Of the manufacturer's you've chosen i have owned two and heard one for a fair amount of time to voice an opinion...For quality, neutral sound, reliability,build quality and synergy capabilities i would choose the Pass Labs first...My second choice would be Gryphon for many of the same attributes though my reservation would be in the Antileon amp...Quite good but bettered by many now due to age of design.
Man you have some great choices here. My personal decision would be BAT with the sound you've described. Also the 52se is upgradeable to Rex down the road. The other good thing is there is a good bit of the BAT gear on here both used and demo being they just got rid of a good bit of dealers and people are dumping there inventory so you might get something under full warranty also. Lamm would be my next choice I would say. But a lot of your choice seems to be a decision of what you can get on here at the time you make the decision.
Thank you Azjake, could you go into a little more detail of Pass Labs XA compared to Antileon Signature? I have read good things about both but pretty much no direct comparisons. I thought the Pass XA series has also been around for quite some time and the .5 version is just a minor improvement over previous XA amps?
Beerdraft - thanks for your comment too. Yur system looks great by the way! I am in Europe so the offer in used BAT models is far more limited than what I can see here on Audiogon for the US. Do you have experience comparing BAT to PASS, Gryphon or Lamm?
Given the comparison of older vs. newer class A designs one more brand I would like to add to my own list is Karan Acoustics, i.e. KA-L + KA-PAS450 as a dealer carries these. Nevertheless they would be the most expensive and I am a bit sceptical of the brand as they do not nearly have the track record of any of the above.
Those are all great choices. You can just pick one out of a hat.
I am using the Pass XA200.5, BAT Rex, Tripoint Troy, and Jade Audio Cables. This is a very synergistic combination that combines the strengths of solid state and tubes, without the downsides of either. I mention all components because the sum truly exceeds the parts.
Do you have a favorable exchange rate for American goods? It seems like now is the time for many people in Europe to buy American.
Hamburgcity I have not heard Gryphon but with the others you mentioned they must be very good as Bat, Pass, and Lamm are all home-run hitters. I just prefer the quick, natural dynamics and speed of bat. As Rtn1 mentioned I think several U.S. manufacturers are selling at great value new overseas now including BAT from what someone else had told me. Might look to buy new over there, may can get a decent deal from dealer and warranty. Also, at-least with the bat, buy new what you can afford but buy pieces that are upgradeable. Bat has a new VK255SE that is wonderful. I think it has some of the same caps the REX has and is the main difference in the VK250se. This in mono would be great with the 52se and the 52 is able to upgrade to rex.
They are most likely going to do the same type stuff with the Vk600 and wind up with a 650 or 700 similar to the Vk255se. Also of note on upgrade path, with the way Bat does there circuits and the ability to go from stereo to mono and even four of there stereo/mono amps and have them working as one. In other words I could get two more Vk600m-se and not by-amp but have double the current and half the impedance output as I understand it, 1200 watts if I did that.
Thanks Rtn1 and Beerdraft.
With regards to exchange rate you are right. The USD is such that american products were never cheaper BUT and that is a big BUT most European Distributors dont pass on the weak exchange rate at all. As a matter of fact i have seen enough example where the European or UK price are the same or more than in USD but in EUR or GBP instead. The excuses are usually weak but hell Audio distributors and retailers do not seem to bother if they loose business over here!
Most US products are only good value in Europe if bought 2nd hand or as ex-demo. I honestly wish guys i could take advantage of some of thouse Audiogon deals here but thanks to different voltages and the size and wieghts of speakers/amplifiers that is not going to happen easily!
That said Rtn1 BAT Rex and Pass XA200.5 is most impressive! BAT Rex uses tubes, is that correct?
I see you used Karan Acoustics too, how do they compare to Pass XA? You sold the Karan so that says something I guess!
BAT is interesting and price wise more attractive than the others. I wish I could compare them directly. All that upgrade schemes I find cofunsing though at best....
I would go with the Pass Labs XP-20 and the XA160.5. I love the sound of tubes but I own Apogee Divas and need a big amp combo like the XP-20 and XA160.5. I currently own an X350.5 with an XP 10 which has plenty of power and sounds great. I will upgrade to the the XP-20 and XA160.5 sometime next year. It took me years to get my system to sound like it does. I have listened to a friends system that had a set of XA160 and when he upgraded to the XA160.5 the difference was very big. It was 5 or 6 steps better. Somebody above said that there is little difference between the XA and the XA.5 series and I would have to disagree. The original XA series is a single single ended gain stage and does not have the current/ power that the XA.5 series does. The .5 is much more relaxed and effortless and rarely runs out power. The original XA series like easy loads and are not good for the challenge of difficult loads. Match your amp to your speakers. The XA60.5 and the XA100.5 may have more then enough power to run your speakers. The XA60.5 is a more powerful amp than the original XA160. Also keep in mind when you buy Pass Labs you get first class support and they actually answer their phone. I have owned many different high end systems and I have not had anything as good as Pass Labs
The Lamm L2 Reference preamp accompanied with the Lamm mono's setup is a good choice, usually this brand has solid state preamps.. a remarkable feature of this preamp is the polarity reversal switch that allows signal polarity reversal, it help you to find the best album position in polarity.
Since you are in Europe, you should give Einstein pre a listen. It's tube, super dynamic and resolving, and has a touch of tube sweetness. I would pick Einstein over MBL or Burmester because Einstein is tube.
I use Einstein with BAT 150SE, the match is very nice. I have also tried Einstein with other amps, both solid state and tube, Einstein has a very low output impedance so matching to even Pass Labs which has lower than typical input impedance is not an issue.
The BAT REX uses tubes, yes. It has like I don't know 6 or so in each unit. It also uses two power cords to separate the positive and negative phase. No need for tube rolling is one thing I like about this pre. Some of these pre's you can buy then you want to go on a tube hunt for them and Bat goes to extensive lengths to make sure they put the right tubes in the circuit. There is a switch I just found out that allows you to change the flavor a bit and its easy to do, just flip the switch and it puts two tubes in the circuit that change it slightly. Both ways sound excellent and I can't say which one I like better, but I like that its that easy to do so. They also have bat packs that they sell for even more of a change if needed for system synergy. Just my liking that I don't feel the need to go down the road of searching for the Nos tube of dreams like I did with my previous tube pre. Bat has done that for me and I like it.
The only experience I have is with the Pass gear. I used to have an XA160 but traded it in for the new XA100.5. The .5 is a very substantial improvement.
Extremely happy w/ BAT VK-52SE and VK-600SE stereo amp. Going this route would allow upgrade from VK-52SE to REX and converting VK-600SE to mono and buying a second one. Outstanding dynamics, soundstaging, and instrumental tone and texture.
Hamburgcity Do'nt dismiss buying in the US and changing the voltage. I have done it several times, Conrad Johnson and Karan, no problem, Viva valve amp, major problems. Tube amps seem more problematic.
Manufacturers are producing for a world market, so they need to be made easy to adjust voltage, usually by changing the taps on the transformer. Spectral even have a switch to change voltage, you can do it yourself. So if you pick your amp carefully, you can buy on the Gon and import
Thank you all.
Combining a tube pre-amp with solid state power amp looks like an interesting way to go. The three tube pre-amps that I find interesting from what I have read so far are:
- Audio Research Reference 5
- Einstein The Tube
- BAT Rex
And i thought i would never consider tubes...
in the "right" system, ARC Ref 3/5 can sound very good.
in the "wrong" system, ARC Ref 3/5 (or even Ref 2) can sound metallic, whitish, greyish on top.
Einstein will never sound that way, it's always musical, fast, dynamic (much more than ARC), extended, and transparent.
I combine ARC Ref 5 with Gryphon Antileon signature and feel they work great together. - Jim
If you are open to tube preamps you should also consider the Wavac pr-t1 which is a four box setup some consider the ultimate tube preamp. I have no experince it. It's probably easier for you to get as well used, since most used wavac I've seen here are all 220v spec.
I'm actually in your same boat trying to decide between similar brands and setups. I'm taking it slow to try and audition them all in my system first. It's just too hard trying to imagine what they sound like by reading descriptions. However, reading is also helpful.
One thing to keep in mind is resale value. I like products that don't upgrade their line every year like a car. The Gryphons have a great track record on that front. I don't think he Mirage is going away anytime soon as it's very new, and I also don't think the Antileon Signature is going away soon either because that's their bread and butter. The Colosseum amps are just way too expensive for 99% of the people for them to stop producing the Ant Sig.
Does anyone know how much power the XA.5 produces below 4 ohms? I had called Pass before but I don't think they want to tell. Does it nearly double into 2 and 1 ohm?
I have only owned PASS LABS and they DO NOT error on the warm side. No hint of warmth. The warmth meter goes to zero.
I have owned Gryphon, Pass and Lamm, the later is for me the less coloured and honest sounding of the pack
@Aldavis: Thank you for that combination recommendation. Audio Research Ref 5 + Antileon Signature is on my list
@Changster: Nice to hear I am not the only one facing this dilemma! Wavac is not on my radar as they really are crazy expensive and look very esoteric on top of that. On Gryphon continuity I agree. The used prices of their equipment are really keeping quite constant (on the current models, the discontinued once drop a fair bit). Also while I am sure some people hate their design it is quite a statement which I believe makes it more appealing for resale. Especially with expensive audio products people seem to buy as much for their looks as for their performance! (Obviously not the people here on Audiogon)
@Flg2001: Funny you mention Lamm as the most neutral. Some other people I talked to found it to be a bit coloured rather than neutral, which just shows again that different ears and systems bring out quite different impressions!
Indeed Hamburgcity, I had several Gryphon and really liked their organic, dynamic and powerfull presentation, Pass were fast and transaprent, Lamm were more neutral, velveted and tonally correct. You can't go wrong with neither of thiese excellent options.
Hamburgcity, I use a CJ Act 2 and Antileon. I like the combination a lot. It bettered my CJ tube amp by a wide margin on all areas...most particularly dynamics, low-end control and soundstage depth and size. Limitless dynamics.
Enjoy the search!!! Pls keep us posted.
Lamm are the weakest in power reserves and can't deliver the power you'll need.
Gryphon and Pass with tube preamps like: Arc ref3/5, Viva Linea xp, Einstein are fantastic matches.
I think that Gryphon does not offer the kind of sound you are looking for. Antileon amps are also very problematic, so I would rather avoid them.
I have had Lamm M1.2R, now I have Pass XA-.5 ... personally, I would go with Pass amps.
Is this the end of your Amp-O-Rama? You certainly have to give us some details. You've really had some fine pieces of equipment come through your room.
It certainly isn't ... I forgot to mention that I still have Audio Note Japan Ongaku amp on loan. I was considering this amp for my Sophias, since it did many things other amps were not able to duplicate, but with Sasha 1.8Ohm impedance dip, I seriously doubt it will have enough current to drive them. I will have to check though, hoping the uber expensive 1940' WE 211 tubes will not say good bye :-)
Elbertroth2. Thank goodness for audiophiles like you. You keep the rest of us appearing 'relatively' sane. When my wife starts yelling at me, I will certainly tell her about all of your amplifiers!
Mind you, the $110.000 Audio Note Ongaku amp is only on loan. I would like to consider myself sane as well :-)
BTW - the output tubes are RCA, not WE.
I would like to add Krell Evolution 402 with the Krell evo preamp to that comparison. Somebody strongly recommended it to me and while I never really considered Krell I have not heard it either.
I know there are some negative posts about Krell here and there but are they an alternative to Pass Labs and Gryphon?
Pricewise they certainly cost as much!
Speaking of my own experience, I have a deep respect for the 402...I much prefer it to the 300-watt version. I prefer my Gryphon Antileon to both, and find it mates better to my ear in my system which is CJ Act 2 and SF Strads with Zanden DAC. I find the 402 to have tremendous reserves, dynamic punch, and relative to many SS amps, the sound is quite well refined. However, to my ears, I found the Gryphon more refined, more relaxed/organic, more understated and more than a match in dynamics and soundstage. Again, just one person's experience. Hope that helps.
not sure if you had already purchased you choice amps /preamp , but allow me to chip in-- i had the bat 600s and the rex preamp, heard the krell evo combo, and own, very happily i might add ,the gryphon colleseium /mirage combo.
the bat were troublesome to me and broke twice before i got rid of them. the bat's sonics were mediocore at best.
the krell evo combo(forgot which models) was very good! musical , dynamic , but a bit lean in the higher frequencies.
to my ears the gryphons are way ahead of the game , both sonically and looks -wise. they portray muiscal notes very vivdly and accurately.