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 techno__dude

The Wilson DAWs finally. A much better buy than the Alexia 1. 
You are right viber.

But what WC mostly remembers is his favorite PassLabs XS 300 monos driving the Alexia 1s. Now the DAWs should be driven by the same XS 300s to get a real idea of what they can do vs the best Alexia 1 memories...

So what we will mostly get is...
...the Alexia s goes deeper and stronger in the bass department.
But that thought is based on the XS 300s pairing...
Not the same amps and preamp driving the DAWs that were driving the Alexia 1s.

Just saying, it may invalidate the results.
Let’s bring back the Alexias for this thread ´s sake !Just kidding.
A pair of piano black Scala Evos with 100 hours of play time just popped in the classified section. High end Palace, no price on the ad. I guess you have to talk your way through for knowing...
Not the rolled off Neoliths. 
Don’t shoot the messenger, you said it. 
You cannot say Constellation are Luxman M-900u on steroids. You did not test both with the same setup and the same room...

Same thing about build quality, pop the hood on those and they are a mess with spaghetti wriring compared to Pass Labs XS and Luxman M 900u.

Trying to sell a flawed horse ?


Toshiba cassette player.
HD dvd.
Beta video player.
Yes. We can ear the tubyness of the Lampizator, organic very satisfying sound. The soundstage must be enormous.
#1 is Odin pc I think.

#2 and #3 is a more difficult choice. My guess would be #2 is Audioquest and #3 Audiomica.
Well  pretty much everybody has listened to the video and wrote their thoughts.

I was right about #1. Why am I so good at being right ?... 🤣

I know my Nordost sound signature guys .
Hi fi palace must be stucked with the Block amp, so most probably it’s time again to deploy a little audiogon thread marketing...
Smaller names like Block Audio, Audiomica and others need the exposure to sell. What better way to use this thread as a marketing tool.

Not saying it is a bad thing. We get to learn about new products. But always keep in mind a seller may hide behind the review your are reading...
Maybe it’s the Luxman 900u amp coming back.

I can already foresee WC saying it sounds like...

Luxman not on steroids. 
These two powercords seems to be very close sounding.

Well at least on my cheap computer speakers, they sound both very articulate and organic.
One new powercord to consider is the very soon to be released Shunyata Alpha NR V2 which is said to better the Sigma NR.
It should give the Audioquest pcs a pretty good run for their money.
Cardas Clear Beyond as interconnects is a masterful choice imho.

But I would not go speaker cables with that brand. Never go full loom Cardas.  Speaker cables speaking,  you are much better with something like Shunyata Sigmas or Alphas with their Z-tron v2 tech...or with Nordost Odin.


I think I prefer the Wilsons over the Focals, even if I know that the Focals are technologically superior with a little more resolving tweeters. The Wilsons seems to have an addictive midrange thickness ( richness ) less present with the Focals. And it’s a more relaxing, less lit up, listen.
No preamp should always be better resolution wise. Any pair of interconnects added to a system brings two more contacts points in and out the preamplifier. There is always some  « loss   » in doing so. 

Let’s not forget that , usually,  dac direct to amplifier(s) is supposed to sound thin, sterile... and less dynamic. This is absolutely not the case with the DcS dac, which means it has stunning preamplifier capabilities.

Imho, there is not enough gap here to justify the huge price increase in adding the Ref6 SE ( add to that a power cable and a set of interconnects).
But if you absolutely crave for that « tube sound » in the mix, go for it. It’s your money.
Very interesting. 
Technically, Focal are hard to beat. Never forget they have been making their own drivers ever since they were founded. Very light and stiff polyglass sandwich cone tech. 
I learned with experience that in high end audio, less is better.
So yes, a driver design without a crossover is always more transparent. It has to be well made and implemented.

I also don’t like the complicated electronics in the ML 15A ´s signal path. For me, that will always be a deal breaker. My vote is for GT Audio.
I also support faxer’s right to post. He ´s far from spamming this thread. 
Maybe the new Scanspeak tweeters in those Wilson DAWs are just a pain in the .ss to get broken in. There is still a possibility they need like a 1000 hours. This happens with new designs when a maker is going for ultimate detail reproduction.
Also, Nordost Odin 1 can be quite a lit up speaker cable. Nordost series 2 is warmer.

Anyway, I would most probably have chosen the Focals Evo also. And would go Shunyata with them. And for the record I own Nordost LF Red Dawn spealer cables, which are the perfect match for my Dynaudio Special 40. Very fast cables, clarity in spades also.


Darker speaker. Nordost
Brighter speaker, Shunyata.
From my experience.
It’s about time I return to put some grains of salt back in the discussion...and put things in perspective again...

First, just like I said a year ago, Neoliths are gone...and were just overpriced for what they were...lots of electronics in the signal way. Not a purist approach.

Now, new speakers, Focal Scala Evos. Serious speakers from a serious brand, and yes a more serious msrp. It was just a matter of time for WC to get to this kind of dynamic drivers again... speed, bass, simple passive crossovers...TRANSPARENCY, DYNAMICS. TRUE WC. Now a speaker that deserve the praise.

Ok after the flowers, the pot. Pass Labs XS 300. Overpriced gear again, overkill power for Scala Evos big time.... Remember , new room and new speakers. Bring back in a pair of 200.8 or 600.8 monos, do a blind test and NOBODY will discern the XS apart from those...no way....50/50 results at best. Have a look inside the XS...there is nothing new there that Pass Labs has not done before...same green circuit boards with transistors array on both side, same big blue can capacitors.. just more power , heat , and casings. You bought heaters , plain and simple. Scala Evos are high sensitivity speakers, like most Focal they sound best with tubes and need pure amplification...not monsters for the sake of it...

Lets be serious again. Glad to be back.
Do a blind test against a pair of 600.8, and then we will talk. First 50 watts of those are pure Pass Labs class A, the Evos will sing no differently than with the XS... If you can blindly ear the difference at the same exact sound pressure level, wow just wow congrats my friend...

( lost my password and email account, I’m the same canadian fellow that offered you my 900u in private and you responded you could have one for a better price)


Glad to discuss with you again Viber6, and others, with respect. ( not easy for everybody, specially RIAA who sees trolls everywhere when his ´´big gear ego ´´ is challenged ).

I do like the GTA speakers, a much more purist approach than ML. And also their reasonable msrp... 😉

Like you said, in the spirit of an open mind. That is why the Pass Labs XS recent praise here has to be taken with a big grain of salt... specially in a completely new speakers and room context...
For sure , that PRE looks serious. 
Cool WC.

Can you do a shootout between the Christine and the 2010, on the same amps. So that we can know he differences between them.
An elite solid state preamp shootout that would be very interesting.
I tought you had already compared the Christine pre.with the Boulder 2010. Maybe too quick a shootout to conclude anything sure. It’s ok, things need to move sometimes.

Pass XP 30 vs Boulder 2010 should be very interesting.

How could the Alexx be so much better than the Focals Evo...

How could you be that much impressed by the Alexx when you already have experienced ML Neoliths...

At that level of speaker, you hit the biggest diminishing return.
Agreed with briano, the Focals Evo will not be bettered as they are most probably the best of their range. 
Maybe I’
m wrong, but Sasha 2 and DAW are known to sound better than the Alexia 1...
Oh well, you will know you ´ve tried it vs the Focals.
If you were using the Focal jumpers, then yes bi wiring with Nordost Odin or WW top cables will make a nice difference. ( Focal stock jumpers are the weakest link of your cable loom). This is why you are experiencing better sound when they are out of the system ( bi wiring).

If using Nordost Odin or WW top JUMPERS , then you don’t need bi wiring.

UPGRADE YOUR JUMPERS, and use single wiring with the best cables available , as millercarbon is suggesting.


Get Nordost Odin jumpers. Case closed.
WW jumpers still the weak link. That is why bi wiring still sound better right now.

Biwing with 2 different brands of cables is far from being an optimal solution. Nordost Odin speaker cables will always be faster than other brands. It is their force, why the brand sound so good and fast.
20k GTA panels + a pair of Rel Subs. That would be my pick also.

Imagine no Viber6 on this thread. It would lack something for sure. All opinions are welcome, even contested ones, thats makes for the the whole richness of this thread.
I still see his opinion welcome here. If his colorful statements are so excruciating for you guys, then just get a life and be done following the thread. Simple easy solution. 
I don’t care if they would be a thousand more participants, the thread would not be the same without him. Sorry WC, THEY STARTED the hating speach AGAIN...I guess they catch a desease when they read about him... They must like it because they keep returning...
I think it’s now more about the journey. But still , WC is an audiophile like us, so deepdown he is always searching for the best speakers and front ends.
The Focals are so much more sexy.
The Wilsons, darn, these are down my list in the beauty department.
The only ones that would enter my room are the Sabrinas.

Looking forward to read about the shootout between them. And also the preamps , Boulder vs Pass XP30.
It’s not the mids or highs bursting out. It’s the bass that doesn’t follow...that disjointed bass this specific speaker ( Alexia 1) is known for.

Why do you think those need a full team of Wilson golden ears to set up, as opposed to the Focals that just fit in easily...
technic is right  Imagine  how a pair of Maestro Evo professionally set up with better tweeter and diver would sound like...
WC, can you ship the Evos to Canada ? 😀😀😀😀
Soundstage is a great thing. But for me, I value clarity and overtones retrieval even more. I feel soundstage is a more abstract audiophile aspect.

And I sure can’t tolerate a speaker with bass that calls for attention. I find this very annoying.

Oh well the thread is about WC’s journey, not mine , so back to the OP.
I knew the Sasha DAW would rule in a normal size room.
Traduction. It’s a pain in the a.. to make the Alexia 1 sound good in most room conditions...
Cool preamp, but it has to be PRESTIGIOUS and EXPENSIVE to be worthy of WC ´s consideration...

Just kidding.
I agree that preamps and dacs don’t need to be very expensive anymore to give near or sota results. The Christine pre and Benchmark pre are probably good examples. My own experience showed this in me acquiring a 4.5 k $ CAD demo Mac pre with included dac module that bested a 6 k$ USD dac and separate preamp.

Amps and specially speakers, thats another story.
I still don’t agree that someone needs to pay the big $ to get sota preamp or dac performance. Most of audiophiles preaching that route would fail the blind test and have their jaw dropped.

Sure, WC ´s journey through prestigious preamps is very interesting and I would absolutely not want him to go otherwise. It’s very cool to read about the top stuff outhere.
But a thread is also for discussing options, all options. That is the beauty of this hobby.