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 inna

Stage III Concept cables and power cords could be interesting. May not be easy to sell them later, though. Same with Echole brand.
Dave, I might've underestimated and I might not. In any case, it's a hell of a lot of money for a dac. There are better ways to waist money.

Soulution 530 is a great idea. Swiss vs Danish.
80% and 100% is night and day. Besides, it is hard to measure these things in percentage. From audiophile perspective, true audiophile perspective, only separates are acceptable. This means only mono blocks. Stereo is for the masses, it is not best value, it has no value at all.
Yeah, no dynamics either.
I see. Only 200 hours on speakers.
Regardless of the differences in electronics, Wilson and Magico are strikingly different. Besides other things, Magico have this soaring character while Wilson are down to earth.
We are waiting impatiently for Jay's new set up and videos. I posted my system and that's it. Besides, we are interested in high end systems not good mid fi value systems.
D'Agostino Progression integrated costs about the same as Diablo 300. How do they compare, I wonder ? 
This is only my wish, you may not have a similar one or it might be very difficult to arrange. I would like to hear big Soulution amps with Soulution preamp in your system. And also perhaps Ypsilon hybrids. 
And reel to reel deck as a source. I never said it.
That's additional reason of why it would be very interesting to hear Magico with big powerful Boulders and Gryphons. I think, the Soulution is 'masculine enough' but not that big for such demanding 'feminine' speakers.
And we are going to get a surprise amplification in about two weeks. I am intrigued. 
Diablo 300's msrp is $16k without phono or dac, more than triple the price brings in what, besides D'Agostino ? It may bring in Soulution 530 and Audionet, forgot the name of the model. Also, some Vitus maybe.
Other integrated amps that make sense to me are Soulution 330, Nagra Classic, Ypsilon Phaethon and Absolare.
That's probably true, especially considering that Lamm are not that powerful. There are also SET Lamm, of course, but that's outside your preferences. 
Lamm hybrid separates vs any integrated ? That could be interesting.
I missed it then, will check it out.
Checked it out. The impression remains. For my taste and to my ear D'Agostino is closer to how it should be than Gryphon. I don't listen to big orchestra, so perhaps with that kind of music Gryphon would have an advantage, maybe even more so with Gryphon big speakers. Flemming Rasmussen himself said that he liked large scale music.

Flemming Rasmussen designed his integrateds for fun and to introduce audiophiles to Gryphon sound. They are inexpensive great pieces.
Listen to his separates especially top of the line. Even better with Gryphon reference speakers. Just not with cd player, with serious analogue source.
By the way, transistor amps should not sound like tube amps.
Not to mention $70k difference. But it's nothing for potential buyers, right ?
He doesn't know but I think I do. Bring Boulder/Gryphon in there.
Synergy indeed. Foregone conclusion - Boulder will work great with any speakers. Great amp is great amp. It will not necessarily be the very best amp for any speakers but it will be an excellent match. Well, unless it is just too much power for speakers to handle. Part of a synergy talk is BS.
techno, let's leave them alone with that. It's mostly or exclusively dollars that count in the end, as you imply. Dealers have to push products, the only question is how exactly they do it, their approach.
The latest videos are no different than many others on youtube.
I listened to your comparison of D'Agostino and Gryphon power amps with D'Agostino preamp on youtube. It would've been better to compare full D'Agostino to full Gryphon set-up. As it was, to my ear D'Agostino was superior, great involving emotional sound. Gryphon might've been a bit more precise, not sure.
Yes, there was no full Gryphon set-up.
It is difficult to compare when different tunes are played. But this Boulder set sounds great. I would do side by side comparison, same melody. Seems that I still prefer D'Agostino, it's got soul. But those Boulders, oh yeah.
I didn't say new Accuphase would make much sense, not to me at least.
I watched a few more of your videos.
I did not like Luxman, either separates or the integrated. I did like Accuphase integrated, more correct and sophisticated sound than Luxman.
Again, this is youtube listening, so..
As they say, for my money, if I had this kind of money for this, I would go for Gryphon and D'Agostino. Diablo 300 appears to be the best value but I would go for D'Agostino if I could. Used Accuphase would make sense too.
There is something very special about D'Agostino sound.
Maybe it is youtube or maybe it is just me but I found Pass amps boring, and based only on your videos I would not even consider them. It's D'Agostino, Gryphon and Boulder.
It would be interesting to me to hear how they all would sound with bigger Kharma speakers. I know that Lamm sounds excellent with them, that's Kharma sounds excellent with Lamm.
Jay, I would like to thank you for the incredible work that you've been doing.
Oh, forgot to mention. Both are far ahead of Japanese transistors. Who needs those, anyway, there is much better American and European stuff ?
Just watched your videos, part one and two, comparing Boulder monoblocks with Gryphon Mephisto. First, I am not at all sure that Gryphon and Wilsons are a good match, Mephisto sounds different with big Gryphon speakers. Second, you compare stereo Gryphon to monoblock Boulder, that's not fair. And third, maybe something is not quite right with cabling, including power cord.
As you did it, Boulder is obviously better, closer to reality.
Gryphon is sleepy, has no resolution or pace and is doing some kind of 'tube like' sound engineering. It has no bite and doesn't draw into the music. It puts you at ease instead of engaging you.
No contest. None. D'Agostino is so much better. More natural, balanced, engaging, music flows. Unless it's a system match thing, get rid of that Mephisto. And I am a kind of Gryphon fan, so I am biased in the opposite direction.

I also have an impression, and not just of this comparison but anytime when I hear Mephisto in your system, that Gryphon imposes itself instead of leading the way and making the speakers sing. It tries to sing itself through the speakers. But still, I would pair Mephisto with Gryphon preamp and D'Agostino with D'Agostino preamp, and would play more with cables and cords to find the best possible match.
"Get rid" might've been a little harsh, I agree, I was just articulating the point.

Jay, we understand, just conveying some possible suggestions. 
To return to your comparisons, after listening again, I can tell you that overall I still prefer Boulder preamp/amp to everything else. Not without flaws but it just sounds closer to reality to me, even if this reality is not perfect. Both Gryphon and D'Agostino make the reality sound 'nicer' than it is. Boulder combo is ruthless.
So it's Boulder - first place, D'Agostino - second place and Gryphon - third place. That's how it is for me.

Jay, what is the name of the first tune and of the performer in D'Agostino/Gryphon comparison ? I like the song.
To return to your Gryphon/Boulder/D'Agostino comparisons, most of us will never have such an impressive sound. I would also think that any of these power amps should sound just great on its own feet on the floor, not that it may not be improved. There are probably hundreds of various footers. I might try SRA or whatever it's called platforms, though.
As for my mentioning of tape deck, besides the vastly superior sound quality, one could eliminate preamp and run directly into power amps. As pure as it can get. 
Again, I like Boulder, it shows all the negatives of the recordings, it shows everything there is to show. But it won't sell well, I guess.
Right, but I would guess macho Gryphon and soulful D'Agostino would appeal to more people than big Boulder.
Not to me. Studer A80 with Boulder amps and some speakers. I like your Wilsons enough. That would be quite a sound. Well, if you need digital capabilities too, just pass the signal through Studer.
jc4659, thank you. Very good song indeed.
I hope D'Agostino amps are coming my way. They romanticize things a little but are very impressive.
Just read Fremer's review of the Boulder amp. He said almost exactly what I heard. Spectacular amps. The only real kind of negative is that Boulder is a little dry. And he played analogue source too, not just digital.
Power cords more expensive than amps they are with ? At a totally different level I got $2k power cord on $2k amp. Yeah, I tried less expensive. No, wasn't good enough.
$99k pair power cords for Boulder monoblocks ? Well, could be interesting.
Interestingly, you thought that D'Agostino Momentum integrated sounded much better than Gryphon Diablo 300.
I heard some people preferred Diablo 300 to Gryphon lower level separates, not Mephisto. Some also stated that Diablo 120 sounded better to them than Diablo 300. In both cases they stressed musicality, whatever they meant by that.
I thought that big Boulders controlled the speakers better than Mephisto, but I wasn't in the room.
Rockport and Kharma.
Of course, Boulder electronics should be better than MBL, I am not surprised at all.
#1 is clearly better. In #2 something was wrong.
Boulders are such great amps. If I had them I would play a bit more with interconnects, speaker cables and power cords. Could be very time consuming but these amps are worth it.
What speakers does Boulder use to voice the amps ?
Gryphon Diablo 300 - best 'budget' integrated.
D'Agostino Momentum - best integrated.
Boulder separates - best sound in town. Incredible.
I like Wilson Maxx speakers.

I see. Thank you. Grand Utopia are thought by some to be among the very best speakers. VAC uses them too. 
I just hope not Magico. Either Sonus Faber or Kharma or top Wilson.
Shock ? You are not negotiating about big Wavac, are you ? Japanese voltage, so you might need electrician.
Or..let’s of the line Krell ?
And what is it going to be for amplification, to begin with ?
Same company, Boulder, Gryphon and D'Agostino ?
No, Jay, you win. And I never criticized you for bringing in top level stuff.
I understand the idea to experiment with top level preamp and various levels amps, and the other way around. But in this case I thought it was too far apart. Besides, Boulder and Pass have so different sound signatures, they don't compliment each other but contradict each other.

Yeah, if I had this Boulder preamp and had almost no funds left for power amp, I would at least find old Gryphon and would probably be quite happy. But not less than that.
Why combine top level preamp with second rate amp ? Pass is not a top level brand. The same with Luxman and even Accuphase. Top level preamp with top level amp, that's the way.
Boulder/Pass is terrible, especially compared to your previous set ups.
Boulder preamp is great but that Pass.. It is very far from real.
Boulder preamp brought out all the weaknesses of the Pass. That's exactly the reason to do experiments like that. It didn't make Pass amp sound better.

Yeah, the Pass that faxer posted.