JC1 upgrade to Lamm M2.2 or dartzeel 108B or Ayre?


I currently driving Harbeth M40 with parasound JC1 amp, my pre-amp is Conrad Jonson Act 2 series 2, source is PS audio DirectStream

I am thinking upgrade my system start with JC1

I need some advice: do you think Lamm M2.2 is a better amp than JC1, how about Dartzeel or Ayre

I have no plan to update Harbeth M40 yet

thanks in advance
taoh2
Right now Ayre is arguably making the best SS amps you can get and their new Twenty series are the best amps I've heard so far (I've been fortunate to hear their new Ref twenty and am anxiously awaiting my new AX5/20 integrated. I own the AX7e and LOVE it., but their upper amps just blow me away. I've heard Lamms in the past and liked them also. I know three dealers off the top of my head who sell both the JC1 and the Ayre and they all own Ayre...Says a lot to me.
Hi Taoh2

First, can you give a sense of your budget on this upgrade? While I (and I am sure a number of others) have heard several of these components in different systems, I am wondering why you reached the conclusion that an amp upgrade is the way to go. Specifically, your speakers (which I understand are not the 40.1's, but the older 40's), were about $7k in 2001 when they were current, the amp is $9k, the preamp was $15k (when current), and the Directstream DAC is $6k. It seems like a real imbalance to upgrade the amps to something that is $20-30k with a $7k pair of speakers; I really do not think you will get the immediate bang for your buck out of this upgrade path, particularly as the JC-1's punch quite a bit above their weight (unless you think there is some real imbalance with your speaker-amp matching).

If anything, you may be much better off upgrading the speakers (which I understand you have indicated you are not looking to upgrade right now) and digital front end before the JC-1s. I can think of half a dozen models of speakers and DACs in the $20k price range (which seems like your budget) that may represent an improvement.

If you are wedded to upgrading the amps, each of the options you outlined are good choices, and it really comes down to which amp you feel matches best with the Harbeth's that you seem to like. If you could indicate what you think the JC-1's are not providing in terms of a match with the speakers, that would also help folks give some thoughts on the issue. Also, if you could provide more information on room dimensions and typical listening levels, that would help as well.
I agree with Rzado. If you're willing to spend $20k, it seems that a speaker upgrade would be a *much* bigger improvement than an amp upgrade....

-RW-
I've had the Ayre VX-5 and Dart CTH-8550 in my room and the 8550 was simply a better amp as it was more organic/3D. The Ayre had wonderful flow like the Dart and a very natural top end. But it just seemed like 2D images in a 3D landscape if that makes sense.

Now, the 20 series update to the VX-5 may turn the tables...
Keith, do yourself a favor and check out the 20's.....;)
Tao2-

the CJ Act2 Series2 is my reference (tubed) pre-amp until I can demo the ART3 model. That stated, keep your CJ and look into a Pass Labs power amp. This union would be a very nice synergy. More importantly, which cables/power cords are you using? Any other cable companies are you considering?

Keep me posted & Happy Listening!
Cstooner what other brands of solid state amps have you heard and in direct comparison to Ayre?

The Ayre amps are indeed very good amps, but so are a lot of other top solid state designs from BAT, Electrocompaniet, Pass Labs, and many, many others.

The only way you know is to do a direct shoot out on one particular set of speakers.

Is Ayre better than the JC 1 no contest, Parasound makes very good products, but class leading they are not.

The other thing he might also consider a CJ tube amplifier some of their newer tube designs are very reliable and sound fantastic.
Taoh2: I am the importer of darTZeel and am assuming you are going to be looking in the used market since you are on Audiogon and as such this is not a sales pitch that I would benefit from. It is purely to give you the input you are looking for.

darTZeel, IMHO, makes the finest sounding amplifiers built regardless of being tubes or SS. I consider myself a tube guy and since owning the NHB-108, I have not had tubes in my system other than listening to trades or for comparison purposes.

I have great familiarity with Parasound, LAMM as well as Ayre and would choose the Ayre last out of the three you were considering (sorry Ctsooner). darTZeel would be far ahead of either of the other amps you mentioned.

If you have any questions, let me know I would be happy to share with you some of my experiences.
Taoh2,
Given the nature of an open forum these types of questions can only be answered in very general terms based on an individuals own personal listening experience. Based on my hearing the three brands that you listed I would have to agree with Keith and choose the Dartzeel. I find it to among this group of SS amps the more natural sounding and realistic musically. As Keith noted, it is more organic and thus for me more involving to listen to. I hope you can hear these 3 amps and decide, your taste could be very different from mine.
Steve Nugent may have pertinent information regarding modifications for your well regarded JC1s.

http://www.empiricalaudio.com/about-empirical-audio/

Ayre is announcing their newly voiced "Twenty" series on page 60 of the 2015 March issue of Stereophile.

Personally, I'm in the speaker replacement camp followed by tailoring any electronics around the new speaker which is usually far less of a factor. At this level in home auditioning should be a must to fulfill your subjective taste.
03-11-15: Audiotroy
Cstooner what other brands of solid state amps have you heard and in direct comparison to Ayre?
(Troy, I've heard nearly all the major names over the last few years both in my home or in stores that I'm familiar with so I know what I'm hearing. We all like different sounds.)

The Ayre amps are indeed very good amps, but so are a lot of other top solid state designs from BAT, Electrocompaniet, Pass Labs, and many, many others.

Troy:
(The other thing he might also consider a CJ tube amplifier some of their newer tube designs are very reliable and sound fantastic. )

Yes again nice idea, but Harbeths most find are at their best with Solid state amps.
Perhaps you are better at your day job.

Cstoner, again your methodology is flawed, unless you have an Ayre in the exact same system and all you do is switch out the amp then, and only then, you will know if you like that amp better in that system, with that particular brand of ancillary gear, and in that system only, is called synergy.

As per Harbeth sounding better on solid state again that is open to opinion. Have you ever heard a pair of CJ Art amps? They don't sound like tube amps, they do have their problems and perks just like any amplifier. Johnathan Valin thought they are among the best sounding amps both tubes or solid state on the planet by the way.

I am sick of guys like you making these all are boat anchor comments, if you notice my posts I don't say "there is one brand of gear that outperforms all others."

In audio like anything else there are valid and differing opinions, there is no ultimate sports sedan in a comparison of BMW vs Mercedes vs Lexus, vs Audi etc, they are all great and you will prefer one I might prefer a different one.

Cstoner you sound like you have an agenda.

When the gentleman was discussing speakers I told him to go and listen to many different brands of speakers, you slavishly pushed him into the Vandys only.

Are Vivid or Vandys the best and only speakers on the market no way, Vandys are great if you like them,so are Magicos, Wilsons, Sonus Fabers etc, you may or may not prefer a pair of Vandys in the same system vs another pair of speakers and by the way I used to own Vandys.

I have been doing this for friends and for my self for over 30 years, and I too have had a lot of gear go in and out of my house and my day job is none of your business, I will say it deals with medicine and leave it at that.

Is Ayre a great amp yes it is, but so are many, many, others. The only way is to test them in your own house in your own system.

As per experience I have owned hundred of thousands of dollars worth of gear I have owned, Vandys, Maggies, Wilsons, B&W, Monitor Audio, Quads, Martin Logans, and many, many more.

I have owned amps from Audio Research, CJ, BAT, Spectral, Chord, and many, many others.

In Audio as in life it is all about synergy.
Troy, I hope you feel better now that you've gotten that off your chest. No agenda other than having fun on the boards :). I actually questioned YOUR agenda after you trashed Vandy's in that other thread. I'm sure that you have heard my system and what I was hearing. Found it interesting that to many others posted that they disagreed with your negative comments.

Moving on, I have been told by two Harbeth dealers that they are better with SS gear. Not being an engineer, I don't remember why. I guess I was just parroting like so many do when they reference reviewers.
My 2 cents? I've owned Dartzeel (and really miss it). I currently own 40.1's, SF Strads, Conrad Johnson ART monos and ARTsa with a GAT.

You CJ preamp with the Dartzeel will be outstanding on the 40's. No doubt. Power with the Dartzeel should be enough to drive them to satisfactory levels. CJ ART or ARTsa will be also be amazing on the Harbeth.

Both the Lamm and Ayre will be a different kind of good. To my ear, Dartzeel and Conrad Johnson are amazing pieces. I have not tried the new current Ayre 20 series gear but like the non 20 gear enough to recommend you get an audition. A friend owned the mid level Ayre and it sounds really good.

Another amp I absolutely love on the Harbeth with my GAT preamp is a Hegel H30. The H30 is an outstanding performer.
I'm confused is it most find harbeths better with solid state or just the two dealers you spoke with.
Harbeths better with SS? Not my experience!
Guys, I"ll will usually listen to user groups who have their systems in their homes and also network. Here is a great link to show that I was just sharing what Harbeth owners know:

http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?cspkr&1050413633&openfrom&1&4#1
Joe, it's interesting to read the amps you like as all sound so different to my ears. I have owned CJ and listened to all the Art gear (going out later today to audition the CJ ART gear with B&W's which I don't usually like. Will be interesting.

I own an Ayre Ax7e (selling it off) and am waiting on my Ayre AX5/20 based off of hearing the 20 ref gear. Holy crap what a difference.

I have heard the Dartzeel amps once and liked what they did, but for my the Ayre bested them overall. Those new Ayre pieces take them to a special place and I think in time will be considered must auditions (as if they aren't already). The only times I"ve heard Hegel they were very tipped up on top. Not distorted like many pieces out there, but just not as coherent as I'm used to. They make great gear though, that's for sure. Nice price points for all they give you in their DAC/integrateds. JMHO
This whole crap about Harbeth needs SS is started non other than his highness Alan Shaw. Sorry, but I really find him heavily opinionated and someone who likes to force his opinion down the throat of the audience.
Lesser known, I heard BSC (Bully Sound Company) class A amps with Harbeth's 30.1. They were awesome.
Ctsooner,

Not to derail this thread, but at the right price, the H30 is a good deal. I am not crazy about the lower end Hegel gear, but that's me.

I have not heard Lamm and JC-1's. I really should so I can comment on them.

I usually prefer a softer/sweeter sound overall, just my personal preference.

I am sure the Ayre 20 series (all versions) is superb. I am afraid to hear the new KX-R Twenty and MX-R Twenty.

Conrad Johnson has always been my go to amazing favorite. Tremendous 3D, multi-layering, totally grain-free and ever so slightly sweet with a wide and deep soundstage.
My Pass Labs XA60.5's is amazing on the 40.1's and I am sure the new Point 8 Pass gear is too. BSC or Bully Sound, and I am sure any Class A gear will be amazing on the Harbeth speakers, as long as the heat will not get you.