Audio. Both of those amplifiers provide 500wpc into 8 ohms.
If you want small and cool-running, you might try the Class D offerings from DSonic and particularly the
M3-1500M monos that are in your price range new - review here; http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/dsonic/1.html The review provides some detailed impressions of how those amps sounded to the reviewer (which seem to correspond with exactly what you are looking for) and concludes,
The strengths of the M2-1500M in all combinations were obvious - detail, ease of dynamics, soundstaging and warmth. These remained core. Were there weaknesses? If the amplifier displayed a failing, it was a touch warm and forgiving.
Perhaps the correct term might be "overly analog".... Some may interpret that as being a touch uncritical. Most will welcome it as acoustically natural.....The D-Sonic qualifies as true high end and deserves to be examined against higher tier components. It certainly competes against the best of its digital brethren and all tube and SS amps that have been in house."
Why can't you audition some of the amps available? I know we had a detailed discussion not so long ago on Audiogon about buyers that wanted to audition equipment before making an offer. Many here felt it is a great burden (physically and financially) on sellers to act like they are a brick and mortar store and simply let people into their homes to only audition.
My policy, is the buyer must make a serious offer first and that offer accepted by me. If they are picking the unit up physically from my home, then I would gladly connect the unit and let them hear it. Which I have done many times and have never experienced any problems. I've actually enjoyed the conversations and music the buyer brought to demo the units for sale. But the offer must be made and accepted first. They can pay in cash when they get to my house.
I know. If they change their mind after hearing the unit, I really can't do anything about that except make a negative review about them on Audiogon. In my case, not once have buyer changed their minds after hearing the units.
I'm selling two Mark Levinson amps at the moment. A 23.5 and an ML3. They both have been serviced by authorized Mark Levinson service center and the ML3 upgraded also. My point is that they are extremely heavy and it is best if the buyer can physically pick the units up from my home. I can ship, but that is more costs to the buyer.
In this case, I absolutely have no problem allowing the buyer to hear the unit at pickup after they have made the offer and I have accepted it.
If, on the other hand, the buyer is too far away to do this, then that is a difficulty. In this case, the buyer should have a pretty good idea of the equipment and how they believe it sounds before purchase.
I can't think of any electronics that last for 30 years without service or repair. Equipment breaks and fails. But, most equipment, especially amps can be repaired and serviced by knowledgeable technicians. It's only if the parts are no longer available that one experiences problems. But even in the case of my ML3, I still found quality parts for that unit (and I bought more, just in case). So, you can pretty much be assured that you can get your amps serviced and repaired.
Digital equipment is another issue altogether. In my opinion, I'm only going with quality name companies with good reputations that stand behind their equipment.
Not throwing any company under the bus but, two companies really disappointed me. McIntosh and Theta. McIntosh's MS300/MS750 music servers were nice units. But, McIntosh stopped servicing the units and sold the rights to another company. Panurgy OEM services the units now, but the company that has the license rights to Gracenotes for the units went out of business and you cannot get the album art or music information on line for the units anymore. That sucks. You have to physically type in the information yourself. Theta's older DACS are not serviced or supported by Theta. Due to some internal dispute with prior employees (I believe).
It doesn't matter to me. If I buy a unit, I want that company to stand by their stuff.
There are still several quality Mark Levinson service centers around and quality technicians that can service Mark Levinson products. Audio Research stands behind each and every unit they have every produced. That says something. I can still buy panels for my Martin Logan Monolith III speakers from Martin Logan. That's impressive.
I have been interested in the Parasound gear as well, just failed to mention it as a contender, as well as the Conrad-Johnson class Ds.
All of them have great reviews....thanks.
I agree that auditioning them is a great idea, but in most cases those of us on A-gon are in another state, I'm in Ft Worth, Tx. If I could find a deal in Texas, I would, most certainly, drive to audition and pick up. Most sellers are out of state.
Since you might not live past Thursday, get a tube amp. Tube amps are more interesting, and often make make the owner of tube gear "seem" more interesting. A win win. Also, no amp (or pretty much any piece of audio gear) can really be auditioned except in your home, and then it has to be over a good chunk of time. Reviewers often have gear for many months. If you read enough reviews and opinions here and there you can likely make a relatively safe purchase based on all that, although, for example, if your listening environment is a leaky tent you might stay away from wooden speakers, or if no electricity is available you might have to learn to play an acoustic instrument and make the music yourself. These are important things to consider.
One other company I'm surprised hasn't been mentioned yet is Bryston. They built their reputation on 20 year warranty on all their gear and guaranteeing that the parts would be available if needed. They are also particularly known for their ss power amps. Like Classe, they are a Canadian company, highly reputable and with a good track record.
I would also cross Audio Research off the list unless you want to open it up to tube designs too. ARC is built on tube gear, and without hearing it, associating their beloved fans to there ss gear is a stretch.
You built a good list of brands, now you really ought to consider a road trip to do some listening to figure out your preferences.
Have to agree w/others that 30yrs is a lot to ask for, and especially if not buying new. Cheers, Spencer
I second the Odyssey. It is the best sounding amp to ever grace my living room and there isn’t much out there for under 5 grand that will compete (except for Liberty Audio). I have the Stratos stereo extreme that you can get new from Odyssey for around 2500.00. Although Klaus rates the amp at 160wpc, it has much more power than that (very conservatively rated) with huge power reserves. I bought my amp (he custom builds them for you) without ever listening to it and couldn’t be happier. I have had mine for 7 years and it’s in my 45K two channel system and I have no desire to change. I like it better than the 5,500.00 Magtech amp which a friend brought over to my home for me to audition.
To echo what someone said above a great strategy is to buy used, tons of great SS amps in your price range and below. Buy smart and resell and try something else until you settle on your final amp. If done right it can really cost little above your initial outlay. Plus its fun!
If you actually want the amp to be your last one AND work for 30 years with no issues, then you should go with a McIntosh. (this is what Mac does best....Amps!). Just make sure its a newer double balanced design. (lol newer..they have been making these for 15 yrs or more). Today McIntosh makes very expensive quad balanced designs that are high power (500w 1000w 1200w 2000w), so the 200 to 300 watt ones are going to be pre owned like the MC352 350wx2 or MC402 400wx2. Older designs like the MC2255 250wx2 and non Autoformer (direct coupled) designs like the MC7200 200wx2 stay away from. Find one of the amps I mentioned and the sound will be exactly as you described in your post...Big,wide,detailed,warm,no harshness whatsoever, with great low end control, tightness and excellent tonal balance. The journey is half the fun! :-)
i’ll second the Bryston Amps they have been making gear for decades and stand behind everything they make. They do a huge amount of business with the pro side that’s why they can back their stuff with 20 Year warranty as they have a rep to stand by and build for punishment on the road. you would be surprised at home many bands travel with Bryston gear for their live events. that said the newer stuff has a good rep for durability and sound quality.
Just a side noet when I started out in Audio 20 years ago I had a 15 year old bryston pre-amp that needed work I sent it to them and they completely rebuild it upgrading all the old inputs to gold plated ones and updated the transformers came back better then new. They will be here 30 years form now...
IMHO they build better quality then Classe for the money. Sound wise that’s user defined.
You mentioned class D amps. I have Nuforce Ref 9 V3 SE monoblock amps. They put out 175 watts per channel and have great sound. Even better is the new company that is a spin off of Nuforce--Nuprime. They make an outstanding amp that is an 8 channel amp, but you can bridge 2 of each adjacent channels and have 4 channels of 400 watts per or just use 4 of the channels and have 400 watts per channel in stereo. The kicker is that in this last formation, the amp actually sounds better than in the 200 watt per mode. If you read up on the Nuprime MCH-K38 amp, you'll see that it IS the sound you want in all ways and the B&W speakers will love the extra power reserves the K-38 will give. Brand new this amp is just under the $3000 mark. You'll get great dynamics, bass airy highs with tremendous definition, and the mids have a very tube like quality. Contact John Casler about the Nuprime on Audio Circle. John says this amp is the best sounding amp he has ever had in his system. He's had quite a few good amps to use over the years.
many/most of the amps being discussed are available for audition in Dallas, starting with Audio Concepts. Not familiar with Ft. Worth but it's close. Certainly if you're looking for a 30+ year amp, it's well worth the trip. Might even be fun.
Plinius sa100 lll one available on Agon $2100 extra $900 buy HF reveal
Cables.one of the best, I prefer this amp to all the amps above.
Plinius makes some very good amps, no doubt. I was considering a SA-103 before I bought my Pass Labs XA-100.5's.
However, especially on older models, service is a concern. Possible cap replacement, etc. When I contacted Plinius through their website with a question regarding the SA-103, it took over 6 weeks just to get a reply. Sorry, but I need better service than that. If it takes over 6 weeks to answer an email, I could just imagine it would take at least 6 months to get any service done.
Many great amps. I'll stick with ones I can get serviced in the USA. If I lived in New Zealand, I would grab a Plinius in a heartbeat.
HF cables are pretty good too. I'm using a couple pairs of the CT-1E interconnects.
Manufacturer-direct is one option. I have and recommend highly the Gilmore Audio Raptor Class D monoblock pair at $2500 . He's a gem to work with and these have both single-ended and balanced inputs . Power 250 watts/ ch. @ 8 ohms , 500 @4 ohms . They worked well with my Klipsch speakers and now also with my Spatial Audio Hologram M3 Turbo S . Most satisfying sound I've heard .
For the money you have budgeted for an Amp. I'd go Adcom. I've heard quite a few 3K+ rigs and the Adcom Amps are hard to beat. One of my favorites was the GFA-555II...I'm bi-amping with 2 Adcom GFA-5802's and love them. Those Amps would drive a short. There are some great used units on ebay. If I had the money? I'd buy the latest Adcom flagship...The GFA-575se.
I used to sell B&W 802's and they tend to be a bit power/current hungry (4ohms?) so it is possible that the midrange harsh qualities are a bit of artifacts from your other gear... or your room acoustics... or aging drivers... I had found them to be a fairly "polite" sounding speaker during that era of audio...
I loved the Mark Levinson gear driving those speakers and sold a lot of systems matched that way... hard beat ML build quality... The camac connecters were a little off beat but ultra high quality... Just not compatible with everything else which was mostly RCA inputs and duel banana outputs... not so the ML gear that I remember... The ML3 as mentioned above was a big serious amp of that era yet, to my ears the 23.5's would be better and there is the problem... "to my ears" it's your ears that count and those ML amps do weigh a lot to ship..
I love ARC amps too, listening to an old SS ARC 100.2 now and they are proud to offer excellent service on their products... Many to choose from but you will probably find you need an amp with high current capabilities and even used ARC amps can be pricey... do consider them though... BTW.. It's even possible to talk to a human when you call them...
last but certainly not least...
A big YES to the Brystons for your speakers... I used to sell those too... Not all clients had the $$$$ for the ML gear so Bryston was often my go gear for those B&W 802's I have an old Bryston 3B that still sounds amazing and had to be serviced a few years back for a wimpy channel... it was past the 20 year warranty and yet I think they charged me for the shipping, a new box, and not the repairs... A truly reputable company... for those 802's I feel you would be best off with the 200wpc version, the 4B, to get that solid bottom end happening... Brystons are a high current, high damping factor, fast rise time amp always producing much more than their rated power on the test bench... The newer models are of course sweeter sounding so look into those for sure... You can find a used Bryston 4B SST2 with single ended and balanced inputs in your price range and probably still under warranty to boot. Then I suggest you audition some various cables in your system to see if any remaining midrange hash you hear is caused by cable artifacts... it can be a bit neurotic but also gratifying.
Have you heard of the Sanders Magtech, its as good if not better than most of the amps mentioned here AND you can demo one in your house for free, call up Roger at Sanders Sound and try one for 30 days then send it back, if you like how it sounds look for a used one on Audiogon which go for around 3k.
My first post, so be gentle. I just ordered a Job Integrated (designed and manufactured by Goldmund), and it will power Vandersteen Treo CT's. The amp includes a very good DAC, according to the Six moons review, and for $1700, should prove to be a bargain. I'll post more after listening for awhile, but am very excited. Front ended with Tidal/Roon and Sonore Microrendu (I just stream, but have some files on a usb drive as well).
Thought I'd throw out another recommendation for klaus at odyssey.. kismet reference in the cheaper khartago case stereo amp would be a safe choice and they are built to last, 20 year warranty. sound is very refined and liquid/no fatigue
Most of you have been a great help, thank you especially to those who actually understood my needs, and offered solid advice. You now have me watching a few additional brands/models I was unaware of. This forum has been an overwhelming success for me. I'll see you all around Agon...thanks again! Steve