Best power amp for Avalon Opus Ceramique

Trying to downsize my system to a speaker/power-amp/ cd-player set-up (with digital volume control e.g. Wadia 581, Audio Aero Prestige or EMM Labs).
Which power amp (ss or tube) in the range 5k-10k is recommended to use with Avalon ?
Will ICE powerd amps like BelCanto, JRDG or NuForce work as well ?
If you want to use an ICE power amp why not just use Kharma's own monoblocs? I'm pretty sure they're digital and you would think they'd be designed to match, right? Happy listening!!
I would not recommend a digital amplifier with any speaker as revealing as the Avalon. Digital amplifiers do a good job controlling bass, but the highs and midrange are unnatural. Absolutely no involvement!

If you are considering JRDG, do not buy anything built after the Model 6, 8 or 9's. They were the finest sound amps that Rowland built.
Woops I feel like a complete idiot! I just saw Ceramique and my mind filled in Kharma, rather than reading Avalon. Sorry about that, please disregard my meaningless suggestion!
I wholeheartly agree with Jtinn. You need something fuller sounding, esp. in the midrange. For the same reason, I wouldn't try EMM Labs gear.
Ayre audio in my opinion is well suited to the Avalon Opus ceramic.
Jond: nevertheless -thanks for the hint. I just talked to a Kharma dealer and he strongly believes that the Khrama Matrix amps will be one of the top five matches with the Avalon Opus Ceramique regardless of price.

I´m considering as well Lamm and Convergent amps. The Pass X 350.5 failed against my Ayre V-1xe in a two hours listening session this morning (not so liquid, transparent and detailed as the Ayre). Soundstageing was better with the Ayre as well. Pass was more about macro dynamics and base line. Furthermore - this beast is damn heavy.

Had the NuForce 9.02 here as well - not my piece of cake - to lush (warm sounding). Can´t comment on its sibling the Ref. 9 SE -and to be honest: I much preferred the JRDG 501. Probably I was biased because of its awesome looks and the superlative build quality. Handling was easier as well as the rear is not as tiny as the NuForce ones.

From these bunch of amps I still strongly lean toward my Ayre V-1xe.
Sphere: you are absolutely right. The longer I listen the more I have to agree (whereas I must say that I swapped my Nagra PL-L with a friends Ayre K-1xe which seems to suite the Avalons better than my PL-L). But as I have placed an order for Boulder 865 integrated I wonder if this was the right decision...-although I know that Boulder builds the best sounding SS gear (especially the series 2000 components). The all Ayre gear is very synergystic. Strangely I like the Cardas Golden Reference inbetween the Ayre gear more than the much more expensive Indra.
Trust me.If you compare any Lamm to the nice,yet overrated Kharma matrix your opinion of it will change!Not close!!
Frankpiet:The best cable match between these two is probably Transparent audio XL series.The best I heard was the NBS, but the cable costs more than all the gear put together,which in my humble opinion was a skewed way of thinking.
Heard great things about Lamm too.. Steve from GNSC highly recommends CAT or DartZell with Avalon and thinks Ayre is a great match as well.
At trade shows in Germany you always see them paired with Pass or Hovland amplification - sometimes at dealers show rooms with Ayre or Boulder but never ever with class D amps.
Hello Frankpiet and Sphere,
I have the Opus Ceramique along with X2.5/X150.5. Most of the cabling is NBS Omega I (speaker / power & pre) and the Stealth Indra for Cary 306 SACD & pre-amp.
I compared the NBS Omega I for source/pre with the Transp.Balanced (make sure it is the newer generation, the MM-technology) and the Transp. had firmer grip with the bass, more resolution and better soundstage; NBS was a bit lusher. This just proves that although some cable company stress the synergistic effect (certainly the case with NBS Omega I saying you should buy it "as a system") it pays to mix and Transparent does a good job for source/pre, however it is very very expensive. At the end I settled with Indra which was in-between.
Finally, here in Europe you will see the Opus Ceramique mostly paired with Hovland or Pass along with NBS or Transparent, but that might be the case because of the distributor ("Active Audio"). But it sounds great.....
cheers and good luck
I am sorry that I cannot answer your specific question regarding the Opus Ceramiques. I do want to say, however, that I have found the Jeff Rowland 302 amplifier to be far superior to previous Rowland amps I have heard, and that I find it to be very natural and involving. Not a surprise to me that someone else might find the opposite to be true, though, given the many variables we all deal with in evaluating any given component. Just MHO (of course).
Mikefi: your thoughts about Active Audio are absolutely right. They combine the brands (Ayre, Hovland, Pass, Transparent and Avalon) in their show-room set-ups. The sound in most cases is very good -although the very expensive (to expensive for me) combo Boulder 1010 + Boulder 1050 + TaraLabs Omega / Zero + Esoteric X0-1 Ltd. is far superior.
Nevertheless I once had a Pass X 2.5 pre and replaced it with an Ayre K-5xe which I found to be superior to the X 2.5.
I do not know the X 150.5 only the X 350.5 and find it a mighty fine product (its on my short-list) if I don´t decide to keep my excellent Ayre V-1xe. I believe Pass power amps are much better than their pre´s.
The Rowland 302 mentionned by Jfz is a mighty fine product but in Germany rediciously expensive - around US $ 25.000,00.
If you own an Ayre V-1xe which I think is one of the best amps on the planet, you should concider K-1x and D-1x, with or without "e". The K-1x is a very neutral preamp smartly built and forever lasting and the D-1x is the cleanest player I'm aware of, far better then any Wadia. To me Wadia is a bit colorating and lacks some drive.
The only minor thing (which I actually like) of the V-1x is it's slightly emphasis on the base, so you have to match this with a leaner speaker (if you have the same experience and taste of course).
For cabling I like NBS most because it is neither dark nor bright. So it tells you what is wrong in the chain. Very useful as an audiophile if you want to improve your system.
This might be interesting.

hi>fi+ issue 45 pg. 126-128.

I'm very happy with my V-1xe powering Eidolons but then I haven't been very far around the block. I'm slowly getting my room/speaker position dialed in. I'm learning that this is much more fruitful than the gear...well were the Avalons are concerned.

The synergy between Avalon and Spectral is old news and frankly hearing one of these systems properly setup in an adequate space is a marvelous learning experience.

Have Fun
I fully agree that positioning the eidolons (which I own as well) is most important. I also have good results with decoupling the speakers and electronics with Stillpoints. To me these devices act along the entire frequency range. They make the sound better flow without colorations.
Mu6, so Stillpoints under the Eidolons?
yep, you need them with inverse risers or mini inverse risers depending on the type of floor. with carpet you can use the inverse risers en with hard floors like wood or tiles you can use both. Just place the inverse riser on the floor and insert the stillpoint with the ceramic ball down, the metal bottom with the logo should touch the bottom of the speaker. 3 stillpoints for each speaker will be sufficient. each single stillpoint can bear 100lbs, so no problem here.
And it looks good too!
Thanks for the comments. Regarding the Ayre V-1xe - I´m going to replace it soon with Boulder 850 mono amps (different league).
Regarding K-1xe (awful design - great sound but no contender to my nagra PL-L). I had a D-1xe on loan (grat sound but awful design and inferior to the new Audio Aero Capitole Reference SE with build in pre). The GNSC modded 861 is far better than D-1xe and offers build in pre as well.
Stillpoints are great !!
Frankpiet: Thank you for the comments. I heard the Nagra once in my system but has too much sound of its own and lacks deep base fundamentals, also don't like the design. I don't know audio aero, but never heard interesting audio from France. They have good wine and food, but about audio? So I have my doubts. May be i'm wrong.
I like the design of ayre very much, it's more like no disign which leaves your mind open when you look at it. Probably it's a matter of taste.
I'm very curious how the Boulder will be compared with the Ayre. When it's really better I will always concider to buy it. So let us know.
Frankpiet: I hope you can take the time to give us your detailed impression of the differences between the V-1xe and the 850's. I have a buyer for your used V-1xe if you choose not to list it, drop me an email.
Vicdamone - thanks for your question. The V-1xe is going to a friend. The 850 are more detailed, more 3-dimensional and have much better bass control. Nevertheless: the V-1xe is a killer product in its own right. I like Ayre a lot and as far as I can say: Charles Hansen is a very honest person who builds the products with the best price-performance ratio I know.

Mu6: you should give audio aero a try. The new Capitole Reference SE rests among the very best cd-players on the planet - regardless of price. Nagra - own sound ??? NO, never ever. A bit weak in the base line: YES.
I would try a used Gryphon amp (Dm100 or Anthileon)
worked excellent for me, best match for both my Avatars and Eclipses.
Elberoth2 and Jttn are off the mark. My H2O Signature monos, with their
upgraded ICE modules in place, have mids and highs to die for. I do not have
Avalons. My amps are running a much more difficult load.

I don't compare my system with other systems. It has to sound right
compared with real performances. Matched with the same maker's Fire
preamp, and an Audio Note DAC, I am at end game.
>> Elberoth2 and Jttn are off the mark.

I agree with your assessment above.

There's no reason why a digital amplifier would be good in
the bass, but not in midrange and treble.

As you have demonstrated, the H2Os can drive a load as
difficult as your ribbons, and still sound nice.

I would also disagree with the remarks about the EMM Labs
gear. The best system I've heard is one in which the
EMM Labs gear fronts for a system featuring the Wilson X-2

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Dr., I agree with all you have to say, except that my system can hardly be summarized as, "Nice." My neighbors are convinced I have a grand piano in my living room.
Class D and Avalons.

I apologize, this may seem like a boring rehash of-you've heard it all before but...

I didn't expect that I'd be using another class D amplifier to power my Avalon Eidolons but I simply couldn't help myself. The PS Audio HCA-2 with Black Gates served me well until I could acquire my dream, linear solid state amplifier. I admit to being so intrigued by more reviews of a single product than I could recall that I decided to take a flyer on the reasonably retail priced mono blocks. As luck would have it, a pair popped up here for a reasonable savings below retail.

Not having anywhere near the experience Robert Levi has had with different amplifiers I can't attest to all his claims. I can say that these mono blocks sound better, way better than any of the other amplifiers I've had in my system. While our choice of media and our systems differ in many areas the relationship between the Avalons and the NuForce 9se's is as he describes.

Will there ever be a best amp for your Avalons? In any case, if your wallet is hurting from your indirect contribution to the Colorado State Tax Board, you could afford to spend a few dollars more in smelly Milpitas, California to power those wonderful speakers with impressive results.
I have a Ayre c-5xe, pre K-5xe and Power V-5xe with Avalon Ascendant and they work beautefully
why not give a shot at the new Moscode 401hr, vertical biamping should be excellent
regarding class D amps: I found a combination which works with the Avalons(at least with my Opus Ceramique): Kharma Matrix 150. Tiny little boxes with a very very nice, neutral and highly detailed sound.
Frankpiet. Are you using the 150's now?
no. I still prefer my modded Ayre V-1xe.
Have you now had enough exposure to the boulder 850 mono to make comparisons with Ayre V1xe and pass 350.5. I ask because i'm considering using one of the above mentioned to drive Lipinski L707. C5xe and Aesthetix calypso. Any thoughts??
Gamut monos
Mar8: Boulder to analytical. Pass great! V-1xe superb.

Which amp/s are you now living with now? Did you end up with the Boulder integrated?

I've been seriously considering a similar system: Boulder 850's, balanced Placette, AA or Sim Andromeda source + Eidolon's. Not quite ready this year, but will be next. :)

Would you say that the Boulder 850's were a poor mate for your Opus Ceramiques, or do you believe that the 850's themselves are just "analytical"? Not knowing your system, room & preferences, but having my own opinion re: boulder... I found the Boulder 1060 to be as neutral as any amp I've ever heard. Not cold, bright or over-detailed... just without much character.

I haven't had the chance to listen to the Boulder 850's, but I understand they're supposed to be equivalent to 1/2 of a 1060. After reading your comments I'm wondering if the claim (likeness to 1060) is a mischaracterization… i.e. "definite character", and not positive?

Might it be the source or pre is just a poor match? Only ask because I've yet to hear a set of Avalon's sound anything less than superb when paired with Boulder.

Which source(s) are you using? Did you end up with a digital source that eliminated the need for a pre?
Awdeeofyle: I switched to an Ayre K-1xe + C-5xe system with Ayre V-1xe (much better than the Boulder entry level stuff). I use an Ayon Spark tube integrated as well. Both amps are driving new Ayon Hawks which I preferred over the Avalons as they are more live like on electronical music. If you solely listen to non artificial music the Avalons are the better choice.

I decided to swapp cables from Shunyata to Virtual Dynamics - huge improvement and a very good match with either Ayre and Ayon. The Spark integrated will be replaced with the forthcoming Ayon Sunfire triode integrated which is to be said much better than any other integrated currently available. Release will be in mai 2007.