Innersound ESL amplifier - good choice?


I am considering the Innersound ESL amp for my maggie 1.6QR's.
Does anyone have experience with this amp?
Is it really as good as TAS says?
I do not see many people commenting on them and I normally like tube amps but want to keep my speakers. My Rogue Magnum 120's do not have enough power and dynamic range for these speakers. I have the Magnum 99 pre as well.
Any comments or suggestions would be appreciated.
Thank you everyone who has help me on Audigon in the past.
philjolet
I have used the Rogue 99 preamp in combination with the InnerSound ESL amp and it worked really well on the InnerSound Eros. The ESL amp will have a lot of power to spare in driving the 1.6s, even playing them as loud as they can play without self destructing. I think you should go for it. It's a great combo. :)
There are 30 threads on Innersound amps indexed in Audiogon Forums search engine.
Thanks Plato,
Do you think it has a specific sound? How was it a great combo? It sounds like you do not have that system anymore did you replace the 99?
I think I will probably try it out but am still looking for more input.

thanks again
Phil
Hello Philojet,
I'm using the Innersound esl amp with my Magnepan 1.6's. It just so happens that the Rogue 99 is in my system as well. I compared a Odyssey Stratos amp to the Innersound and found that the Innersound is more revealing, dynamic, airy with voice and space, and overall a "effortless" quality to the sound compared to the Odyssey. My new Rogue 99 arrived last week and I was more impressed of the sound compared to my Rogue 66. My new 99 hasn't been fully broken in yet and came with stock Chinese tubes which seemed bright and lacked the "warm" sound I hoped for (probably due to the Chinese tube compliment). Today I sent my Rogue 99 in for the Magnum upgrade, which includes the nos Russian 6n7's and hope that the nos tubes(along with the Magnum upgrade) will warm the sound a bit more. The first thing I noticed when using the 66 and 99 was total control of the maggies and more "information" from the source which was not as revealing with the Odyssey Stratos amp. Don't get me wrong, the Odyssey Stratos amp is good, but it just doesn't have the control and revealing qualities like the Innersound esl amp. I'm sure it is because of its power, and high voltage of its design. I'll keep you updated as soon as I have more of a refined listening session with the Innersound esl, Rogue 99 Magnum, and Magnepan 1.6's !
Hello, I have owned the Innersound amps.They do a great number of things right-especially with a digital source.There is a better presentation with a class A biased amp IMO. Had you considered a Plinius SA-100/102 and possibly monoblocking when the cash is available.I believe the top-end detail and musical qualities of the class a design out-weigh the sheer power approach.Happy hunting! Tom
Bradz

Cool, we almost have the same system. I am glad you are happy and look forward to more correspondence with you.
You will be happy with the 99 Magnum, I had it done and there is more detail and better extension, but also the dynamics improve considerably (something most people do not mention).
For a power amp I had considered the Plinius as well (like Tpsonic mentioned) but they are supposed to have a forward presentation of the sound which would not work as well for me. Also I someday hope to own Quads or maybe Innersound speakers.

thanks again and best wishes
Phil
Innersound on Quad 989's: dynamic with sterile spatial presentation and hard upper mids. Not hard/glaring like a GE 6650 tube, but more subtlely threadbare, the kind of trait that is only noticed when you realize that you are not listening as much, i.e like with the Nordost SPM line of cables. Harmonically denuded. Moves great on rock recordings, but boring and homogenous, even on rock recordings, over time. Sounds like an evolutionary step from a digital switching amp, which is not good.

Get a Plinius with enough current to drive the panels. No tubes, more spatial and musical, and you can sell it easier down the road (and when all of this Innersound hoop-la by the young and exhuberiant necessarily dies down...).

By the way, never "trust" a magazine. A resource, yes, but one with a financial agenda that is best recognized.

Asa, how can a magazine be a resource if you can't trust it???
Hey Asa... Have you heard the Innersound with Magnepan 1.6's? What was the comment about "and when all of this Innersound hoop-la by the young and exhuberiant necessarily dies down..." about? What do you know about the people who use the Innersound amp? All equipment is system dependent, so don't base your experience on just your system without hearing it with other equipment! Oh by the way, good comment Brianmgrarcom.
Thanks everyone,
I welcome all comments negative or posative as I feel like I can learn from both.
Asa,
your comment about the subtlely threadbare quality is exactly the sort of thing I am concerned about with a solid state amp (after 20 years of listening mostly to tubes). Also it is a quality my stereo has a little of right now and I am running Nordost Blue Heaven cables. I think they may well be the culprit, but they have other nice qualities at this price and I have been trying to live with them.
I have decided to trust any magazine much in the same way I trust people in general, sometimes you run across the bad egg but it is my way, of course my ears (not painted on by the way) are what I trust and not many sway me beyond them.
Tom
I am considering your advice as well, Plinius is consistently recommended by all.
well, let me put it this way...the Innersound pre and Innersound amp replaced a tube pre and a tube amp in my system...i'm using Innersound Isis speakers and i don't have any problems with the highs or with the lows...everything sounds just fine to me...when i used Nordost speaker cables the sound was lifeless...fortunately i changed to Innersound speaker cables (cheaper than the Nordost) and i'm in audio heaven since....Plinius is a good amp as well, but performance/price ratio is higher with the Innersound amp...
Hello-again. The Innersound is a good amp.The problem is that it is missing the intimacy of the Plinius or even the Symphonic line of amps,IMO.I heard a demo between the Innersounds {Inner-tube vs. ESL amp} and the difference was amazing. Their tube amp blew away the ESL amp. Same manufacturer,different designer.Had you considered a CJ EV 2000 amp-200w/ch bulldog with a heart of gold. Good luck!
I agree that the Innersound was not as intimate as the Odyssey amp, but I was able to hear more ambience and detail with the Innersound. The Odyssey amp OTOH, would compress the soundstage (at higher volume), and lacked the effortless, uncompressed dynamics of the Innersound. I'll be getting my Magnum Rogue 99 back in about a week or two and I hope it will soften the Innersound amp down a bit. I've never heard the Plinius amp and sure it is nice, but I was able to buy the Innersound at a good price and took that into consideration along with the great customer service from Roger Sanders. I'm also in the process of looking into treating my room, due to the uneven dimensions.
1. One does not need absolute trust, i.e prostating like an acolyte, to read between the lines of an audio magazine. Trusting a mag much like you would approach a person is a good analogy. For example, you should always do an analysis that correlates how many full-page color ads a new manufacturer is running with the exuberance of a review and temper your own tendancy towards needing "absolute" truth accordingly.

2. Haven't heard the Innersound on the small maggies, but an opinion offered based on experience with another electrostat is valid, which is why I offered it.

3. Saying that any opinion can be discarded because each opinion involves unique experience and referent points is to deny any opinion - this is called radical subjectivism and it is an inauthentic argument because: it would deny all opinion, even yours that claims there can be no opinion. That is called a performative error and reveals the irrationality of that position. Some opinions are more true than others within their given contexts. All human knowledge is built upon this pretext and the denial of the pretext on radical subjective grounds is itself, in its very use, a confirmation of that same pretext. You see what I mean?

I would be very surprised if the Innersound sounded much better in another similarly sophisticated system (TNT/Graham,Supratek Syrah pre, Joule LA200 pre, SE Triodes, ESP spkrs, Electraglide PC's, NBS Pro IC's, Audionote KSL spkr wire). On a lesser sytem, yes, you may not heard what I did - but with some time I think you would anyway "IMHO".

Just a note: the box that the Innersound came in was shipped from Coda Technologies in Calif. Now, do any of you remember what a Coda amp sounded like? Hmmm, now there's something to chew on...
I know a very talented audio industry equipment designer that speaks very highly of this amp. He too is a tube only type. As an alternative check out the following site for a solution that may work with your existing equipment www.zeroimpedance.com. Very highly recommended. I personally would audition these autoformers before going another route. Be sure to read the testimonials.
thanks wellfed

EVERYONE reading this should read the zero website, at the very least interesting and maybe more (different = fear?). I do not know what to think but I will investigate further as I have often wished the Maggies were about 12 OHM's.

Phil

p.s. anyone have their own testimonials on the Zero?
Phil,

Travis, an Augiogon member, is using the ZEROs on Magnepan 3.6 loudspeakers. Perhaps you can look him up using the search engine here.

I am not sure, but he may have comments on the ZEROimpedance.com testimonial section. I don't know the specifics but I'm pretty sure he is getting good results.
the zero's in his system. You can find out more by going to the thread "Rogue owners unite" under amps preamps and read what he says about them or send him an e-mail.
I've found, that the InnerSound is very dependent on the right wires you are using it with. It sounded, just as ASA has suggested, plainly awful on a Quad 989 with the "best" of NORDOST, whereas I found it almost on par with the best ( and most expensive ) I know, with R. Sanders' wires and with a pair of the old Quad 63s.
Hi Detlof.

I didn't use Nordost on the 989's. Frankly, even the thought of that makes me shiver. I only referred to Nordost as a sound analogy. I used Mapleshade Omega Micro Planar III copper and NBS Signature series 1 - hardly screamers as spkr cables go. If one needs Sander's cables to tone the amp down, if that's the case, then OK, but I understand Sanders believes cables don't make any difference (said a friend who talked to him), so I wonder whats up with that. The amp has great slam with clear space, charitably said, but long on nuance its not. Basic high current SS with minimal distortive artifacts, but you will never hear someone say that the sound enveloped them, not if they've listened around. In the progeny of sound from PS Audio 100 to Coda to Spectron to... Innersound - cleaner and clearer as you go - the artifact thing - but not what TAS says it is. (Months later, is it listed in any of their reviewer's systems, did Seydor use it in last month's reveiw, or HP in the Maggie 20.1 review?)

But here's the bottom line. Sanders honestly believes in his amp and I'm sure, Philojet, would ship one out to you with a reasonable deposit, so listen for yourself - which is always the way to go. Alot of people like the piece, so maybe you will too. Hey, if you started a Coda thread I'm sure their would be a lot of advocates then too. I just think the Maggies could be done better. That said, I'm hardly a Maggie expert. Maybe some experienced 20 and 20.1 owners could chime in with some advice? I think that would help.
ASA, I do see your point. Possibly that's why especially the base sounded terribly bloated and the entire impression was even worse, than you had described. Obviously a synergy made in hell! Sanders does NOT say, that all wires sound alike. He is anything but an opinionated fool. However, he sees no point in buying aftermarket powercords. By the way, you are quite right about the lack of holographic imaging with the InnerSound, which however is of no consequence in the configuation I use them in. Cheers,
thank you everyone,

As I write this I am listening to the Innersound ESL amp (30 day trial period) and I wanted to share some very rough and preliminary views. I am using the Innersound speaker wire and will compare that with the Nordost and report back. When using the Rogue I always had Nordost Blue Heaven.
Compared to the Rogue Magnum 120's the sound is much more vibrant, and the bass has more impact and dynamics instead of the thick bass the Rogue has. The midrange of this amp complements the maggie 1.6's and has more of a solid quality (palpable?). In the high end the Rogue has a more natural presentation, more harmonics and nicer tone, but is lacking in detail and air by quite a margin.
The Innersound is very good and this has been an eye opening experience for me. At the very least I now believe if I want to keep these speakers I will drive them with solid state and I will try the Plinius and maybe Bryston amps as well and let you know. I could not find any info on the Conrad Johnson EV2000 but it is very intriging I may well be missing out, thanks tpsonic, (I see one is up for sale $2000)
I also want to try the Zeros and hopefully he will let me do an in home trial as well. The zeros may help the Rogue be more vibrant (if I am not mistaken).

sincerely
Phil
thank you everyone,

As I write this I am listening to the Innersound ESL amp (30 day trial period) and I wanted to share some very rough and preliminary views. I am using the Innersound speaker wire and will compare that with the Nordost and report back. When using the Rogue I always had Nordost Blue Heaven.
Compared to the Rogue Magnum 120's the sound is much more vibrant, and the bass has more impact and dynamics instead of the thick bass the Rogue has. The midrange of this amp complements the maggie 1.6's and has more of a solid quality (palpable?). In the high end the Rogue has a more natural presentation, more harmonics and nicer tone, but is lacking in detail and air by quite a margin.
The Innersound is very good and this has been an eye opening experience for me. At the very least I now believe if I want to keep these speakers I will drive them with solid state and I will try the Plinius and maybe Bryston amps as well and let you know. I could not find any info on the Conrad Johnson EV2000 but it is very intriging I may well be missing out, thanks tpsonic, (I see one is up for sale $2000)
I also want to try the Zeros and hopefully he will let me do an in home trial as well. The zeros may help the Rogue be more vibrant (if I am not mistaken).

sincerely
Phil
thank you everyone,

As I write this I am listening to the Innersound ESL amp (30 day trial period) and I wanted to share some very rough and preliminary views. I am using the Innersound speaker wire and will compare that with the Nordost and report back. When using the Rogue I always had Nordost Blue Heaven.
Compared to the Rogue Magnum 120's the sound is much more vibrant, and the bass has more impact and dynamics instead of the thick bass the Rogue has. The midrange of this amp complements the maggie 1.6's and has more of a solid quality (palpable?). In the high end the Rogue has a more natural presentation, more harmonics and nicer tone, but is lacking in detail and air by quite a margin.
The Innersound is very good and this has been an eye opening experience for me. At the very least I now believe if I want to keep these speakers I will drive them with solid state and I will try the Plinius and maybe Bryston amps as well and let you know. I could not find any info on the Conrad Johnson EV2000 but it is very intriging I may well be missing out, thanks tpsonic, (I see one is up for sale $2000)
I also want to try the Zeros and hopefully he will let me do an in home trial as well. The zeros may help the Rogue be more vibrant (if I am not mistaken).

sincerely
Phil
sorry about the triple post I have no idea how it happened
Phil
Good to hear that you've had good results with the Innersound so far Philojet. I've been curious about the Innersound ic's and speaker wires. Keep us posted about them please. I'm waiting for my Rogue 99 to get back from the Magnum upgrade and looking forward to hearing it. Currently I'm using a Rogue 66 in its place. Would also love to hear about any comparisons to the Innersound amp which you may do. I agree that the Innersound has lots of air and detail when I compared it to my Odyssey.

Cary 303/100 -> Coincident cst ic. -> Rogue 66 lsr (until the Magnum 99 arrives) -> Coincident cst ic. -> Innersound esl -> AP Oval 9 biwired -> Magnepan 1.6qr.

Phil,

Your friend, Brian Miller, asked me to add a few comments here in hopes that I could shed some light on the Innersound amp.

As an Innersound dealer, I have had the opportunity to compare the ESL with a number of very fine ampliefiers, using ESL, ribbon and dynamic speakers. Here is some perspective:

One of my customers has a pair of Martin Logan Prodigies. Comparing his McIntosh MC-2000 tube amp, the Innersound amp sounded much more open, dynamic, lively, controlled and detailed in the low end and extended in the high end. The MC-2000 did have a warmth in the midrange and richer harmonics too. Overall though, the Innersound was much more transparent, neutral and faithful to the music.

We also compared his Linn Klimax monoblocks and were shocked to discover how threadbare and harsh it sounded compared to the Innersound. The Innersound was much more relaxed, yet dynamic sounding with a warmer, more musical presentatiion. My customer bought the Innersound that very evening and has lived very happily with it for the last year. For what it's worth, both the McIntosh and Linn amplifies cost $15,000 vs $3000 for the Innersound amp.

Another customer contacted me to audition the ESL amp. He is a die hard ESL speaker devotee from way back and was in search of a new amp to drive his Acoustats. He came over to my place with his Wadia transport and DAC and connecting them directly to the ESL amp, driving a pair of Innersound hybrid ESLs. He was impressed enough to request an in-home audition of the amp.

We got together a few days later for the audition. I first listened to his system using his current amplifier, an older Bel Canto single ended, class A tube amp delivering approximately 50 wpc. He had listened to many other amplifiers over the years, both tube and solid state and felt that overall, the Bel Canto worked best in his system. While the amp sounded very musical, it sounded closed in, compressed, rolled off in the high end and lacked control and detail in the lows. The Innersound improved upon all of these categories to a huge degree but was lacking in harmonics, soundstage depth, image specificity, and overall refinement.

After listening for about an hour, I finally told him that I brought another amplifier with me that I felt bested the Innersound and happened to be $1000 less expensive.

That amplifier was the Electrocompaniet AW220. After listening to AW220 for literally 30 seconds, he turned to me and said with a pleasant surprise "You are absolutely right. This a beautiful sounding amplifier. I've never heard my Acoustats sound so good." Over the next couple of hours we noted the improvements over the Innersound in harmonic complexity, soundstage depth, image specificity, inner detail, micro dynamics, midrange pulpibility, low end slam, fullness and control and overall musicality. Keep in mind that we were comparing the 300 wpc Innersound to a 75 wpc Electrocompaniet. Very interesting. Needless to say, he bought the amp and both he and his friend are now considering buying three more, to be used as monoblocks in each of their systems.

The AW220 is a fully balanced (right down to its dual power supply transformers) high current design, biased into high class AB. Used as a stereo amplifier, it puts out a very strong 75 wpc into 8 ohms, 125 wpc in 4 and 160 wpc into 2. As a monoblock, it deliver 220 watts into 8 and 350 watts in 4 ohms.

One last testimonial. A certain manufacturer of hybrid ribbon speakers recently replaced his $7500 reference Plinius SA-250 amp with a pair of Electrocompaniet AW220 and hasn't looked back. The best part is that the AW220 cost only $4000 per pair.

Don't get me wrong, the Innersound ESL amp is one of the very best amplifiers available for driving panel speakers but the AW220 has bested it with every pair speakers I have tried thus far, including Innersound's Eros and Isis hybrid ESLs.

Hope this helps.
Hi

Thank you for your views. Can we talk? I am wondering who you are and where your shop is located.

Phil Jolett
bradz

I spoke with Duke and he seems very knowledgeable and straight forward. He thinks the Plinius is very good as well. Have you heard the Plinius (any of them) and what did you think? I am in the middle of really listening to the Innersound with its own wire and maybe at the end of this week I will compare both wires on both amps. I will let you know.
Philojet,
I have to agree that Duke is very knowledgeable and a straight shooter. He allowed me to audition the Innersound amp at his shipping expense, no deposit required, and would have even paid for the return shipping! I can't speak more highly of Duke. I've never auditioned any of the Plinius products but I too think that the Innersound may be more bang for the buck. Are you auditioning the Innersound ic's? I've been curious about them and have been thinking of comparing my Coincident cst ic's to them. Looking forward to your results with the wires.
I know that Maggies are designed with SS, so we can expect (respect) that synergy, but has anyone thought of the Berning ZH270 ($4K retail)? Its a one-box OTL that drove the hell out of some Acoustat 1+1's I heard - apart from Apogee Scintillas, a speaker recognized as a bear to drive, and a 'stat to boot. Also, since tube, you can experiment with different input tubes to your harmonic taste. The Berning has a very loyal following (see the thread going on now) and it is imminently preferable to the Innersound. If I was you, Philojet, I'd A/B the Plinius, Electrocomp. mentioned, and the Berning. After that, I'd run to buy a Supratek Triode Syrah pre ($2200)... and never look back. Good luck.
thanks ASA,
it is just difficult to audition an amp without buying it and there are not many dealers near me. I will listen to the Plinius as that seems to be the main amp people prefer and am leaning that way right now. I used to have a Berning EA230 driving my original Quads. It was pretty tuneful. Quite frankly after having a power tube go out on the Rogue I am thinking I may not want tubes anymore for the power amp (plus I am cheap). I do not know if the Electrocomaniet has enough power, I am looking for more than the average volume and dynamic range, I would like to hear one though. Also the Rogue pre amp has a nice phono section, remote control volume and I like the service they provide. I know it can be beat but I do not even think of it being in the system, I does not attract attention to itself, so I feel it will do (nicely at that). Thanks again for your thoughtful comments, they are appreciated. Like I said before, now is not the time to spare my feelings, I would like all the details BEFORE I buy.

Cheers,
Phil
Hi Phil,

You mention that Innersound sounds anemic, pure and neutral, despite the use of your tube preamp. Part of the reason is due to the inherent sound of the Innersound but I also believe the Blue Heavens magnifies a few of the Innersound's weaknesses. While very transparent, Nordost cables tend to sound analytical, thread bare and lacking in harmonic complexity. The Innersound speaker cables , by comparison, work extremely well in situations where cable inductance is a factor (any speaker that uses input transformers) but offer no real advantage with your Maggies. Although I have not compared the Blue Heavens and Innersound cables side by side, I would expect that they sound very similar on your 1.6. At a similar price point, I would highly recommend Analysis Plus Oval 9 cables. They have more impact with a full, yet articulate bottom end, wonderful clarity and smoothness in the mids and highs, and an absolute lack of grain or hardness, despite it's airy, detailed top end. I just sold a pair to a customer who owns Maggie 3.6 and he LOVES them! It gives the price-no-object cables a serious run for the money for way, way less.

Regarding Plinius vs Electrocompaniet, they both offer some of the very best that solid state amplification has to offer. While Plnius tends to be slightly faster, transparent and more neutral overall, Electrocompaniet sounds sweeter and warmer in the midrange and highs, fuller and richer in the low end, with state of the art sound staging, imaging, detail and micro and macro dynamics. Electrocompaniet is almost always my first recommendation to anyone who loves the sound of tubes but doesn't want the inconvenience. The choice really comes down to three things: personal preference, value and your electricity bill.

The current Plinius SA-100 MK III, which is my favorite all time Plinius amp, puts out 100 wpc and cost $4500. The current SA-250 MK IV puts out 250 wpc, costs $8500 but is not as refined sounding as the SA-100 MK III. Both amplifiers draw tons of power in Class A mode and will drive up your electricity bill too.

By comparison, the Electrocompaniet AW220, whose performance I prefer to the SA-100 MK III and much prefer to the SA-250 MK IV, puts out over twice as much power as the SA-100 and nearly as much as the SA-250, yet costs $4000 per pair. In addition, because the AW220 is biased into high Class AB, the amplifier runs much cooler than either of the Plinius, saving you even more money in the long term. I also happen to think that Electrocompaniet equipment is absolutely gorgeous, fitting in equally well in either contemporary or traditional surroundings.
I have finally decided on a Plinius SA100 MKIII amplifier and have listened for only 1 day. I can tell you the raves about this amp are justified in my opinion.
Starting with the high end, it is very open and highly nuanced with no edge and (in my system) seems slightly rolled off. The mids have a tone that constantly remind me of the tone of real instruments, the lows are very defined and if anything slightly light but also tuneful. Compared with the Innersound, the main improvement is less coloration, music could be light with very little bass or full and rich sounding, all dependant on the recording, where the Innersound had a little more of the one note bass and less finness in the mids and highs. Also the Plinius seems to have more detail and inner information and is more of one piece (HP's continuity?) top to bottom.
In comparison to the Rogue the Plinius high end is much more detailed, the Rogue sounds thick in the bottom and rolled on top (more than the Plinius). In the Rogues favor it has a quality of music that appears out of nowhere, especially horns or piano that are bathed in harmonics, which is good but they were too dull for my taste. Maybe with the right speakers I would choose the Rogue over the Plinius (maybe not).
The Innersound had a very immediate presentation of the music that had a nice appeal but maybe was threadbare, and of course the Innersound had amazing dynamics that neither the Plinius or Rogue could dream of, Maggies need tons of power I now see for certain. I had a special Innersound amp with an extra large power supply and I could not believe how loud 1.6's go, approaching the volume of live drums, I swear.
Again I am very thankful for all the support you guys have given me, it has helped a lot.