What I have learned over the years is that in AUDIO there are NO GIANT KILLERS
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i've heard the cronus(integrated) a/b'd with some big names and found it to be close. its sweetness reminds me of the classic marantz 8b, which is the biggest compliment i could pay it. there are many expensive tube amps out there that are just a bit better...but in this hobby of diminishing returns for what you get soundwise, i suspect the zeus, like the cronus does comes as close as any giant killer.
I would think it would be hard to compare the zeus and cat with the atmasphere amps as it would be transformers vs OTL;which are 2 completely different species of amps with completely different designs.
If you were driving a 16 ohm speaker my money is on ralphs design (atmasphere) and I think it would win hands down over the other 2.
If the speakers impedance curve dips below 4 ohms I would think it would be a very close match with the CAT probally winning; thats my opinion though.
You should compare for yourself and see what happens;probally would be a good learning experience.
Jeff_jones, I agree with your general point that price does not equal quality, and there are many instances of that. In the case of CAT and Atma-sphere I would say that rule does not apply, they are expensive and they deliver SOTA amp performance -- which does not mean the Rogue isn't in their league, but I have not heard it.
Pubu157 - Too bad none of us has heard all 3 so we can help with the original question. In any case, no debate with your comments. To the original poster I only intended too share my experience. What I have found is that buying an amplifier is a bit analogous to buying a pool cue. At a pretty reasonable price point a good manufacturer can do everything that can be done for the sake of performance, the important thing in choosing for performance is to find the feel that suits your personal preference. Beyond a pretty reasonable price point (and you can go wayyy beyond if you wish) the purchase is about pride of ownership and exclusivity, just need to make sure that the feel of the cue remains top priority.
I heard the Zeus driving big Maggies using a digital source I thought the sound to be very good.A few months later i heard the same speakers driven by more expensive Pass Amps using an analog front end.I thought the sound with the Pass to be better.
I dont remember the preamps used.
My amps are self heated SET's and couldn't drive the Maggies better then Pass or Rouge amps but when placed with the correct speakers I would say my 845's are better then either.
What Pubul57 asks about the rest of your system is more important then finding a giant killer.
I have had solid state my whole life and want to try something new or different. I have had or borrowed numerous tube amps before but only for a short period of time. I am moving to a new home and I will be putting up my claytons and the hovland up for sale soon here on audiogon. These are exceptional pieces and I may end up buying them again but I definately want to go the tube route.