Another


~

It's time to move up in my system. I'd appreciate some amp recommendations, as I haven't heard too many amps, and have little knowledge of some of the nuances involved in making a decision. Field testing amps is also difficult where I live.

My system is Magnepan 3.7 speakers; (2) Vandersteen 2wq subwoofers; Mojo Audio Mac Mini feeding a PS Audio Directstream DAC, straight to amp. No preamp. (Transparent ICs, Shunyata Triton, Anaconda PCs, DH Labs and Silnote SCs.) The current amp is a very fast and very powerful Class-D switching amp with tons of headroom.

The system is noiseless, clean, precise, detailed, neutral. The soundstage is huge, holographic, and immersive. Live recordings are the bomb. Sometimes it seems a bit sharp or harsh, but that's often the recording or the room. Overall, soft and sensuous, it ain't, but I can hear every note and breath.

I've heard some denigrate a different switching amp -- "I can hear the switching." This from a tube guy. I'd prefer not to get into any Class-X wars.

A local dealer is suggesting I look at Bryston, a classic match for Maggies, I'm sure, but he also suggests that the Bryston can be somewhat two-dimensional. His solution is a Levinson 532H, which he holds as more three-dimensional than Bryston.

Or, he has a demo Acoustic Research Ref150. Somehow, I doubt I'd like to go with tubes, due to the sonics, the expense, and the 'hassle' of dealing with tubes.

All of the prices mentioned are more than I'd like to spend, but I've gotta deal with that part of it.

So, I'd love to hear recommendations.

And... how does one audition amps when they live in an area of so few B&M audio stores?

~
rhanson739
Title should read: Another Which Amp Thread.
Yes, having the title 'Another' is a sloppy mistake
you have to hear sanders magtechs with maggies.
"And... how does one audition amps when they live in an area of so few B&M audio stores?"

If you don't mind loosing some money, you take a chance. If not, you take a road trip.
The Pass X-250.8 with the Magi's 3.7i got multiple best sound votes at the 2015 Axpona show.
In all fairness, we've enjoyed Pass amplifiers for years. We enjoy a pair of XA-200.5's and prefer class A amplifiers but I haven't had the opportunity to listen to the new .8 series yet.
We've integrated our stereo and home theater and also have 3 X-250.5 amplifiers. I've never evaluated different power cords with an X-250.5 (for stereo) but I was told by a fellow Audiogon'r that power cords make significant improvements, so that might be a less expensive alternative.
If you do try a Pass amplifier, please share your impressions.
Life is too short not to listen to music that stirs our senses and moves our souls.
I would get ASL hurricanes.
I went from a Spectron III Mk2 to a Simaudio 600i and still can't get over much better the Simaudio is in every aspect. I had the Spectron for years while auditioning a bunch of other amps that didn't cut the mustard in my system.
Pass X250.5 or X250.8
tough to "have it all" ... switching amps to something sensuous may lead to a reduction on another area you love. a different DAC may get you closer overall than an amp change
Roger Sanders makes it easy with 30 day in home trial and a money back guarantee.
"Roger Sanders makes it easy with 30 day in home trial and a money back guarantee." So does Odyssey: (http://www.odysseyaudio.com/products-stratos-mono.html) (http://www.odysseyaudio.com/sales-usa.html) and; the vast majority of those that own them, love them: (http://www.odysseyaudio.com/sales-usa.html) The few that don't......well; tastes and systems vary widely.
Rhanson, before offering some suggestions....

* What brand/model amp are you using right now.
* How does your current amp fall short of expectations?
* How should your ideal amp sound like?
* What is your budget?
* What mix of music do you listen to?

Best, Guido

*
@ Scott_w How kind of you to point out that it was a "sloppy mistake." Thanks. Actually, the title got butchered because it had quotes in it. Everything after the first quote got tossed.

@ Guidocorona Good questions. As for my current amp, it has been a bit problematic and I'm tired of dealing with it. My ideal amp would have great detail, but no glare or etching. I don't want it overly smoothed out, though, and have left tubes in my past. What's a budget? And... blues, classical, folk, live performance, etc., etc. A pretty wide range.

All others... thanks for the suggestions. I'm building a list of things to try.
Hi Rhanson, in other words.... What is your upper spending limit on the amp project? I have a few amps in mind from some of my favorite manufacturers that I am confident have more than enough grip in the lower impedance handling required by Maggies, but it all depends on your spending expectations.

Guido
Guido --

I quite wish I didn't feel compelled to move along, but, I do.

I've been quoted between $9-13K for some solutions. That would hurt a bit, and probably represents my absolute upper range.
Hi Rhanson, I have a couple of good ideas... I'm going to make a couple of phone calls and find out if the amps I have in mind match your Maggies for power handling, and whether they can come within your pricing needs... Will let you know soon.

Guido
Take a good look at the Carver Black Beauty 305's or maybe even the smaller Cherry 180's. I have tried MANY amps on my 3.6's, and now my 20.7's; you will not be dissappointed!

The 305's drive my 20.7''s to Loud Levels in my larger than average room that is 17.5w x 26L x 9h. They never stress or run out of gas. They are 3D to the max, beautiful in the middle range, tight and impactful on the bottom. The top is a bit tubey compared to the average SS amp, not quite as extended overall (but that is a good thing on much of the 1960's music I listen to). You can tweak the top also by experimenting a bit with the 12AX7 input tubes (one per side).

Search the web for the reviews of the Black Beauties by Jonathan Valin and Dick Olsher; both are very informative and worth reading.
Also, the Audio Research 150's will NOT get the job done unless your room is fairly small or you listen at very moderate levels (or both).
Thanks, Stickman. It's great to know what *won't* work, as well as to know what will.
"The current amp is a very fast and very powerful Class-D switching amp with tons of headroom.

The system is noiseless, clean, precise, detailed, neutral. The soundstage is huge, holographic, and immersive. Live recordings are the bomb. Sometimes it seems a bit sharp or harsh, but that's often the recording or the room. Overall, soft and sensuous, it ain't, but I can hear every note and breath."

After reading your description, one wonders what you want to improve on? Sounds like you got it all......

Shakey
I'm partial to tubes because to me they sound the most pleasing and realistic. That being said, I would try your amp with a tube preamp as with all of the class D, gainclones, chip amps, etc that I have heard, they all sound great but a little too sterile for me and greatly benefit from the warmth of being mated with a tube preamp.

I don't believe you need to spend megabucks to have a great sounding rig and I like the idea of giantkiller products that can hold their own against stuff that is a lot more expensive. The B&K EX442 Sonata is such a product, extremely tube like, 200 into 8, 360 into 4 ohms, 75 amps and won't set you back too much at all. PS Audio 200C or CX is another great amp that won't break the bank. Many others too, mated with a tube preamp and I think you'd be pleasantly surprised. OK, so you might have to upgrade caps or something, but you're still saving loads of money over these other brands...

Good luck and most of all enjoy the journey
I, too, am curious as to why you want to improve on something you already love.
Here's my feeble attempt to read between your lines: despite the pure, detailed,
pristine and holographic results of your endeavors, it can, at times, sound harsh.

Granted, it's due to the recording, but in the back of your mind you sense you're
getting too much of a good thing at the expense of something else, namely,
some soul or naturalness. Could it be you'd gladly sacrifice a small dose of
leading edge detail for a back end dose of body and heft?

Speaker cables would be my first recommendation as it'd be the cheaper and
easier route to take. Try the CableCo.com and use their lending program to see if
some other cable can do the trick.

If not, a big, juicy class A/B power amp like Pass could do it. A long time ago I
had a pair of Magnapan Tympani three panel speakers and ran them with a BGW
boat anchor of an amp and it never failed to satisfy.

Good luck and all the best,
Nonoise
Why? See my response to Guido above dated 6/28.
If not, a big, juicy class A/B power amp like Pass could do it. A long time ago I had a pair of Magnapan Tympani three panel speakers and ran them with a BGW boat anchor of an amp and it never failed to satisfy.

Didn't that address it in an apropos manner?
I just wanted to keep your options open and go easy on the wallet.

All the best,
Nonoise
"@ Guidocorona Good questions. As for my current amp, it has been a bit problematic and I'm tired of dealing with it. My ideal amp would have great detail, but no glare or etching. I don't want it overly smoothed out, though, and have left tubes in my past. What's a budget? And... blues, classical, folk, live performance, etc., etc. A pretty wide range."

If that's what you would consider ideal, can you give an example of an amp that you've heard that has all of these qualities? Even if it was an amp that's out of your price range, someone may know of a less expensive alternative. Also, its kind of hard to explain in words subjective sound qualities. The same words can vary from person to person. That's why if you can link your description to an amp that some of us may have experience with, you should be able to get much better recommendations.
Excellent point ZD'... Furthermore, Rhanson, what is the power output into 8 and 4 ohms of your current amp.... And its peak current if known?

G.
Shameless plug:

I have a pair of tad hibachi amps up for Sale that would seem to fit your bill and would not break the bank to try.

I've run these as well as a pair of 500 w/ch bel canto ref 1000m amps in my systems and have run magnepans in the past as well as well as heard the latest models off rogue class d amps and arc tube amps as well.
Have you looked at the Pass Int-150?

It's got the solid state punch to keep your Maggies nicely powered.

The ARC DSI250 is another integrated to consider. It's class D solid state with plenty of power, but definitely audition first, b/c the house sound might not agree with you. Likewise, the Clase CA-2300 amp would be worth auditioning.

If you've got cash to burn, the D'Agostino amp or integrated sound great with Maggies (but better with Wilson).
Sorry... typo.

I meant the ARC dsi200.
@Zd542 Great idea, but to be honest, I have zero experience with other amps,
so I can't provide a linkage. I know of no other audiophiles nearby, and the
closest dealer is a 5-hour r/t away. (Actually, I have briefly heard a Bryston
behind Maggies at the dealer, and an ARC setup that sounded less than
impressive to me, so I have a bit of experience, but nothing that amounts to
much.)

@Guido Power output is 600 into 8; 800 into 4; 1,400 into 2. Perhaps we could
have a game of "Guess That Amp", but clearly I've been steering away from
naming names so far.

Looks like the Pass might be something to seriously consider. Now, I wonder
where I can get an audition or demo unit? I'm in eastern NC... At the Pass site, it
appears that I have to give up a lot of personal information just to find out where
a dealer is.
For Pass Labs, try Reno Hifi. THey have a 10 day home demo. Although I have not purchased from them they have been very responsive to my questions.
Mark at Reno Hi Fi

Highly recommended, from personal experience - though I haven't purchased directly from him (yet).

Mark sells new, demo and used Pass gear and has a generous return policy where you only pay shipping.
Rhanson, looking at the specs you posted, you might be using an amp powered with an Anaview module... True or false, the obvious problem I can see, regardless of relia bility of your particular implementation, is that the Maggies are primarily 4 Ohms speakers, and the amp you use has only a moderate rise in power from 8 Ohms to 4 Ohms... If nothing else, the match is potentially sub-optimal.

If you are keen in changing amp, and are fond of well implemented class D amps -- Yes I am by the way -- I would suggest amps based on Pascal M-Pro2 modules or NCore NC1200 modules. Typically, these amps deliver 400W/8 and 800W/4 and I fully expect to match the Maggies with aplomb.

In the Pascal M-Pro2 arena, I recommend the Rowland Continuum S2 integrated: $9500. Yes, there is a very knowledgeable Rowland dealer in NC. I checked with the Rowland factory... Continuum S2 is compatible with Maggie 3.7. And yes, I have heard the amp... It's quite amazing... Rowland reliability by the way is legendary... There are Rowland amps still making music that have rolled out of the factory in the mid to late '80s. Roy Gregory has reviewed Continuum S2 for The AudioBeat. His findings match my opinion exactly:
http://www.theaudiobeat.com/equipment/jeff_rowland_continuum_s2.htm


On the NCore NC1200 side, I recommend the Merrill Veritas monoblocks. Merrill sells direct from his factory in N.J. List is $12K... Yes, price is high in absolute $$$$s, but the amp far outperforms its price point. Power rating is 400W/8 800W/4 with 38 Amps peak current. I have reviewed this marvellous amp for Positive Feedback:
http://positive-feedback.com/Issue68/merrill_audio.htm

Best, Guido
Rhanson, the Rowland dealer for NC that I mentioned in my previous post is:

Liquid HiFi
Charlotte, NC
United States
Tel: 1 704 953-6034
ronaldbuffington@msn.com
www.liquidhifi.comĀ 

Regards, Guido
Thanks for the recommendation for Reno. And Guido, your posts are most helpful.

As for power (please help me understand), we don't play at very high volumes, and nothing to heavy, raucous, or driving. Well... Bonamassa might be an exception. Is that "moderate rise in power" at 4 really much of an issue? How would the effects manifest, and what differences could I expect going with an alternate amp?

As I've said, I'd really prefer not to buy a new amp, but this one is back for repair... Again. I also fear for the future of the company, as things have changed radically there.
Hi Rhanson, in most cases, you would observe that bass control is sub-optimal, and dynamic of transients are less than realistic... You also migh have to raise volume on theamps or DAC higher than what seems reasonable in order to get desired gain.... Your amp(s) might end up working harder than they should, lowering their reliability.


If you were experience some unreliability from the amp, it might because it works too hard to drive the 3.7s.

Neither the Merrill Veritas nor the Rowland Continuum S2 would suffer of this problem... They are made for compatibility with speakers having variable or lower impedance.

BTW, I tried to send you a PM, but did not find a link for that in your profile page... Want to try from your end?

G.
@ Guido -- That's insightful.

So, please recall that I'm using Vandersteen 2wq subwoofers. That should take a lot of the bass load off the amp, as these are powered subwoofers. Could that still be making the amp work too hard? I had always been under the impression that this was a powerful amp with plenty of headroom.

I'll check the PM thing.
Re: PM. I have a PM in my inbox from another Agon user, so I don't think that it's anything on my side. I could be wrong.
Hi Rhanson, I finally managed to send you a PM. G.
without a preamp you are just waiting your time. The preamp controls the sound of your system. You just haven't had one that makes a difference.
Folks, this really isn't as much about the sound as it is the reliability. I need to move on because of continuing reliability issues with several amps from the same manufacturer.
I'm now seriously looking at the Merrill VERITAS monoblocks; I have a demo pair coming in soon.

The original post mentioned the ARC 150, which Stickman suggested would not get the job done. While I haven't yet heard the Brystons, they purportedly have a "house sound", which suggests that there is coloration of one sort or another. As for the Levinson 532H... I have seen so much negative or less-than-complimentary press on it that it certainly gives me pause.

I've had tube preamps before. In some cases, it was a good thing, but over time I've come to appreciate neutrality and detail. I don't want the amp or the pre- to get in the way of what's on the recording, or to alter what I hear too much. I've even had a highly-regarded ARC Ref5 pre on my system, and it was like throwing a wet blanket over the speakers. Go figure. And I know it would be a shock to some people, but I just don't like buying and fussing with tubes. Either they are too fickle, or I am.

Assuming that I like the VERITAS sound -- or non-sound -- the next step would be not to cry over the $12K price. That's a big bite for me. One of the big advantages seems to be that the ncore1200 modules could be replaced by any number of places were something to happen to Merrill Audio... it's not as proprietary of an amp module as what I currently have, which is one of my greatest concerns with my current amp.

I'll continue to chase down opportunities. Thanks for all the suggestions.
I took Guido's advice and listened to a Jeff Rowland Continuum S2. I just love the sound of the S2 and decided to purchase it. I've owned and listened to several Class D amps and agree with some of them you can hear switching. All I can say is the JR Continuum S2 doesn't sound like a "Class D" amp. It's very open, detailed and what I consider a slightly warm presentation. The JR S2 is so good to my ears I'm done searching for amps, but I'm curious to hear your thoughts on the Merrill monoblocks after you receive them.
Ricred1 -- Congrats!

I'm still waiting for the Merrill's to come in, hopefully soon. Your post suggests that I may also want to hear the Rowland, so I'm chasing that down.

May I ask you, or anyone else, "What does switching sound like?" Perhaps if I knew what to keep my ear out for, I'd hear it.
Hi Rob, many earlier class D mps sounded a bit sterile, or perhaps hi-fiish. New designs based on Pascal and NCore tend to sound like... Music!

G.
I shouldn't have said you can hear "switching", but that
some Class D switching amps sound thin, with some
irregularities in the treble region...sounds similar to
when a tube is going bad in an amplifier. Something just
doesn't sound natural. The JR Continuum S2 is the best
amplifier that I've owned regardless of Class type. The
S2 is warm to the touch and doesn't run as cool as other
Class D amps that I've had. I don't if that contributes
to the sound quality or not? I hope my post makes sense.
I had total knee replacement a week ago and on some
strong pain medicine.
Hi Richard, rest assured, CS2 sounds amazing regardless of meds *grins!*
All those class D advantages you like w softer top end ..try an ARC D250 M or even the stereo model. Not the last word in 3D but a fine amp. Also the Hybrid 220 has a lot of merits and can be had used for less than half of the numbers you are talking...
I am a bit biased to ARC as i have that brand preamp.
You might also try Ayre but make sure up to task w money back or demo...
A big Mac can also be revealing w vise like grip.
Guido you are funny. Do you agree that the S2 runs a little warm to the touch compared to other Class D amps? It's not a problem to me, but it does make me wonder if JR is doing something different with Class D that gives it the power and musicality that many Class D amps simply don't have?
Does anyone know of someone who could provide a in-home demo of the Rowland Continuum S2?