High End Amp Price Collapse musings


If Class D amplification becomes accepted by audiophiles there should be a glut of high end amps (Krell, Levinson, Pass etc) becoming available on the used market at prices a fraction of what they are now.

Think CRT TV when the flat panels began emerging.I think Ill hold off on a new/used amp purchase for a little while. Maybe I will bet a Boulder.

Has any one else considered this?

energeezer
I haven't heard any class D amps that can surpass the sound quality of a good class A amp yet.
I agree with okeeteekid completely.  I was interested in class D amps a while back, but after hearing a few (including Devialet), I still think class D technology has a long way to go before being able to compete with class A sound.
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You’ll be a waitin’ till the cows come home!
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Good point. We’ll see what happens when it happens.

One caveat though is Class D can be relatively inexpensive and high bang for the buck but there are still many Class D amps not any less than competition. Smaller and lighter maybe, but not even that always the case. Depends on who’s making it and what their marketing and design goals are.

Definitely new competition for traditional monster and/or tube amps though. I tried Class D before going that or tube amp way and glad I did.

I once thought that high power PA and studio amps by Crown for example would be an obvious way to get the big power I thought I wanted. That was 15 years ago, since then class D came along with much fanfare but left me wanting and even the vaunted B & O ICE module amps don't sound like the amps I have come to like most, which are moderate/medium power  tube amps running mostly in class A.

Believe me when I came back to audio I thought I was going to be a Krell guy all the way and still think I will want to get some Pass Class A biased amps someday. However, I'll keep my tube amps anyway even while having my dalliances with SS. 

I agree that class D is not there yet. There was a time when flat panel and digital projection could not hold a candle to CRT particularily in black level. Discerning home theatre enthusiasts would still put up with huge, heavy, inefficient CRT displays to get that black level. Once digital got close the value of CRT plummeted. At that time one could pick up high end CRT displays and projectors for dirt cheap. Arguably these displays still out performed all but the very best digital systems and it was heaven for those on a tight budget.
I agree this is a way off for amplification but I do believe the time is coming.
There are a number of Class D amps that sound really good at their modest price points, such as the offerings by Bel Canto.  But, so far, the really high end and expensive models have not impressed me.  I have no idea why the Devialet amps get such good reviews for sound quality; they sound lifeless and I find myself losing interest quickly when listening to music through those amps (they look fantastic and are incredibly compact and versatile so I can understand their non-sonic appeal). 
The time may be coming, maybe not. Class D is not really new, it's been around for about 15 years now. I seem to think that Class D was more popular 10 years ago than it is today.

You keep trying to compare Class A to CRT TV's, how about you compare it to vinyl?
35(?) years after the release of digital, and vinyl is still very much alive.

Trying to guess what audio products will gain favor and which will lose favor in the next 10-25 years would seem to be an exercise in futility.
Mental gymnastics, nothing more.
I compare the two because I am very familiar wit CRT and its slow demise. I see the amp situation to be somewhat similiar.
I agree vinyl is very alive and I agree Class D is not ready for high end prime time. I dont believe high end class A ala Krell, Pass etc will ever disappear. I just see the possibility of breakthroughs in Class D as a great thing for budget USED high end if Class D ever becomes the standard. To say it will never happen or that it absolutely will happen is folly.
The title is High End Amp Price Collapse musings and you are correct. Musing could be substituted for Mental Gymnastics.
This is nothing serious....just fun.
Life is short, how long are you willing to wait and maybe miss out on what you want to enjoy?
Although I did say I was waiting I know I can't. Ill lose my mind.My Aragon 8008 (admittedly not true high end) has been at the shop for 6 weeks now and I’m suffering withdrawl.
If it isn’t ready soon or can’t be economically repaired I will buy something similar. Nope..Not class D. Maybe by the time my next upgrade is due Class D will be the standard and I'll be able to afford that Pass Labs 250x I drool so heavily over.

Did you wakeup yet from ur dream.
Unless you have personally heard the newest Nuforce/Nuprime amps, such as Reference 20 mono amps which come at Class D in a different, proprietary way not using the modules that others use, you have not heard what Class D type amps can currently offer.

"I agree vinyl is very alive"

Seriously? How many people outside of (some of) the folks who post here do you think are spinning a turntable? Look around and see how the next generation of young folks are consuming their music. Buying CDs, vinyl - don't think so. Audiophile will keep doing what they're doing now and everybody else will go for cheaper, lighter - read more portable, and more energy efficient- read class D, stuff. I'm not holding my breathe to grab a Pass XA60.8 at fire sale prices anytime soon. I just wish.

It's all about what you are familiar with. If you never heard a good class A amp, or heard a not so good class A amp, a class D can be impressive. I had a Pioneer Elite receiver about 12 years ago and it sounded great. However, I purchased an older B&K st140 and there seems to be a deep soundstage where instruments are at various places. Whereas the Pioneer sounded as if every instrument was lined up front and center ( if that makes sense). Now I have not heard a recent class d amp
There will always be high-priced amps.  Even if Class D eventually takes over, there will be high-priced Class D amps.  
The Aragon is a very impressive amp at its price point.  Loved it with Quad 988's

"Has any one else considered this?"

I see no reason to expect a price crash due to class d amps. Solid state amps are "superior" to tube amps and you don't see a run on those things. Even vintage tube amps sell for high prices.

A lot of the high end companies have been selling class d amps for years now. Rowland only makes class d amps now for 10+ years. ARC, PS Audio, Theta, Cary, Rotel, NAD, Wadia, and countless others, all make class d amps.

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@mgreen27
"superior" ?
This is a nice read about tubes!
http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/could-an-old-school-tube-amp-make-the-music-you-love-sound-...
There are some great turbocharged four-cylinder engines, but they haven’t replaced V-8s or even V-12s. "There no replacement for displacement" is the adage in the auto industry. Perhaps the same is true with hi-fi.
"....okeeteekid
I haven't heard any class D amps that can surpass the sound quality of a good class A amp yet...."

+1...  I would also add in the inclusion of top Class A-B or Class B amps.

to the OP ----- not gonna happen anytime in the forseeable future ....
kalali: "Seriously? How many people outside of (some of) the folks who post here do you think are spinning a turntable? Look around and see how the next generation of young folks are consuming their music."

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/why-apple-and-beats-should-sell-turntables

With all these great new solid state amplifiers, those old crusty tube amps should be going for a dime a dozen any day now....
The only price collapse I've seen is the Levinson 53 in the used market. Switched output stage technology has long way to go.

All, Over the last 30 years, I have owned a variety of high end amps, running in low bias class A/B (Aragon 4004), high bias class A/B (Rowland M7, M625, M725), and class D (Rowland M312, M925).


My current amps are the $58K Rowland M925 monos which amongst their many technologies use the Hypex NCore NC1200 modules in their power conversion components. I adopted these 4-chassis monos because of what they "do for living" in absolute terms. In other words, they totally enchanted me. ANd excepted for 160 Lbs per side being more than what I would have liked, their ability to make music the way I like exceeded nearly every statement-level SS, or tube amp I heard at RMAF, running in class A, A/B, D, or tubed triod... for example De Agostino, VTL, ARC, Krell, Levinson. Why "nearly"? Because I enjoyed the music from Solution amps as much as from my monos.


Class D amps today range from relatively entry level amps priced below $1K, to reference-level devices costing $60K or more. You will find in the mix amps that may wow you, amps that seem to be very competent at their price range, and amps that make you run away from the listening room wondering if the designer should get their hearing examined... Or perhaps are terminally tone death *Grins!* ... In other words, class D amps are Just like any other classes of amplifiers, having amongst their midst the Great, the good, the fair, and the horrid.


One fair comment to make about class D amp is that their break-in process may be a little more frustrating than with other classes.... Often they sound very dry, limited and uninvolving right off the factory floor, and the break in may extend a little beyond the 1K hours mark.... And what is more annoying is that the break-in is filled with temporarily discouraging performance dips.... Thankfully these gradually taper off past the midpoint. In other words... Breaking in a class D amp is not for those seeking instant gratification... Patience of such audiofool best remain steadfastedly Golden.


Note that there are on the market many entry level class D amp that are worth listening to and are likely to make you fall in love.... Magnificent performers beyond their pricepoint. I am thinking of the D-Sonic M3 series based on Pascal M-Pro2 and X-pro2 modules... Visit D-sonic.net for info and pricing. Or the Merrill Teranis, just to name a couple. 


Concerning Rowland:  his designs are class-neutral. While most of his current amps are class D designs, the M625 S2 stereo and the M725 S2 monos run in high bias clas A/b.


Finally.... As for the original conjecture of the OP.... A crash of pricing for non class D boxes is unlikely.... Ideological biases apart, there are as many sonic/musical preferences as there are audiophiles.... There is room for every audio-taste imaginable in audiophilia nervosa.

 

Saluti, Guido



 pr


      


   

It’s good to hear that $58K amps sound incredible, but at that price, they better. I don’t think that such a price range is really the heart and soul of the market place.

People have been starting threads like this, predicting the demise of solid state amps for at least a decade. I see no reason to change my view that class D will have its niche of the market, but no more. As others have mentioned, let’s wait for the demise of tubes and vinyl first.
Never thought I'd say this but the Big Amps may go the way of the Do Do sooner than later!  Just got my new Totem Forest Signatures and am also having my Krell amp upgraded so I decided to get some hours on them using my BlueSound Powernode 2 (60w/ch digital amp) fed by my Vault 2 wirelessly!  Man O Man...simply beautiful sound and effortlessly checks off all the high end boxes.  Can't stop listening..so damn pure and right sounding.  No interconnects, dinky stock power cords and a 3.8lb digital integrated amp!  FYI, I've owned almost all the big dog gear mentioned and far more.  Can't deny the change is coming and for me it indicates some exciting things are in store for the next generation of audiophiles.  
I tried some very good Class D amps and they couldn't approach my Pass amps. It's a moot subject.

"It’s good to hear that $58K amps sound incredible, but at that price, they better. I don’t think that such a price range is really the heart and soul of
the market place."


You are right the "heart and soul" of the marketplace is not at the $60K range.... Nor is it at the $40K, 20K 10K, 5K, 1K, or $500.00. There exists no heart and sould of the marketplace per se.... There is however what is important for any particular audiophile, bearing in mind that his/your/her/mine is only a particular point of view, which has the same value or phylosophicl relevance as anyone else's.


All I am trying to assert is that any price range, there exist some class A, or AB, or D, or triod amps that someone will find preferable to every other amp.... And it is quite likely that what one audiophile finds nirvanic, may be found atrocious by someone else.


THe only thing to remember is that there is an incredibily large world out there, and the expeirience of any one individual is inherently limited.


There are so many Class D amps that are definitely worth exploring at prices less than $15K.... I will mention here only a few that either have an extraordinary musical reputation, or that I have tried myself.... But there are many more than this list:


D-Sonic M3/600 and M3/1500 -- Based on Pascal M-Pro2 and X-Pro2. The underlying pascal modules are capable of doing wonderful things.... Even the M3/1500 at 1500W per channel costs less than $300/pair.


Merrill Teranis stereo --  Based on NCore NC500 $2500. Amazing price/performer.... I have had it in my system for a few months.... It makes music at a level that I would be comfortable paying about $6K.


Bel Canto REF600. Already discussed. Based on NCore NC500 in mono configuration with the NC1200 power supply. If I remember correctly, this one might be about $5000 for the pair. Sorry I have not heard it yet, but I suspect REF600 to be a very good performer


Theta Prometheus Monos. $9K / pair (unless price has changed). Monos based on NCore NC1200, but sporting a custom toroidal power supply..... The combination is bound to be unique.... Sorry I have not heard it.

.


Rowland M125 bridgeable. This one is about $3K. Based on a newer implementation of ICEpower. Reports tell of this amp  being incredi bily musical and sweet... Sorry, I have not heard it yet,  but know it by reputation.


Merrill Veritas monos -- Based on NCore NC1200. $12000 list. Incredible musical machines.... You will find my review on Positive Feedback.... I would expect an amp doing what this one does to cost about $20K.


Rowland Continuum S2 integrated. Based on Pascal M-Pro2, $9500. Heard it several times at RMAF.... Integrates also the Capri S2 linestage.... THis one is magic..... Had I not the big M925, I would be as happy as punch with CS2.

Will the above appeal to everyone? No chance.... Lots of audiophile have sonic preferences that are outside of what these amps do. Will they appeal to many.... Yes, provided the listener does not suffer from "Princess and the Class-D Pea" syndrome *Grins!*


Example... When ROwland M125 was first shown at Munich Show, a well known European media insider was mesmerized by the sound he was hearing.....

Thence came the fatidic question: "Does this marvel run in class A/B?".

The answer was in the form "No, it runs in class D."   

To this revelation the insider replied: "Ah, we do not like class D!", and left in a hurry.


G.

  

        

And all I'm saying is that I've owned $20k amps that couldn't do what my $799 Powernode 2 does so effortlessly!  Something fundamentally right is going on and it can no longer be ignored...at least not by me.  Short of being in front of a live orchestra I have never heard reproduced music deliver the subtlety, low level detail and both micro and macro dynamics at low to medium levels like what I'm hearing now.  I've owned the reference combos from Levinson, Krell, ARC, Macintosh, BAT ETC...!  Knowing what is possible now for a budding audiophile to achieve for under $10k (complete system) it makes me sick at the amount of money myself and others have poured out to the big audio companies in hopes of achieving the excitement of realistic music playback at home.  I feel a bit violated actually;(
Yes indeed the times they are a changing and heavy amps will indeed be a thing of the past very soon. Class D and digital amps have indeed arrived and are spectacular. Very exciting times. They will only get better and that is exciting. 
The analogy is interesting because from the start hi definition flat panels were better than CRT scrrens, I don't think the same is true and maybe never will be with regard to class a and ab amps v. Class d amps
I'm not sure why anyone thinks engineers will be able to tweak class D to sound as good as class A. I look forward to your reasoning behind this notion.
Sure grannyring; just like full range loudspeakers will
be getting much lighter---not.
Most Audiophiles who know the difference between class A and D , etc, will pay a premium for their preference. The used prices will stay steady, imo, until the people who demand such dies off. If enough new audiophiles who care keep "sprouting up" through the years, expect steady pricing.

The general buyer who buys a Pioneer Elite receiver and streams "lossy" music from their phone to various rooms in their house will care less about amp class.

The thing about many of those big, heavy older Class A amps is that they were made so good. Think about it. Many people still have 1960’s and 70's McIntoshes at the heart of their system. That really says a lot.



We are in the digital age and innovation has already given us phones, computers, iPads, etc... that are smaller, more lightweight, and much more powerful in their usefulness. This is also happening in audio and is inevitable. It will take time, but the early adopters are now giving way to early majority. It is happening right now before our eyes! The life cycle has already started. There will always be laggards that will not give up what they know and love, but make no mistake the cycle is well underway.

As has already been pointed out, most manufactures are now making Class D and digital amps. These were not available from most of these manufacturers just 10 years ago. The cat is out of the bag and much effort, R&D, and general resource funds are being poured into improving the technology. This is not a fad, rather it is disruptive in nature and will reach wide scale usage in the future. Yes it will take time, but in the big picture 10-15 years is not very long.
@grannyring , Bill, how is this digital amp revolution different from the digital source revolution of the 80's? 
I mean it's not like CDP's killed vinyl. Maybe they did for a while, but there has been a resurgence in vinyl in the last 15-20 years.

While I'm sure that Class D technology will improve over the next decade or so, I don't see it affecting the market for Class A SS amps and tube amps that much. Certainly not enough to where folks are dumping their $20K amps for pennies on the dollar.
Good question John. It has hurt and will continue to hurt vinyl. The latest hipster fad for turntables is a fad and will fade away. Steaming, Tidal, Roon, one box digital solutions etc... are absolutely eating away from vinyl, cds and the like. No doubt about it.

I am not saying folks are dumping their amps, though many of us have, but I am saying they will be replaced with these new generation of amps over the next 10-15 years. Except for the laggers as it is with all real innovation and change.

I am a tube amp lover and will always have one. I love building and modifying tube gear, but it is a hobby and interest of mine. In terms of sound my digital amp/pre/dac/room correction unit simply sounds better than my pride and joy tube amp build. I have more emotional investment in it, but I know it does not sound as good in terms of fidelity. 
"761 posts02-02-2017 8:39pmThe analogy is interesting because from the start hi definition flat panels were better than CRT scrrens, I don’t think the same is true and maybe never will be with regard to class a and ab amps v. Class d amp"

This is absolutely not true. The first generation of LCD flatscreens had horrible black levels and were 60hz ref rate making them poor on motion.
They were sharper and brighter but the contrast ratio was the fly in the ointment. I will concede that some of the early plasmas were close but still not better than mature CRT.


Some of you miss the point. The point is simple. As Class D advances it will eat into the high end class A market.  We have seen this already happening to a small degree. Some people on this thread indicate they already switched.
Once Class D is close enough in quality even some of the deep pocket Krell, Pass etc guys will switch.
Once that happens they will sell thier existing gear which will gradually bring the value of that existing gear down giving not so deep pockets the chance to own true high end as it exists today.
Question I guess would be why would the " not so deep pockets"  buy used "true high end as it exits today" if , as you presume, Class D of the future matches it? 
Ok, energeeser; let's consider it.
If the new technology does make the finest current amplifiers redundant.... 
The joy of those who enjoy these fine amplifiers today will not diminish in the future.
So why would prices plummet?
 Electrical current technology used in these presently modern amplifiers is akin to contemporary airplane construction. A body and 2 wings. Certainly there will be improvement in some details;but there is good knowledge of aerodynamics from the study of fish and birds.
Today's great conventional amplifier builders, like Spectral Audio for example, are and have been 
for some time creating amplifiers that are like sharks; very nicely evolved using refinements of well known scientific (or I should say 'nature's) principles based on "the basics"-- electricity,magnetism and heat--and their effects on "jiggling atoms" (per Dick Fynman;-thanks Dick). These fundamental properties are not changing;so, like your 1995 Roll Royce will get you from A to B very nicely,particularly compared to our modern lightweight mass market autos,
your high quality amplifier from 1995 will continue to provide very enjoyable musical pleasure.
And don't forget there will always be an endless number of people who can't quite afford today's finest; but will be delighted to obtain them used. 
This was stated rather elegantly by my dear Grandmother who always advised me to buy the best true quality I could afford. Her old adage was simple. "Buy cheap, buy dear." as you'll soon be replacing the cheap - at a higher cost..Twas ever thus.......
My experience, though undoubtedly different for any number of reasons, nevertheless varies from Grannyring's. A couple of years back, I sold my tube-based system--tube amp, tube preamp, tube dac--and bought a Devialet D200. In the beginning, I thought the Devialet sounded "excellent" and I especially loved the convenience and simplicity of it. Over time, I found that I was listening to my system less and less, finally realizing that I was just not connecting emotionally to the music the way I had with previous systems--not just with the tube amp, but with SS amps including Plinius SA-102 and the TRL Samson monoblocks. I finally sold the Devialet and bought a Line Magnetic integrated, an Allnic H1201 phono stage, and a Lampizator Atlantic, once again reintroducing tubes into my system. Now the magic is back. For me, at least, there just is no substitute for the life and presence that tubes bring. I guess it feels like the difference between a great representation of the music and the music itself. The Devialet didn't do anything "wrong"--I was always impressed, but could never connect with it on a deeper level. YMMV, of course. Just my experience and my two cents.

energeezer OP14 posts02-03-2017 1:59pmSome of you miss the point. The point is simple.


I believe this was your point:
energeezer OP14 posts02-01-2017 7:38pmAlthough I did say I was waiting I know I can't. Ill lose my mind.My Aragon 8008 (admittedly not true high end) has been at the shop for 6 weeks now and I’m suffering withdrawl.
If it isn’t ready soon or can’t be economically repaired I will buy something similar. Nope..Not class D. Maybe by the time my next upgrade is due Class D will be the standard and I'll be able to afford that Pass Labs 250x I drool so heavily over.



So it seems that you have ZERO interest in this Class D amplifier technology. You simply want everyone else to buy into the Class D amplifier technology, and just "give" you their nasty old Class A A/B amplifiers.
Nice thread synopsis!

Perhaps we can convince folks to dump their silly, heavy, full range analog loudspeakers next. Obviously digital speakers are the wave of the future.
Maybe we can buy a pair of Magico S7's for a couple hundred bucks!! 

Believe in something hard enough, and maybe you can make it happen!!  ;^)

BTW, my Pass Labs XA-100.5's do sound terrific!!!
I did not like the Devialet that much and sold after 1 month of ownership. It was ok, but nothing special. I would not use it as an example of the best this technology has to offer. My Lyngdorf 2170 is much better and only $4000 or so. It comes with amp, pre, dac, room correction all in one package. Amazing piece. Everything is handled digitally and the room correction is the real game changer. Sold my TRL Dude and monoblock tube amps and enjoy the Lyngdorf even more! 

Lots of great gear out there for sure, not just Class D or digital amps. Sure this is all still very subjective. 

So it seems that you have ZERO interest in this Class D amplifier technology. You simply want everyone else to buy into the Class D amplifier technology, and just "give" you their nasty old Class A A/B amplifiers. 
Nice thread synopsis!

Perhaps we can convince folks to dump their silly, heavy, full range analog loudspeakers next. Obviously digital speakers are the wave of the future. 
Maybe we can buy a pair of Magico S7's for a couple hundred bucks!!  

Believe in something hard enough, and maybe you can make it happen!! ;^)

BTW, my Pass Labs XA-100.5's do sound
terrfic
I actually am intetested in the class D technology. Give it a bit more time. Bottom line is that the equipment that sounds amazing today will still sound amazing into the future. Thats great for everyone.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish I could get high end equipment cheap lol. Having said that; if prices drop on any used audio the value of all my equipment drops as well:)
Your pass labs is certainly a piece I would be proud to have although at this time I cant afford it. 
Something tells me I won't really be convincing the masses to dump thier silly equipment. That wasn't the intention. It really was a simple musing/speculation. Having said that I do see your interpretation. Over....
The economics mentioned in the first post assumes a rational market where demand is created by first order information. Consumers would buy the best product and shift demand based on somewhat perfect information. Hifi is more akin to religion. The opinion makers, which are in the most part the magazines, drive the demand. Once something is a few years old and no longer on this or that list, the demand and prices drop.

The situation is akin to Keynesian beauty contest analogy.

"It is not a case of choosing those [faces] that, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those that average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be. And there are some, I believe, who practice the fourth, fifth and higher degrees." (Keynes, General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, 1936).

It’s immaterial whether Class D or Class A amps are better. By the way, I love my Pass Labs XA100.8. ;)