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 24 responses by justmetoo

In short, 'bit-stripping' with high-end DAC units is a thing way of the past. 
Levinson gear, already back in the 90s left this method behind by using resistor ladder attenuation in their analogue output stage. 
It's unimaginable that ANY present high-end gear would still use this sound degrating cheap attenuation method. 
M. 🇿🇦 
Wow, I do like that INT 250's sound/clarity & cohesiveness, the Luxman sounding a tad more warm/minutely veiled *by comparison*.
That PASS just creates a sense of almost supernatural & magical vibe with that music. Amazing.
Thank you for sharing 🙂
WC, thanks for your response,
I THINK what I'm reading in your take of my mentioning, is aligning with what I had to say. 
I'm NOT speaking from theory - at all - but from my very own listening experience, with my own equipment. 

I agree that this still seems the current status regarding DAC direct, yet things can or may change, "Nix is fix". Ever, eh? 

Interesting also for me to learn, that some of your thread's followers in deed are running MBL Biegewandler, and do have positive experience with the use of alternative power-amp sources, to those monsterous MBL mono-block :). 
M. 🇿🇦 
Wireworld cable sounding better, more right somehow, just to me too. 
Oh dear, DAC directly into poweramp, here I go again...
Shall I be mildly, or deeply, embarrassed not to call a dCS DAC my own? 
Maybe my comment is targeted to folks that muck about below the stratospheric equipment regions... 
Like I'm still using an ML 390S (it's actually a CD 'processor' not just 'player' mind you) with actually one very fancy volume control (not the bit stripping kind) i.e. the like that's used in most ML preamps, ML 38 onwards at least.
Some sort of very fine, 0.1 dB step attenuator and no Alps potentiometer either.
Maybe GOOGLE it if it warrants more interest. 

So, of course what helps in my case too is, that I as well have to handle a tt...😉 Fine. 

The point, of using my ML 326S preamp now in place of a direct connection from DAC to amp is that it simply sounds... BETTER in my scenario. 
In the situation described it's nothing new actually, was also e.g. mentioned at the time by John Atkinson, if I recall correctly... 

So - as always, IT ALL DEPENDS... on your gear etc.
Whereby in NO way do I wish to diminish WC's latest - epiphany on the subject. 😅
I agree with all comments regarding the very closeness as can be perceived not being right therein yhe room.
However, the Luxman at ½ that 30k cost of the Ayer... 😉... my pick for sure. 
All that said, the music sounding absolutely fantastic, detailed, spacious, airy, ever so right, this for both units. 
Michélle 🇿🇦
# 3 sounding the most real and captivating.
# 2 kind of holding some middle ground,
# 1 is certainly ultra detailed almost surreal but 'over-euphonic' if that is a/the word 😊. 

# 1 sound somehow too 'new', not all settled in maybe, but in total all are very exceptional sounding sets for sure. 

— What Watt/Puppies are those, if I may ask please? Version 7 ?
Sorry, I'm a bit behind the curve... 😏
Michélle 🇿🇦 
Ah, still all about preamp or no preamp. 

Hard for me to believe, what I'd said on the subject, going straight into my amp, turns out somethings have changed, - I was WRONG. 😣


I hadn't tried this for ages because I'm also playing vinyl. 
But somehow, some things like: bias reset, DC offset reset, differt XLR to amp ICs (Transparent Ultra), must have done it?

In this case BETTER means more clarity, more air, more focus, different (more correct) tonality? And all not quite so subtle either. 

The predicament... how to deal with all my vinyl?!? 

😏 No idea as yet. 
Michélle 🇿🇦 
Thanks for your take dear, and it makes a lot of sense. 
However, using my ML390S straight into my X350.5 Pass is a PITA - re-plugging the XLRs and setting the the ML390S from Fixed to Variable (output), and all back again for vinyl listening.
Most of my classic music is on old vinyl, as here in SA there's next to no interest in this kind of music by the Black majority of customers i.e. no CDs.
'Broadband' is "narrowband" at the best of times.
Therefore streaming is useless in most areas. 

The difference of bypassing the pre, however is most noticeable, as I'd mentioned, so now I'm stuck with a conundrum - to change or not to change, this is the question? 🤔
Michélle 🇿🇦 

Re. you last video, retrospective. 
Call it a summary ok, me OMG... 🌬
Seriously it takes some missioning, good you where not married at the time, methinks 🤣 

Me, I would have run, real fast! Wow!

But ok, that's just my subjective response. 

Like how does it go with that Steve Wonder song? 🤔 "Every body's got a thing..."

I must play it now, lest I'll get too heavy. Uffff

In any case, I do feel to say THANK YOU, for sharing, yes. 
Michélle 🇿🇦 
#1 interconnect 💯 % for me. Absolutely beautifully open, clear and coherent. 

#2 reminds me of my system when I somehow - don't like it. 👎
This by comparison of the two. 

But your speakers are, in my estimate, one big contributor in the #1 top showing, - as they point out the #2 comparative lack there of. 

Can this all be due to synergy? 🙄

Somehow, I don't think so, based on my own cable listening experience.
And, the ability of your top source is - 'coming through loud and clear'. WOW! 
AMAZING SOUND I'm hearing. 
Michélle 🇿🇦 
Any  chance to learn what music/song you'd been playing? 🥰 Lovely stuff! 
Michélle 🇿🇦 

+1 👂👍


Michélle 🇿🇦 
Maybe I was a bit too subtle.

I have no issue with your 'fine' music.

I mentioned hearing REVERB even when you are SPEAKING, like in a church!

IT'S YOUR ROOM - at least that's what was trying to convey. 
M. 🇿🇦 
One of the latest class D offerings, e.g. by MBL N51, using a huge linear powersupply? 

The treble speed, and low end punch (hammer) could just point to that. Seriously. 
Michélle 🇿🇦 
This lot sounds worlds appart from the Wilsons. Seriouly unlistenable to me.

Yes, I’m sure it can be improved - by how much? Who knows...

Though this is so bad, it can only get better - one hopes!

Sorry to be so ’in front of the waggon’ about it.

Michélle 🇿🇦
Good for you, actually finding ANY sort of 'positiv'. KUDOS, I say! 😊

I just couldn't, not trying to be horrible, maybe just spoiled?!? OMG, maybe am lacking imagination ... 🤔

WC's Wilson DAWs sounded really lovely on my gear! But this present stuff - BAD. Seriously. 

Eish man, 😔 
Michélle 🇿🇦 


Can only agree with your statement. 
I had a pair of Mola Mola mono block on test for some 2 weeks, to see if I could replace my power-hungry PassLabs X350.5. 

In short, I had the same experience as you described it.
Though, really well and solidely made stuff, and accordingly pricey to boot.

Putting the X350.5 back in, had just so much more authority and overall natural sound quality.
These Class D monos, for me, sounded like hyper-hifi.
Just not right. At all. 
@whitecamaross OP

Interesting comment on bass control of the Pass X350.5. 
Not that I disagree, but I had a notion, it is what reflex-port (Burmester 961) plus room nodes, was at least adding to that tendency. 

Then I recalled this issue, from way back studies, of the 'back EMF'... created by the 8" woofer, in my case. 
Similar issue with some Watt/Puppies I'd auditioned in my system, a while back. 

The damping factor of the X350.5 is quoted reasonably high at ~170 and that in theory at least, should take care of that issue - but, there are different ways to ALLOW for this back EMF to be absorbed more rapidly by the amp. 
My best way, *very* short speaker cables, 4 foot, single (i.e. not bi-wired) connected to the bass terminals, and 5½" mid-woofer and AMT tweeter connected by a substantial set of short copper-jumper, braid type cables with crimped cable shoes. 

It makes a notable difference in my setting.

Leaning out the bass response (maybe X350.8 ?), affects EVERYTHING, all the way to the treble, as I had noticed when auditioning the Mola Mola monos. 

Seems, ultimately there's no free lunch, eh? 🤔
Michélle 🇿🇦 
Just two points,
one new, and one pretty old - and actually just repeating what I'd to say a long while back in this thread I.e. using DAC direct into amp. 

So FINALY there seems some more agreement on the subject as it APPEARS. GOOD! 
a) To reiterated; even with a most finely resolving ladder resistor (R-2R, analogue) DAC output volume control i.e. no bit stripping, the use of a good quality preamp improves SQ.

This, even ages ago, was found to be the case during Sterophile's J. Atkinson testing Levison gear, which I use and which I could confirm also. No if or but. 

b) Regards Viber6 comment about Wilson Alexia2 and 'the weakest link' ... 

IMO, WC's top notch frontend equipment is in fact, practically relegating ANY speaker to the 'weakest link' - in this system setup.
At this extremely high frontend quality level this is practically unavoidable. 

This is perhaps a more philosophically stated point of view, and in NO WAY diminishes the very top SQ achieved. 

So much so, that as stated, this speaker is revealing minute changes, that a lesser quality speaker would hardly be able to do. 

Never the less, it can still be the 'weakest link' (for now?). 
Only, e.g. some top of the line MBL 'Biegewandler' MIGHT change this, by pointing back at the frontend setup.
Though, the question would arise, what sort of monster mono-blocks, other than the MBL items, would then bring everything back into a new 'balance'? 
M. 🇿🇦 
I'm hearing a truly noticeable amount of reverb - this includes when you speak as well.

I'm wondering, and despite the 'fine' sound I find it impinging on ALL the music presented. 

Sort of playing your equipment in a church? 😇  

Maybe it's just me...?
Justmetoo M. 🇿🇦 
I really like what I hear, though not really at all what I see! Ghastly. Eish! 
Not into monoliths, too bad, eh? 

Had myself a medium long thread on acceptably looking (WAF) speakers - (reasonably more affordable) alas yielding loads of monstrosities. 😏 
Great sounding I'm sure, but reason for a divorce if they'd be put in any family living room. 

In general with European households (where I come from) there'd be neither space nor a willingness to plant such items.

Sure that this was mentioned before, so I'd be excused for saying so, eh? 🤷‍♀️
Michélle 🇿🇦 
Who can not agree, best sound EVER! 😊
Michélle 🇿🇦 
Oh yes! 'The mind! ' - the ever restless mind, looking for new and different experiences on the road to this 'apparent' elusive goal.

Yet in German there is the saying:
"Der Weg ist das Ziel"
i.e. - The journey is the goal... ". 

The other thing which can not be mentioned ENOUGH ever is - synergy, synergy, synergy... 

Same as is in real estate - location, location, location! 

'nough said again 😉
Michélle 🇿🇦