Interesting AMP GTG Results.
You may be interested in an amp GTG we recently held out our way on the Gold Coast:
The amps were:
A $35k Gryphon Antileon pure class a 150w amp - a real take no prisoners thing at a price you expect to pay for such.
My Arion HS500 monoblocks with Duelund Cast.
Hugh Deans new NAKSA 80.
My Arion RS 250 - the non monoblock version - both amps in the one case.
A ring in that turned up at the last minute - a very heavily modified old Leak valve amp.
A DIY amp called the Honey Badger
A modified Daynes Ampino. It was modified by a guy out our way that posts as Decky.
As you can see a wildly varying assortment. We do not often see comparisons of amps in such wildly varying price categories as well as DIY stuff.
It produced some very interesting results.
Here is my impressions (but of course reading the whole thread will give plenty of other views):
This was one of the most even GTG's I have experienced - everything was good - some were better than others - but there seemed to be wider variation on what was better with different types of music.
Overall I liked the Griffith - it was just so right - very neutral and accurate - very good on all music with one exception. Interestingly, when we tried some classical in the form of the Planets it sort of sounded a bit dead and Blancmange like - don't know why - a ring in very heavily modified vintage Leak valve amp was the winner there. The Griffith simply bullied the speakers into submission. Doubled current into 4 ohms, doubles again into 2 ohms, and nearly doubles again into 1 ohm - a take no prisoners amp by any measure.
Close second was the Arion 500 - very fast, detailed, dark and dynamic - it too doubles down like the Griffith. But was not quite as drop dead neutral nor with as absolutely this is right tone - and some small amount of distortion was evident - which was actually quite interesting - never heard any distortion before - but at $7K compared to $35K was, in my view, a much better value option - but then again how do you put a price on better?
My next favorite was the Naksa 80 - a very musical amp with an extremely lovely and detailed midrange - a lot of foot stomping prat that brings an involuntary smile to your face - it actually gave my favorite performance of the day - Dianna Krall - Case Of You. That an amp in this price range is up there with uber expensive amps like the Griffith is a real feather in Hugh Deans cap. It however had a slightly rolled off treble and not quite as good bass grip - which considering the doubling down capabilities of the other amps is only to be expected. I could not detect the slightest trace of Mosfet Mist like I have heard in some other Mosfet amps - but there was a person there who thought he heard it - however he believes he can hear it in all Mosfet amps and this was certainly not anywhere near what he thinks some others have. A few there like myself knew the old Naksa 100 and this was clearly better - again well done Hugh.
My next one was the Arion 250. Overall it was better than the Naksa - but that overall includes home theatre duties - for the music I listen to the Naksa was better. Quite like the Arion 500 - but not as smooth and detailed to my ears. It also had a slightly greater distortion profile. But it wasn't as musical or had foot tapping prat. Again drop dead value. Some actually liked it as the best amp there.
Next was a ring in - a 12W heavily modified Leak. We only tried it on some music and if it was there from the start it could have rated higher. Also it had been modified to be of very low sensitivity, and combined with it being only 12 watts, we could not get much volume on certain music. But what we heard was very impressive, and with greater volume could have rated higher, in fact I think it likely would have. On the classical piece, the Planets, it clearly outclassed the Griffith - even considering its low volume. An even more heavily modified version was clearly better than the Arion 500 on some vintage Goodman speakers at a GTG in Canberra. But the Arions, on the high gain setting, were not really suited to those high sensitivity speakers. Here it was a lot closer - although I rated the Arion's overall better in this showing, I suspect things would be different with greater volume.
Next was the Honey Badger. Quite neutral - sort of between the Naksa and Arion 250. At $600.00 for parts also very good value. Not quite the detail of the Arions, or the harmonic richness and prat of the NAKSA.
Then was the Daynes Ampino modified by Decky. Evidently 300.00 euro overseas and almost certainly not much more expensive (when converted to Australian dollars) even modified here - but I don't know the exact price. Nice detail and quite neutral - I thought very similar to the Honey Badger.
Last for me, but not actually least were the Burson Timekeepers. Nice amp - but Burson say they build stuff that's quintessential SS. To me that exactly what it sounded like - with a steely slightly metallic and mechanical type sound. Not my personal favorite, but many there liked it. Good detail though, and aside from the SS sound quite neutral.
All in all a very interesting experience with a massive variation in price.
What can be said, IMHO, is spending more on amps will reap benefits, but probably not big ones even for large differences in price. When auditioning amps make sure you listen to amps cheaper than you are thinking of spending - you may be pleasantly surprised, at least for the type of music you predominately listen to. This will save money, you can spend on other stuff like speakers or DAC's or simply pocket.