Atma-Sphere, Ralph Karsten


So I had tube gear many moons ago for a very short period of time. Now I have Atma-sphere UV-1,  serial 002. And the most upgraded one of its kind, lol... Also have a set of M60’s 3.3 and recently purchased some older MA-1 Silvers. Being mostly new to tubes and completely new to Atma-Sphere, (OTL)  I’ve had a ton of questions. And let me say this.... The crew at Atma-sphere has spent a lot of  time with me through explanations,  and a few issues that  came up. Non of which,  was an Atma-sphere issue. It was other components.  Ralph and his crew really knows Audio. And what’s more they have a passion for their work which is very, very  hard to find, I live close, I go there. When I brought in my PreAmp,  Adam was so proud,  and happy to see it was in such good shape. The pride beemed from him. At that point I knew this company was a special one.  Everyone at Atma-Sphere doesn’t look at it as a job.  They are extremely passionate about what they do. And they take so much pride in their work. It’s really incredible.  They,  and Ralph,  have spent time not only to answer my questions. But to make sure I really have an understanding of the question I ask. They really make sure their consumers know, and understand their products. The service I have received from them, is really unheard of, in this day and age. Few manufacturers care about after the sale. But this is where Ralph understands the relationship actually begins. No one understands that business model these days.  I never get the impression I am bugging them. In fact usually get more in-depth answer than I ever anticipated. In this day and age,  In this day and age it’s incredible to find a manufacturer that cares about the consumer. Let alone as much as these guys do. There is not enough words, or gratitude,  I have for them to write here. 
    People don’t share gratitude much anymore.  But these  guys truly deserve it. If anyone ever wants an awesome sounding Amps,  or Preamps,  hand built by passionate people. And what has to be the best or close to the best customer service in the industry.... Ralph and his crew go more then the extra mile.... I’ll never buy any other product, ever...... They are simply incredible. And some of the nicest people I have ever met. 

    Full Disclosure.... I am just an extremely happy consumer.... Average Joe blow off the street. 
0afa1cfe 0eea 4069 976e 0a5be70cf2faAg insider logo xs@2xpstores
Forgot...The M60 3.3 are awesome. But the MA-1 Silvers are simply incredible.... In every way
Yes, absolutely.  Ralph is tremendous.  I'm part of an older group of Atma owners who has modified his gear.  Unlike pretty much every other high-end manufacturer, he remains supportive, and has generously helped me out of problems that I brought down on myself. The MP-1 series integrated phono preamp is a keeper.      
I’ll never be able afford an MP-1. I am jealous.... But have heard a couple. And yes you are definitely right. They are simply incredible. Some day I hope to own an MP-3, which is also a keeper.. 
Do not own any of his gear, but I will say, based on his attendance and contributions here on the forums, I believe everything you say about him, and his company, to be exactly as you say. A true gentleman, with an amazing plethora of knowledge. Enjoy ! MrD.
A while back Ralph was gracious enough to post an earlier M-60 amplifier design on diyaudio.com. Based on his design I built a set of monoblocks.
I added a couple power tubes and some other things but they sound wonderful. Very innovative circuitry! I think that pretty much tells you how confident he is in his products.Not many companies would do that.
Mark
Ralph of Atmasphere and I have often taken  different perspectives here on Audiogon. Despite this he has most generously and graciously offered technical advice here and through PM on gear that has little or nothing to do with Atmasphere. Thank you!
goode news travels fast…. bad news travels faster!

I doubt you will get any negative arguments as to Atmas involvement with the public, regarding his gear or another’s.

Ralph has been for an extremely long time forthcoming on all sorts of equipment, technical info, matching gear, etc., on this forum and I for one definetely have gleaned and learned much from his input.

if there is a bar for customer support, relationships, and technological innovation atmas seems to have set it. albeit, Atmas is not alone in these respects, though this arena does appear to be more exception than rule in high end audio.

when I am avidly looking for this or that in audio, a primary factor in my buying decision is aimed squarely at how readily approachable, or how amenable towards their customers are they? are they handy by phone? how is the attitude with customer service in general?

as well, are they willing to aid anyone who did not buy their gear brand new?

having ben in electronic sales and service in past years, I understand the value of demonstrating outstanding customer service and developing great relationships with the public even if no sale of new goods is ever made.

positive word of mouth anicdotes are priceless. these ordinarily can not be bought, they have to be earned and here lays the hidden worth which gets developed in those ‘one on one’ interactions between maker and buyers, owners, and prospective customers.

there are just too many options out there in audio to end up choosing a product which onnly affords it clientele contact vvia email and extended delays for their reply, or they point you to some dealership for you to try getting what ever answers there instead.

satisfy a customer well and they may relate their experience with a handful or so of people they know.

however, once a customer has been ‘had’ or experienced a bad situation with a product and or its support, these folks will stop people they don’t even know and rail at length about what happend to them.

although money may not change hands, developping and maintaining great customer service and consequent relationships always pays huge dividends.

too bad more makers and or dealers don’t subscribe to this ‘pay it forward’ approach in business., as it does seem more the exception than the rule

that said, I have to submit here that at the 2019 Florida Audio expo, there was not one demo/room wherein the exhibitors were not the most forthcoming, polite, informative, and engaging people I’ve met to date in this hobby.
Ralph's contribution to this forum is exemplary and speaks for itself.

I spent a year looking for the right amplifier: FW, LTA, to PL, Cary, among others and ended up with a pair of Ralph's M60s

Over a year now and have never looked back. Extremely happy customer:-)
@pstores 
Thanks for posting this.
I should have done so myself.
Whenever I had a problem with my MA-1's or MP-3, Ralph or Adam helped me to find the problem. 
Sometimes it took a few calls, but Ralph was always patient and offered great advice. Each time, it wasn't the amp or preamp, but something like a wonky connection that caused the problem.
So, +1 for another great American product and designer.
Bob
Bob, that’s been my experience also. Never the Atma-Sphere products. Just recently I had an issue. Did a lot of trouble shooting with Matt and Ralph. Then brought my amps over. Ralph check it, It was fine. Told me I had to had a speaker wire short, or a shorted speaker. I knew it wasn’t a speaker wire connection. I took the back of the speaker and found a shorted wire. Soldered it back to where it was suppose to go. And bang.... Everything was just fine. Not to mention the many, many times I called him for information. As I said, I learned more for him the past 7-8 months, then I have in many years from all
other sources. And I immensely appreciate it. I just thought he, and his crew should get a well deserved pat on the back. They actually and really do care. They want each, and every consumer, to get the most out of their gear as possible. It’s their passion....
Ralph as helped me with a couple of my DIY tube amp builds and has always answered my questions. He is such an asset to Agon and the industry. I greatly respect and appreciate him.

As a past customer I found his upgrade service to be fantastic! Lastly, the workmanship under the hood of his amps is an absolute thing of beauty to behold. Great team!
I'll admit to not owning any AtmaSphere components for a number of years.  But when I did Ralph did everything he could to offer the little support I needed (meaning not much came to question).

Since then I've continued to be impressed by his openness in sharing general information as well as that specific to his products.  All this praise is well deserved.

But a question for pestores: you said, "The M60 3.3 are awesome. But the MA-1 Silvers are simply incredible".  So which is better, awesome or incredible? 
Lol.... Incredible is better.... I know when I went from the 3.0 M60’s update that was really a huge step up. The silvers are 3.1. Using the same tubes. Silver 3.1 are better than the M60’s 3.3. I’ll upgrade the silvers to 3.3. And I can not wait. As soon as I can afford to. It will happen. If the update is remotely as good as the 3.3 in the M60’s.... It will be more than worth it.
@pstores 
Funny, that was the exact thing that happened with me.- Just a cable that somehow managed to not make contact.
Haha!
When I look back, I remember that checking the speaker connections was his first recommendation.
I poopoo'ed it, how could anything have moved since I restarted the system? But, low and behold, if I moved the cable 2 inches, the issue disappeared!
He must have had this happen so often, it must be a reflex response.-Of course, years of experience and knowledge of his equipment must have also played a part.

Bob
Yes!!!!! His contributions to audio and this board are legend

Good to see a good man get his due ...
I bought used MA-1s here on Audiogon some years ago, and later upgraded to v3.2. I am very happy with the sound. The support from Ralph &co has been outstanding.
+1. Thanks for all the help Ralph
I don't own any A-M gear either, however one of the best sounding systems I can remember hearing was using M-60 mono's and an MP-1preamp driving Classic Audio T-3 speakers at RMAF a few years ago.  Super impressive and if I had the space and $ I would replicate that system.
He is a real stand up guy. Always helps out with his vast knowledge on hifi gear!
The few interactions that I have had with him here make me want to purchase his products. Very intelligent, a gentleman and generous with his time and knowledge. I wish that I had more efficient speakers!!
@tswisla ,
Funny you should say that.
That was why I bought his products- 
As well as their working well with Vandersteen's.
Bob
....so.....Merrill or Atmosphere??
Bob I am also using mine with inefficient Vandersteen’s.... The M60’s 3.3 and MA-1 3.1’s work very well with them....  
Just getting back into this hobby after a long hiatus. Long story short I purchased another desingers otl amp off of Craig's list and had problems.Brought it to Ralph and to my surprise they had it fixed and making misic the next day! Wow! Very impressed with the service I recieved.

Tim
tswisla  - I followed Ralphs advice, and bought Audiokinesis Dream Maker speakers to match the MA-1 amps. Very glad I did. They fit my large room, you might prefer something smaller. I live across the Atlantic, so buying US products is more expensive for me. And if they need to go back to the factory for repair. I've had my share of problems. Yet Atma-sphere and Audiokinesis has given me a lot of support and information along the way, along with reasonable pricing. I wish all US business was like this.
@pstores ,
I run the Vandy Treo's with MA-1's, too. Vandy's aren't so inefficient as to the point of taxing an amp to clip or distort.
I probably could have gotten by with a pair of M60's, given that I don't listen to music loudly.
@o_holter ,
I know Ralph swears by the AK Swarm. So, using the Dream speakers should be a good fit, as well.
Bob
One of the handful of best designers and companies in all of Hi-Fi!
gdnrbob testing some speakers with the MA-1s when I got them back in 2011, I found that speaker ohm should be more than 8. 12 or 16 is fine, along with a "nice" amp loading and 90+ sensitivity. Yes, the amps will drive 8 or lower ohm speakers also, but you are not getting what you paid for. The OTL factor comes into its own with matched high ohm and sensitivity speakers. I tried Speltz autoformers, very capable, increasing the chance of speaker match, but all in all a minus compared to "easier" speakers driven directly by the amps.
Yes - the AK Dream Makers, 16 ohm, 92 db sensitivity, are a very good match with the MA-1s. From what I've seen (not heard them) the Vandy Treos are a poor match, https://www.stereophile.com/content/vandersteen-audio-treo-loudspeaker-measurementsWhat about looking for some not-so-expensive high ohm speakers, just to test the concept - or borrow some, from a shop, just to try?
@o_holter ,
Yes, I did try some Zu Union speakers, but they were not as good as the Vandy's-IMHO.
I did speak to Ralph when I bought the amps and he thought they are a good match. 
Even Richard Vandersteen said his speakers sounded better being run with Atma amps. (though this was a while ago).
B
gdnrbob - interesting. It would be nice to be able to compare the Treos and the Dream Makers. I can only speak from my own experience, trying some 8 ohm speakers (mainly, Abrahamsen floorstanders)  with Krell FPB600 and MA-1s. First I tried Dynaudio Consequence (4 ohm) - it did not work well with the MA-1s. The Abrahamsen worked OK but the DMs were much better with the MA-1s. Krell + Abrahamsen was a better match.
Its all about Speaker Matching, Once you can find the right speaker to Match Atma-Sphere gear the rest is history. Nothing much can rival in all aspects of sound. You're off the Merry Go round.

I have the M60 3.3 Fully Loaded With Power Supply boost and Caddoc Resistor package i wander how far behind this is to the Silver addition.
I own the basic MA-1's and an MP-3 and have no issues with sound reproduction. I am thinking of upgrading to the MP-1.(Though, I am trying to find an Ayre KXR, too, to go with my MXR's).
To be honest, I really don't get too caught up with trying to compare various combinations of equipment. I just add things and see if they 'improve' my experience.
After 30+ years, I got tired of chasing my tail looking for perfection.
Though it might be because I know what want/like.
Bob