Are some amps inherently always forward and others not?
I've always attributed that aspect of the sound more to the speakers and room acoustics, but I think I have heard some differences here switching just amps and nothing else.
Tonal balance of the amp may have something to do with it.
The Electron Kinetic Eagle amps have an immediacy that produces music (especially vocals) like you are describing.
They also have killer bass. I'm kind of drawn to this kind of sound too.
If you want to hear more detail I would add room treatment; "bright" sounding amps appear to give more detail but just alter the balance of what you were already hearing. Getting rid of cancellation due to reflected sound will give you more real details.
I believe Audio Research amps (and pre-amps) are a bit forward, all the ARC amps I have had were, a vocalist is usualy a bit in front of the "plane" of the speakers, towards you. I have gotten used to the sound that way and prefer it.
Adcom GFA 555 and GFA 555II.
The most "forward" sounding amps I've owned.
Audio Physic speakers are known for presenting a lot of detail. Their motto is, "No loss of fine detail".
Berning ZH270 is very forward, in my experience.
My new Burson PI-160 does everything right, including detail up the ying yang without stridency or at the expense of mids or bass. Its just one super clean sounding amp that doesn't miss a thing yet retains the naturalness of a recording. Its the closest I've come to detail at the expense of nothing. Its very basic on features and uses no ICs, being all an all discreet and has a stepped attenuator.
If you've been happy with your speakers, and they are efficient, have tried room teatments, and you can do without the bells and whistles (no remote), then it might do for you what it did for me.
Seems to me, (being one of those "older" audiophiles) that all you might need to do is aquire a decent analog frequency equalizer, patch it in somehow and do some careful adjustments. (I actually remember way back when it was OK to use tone controls and not frowned upon).
Or... perhaps adjust the acoustics of you listening space to get a brighter more forward sound.
This certainly would be a lot less expensive than new amps or speakers
The McCormack's and VTL's are excellent amps that IMHO are "forward".
Time to visit an audiologist and have your ears checked out. Most audiophiles, for all their interest in sound, never go to an audiologist to find out exactly what they are hearing. Most who do go to an audiologist don't find one that can test beyond the 8K region, a must to find out what 'broadband' their ears are all about. I would love to have all the 'reviewers' who write about gear publish their hearing curves, that way we would know what the basis of their actual hearing is. You could call this 'full disclosure' and keep all honest.
When I had a re-built Phase Linear 700B with a stock McCormack TLC-1 and a pair of KEF speakers I thought it was forward sounding when the gain knobs were turned all the way up. Whenever music would play I felt it was right in my face. If you can acquire a PL 700B on the cheap I say have it restored.
Buconero117, I don't see the need for audiophiles seeing an audiologist just to see how "broadband" their ears are. That would be like spending a lot of money to get harmonic distortion numbers on my amps - there's a lot going on in the process of listening that test tones don't tell you anything about. The important thing is how you experience music, and if I was told my hearing stopped at 8 kHz, that would just make me feel older and accomplish nothing else.
Everyone gets to decide how much they appreciate music, what kind of gear and set up is worthwhile to enhance the experience, and how obsessive they want to be about all of it.
Stanwal's suggestion regarding the room will not be eclipsed. More than ANY other component, the sound of the room will be what you hear when it's all said and done.
Ditto for what Tomcy6 said. I'll add that talking about an amplifier without the partnering loudspeaker leaves the equation unsolved. The partnership between the two goes a long way toward the sound being more engaging or relaxed.
That being said, NAD amps are more on the budget side of forward, and Krell (though not my cup of tea) on the other. If you're looking for a tube amplifier, consider the tube type/brand. For example, the Music Reference RM10 with EL84 is forward in the best of ways. Also, take a look at an OTL design.
What buc said about hearing is a fact.
perish the thought that someone would would suggest a decent equalizer like the tact or deqx, to solve the problem.
Instead of changing your equipment, try listening in the near field position.