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!


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Showing 50 responses by kren0006

I agree that when expectations are super high it is natural to be more critical at less than expected SQ than if expectations weren’t as high.   That’s human nature 
I like the M3s.
But, on direct compare with Maggie 20.7 same song (man in the moon), they sound a little sluggish (little slower).
Caveat: playback limitations could be factor. 
That said I’d still pick M3 over 20.7 bc they exceed in other areas
So I predict that with WC going again to listen to AlexxV with Boulder, if there is any way for him to somewhat painlessly transition from M6 to that AlexxV financially he will do it in a heartbeat.  If it is not to be, he'll keep the M6 and keep wrestling with it
Oh ok. That’s good. I probably skimmed over something and got that impression. Carry on then : )
Hate to say it but bass sounds a bit much and not as tight as I'd ideally like it, second and third tracks.  Not in room so can't say for sure.  Maybe comes down to personal preferences and maybe you think it sounds perfect - I wouldn't argue.  But if me I'd be looking to tame a bit.  Don't take it as a negative, still sounds amazing.  Just one person's opinion.

On the idea of G1 (or the top Rel, whatever it is called) subwoofers helping out the 20.7, don't discount the idea that they could help out the Alexia 2's also.  As I've mentioned before here, I've heard them improve Alexx, the step up from Alexia 2.
Well what do you know?  Viber and I agree on the relative rankings of the three speakers he mentioned as to one aspect (just one of many) of SQ. Fist bump, bro!!
You can tell when WC is super satisfied with his component mix like he is now with Alexx, Gryphon, Boulder because that is when he gets heavy into cables and accessories. 

The last time it happened was when he had Sasha DAW, Collosseum, m900u and c900u (remember all the cable shootouts and conditioner shootouts), and now it appears to be happening again. 

Sorry Wilson haters, but the Alexx will likely be here for awhile....
I’m gonna call that another successful prognostication!  
Although the vid yesterday threw me didn’t sound like Focal but I’ve never heard anything this far up their line. 
Congrats. 
  • WEIGHT: 330 Kg per pair – net weight / 550 Kg per pair - est. shipping weight
https://www.paragonsns.com/products/sonus-faber-aida-ii#tab=specifications

Only question at this point is "Wenge" or "Violin Red."  I say "Wenge"

Hmmmm, processing……….I’m at a severe disadvantage because I haven’t watched any of the videos for several weeks - busy. What’s he been talking about lately??

 

Well it’s bedtime but since you all want a guess I’ll throw a dart and guess dCS Vivaldi Apex

 

Nah, you haven’t had one that sounded great yet. Why bother - why would you expect different results this time? All you ever did was make excuses for the speakers when you had them and be miserable. I think with the last one you spent like $250k on amplification trying to get them to be decent. Stick with what you are pretty sure you will like and know will be able to make sing.

Hey, you asked

Agree it’ll be fun to compare the ML to the Maggie.  That’s a comparison that should be of interest to many. 
I’m sure all their engineers and designers work for free, or maybe just for the employee discount <rolls eyes>
Prediction based on close following and reading between lines:

Alexia 2 will soon be gone, to be replaced by either Magico or Focal. 
we know that we ain't that dumb well some might be but most aren't plus who said it would and come on viber you can't lift more than 150 well if you can good job
I'll expand more.  Just my opinion, and not claiming to be expert (far from it).

I thought 13A bass was not only overwhelming but also sloppy.  Not tight at all.  Loose and boomy.  Assuming room correction can fix.

I didn't think the midrange and highs were great either.  Preferred Maggies.  Thought clarity much better there.  Granted the Maggies are more settled in.

I also don't care which of these two wins.  But I think it'll be fun.

Viber said, “the common meaning of "synergy" as used here, is some magical combination of bite and warmth.”

 

Wrong. WC and everyone else who has used the term use it exactly as it was intended, ie to mean a good pairing that produces sound to his liking. 
There is no suggestion that synergy has anything to do with warmth. 
 

Viber putting words in WC’s mouth based on his personal sonic biases. It’s not a crime, but it is misleading 

Glad you feel like you’ve found your best sound, WC!!

But, with all due respect, we’ll be the judge of that!! (over our iPhone speakers)

Haha, just kidding. Seriously, congrats!  Now let us hear it!

I have the D9.2 and am targeting the 590axii as well, or maybe the 509x or maybe the 595ase

Well we can agree to disagree, Viber, but it seems that once again everyone else is agreeing with me and disagreeing with you. Synergy just means better than the sum of it’s parts, as you mention, and that’s how WC always uses it and everyone else here that I’ve seen.

Nobody uses it to mean a warm sounding component. If that were true, WC would have said McIntosh had great symmetry in any pairing.

Almost always when WC uses the term, he does so when he is somewhat surprised that a given combination is as good as it turns out to be.  Exactly as the term is intended (better than the sum of parts because of especially good pairing traits)

"Benchmark stuff ... is almost as good as Boulder or Mephisto monos"

Oh my.  Here we go again, Viber.  Didn't you learn from the Rouge butt-kicking?

I dunno.  Everyone hears differently I guess.  I'm in the minority it appears.  Will be interesting to hear your opinions on which is better
And a car looks better after waxing than just washing. I like that analogy WC
I doubt if too many hate a brand of anything just for the sake of it.

Perhaps they just don’t like how it sounds.

Nothing wrong with that, as long as the criticisms are reasoned and not over the top or full of hyperbole.

Let’s see how it goes

My guess is that this speaker gets replaced by AlexxV within 2 months
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!
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!
Anyway, WC, jump in and tell us more about what is coming. Reel this back in and get the focus on your room.

What’s gonna be driving the Sonus Faber’s?

Oh, and welcome back Viber!  Kinda missed ya! (don’t everyone send me hate mail)
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?"
Sounds like a fun test.

WC, what other conditioners/regenerators have you tested throughout the years?  Which have been your favs?
Too bad ARC Ref 750SEL not on the list. 
I guess it must be Memphisto, as that probably only way WC could be so sure it’ll better the Colisseum
yy did you upgrade to the blades, 5000s, or m900u yet? Remember from other threads or maybe here you were planning to do that
Back to last night when you were intoxicated by the Luxman, which preamp were you using?  Luxman or ARC?

Just watch WC video again on that shootout. There wasn’t a single category that was close. Every single one was a landslide victory. That is a butt kicking. Most could hear it on the video but only one was in the room (WC). It wasn’t just A beats B - it was A destroyed B in every conceivable way - nothing close about it, according to WC. Watch the video again and refresh your memory.

 

And don’t say it is only because WC likes warm sound, because even in every category that you hold dear, Viber, WC methodically explained that the statement amp destroyed the Rouge - every category, including clarity and everything else.

 

Butt kicking, per WC.   Sorry.   Watch the video.

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.
I found Gryphon better.  More muscular, authoritative.  Much better able to command and control the Alexx woofers than D'Agostino, whose bass seemed sloppy and loose by comparison.  Gryphon also had better definition across midrange and highs.  Not a close comparison in my opinion
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.
Got it. Well in that case a Wilson / Magico shootout would be must see television. Here’s hoping that it finds a way to become reality