I had the MBL 121's in my system for about 3 years before my recent upgrade to the Vienna Acoustics The Music. The 121's need lots and lots of high current power to sing. Integrateds may not be the way to go. The Accuphase won't cut it and the Gryphon will just skim the surface. Hate to tell you the truth about the 121's as the truth really hurts. You need gigantic Brystons for them to sound their best. If you can get a pair of 28B SST monoblocks(1000 watts each) in the used market, you would be much better off as they also come with a 20 year warranty. As for pre-amp, a used ARC will do just nicely.
The big Krell integrated is another possibility if 3 boxes are one too many.
I'm going to look at a MBL 121 tonight. Could this mean that my Pass Labs X350.5 may not be powerful enough to drive one of these monitors?
Going by the Pass Labs X350.5's power rating alone, probably not. May be better to go with MBL's own amps which are high current and well suited for their own speakers. But if you can spring for the Bryston 28B SST's, go for it.
You probably want to keep your Pass amps as they are very good. Try other speakers that are more efficient. The 121's although rated at 82 are actually more like high 70's.
Thanks for the various views expressed.
I had the opportunity to audition the MBL 121 side by side with Thiel CS3.7 powered successively by Pass Integrated 150.5 and Pass 250.5.
The X150.5 was a far cry from what it takes to move the MBL121 and was not convincing either with the Thiel (compressed, bright, aggressive, small sound stage). The X250.5 was a totally different story and was at ease with both speakers even though the combination with Thiel was not my cup of tea (again axcessive brigthness, highs a bit aggressive and not sounding enough organic: I am not sure if it is the amp or the speakers which are to blame most). By contrast, the 250.5 was a good match with the MBL121 which blossomed in comparison with what they could deliver powered by the 150.5. And the space that these tiny monitors can feel is simply incredible (and the limited bass range does not strike me as a pb in a normal home listening context).
In a nutshell, I agree that the MBL121 (and in general) need power to be moved and to deliver their staggerring soundstage and fantastic lushness but I really had the feeling that the X250.5 did not run out of steam with them. It should therefore be a piece of cake to pair MBL121 with the X350.5. More watts perhaps would not harm but I wonder if you really need 1.000w per channel. I am powereing a pair of MBL 116 with a Plinius SB301 (310w into 8ohms) which drives them seamlessly and, IMHO, effortlessly.
A lot of it depends on how hard you want to drive the 121's. At high SPL's, the 121's sound shrieky and congested, the soundstage collapses especially with orchestral music and opera, if driven with inadequate power. With the Plinius and X250.5, it is quite likely you are not driving the speakers too hard. If your listening levels are moderate, then these amps should be good enough for the 121's. But the 121's need to be cranked up to reach their full potential, for optimal soundstaging and airiness, midrange richness and instrumental bloom. Otherwise, they sound a bit dark.
I now have the 121's mated with the 350.5. Just an amazing soundstage. Very dynamic down to the 50Hz region. I feel you need a pair of subs with these. We have one so I get a bit of off channel balance.
With the Pass X350.5 no strain noted what-so-ever and completely at ease. I would expect that with a 150 lb amp.
Last night we watch a movie through the 121's. Note I have a single JL Audio Fathon F113 doing base duties (I'll add a second one later). OMFG. I didn't really realize or even think about these speakers in a HT context but they made me think of it! These speakers are more incredible than my line arrays and my line arrays are unbelievable in HT. I could see no reason to have surround sound with the MBL's IMHO. They seem to produce surround sound all by their little selves.
I use my MBL 111e's in an integrated Home theater/two channel music set up; and power them with the Bryston 28sst's monoblocks; much better dynamics and sound now with this extra power; then when I was using the MBL 8011's; which I thought underpowered the speakers...for theater; I use an Aerial CC5 center speaker; as I thought it would be difficult to get proper dialogue with an omni speaker for center channel duties; and it integrates great....sounds like you are on the right path; I have one Velodyne DD15 as a sub; but the MBL 111's have their own woofers; so I don't need as much extra base as you will.
Enjoy; and let us know how you solve these issues...
Wow! I wish I can afford your system. The quest for the absolute sound continues. Just curious, what do you use for your music source, digital or analog? I am not into analog because of the extra hassle. But the current digital state-of-the-art comes rather close to analog nowadays.
I use digital...I have a Meridian G-98 running thru the hd621 switch, which conveys some of the new aphodizing filtering; which makes my CD's sound much better, then back thru into a Meridian 861 v4.2. I also have Qsonix music server running digital out into the 861; the new hi resolution 24/96kz downloads from HD tracks played thru the Qsonix is actually better quality than red book cd as described above; but standard cd's thru the qsonix is just a slight step back from the g-98/hd621 sound..but it's all good. I also use the sony 5000es for Blue ray discs and home theater; the BD player handles the new HD audio info; and it gets run into the hd621 switcher; then into the Meridian 861 processor for awesome hd audio quality thru 5.1 speakers...I've not tried analog with my digital Meridian gear..it converts all signals into the digital domain anyway; but it also lacks a two channel audio bypass; so I can't get benefit from external dacs...
Other MBL owners have switched to the Bryston amps; see Dev's posts; with good results; and less expense than using MBL amps..the Bryston 14's or 7's might be a good match; but it seems that you found great synergy with the Pass 350.5...in an apartment; you seem to have your system now dialed in pretty well...
I wonder if digital amplifiers in the vein of Nuforce or Bel Canto would also mate well with the MBL. As I -right or wrong- associate the 121 with lushness and strength "in a velvet glove" (sorry literaly translated from French) and the Nuforce/Belcanto of this world with sharp/crystal clear sound and high dynamics , I figure that the association could work well, couldn't it?
Having owned the Nuforce SEV2's for the past 2 years, then switching to the Pass 350.5, I doubt the Nuforces could drive the MBL's 121's. The Nuforce amps are great IMO. The Pass feels twice better at twice the price. That being said, the Nuforce seem to struggle with the Dynaudio Confidence C1's, an easier drive at 85db efficiency than the MBL's 82db or lower efficiency.
I recently moved back to using solid-state integrated and was fortunate enough to have a larger budget ($5k - $10k) during my selection process.
There is a guy down in New Zealand who did some pretty thorough listening to a lot of powerful / high-end integrated amps (Gamut, Gryphon, Plinius, etc). He eventually settled on the Gryphon Diablo.
For my own search, I had to go on the "house sound" that I was aware of for each of the brands I was entertaining (Gryphon, Pass, Gamut, Accuphase, etc), because auditioning was not always an option.
I eventually settled on the Gryphon Diablo also. I decided against Accuphase because there are too many gray-market Accuphase products on the used market. The Gryphon gear is hard to find on the user market too (especially the American used market), but after about 4-5 months of looking I was able to find a new Gryphon Diablo, that was used only as a demo in a showroom and at shows, and strike a good deal.
To be honest, I might have jumped at the chance for the Gamut or Pass first, but having a phono stage in the integrated was a big deal for me. Not many of the really high-end integrated amps have phono stages. The Gryphon Diablo does (as an option), and so do the Dartzeel, but the Dart was wayyy out of my price-range on the used market.
It sounds like one of the biggest criteria for you is having the power to drive those MBL speakers. I think the Diablo would do it (800 watts down to 2 ohms). However, like somebody said a bit earlier, you may want even more power than that. Even if you did like the Accuphase sound better than Gryphon, I still dont think the Accuphase integrateds would be able to really meet the true power needs of the MBLs.
Is there an integrated amp out there that even dishes out 1000 watts? Maybe that big Krell FBI (unfortunately, I dont know the stats off-hand)?
Personally, I'm incredibly happy with the Gryphon Diablo. It sounds great, the ergonomics are nice, it looks cool, the price was right on the used market, it meets my phono-stage requirement (with aplomb, btw), and it comes from a very reputable company that has been around for a long time that is known for their no-compromise style of engineering and highly-regulated manufacturing process with strong quality-control.
In summary, if I were you, I would go with Gryphon. You'd probably be very happy with the Accuphase at low-levels, but I dont think it could hang with the MBLs when at a higher volume.
But with all of this said, you may want to look for an even more powerful integrated. There are not many out there that are more powerful than the Gryphon Diablo, but there are some.
The original question of the Gryphon amp--the Gryphon is not, 'razor sharp', OR I'm not completely understanding your interpretation.
The Gryphon is VERY smooth and neutral, a bit on the 'warm side', with terrific reserve power, doubling to almost infinity.
It is a flawless performer which sounds great when mated with virtually any loudspeaker--and I've tried SEVERAL.
No longer own one, but can recommend it highly. I might shy away from the Accuphase, as it does not, from what you said, keep doubling as the resistence goes lower.
the best i have heard any of the mbl speakers, has always been with their own amps- the 9008 and 9011 plus their excellent 6008 preamp.
but if you wish to change the "flavor" a bit, the gryphon gear is in a a different league than the accuphase, imho.
the gryphon offers musical correctness, smoothness, realistic sound texture and oodels of refined power, not to mention their mystique good looks.......
I am using an Airtight ATM-2 valve amp to power my MBL121's! 80w @4Ohm... Sound is magnificent, soundstage best I've ever heard. The trick with the 121 is a quality sub, when I auditioned the MBL range, I found the 121 the most neutral and musical, (I actually started out to buy the 101, but ended up auditioning the range) off course bass is an issue. I have complimented the bottom end with the Velodyne DD18, set to cut off at 55Hz, in phase AWESOME! Don't kill these speakers magic with bad power...