I guess if I submitted this post two weeks ago, one could accuse me of trying to sell my pair Granite 860.1 amps. But, since I have already sold mine and have no relationship to the company, I think I can speak about the amps from a unique perspective.
First things first - they are WONDERFUL tube amplifiers. About as good a pair of two tube per side, transformer coupled tube monoblocks you will encounter. They have just have SO many positives that it's hard to choose where to begin in describing them.
Perhaps, cosmetics? OK, they are not going to be for everyone, as no product is, but I happen to find them most attractive. They look even better at night when the soothing blue Granite logo and tube glow is all that is in the room. Secondly, they are small, compact, and though relatively heavy, easy enough to handle. You can site them easily in myriad configurations, probably more than most any other amplifiers I can think of.
Build quality is outstanding, over the years that I used mine, all I can say is that I was never unimpressed with the way the amps performed. The only nit I will pick is that if the gauge of steel used in the chassis was the next size up, I would be even happier. If I pushed on the transformers, I could get the chassis to flex a bit.
The amplifiers always performed flawlessly for me, apart from one issue which caused some noise, which was related to using some of the newer junk Sovtek 6SN7, which would have produced the same issue in any other amplifier as well. It was easy enough to remedy, which Don Hoglund, owner of Granite, guided me through. Not wanting to cause any alarm here, some of the newer tubes have solder on their pins which cause the contacts in the tube sockets to open more than they do normally. This then produces noise, as there is not tight contact on a more typical tube pin. After having Don personally look at the amp when he was out this way, he suggested I try pushing the contacts in a bit when I got home as we couldn't find an appropriate tool at the time, and that worked like a charm! Like I said, this would have afflicted ANY tube amp in likewise fashion. The difference is that, apart from Kevin Hayes of VAC, I doubt you'd have the owner of the company solving the problem for you.
The volume control on each amplifier allows one to run things without a preamp, which helps tremendously in terms of sound. I consider this feature to be one of the biggest winning factors of the Granites. Over time, I tried a few very good preamps, the Blue Circle BC3, Cary (forget which), Joule Electra LA150, as well as Endler Attenuators (passive) - none came close to using the amplifiers by themselves. Running CD direct always produced the most natural, immediate, dynamic sound, with lowest noise and blackest backgrounds.
While we're talking about sonics, I had tried the AES SixPacs (unrefined), ARC VS55 (uninspiring), BAT VK75 (REALLY nice), Cary Rocket 88 (sluggish) and V12 (very good), Conrad Johnson MV60 (not very good) and Premier 140 (overpriced), Quicksilver Silver 60 (OK), Rogue 88/120 (noisy), and VAC Auricle (good, but not so powerful) and 90/90 (very good) along the way. Along with the BAT, the Granites sounded best to me, though in different ways. The BAT has a wonderful, rich, warm, holistic sound. The Granites were probably more insightful, clear, and open sounding. Both have strong mid/upper bass performance, though ultimate deep bass, being traditional tube amps, gives way to solid state and OTL designs. Treble of each was airy and easy to listen to. Which is better? That's really a subjective thing...
I can think of no other tube amplifiers beyond the Quicksilvers which accept the wide variety of tubes the Granites do. You can run basically any non - SET tube you wish, whatever flavor you like best - 5881, 6L6, KT66, EL34, 6CA7, KT77, 6550, KT88, or KT90. Beyond that, you can run the tubes in either triode or pentode, with four feedback settings. I personally ran JJ KT88 and Blue Glass E34L, the KT88, running in triode, with zero feedback was the way the amplifier sounded best to me. Also, tube rolling the two 6SN7s had significant effect on the sonics. Basically, they are as flexible as things get. You try different tubes and settings, find the sound you like best, and sit back and enjoy.
Over the time I had mine, I really, really had a great time listening to music through them. In most cases, music always sounded enjoyable with the Granites. Even poor sounding CDs once again entered the rotation, which was a terrific thing. I rediscovered a whole lot of my music collection, staying up VERY late over a three month period of time. And to those who pooh pooh that as not being "accurate" (whatever that means), so be it. But, if listening to music is a hobby of yours because it is a pleasurable experience, the Granites are your kind of amplifiers.
The Granites do seem most conservatively rated from a power standpoint. Even the supposedly 30 wpc in triode with the KT88, I was able to drive a fair variety of loudspeakers without issue. Running EL34 tubes, pentode was definitely needed most of the time. For amplifiers with two tubes per side, I think they were as powerful an amplifier as I've encountered. Though, for difficult to drive loudspeakers, an amp with four tubes per side might be called for.
Now, the obvious question is, why did I sell them??? Well, to be honest, I was using them in my wife's system, with no preamp, having her and my daughter switch cables between sources, and adjust the volume on each amplifier. Let's just say that as the number of sources my wife had in her system grew, then burning her hand one too many times on a KT88 (I had these sited on each side of her tv, which she had to reach around), she demanded I get her a remote controlled integrated. Were it up to me, I'd keep my Granites forever, but after I got her a Jadis DA60 integrated (no remote...), I was told to make some decisions, and sell whatever extra components I had. So, the DA30 and the Granites went on the block, and the DA60 and AtmaSphere M60 MKII.3 stayed. Again, were it up to me, and I could just keep an extra pair of amps, I'd NEVER sell my Granites...
OK, I also own the 657 CD player. I am not going to claim it's the best CD player out there, but it is very, very good. Certainly up there with the players that are at the top of the heap outside of going crazy from a price stadpoint. By that I mean it's at least as good as anything one would encounter with moving to an exotic piece. The feature I like most is the ability to use the solid state or tube (variable) output. Solid state is more rich, weighty, warm, and relaxed sounding, with excellent low frequencies. The tube output, being variable, also alleviates the need to use a preamp in the chain, with the benefits already discussed. The tube sound is more open, clear, and forward, and also tunable, as the 6922 is a most ubuiquitous tube.