My Long List of Amplifiers and My Personal Review of Each!

So I have been in a long journey looking to find the best amplifiers for my martin logan montis. As you know, the match between an amplifier and speakers has to be a good "marriage" and needs to be blend exquisitely. Right now, I think I might have found the best sounding amplifier for martin logan. I have gone through approximately 34-36 amplifiers in the past 12 months. Some of these are:

Bryston ST, SST, SST2 series

With all that said, the amplifiers I mentioned above are the ones that in my opinion are worth mentioning. To make a long story short, there is NO 5 CHANNEL POWER AMP that sounds as good as a 3ch and 2ch amplifier combination. i have done both experiments and the truth is that YOU DO lose details and more channel separation,etc when you select a 5 channel power amplifier of any manufacturer.
My recollection of what each amp sounded like is as follows:

ATI SIGNATURE SERIES 6005 (great power and amazing soundstage. Very low noise floor, BUT this amplifiers NEEDS TO BE cranked up in order to fully enjoy it. If you like listening at low volume levels or somewhat moderate, you are wasting your time here. This amp won’t sound any different than many other brands out there at this volume. The bass is great, good highs although they are a bit bright for my taste)

NAD M25 (very smooth, powerful, but somewhat thin sounding as far as bass goes)
Bryston sst2(detailed, good soundstage, good power, but can be a little forward with certain speakers which could make them ear fatiguing at loud volumes)

Krell (fast sounding, nice bass attack, nice highs, but some detail does get lost with certain speakers)

rotel (good amp for the money, but too bright in my opinion)

cary audio (good sound overall, very musical, but it didn’t have enough oomph)

parasound halo (good detail, great bass, but it still holds back some background detail that i can hear in others)

lexicon (very laid back and smooth. huge power, but if you like more detail or crisper highs, this amp will disappoint you)

McIntosh mc205 (probably the worst multichannel amp given its price point. it was too thin sounding, had detail but lacked bass.

butler audio (good amplifier. very warm and smooth sweet sounding. i think for the money, this is a better amp than the parasound a51)

pass labs (very VERY musical with excellent bass control. You can listen to this for hours and hours without getting ear fatigue. however, it DOES NOT do well in home theater applications if all you have is a 2 channel set up for movies. The midrange gets somewhat "muddy" or very weak sounding that you find yourself trying to turn it up.

classe audio (best amplifier for multi channel applications. i simply COULDNT FIND a better multi channel amplifier PERIOD. IT has amazing smoothness, amazing power and good bass control although i would say krell has much better bass control)

Update: The reviews above were done in January 2015. Below is my newest update as of October 2016:

PS AUDIO BHK 300 MONOBLOCKS: Amazing amps. Tons of detail and really amazing midrange. the bass is amazing too, but the one thing i will say is that those of you with speakers efficiency of 87db and below you will not have all the "loudness" that you may want from time to time. These amps go into protection mode when using a speaker such as the Salon, but only at very loud levels. Maybe 97db and above. If you don’t listen to extreme crazy levels, these amps will please you in every way.
Plinius Odeon 7 channel amp: This is THE BEST multichannel amp i have ever owned. Far , but FAR SUPERIOR to any other multichannel amp i have owned. In my opinion it destroyed all of the multichannel amps i mentioned above and below. The Odeon is an amp that is in a different tier group and it is in a league of its own. Amazing bass, treble and it made my center channel sound more articulate than ever before. The voices where never scrambled with the action scenes. It just separated everything very nicely.
Theta Dreadnaught D: Good detailed amp. Looks very elegant, has a pleasant sound, but i found it a tad too bright for my taste. I thought it was also somewhat "thin" sounding lacking body to the music. could be that it is because it is class d?
Krell Duo 300: Good amp. Nice and detailed with enough power to handle most speakers out there. I found that it does have a very nice "3d" sound through my electrostatics. Nothing to fault here on this amp.
Mark Levinson 532H: Great 2 channel amp. Lots of detail, amazing midrange which is what Mark Levinson is known for. It sounds very holographic and will please those of you looking for more detail and a better midrange. As far as bass, it is there, but it is not going to give you the slam of a pass labs 350.5 or JC1s for example. It is great for those that appreciate classical music, instrumental, etc, but not those of you who love tons of deep bass. It is articulate sounding too
Krell 7200: Plenty of detail and enough power for most people. i found that my rear speakers contained more information after installed this amp. One thing that i hated is that you must use xlr cables with this amp or else you lose most of its sound performance when using RCA’s.
Krell 402e: Great amp. Very powerful and will handle any speaker you wish. Power is incredible and with great detail. That said, i didn’t get all the bass that most reviewers mentioned. I thought it was "ok" in regards to bass. It was there, but it didn’t slam me to my listening chair.
Bryston 4B3: Good amp with a complete sound. I think this amp is more laid back than the SST2 version. I think those of you who found the SST2 version of this amp a little too forward with your speakers will definitely benefit from this amp’s warmth. Bryston has gone towards the "warm" side in my opinion with their new SST3 series. As always, they are built like tanks. I wouldn’t call this amp tube-like, but rather closer to what the classe audio delta 2 series sound like which is on the warm side of things.
Parasound JC1s: Good powerful amps. Amazing low end punch (far superior bass than the 402e). This amp is the amp that i consider complete from top to bottom in regards to sound. Nothing is lacking other than perhaps a nicer chassis. Parasound needs to rework their external appearance when they introduce new amps. This amp would sell much more if it had a revised external appearance because the sound is a great bang for the money. It made my 800 Nautilus scream and slam. Again, amazing low end punch.
Simaudio W7: Good detailed amp. This amp reminds me a lot of the Mark Levinson 532h. Great detail and very articulate. I think this amp will go well with bookshelves that are ported in order to compensate for what it lacks when it comes to the bass. That doesn’t mean it has no bass, but when it is no Parasound JC1 either.
Pass labs 350.5: Wow, where do i begin? maybe my first time around with the xa30.8 wasn’t as special as it was with this monster 350.5. It is just SPECTACULAR sounding with my electrostatics. The bass was THE BEST BASS i have ever heard from ANY amp period. The only amp that comes close would be the jC1s. It made me check my settings to make sure the bass was not boosted and kept making my jaw drop each time i heard it. It totally destroyed the krell 402e in every regard. The krell sounded too "flat" when compared to this amp. This amp had amazing mirange with great detail up top. In my opinion, this amp is the best bang for the money. i loved this amp so much that i ended up buying the amp that follows below.
Pass labs 250.8: What can i say here. This is THE BEST STEREO AMP i have ever heard. This amp destroys all the amps i have listed above today to include the pass labs 350.5. It is a refined 350.5 amp. It has more 3d sound which is something the 350.5 lacked. It has a level of detail that i really have never experienced before and the bass was amazing as well. I really thought it was the most complete power amplifier i have ever heard HANDS DOWN. To me, this is a benchmark of an amplifier. This is the amp that others should be judged by. NOTHING is lacking and right now it is the #1 amplifier that i have ever owned.
My current amps are Mcintosh MC601s: i decided to give these 601s a try and they don’t disappoint. They have great detail, HUGE soundstage, MASSIVE power and great midrange/highs. The bass is great, but it is no pass labs 250.8 or 350.5. As far as looks, these are the best looking amps i have ever owned. No contest there. i gotta be honest with you all, i never bought mcintosh monos before because i wasn’t really "wowed" by the mc452, but it could have been also because at that time i was using a processor as a preamp which i no longer do. Today, i own the Mcintosh C1100 2 chassis tube preamp which sounds unbelievable. All the amps i just described above have been amps that i auditioned with the C1100 as a preamp. The MC601s sound great without a doubt, but i will say that if you are looking for THE BEST sound for the money, these would not be it. However, Mcintosh remains UNMATCHED when it comes to looks and also resale value. Every other amp above depreciates much faster than Mcintosh.

That said, my future purchase (when i can find a steal of a deal) will be the Pass labs 350.8. I am tempted to make a preliminary statement which is that i feel this amp could be THE BEST stereo amp under 30k dollars. Again, i will be able to say more and confirm once i own it. I hope this update can help you all in your buying decisions!


Showing 50 responses by chazzzy007

In light of your very recent experience with the Alexia 1's, a very good choice with the DAWs! 👍

rsf507672 posts02-28-2020 5:44amNice move to the DAWs! They are very very detailed (something we have learned you look for in gear) and are very very very dynamic. Yes I’ve heard them several times. BUT mating them with Odin speaker cable may bring to much of a good thing and while initially you might find all the detail to be fine I would think that after 20-30 minutes you would become fatigued with the sound in my humble opinion. I would have thought the Audiomica speaker cable “might” have been the better match with the DAWs or any other cable but again just my own thoughts not the Odin match-up.
Looking forward to your impressions after all it’s what you are looking for and not your followers, we are just riding along on your journey.

I've heard Alexandrias numerous times through an Odin 2 Loom and D'Agostino amp and the sound is is absolutely effortless and pure with a deep and detailed soundstage.
After about 45 minutes of A/B’ing...

#2 & 3 are by far the winners here. Much more depth and sophistication in their presentations. #1’s presentation is "thick" and quite 1 dimensional. I’d have to hear another song between 2 & 3 to see if 3 tilts a bit much to the highs. #2 seems a bit richer and more organic in the mids while still maintaining a nice airy detailed quality with very good slam in the bass.

If #3 can sound organic and balanced on a more treble forward song while maintaining a nice balance top to bottom that would assuage a bit of trepidation on judging it’s overall quality for me. I have a feeling that this song could be covering up a very treble forward presentation here.

IMO this song by itself is not the best choice to decide on the winning presentation. IMO it’s actually quite bad since it’s so bass and lower mid heavy that it’s going to mask what would otherwise be an overly bright presentation.

I just relistened on my class A tube setup. 1st listen was through Lyndorf using my Modwright Oppo as the DAC.

On 2nd listen all 3 sound better.

#1 though better on tubes is still much flatter and 2 dimensional.

#2 sounds really well balanced to me. Presentaion is detailed open, and airy while retaining a very rich organic presentation in the mids with good control and expression of the bottom end.

#3 sounds like it has quite a bit of treble energy which makes it sound more detailed but I'd be concerned on less bass and midrange rich music that the presentaion would be a bit strident.

We need to hear 2 & 3 on another better balanced song with less bass and lower mid range energy.

My guess would be
1. Audiomica
2. Odin
3. AQ Firebird

Camaro you have to do another song for a round 2. This song sucks for comparison purposes.
Use one of the Demo discs that aren't copyrighted. The one everyone at the shows use. I have it here somewhere bu can't find it....
2 & 3 are my favorites but I have to hear another song or 2 for a final verdict.
Dragon was by far the brightest in my system. Odin the least. Audiomica in between both.

Horrible song to use for any type of comparison. Surprised that @whitecamaross  is trying to make anything of this particular "shootout" at all. 

So bad...
The shootout "poll" was based on our listening not yours, on a song that for comparative purposes, is practically one of the worst choices of any to use... lol

On my computer the Audiomica #3 sounded the most detailed, had the longest reverberation time and (to me) sounded the brightest...then the AQ Dragon #2 followed by Odin1 #1. In fact #1 Odin1 sounded a little rolled off on the top end (over my computer). I was perplexed to hear the OP say that Odin1 was sometimes too bright for his system and felt the need to tame the sound with Cardas IC's.
This is exactly what I hear. (although I think #2 is AM and #3 is Dragon)
rsf507698 posts03-18-2020 1:[email protected] you stated " Dragon was by far the brightest in "my" system. Odin the least. Audiomica in between both.

What’s your full system and does your amp(s) also require the 20amp IEC? Have you listened to other cables and what’s your thought?

My system is in Audiogon. Click on my name...
I use Tyr 2 as XLR’s and Clear Day double shotguns speaker cables.
BAT VK 6200 which has a Neutral/slightly warm detailed sound and Modwright Oppo 205 class A tube. It’s pretty easy to hear that Dragon(#3) has the most treble energy. Surprisingly much more than the Odin on this song. Odins have a much more laid back presentation. Almost dark (at least on this song through my system) compared to Audio-mica (#2) and Dragon(#3). Vocals are much more recessed on Odin through my system vs AM and Dragon.

But like I mentioned, IMO this song is not good at all to use for comparison/poll purposes.

I appreciate the warning video @whitecamaross !!
My favorite on-going thread on this site. I am currently in the process of finding and upgrading to a new multi channel amp so this thread has been helpful.

Thank you very much @whitecamaross !!!


I believe all the BAT SS amps operate in class A/B. I have a VK-6200 and although it is absolutely superb, it operates in A/B.

Totally agree with you on their ability to drive difficult speakers. The way that they can take control of the bass with such delicacy and detail is sublime. Amazing detail across all frequencies as well as micro/macro dynamics!
Boulder 2010 so we can all get a sense of what the fullest expression of the Boulder House sound was meant to be.
@btw22 I just recently upgraded my NAD M27 and the Plinius was one of the amps on my short list. It was basically impossible to find one to audition though. I bought the BAT VK-6200 which though it has a different presentation than the Plinius, I think is it’s equal. Very powerful, dynamic and detailed, with an open, natural, just to the warm side of neutral presentation. It’s control of deep Bass is sublime. I’m quite surprised that @whitecamaross has never auditioned it along with it’s big brother the 655se though I think that neither is quite warm sounding enough for his tastes.
@btw22 I think you’d do well to listen to one the next chance you get. The BAT is absolutely superb in 2 channel. It’s so good my dealer uses them in a monoblock array for his 2 channel music system. The BAT uses a separate toroid for each channel so it’s a true monoblock design. The snap and dynamics of this amp is amazing, yet it is also incredibly delicate and detailed.

@whitecamaross I’d always wondered why you never reviewed the 655se. I have my answer now. That’s a shame because every reviewer who’s had it has loved it. Even it’s baby brother the multi-channel VK-6200 is an incredibly good 2 channel performer. 👍
Understanding that you prefer a warmer, more musical sounding amp it makes sense that perhaps your cabling and other parts of your system are a bit more analytical and neutral in order to compensate. Maybe that’s the issue with the Boulder. You’ve paired more analytical cables and sources with a neutral amp and indeed without your warmer sounding amp you are simply hearing the upstream parts of your system.
I just read an Absolute Sound review of the 2160 and 2110 Pre-amp and initially the reviewer ran into similar observations as you. Here is what he found:

Boulder 2150 Mono Power Amplifier and 2110 PreamplifierSo Close to the Musical TruthEquipment reportby Anthony Cordesman | Jan 21st, 2015Categories: Solid-state power amplifiers, Solid-state preamplifiers |Products: Boulder Amplifiers 2110, Boulder Amplifiers 2150

The Boulder 2150 mono power amplifier and 2110 stereo preamplifier mark the second time in a few months that I’ve reviewed electronics that define the state of the art in sound quality, design, and luxury. I can recommend both without reservation to anyone who has the money and is looking for superb sound quality.

They do, however, present a challenge to both the reviewer and the audiophile. Here’s the issue: With equipment this good—and this neutral and transparent—almost all of the colorations you hear come from the recording, the front end, the interconnects and speaker cables, the load presented by the speaker, and the complex room interactions that shape the sound of the speaker at a given listening position.

What is Truth? Jesting Pilate Asked
There is no such thing as a truly neutral and transparent amplifier or preamplifier, but increasingly the inherent sound quality of a small number of elite units has become extremely difficult to gauge due to interactions with more-colored equipment. The question becomes: What are you really reviewing? Even if—as I did—you use a mix of other components, speakers, and listening positions, you can’t avoid the reality that any given reader is going to hear sound that is dominated by the colorations of a different mix of recordings, components, and listening rooms.

This may sound a bit hypothetical, but it was all too clear in practice on the day that the Boulder 2150 mono power amplifier arrived. It literally came in from the cold, and was then thrust immediately into a setup designed for my Pass reference amp. The end result was that the 2150 initially sounded thin and lacking in midrange warmth.

The problem, however, was not in the Boulder. The thinness and lack of warmth came from the fact I was using Transparent Audio speaker cables designed specifically for the radically different loads of Pass amps used with the Wilson Alexias.

The sonic problems that I at first thought were in the 2150 went away the moment I substituted a high-quality AudioQuest speaker cable. They did not exist when Transparent Audio sent me one of its speaker cables specifically configured for the Boulder amps. They also did not exist when I used a high-quality Kimber speaker cable.

The practical problem that did exist, however, was that each speaker cable that worked well in broad terms also changed some aspect of the upper bass and lower midrange, and presented a slightly different soundstage. They were all really good speaker cables, but they changed the sound in ways that were more audible than the colorations of the Boulder 2150.

Much of my initial listening came on a day when Peter McGrath of both Wilson Audio and recording fame was helping me adjust the position of my Alexias. Like my experience with the Pass Xs 300 power amps, the Boulder 2150 has an almost incredible amount of reserve power and an extremely high damping factor. It has an al- most unmatched ability to control speaker loads with the right cable.

What no amp can do, however, is control speaker/room interaction or be precisely designed for a given speaker load.

Once again, the low coloration in the 2150 made the colorations in other aspects of my “system” more apparent—particularly if one adds the room in as part of the “system.” The sound of the Wilsons changed slightly with only a one-inch back-and- forth movements, and shifted significantly from warm to neutral after being moved less than 3.5" forward. We also could hear the differences between digital front ends more clearly—devices where I often find the analog audio circuits to be at least as colored as any of the digital circuitry.

A few weeks later, I was listening to four different digital front ends: The Sooloos, the EMM Labs XDS1, the PS Audio PerfectWave DAC II, and a brilliant new Swiss server called “The Beast.” I also was now using both the Boulder 2110 preamp and the Boulder 2150 mono amplifier. Once again, the sonic differences between the digital front ends dominated the sound character of the Boulders.
@whitecamaross This is such a great thread. Maybe one additional item to add to your reviews would be speaker cables and interconnects? I don't really know if that would be feasible but they have such and pact in our system that it would be great to hear several different models and how they impact each new amp in your system. Maybe this is the next logical step to your reviews. 

Keep up the good work. 
Thank you! 👍
Caymus special selection 2014???
Isolation platform + Caymus special selection 2014
Good luck with the Youtube channel @whitecamaross .
Subb'd when you make it happen! ;)
Good luck with the move WCSS! 👍

Audition the BAT VK-6200. It’s absolutely sublime. The only other multi-channel amp that might be it’s equal is the Plinius Odeon. The BAT is detailed, very dynamic, quick, and just ever so slightly to the warm side of neutral. It has tremendous control of bass and doubles down power wise into 4 OHM’s so it’s a great amp to power difficult to drive speakers. It’s so good one of my dealers uses it (in bi-amped mode) in his 2 channel reference system at home.

I am in Southern California and looked for a VK-6200 all over the U. S. for 4 or 5 months. During that time I spoke to a number of BAT dealers all across the America. Far and away the best dealer and where I ended up buying my BAT was with Larry Diaz who owns High End Palace in Florida. He is no longer an official BAT dealer, but has a long standing relationship with Viktor and Steve @ BAT. He spent about 2 or 3 months with me as I was shopping for the right amp. He took his time to answer all my questions and never once made me feel that I was taking up too much time. In the end him and I made a very fair deal for both of us on a pre-owned mint VK-6200 as well as a beautiful sound anchor custom platform. Call him and tell him Charles referred you. His number is 786-388-8050. Larry is also a dealer here on Audiogon.

BTW, there is a very well known BAT dealer about 45 minutes from me, and I have purchased a number of items from him in the past. That I decided to buy from Larry who is 3,000 miles away should say quite a bit about how he treated and worked with me.

Good luck! 👍

You're welcome and good luck! 👍
Pass and Ref 10 with BC Black closely behind.
@whitecamaross How much music listening do you do during a typical week/weekend???
@whitecamaross My balanced power unit needed about 200 hours to break in fully and continued to make subtle improvements till between 400-500 hours. At 50 or so hours is when it just began to start making improvements. You have to be patient with the P20.

Maybe you want to wait a week or so before you consider changing out any cables. You have a new P10, and Bel Canto Black breaking in. Meanwhile your old components were unplugged and boxed for the move. Just about every component in your system is going to be settling in and changing sound over the next week or 2.

Happy listening! 👍

I was just going to ask the basic differences between the Bel Canto and Ref 10 and read your last post. The Ref 10 along with the Black and Luxman seem to be have been the top of the food chain in your now several year journey. I’d be interested to hear more of your thoughts on what makes these pre’s different from each other. Each of their strengths as well as weaknesses vs each other and how they compare broadly. Not necessarily which is better,  but more how they compare. 

Happy Easter! 🙌
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Gryphon. I thinks it’s to the more detailed, cooler, dynamic side of neutral like the Black. I’d love to see how it compares to the Ref 10 and Black. Whenever you can pick up any of the top BAT pre-amps, digital or tube, but especially the Rex 2, I’d love to hear how those compare. 👍
On the Gryphon... I think we will find that @ between 14-16K on the used market it offers quite a bit of value on the high end scale and will compare reasonably well with the Black. To be sure the Black will be on a different level but for 1/3 of the Black price I think we will get in the same ballpark performance. We shall see... 

On cables. Sounds like next week it will be to to put in some copper interconnects to see how much that will darken the Black's presentation. 

@rshad0000 I have a BAT VK-6200 amp and I like it fir the same reasons you like the Gryphon. It's just on the warm side of Neutral versus your Gryphon's slightly cooler presentation. 

On Oppo... Wow,  a very sad day for videophiles and entry-level audiophiles. I just bought a Modwright 205, and it's being delivered tomorrow. Wonder who will pick up that Mantle? Panasonic is releasing a 205 level Player in the Fall. The DP-UB9000. We'll see how that turns out. 
So at the moment the sound-stage with the Black is more impressive than the sound-stage with the Ref 10/Pass???
*continues eating popcorn and following the thread*



Right now you're liking the Black more plugged straight into the outlet, but all you're doing is raising the noise floor with the electrical grunge which is softening the highs but also smearing the subtle sonic details. I use balanced power and I get the same effect when I A/B though the balanced power vs outlet. The Black is just bright at the moment. If you keep the Black you may need to find some good copper interconnects or cables or both. The Copper will warm up the sound vs the silver you have now which is much more neutral or maybe even a bit cool depending on what you are using. I'd suggest trying a good Copper IC first before adding speaker cables as well, but wait a bit longer, 400-500 hours before you change out any cables. Your Black still need lots of break in time. 

Looking forward to you auditioning the Gryphon. 👍

Pair your Ref 10 with a BAT VK-655se and you will take your system to another level. The current delivery with the 655se is high, 300 watts into 8 ohms and doubles down into 4 ohms so it will bring out the best in your PL500's and Revels. It's neutral warm, musical, detailed and extremely dynamic. The 655se comes as either a mono-block or stereo amp.

If you put the BAT in your system you will not take it out. 👍

My guess would be better shielding with the new Ethernet cable. It also could be that your new router has a lower noise floor as well or a combination of both. 
Stay away from the NADs and Class D. I had the M27 for 2 years. It was smooth, reasonably detailed, and threw a wide soundstage but had no life. 

Get yourself a BAT 655se and be done with it. Or get a 4 channel VK-6200 and bi -amp it (400 watts into 8 ohms and 800 into 4 ohms) just to get a taste of the sublime BAT sound before you invest in a 655se. You need great current delivery and the BATs have that as well as detail,  soundstaging , dynamics and just the right touch of warmth. 

Call Larry @the Palace and ask him how good BAT amplifiers are. His reference system at home uses bi-amped VK-6200's. 👍👍👍

I’m listening to Enya right now at what I consider low/moderate levels and the ABC apps sound meter says my music is about 60 DB.

Much of the music I listen to is much much more dynamic and quite a bit louder. Because of where I live I can never listen as loud as I'd like. 

Lolz! 🙌🙌🙌

I've got a pair of Denon AHD 5000's and Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO/80's. 

I haven't used them in 3 or 4 years. 🍻

Apologies if I came across as harsh. Class D was smooth,  and overall pleasant. When it came to critical listening though it left me wanting more and I couldn't quite put my finger on it except that I knew something was missing. Subtle harmonics, low level detail and absolute control of my speakers especially in the Bass. It got 85 or 90 percent right,  but that last 15'ish percent is what really makes music come alive and makes you want to close your eyes and listen for hours. 
Ohhh, that sucks about the BAT. =(
Go make a deal for that BAT!!!