My Long List of Amplifiers and My Personal Review of Each!

So I have been in a long journey looking to find the best amplifiers for my martin logan montis. As you know, the match between an amplifier and speakers has to be a good "marriage" and needs to be blend exquisitely. Right now, I think I might have found the best sounding amplifier for martin logan. I have gone through approximately 34-36 amplifiers in the past 12 months. Some of these are:

Bryston ST, SST, SST2 series

With all that said, the amplifiers I mentioned above are the ones that in my opinion are worth mentioning. To make a long story short, there is NO 5 CHANNEL POWER AMP that sounds as good as a 3ch and 2ch amplifier combination. i have done both experiments and the truth is that YOU DO lose details and more channel separation,etc when you select a 5 channel power amplifier of any manufacturer.
My recollection of what each amp sounded like is as follows:

ATI SIGNATURE SERIES 6005 (great power and amazing soundstage. Very low noise floor, BUT this amplifiers NEEDS TO BE cranked up in order to fully enjoy it. If you like listening at low volume levels or somewhat moderate, you are wasting your time here. This amp won’t sound any different than many other brands out there at this volume. The bass is great, good highs although they are a bit bright for my taste)

NAD M25 (very smooth, powerful, but somewhat thin sounding as far as bass goes)
Bryston sst2(detailed, good soundstage, good power, but can be a little forward with certain speakers which could make them ear fatiguing at loud volumes)

Krell (fast sounding, nice bass attack, nice highs, but some detail does get lost with certain speakers)

rotel (good amp for the money, but too bright in my opinion)

cary audio (good sound overall, very musical, but it didn’t have enough oomph)

parasound halo (good detail, great bass, but it still holds back some background detail that i can hear in others)

lexicon (very laid back and smooth. huge power, but if you like more detail or crisper highs, this amp will disappoint you)

McIntosh mc205 (probably the worst multichannel amp given its price point. it was too thin sounding, had detail but lacked bass.

butler audio (good amplifier. very warm and smooth sweet sounding. i think for the money, this is a better amp than the parasound a51)

pass labs (very VERY musical with excellent bass control. You can listen to this for hours and hours without getting ear fatigue. however, it DOES NOT do well in home theater applications if all you have is a 2 channel set up for movies. The midrange gets somewhat "muddy" or very weak sounding that you find yourself trying to turn it up.

classe audio (best amplifier for multi channel applications. i simply COULDNT FIND a better multi channel amplifier PERIOD. IT has amazing smoothness, amazing power and good bass control although i would say krell has much better bass control)

Update: The reviews above were done in January 2015. Below is my newest update as of October 2016:

PS AUDIO BHK 300 MONOBLOCKS: Amazing amps. Tons of detail and really amazing midrange. the bass is amazing too, but the one thing i will say is that those of you with speakers efficiency of 87db and below you will not have all the "loudness" that you may want from time to time. These amps go into protection mode when using a speaker such as the Salon, but only at very loud levels. Maybe 97db and above. If you don’t listen to extreme crazy levels, these amps will please you in every way.
Plinius Odeon 7 channel amp: This is THE BEST multichannel amp i have ever owned. Far , but FAR SUPERIOR to any other multichannel amp i have owned. In my opinion it destroyed all of the multichannel amps i mentioned above and below. The Odeon is an amp that is in a different tier group and it is in a league of its own. Amazing bass, treble and it made my center channel sound more articulate than ever before. The voices where never scrambled with the action scenes. It just separated everything very nicely.
Theta Dreadnaught D: Good detailed amp. Looks very elegant, has a pleasant sound, but i found it a tad too bright for my taste. I thought it was also somewhat "thin" sounding lacking body to the music. could be that it is because it is class d?
Krell Duo 300: Good amp. Nice and detailed with enough power to handle most speakers out there. I found that it does have a very nice "3d" sound through my electrostatics. Nothing to fault here on this amp.
Mark Levinson 532H: Great 2 channel amp. Lots of detail, amazing midrange which is what Mark Levinson is known for. It sounds very holographic and will please those of you looking for more detail and a better midrange. As far as bass, it is there, but it is not going to give you the slam of a pass labs 350.5 or JC1s for example. It is great for those that appreciate classical music, instrumental, etc, but not those of you who love tons of deep bass. It is articulate sounding too
Krell 7200: Plenty of detail and enough power for most people. i found that my rear speakers contained more information after installed this amp. One thing that i hated is that you must use xlr cables with this amp or else you lose most of its sound performance when using RCA’s.
Krell 402e: Great amp. Very powerful and will handle any speaker you wish. Power is incredible and with great detail. That said, i didn’t get all the bass that most reviewers mentioned. I thought it was "ok" in regards to bass. It was there, but it didn’t slam me to my listening chair.
Bryston 4B3: Good amp with a complete sound. I think this amp is more laid back than the SST2 version. I think those of you who found the SST2 version of this amp a little too forward with your speakers will definitely benefit from this amp’s warmth. Bryston has gone towards the "warm" side in my opinion with their new SST3 series. As always, they are built like tanks. I wouldn’t call this amp tube-like, but rather closer to what the classe audio delta 2 series sound like which is on the warm side of things.
Parasound JC1s: Good powerful amps. Amazing low end punch (far superior bass than the 402e). This amp is the amp that i consider complete from top to bottom in regards to sound. Nothing is lacking other than perhaps a nicer chassis. Parasound needs to rework their external appearance when they introduce new amps. This amp would sell much more if it had a revised external appearance because the sound is a great bang for the money. It made my 800 Nautilus scream and slam. Again, amazing low end punch.
Simaudio W7: Good detailed amp. This amp reminds me a lot of the Mark Levinson 532h. Great detail and very articulate. I think this amp will go well with bookshelves that are ported in order to compensate for what it lacks when it comes to the bass. That doesn’t mean it has no bass, but when it is no Parasound JC1 either.
Pass labs 350.5: Wow, where do i begin? maybe my first time around with the xa30.8 wasn’t as special as it was with this monster 350.5. It is just SPECTACULAR sounding with my electrostatics. The bass was THE BEST BASS i have ever heard from ANY amp period. The only amp that comes close would be the jC1s. It made me check my settings to make sure the bass was not boosted and kept making my jaw drop each time i heard it. It totally destroyed the krell 402e in every regard. The krell sounded too "flat" when compared to this amp. This amp had amazing mirange with great detail up top. In my opinion, this amp is the best bang for the money. i loved this amp so much that i ended up buying the amp that follows below.
Pass labs 250.8: What can i say here. This is THE BEST STEREO AMP i have ever heard. This amp destroys all the amps i have listed above today to include the pass labs 350.5. It is a refined 350.5 amp. It has more 3d sound which is something the 350.5 lacked. It has a level of detail that i really have never experienced before and the bass was amazing as well. I really thought it was the most complete power amplifier i have ever heard HANDS DOWN. To me, this is a benchmark of an amplifier. This is the amp that others should be judged by. NOTHING is lacking and right now it is the #1 amplifier that i have ever owned.
My current amps are Mcintosh MC601s: i decided to give these 601s a try and they don’t disappoint. They have great detail, HUGE soundstage, MASSIVE power and great midrange/highs. The bass is great, but it is no pass labs 250.8 or 350.5. As far as looks, these are the best looking amps i have ever owned. No contest there. i gotta be honest with you all, i never bought mcintosh monos before because i wasn’t really "wowed" by the mc452, but it could have been also because at that time i was using a processor as a preamp which i no longer do. Today, i own the Mcintosh C1100 2 chassis tube preamp which sounds unbelievable. All the amps i just described above have been amps that i auditioned with the C1100 as a preamp. The MC601s sound great without a doubt, but i will say that if you are looking for THE BEST sound for the money, these would not be it. However, Mcintosh remains UNMATCHED when it comes to looks and also resale value. Every other amp above depreciates much faster than Mcintosh.

That said, my future purchase (when i can find a steal of a deal) will be the Pass labs 350.8. I am tempted to make a preliminary statement which is that i feel this amp could be THE BEST stereo amp under 30k dollars. Again, i will be able to say more and confirm once i own it. I hope this update can help you all in your buying decisions!


Showing 50 responses by mrdecibel

WC, I listened to the preamp / no preamp shootout, again, through another system of mine, and the conclusions were the same for me. No preamp : greater, more articulate attack, of both the piano playing and singing, a more natural decay of the instruments, within the space, and just a much cleaner presentation overall. The preamp robbed me of what is on the recording ( by comparison ), by adding things of it’s own. I understand, and respect, the preference thing, and that some folks like the preamp in the system. I do not notice any edginess or hardness, dac to amp, but, I hear, added color, added bloom ( warmth ), and smearing, of the piano and voice, with a loss of information, using the preamp in the system. The added bloom and warmth, might be preferred, for a very " hard, and terribly recorded ", piece of music, but I found this recording, to be quite natural and smooth sounding, all on it’s own. It is interesting, that I actually listen to a lot of music that is far from state of the art, recording wise ( stuff like Jethro Tull, as an example ), but I still prefer the details, and the timing / attack, of the musicianship, passively, than with the addition of a preamp, and an extra set of cables. My ears like what I like. Be safe, everyone......
@whitecamaross , if I recall from earlier in this thread, the electric power topic came up when you were thinking of a particular Plinius amplifier. It has been my experience, that when someone spends this much money on equipment, the electrical power source ( dedicated, higher amperage, etc. ) should never be overlooked. I believe much of your listening has been done while starving many of these products, not just of amperage, but of cleanliness. Just my observation from reading through this entire thread. I will say, you have a lot of patience and determination. Always, MrD
When letting equipment break in, it has been my experience ( over 40 years worth ) breaking it in with a signal source playing through it, be it amplification, cables, tubes etc. Powering it up, sitting idle, is better than cold, but still needs signal.
@whitecamaross I am not sure you can do this, but I would like to suggest you stay with 1 system for " a time ", let it break in, listen to lots of your favorite music, and relax. No hurry to listen to another system just moments after 1 or 2 songs. I feel you are stressing yourself ( this is what I am reading in your recent posts ). I also feel that you have a need to report your findings to many of the readers here. I know you started this way, but, you really don't. One thing I admire about most professional reviewers ( whether I believe them or not ), is that they typically live with the equipment they are reviewing for much longer periods of time, than you seem to be. I feel this extended listening is the correct way. You have been going at this like a race car driver, lol. I mean no offense in what I am saying, but for me, a good system should just flow, and allow you to become involved. Don't be in a rush. Relax and try to enjoy. With all my admiration and sincerity, MrD
@guidocorona It has been stated by whitecamaross that nothing he will own will ever get that much break in time. With proper break in, we ( well some of us, anyway ) will truly hear what a product can do with musical playback. I do not think this op is listening to music. He is listening to equipment. Nothing wrong with that, as, this is what an audiophile does. Just my take.
@david_ten Whitecamaross is a listener who likes it loud, as you can find throughout his posts. 90db to him might be 70db to someone else. As far as the Black system sounding better to him at his lower 90db levels, he is basically saying there is something special about the Black system, to his ears, where he does not have the need to turn it up louder to hear those nuances ( whatever they may be ) he wants to hear, IMO
@david_ten .....This info has been known for quite awhile. What is your point, other than saying whitercamaross probably has hearing damage. He is around race cars, has been open about his preferred volume levels ( both audio and home theater ). What is it that you are saying ?
@david_ten I am not sure you have read this entire thread, but if you did, you would have known more about whitecamaross and his listening levels. I like my music on the louder side ( as in my name ) as well. I have been around live music much of my life, traveled the N.Y. subway systems for many years, was a singer and sound man in a band, in a choir, attended many live concerts ( amplified and unamplified ), and in the audio business. My hearing is fine btw. I admire whitecamaross for his dedication and patience to do all this, not just for himself, but for others. I am actually surprised he has not shown any interest in a good horn based system, which has been mentioned in this thread previously by another poster. I read all of your posts, and others about your system. Enjoy. Sincerely, MrD
@whitecamaross Could it be the Black system is so neutral, so colorless, that you are hearing deficiencies in the recordings via the mqa files. Although not sterile or harsh, as you say, just accurate, the engineering ( mic to close or too far from the performer, the mixing, the splicing / editing / overdubbing, improper gain somewhere in the mastering chain, etc. ), might not be perfect, and this might be what you are responding to. Maybe ? Or, it is so enjoyable, it relaxes you, and let's face it whitecamaross, it is hard for you to relax. No judgement, just an observation, and I could be wrong on both counts.. Always, MrD.
@whitecamaross If a system synergy, such as the black system, can allow you to really relax ( even for a short while ), or allow you to tap your toes ( both relaxing and toe tapping, depending on the recorded musical performance being played at the time ), that is when I feel you have reached audio nirvana. However, the point bill_k brought up is a real one, and even during our listening, our minds tell us " there is more to be had ".
My only concern with the XA 25 will be when you want to turn it up. It might just be the best sounding amp from Nelson, working within it’s limitations. I, too, thought it was the XA 25, but not as sure as grey9hound was. I wasn’t sure the amp was powerful enough for your listening habits. It would certainly be for me, with my 104db Lascalas. I have been saving for one actually. I will buy yours 2nd hand, as I am calling 1st dibs. lol
Awesome ! whitecamaross.
Although I suspect the Adcom will not compare favorably against the pair of Hegels, I am guessing the Adcom will be a killer at it's price. Adcom surely did it's homework, as well as studied the competition before releasing this series of amp. Just my opinion.
WC, I am not familiar with the Theta monoblocks ( nor the Black system ), but my understanding of this technology is a long break in period is required. I doubt you will give it enough time. I have mentioned the importance of break in time before, as I find it benefits almost everything.
@whitecamaross      Patience my boy !
I have posted this before ( as well as in other threads ). Everything in audio requires break in. The more revealing of the system ( includes room acoustics ), the more obvious the breakin becomes. Patience, and ones ears ( and mood ) plays a huge part of the break in process. Just sayin.
Whitcamaross, the same can be said about all of the amplifiers you have been auditioning, that it is a matter of flavor. Keep in mind, this would be after many more hours of breakin that you have given, imo. Enjoy ! MrD.
@whitecamaross  So, the Rowland combo is better than the Luxman / Rowland combo ?
@whitecamaross I will say are the ultimate audiophile, and, I feel very sorry for you. Enjoy ! MrD.
Luxman is 30 wpc class A. Wasn't this low power the reason you skipped on the XA25 ? Or am I mistaken. Enjoy ! MrD.
@whitecamaross I knew I was mistaken. Enjoy ! MrD.
I was surprised you let the 925s go, as you indicated, they were the best you ever had. Enjoy ! MrD.
@whitecamaross At 64 years old, my multi tasking skills are not what they used to be, but reading your thread has me thinking, that maybe, I am as sharp as I used to be. LOL.....Enjoy ! MrD.
WCSS......I admit that I do not get much from your thread to benefit myself, but I do enjoy reading your " column ", because you are having a great time doing it. Power to you ! Enjoy ! MrD.
The video posted by WC a page or two back showed the ML being driven with McIintosh. I would think ML thinks enough about McIntosh to show off their speakers. Enjoy ! MrD.
The Vivid Audio G1s will certainly be a speaker suitable to WC, because they can play louder without breakup or losing dynamics ( relatively speaking ). Have heard the G1s, never heard the Spirits, nor the G1s with the newer tweeter, but I do believe WC will be happy. However, I also believe, WC will find a way to obtain a pair of Spirits in a not to distant future. Just my take on it. The Vivid purchase will change over this thread to the " speakers " thread ( lol ). WC, continue to enjoy the ride ! MrD.
Have a great birthday WC. Enjoy ! MrD.
WC, I hope the new speakers are getting your feet tappin'. Enjoy ! MrD.
@mr_bill WC has had many winners since the beginning of the thread. Only time will tell. Enjoy ! MrD.
WC, I need to ask this....How long have you been into high end audio ? I have been at this for 50 years, and realized early on, how important room size, and room acoustics are, when dealing with a proper set up ( I want to also say, I have limited myself to only one hobby, and audio is it ). The room is mostly a given when dealing with the level of equipment you have had pass through your hands in these 2 years. The electrical requirements for some of the amplifiers you have had, as I have mentioned before, should have been beefed up and dedicated. I heard the G1s in a typical 15 by 20 room, and we got them to sound excellent ( yes, I had a friend just like you ). True, it was a " dedicated " 2 channel audio room, but it presented a wonderful sound ( and I am a horn lover ). Maybe you need a professional to build you a room ( and maybe, just to talk, lol ). I also believe, that if you have multiple pairs of large speakers in your room during your evaluation of each pair, you will be hearing all of them, especially the louder you play, and this will mess up everything. I wish you luck, and I will continue reading your thread. Enjoy ! MrD.
 WC......... " the gryphon 300 with vivid audio g1 sounds [email protected] ". Can you imagine how much better it would be with some room treatments ? Enjoy ! MrD.
corvette01, I am with roxy54. The fact that you reversed his numbers says a lot, as it is now understandable the confusion you have with Marantz and Mac.. Enjoy ! MrD.
Corvette01, I am sorry, just some humor. If you are looking for a preamp processor that sounds excellent with 2 channel music, post on the Home Theater thread, as you will get the help you need. Enjoy ! MrD.
Guido.......your explanation is perfecto ! However, my only question is something I have mentioned before. When dealing with components such as these, " those that are supposed to get out of the way of the music ", should be in a room that both be of proper size and acoustically near perfect. This will always be the downside to what he is trying to accomplish, otherwise, listen through a good set of headphones. The room, the room, the room.........this of course has been my experience, and is my opinion. .....I guess we will see with the Magicos.......Enjoy ! MrD.
WC, not only can it take a long time for speaker evaluations, but any big buck speakers ( any speakers really ) might take hours just to get them dialed in to their sweet spot, before any serious listening time can happen. Again, ime. Enjoy ! MrD.
I have to agree with shadorne on this one. IME the G1s are in a different league, especially when reaching 100 db plus, which is quite easy to do with the amplifiers WC has had, and WC likes it loud. I believe a new merry-go-round will be starting, this time with speakers ( what am I saying, it has already started ). WC is having fun in all of the switchovers and changes. He will not be able to settle on anything at this time. I am sorry WC if I am offending you. I am calling it as I am seeing it. Continue to enjoy the ride. MrD.
To each his own. What were your thoughts on the looks of the G1s ? I like 'em. Enjoy ! MrD.
Many of these speakers, including some of the smaller models, do require a bit of distance between them, and the listener, otherwise you can pick up discontinuity between the drivers ( ime ), as well as bass issues and tremendous, unrealistic image delineation. None of the speakers WC is trying, are designed for nearfield listening. Holographic imaging and soundstaging are 2 of WCs important and desirable characteristics he is looking for, and he might realize a larger room with any of these will be needed. The G1s do need a larger room, and WC was sensitive enough as a listener to hear that. The only way WC will know, is to try, and he  ( and I ) am enjoying his journey. I give WC kudos for all he is doing, and I am enjoying his findings. It does not matter if I disagree with any of it. This is the 1st Agon thread I open every day. WC....Thank you, and Enjoy ! MrD.
WC, am I to assume you do not want to open them, because they might lose some value if you need to sell them ( based on you liking the Magicos ) ? This is quite understandable, as you know better than most, the resale value of this level of equipment. If this is the reason, I would wait. Enjoy ! MrD. day I believe you will try a good pair of horns and realize you can have it all. Assuming you have the right room, listening position, front end gear, and so on and so on, you might find your holy grail ( always questionable with you tho ). Just another perspective, and of course a very biased opinion. Enjoy ! MrD.
Why would WC open the Sopra’s ? ( 1 ) The Magico’s did not do it for him. ( 2 ) Curiosity got the best of him. ( 3 ) It is all about the journey, to find that holy grail. ( 4 ) The real mission here is to have fun, experience, and share, much of his findings with others who cannot do what he does. Or,( 5 ) All of the above. WC, I do hope one day, you can sit in front of a system, and not wish for anything else, as I do ( and, knowing that there is always better ). Enjoy ! MrD.
@grey9hound , to me, that describes tubes. Solid state Macs, with autoformers, are tube like. Enjoy ! MrD.
Nothing is finalized between these 2 speakers, as WC is still figuring out the sound he wants. Attributes and trade offs. Besides, the Neoliths are just around the corner. This has been some merry go round, and will not end for a long time, as the process of trial and error is the most exciting part of it all. This is just my take on it. Enjoy ! MrD.
Dsper...I think it best to start your own thread. Enjoy ! MrD.
847 posts07-17-2018 3:22pm" The speakers are incredible but my room doesn’t allow me to hear them how they should be heard. I realize in my room I need speakers the size of a Sasha or focal Sopra 3. I could try Alexia but I can’t do anything bigger ". WC, this you said about the Vivid Giya. You also stated that the " presentation " was too large for your room. But, you are considering the Neoliths ( which I do feel might work better , simply because they do not have the multiple drivers). And the hits keep commin ! One day, you will find your way ! WC, continue the journey, and Enjoy ! MrD.
Hey all. Listen, although I own and prefer horns, to say electrostatics are a thing of the past, is, imo, idiotic. I am still waiting to hear a dynamic speaker ( including electrostatics and planars ), with whatever amplifier you would like to use, sound as dynamic, clean, fast, and tight, playing Roger Waters " Amused to Death " through good horns. Let us allow WC to go through his own trials, and tribulations, as we all have. If you want to debate this, let us do it on another thread ( although, I'd rather not, as I’ve done that already ). Enjoy ! MrD.
According to the reviews of the xa200.8s, each monoblock draws 750 watts from the wall ( I hope I am wrong ). I hope WC's house current can handle that. I would not be able get over the electric bill. Enjoy ! MrD.
Roxy54, +1, as I have also mentioned in this thread. You do need distance between listener and horns. WC, the JBLs would not have worked in your current room. I do not think the Neos would either. I have mentioned on this thread before, when dealing with this level of equipment, I would always do the room first. Enjoy MrD.
@roxy54 It is ok to disagree. If you are speaking of the acoustics of the room ( which, is important ), that was not my point. The directivity of the horns has less to do with what I was saying. In my years of experience with horns, horns do not do their best when used nearfield, which is why I stated the distance factor between the speakers ( horns ) and the listener. The larger the horn, the greater the distance is required. Distance is important for any speaker / listener situation, but with horns, well, that’s all. Enjoy ! MrD.
08-18-2018 9:49pmI must have blasted my magico today to beyond concert levels and these speakers remained composed. Not an ounce of compression. I’m very impressed.                     WC, I can no longer do the math ( I was able to at one point ), but at these concert hall levels, what do you think the Macs were putting out ? The Pass, into a 4 ohm load, does put out more than into an 8 ohm load, but it still would not approach the Macs, imo. At these volume levels, you do need horns ( in your next room ). You also stated you could live with the Sopras if not for the Magicos ( I doubt that ). Like I said a few times on your thread here, I do not agree with everything you say or do, but, I appreciate you, and I am completely behind you on your journey ( my journey has ended, as I am quite happy with my system ). Always, with support, MrD. Enjoy !