Most transparent amp you've heard?

Of the amps I've listened to the Halcro DM58 was the most transparent. Anything else similar or better in that department?

Thanks Sean
Tube: Atma-Sphere MA-2
Solid State: Pass Labs XA-30.5 or XA-60.5

Atma-sphere amps, hard to beat no transformer.
What do you mean by "transparent"? It's a very inconsistently used term among audiophiles, in my experience.
chalice audio 'grail' set amp...
Drubin makes a good point. What I meant was low noise, speed, space between instruments, and a sense of immediacy.
I meant transparency as used in the audiophile dictionary, meaning neutral. Transparent meaning nothing changes or colors the source signal.

Wonder what the OP meant by transparency?
Atma-sphere and Joule-Electra tube amps. Spectron in fully balanced mode - non tube amp.
Halcro DM58 is very transperent indeed but ....lifeless

All The Best
Tvad, I would still say Atma-sphere with the audiophile dictionary" definition. I can also see how in a sense Joule can be considered transparent, yet I would not say it is uncolored. I would also agree that the Pass XA.5 gear is very transparent in terms of being balanced across the spectrum and having a neutral timbre.
I agree with Tvad, Pass Labs XA100.5. I've had five Pass amps over the years starting with the Aleph 3. The new XA.5s are the most neutral and seem to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of the system more than the earlier designs.
ive gotta know. How could u tell if a amp changed the sound if you cant do a a/b test with the live music or unless you have heard it uncoloured before. im learning so be easy on me. kevin
Listen to a handful of amps in the same system and you'll know. Until then, you
won't know.

Hi Sean, I do have a preferred amp. . . problem is that I am not terribly familiar with Halcro amps in general. My fav is the Rowland 312. Like the Spectron, it is a switching class D amp that runs very cool to the touch. Like the Spectron it is very efficient and can drive difficult speakers. . . and like the Spectron it has loads of authority, has a greatly texture midrange and a sweet treble .; and like the Spectron it is very nuanced and 'transparent'. . . . they are both worth listening to. . . you may like them both equally, or you may prefer one to the other, or you may be indifferent to both. . . this last hypothesis not terribly likely [chuckles!]
Thinking about it, one of the most transparent amps I have ever heard and enjoyed are the Theta Citadel monoblocks. . . if your speakers are sensitive like Vandersteen 5As, they also could be absolutely marvellous! Guido
How would a fella ever know if he had just heard the most transparent amp if he didn't have the most transparent speaker, what ever that might be? I always thought transparency was the end result of how an amp and speaker interfaced, complimented each other that is, and sounded in any particular acoustic. Amps don't have built in drivers and cross overs, boxed or not. They just put out an electric signal that must be utilized effectively.

Am I missing something?
...and how would one know he had transparent speakers and a transparent
amp unless he had a transparent preamp, and a transparent source.

And, if one one had all these, how would one know what he heard was a
transparent reproduction of the recording unless he had attended the
recording session?

Can there ever be a perfect scenario for evaluating equipment? And, if not,
is all observation and opinion moot because it was not rendered in a
perfectly transparent system?

Where does this end?

Is the question as posed not useful?

I don't know. Just asking...

PS- In my imperfect system, knowing what I heard was absolutely not what
the recording engineer heard because everything is different including the
room and electronics, the most transparent amps I have heard are still
Atma-Sphere and Pass Labs. ;)
...and how would one know he had transparent speakers and a transparent
amp unless he had a transparent preamp, and a transparent source.

And, if one one had all these, how would one know what he heard was a
transparent reproduction of the recording unless he had attended the
recording session? Tvad- You have exactly outlined my reference chain, and how I evaluate my system's performance. Why is it that when I mention it the result is ridicule? Very interesting!
"Is the question as posed useful?"

I didn't think so, that is why I posted.

But, I don't think the question needs to embody the perfect reproduction of a live event issues that permeate the typical 'best' question, all you would need is a speaker/amp combo that let the signal pass unmolested, albeit a good, bad, or ugly signal.

As you already know (in spades!) some excellent amps work well with some speakers. Some don't. Each speaker has its own set of pecularities and no amp is universal, although some amps do have a broader range of application. So if one doesn't know the speaker involved how could they guess what specific amp would sound better in it that another?

It eludes me anyway. :-) BTW I think these are all nice amps with great potential.
I wish i knew more about amps. I was under the impression that an amp just amplifies the signal sent from the cd player or whatever the transport is. I think im a bit afraid to listen to some really higher end amps. I just dont have the means to invest in really hi end stuff. Although i would love to hear a super hi end system just to see what im missing which im sure is alot. thanx for any info Kevin
You have exactly outlined my reference chain, and how I evaluate my system's performance. Why is it that when I mention it the result is ridicule? Very interesting!
Rodman99999 (Answers)

Rodman99999, unless your listening room is identical to the room in which a recording was mixed, and unless you own both the original electronics and speakers through which the recording was mixed so you are able to compare the sound of the mixing studio to the sound reproduced by your reference system in your listening room, then you will never know if what you have is true to the recording. This is obviously a ridiculous scenario, but one made to illustrate the point.

No one here doubts you have a very nice system, a rich exposure to live music, and a fine ear, but let's not pronounce you...or anyone else..."The Oracle" just yet. OK?

Newbee, I agree the argument that a system embody the perfect reproduction of a live event is moot because it's an impossibility.

As William Goldman said in "Adventures of the Screen Trade", no one knows anything. This applies to audio as well, for the reasons you stated.
I think im a bit afraid to listen to some really higher end amps. I just dont have the means to invest in really hi end stuff.
Flyin2jz (Threads | Answers)
Don't be afraid to enjoy whatever gear is within your means. Your opinion is as valid as anyone else's here.
Tvad- If the reproduction in my listening room is true(largely- no claim to perfection here) to the original session, what more can be asked? The TacT RCS(modded), and room treatments that I am employing do a very nice job of eliminating the listening room from the equation. To be honest: I'd have deleted that last post after re-reading it, had this site allowed it. It smacks of a persecution complex. Please note: I never even made a recommendation. Hardly the sign of a wannabe oracle. I am surprised that no one has mentioned interconnects and cables(more variables) with regards to the lack of transparency innate to most.
VTL Siegfiried. Haven't heard the Halcro, but this VTL is the best amplifier of any description that I have ever heard in my life. It makes the Ayre monoblocks sound like a mass market receiver by comparison.
09-02-08: Rodman99999
Tvad- If the reproduction in my listening room is true(largely- no claim to
perfection here) to the original session, what more can be asked?
The most important question to be asked is how do
you know if the reproduction is true to the original session? Your listening
room is identical to the mixing room? You have playback gear identical to
the equipment in the mixing room, in addition to the equipment in your
personal playback system? You personally attended the mixing session and have
perfect aural sense memory to compare what you heard in the mixing room
to what you hear in your listening room?

You can see that the idea that anyone can answer yes to these questions is
ludicrous. Therefore, it's unlikely that you or anyone can claim to true
reproduction of the recording event, because it's simply impossible to do so.
Well, I don't know about absolutes or anything, but one aspect of a transparent amp, or system, is that the soundscape changes signficantly from recording to recording - that is the system tends not to be homegenized in sound signature, but let's recordings come through more tellingly and reflecting the differences between recording venues and engineering - to me, that is usually a good sign.
Gents, I am getting a headache. . . G.
Stop reading, G., and take two Tylenol.
I will tonight. . . 3mg Melotonin. Must be all this talk about transparent signals being molested by amps and speakers. I am a very urh. . . sensitive audiophile. G.
After years of listening to many pieces of equipment and some not [all] making me want to listen to my records and cd's all over again.....I think whenever I say wow I never heard that before it is more transparent.....My Vac amp stays constant and every other change I make is a it allows me to make progress toward transparency, which is a good thing. Also the wow factor I can't easily say what it is so many things.
Agree with Pubul57. It is interesting to be able to hear the engineers signature in a recording, not to mention the sound stage changes from one recording to another.
When Ken Stevens of CAT was asked by a resistor manufacturer what kind of flavor he wanted, his answer was that he wanted them to have the flavor of water. I think he meant that the sound of a piece of equipment should be like a chameleon so that issues of bass, soundstaging, imaging, dynamics, etc are a refelection of the recording, not an overlay on the recording. I think this is he definition of neutrality and transparency. I think the CAT was very transparent in this sense, and to an even greater degree the Atma-sphere amps, at least with my Merlins.
Hi guys, You want me to define what I mean by transparent. To me a transparent component is one that passes the signal with the least harm to the signal passing through it.

How do you know if one component is causing less harm than another? I guess that depends on what you consider harm.

What I'am after is a very low noise floor, low distortion but also musical amp. I have Innersound Kaya speakers and love how transparent they sound.

The amp I have now {Parasound Halo A21} is good enough for any normal human being, but you know how it is in this hobby we are always looking for better.

Sean, do you need more than 6-12 watts for those speakers? Do you know what the impedance is like across the spectrum?
Pubul57, Yes they require more power than that. From the Stereophile measurements the impedance on the panel starts above 50 Ohms at 1.6 Kohms and drops to 3.3 Ohms at 15 Kohms and continues down to .5 Ohms at 29 Kohms. JA also goes on to say that use of a classic tube amp would result in very rolled off highs.
Most transparent amp you've heard?

That's easy. The most transparent amps I've heard are from Atma-Sphere, whether the M-60, MA-1 or MA-2.

What does 'transparent' mean - or what do I mean when I use that term? In a somewhat serious way, I mean the absence of the sort of distortion caused by output transformers between the gain stage and speakers. More generally I'd say, more transparency means less distortion. A transparent amp will lend itself to neutrality, but I don't think 'neutral' fully sums up 'transparent', unless you simply consider the terms as tautological.

I think of 'neutrality' almost exclusively in terms of tone character. Apart from tonal neutrality, phase coherency is an important aspect of transparency. The inductive and capacitive character of wire can introduce a sort of temporal distortion or smearing that greatly influences transparency. (...and a transformer happens to be one of the places where you find a lot of wire.) I don't think of hysteresis loss as increasing distortion as much as reducing signal, which is more a reduction of information than a distortion. But semantic entanglements approach.

Discussions of amp transparency probably should not look solely at the amp itself, but need to consider the amp/speaker interface and amp/speaker interaction. A slightly different question might be: what is the most transparent amp/speaker combo you've heard?

FWIW, I've have come to use the word transparency with a fairly literal definition: the ability to see what comes before it. The more transparent a component is, the more I will be able to observe differences as changes are made ahead of it in the system. It's not a perfect definition for all sorts of reasons, but it I think it holds up pretty well. This definition is likely to correlate with neutrality, but it doesn't have to. Seems to me that neutrality stands on its own pretty well as an audiophile term, as do Pabul57's "low noise, speed, space between instruments, and a sense of immediacy."

Is the Audiophile Dictionary JGH's thing?

I'm being fussy about this because transparency is used so often by audiophiles and I have no idea what they mean by it.
OK, here is what transparent means.

about 8 years ago i fell in love with the Tenor OTL 75 watt integrated monoblocks. at the time i owned a Mark Levinson #32 preamp which i considered very highly. one day i compared the integrated passive volume control in the Tenors to the #32. the resistor based passive in the Tenors sounded way less veiled and much more immediate and alive. Goodby Levinson.

next i wanted remote volume control; so i purchased a Placette RVC and tried the Tenor's thru the Placette RVC. i could hear no difference between listening direct thru the Tenor's volume control and adding the Placette RVC even if i used the line out from the volume other words the Placette was transparent to the source.

it gets better.

it turns out you can stack 5 Placette RVC's end to end and you cannot hear any difference between these 5 stacked RVC's and only one of them, or none of them.

the Placette RVC was truely transparent to the changes nothing (or rather my ears could not detect any difference).

that is my definition of transparent.....what other audio electronics could do that?

btw; transparency is not the end all factor of sonic bliss; but it is an important issue.
I'm in complete agreement with Mike. I've owned Placette products and they definitely qualify. No tube preamp I've ever owned qualifies, though there may be some out there, but that's not to say they don't have a lot of other things to recommend them.
Parasound Halo JC1s .. most transparent amps I have listened
Tvad- Maybe you've missed the fact that I'm a Sound Technician, have a number of recordings (done personally) for reference, and have spent the last 30 years training my ears to recognize certain musical nuances to facilitate the proper(natural) set up of sound systems and venues? Then there is what the TacT system accomplishes. Forget it though- If I have to explain, you wouldn't understand!
Mikelavigne's definition of "transparency" is as clear as any I've ever heard. The Placette Passive Linestage I owned at one time was the most transparent piece I'd ever encountered as well.
I think my choices are my current Viva Solista 845 SET and a previous Pass Labs Aleph 3 power amp, for SS
Rodmann9999.You're a sound technician and not a recording engineer?Wow,fooled me.
Rodman99999, you believe what you hear in your system is precisely what
you heard when your recordings were made, but the key word hear is believe.
You (or anyone else) can never be certain, and that's my point.

Clearly, my explanation in previous posts has not helped you understand why
this is so.

You haven't answered the OP's question. Shall we assume your answer to what is
the most transparent amp you have heard is one made by TacT?
>>Tvad- Maybe you've missed the fact that I'm a Sound Technician<<


I'm a retail technician.

Technician disclaimer.
Sean, based on those specs, I think that JA is right and tubes amps are not the way to go. As transparent as the Atma-spheres are, they seem like less than an ideal match, even though some may chime in that you can make it work with a speltz transformer which would defeat the transparency rationale to some extent. IMHO, you need SS and in that camp, I think you could do a lot worse than auditioning the Pass XA.5 series (the best SS I have heard, but I'm a tube guy so take that with a grain of salt), I do think that XA-60.5s would be enough power for you - they have a lot more drive than their specs would suggests and they are by any definition transparent. Oh, and did I mention they are uber reliable? An alternative is to consider the X-Series which gives you more watts per $$$, but are not quite as good to my ears (but still excellent amps).
Sean and Pubul57, if transparency is what you crave (lack of distortion, I'll get to that in a bit), then it is to your advantage to keep the impedance of the speaker as high as possible. This is true regardless of the amplifier technology, tube, SS or class D. IOW 4 ohms and less is not practical **if detail (transparency) and general musicality is your goal**. If instead you crave volume, lower impedance speakers will winnow that out of transistor amps.

This issue is so profound that the Speltz autoformer is beneficial to any amplifier that has to drive 4 ohms **it can make the impedance translation better than any solid state amplifier can**. IOW, transistor amplifiers will sound better driving 4 ohms through the ZERO than direct.

Figuring out what 'transparent' is was a serious issue that we had to face before we could even build anything. We solved it by going back to the microphones- then building the best mic preamps we could, then running them directly into the amplifiers and then auditioning both amps and speakers. It also required someone playing an acoustic instrument, so we could compare live vs. reproduced.

This allowed us to build our first reference, which we used to audition master tapes, and from there, LPs (CDs were just barely getting started...).

Ultimately transparency turned out to be "a lack of audible distortion, which would otherwise mask detail". The human ear/brain system perceives sound using a certain set of rules that all humans respond to the same way (taste is not an issue here). In this case, the rule is known as 'masking', wherein a louder sound will mask the presence of a quieter sound. So, low-level distortion will mask the presence of detail. Remove the distortion, and the detail is revealed. The distortions we are talking about here are at very low levels, yet our ears, via the masking rule, can easily hear the difference, and yes, you don't need a master tape to tell; the phenomena of 'not having heard that before' in a recording you know well is completely valid- you remove some low level distortion and voila!
Tvad- You managed to quote exactly what I said about the sound in my listening room being true "largely"(look it up- It means "generally") true to what I heard during the recording sessions. I also mentioned, "No claims to perfection." Then You entered into an immediate rant about claims I never made in that statement and reminded me so much of my ex-wife: It triggered an old response. So- I added another log to the fire. It cost me dearly to rid myself of her irrationalities. Gratefully- It won't cost me anything here. The TacT 2.2X (RCS) is not an amp. Over the years many have depended on my hearing, and paid for my services. I must be hearing and doing something right, as I've got a lot of happy customers. Enjoy whatever you enjoy!
Then there is what the TacT system accomplishes.
Rodman99999 (Answers)

Rodman99999, you mentioned the TacT system. I assumed there were more
TacT components in your TacT system beyond a preamp, thus my guess that
you might be using a TacT amp.

Five posts of yours in this thread, and still you've offered no response to the
OP's original question: "Most transparent amp you've heard?"
the most transparent amp i've heard is the darTZeel NHB-108 using the darTZeel NHB-18NS battery powered preamp and connected with the 'zeel' BNC cables.

the dart is a solid state design but it's sound is like music. no solid state sterility, grityness or upper mid-range glare, that wonderful solid state high frequency extension but with a sweetness instead of hardness. the dart also has that 'breath of life' of tubes without the darkness or roundness. with a very short signal path, minimum number of output devices and no global negative feedback you have a 'see-thru' quality, delicate nuance, naturalness, and an extremely low noise floor yet excellent micro-dynamic energy.

the dart does not impose a character on the music; instead it gets out of the way and achieves an amazing level of transparency and it's sound is the sound of real music.

the closest thing to a darTZeel in transparency in my experience would be the very best OTL tube amps; my favorite of which is the Tenor OTL and then the Atmasphere.

i have not heard everything out there.....
Atmosphere puts it well......"Ultimately transparency turned out to be "a lack of audible distortion, which would otherwise mask detail".
I have the Halcro DM58 Monoblocks which have ultra low-distortion as their main aim. I also have the Halcro DM10 Preamp. The reduction in distortion with the insertion of these amps was certainly beneficial to the overall 'transparency' of the total system, but it wasn't until I reduced those remaining distortions by inserting the ZYX Universe cartridge, the Raven AC-3 turntable, the Continuum Copperhead arm and most importantly.......the Duelund VSF capacitors in the speaker cross-over, that a blissful purity of effortless sound could project from the system's speakers.
To listen to most other systems now, I am painfully aware of the low-level distortions which are present. Atmasphere knows his 'onions'!
Thanks for the replies.

I'm going to RMAF this year. Here is a list of amps I want to audition.

ASR Emitter 2 exclusive
Atmasphere MA2 mk3
Audio Research
Bolder 2060
FM Acoustics
Parasound JC1
Pass XA.5 and X.5
Rogue Zeus or Apollo
Wolcott not sure if they will be there

Is there anything else I should look out for that will work with my Innersounds?

I know audio shows are not the best way to audition gear but most of the stuff I'm interested in is not represented here in Seattle.