Help me find a smooth solid-state amp?

I'm currently in the market for a *smooth* solid state amp (~100-150wpc into 8ohms) to mellow out an exceedingly bright system. I currently have an Adcom GFA-5400 with Adcom preamp and Soliloquy 5.0 monitors. Front end is a Pioneer DVD/CD player. Any suggestions as to what brands I should check out? Names off the top of my head include: Aragon, Classe, Bryston, and McCormack. I'm not too sure of the actual models I should try out. I'm also not averse to buying used items. Thanks. dd
Hi Djjp; of the amps you mentioned, either a Classe 100 or 150, or DNA.5 are neutral to mellow SS amps, but if your system really is exceedingly bright, I doubt that your Adcom 5400 is the whole problem. Did your system get brighter when you added the Pioneer DVD/CD player? Of course proper speaker placement is essential, and room acoustics certainly can cause an overly bright condition. My advice is to consider the basics (including ICs and spkr cables) before changing amps. Unless you really want to upgrade your amp. Happy Hunting. Craig.
Try a pair of Herron M150's. Very smooth and a match to the Herron tube front end equipment.
Of the brands you mentioned, I would be interested in the McCormack. In my audition experience Classe and Bryston have bright sound. Aragon 8008BB is a good amp, but also slightly bright in the upper midrange. The McCormack DNA 1 or .5 were slightly warm. If you are willing to spend a little more, I would suggest a Pass Aleph 2 (monoblock) or Aleph 4. These are 100 watts of single ended Class A power and best any of the other brands mentioned by a wide margin, IMHO. They are a little laid back in the upper mids, smooth, but very extended at both frequency extremes. There aren't many better solid state amps than this. Read the reviews of the Aleph 4 and Aleph 2 at Used prices should be in the low $3000's and their are always plenty for sale (particularly Aleph 2's).
Do yourself a favor and audition the Belles 150A Hotrod. It's very musical and not at all bright. If you have access to Decembers Stereophile read what Sam Tellig had to say, it's a very accurate review.
i'll second lphunter2's choice. and ,if you can find one, get a hold of a warner imaging-powerful,deep bass, accurate yet sweet highs.
The BEL (Brown Electronic Labs) 1001 MkV is the smoothest most tube-like SS amp on the planet. Check out TAS Golden Ear Awards 2000 issue 127.
Nice speakers, IMO. I auditioned them twice and almost purchased them. I listened to them with ARC tube gear and a Classe integrated. They sounded better with tubes, but still great with the Classe. They also require, beleive it or not, around 500 hours of break in and if yours do not have this many hours on them, I would wait before auditioning other gear. I am not familiar with your amp. Older Adcoms were a little raspy in the HF's but that was a long time ago. You may want to try auditioning/demoing a DAC for your DVD player and see if it is the source that is bothering you. And, as Craig mentioned take a look at the cables in your system starting with the source. I picked up Harmonic Truthlink IC's used at this site for $125.00 to tame the HF's on my Castle speakers and they did the job. If you have not used isolation devices on your player you will want to do that first as well. They do not need to be expensive, Vibrapods work very well in smoothing out HF's when used on the source and also the preamp in your case. Speaker placement and room treatment (what is allowable) will tame highs. If you did not need as much power I think that the Conrad Johnson tube integrated would be a nice match for the 5.0's. That is what I was thinking anyway when I listened to them, though I never heard the two together. I would start with the basics and go from there. Good luck.
i usually own a classe ca 400 amp in my system but it nothing compare to the new trinity amp from llano design. check them out, they just release the new v-plex design which is solid state. my trinity amp use two tubes which is call hybrid design. very smooth sounding amp with very tight and deep bass. prices from 1999 to 6999 and have a 30 day money back.
Pass amps are very smooth sounding solid state amps. The Aleph 3 in particular is a real deal compared to what you can get in its price range. It would be plenty of power with your Soliloquys. I have owned the Aleph 3 and the Aleph 2 monos, and the 2s are not that much more powerful. Also as someone else mentioned your speakers require significant break-in. I have read many comments stating that they were extremely bright until the got a couple hundred hours on them.
above responses to check out sam tellig's article in the dec s'phile are good - he also liked the mccormack & the musical fidelity amp, but from what he said, i don't think the m/f would be a good match for you. prolly would be better off getting a tubed pre-amp - imho, it seems the only way to enjoy cd's.

but, if yer intent on getting another amp, here's a shameless plug: check out my ad on this site for my electrocompaniet aw100 - 100wpc, 190 into 4 ohms, 80 amps current output... ;~)


I would suggest you use a tube Pre if you must use a SS amp.The Classe are nice as is Bryston.Though i find the brystons can be bright.The tube pre can take some of the brightness away.
As Garfish also noted, I have found that most DVD players tend to sound brighter than a good CD player. It might be cheaper to invest in a seperate CD player instead of buying another amp. Keep in mind that MOST solid state preamps also tend to err on the bright side too. As to the specific amps that you mentioned, i would go for the McCormack as being the warmest sounding. The smaller Classe' amps sound bright (not grainy though) and slightly lean, the Aragon's have a reputation for a slightly "hot" high end with very solid bass and the older Bryston 4B that i had was nothing special at all. The newer Bryston's might be better or worse, i don't know. I would agree that the Pass amps are very "sweet" sounding but may not be "warm" enough for what you want. My suggestion is to evaluate each component on its own and see if they fit into the plans that you have for your system down the road. You may find out that changing one component simply "re-arranges" your problem. Sean >
Get a Adcom 5802 Amp and have Stan Warren modify it. Stan Warren used to be the S in P.S Audio. This guy is an amazing modifier. He modified my 5802 for 300 dollars. He took out the so so parts and put in top quality parts. After this mod, i have to tell you, this Amp sounds so great. The Amp as it is, is a great Amp. But after the Stan Warren mod, this Amp goes to a new level. You can talk to Stan. His number is 541 344 3696
by Lphunter2 is so right, the Belles 150A Hotrod Amp is another great Amp. That would be a good choice
Djjp, I had to ask you, do you find the Adcom 5400 bright sounding. How do you like that Adcom Amp. I have the 5802 Adcom amp.
I suggest you go first with basics mentioned above to see if you ae getting the best from your equipment. Dekay's suggestion about tweaking your player with vibrapods, etc is an inexpensive alternative that could provide you with a much better high's presentation. If speakers are new allow them to break in properly before jumping in the equipment changing carrousel
Consider adding a used Bel Canto DAC1 ($750?) and make your DVD player a transport. (Or another quality dac.) I was never able to get past the digital "edge" until I got to this level of reproduction, (I have a Pioneer DV 525 toslinked to the DAC1.) Easy to resell DAC1 here if you don't agree. Charlie
You should consider a Sim Audio Moon W-3. This is about as smooth as it gets. I also concur on the Bel Canto DAC-1
Borrow another CD player to make sure where your problem is. Carefully take care of all the basics in your room (THE most significant component of your systems sound). Then LISTEN to other things. Bright and smooth are very subjective terms. Audition a Classe Amp. I run Classe with Maggies and they are a good match. Plenty of punch and "smooth" on top....but with a nice upper mid and treble sparkle.
Consider a tube pre like a CJ PV10, a great match for a bright amp if your Adcom is bright, I used to have a 555II and switched to a Classe 200, much smoother midrange and highs with plenty of punch. A much more refined sound. I still match it with a CJ pre 17. Before you make an amp change demo a couple of different front ends and interconnects like MIT or Cardas. Also try some damping material on your front wall between the speakers, could be anything like foam, a rug or wool blanket. Good luck.
The culprit in my experience is the adcom preamp. the amp is actually not that bright, but the preamp is. I had a gfa 5400 and a gfp-555 II (preamp) and with revealing speakers (in my case, castles) the sound was horribly bright, but with a passive preamp the sound was pretty good. BEFORE you switch amps, switch preamps. The c-j is a great suggestion. Or even a creek passive (much cheaper)
Check out the Meitner MTR-101 MkII monoblocks. These can be had used within (or less than) the price ranges of many of the better recommendations here. These will drive almost any speaker, have deep bass and are smooooooooth. I like higher powered tube amps with my current speakers but also really love these amps. I heard them most recently with Hales Trans 8's, which they drove beautifully. They don't take up too much space and are visually stunning in dark wood cabinets. If I had money to burn for an extra set of amps I would pick a pair and hang on to them. One of the least known best buys in high end sound.
P.S. Concur with the suggestions of also adding a tube pre-amp. Tube pre's and solid state power amps are generally a good combination -- took me to the next level when I added one to my "old" DNA1 Deluxe. You can also play with the tubes to signifcantly affect sound. Lots of very good values of the used market for tube pre's, including phono stage.
Djjp: Sorry I typed 500 and meant 300 hours above. Still quite a long time, though my little Castles took around 200 or so being played at lower levels.
Check out the Odyssey Stratos ($995) 150W/Ch. This is a very musical sounding amplifier...very smooth and detailed. It's a tough amp to beat at even 2-3 times the price. Log onto or give Klaus a call at (317)299-5578.
B&K ST-140, or the model which replaced it, the ST-1400. Smooth & economical choice.
I would highly reccomend the McCormack DNA-1 power amp coupled withe the ALD-1 pre amp for a very warm sound. However, have them upgraded by Steve McCormack for a dramatic improvement.
I have to check in on the side of those who look to the CD/DVD player and the preamp. The tube preamp suggestion might be a nice start. As would a DAC capable of smoothing things out. The Soliloquy speakers and Adcom power amplifier should not be causing the harshness in the system. This speaker uses a silk dome tweeter(Vifa?) that is difficult to produce harshness with. The Adcom amp is a classic example of a mosfet amp which wants to sound like a tube amp(tube sound for those who do want the bothers of tubes). Overly warm, ripe, murky, and veiled.
Electrocompaniet or Conrad Johnson......
Why does everyone ignore the Densen product line? These pieces are as smooth or smoother than the products listed and are a far better value. Check out and contact Audio Outlet in Mt. Kisco, NY for prices.
Second the nod for the Forte 4 on the cheap side of the equation. Better yet get two. Also the Monarchy SE-100 deluxe is smoooth too, especially on vocals.
The question you pose isn't as easy to solve as just buying a new amp. The other guys have already addressed several issues. Part of your difficulty is the fact that you have a pair of monitors that don't go very deep, and this relative lack of deep bass tends to make the upper-mids and highs stand out. Adding a subwoofer may make things seem smoother, but infact will simply be balancing the overall frequency response of the system. I have owned several Adcom amps, currently have a Bryston 4B-ST, and have extensively auditioned a number of other high quality solid-state amps. The Bryston is not, infact, bright. It is exceptionally revealing and neutral, and will point out deficiencies or problems in other areas of the system. There are several things I suggest you try: audition a tube amp in your system; trying some acoustic room treatment to see if that takes the edge off the brightness; add a subwoofer to get a wider freqency response in your system; get a pre-amp that has controls that will let you do some tonal adjustments. If all else fails, you might try a good 30-band parametric equalizer in your system.
Aloia Amps with the inductive power supply. Smooth and powerful. THe best I have heard
Lots of responses here. It looks like it's a story of been there, done that. Start with the source. Pioneer? I guess they've made bright sounding stuff since the '60's. Try another source. Try different interconnects/speaker wires. Do you really want to design your system around the Pioneer DVD player and the Soliloquy speakers, and throw out the amp/preamp? If so, bid on the CJ integrated tube amp. Consider calling Musical Concepts, they've been modifying Adcom gear since Dynaco went out of business. Good luck!
If that front end is a Pioneer DV525 - then the DAC in it is bright and mechanical/electronic sounding. Warming it up will not fix the fact that the front end has sucked natural harmonic balance out of the music. A decent DAC or another CD player is where you are best to start - and then look at the preamp.
I am personally very happy with the BAT VK200 SS amp. The VK200 doesn't get a lot of attention because it lives 'in the shadow' of the tube gear in the BAT line (I also have a VK3i preamp). Nevertheless, it is a solid performer that to my ears delivers liquid smooth midrange, while maintaining rock solid bass control. At 100 wpc, this fully balanced design won't power a small city, but manages my Magneplanar 1.6QRs with authority. I think this is an amp I will live with for a looong time. I also listened to the Classe CA 101 for a while in another system I had and was pleased with it as well.