Amp and Preamp for JM Lab Alto Utopias

I know this question has been asked before, but I haven't seen any recent answers. I'm strongly thinking about a change in my amps. I've had the Alto Utopias now for more than six years, and I still love them. I'd like a preamp and amp that pair well with the Altos and that can do well with the great variety of music I have in my collection: rock, jazz, soul, international, electroacoustic, blues, Afrobeat, dub, ambient, trip hop, breakbeat, etc. For the most part, I prefer a lush and warm sound for most acoustic recordings. But I prefer a bit more analytical detail on electroacoustic music, which requires closer attention. I sense a good, powerful solid state amp works best with the Altos for better control of the bass.
I wanted to add, but I was limited by space, that I would prefer an amp that runs reasonably cool as the summers where I live are quite humid and hot. Anything that turns the room into a furnace in the summertime is pretty much out of the question (though in the winter I could see it being a welcome addition!).
Would the newer Krell Evolution amps be a better combination with the Focals than the older Krells? Though I know they get extremely hot, I've heard such good things about the Atma-spheres that I might consider the trade-off. Would they be an appropriate match for the Altos? I'm also considering some Mcintosh gear. Will the MC275s go low enough? Otherwise, I might go with Mac solid state.
Hi Washline, the Alto’s impedance is not really very tube friendly. I would stick to solid state. I haven’t heard the new Krells but I hated the old Krells with Utopias. A SS Mac should work fine if that’s your flavor.

I looked at your system pictures and maybe it’s the photography, but those speakers look like they’re much too close together and in a very confining space. If picture 1 is representative, and you’re stuck with it, you need new speakers, not amps, IMHO.
Thanks very much for the reply, Phaelon. The speakers were a bit close together at my old apartment, but I recently moved into a new house, and have a dedicated listening room that does much better justice to the speakers. The old space was L-shaped and the listening position was wider than the location of the equipment. I will soon post better pics.

I very much appreciate your comment. Thanks.
I gave the classifieds a quick look and noticed that there is a GamuT Di150 Dual Mono integrated amplifier for sale. Unless one absolutely needs the flexibility of separates, I’ve become a huge advocate of integrated amplifiers as offering the best value for the dollar. Not a recommendation, just something that I would be looking at.
Yes, I like the idea of high quality integrated amplifiers as well. Thanks for the recommendation. I've been reading on this amplifier and it looks like it's basically the same components and circuitry of the separate preamp and amp combined into one box with slightly reduced power supplies. Have you heard the ASR Emitter II? How would that one compare to the GamuT? I'd love to try the DarTZeel, but it's well out of my price range right now.

Accuphase pairs very very well with Focal Utopia Be speakers. You do not need to go to their separates to best your current Musical Fidelity integrated and you have quite a few choices (e.g. even the old E-406 and E-407 integrated are supperior to the Tri-Vista 300, while the newer iterations E-408, E-450 and E-460 even more so).

However, if funds permit, the Altos really deserve separates. My recommendation would be one of the Accuphase "mid-class" preamps (C-2400, C-2410, C-2800, C-2810) with an Accuphase class A power amp (e.g. A-50, A-45, A-46, A-60, A-65). The Accuphase class A amps do not get nowhere near as hot as similar designs from Pass Labs for example. However, if they still get too hot for you, Accuphase have very many A/B amps that sound very similar to their class A designs.

Having said all this, I should also say that your Trivista 300 integrated also pairs very well with the Altos. Thus, proceed with care and sell your MF integrated only after you are 100 percent sure you like the new-electronics-Alto combination better.

Good luck and keep us posted!

I haven’t heard the ASR Emitter. I like the Utopia series a lot - just wish the newer designs were tube friendly - and think they reward being paired with the best amplification you can afford. The only thing that you have to be careful to avoid, IMO, is an amp that is too dry or analytical.

You haven’t mentioned price, but take a look at the Neodio integrateds. I haven’t heard them myself, but people who I respect tell me they’re something special. If I was going to leave tubes, they would be my first look.
Paul, you are the second person to have written me recommending Accuphase. I"m going to have to seriously consider this. I got a private email prior to your post here. In Seoul, Korea, where I live, Accuphase is not too badly priced either. I could easily start with an amp like the P-7100 and build my way from there using local dealers. I'm not sure I can get the class A amps over here. I read your other posts about listening to the lower powered Accuphase amps in Class A with B&W. I'm intrigued to say the least.

Phaelon, you have hit me with something I've never previously heard about. I didn't know anything about Neodio prior to your recommendation. I will look into them. As far as my price range--about 10-15 grand used. I can continue to use the Tri-Vista 300 as a preamp while I build my system again if I were to start with a power amp. Later, I'm probably going to have to replace the Tri-Vista because the preamp inputs in the back are disintegrating. We have terribly humid weather in Seoul, and it can be particularly hard on plastic and rubber. i've pretty much loved everything about the Tri-Vista except for the build, which is partly why I haven't been on the Audiogon much over the past five years--too busy listening to music. I feel that for me the Tri-Vista has been a great sounding amp. I just wish they used better parts in the construction. It looks great on the outside and much of the inside, but currently three of the six RCA inputs are unusable because the plastic inserts that go into the RCA jacks have completely fallen apart. I will try to repair these down the road, but the RCA jacks on these as well as lot of more inexpensive gear are cheaply constructed. Except for that, I'm not sure a lot of other amps better the Tri-Vista to my ears. I've heard a fair number already of both integrated and separates, though much remains to be heard.

I greatly appreciate all of these recommendations. Thank you.
Utopias sound is a bit, just a bit on the lean side of neutrality. This make my recommendation of preaamp very easy: JOule-Electra from LA-150Mk2 to LA-450ME depending on your budget - all will creare synergy with your speakers.

With power amplifiers there are more choices. I will suggest you one: If you like cold amp in summer then investigate class D amplifiers: again depending on your budget: from inxpensive but good Wyred4Sound ($2.4k) to Mark Levinson No 53 ($50k).

In my system based on B&W Diamond speakers, I use combination of Joule-Electra LA-300ME (Harry Pearson called it "most romantic" preamp and for good reason) and pair of FULLY balanced Spectron Musician III monoblocks with all upgardes and I am in my own "sonic paradise". Not terribly cheap but yet not ultra expensive - just what my budget allowed.

Good Luck
Thanks for the suggestions, Dob. I've seriously considered investing in a good integrated Class D amp just for the summers, and I was thinking about a Rowland. I'm not sure that Rowland is as good a match for my speakers for most of the year though.

Washline, the P-7100 and the A-65 are Accuphase top of the line power amplifiers. I did not compared them, but form what others have reported except for the fact that the P-7100 has better control over large woofers there is not significant difference between the two. Thus, P-7100 may be considered the better unit of the two (not only it has more power but it does not get hot either) but both amps are about as good as it gets.

Regarding the humid and hot summers in Korea, my guest is that Accuphase units should be fine for many years under those conditions. After all in Japan (where they are built) the summers are also hot and extremely humid. In the Netherlands we have also quite humid summers (not as bad as in Korea though) and there are people here that have 20 years old Accuphase units that still work fine and so far required no service. Thus, since you also have good prices in Korea for Accuphase I would advice you to arrange an audition to check whether you like the Accuphase-Focal combination. But be warn that these Accuphase boxes are very addictive, once u get one u will want to get more of them and they ain't cheep (and if eventually you will end up, say, with a P-7100/C-2810/DP-700 combo, then you will most likely want to get better speaker e.g. Nove or the Grande Utopias Be).

Finally, regarding the digital amps mentioned above, they are indeed very efficient but that does not mean they will run cold. In fact some of these amps get hotter than most of the class A/B amp (e.g. Lyngdorf). Also, why invest in a second amp and not in a good ventilation system than can regulate the humidity in your room?

Best wishes,

p.s. I am not an Accuphase dealer (just a scientist :) who is very found of Accuphase).
Thanks Paul for the suggestions. I'll look into the Accuphase gear when I have a chance, but unlike a lot of folk on the Audiogon, this will be my last purchase for many years. I'm a university professor on a decent but certainly not an extravagant income. Investing in a good ventilation system is a nice but impractical idea here. We don't have duct work in Korea. Heating is radiated through the floor and people use space air conditioning rather than central air. Buildings are constructed of concrete. The problem in Korea isn't just summertime heat. We also get 100% humidity. We have torrential rains for months at a time, and homes accumulate mold and mildew. It's really a dreadful climate those times of the year. And we all live on top of each other. Houses here are built a mere few feet from each other. That's what it's like in a city of 12 million and a metro area of 23 million. Like Dan D'Agostino, I don't listen to a lot of music during the summer for that reason. I'd love to try the Nova Utopias. Getting them into my listening room on the second floor of my house, though, is an ordeal I don't need. The Altos are good enough for me. In fact, to my ears and apropos my taste, I haven't heard better. Xenakis' La Legende d'Eer and Otomo Yoshihide sound superb on these speakers, better than on any other in my tests.

I think if I can use balanced interconnects rather than RCAs for the most part, I should be mostly fine. I'm sure Accuphase will do fine in this climate as you suggest.

Paul, in case you might know, what's the reception of the ASR Emitter in the Netherlands? Have you heard it? How would you compare it to the Accuphase if you had?

Thanks again for the all the advice and suggestions.


We also get 100% humidity. We have torrential rains for months at a time, and homes accumulate mold and mildew. It's really a dreadful climate those times of the year.

Sounds a lot like Minnesota!
I lived for 15 years in South Dakota and spent plenty of time in Minnesota as well. I'll take the summer climate of the upper midwest over this one in a heartbeat. ;-)

The weather may be bad in Korea but on the other hand they really know how to treat professors there (e.g. they bow). :)

I do not have any experience with the Emitter amplifiers and I should say that you do not see them that often in hi-fi shops and/or 2nd hands adds over here. I do not know why as they seem to get great reviews and I have also heard a few dealers saying good things about them. The battery option for the Emitter 2 is surely a very nice touch.

Personally, I believe the Accuphase top separates, e.g. P-7100 + C-2810 will easily outclass the Emitters (they should given that they are 2-3 time more expensive here). But, I am just speculating here since as mentioned I have never heard an Emitter amp plus I am very found of Accuphase. As usually one can never be sure ... If you get to compare the two brands please post your findings. I am very interested in the comparison.

Paul, I'm sure that Emitter is cheaper than the Accuphase by a considerable margin in Europe because of the difference in import versus domestic costs.

I did finally visit the shop that has Accuphase for sale on their website. However, they don't have any in their show room and they told me that the brand is not well known or well sold in Korea.

I did however get an offer on a used Accustic Arts AMPII-AC, which, while I didn't get a chance to hear (it's an enormous amp that would have been difficult to hook up at the time of my visit), did impress me very much visually. I've heard very good things about the Accustic Arts amplifiers, and this one is being sold for a song. There's an accompanying Acoustic Research Reference 2 preamp also at a very, very reasonable price. Any thoughts about this combo? I'm seriously considering it because of the price. The Accustic Arts amp runs at about 250 watts in an 8 ohm load while doubling down as the impedance drops.
I love buying things for a song! Looks and specs are impressive. Will they let you audition it in your system?
Probably not. Difficult to do these kinds of things over here, but if I don't like it, they'd probably let me return it. Although I should say that returning it would be quite an ordeal where I live.

This one might work. I see online that the newer Accustic Arts amps were auditioned with Nova Utopia speakers. This is apparently a very clear and transparent amp. I might take the plunge. This one is incredibly cheap for such a massive beast.
If a home audition is not possible maybe you can bring your speakers to the dealer and listen there to the combination for 1-2 days. If this is not possible either than I am sure you can find a better dealer in Seoul.

While I do not have any experience with Accustic Arts, big and good looking equipments which you can not listen but go for cheap does not sound right to me. German products are often very well engineered and the Accustic Arts products might be indeed very good, but there is still the issue of synergy with your Alto. Since Focal Utopia Be speakers are a bit on the cold side you need to make sure your electronics are not on the cold side too. (You can always get another of the Musical Fidelity limited edition amps which while not as impressive looking as the Accustic Arts is also cheap, probably cheaper, and works very well with the Altos.)

Thanks Paul. I will try to at least listen to the amp once before I make a purchase. It was difficult to do at that time as there was only one gentlemen in the shop and moving a 55 kg amp to the listening room would have been difficult for him. Believe me, I won't be transporting my speakers downtown for an examination. It was difficult enough getting them up the second floor of my new house--a four man job!

I'm totally onboard with the issue of synergy. I more than anyone want this purchase to be the right one--it might well be my last one actually. My wife won't tolerate too much more audiophilia nervosa. ;-)

I visited the electronics market today and managed to see a slightly older ASR Emitter used--five years old. It was 12 million won (roughly about 10,500 USD). This one had some cosmetic issues--a few nicks in the front and some mild scratching on the top, probably from having other amplification resting on top of it a the shop. Nothing was hooked up, but the manager promised me that if I called in advance next time, he would set up the equipment for me to hear. he also happens to have a pair of the older Utopia speakers (first series) for the same price. Incredibly cheap for this city, but it's a buyer's market right now. The high end is not doing very well in this economic climate.

I can see that while having an acrylic chassis might help to lower the noise floor and improve the sound, it is very susceptible to scratching and nicking. The power supply boxes were also slightly rusted around the screws. Not the nicest looking Emitter I've seen but having a chance to hear it with the older Utopias should be a real treat. I'm also wondering if it might be worth my while to trade in the Altos for these older Utopias, considering the incredibly low price at the moment. I was impressed with my last experience listening to the Utopias, but I'm probably too attached to the Beryllium tweeters on the Altos.

While I was working my way around the audio shops, I also saw a MF KW 750 used. yet another good option to consider though I'm sure this one is a bit more pricey. Plenty of old Levinson gear lying around as well. I like the detail of the Levinson amps I've heard.
Bill, I find the prices you have quoted extremely high. More than 10.5 k for a KW 750 power amp must be a joke. (Here in europe one will have a hard time selling it for 3-3.5k euros.) IMO the building quality of the MF products decreased over time, i.e. Nu-Vista was better build than the Tri-Vista which in turn was better build than the KWs. You already know that MF products will not survive too many summers. Thus, definitively not a good idea to buy it as your last amp. Moreover, it will be only a side move as your Alto do not really need the extra power (your current integrated has more than enough power for them).

If I were you I with very seriously consider "local" brands, e.g. Luxman, hi-end Marantz and Accuphase. I should say that I found your dealers comments about Accuphase very strange. Compare to MF, Accuphas is really in a different league (the other two brands I have mentioned above are not far behind Accuphase, i.e. are much better than MF).

Regarding the old Utopia speakers (the models without Be tweeters), I have listen only the top of the line Grande Utopia. It was really a marvelous speaker (much better than the Altos). If this is the model for which you would consider to tread you Altos, and 1) you have the space to accommodate them, and 2) the speakers are in good shape, than by all means do it
Paul, I don't know the price of the KW 750 used. I mentioned the prices of two items: The ASR Emitter, which is not the exclusive version and came some time before the exclusive as well. I'd guess around 2003 or so. I also mentioned the price of the Utopias. I said these prices were quite reasonable for this country. I mention the KW also because as you noted before, the MF gear matches well with my speakers and if I couldn't find a decent replacement for the Tri-Vista, something like that might be an option. In fact, I don't plan to buy the KW 750. If I am going to replace the Tri-Vista (which is my plan), it will very likely be another brand.

I can't find an Accuphase amp anywhere in any of the shops I've passed by. While Japan might be very close to Korea, that doesn't mean that all high end audio from Japan makes it here readily. Keep in mind also that Japan and Korea do not have the best relations historically. Marantz has a strong presence, but I prefer their digital players over their amps. I appreciate your enthusiasm for Accuphase, but I'll let my own ears be the judge here if it's possible for them to be. I completely agree with you on the build quality of the Tri-Vista. The build comes far short of the sound quality sorry to say.

These Utopia speakers (the ones between the Grande and Mezzo) are in excellent shape from what I could see. I've very much enjoyed the Altos, but I'm going to consider the possibility of a change if I like them as much as the last time I heard them. But they'll also have to accommodate my music as well. It will also depend on whether the seller will give me a good price on the trade and of course be willing to trade.

Actually, the local brands in Korea are April Music, Emille, and Tone Audio. I like all of them quite well, but I think they're overpriced here. The prices are rather like those of the imported gear, but that's because in this country price is always associated with quality even if the prices could be lower. April Music produces good, mid to hi-fi gear at lower power. Emille and Tone produce tube amps. At a recent show and using the B&W 802Ds, I thought the Emilles sounded very nice but a bit polite. The Tone Audio 90 watt tube integrated did quite well on the B&W 800D speakers but not as well as their more pricey separates. The integrated was getting a good workout and held out pretty well considering the heavy demands of the speakers being driven.
Bill, the first generation Utopias might not spec-up with later generations, but I find them to be a more accommodating speaker in general without sacrificing musicality. If I’m not mistaken, I think they’ll actually be an easier load for your amplifier. I own the Mini Utopias and although I would like to upgrade, I’m having a hard time finding something that I like much better in my space.
Thanks for the info, Phaelon. I'm going to give it some consideration, and of course the seller would have to be open to a trade. Not a given by any stretch in this country.

Well, I noticed today that the seller of the Accustic Arts amp had dropped the price by a thousand over the 400 he had already cut. I figured I better make my move, but sadly, I was beaten to it. Sold. I'll have to look into some other options once again. That's life.

Bill, in your post you have mentioned that the MF KW power amp was probably more expensive than the rest (ASR and Utopias which you mentioned were around $10.5k). Of course, when I said that the asking price was a joke I did not meant it as a reproach to you (It was what I would have told a dealer asking that prices). It seems that we are very fortunate here in the Netherlands when it comes to the services offer by the hi-end dealers. That is, when buying 10k components, any dealer will be willing to bring them to your home and install them into your system and will most likely also offer a 10% discount on top of that. I am sorry to hear the situation is much more different in Korea I certainly did not expected that.

I have a pair of Focal Micro Utopia Be speakers complemented with a REL Stentor 3 subwoofer and an Accuphase combo (E-550 amp and the DP-500 cd player). I am familiar with the Altos (I almost bought them twice but in the end I went for the MicroBes as I prefer monitors with a subwoofer since I find that
it is easier to integrate such a combination in ones room). About 2.5-3 years ago, before buying my current Accuphase combo, I have listen the following components driving my MicroBes:

1) Lyngdorf TDAI 2200 digital amp with room correction system. This can make a wonderful combination with the Focals (it also sounded superb with the new Focal Diablo speakers) but only if you have a very good room. It sounded beautifully in the dealer's (treated) room (where only 5-7% corrections were needed) but terrible in my home where around 30% corrections were needed. (Also note that Lyngdorf integrated amp, although a digital design, when much hotter than my Musical Fidelity A5 amp which was always only warm to the touch.)

2) An Ayre integrated and cd player combo (probably the series 7). It sounded very clean, quick and dynamic. But on some passages (e.g. some piano notes, or voice inflections) the treble could be a bit harsh and uncontrolled.

3) A Musical Fidelity A5 combo (integrated and cd player). This was my combo back then. It made a very good combination with the Focals. A very relaxed presentation with just the right amount of details and warms. I could listen to it for hours without any kind of fatigue plus it was suited for any type of music (though a bit on the polite side).

4) Various Accuphase combos (see my system page for details). Obviously, in the end I have preferred this combination the best.

Beside these electronics, over the years I have also heard good results when paring Focal Utopias with class A designs form Pass Labs and Graaf (but these will produce tons of heat), and also with Gryphon and Nagra (which might also produce too much heat) components. Mcintosh amps will also work fine.

Thanks Paul for the rundown. There's a Gryphon amp in my voltage for sale on the Audiogon that I'm considering. I'm also considering Macs for their reliability as well as ease of repair over here. I could buy a pair of Pass 100.5 amps as well. Most of these purchases would have to be online. Prices of new equipment here with the import and shipping charges are exorbitant. Like the Altos, I will have to buy used. Naturally, I prefer colder running amps due to climate, but I can probably work with warmer ones for about ten months out of the year. I think I'm going to pass on the local Emitter due to age and cosmetic issues. This one came out before the 2005 upgrades, and I don't think I'll bother wasting the dealer's time on it. If I buy an Emitter it will be from outside the country on my voltage. Still no luck yet on finding Accuphase gear to test. I might have to abandon that one.

Regarding your other comment: "...when buying 10k components, any dealer will be willing to bring them to your home and install them into your system and will most likely also offer a 10% discount on top of that. I am sorry to hear the situation is much more different in Korea I certainly did not expected that." They're not going to do that for used equipment, and unless you are wearing a suit and a tie when you drop by, they're not going to waste a lot of time trying to earn your money. I've encountered a few decent dealers but I didn't like their equipment with my music--Dynaudio for example, or Dali for another. I'm also, as you may have noticed, not an ethnic Korean, and that factors in as well, though I do speak some of the language. The seller of the Accustic Arts amp was rather surprised last Friday when he saw me pull out a large wad of cash ready to buy the amp that was already gone. Now, he feels bad and is going to try and find something that might appeal to me. I guess the lesson for dealers, used or new, in any country is never underestimate a potential customer. You might just end up losing a very likely sale.

I would suspect that while the MF Tri-Vista 300 has a similar sound to the A5 gear, my amp is significantly better. I was first drawn to the MF gear with a pair of Micro Utopias at a dealer that was using an older MF A308 amp and a Tri-Vista DAC. To me at the time, that sound was quite magical, and I was sold on the Micros and ended up trying to buy them as well. Sometimes I regret not getting those instead of the Altos--reasons of moving for example but also the reasons you listed and the possibility of other options for amplification. I would have gotten them new over here, but the dealer was stubborn that we pay in cash rather than card in order to get his special price. I heard the Diablos at a recent show with Bryston amplification and I was very, very impressed. I have plans to eventually build a small, second system for my wife that may include used Micros with a Jadis integrated for our downstairs space. Or I may get Usher monitors instead.
" I also saw a MF KW 750 used. yet another good option to consider though I'm sure this one is a bit more pricey." Sorry for the confusion on this sentence. I meant to say that I suspect the amp is a bit more pricey than I can get it used elsewhere on the net. Sorry for the ambiguity on that.
Bill, the MF Tri-Vista 300 is most certainly better than the A5 (so are the Nu-Vista and the KW-500/550 models). The A308 on the other hand is not. I have compared the A5 vs the A308 for a few good hours and I did not hear any difference between the two models (speakers where either the Altos or the Divas; as cd player we used the MF A5).

Jadis is also a good option for the utopias.

May I ask what did you not like about the Dynaudios compared to the Focals. Which Dynaudio models did you listen? I am asking because recently I have fallen in love with the C1s. There are very high chances these will replace my MicroBes soon.
Paul, I heard the top-of-the-line Confidence floorstanders (C4?) and while I was impressed by the staging, I was not impressed by the tweeter with my music. At the time I was doing the testing, about seven years ago, I was listening almost exclusively to electroacoustic and electroacoustic improvised music. Only a few speakers that I heard did well with this kind of music, JM Lab Electra and Utopia Be being the best among them. B&Ws were also good. The Dynaudios, which were great on most kinds of music, could not accurately reproduce the sound on this kind of music. That's why there's much to factor in when evaluating music components. People talk about the room justifiably but equally important is one's musical taste as well as taste in the kind of reproduction provided by the system. For EA and EAI, I need something fast, authoritative, detailed and powerful. This music puts enormous demands on the speakers. At one point four years ago, I had to replace the tweeters on my Altos because of this. One of the dealers in an audio shop commented that my music was very good for evaluating the capability of a component.

I never meant to suggest that the MF A308 was better than your A5. Only that my original experience with the Micros were with that amp.

I'm curious about what you consider to be the sonic signature of the Gryphon amplification. I'm currently considering the purchase of a Gryphon Encore, which is a very powerful A/B amplifier and going for a reasonable price used. I'd be also interested in what might be a compatible preamp if I were to go in that direction. I'm still considering the ASR, but part of me thinks it might be better to go with separates this time rather than the multiple boxes that come along with the Emitter. With separates, if one component goes bad, it can be replaced readily enough. With the Emitter it involves sending multiple packages in for repair. Can you describe the sound of the Gryphon with the Utopia speakers? Which Gryphon were you listening to?

Jadis would probably be great for most kinds of music except for rock and EA. I imagine it would be majestic on vocals and small group jazz as well as chamber music. But would the low wattage and tubes work well with Focal floorstanders given their difficult impedance load? Someone said on the Audiogon once that the Jadis 845 on Nova Utopias was the best sound he had ever heard. I imagine it was but I can also imagine what he was probably listening to. I would suspect that this amp would have otherwise been pretty bass-shy.
I'm sure though that a Jadis integrated would work well with the Micros downstairs and with the music we'd likely to be playing there (not EA).

I also did hear the Dynaudio Confidence monitors. My reaction to those was the same as the much larger floorstanders.

Hi Bill, sorry for my late reply.

I heard the Micro Be with the Gryphon Tabu but it was very long time ago so I can not give you any details. While looking on the net for this Tabu integrated (I could not remember its name) I stumbled on a few sites saying that the Gryphon Tabu is identical with the NAD Silverline integrated which was sold at a fraction of the Gryphon price (2000 vs. 6000 euros) and which according to NAD was an improved version of the TABU. Gryphon on the other hand denied this. I find such stories very disturbing. (I also read here on audiogon that Focal uses 1.5$ caps in the crossover of the MicroBe.... and that one can significantly improve the MicroBes by changing those caps.)

Coming back to the Gryphon, I spent around 3-4 hours (by myself with my music) with an all Gryphon system (i.e. mirage pre, colosseum power amp, mikado cd player and Trident speakers). While the sound was not bad at all my impression was that the company strategy is to impress people with their exorbitant prices and strange looks rather than sound quality. But then this is not the first time when I had this impressions about extremely expensive systems which I can not afford.

Thanks for the reply, Paul. The Gryphon Encore is long gone. It left shortly after my post actually. I did hear the Gryphon Callisto 2100 once at the same audio shop as the Dynaudios. I compared it to the Manley Stingray, which came in about 40% of the cost of the Gryphons. I much preferred the Manley. I might have purchased it even except that I heard some kind of tube crackle with adjustments in the volume control, so I held off. I've heard more recently that the Callisto 2200 is much better and of a different sound than the 2100.

Anyway, I decided finally to purchase the ASR Emitter II Exclusive on layaway used. I was able to get it in my voltage, and after other amps I was considering were sold, I decided to go in this direction. After a few more months when I take delivery and have a chance to hear the Emitter with the Alto Utopias, I will post my comments. I look forward to getting and hearing this amplifier.
"I decided finally to purchase the ASR Emitter II Exclusive... after other amps I was considering were sold,”

Lol - Makes it kind of easy, doesn’t it Bill. Best of luck luck with the ASR. I hear it’s a terrific amp and should get along nicely with the Altos.
Indeed, Tom. Indeed. Things just kind of fell in that direction. This purchase will start a whole new process of getting a high quality phono stage and a new SACD player later next year. After that, I plan to be done for a long, long while. Anyway, I will certainly let you know how it all sounds when it get it delivered in a few months.
Congratulations for the new integrated Bill. I look forward to hear how does the Emitter compare to the Trivista 300 integrated.
I use a Harman Kardon Citation 1 with a Mccormack DNA 500 with JM Lab Diva Utopias. MAGICAL!!!!
Hello Again,

I've been living with the ASR for over a month now. My first impression was not good. The combination did not seem to match well. Unlike with the MF Tri-Vista, this combination led to rather harsh high frequencies of the kind one often hears in complaints about the beryllium line. I shut everything down and worried a bit while I travelled for about five weeks. While I was away, I thought about perhaps making a change on the high frequency compensation dip switches. For this I needed a long allen wrench in order to get to the screws through the heat sinks. I picked up a set of those at Ace. When I came back home, I removed the top acrylic glass piece and moved the switches to the 2 position. This completely changed and vastly improved the sound. Now I was getting a bit more of the smoothness I was enjoying with the Tri-Vista but without the harshness of the high frequencies. While I was finishing my purchase of the ASR Emitter, I also purchased a used Basis Exclusive phono amp. Unfortunately, this somewhat earlier version of the phono amp is only MC, so I had to get another cartridge and won't be able to use many of the nice MM cartridges I picked up thanks to Raul's enlightening thread. After fiddling with all the dip switches in that machine a couple of times, I can now say I'm getting the sound I really like. The ASR Emitter is incredibly detailed with an enormous soundstage pinpoint imaging and bass that absolutely rocks the house down. Anyone who says the Altos are bass shy should hear them with this amp (adjustments of course necessary). This amplifier is far, far superior to the MF Tri-Vista, which wasn't a bad amp in its own right, pretty good in fact. But compared to the ASR, it's polite, relaxed, rather recessed, and limited in bass response.

I'm quite happy now with this amp, and I can see I'll be using it for a long time, assuming it stays healthy. My one major concern is that I may at some point have to replace the battery in the battery operated power supply and that might be a bit of an undertaking, but considering the improvements I'm hearing over and above an already pretty good quality amp, it will be worth it.

Thanks once again, one and all, for the helpful recommendations. The final stage in this particular portion of the quest will be the higher quality SACDP, probably a step up in the Esoteric family of gear.

I will attempt to get the Tri-Vista repaired and hopefully fine tuned at the MF facility in England for hopefully resale or if I can't get a decent figure for it, I'll use it in a second system as a backup.
Hi Bill,

I am glad to read that everything worked out fine. So much for the MF being among the first 5 integrated at any price :).

Look forward to see some pics of your new system!

Best wishes,
Thanks Paul. I need to get those pics loaded up soon. The MF is a nice amp to be sure, and I very much enjoyed it for eight years, but this new amp is in another world. Thanks once again for the help and support!
I owned a pair of JM Labs/Focal Alto Utopias for 4 years. I sold them to buy Venture CR-8 Signatures. The Venture speakers, even though not as heavy or as big as the Altos, kicked the Altos backside in every way. Better bass (2x8" vs. 1X11), tweeter is more refined, and best of all, more musical and detailed at the same time.
Well, that's nice I'm sure, but I'm not looking to change speakers. There are probably better speakers than the Altos, even in the Focal line. I've heard really great speakers outside my own, including the MBLs and the Magico Q7s, which I heard at an audio show this weekend. I've also heard the Audio Machina speakers, which impressed me a great deal. But the reason I started this thread was to get recommendations for better amplification. If I were to switch speakers at this point it would be for a good value pair of the earlier JM Lab Utopias, which are priced right locally. But that may be more of a lateral move rather than an improvement. I'm happy with what I have. My next move will be a higher grade SACDP and then I'm off the search for a long while.

Bit of a pot shot. What about the Devialet D Premier. I own one and used to drive the Focal Scala Utopia and now the Focal Maestro Utopia.

It is a very tidy and fabulously sounding rig.
I imagine the Devialet would be a good fit. Too bad they aren't distributed locally. Since I've purchased the ASR units, I'm done for now.