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 kren0006

Crazy - I had just come upstairs tonight after listening to a long set of Dire Straits on my ARC/Spendor system, concluding with Romeo & Juliet (my personal favorite DS tune) and You and Your Friend. Eerie.

Anyway, I preferred the Wilsons. To me when the switchover occurred, it sounded like the Focals were missing some sound layers in the mids as compared to the DAWs. The Focals sounded like a wider soundstage, but it was almost like a big stadium that was half full with half the excitement - something was missing - like too much social distancing with the presentation in a negative way (ugh, can’t even make an audio comparison without slipping into virus jargon...).

The DAWs sounded fuller and more beautiful to me across the sound spectrum, more intimate like a packed smaller venue just teeming with excitement and energy. Good video, thanks.
Oh and I was totally wrong many pages back when the videos started in advising no need to play music on the vids. It’s great fun to hear. I can’t wait until you get Alexx and the ARC 750s!
WC we still need your written conclusions on Wilson v Focal. 
Shanerre +6.
What I sincerely wish is that the sanctimonious know-it-alls would actually recognize when the OP calls them out by name and asks them to stop. Just go read OPs last post for an example. Or any of the countless other examples of OP sometimes subtly and other times brute force directly asking the offenders to knock it off.
It’s a pattern that has recurred ad infinitum over these 190+ pages. Eventually, thankfully, the perpetrators tend to finally get it for awhile, but sadly, and all too often, only for awhile....
Yeah dealer shilling isn’t needed. Fine, the dealer stated his case. Once was enough (and I know it’s more than once). We don’t need to hear about those speakers any more ON THIS THREAD unless or until WC actually decides to test them. If he does, then by all means. But so far he hasn’t despite too many suggestions he should. So move on. Beyond that it’s just bothersome noise. That’s my opinion anyway. Go start another thread on those speakers and have at it!
It’s entertainment, nothing more. Something to pass the time in these crazy times. What’s the harm? Don’t take it for more than it is. Arguably a better gauge of one's personal preference for sound than blindly relying solely on a mag or website reviewer’s personal perceptions, without hearing at all oneself, right, or at least no less "bizarre?"
WC: Is Spendor D9.2 a speaker that you would ever consider testing?
Sounds like a fun test.

WC, what other conditioners/regenerators have you tested throughout the years?  Which have been your favs?
Back to last night when you were intoxicated by the Luxman, which preamp were you using?  Luxman or ARC?
And V please stop the nonsense that clarity even at the possible expense of emotional engagement is "better." For you and a minority of listeners, perhaps (and that’s fine - I won’t try to dissuade you from what you like). The problem comes when you try to project that view onto everyone, or belittle views that do not align with it.

I submit that most audiophiles want a sound quality that makes them forget everything and provides the best enjoyment of the music; that they can listen to for hours on end at the volume they prefer without fatigue or loss of engagement. You throw the word "euphonic" around as a pejorative, again and again.

I’ll say it again. Your descriptions of what WC likes (or should like) are themselves EUPHONIC to his actual reviews, in the truest sense of the word. Your attempted colorations, yes colorations, (see above for just one example: "WC seems to be in love with the specific euphonic flavor of the Lux 900") contaminate, yes contaminate, WC’s reviews in a bothersome and tedious way. Let his reviews speak for themselves, without characterizing them to meet your sense of what is "best." We are all smart enough to make our own judgments about what he says and how to interpret what he says as it pertains to our preferences.

To be clear, my suggestion is not personal - I’m sure you’re a fine chap, and you often post interesting observations. You were doing so well since the turning of the yearly calendar page.... Don’t stop posting; just please stop putting down or making snide comments like the above quoted re those whose views on sound don’t align with yours.
WC, which integrated is that in the video?  Lux's numbers are all so similar.  I think you said 509 but 30w class A seems closer to the current 590 int than the current 509???  Just want to be sure I know what that is in the video.  Thx!  I have no familiarity with Lux and they all look very similar too.
Cool thx.

I like when you give pronouncements like, "best for the money."  That's helpful to those of us on budgets.

Seems in last video that WC gives very clear statement that in his opinion, the best amps at $10k and $20k pricepoints are both Luxman.  He is emphatic in his conclusion.

I wonder if anyone will try to gaslight and convince us that WC did not say that or does not really think that, but instead prefers something else at those levels????
Which speaker is #1 and which is #2?  Or is that intended to be part of the suspense?  The Dynaudios were never shown, and DAWs remained in same spot for both clips, meaning dyns (assuming they were playing in one of two) had positioning very different than daws. Not saying that’s wrong just an observation. 
My tongue in cheek conspiracy theory is both were daw with different power conditioners (Denali and AQ). 😂 
My guess is that "Speaker 1" was Dyn and "Speaker 2" was DAW.  I thought clarity on 2 was maybe a bit better; I thought 1 sounded bigger but maybe a little sloppier?  Can't really truly judge them though given my limited and poor playback options.  Still fun though.
Oh, forgot that one. Got a gold, silver and bronze ranking on your preferred SQ for those three (with caveats that you had them at different times with different equipment, but you are experienced and can probably extrapolate), and in particular which perhaps come closest to your preferred non-class-D amps? (if it’s not asking too much, some of us are class D fans and cool to see how you stack them up since many of us haven’t owned any of those three, let alone all three). I don't think this specific class D comparison question has ever been asked of you.  Thanks!
This is a side question, but which class D amps has WC reviewed over the course of this thread (outside of his initial, very first posting where he listed like 30 amps, some of which were class D, but I think most/all of which were surpassed in his opinion by the later stuff (ie, stuff since first post))? 

I remember Rowland 925's and Bel Canto Black, and he seemed to really like both at the time.  But I'm struggling to remember any others.  Anyone remember, or were those two the only class D?
Got it.  Ok WC, how about a platinum, gold, silver and bronze ranking of those 4 class D contenders???  (Last time I'll ask if you aren't into ranking them)
63-69 avg dB; ears are 12.75’ from speakers, which are 9.25’ apart 
I only measured the db with iPhone free app so dunno how accurate- probably not very...  seemed pretty loud so I expect I got a low reading 
Isosceles or equilateral? I say isosceles : )
Yep that Lux combo is damn good 
To me it sounds like the piano pedal is 10% partially pressed with the ARC as compared to the Luxman; just sounds a little heavy
@sqitis,
I know because I was the one playing the piano! Luke, I am your father!

No, you’re right, in all seriousness. I’m actually probably an ARC fanboy as that’s what I have (lower end) but I thought the Lux just sounded better to me, granted on my imperfect (to say least) playback options and the 5 minutes I spent listening, haha.

But that’s what this is about - WC gotta keep churning and comparing - it’s what he was born to do. Full burnin be damned - show gotta go on.

I always figured my next system would be ARC and Wilson based on my trajectory (it’ll be awhile, sigh, a long while), but now I’ll for sure give Lux consideration as well.
WC, pair of ARC ref 750 sel on Agon for $15.5k. You know you want ‘em!
It’s probably fair to point out that WC never intends to keep an amp for more than a couple months. Some of us keep our equipment for 20 years, and therefore may be more concerned about longevity than if we knew we were going to sell our amps within a couple months.  Not a criticism, but an important distinction.
thezaks,
Right, I know, but my comment was more to the excessive heat aspect and suggestion to use fans, as well documented the effect that heat over time can have on caps, etc.  No issue with leaving on all the time in standby.  I wasn't very clear about that I guess.
Does the Luxman integrated that you currently own run super warm? Guessing so since class A but easier to just ask.

Also, if you could take a stab at quantifying, how close in percentage basis does Lux integrated get to the Lux 900 amp/pre combo? 80%? 90%?

Lastly, I vote for a blind shootout video between the Lux integrated and the Lux combo. Don’t show or tell us what is playing.

That has probably never been done and you’ve rarely (never that I can remember) had the components of same brand at same time to do blind shootout between brand’s top int and top separates. Of course it is expected that separates will win but the intrigue is in the delta. 

That could really shed light on the int v separate debate as far as how much gap there is. Might be one of most interesting vids yet! Don’t let opportunity pass bc it could be forever before you concurrently own best int and best separates of another top brand


i picked AQ conditioner in last vid
^That’s actually a really good suggestion!  Agreed!
+2 on adding MIT to the cable shootout or down the road if it would work
Luxman integrated >> Pass Labs integrated
I preferred Cardas to Wireworld. Thought the bass through Cardas sounded more substantial and also tighter.

Would have to listen some more to see if I prefer WW to ????

Again, that Luxman and Wilson combo is really nice.
That’s great that the less expensive Luxman sounded better than the more expensive Dag and Ayre. Awesome result. 
And also WC very clearly stated that although #1 had more clarity than the Lux #3, that clarity aspect was irrelevant because the Luxman was WC’s overwhelming winner on sound quality. 
Sound quality wins, not clarity when it doesn’t sound as good. 

I agree.  Very hard to discern a difference between those two preamps.
Right everybody realizes that, but with the tech available it is what it is, and is appreciated by his viewers.

It’s like if I’m travelling for work and my wife Facetimes me so I can see my kid at bat in his little league game. Of course I realize that I am not actually at the game, sitting in the stands, and of course I realize that there are other things going on in the game that I cannot see through the Facetime feed that I would be able to see if I were there (e.g., how is the right fielder playing him to hit?), but dammit if having that Facebook feed of seeing him hit isn't a hell of a lot better than having my wife merely attempt to describe it to me afterwards.
My pleasure on the Facetime Little League analogy, WC.  I'm hoping you'll answer the two integrated amp questions I messaged you about.  I'll keep your responses confidential if it's not something you'd state publicly, just lmk.  Thanks!
Sure, fair point. I have also been a big advocate of having WC state his conclusions and not having others try to color WC’s statements based on their subjective views not having heard the components.


Not many try to do that and if they do most everyone now just ignores them.


Most of us who post our impressions of what we hear in the vids just do it for sake of conversation and don’t try to sway others or take the comparisons as gospel. At least that’s my impression, ymmv 
3 and 1 close.
2 a distant 3rd place, veiled. 
3 seemed clearest but perhaps could get little fatiguing so I might pick 1 but would need to hear longer to see if 3 was a 2 minute wonder and still sounded good an hour iater
And while you’re doing that, might want to check to see if they have patents covering what you want to “borrow”
WC, can anything $12k or under beat the Luxman class A 590AXii Integrated in your opinion? Separates or INT?

much respect for history vid!  Especially loved pics from small apt. Kickass
Thanks WC. I really meant it about how awesome that vid was too. The reason I liked those small apt photos best is that it (I assume anyway) shows that when you started this awesome journey you were not super wealthy, and lived in a small one bedroom like most of us did at some point in our lives. Respect. 
Prediction for 1 year from now:

I predict that within a year WC will be into vinyl and doing TT setup shootouts. It seems like a natural progression. Can you imagine how crazy this could get if he eventually moves into vinyl?

Remember, a year or two ago he said he had no interest in comparing cables, and now the majority of the video shootouts he puts out are on cable comparisons.

I just think that is probably where he may go down the road, if for no other reason than at this pace with SS amps/pre and cables, he will get to the end of the line soon and there won’t be that much new to discuss (and cable comparisons are ok, but let's be honest the component stuff is much more interesting...). I've watched the video comparing the Luxman separates to the Luxman integrated probably 10 times; the three preamp video about the same;  I can pretty much guarantee I won't watch Audience v. Vahalla cables more than once.

Plus the size of the gear is manageable compared to bringing in 400 lb speakers or 150 lb amplifiers.

Anyway, just a guess. Could be way off .......
#1. Looks unanimous so far anyway 
There V-man goes again, trying to re-write history. WC has clearly stated that in a head-to-head shootout that the Luxman pre is better than the Dag, but here comes Mr “I’ve never heard any of these in person” telling WC that the Dag preamp is better. 

Sad. He just cannot accept WC’s truth. Sad.


Please go watch WC’s verdict on the Luxman, Ayre and Dag again. I know it will be hard for you. Clarity is not most important to WC. Sound quality is, and he says Luxman>>>Dag (even as he admits Dag has better clarity yet still loses).

Deal with it ... and don’t try to rewrite history on WC’s thread.
Don’t be a Virtualsplainer. 
If you’ve never heard a component  in person, don’t Vitualsplain to WC or anyone else about what they heard or should think about the component. 
Let WC’s conclusions (like Luxman is better than Dag) stand on their own. It’s his thread. 
Don’t be V-man the Virtualsplainer

Would be interesting, WC, if you could provide some opinions on how you feel about the differences between Vivaldi and Rossini. You don’t have them concurrently, but you have everything else. Playing Rossini thru c900u and Gryphon to DAW’s, for example.  You have lots of time listening to that with Vivaldi and also several videos that we could go back to. 


A second request, now with this new integrated on deck, would be a top-5 or top-3 all time of integrated rankings that you’ve had, regardless of cost.


We know per your recent comments that you consider the Luxman 590axii to beat everything under $12k (int’s and separates) that you’ve had, but that doesn’t necessarily capture the Diablo or D’Agostino or maybe another Pass Labs higher than than the int250 (which you said Luxman 590axii bettered, including better bass control) or now this Accuphase. Maybe there are other integrateds you’ve had also that I’m forgetting as well above $12k???


An observation on the mystery amp: you’ve never been this careful breaking something in with past equipment. Wating 3 more weeks (first week of July) to truly audition??? You’ve scarcely waited three days in the past, let alone 3 weeks (maybe I’m exaggerating but you get idea). The Ref6se didn’t get much time at all and was gone before even fully breaking in according to ARC recommended timeframes. I guess a lot of stuff used so maybe not as much issue.


Is this a loaner where owner is insisting on such a long break-in before debut?? It just seems so out of character for you.... I’ve no problem with it - just making the observation.


Well at least this is what some of the "hundreds of hours" break-in folks have been calling for.....
No.

WC is 100% clear that the Luxman preamp is better than the Dag.  There is no quandry, no matter how much you wish there was.  The Luxman is better, according to WC, who has INFINITELY more experience than you with hi-end gear.

I know that doesn't fit your narrative of how the world of audio should shake out.  Too bad.  You lose on this thread. 

Go start your own thread and review the Benchmark and Mytek and that equalizer your used to drone on about (thank you for stopping, btw). 

WC is 100% clear that Luxman is better than D'Agostino in that video, and that was the whole purpose of the video.

Enough with the "alternative facts."
He said in that particular shootout, the whole point of which was to compare three preamps and the only time the Lux and Dag have been directly compared against each other with everything else constant, that that Lux was clearly better than the Dag.

That is all we have to go on officially according to WC. Of course all of the usual caveats apply as always ( room, amp, cables, conditioner, whatever else). With top of line everything else held constant in that shootout, WC was clear that Luxman preamp was best.

Also, V likes to say the Lux is colored or lacks clarity. That cannot be true according to WC because WC states clarity is very important.
And still WC says Lux wins.

maybe there should be a shootout between the two preamps with the Dag amp. If the more expensive Dag preamp could win that matchup on home turf, then we would have an instance in WCs vids of Dag beating Lux. 

But so far we do not have anything of the sort according to the only dude in the room. The rest of us are just listening on our stupid iPhones.
Haha, I'm not advocating for it, just predicting it.  I don't have vinyl and don't really have too much interest in it myself, so I see where WC is coming from.

But generally it seems that the highest-of-high-end systems are not complete without vinyl, which is why I think he will end up there.

I'd be happier actually if we got more rotation on the dacs/streamers, but it's his show obviously.

No complaints from me.  This is really fun stuff all around.
Correct, not referring to you. Only to Viber, who is a good guy I think but I really hate when he directly states things opposite of WC, that’s all.