Amps which are Great, but either Unknown or Underpriced


Hello everyone,


When I think of Power Amps (or integrated amps) that play / sound way beyond their price-point and can be non-household names, I think of companies like:


  1. Belles (Power Modules)
  2. McCormack
  3. Coda


Can you guys please suggest other Power Amps / Companies that are also somewhat unknown or of great value?


Your suggestions would really help me and others.  Thanks!


Matt

mminor
Clayton Audio, First Watt
BEL, Music Reference.
The chinese brands: Line Magnetic;  Cayin;  Yaquin.
Redgum Audio in Australia. Not well known here. Don't know about being underpriced or not. YBA from France is well known to some but not to others.
I second BEL.  The 1001 MK V in particular.  

Inna,

Yes, YBA was good. Now is being run by Shanling from China. Sound quality DROP! only the Signature still built in France but at rocket pricing.

does anyone consider Monarchy amp as well?

-phil

I second Music Reference.  I have had the RM9 mk ii for 25 years, and it has kept up with all the changes to the system.  Even now, I believe I still have not reached its limits, as I push toward the reproduction of the natural sound on a smaller scale.
Odyssey Audio
Good question.   More detail in answers on why said amp is great would be of interest.  Also compared to what?
Bottlehead. I have the Beepre preamp and it killed something four times the price. 
I 2nd the Power Modules Inc.  Dave Belles is a real master and deserves the credit that guys like Nelson Pass get.  Dave is right up there with the true masters of the audio art.
Quicksilver Audio!
I second Clayton, and would add SMc Audio upgraded McCormack amplifiers and preamplifiers 
Get yer Williamson/Ultra Linear on...Jolida rarely gets anything reviewed and consequently is one of the best kept secrets (except my grabbing any opportunity to rant about these things) out there. I have a 4 or so year old "factory upgraded" 502p amp that is the quietest (seemingly zero hum or noise even if you stick your ear on the speaker) amp I've owned including a lot of SS amps, and festooned (!) with KT150s and some nice small tubes it sounds like the friggin Giant Killer it is. The fact that these things are inexpensive seems to be the only thing wrong with them…I've spent a lot of time listening to much more expensive amps from Rogers, VTL, ARC, etc. (albeit usually not in my rig with a few exceptions) and the results are generally "meh."  Primalunas get reviewed often and although closer to the price point of Jolida's  amps, and fitted with auto bias circuits and other interesting features, they generally are less powerful than a Jolida costing about a third as much, and don't sound any better to my ears (I tried a borrowed "HP" version…when I switched back to my 502 I felt the Jolida simply sounded better, although I have no "triode" switch). 
That is funny you mention Jolida. My technician works on Jolida gear and he tells me he likes it better than the mega priced products. He said a lot of people don't buy it because they think it is to Inexpensive.

The McIntosh MC352 (listed here on this site for $3,300) is a phenomenal deal in audio right now. This amp was designed by Charlie Randall and is one of the best sounding solid state amps they ever made, all these new MAC quad balanced amps are its offspring. McIntosh does not make lower wattage (under 400 watts) SS stereo amps anymore, and what they do currently make is very expensive.

Matt M
I second Quicksilver Audio   I have a pair of Mid Monos and I love them. One of the true values in audio.  


I will add my 2 cents worth and say Odyssey falls into this category.
The Yamamoto A08S 45 Single Ended Triode Tube Amplifier is gorgeous with a pair of 98db sensitive Lowther PM5A (Alnico) drivers in Open Baffle. It is hand-made and illuminates textures, detail, transparency, a haunting sense of 3-dimensionality and captures the ambient 'space' of where the recording was made. It also has that mysterious sense of 'flow' that helps bring music to life. Srajan of 6-Moons suggested it sounded more tonally richly saturated than a 300B tube SET amplifier. He was right! It is also uncannily quiet. Shigeki Yamamoto is a master. It should cost at least $8,000 but only cost a ridiculous $2500, helped by the currently strong US dollar. It is also beautiful designed. There are few audio amplifiers that come even close to it as a work of art.
Agree on the Belles - still use one f his first, a Belles A, in a third system
The Juicy Music Audio pure class A Triode (pCAT) monoblock amplifiers are outstanding.  Unfortunately, they are discontinued, rare, and don't come up for sale often.
If bulletproof matters to you, consider Bryston.

Audio Alchemy DPA-1

@philipwu

Re: YBA:
1. Yves-Bernard Andre continues to be Chief Designer of ALL YBA products
2. Sound quality is even higher quality vs older designs
3. Construction quality is higher with all manufacturing/assembly in an ISO9001 facility to insure world class quality
4. Many parts continue to be sourced from France to YBA specs
5. Yves-Bernard Andre personally tests/tweeks/signs each Signature series product that is produced.
6. Yes, Signature series is beyond world class with that YBA iconic transparency, detail and emotional involvement...and much more affordable than other "top class" designs while offering a sonic quality that separates it from the big $$ products.
7. Passion series, although relatively affordable, offers more than a taste of the Signature series
8. Passion series offers higher sound quality than $300k SET amplifiers that passed thru our distributor doors
9. Our US website has many reviews of the "new" YBA designs - all raves!

Jim Ricketts/tmh audio
US Distributor of YBA...and much more
Where is YBA manufactured?

To me the real question is "What amplifiers give you the most audio value for your dollar?"  

I think there are very few audio buyers who don't care about value.  You make a purchase because you need something you don't currently have.  You carefully consider your needs versus your budget and then make a choice.  So most of the time, you choose a component that you feel will give you the most improvement in your sound at the price you're willing to pay.

We come to Audiogon because there is generally greater value in buying used gear.  That 3 year old amplifier probably sounds just as good today as it did 3 years ago and it's selling for half of what it was listed at retail.  Today's $5000 wonder is tomorrow's $3000 White Elephant.

So again, where do you get the most value for your audio dollar?  I run a set of Linkwitz Orions, which call for 8 channels at 60 wpc.  I've been running a B&K AV1260, 60wpc "zone amp" and they sound terrific.  I bought it used, of course, for $500.  They list new for about $1200.  The recommended amp from Linkwitz is a similar ATI amp which retails for $1600.  I've seen the B&K AV1260 go for as little as $250 on EBay.  Not a lot of call for 12 channel amps, but I think it's a very good match to the big Linkwitz designs like the Orion or LX521.  I think that's a Good Value.
I really like my Jolida 502 P with factory mods and Tungsol KT150 tubes.  I also have a Conrad Johnson amp but find the Jolida just sounds better to my ears.  At less than 1/3 the cost of the CJ I would say the Jolida qualifies!
I'll just say that I owned a Yamaha A-S3000 for a couple years and my new Rogue Cronus Magnum II is more enjoyable in just about every regard--missing the glowing meters. I don't know if Rogue audio is unknown but the value for money and amazing sound I'm hearing helped me get off the amplifier merry-go-round. If you've heard the previous Cronus Magnum, you need to hear the Cronus Magnum II, it's not even close and the Cronus Magnum was a lauded product. 
Keeping in the context of the original question, I also recommend  Clayton Audio. Class A with a very "organic" sound.
Krell.

Jeff Korneff amps and Derek Sanderson's Fleawatt chip amps - you might just sell your 300b SET for one of Derek's offerings and not miss it at all.....

Other than that, I've always liked the older B&K amps as giantkillers like the above 2 names....

Aavik Acoustics U300. A little pricey but with a built in excellent Dac and phono stage to boot for an integrated.
Reference Line Model One Silver Signature. Many know of their passive pres, but their 100 Watt dual mono Class A stereo amp is a bit of an unknown honey.
Wells Audio Majestic 150 wpc integrated @$3499 . An incredible sounding amplifier.
Herron Audio M1.  Outstanding amp personally tested by Keith Herron.  Not cold transistor sound, not artificially colored by tube warmth.  Just clean, detailed, dynamic and musical.  I own 6 Herron Audio amps, but 4 of them are too old to update to M1.  Even the old ones are outstanding.

i hope anyone who contributes in this thread can try to keep in context. people with deep pockets have a different start point when their "value products" are actually our holy grail.

try comparing dartzeel amp with FM acoustics..

I really like the sound of the croft integrated from the uk. Has the natural sound of my red wine signature 15 which unfortunately isn't made any more. Croft doesn't have lots of watts but the quality of the sound is hard to beat in the price range. A very special little amp. 
Dehavilland Electric Company

1) Agree on the Yamamoto A-08s. However, speaker matching is crucial. I found that it did not have enough drive for my Zu Definitions - perhaps, in part, because of very long speaker cable runs. But a steal at the price. Gorgeous to look at. Impeccably made. 
2) DejaVu 45/2a3 SET. Similar in sound and price to the Yamamoto A-08s, but aesthetically challenged.
3) Audio Refinement Complete Integrated. No longer made, but occasionally appears on A'gon - especially if you are looking for a rich sounding SS integrated at an incredible bargain (less than 4-500USD) - even as a back-up.
3) Ancient Audio - my current amplifier. Unknown, but far from underpriced (unfortunately).
Ghent Audio. Class D amplifiers that have a loyal following. I won't bore you with how much of a bargain they are cost wise, and their superior sonic performance compared to x, y, and Z. I'll just say that I use them with my Maggies to great success and they replaced such achievers as Edge Electronics, Consonance, and Antique Sound Labs...all well respected offerings. $1500/pr 400wpc sonic splendors!

Mike
I am interested in Wells Audio.
I agree with Jolida. I have the Fusion preamp.

I have a friend who owns the Audio Refinement integrated and it is indeed a fine piece.  

Parasound. and for more bucks, Ayre
I was wondering when someone was going to mention Parasound.  The P5/A23 or even P5/A21 combo is supposed to reference grade stuff for around $2,000 or $3,000.  

Jolida is interesting to me also.  How do their amps compare to the MC275?
+ another for the Power Modules/Belles, at least the one I have, I haven't heard any of his other models except an ocm 500. Great amp and value in my opinion. I have a Belles Ref 150a V2 and use it with a passive. That is a challenge for any amp to stand and on its own and be excellent in that context.
Thoughts about JoLida
A lot of people like them, and they're fun for tuberollers but I cant really say much good about my 302B. Lots of reliability/maintenance problems.
Will also recommend Line Magnetic - purchased a 518ia (integrated 22wpc SET) - excellent build quality and sounded good with stock tubes, but swapped in some NOS GE 6L6s and 12 AX7s, and NOS Mullard 5AR4, sounds fantastic driving Daedalus Argos V2s
Crown XTi 2 amps are very interesting...and just downright killer if you have a rather good power conditioning solution and speakers with passive crossovers you’ve been looking to upgrade. These amps have free software you use to access a suite of digital pro tools. You type in any frequencies you want for the crossover points, type of slope (1st-4th order), relative gain and EQ for each amp which has a balanced line out that will pass a processed, or unprocessed (your choice) signal to the next amp. Very trick...all you need to buy extra is the wiring to make it work. Say goodbye to expensive crossover parts and the power-robbing crossovers and hello to one helluva dynamic envelope...provided your speakers are up to it. Sound out of the box is...meh, but with good power conditioning they come alive and are steal...very authentic sounding! No better way to multi-amp anywhere Near this price that I ever saw. These amps are not just for subwoofers...excellent mids and highs too. The only real caveat is that for best sound the speaker connectors (Speakons) should be bypassed.
Many good amps listed. I'll add Coincident Dynamo 34SE. Top notch and cost effective if you pair with high efficiency speakers.