Have you heard the Aria amps by Mike Elliott?

Has anyone heard the Aria amps and can you tell your impressions of what you heard. Do they sound more like tubes or solid state?
Hi Tweety,

I've never heard the Aria amps, but I had Mike Elliott rebuild an old Counterpoint SA-100 about a year ago. I chose the Premium Gold rebuild, which involved a complete rebuild of the insides...it's an all-new design, all new top notch parts...the only thing that remains from the old SA-100 is the actual aluminum housing and the feet. Mike has said that the Aria amps are a very similar design, but they have a brand new body and add a few more features (Plitron choke, etc) and sound a bit better. Based on that, I'd highly recommend that anyone looking for an amp in their price range check them out (www.ariaaudio.com). I absolutely love my rebuilt NP100. It's an extrememly neutral amp and it really does take on the characteristics of whatever tubes you chose. I've been using 40's Sylvania 6SN7GT, VT-231, etc. and it sounds amazing...extrememly transparent, three dimensional, an amazing amount of detail yet very musical at the same time. It really is the best amp that I've ever heard in my home...by far (compared to Pass Aleph P, Bel Canto SETi40, 47 Labs Gaincard, Revox B250s, Luxman M2000, and a NAD 960(?)). It has plenty of deep, controlled bass, so yes...in that way it does show some SS traits, but I'd say it sounds more "tube" than SS overall. This may not be quite accurate because my OTL experience is very limited, but it reminds me of an OTL amp in the way that it portrays the full range very naturally and three dimensionally...you know the tubes are there, but it never sounds "tubey" (I thought the Bel Canto SETi40 sounded unrealistic in that way). I've never heard the Lamm hybrid amps, but the descriptions I read remind me of my experience with my amp. Mike's hybrid design is in a somewhat unique category and I do believe that it offers the best of both worlds. I think he offers a 30 day trial on the Aria products (something that's not possible on the Counterpoint rebuilds), so you don't have much to lose. Every claim he makes on the www.altavistaaudio.com site is true. He's uses amazing parts in a great design and it shows in the amp's ability to portray all of the resolution and musical details in a very natural way...so natural that you can focus on the most minute detail if you want to, but it's a real challenge to stop your foot from tapping long enough to fixate. I can't say I had the same experience with the Pass Aleph 3. It's a great amp and it's every bit as detailed, but I never really felt like I was listening to music in the year that I owned mine...I was never fully drawn in, and constantly focusing way too much attention on details that distracted from the overall musical picture. I hope that helps. I think I remember reading something on Mike's site (or somewhere else) that the first production run of Aria Amps was completely gobbled up by a Japanese buyer. Because of that, I don't think many US buyers or Audiogon users have had a chance to hear them yet. I'd love to know what people think if anyone out there owns one. I hope that helps...

My system:
Counterpoint NP100 amp (similar to Aria amp)
Counterpoint SA5000 pre (completely modded by Mike Elliott)
Merlin VSM-M speakers (w/ Battery Bam)
Cardas Golden Cross speaker & interconnects
EVS Millenium DAC 2 w/Studer A727 as transport
I also owned a totally modded NPS-100 (different design, in some ways similar sounding to the NP-100) and the sound could be extraordinary.
PhilD, great system...a keeper for life!
Hi Tacs. Yeah, I completely agree with you...I think I'm done as far as my amp, preamp, and speakers go. I know those are famous audiophile last words, but I really do love all three. I'm dealing with some sort of a ground loop and digital formats are still up in the air, but I'm happy otherwise.
As you probably know, he does offer home auditions on all but his special editions. Unfortunately I haven't yet listened to the Aria models, but do like the sound of some of his other designs too - and will be checking back to see what others have encountered with the Aria line.

Thanks for the thread,
Like PhilD, I got my SA-100s totally rebuilt (Premium Gold) with Silver Audio internal wiring and 15-amp IEC receptacle. They are very close to Aria by the information posted on Alta Vista Audio web site. The sound is very netural and not too tuby. It is very similar to Atma Shpere OTL sound but faster. The tube selection is critical, I have tried VT-231 (Sylvania, Ken-Rad and RCA), 5692 (RCA, Sylvania, Tung-Sol and Raytheon), 6SN7-GTY (Mullard and Brimar), 6SN7-GT, 6SN7-GTA, 6SN7-GTB, 6SN7-WGTA, 6SN7-WGT and 6SN7-W. The only thing I havn't tried is the ECC32/CV181 as fas as I know. You have to experiment to see which tube is the better fit for your personal taste. The only thing I am still trying is to enhence its bass authority. Not they don't provide enough bass, I just want to a little bit more.

The associated equipment is listed below for your reference:

Source - BAT VK-D5 (with Amperex 7308)
Line Stage - Counterpoint SA-11 (with Tung-SOl 6SN7-GTB)
Power Amplifier - Counterpoint NP-100 monoblocks (with RCA smoked envelope VT-231)
Speaker - Theil CS 3.6 / Silverline Auido Sonata MK I
Speaker Cable - Ensemble Megaflux / Silver Audio Symphony 48
Interconnect - Silver Audio Appassionatta
Power Condictioner - Chang LightSpeed 9600 MK II
MUSIC - Classical

As you can see, I havn't decided whcih speaker to use yet.

If you really enjoy Counterpoint SA-5000, you might consider to try the SA-11. Just a suggestion.

Happy Listening!

Hi Otto,

Thanks for the tip on the SA-11...I've heard they're amazing. I thought about that originally, but they're not easy to find and I thought all of the tubes would be kinda expensive (and a headache). I had Mike do all of his modifications on my SA-5000 line stage, phono stage, and power supply. I really liked the stock SA-5000, but the modified version is better in every way. It's not a cheap upgrade (though there are different levels), but I do feel that the performance increase justified the cost.

As far as the bass on my NP100 is concerned, it's never been an issue with me. I've been very impressed by the amount of deep, controlled bass in my system. It all comes down to personal preference, I guess. The amp works very well with my Merlins (but they're relatively efficient and they don't go below 35-40hz). I've never heard Thiels or Silverline...I have no idea what they're capable of or what they sound like. And man...you have really tried a number of tubes! I'll have to give RCAs a try someday. THe 40s Sylvania 6SN7GTs were the first I tried and I loved them right away. I haven't felt an urge to try anything other than Sylvania, but I'm sure I'll get around to it someday. :-) Enjoy...

Mike did a pre and power amp for me last summer,basic upgrades,not the premium ones.Mike has got to be one of the best in the business.That being said I have not heard the Aria's,but certainly they would be progressively better than the last design,yes?Good luck and let us know your findings,Bob