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 rsf507

WC you imply "cheaper offerings for review...." mean sonically not as good but in many years of hearing expensive gear sometimes I've personally preferred less expensive gear to more pricey gear. Yes very expensive gear can sound FABULOUS but just wanted some clarification. Do you honestly believe audio gear has to be $$$$$ to sound better than $$ gear? As just one example I usually prefer a 2 or 3 way speaker to a 4 or 5 way for it's clarity. Yes bigger will play louder but...well hope you know what I'm trying to say.

And Viber where are your videos? Waiting
Nice move to the DAWs! They are very very detailed (something we have learned you look for in gear) and are very very very dynamic. Yes I’ve heard them several times. BUT mating them with Odin speaker cable may bring to much of a good thing and while initially you might find all the detail to be fine I would think that after 20-30 minutes you would become fatigued with the sound in my humble opinion. I would have thought the Audiomica speaker cable “might” have been the better match with the DAWs or any other cable but again just my own thoughts not the Odin match-up. 
Looking forward to your impressions after all it’s what you are looking for and not your followers, we are just riding along on your journey.
But has he heard the combo or is it just speculation.
Sorry but the Pass amp doesn't move me. Can't put my hand (ear) on it but just doesn't sound "real".
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU WCSS! I received some demo Audiomica cables that you used and I’m WOWED! Yes I’ve been using some of Audiomica’s lower series cables from their Ultra Reference and Excellence series but just couldn't afford the Consequence series. So what did this bring to the table? The timber and top to bottom sound is so very natural and I now can play even louder because things are cleaner within the soundstage than ever before. (Blacker background) Also transparency has increased but most important to me is that these cables preserve the musics correct scale and size. Did I mention the bass impact? Tight, clean and just musical. My own cable journey is over all thanks to you WCSS so again with much THANKS!
white have you tried any of the newer class D amps? Mola Mola? Merrill Veritas?
thoughts

@thezaks sorry if I wasn't clear but I already had some of their Excellence series and a cable from their Ultra series (and a bunch of Cardas Clear) but got some of Audiomica's Consequence cables that WC had been using. I believe the Ultra series is like 50% of the retail of the Consequence series and yes even this series is worth it. 
WC thanks for taking down that video. My wife and I were watching it and when she heard your comment given the "me too" movement she told me if I ever said something like that on a public forum I'd be 7 inches shorter!
WC out of curiosity do the Constellation amps use 15amp cords? I know you have mentioned the Gryphon uses a 20amp cord. 
@mrdecibel only 4" left! lol
@whitecamaross have to agree with a few of the comments on YouTube who said the Gryphons sound cleaner, more coherent while the constellations are a bit muffled. Is everything identical? Same interconnects? Same power cords? Same speaker cable?
WC not asking about the outlet but the amps IEC. Do the constellation's require a 20amp iec plug? You're already stated the Gryphon amp does. If the Constellations do then do you have 3 identical 20amp ac cords to do the shoot out?
+1 ron17. WC this is YOUR journey and the only person who should be judging sound quality and what is liked is YOU. Keep what you like, yes it's fun to be part of your journey but we all have our own preferences.
On your last video can you disclose which ac cables were used on the Constellations? On the Gryphon? Just curious. 
This on the Gryphon amp? What about the Audiomica cord? Is that gone?
9k for a PC? Even at 50% off that's a lot. Again have to thank WC for I got that demo Audiomica ac which blew away my Cardas Clear Beyond. I'm a very happy camper.
I like Wilson's and some Magico's but the last video sounded very artificial IMHO. Was it the very revealing tweeter? Maybe but still not my cup of coffee.
Best speaker I've had the pleasure to listen too was the Avantgarde Duo Mezzo XD. Dynamics galore, both micro and macro. Don't know if they would work in your room WC but worth to check out IMHO.
https://www.avantgarde-acoustic.de/en/products/duo-series/duo-mezzo-xd.html
WC all this input really means nothing it's really what YOU like and what your preferences are. I would think this can just confuse you more than anything. Just saying....
So very few liked #1 (Odin) and it was a toss-up for #2 & #3. Odin was the brightest and had an edge to the sound but I guess you'd have to actually hear it yourself in WC system to verify. Based on price alone it was Audiomica that was the winner! 
@chazzy you stated " Dragon was by far the brightest in "my" system. Odin the least. Audiomica in between both.

What's your full system and does your amp(s) also require the 20amp IEC? Have you listened to other cables and what's your thought? 

Just checking in with you WC (and all others following this thread) to make sure you and your family are doing well and safe.
Be well all.
Yes just kidding.  lol
Agree very little difference. It's my opinion that those speaker cables are choking the sound. Heard them before and they are just ok. Where's those Audiomica SC? So much better and musical. Get them back!
Fist and formost is I'm happy to hear you and your family are well.
So I went back to your original ac cord shootout of the 3 cables. Yes Odin had the most detail but to me still had a tipped up top end. Cable 2 (AM) and cable 3 (AQ) were closer on sound but cable 2 had this foot tapping quality above the others plus it had more weight in the bottom octaves. Please keep in mind this based on listening on a computer I'm sure listening in your room things might sound different. I'll also repeat my thoughts that you last video is being held back by those speaker cables. YMMV

Been listening over 30+ yrs and have gone from pre-amps to passive pres to no pres and always have returned to using a pre-amp. Agree no pre can sound cleaner but it's also a but sterile sounding and loses the soul of the music. As others have inferred and it's what happened to me, I find myself having shorter listening sessions with no pre but once a pre is back in I can listen and enjoy my system for hours and hours on end with no fatigue. YMMV
WC after listening to your latest shootout have to say nothing really moved me. Maybe it was the song you picked but yes could hear slight differences but nothing was foot tapping good like it was when you had the Audiomica cables in the system. A few pages back I asked you what you prefer in a system? Accuracy? Bass? Transparency? Top end openness? Or musicality? For me personally I want musicality and after buying (I presume) some of the Audiomica cables you auditioned I have to say I now can listen for 5 -7 hrs at a time without fatigue and just in plain bliss. I know I've thanked you before but once again THANK you! 
So please consider bringing back the Audiomica cables to your stable and see if your feet start to tap with the music.
Stay safe all.
How does a dealer think they can promote and post their gear on any of these forums? Please pay for an ad in the appropriate section of Agon and then let customers decide from there.

Why would any audiophile ever want to play club loud on a home system?
(This is a rhetorical question...no need to respond)
@vinny55 sorry but it's been my experience that power cords can make or break the sound of most amps YMMV. 
WC can you tell your followers what you are looking for in a "system"?
Is it the detail? Ability to play loud? Accuracy? Musicality? Transparency? Large wall to wall soundstage? Curious minds would like to know.
WC time to look "Beyond"  Cardas Clear cables. 
WC so what cable will you now use? I had Cardas Beyond without issue and was happy but have since moved on mostly based on WC views on this thread.
Stay safe all.
So what's the next plan WC?
WC you really have to get other speaker cable the Merrill is nothing special doesn't have the extension at top and no presence in the midrange. (Yes I've used it.)
WC you should try and locate one of these Andrea Pivetta amp creations, unlimited power of 160,000 watts!
https://www.onlycreative.it/press/reviewed-all-over-the-world
This will not only shake your garage foundation but your entire neighborhood.
Speaker 1 has more bite and IMO more musical. Bass on speaker #2 a bit lacking. 
81 - 88dB but will crank it to 90-95 at times. I'm 107.59" away laser measured (it's how I measure distance from each corner of speaker to center of listening chair for accuracy). Using an original Radio Shack sound level meter. 
The 458 monos would be worthwhile to also consider. 
Hey audiolabyrinth your Tara cables are good but a dealer will sell them at 50% off retail b/c they pay even less! Yes I've been offered them but they did not impress.
WC you are so right it's all about your own preferences. I for one want musicality over anything if it ain't musical I can't get involved and to me there's no SOUL to the music. I stated it way back when you were listening to the Audiomica cables I thought they sounded so musical in your system it was eery. I've switched from Cardas to Audiomica and now can listen for hours and hours and hours. Does it have the tightest bottom end? Who cares! Does it have the most extended top end? Who cares! It just makes my foot tap to the beat of the music and get lost into another dimension that puts a smile on my face. Enjoy your journey I still look forward to your posts.
Have really enjoyed WC journey but does anyone think they can duplicate what you hear on his YT videos? Remember that 50% of the sound is your room and just buying megabuck gear is no guarantee you will hear the same sound quality IMO.

@guidocorona are you implying that the ETM review was not a current production? I was under the impression that the Element 118 was just being released and a review takes at least 3 months to complete which would lead one to believe the ETM “sample” Element 118 was a pre-production model. Would this be an accurate statement?
Such slight differences we would need 4-5 different songs with different types of music 🎶 if we had a chance to discern any differences.
Cable 1 a bit bright IMHO via YouTube but plenty of detail cable 2 no PACE and boring sounding.