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
NAD M25
PARASOUND HALO
PARASOUND CLASSIC
KRELL TAS
KRELL KAV 500
KRELL CHORUS
ROTEL RMB 1095
CLASSE CT 5300
CLASSE CA 2200
CLASSE CA 5200
MCINTOSH MC 205
CARY AUDIO CINEMA 7
OUTLAW AUDIO 755
LEXICON RX7
PASS LABS XA 30.8
BUTLER AUDIO 5150
ATI SIGNATURE SERIES 6005

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!


whitecamaross

Showing 50 responses by kps25sc

Then Boulder makes a better preamp, is that so hard to imagine ?
Is there a thumbs up/down option on Audiogon i have missed ? I would love one !
Some of us stream to a digital device into external dac from our iPad Jay.
Congratulations Jay, those big speakers can work well in your room. My brother has a pair of regular Utopia without all the fancy adjustments in a tiny room, same driver size and configuration, and it sounds great !
There are some instruction on the settings of the controls in the manual, if you can find them in english among the other languages !  https://www.focal.com/sites/www.focal.fr/files/shared/catalog/document/notice_stellautopiaemevo_web....
They are very cool indeed ! I have found adjustable crossover setting and separate  bass level settings crucial in my own setup, but adjusting the sensitivity of a electromagnetic driver just takes it to another level !
I have a pair of CLS in the attic too, with a set of extra panels new in the box as backup. My first good speaker, i bought it new in 1986.
Power cords or power conditioning never made a difference on that speaker, the AC only powers the stat panel. On the newer hybrids the AC powers the internal amplifier and active crossover, power cables make more of a difference.
tweak1
I am definitely no expert on OB, the only speaker i owned that used the technology was Martin Logan Statement E2, where 16  7,5 inch drivers cover mid bass in an open baffle configuration, with excellent result. I am not questioning the tech, just viber6’s constant recommendation and categorization without even having heard or seen products. And maybe i am being unfair, but i read this thread over a 2 week period, and word for word he has probably posted 30% of the writing, ignoring many, many posts by Jay and other people to tone it down.
Plenty of "giant sleigher" treads on Audiogon, it's nice with a actual giant thread for once !
I am sorry Jay, for having triggered this relapse of Rane and ghosts from christmas past !
I run MBL 101E’s with mono 9011 amps and Martin Logan Statement E2 subwoofer stacks. I have not tried Mephisto in my system, but they are as well built and as powerful as the MBL amps.
I used big Krell‘s  previously, but they did not have the resolution or mid bass power that MBL has.
carey1110
The Prodigy sounded great biamped with identical  amps on high and low side of the passive crossover, my brother has a pair of Summit X and they never sounded that good with their built in amplification. Does the Rossini have a fixed set of outputs and a separate set for volume controlled output ?
viber6
We have already established that you prefer the photoshopped version, prettying things up with a little EQ. As for Tinder, do a google search, download and start swiping. You might actually find a well proportioned violin playing audiophile to share those sleepless nights with !
You have just lifted to many amps and speakers Jay.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so is clarity apparently !
techno-dud
Who cares ? 
techno_dude
I should probably ignore you, but here it goes. All cables are to some extent equalizers, carrying their sound signature into the connected components, if you know the kind of cables used for voicing the equipment and can duplicate the setup, you are one step closer to hearing what the manufacturer intended. Are Gryphon VIP cables great universal cables ? Probably not.
Are they extremely overpriced  ? Sure, like almost all high end cables. Are they good cables for connecting Gryphons top amplifiers ? Most likely. Why keep harping on Jay’s decision to try the Gryphon cable on his Gryphon gear. He has already tried other cables.

Yes live music, both amplified and un amplified can have wonderful tone and impact, but on a day to day basis i prefer the talents of Mark Knopfler, Ray Brown and Charley Parker rendered by a decent high-end system, compared to the often talentless stringing and fiddling of amateurs and street musicians. If you land somewhere for a dinner or a wedding with talentless people playing live, it can be downright brutal.
Wow ! What a thread ! I started reading it 2 weeks ago and have been captivated ever since. What a cast of characters, it’s like a reality show with returning contestants, viber6, Mr.DB, techno_dude
and unwanted messages from our dealers/manufacturers. If a psychiatrist ever gets ahold of these pages new groundwork can be done understanding OCD. Jay, you are doing fantastic work exploring and documenting high end audio. I have come to trust your honest opinions, and love your enthusiasm and excitement. When you buy new gear, you are like a kid with new toys, the way it should be. When you started the Youtube channel i was nervous the honesty would evaporate because of commercial interests, but no, you still say it as you see it. It has been a pleasure to follow your development as a audiophile, you have managed what normally takes 20-30 years in a few years, and you are never afraid of admitting when you where wrong, and always willing to learn. Your patience with contributors and Trolls is truly amazing, maybe because you have understood that they play a vital part in keeping this thread entertaining. Keep up the good work !
And another speaker recommendation based solely on a googled review done by a reviewer with a system you don’t know of a speaker you have never seen or heard.  If someone writes “sparkle” or “tone” you are always ready to spend Jay’s money.
viber6
So you know tweak1 personally and have heard his system ? Have you ever owned or heard open baffle speakers or application where the tech has been applied ? I have. As for your experience as an audiophile, your escapades on this thread give some idea of your practical level. You use 40 year old electrostatic speakers where only the high-frequency panels are active, if this is by choice or because of malfunction, you haven’t shared. Driven by a mid-fi low cost amp, connected with zip -cords, with a Rane pro audio equalizer as preamp.
Have i missed anything ? I did scroll trough many of your early posts whenever i saw the words “Merrill” Rane” or “Clarity” life is just to short !
thezaks
Thank you, you are right.
Congratulations Jay, seems like a smart move !
viber6
I have made no claim about the quality of your speakers, i have never heard them, i have wondered about your previous statements about not utilizing the bass panel part of the speakers, please explain your reasons. That your amplifier is low priced is probably not up for debate. As for using a Rane pro equalizer as a preamp and to boost HF for better “clarity “ in a high-end system i must admit that we probably divert in perception of what is transparency and clarity. I have owned and used a number of Rane products in commercial studios and as good as they are for studio use, transparency in the treble range are not their strongest assets. You seem to have a extreme focus on boosting the treble and upper midrange area, with little concern of a full frequency presentation, you almost seem to be a little afraid of bass frequency’s. I don’t know if this is conditioning from all your fiddling or for other reasons. What you call “clarity” could by many be conceived as elevated brightness, if this is your preference it is as valid as others like of softer more midrange focused presentations. But when you constantly judge Jay’s findings and classifications from your own unusual baseline it is somewhat useless. You have to understand that he prefers a fuller more balanced presentation, and owns and uses one of the most varied collection of equipment i have ever seen, you are not going to change what he likes, and no amount of rewriting his lists or reviews will make your preference his preference. For the record, i have enjoyed many of your often excellent posts, and think you are one of the reasons this thread is entertaining.
Jay, in the last video you accidentally got really close to the Mephisto amp, it was nice to see the up close details, that thing is beautiful ! Maybe bringing the camera really close when you get new gear is a future option ? I might have missed it earlier, some of the videos with music are unavailable here.
carey1110
My thoughts exactly.
viber6
I do appreciate the sound of real instruments in a well designed space and have been present at numerous recording sessions. I was financial partner in a commercial recording studio a few years, as part of my addiction to audio. Having heard top musicians play around, and be serious take after take, has maybe made me unimpressed with most street musicians, sure great ones get discovered playing on the street, but you seldom see or hear originality. As i am not yet a fan of classical music, small venue concerts with Leonard Cohen, Joan Armatrading and Van Morrison have been sound wise my greatest experiences. You can find excellent recording in most kind of music, not only classical.
Yes many conventional dynamic speakers have a “boxinees “, i don’t think Wilson belong in that category, they are very well made. Personally i find the lack of wide range dynamics, thinness in the mid bass and lack of the deepest bass of most electrostatic speaker just as irritating. I spent many years with electrostatic speakers, and love the soundstage and almost spooky quality they can have with voices and acoustic instruments, but their deficiencies in both frequency ends ended up liming the amount of recordings that where enjoyable.
viber6
Why this sudden focus on open baffle speakers when you have never even heard one yourself ? Jay is comparing Maggie’s and Martin Logan at this time, why not concentrate on the current speakers being reviewed instead of a hypothetical speaker you have never heard ?
What’s the name of that Beatles song ? Oh it’s
 “All the lonely people “ or is it “jealous people “? I don’t remember.
Not a smart decision Jay, the interactions and audio discussions are tedious at times, but are for some of us the reason we watch the videos. The limited commentary on youtube does not at this point come close to what we have here. For me personally being in Europe excludes me from almost every video with music, they are simply blocked because of copyright issues, and the comment section is not even open. Yes you get rid of the Trolls, but you get rid of some of your regular followers in the process too.
Nice video Jay, good points !
viber6
I find it to be something of a paradox that you continuously  advocate not using a preamp for best transparency, when you use a Rane equalizer with “judicious” adjustment in the treble as a preamp. And don’t start again on the transparency of Rane. Compared to the modern preamps Jay uses it is a pool of cloudy electronics.
viber6
We obviously have diverging meanings of “transparency “. You like to tailor the sound to your liking with a active equalizer and all the electrical circuitry and extra cables that entails and are happy with the result. I totally understand that. But please try to also accept Jay’s findings when it comes to preamps, he is the one actually listening to his system, and a video can give some idea of tone, but is little help when it comes to other parameters of the presentation.
Guys if Jay is ok with people and communicates with them on this thread, you should be too. He never seems to carry a grudge, and i truly respect that. That being said i hope MrDB does not have another senior moment and returns here !
carey1110
LOL, and a spot on observation !
viber6
Thank you for the insight into your sleep patterns and day to day concerns about EMF, it explains a lot. Please post a link to where we can buy the orange goggles you wear on top of your glasses before going to bed.  An example of a transparent analog EQ was made by Levinson the man, for his now defunct company Cello, it is called Palette  and is highly regarded in über high-end circles, absolut top parts, but maybe a little more expensive than a Rane.
Yes the strongest asset of Tekton seem to be the way they have infected the Audiogon forum, strong marketing and not much more, no one i trust has heard them and raves about them.Viber6 has not heard them and raves about them, go figure !
speedpump6
What is your sonic point of reference ? What where your previous speakers ? What amp are you driving them with ?
viber6
Try tinder, you will see mostly beautiful pictures, and be disappointed in person !
No headphones, but i am limited to the capability of my system, sounds a lot like MBL 101E’s with 9011 amps and Martin Logan Statement E2 subwoofer towers, nice slam !
kren0006
You will never change the behavior of some posters, everybody including Jay has tried for years now. Simply scroll down past the posts and save yourself some aggravation, Jay should do the same.
Scroll,scroll,scroll !
Alison Krauss sounds great, the “ live” album is even better.
And it is really hard to evaluate anything when you are asleep !
That Boulder pre looks like one serious piece of equipment, if it sounds as good as it looks, it’s something i would consider myself. Can’t wait to hear it !
justmetoo 
I do believe the Mephisto is perfectly capable of driving the big MBL’s, you just need 2 stereo amps, or 4 monos. My big MBL 9011 amps where designed specifically to drive the difficult load of MBL speakers, but Mephisto is a capable devil !
jetter
He is what he says he is. I have read his yelp reviews.