Your really asking two different questions in my opinion:
1) Since you seem enamored of the Audio research house sound, this question really resolves around if the AR 210s would have enough current/watts to drive your 20.1's. I believe they would.
2) The second question would be if you stuck with Pass Labs, which amp to go for. My personal taste is Pass Labs over Audio Research amps, but not going up in the X.5 series for Maggies, but the XA.5 series amps. I would suggest you try a pair of XA-100.5's, which make magic with your 20.1's and sound alot different then your X-250.5 does now.
Have you ever considered bi-amping your 20.1's? I have never heard a pair of either 20 or 20.1's really give their sonic best without being bi-amped and getting rid of the passive x-over that Magnapan provides. Also do you have your 20.1's on MyeSound stands, if not I strongly suggest you make this move before you do anything upstream, you will be shocked at how these stands bring Maggies to a much higher level of sonic performence. For details on these stands or Pass Labs XA-.5 amps take a look at my reviews of both here on the GON.
Something big and powerful!
Bryston monoblocks and Parasound are often recommended for Magnepans.
Other than biamping as Teajay mentions above, it seems the consensus is that more power yields a bigger benefit than incremental increases in quality.
I have always wondered about Pass Labs for my Tympanis, but for some reason, no one seems to ever shout Pass from the rooftops when recommending amps for these speakers.
So you might very well improve upon your current set up and good luck.
Just curious about cost. could someone just list 'em in order of cost?
20 series maggies are a hi-$$ speaker, and maybe not enough are in circulation to get the 'buzz' going? I think known Magnepan characteristics trump this, though.
With proper synergy of upstream components, I'll bet that any of the ref'd amps will work just fine. Bi-amp? You Bet!
A few people out there would even add Mac to the list...in the form of the large monoblocs. Others may like the Spectron amps.....
Bi-amp. Definitely. I have never purchased a pair of Magnepans without the dedicated intention of bi-amping them. I learned this over 20 years ago, and it still passes mustard.
I've been accused of being a "brand-name" guy, but you really need to check out ARC FIRST - all the others, except perhaps Levinson, are also-rans...
I have the 20.1s also and for a while ran the Pass 250.5 with them. I went up the line to the 600.5s and the Magnepan speakers came to life with them. I have not had an inclination to bi-amp as many have suggested but you may want to consider that option. The 600.5s paired with the Magnepans are a great match and after many changes in my system I can say this is a combination for the long run. I have considered trying the XA line as suggested by Teajay but I simply don't have the desire to change the combo at this stage.
Good luck with your search.
Sanders amps. He has one just for magnetic planars about 1000 WPC . I have heard his other ESL amps and they are superb.
Another choice is the widely lauded Wyred 4 sound. It is a class D, but 6 moons said was warmer sounding than the Pass amp Sjean just happened to have in at the same time. That must be something and the price is quite low. I am happy with my tube amps driving cones and domes otherwise I might consider one quite seriously for myself. I never did figure out how to biamp, thus I won't buy one just for my woofers.
Great discussion my friends. Keep them coming. Right now I am using my Pass 250.5 with a double bi-wire with audioquest volcano cables (I upgraded the cables recently from mont blancs single bi-wire and the difference was amazing). Question for Mitchchavis: Do you run your 600.5s through a power conditioner? I have a Shunyata Hydra 8 that I run all my equipment through including the X250.5.
I don't use a power conditioner for the amps, they're plugged directly into a 20 amp circuit although it is a shared circuit. My next move is to have a dedicated circuit for each amp. I ran the 250.5 through a conditioner but after calling Pass(their customer service is very helpful) for advise I don't use a conditioner for the amps. I've considered a PS Audio conditioner for the amps but after speaking with PS Audio they seemed to suggest two premiers would be advisable so I decided to run dedicated circuits for about the same expense. I also use Audioquest cables but they're the older runs of Midnight and Sterling for the highs. BTW, my wife and I watch about a movie per week and I'm still amazed at the bass that these supposedly bass shy speakers can put out.
A good friend used the ref. 210s with his 20.1s. Never did get them going, and blew tubes several times. Switched to the Mac 1201 monos. huge sonic improvment, and no down time.
I owned 20.1's save up and get a a pair of ARC 610T's that you mentioned and you are done.
I had the REF3 and 610T combo and it was amazing.
So you said that currently the 610T's are out of reach so below is my list for recomendation;
- MyeSound stands (I did not see you referring to having such, as per what Teajay recommended, a must 1ST purchase)
- keep your Ref3, great pre and pairs up nicely with allot of amps
- Pass XA-100.5's mono's (second purchase)
You are done for a while.
If you want to upgrade further down the road either go the bi-amp route as per Teajay's set-up or sell your at that point sell your Pass XA-100.5's and get a pair of 610T's.
I have owned X600.5's, ARC 210 and many others, for your speakers no no to the 210's, X600.5's will be nice but not compare sonically to the XA-100.5's.
I own 20.1's and Bi-amp them with Cary 500MB's momoblocks on the bottom and Cary 120S tube amp on mids and high's. I'm using a Marchand powered crossover to do the bi-amp. Although I'm still dialing in the frequencies, the difference between the passive and active crossovers is amazing.
I would like to offer this link
(click on the newspaper)
Since you are interested in ARC, and have ARC gear already in line, why don't you ask your dealer to allow you do demo the DS450? It doesn't have the glamour of the tubes but it has plenty of power and designed completely in house by ARC. I have a REF 3/VT200 driving 3.6Rs and couldn't be happier, but one of these days I'm going to listen to the DS450 just out of curiosity.
Tubes are not glamourous or for show in my systems. I was a reluctant convert to tubes for my main rig. Once I did change over to tubes my system was a whole new animal and I loved it.
Finally at last... tubes at last, thank G almighty, tubes at last!
I enjoy my tube gear but it's not an act a faith or religion for me. Happy for you.
Well, I'm going to demo the Pass Labs X600.5s and see what they do. After that, I'm probably going to get an Audio Research Ref 2 Phonostage (on the wish list). I want to thank you all for the discussion. If there is anything else to add, please let me know. Happy Holidays all.
Powerdocter, those will be an upgrade over what you currently have but will not compare to the XA-100.5's mono's.
Ref2 suppose to be a great phono and paired up with your Ref3 is a no brainer.
The 20.1 is fairly easy to drive. The main thing is you will need power, but phase angles are well-controlled. Wendell Diller has made a point of expressing to me on several occasions that the best he has ever heard the 20.1 has been with tube amps.
4 mono Spectrons MIII MK2