amp help - joule - transcendent - berning - atma

i am looking for the next level in amps (i currently have rogue 120s) looking at joule stargate; transcendent t8ln
david berning 270 or atma-sphere m602.2.

componet list:
joule la 150 with opus phono stage
vpihw19m3/fr64fx/shelter 501
pioneer trans- birdland dac
mac 67
merlins vsm-m bb
diy cables all the way around

anybody heard any combos of these amps??? anything else to look at 6k budget. no dealers in my area have this equipment to demo.

If you could find a used Convergent JL2 I would add that to your list, I heard the Merlins with that amp and it was very magical, though I think the Merlins mate up well with most any moderate powered tube amp. Pay close attention to atma-sphere as well, not many people are famaliar with there gear but those who are really like it, many people prefer the sound of OTL amps in there systems, so pay close attention to Atma. Good luck and I hope you get to hear all of them in your system.

Well... difficult question and I cannot say I am the one to answer it because I do not have extensive listening with any of the above amps and then there is always the problem of system/room effect on the particular amp. I will make a comment because it seems you have narrowed down the field without ever listening to any of them which I think is generally not a good idea.

Generally, I do not think the buying the "next level" of anything helps much because there isn't one. There is no "absolute sound" despite what the magazine cover says. You can go up in price but that doesn't always help either. A lot of the really expensive stuff is sad indeed. There is a post right now at about some speakers that retail at $90,000 and they are a joke.

Why not just buy what sounds good to you?

It looks like you are considering some "exotic" amps. The typical OTLs are nice but they are not new and like anything else have their compromises. Bernings OP stage is apparently new and I must say I do not understand the radio frequency impedence converter that replaces the opt in the output stage and probabaly few people do. He is obviously some kind of a genius. However, despite the OP stage's novelty the amp relies on other design choices that you may or may not like. The drive stage, for example, uses a cathode follower directly driving the power triode grid, which technically seems great, but is not new and at least some folk think this circuit design choice imparts a certain sound which you may or may not like. The OP stage is not going to change this choice of driver design. The point is that you cannot really buy an expensive amp because it's output stage is newest in town. Well you can, but I am not sure it's a good idea.

It's late at night here and I tend to babble a lot the later it gets.

Cheers, have fun with the new amp whatever it is. Hope it Sounds good to you.

Sincerely, I remain
good advice clueless.
didn't say what you were looking for in an amp upgrade...sweeter sound, more air, better bass?
it's difficult to make a system sound much better by adding something on the 'back end'...just different.
perhaps lower power is what you are looking for. if you have a small room, you don't need all the rogue's power. in that case, the newer joule single ended w/ transformer amp is a nice choice at a reasonable price (off the top of my head)...and a match with the preamp.
the problems with otls and so on is that you'll end up changing your sources because you'll find out the amp is too revealing!
i really appreciate the is very sound (no punn intended) i "think" my systems lacks a little pratt. it is extremely musical....maybe a little slow. i want to seek some advice as i will keep the rogues and a-b them against the other amp; trying to see if anyone has had similar gear and can narrow the field. thanks jim
I also have Merlin Milleniums with battery bam. They're currently powered by a Berning 270. It's clearly superior to my other amp (Mesa Baron) in some ways--detail and resolution, better bass contol, for example. On the other hand, I had it at my local high-end dealers, where he had it in his system with a Wadia 861 and Vandersteen 5's. He didn't really like it, but then he's a hard core audio research fan. He did say that in his opinion, it was noticeably faster than the VT100 he had there, but he didn't like the midrange. Synergy is the key word, I think.
There are practical concerns as well. The Berning weighs 10 pounds. I can put my hand on the grille without my skin burning off. The Berning has built in power conditioning. I'm sure you know all of this, but these things are worth considering.
Finally, search archives here and on Audio Asylum. There was some discussion a few months ago about the merits of transcendent, atma-sphere, etc. For what it's worth, one guy definitely preferred the Berning over the 25 watt stereo Transcendent.
Hi Jim

I currently own both the Transcendent and Berning and Merlins but not the Atmas-pheres and Joules, their next :)

I have posted my impressions on the asylum and on other threads as noted above. If you live in or are planning a visit to Florida in the near future, you are invited to at least listen to these two. I currently have the Transcendent for sale and it is a great little amp. The big consideration with it and the Merlins is room size and musical preferences. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me and I'll fill you in on the details.

Oneprof - Being a former Vandy and ARC owner as well I can't argue with your dealer, I always felt ARC was the most synergistic with the Vandys over any other amp combo.
Hi Tubegroover,

Which Vandersteens did you have? How did they compare to the Milleniums? I have a pair of Milleniums at my local dealers on consignment, but they have the 'S' harness, so we really haven't experimented too much with A-B'ing them with the 5's. I would certainly expect better (or at least more) bass with the 5's, since they have the sub, but midrange and highs should be more equivalent. I do have to say that the 5's with the audio research had incredible soundstage depth.
Hi Oneprof

I owned the 2c's, 10 years lived quite happily until the upgrade itch finally reared its ugly head and got me going on another journey. I am familiar with ALL Vandy's including the big 4a's from the 80's, except the 5's so I can't comment on them. I'm sure I would like them. Vandersteen is absolutely one of the best value speakers I am aware of. Excellent full range performance, warm, sweet and musically involving. Nothing that is going to suprise you after extended listening.

Merlins are less forgiving, and much more system dependent. I feel they get closer to the qualities found in electrostatic/planer designs, speed, than any dynamic speaker system I have listened to. The design choices are good with the 2-way, much like a point source. The real problem with the Merlins is that it is necessary to match the components that will complement them. This can be said for all systems but it is more critical with this design because of the resolution capabilities of the speaker. The Esotar tweeter can be a real wild child when things aren't up to its lofty standards. I sure see why some prefer the Revelator over this one but when all is right, it can really take your breath away. I never cease to be amazed how reactive it is to subtle changes in source and wire.

The Vandys by contrast are more easy going. Prior to purchasing the Merlins I was seriously considering the Vandersteen 3a Sigs but didn't have the room for them at the time. A very fine speaker at the price point. After going through almost 2 years of truth and consequences with the Merlins, the past 8 months have been the most enjoyable experience in my audio life. They are doing that magic thing and the itch is in total remission.