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 viber6

Excellent.  Then in a followup video, you will reveal which is which.  This is the best and fun way to do A/B/C's.  For all of ricevs' colorful and fancy language, he is right on the money about how only listening reveals the truth.
What are your findings with the Stillpoints?
Whether using DAW or Alexia 1 or Focal speakers, the essential differences between the Gryphon and Constellation preamps + amps will remain the same.
WC,
I know what you meant by saying the Constellation Centaur was moody...  I had a chance to listen briefly to the Taurus/Gryphon A/B at around 18 min.  I want to listen again to be sure of my perceptions, so I am looking forward to your edited version.  With most of my own electronics, I find the same variability according to the power line quality, which is unpredictable.  Instead of describing the differences in possibly offensive ways, I just give the facts.  For example, certain times, the sound is "mushy like marshmallows, out of focus, etc."
"Muffled" is a good way to describe the Constellation vs the clarity of the Gryphon. On the Gryphon I hear more twang/snap on the guitars and focus/guttural character of the voice. When people describe "warmth" of something like the Constellation, Luxman, D’Ag, Pass, a more honest description would be "muffled" which is what they are. If you find that the Gryphon is too irritating in the HF, just keep the volume from getting too loud. Personally, I get more excitement from listening to an accurate system at 80 dB than a slightly muffled system at 90 dB. It is tempting to want more volume, but if clarity is lessened with a muffled component, it is hopeless. Some musical information is lost and no amount of expensive cabling will restore the information. Also, take the Gryphon, listen at 90 dB or so, then listen at 88 dB. You will find even greater focus and overall precision, and of course you will be able to listen longer without fatigue but get more appreciation of the music.

Congratulations on your discovery of the Gryphon, and you should look forward to hearing the more powerful mono blocks. However, I won’t be surprised if this lower power Gryphon beats the higher power amps for clarity. Lower power amps in my experience have greater clarity because of less circuitry and shorter signal paths.

Try to find the new series of Boulder. That would be a great shootout with the Gryphon.
ron17,
Although recently I encouraged WC to get professional quality mikes to make the recordings more revealing, I have been amazed that I was able to hear the essential differences between amps from his present setup and my mediocre stock computer sound.  Still, I think more subtle cable differences will be harder to demonstrate with his present setup.  Also, mid and HF material shows more differences than bass, as with the last Gryphon/Constellation video.  I couldn't tell the difference with the opening bass material, but the guitar and voice showed the differences.
ron17,
Even though I couldn't hear the differences in the opening bass material from the last video, I bet that they were audible in WC's room live.  With the Gryphon, if the mids/HF are clearer than the Constellation, the odds are that the bass is clearer, tighter and more tuneful as well.  
jetter,
I did try my superb pro quality Beyerdynamic 880 headphones plugged into the computer.  Still nowhere near the sound quality utilizing these headphones in a great noncomputer system.  I was investigating getting some pro powered speaker monitors from the USB output and dac.  To me, it is not worth spending money on a system vastly inferior to my regular system.  I just enjoy the music from youtube without obsessing about its sound quality.
WC,
Just buy the GTA alone, and the sub later.  It beats any dynamic speaker for clarity and naturalness, and the Neolith for HF extension.  It is spacious and still focused, unlike the bloated, inflated image of the Neolith.  And it is way cheaper than any of them.  You can carry on your business buying and selling electronics and cables, but make this GTA a keeper speaker.  With your superb Gryphon and DCS, you'll have even more clarity and spaciousness than in the video with the Lampi and Pass.  Even in a larger room, you won't need any more power than your Gryphon for these efficient speakers.
WC,
Words are always inadequate to describe sound, but both "muffled" and "warm" refer to how the natural edges of transients are rounded and subtracted from the total overtones of the sound.  Also, when I heard an early version of the GTA speaker in Steve's large home room, driven by only a 60 watt Pass, it sounded neutral but not "muffled" or "warm."  I did not hear the typical warmth of Pass.  That is a testament to the neutrality and detail of the GTA.  However, if I heard it with my own neutral Mytek or your Gryphon, I probably would have described the Pass as being muffled only by comparison.
ricevs,
I agree about your speaker assessment.  Your Tekton MOAB's have a lot going for them, although I have never heard them.

I also agree that live music sometimes has warmth, which is the case in soft wooded rooms and halls, and at a distance where there is HF rolloff.  However, at close range, the tonality of voices and instruments is surprisingly dry and cool.  The cello has body, but it also has dryness and rough edges from the micro and macro scraping of the bow on the string--I know because I am a violinist and sit close as a listener.  

In general, live voices and instruments can have both warmth and detail, but all speakers are flawed and murky by comparison.  Warm speakers  tend to sacrifice detail, especially at HF.  So I think it is appropriate to cheat and choose electronics/cables that bring out the detail which is revealed by close miking.  Relative thinness is often a byproduct of this approach.  Another factor is that scaling down the large dimension of the live stage to the much smaller dimension of the listening room will create relative thinness.  Even with live instruments like a large piano, it will sound good on a large stage, but overwhelm a smaller room.  To avoid bloating and inflation of the image, it is necessary to thin it down to where the listening room experience can suggest the same smaller and focused image in the live larger hall.
The introductory bass is muddy on all 3, so I skip to 20 seconds later when the guitar comes in and then the voice appears.  The first minute after the guitar starts tells the story, otherwise to spend almost 4 minutes on each is tiring.  Still listening and trying to judge.
Very close on my regular iMac.  #2 seems most focused on voice and sparkly/twangy on guitar.  My preference is #2, then #3, then #1.
WC,
You could record the spoken voices of you and your wife, and any half-decent amateur singers or acoustic guitar and percussion player friends you know.  Having decent external mikes would help, but even the recording setup you have now would enable you to make a natural recording that would be far superior to most recordings you listen to, which are highly processed and unnatural.  You could record in your new listening room which is somewhat dead, or in a more live room in the house.  Keep the mikes relatively close to avoid smearing from reverberation.  You could also record outdoors at a quiet time to get openness and distant sounds of birds, the wind as background to your spoken voices and music.  That's ultimate ambiance.
Several people have noted that the differences in the power cords with regular computer audio are subtle.  So subtle that there are differences in perceptions as to which has more treble, etc.  When 2 items are very close, single blinded tests like this often show random outcomes.  But with amplifiers, the differences have been shown by your videos to be more obvious.  I don't doubt that we will be surprised when the truth of the cable identities is revealed.  Perhaps the most expensive will be shown to not be the best.  So my preliminary conclusion is that more money should be spent on amps and speakers than power cords.
WC,
For a great panel, although I haven't heard it, try the cheap $650 Maggie LRS.  No, it doesn't have the biggest bass and dynamics, but for quality of sound and medium size it should have great clarity with a nice medium sized image free of inflationary bloating.  I have a long 40 year experience listening to the bigger and biggest Maggies.  Fascination at first quickly led to disgust at the inflationary bloating.  The GTA is tall but narrow so it has a nice sized image.  The Neolith is too big and bloated with rolled off HF as a result, and too risky because of the price.  The GTA is getting more expensive with each revision.  I still believe it is the best planar for you, but you can have fun with the cheap Maggie LRS.  Don't waste money on the bigger Maggies--the GTA is clearly better than them all.

Oh I forgot--the ML CLX is still the best for clarity, naturalness.  With a REL sub, as mentioned by dasign, it is a top choice along with the GTA in a similar price range.
ron17,
On my iMac computer, I had the same observations as you, before WC revealed the identities of 1,2,3.  But after it was revealed, with the bias, I found that the Odin was the most bright and detailed.  But all 3 were very close, which proves that findings can be random and inconsistent when the actual differences are small in a poor resolution system like the computer.  Also, blinded listening really has value with bias nearly eliminated.  Even better would be double blinding, where a stranger sets up the tests, and both WC and we are doing it blinded.  Still, for the huge price of some cables that don't show night and day differences from way less expensive cables, WC should just get the GTA speakers, which WILL make the night and day difference in the total system sound.

WC, I don't recall whether you ever had the Neolith speakers in your present room.  Your present room is roughly the same size as your former room, so I believe you know enough already about how the Neoliths would sound.  I believe the GTA does nearly everything you value better than anything else.  The Neolith may have more natural and detailed midrange, however.  The ML CLX is a better example of purity than the Neo, but doesn't have the dynamics of the GTA.


WC,
Another thought about GTA and other panel speakers.  Your difficulty with tolerating loud volumes of more accurate information, esp HF is most likely due to dynamic speakers.  Compared to ribbons, planar magnetic and electrostatic drivers, dynamic drivers are more massive and nonlinear.  It takes sledgehammer tricks to get a dynamic speaker to have the detail of the other designs.  Getting that detail often leads to incoherence, lack of smoothness, some harshness of HF at high volumes.  By contrast, all the electrostatics, ribbons and planars I have heard have smoothness along with detail, so are not fatiguing at high volumes.  Rather than compromising on electronics and cables that soften the unpleasantness at high volumes, it would be better to get the GTA which is smooth and detailed, so you can enjoy your highest detail/liveliness Odin 1 and Valhalla cables at all volumes.  Same goes for the DCS without the softening of the preamp, and the Gryphon amp.

BTW, Merrill W told me he thinks upsamplers are not appropriate.  In his experience they soften the sound.  Our reasoning is that a 44 kHz recording cannot have any more information than what is contained in that sampling rate.  The upsamplers are not really sampling the greater information that would be present if the recording was done at the higher sampling rate--the upsamplers are merely throwing in extra data that has nothing to do with the music.  This out of context data creates smear that people hear as smoothness.
shannere,
On the contrary, you should do the listening I have done.  You might even realize what you have been missing with your own closed mind.
shannere,
Alright, you don't agree with my advice or don't comprehend it which was intended for WC and contains useful info that many people appreciate.  If it is not useful for you, that's OK.  But there is no need to be hostile towards me.  

As a physician, I sometimes give useful advice to patients and friends that differ from standard practices.  Of course, I don't insult them.  If someone doesn't understand or disagrees with what I recommend, they don't get argumentative and insult me to my face.  They are welcome to discuss their difference of opinion, which gives me an opportunity to clarify and elaborate further.  Often they come back and say my advice was helpful, and that no other physician contributed so much to their health.  For those patients that don't follow my advice, some of them come back with the same problems, and I gently remind them that if they follow my advice, they will feel better.  I ask them to come back a month later, so if they are not better, I can try to think of other treatments that might work out better.  

This analogy with the audiophile quest is obvious.  Unfortunately, the quest for great health and recovery from serious illness is much more difficult as we all know.  Be well.
On your earliest videos with the Focal Scala I preferred it to the Wilson Alexia 1 on another video, although the music was different, so it was a bit of an apples/oranges comparison.  The Focal was more detailed and more natural at the same time.  I don't care what flavor a preamp may add, it will remove some detail.  You may at first be intrigued with the added flavor, but then will realize that some detail is sacrificed so that at moderate SPL's you will enjoy the clarity and naturalness without the preamp.  I heard a smaller Focal at Harry Weisfeld's VPI house 6 months ago.  There is little doubt that Focal's technology is superior to Wilson.  I look forward to the next video.
I heard the preamp/no preamp comparison.  The preamp adds veiling and distortion.  It is irrelevant to discuss image size, warmth.  The recording itself is murky with the piano submerged in a cave under water.  The voice has more immediacy without preamp.  It will be a good move to ditch both dynamic speakers in favor of the ML 15a or CLX.  Midrange will be more revealing and natural.  The Be tweeter on the Focal may have more accuracy than the flawed curved stat panel which rolls off HF, but the midrange contains most of the music.  Then you will be ready for the most important shootout of all--ML vs GTA vs Sanders. The Sanders flat panel stat is a better design than ML.  You can't lose with the 30 day trial.
True, but you made a big backwards move by spending big bucks on a veiled tube preamp.  Dump the ARC when you can.  Any of those speakers--ML, GTA, Sanders--are keepers and should be not treated as disposable toys.  Although you had the ML 15a years ago, your ancillary equipment has greatly improved, so I am sure you will appreciate them for a long time.  
Buzzwords like the negatives of complicated electronics in crossovers is merely one factor.  The theoretical ideal speaker uses lowest mass drivers tightly controlled by either electrostatic stators or ribbon magnets.  If the designer can use the least intrusive electronic crossover, that is great.  But look at the total package.  The inherently superior electrostatic transducer, even handicapped by flawed electronics, may still come out ahead.  The trouble is that except for the flat panel Sanders, other stats with their curved panels are flawed.  I like the purist approach of GTA.  But theory may not correlate exactly with reality, so that's why the GTA and Sanders should be compared patiently.
The Focal is clearly (pun intended) the winner.  When the Focal comes on, the voice is immediately more intimate, closer and more nuanced.  This is due to the superior Be tweeter as implemented.  Articulation is way better in mid/HF.  With the Focal, the girl is whispering sweet nothings into your ear, whereas with the Wilson she is more distant, veiled and emotionally detached.

Keep the Focal as a reference, until you get the GTA for that comparison.  Don't try to save money by buying used.  You will get an unknown older model.  Even at retail of $20K, you will get updates by dealing directly with Steve.  You might even prefer an earlier version of the retrofittable diaphragm, so you could have it your way, or accept the latest version.  To make this really fun, you could have a few different diaphragms on hand, so you could install each yourself and compare diaphragms.  I don't think Greg or Steve have made comparative videos like this, so if you did so, they would appreciate your creativity and give you great deals in return.
TJAssoc,
Totally correct.  Striving for neutrality in each component is paramount.  And as you say, "but mating one component emphasis to compensate for another components void will never allow the system to present things naturally and with the best fidelity."

At any given age, females have better hearing than males.  In general, they also have better musical judgment and don't describe components as "muscular" which applies to cars but has nothing to do with music.  I remember the great writings of Enid Lumley for Absolute Sound 40 years ago about tweaks.  I thought she was farfetched back then, but now I realize she knew what she was talking about, just by using her own ears.

gbmcleod,
Thanks for your reminiscences of TAS and HP.  HP had character and I enjoyed reading him.  He was musically astute and taught audiophiles how to meaningfully describe how components reveal the music.  You have done an excellent job of more meaningfully describing Rowland's for example in terms of tonal character and balance.  Pavarotti, like all well trained opera singers, was more powerful than much less well trained pop singers like Sinatra.  But the instantly recognizable differences are well described in timbre and subtle musical phrasings, rather than nonmusical qualities like "muscularity" and so on.
gbmcleod,
Love your stories.  I'll try what you and Enid say.  I bought lots of Greenwave filters (for dirty electricity) for EMF pollution at home and in the office.  The Greenwave meter measures reductions from the filters.  I'm not sure of the effect on audio, which is subtle.  See what you find.
WC, how bad is the hum?  Does the music come through, just with an overlay of hum?  Is it low freq hum or higher freq buzz?  Does it happen with the Denali and also if plugged into the wall without the Denali?  This is certainly unsatisfactory and disappointing, but the answers might help solve the problem.  It could be a ground problem with that combination of components, so the Nordost QBase is a great idea.  Just for sound quality alone, I am curious to see how the QBase compares with the Denali.
Never mind the money for Dag vs Luxman.  My interpretation of Chazzy's findings is that he likes the greater accuracy of the Dag, but WC seems to be in love with the specific euphonic flavor of the Lux 900.

Please stop the nonsense that just because something is more expensive then it must be better, whatever "better" means to someone.  More expensive means better parts, more weight, etc.  But the most important criterion for sound quality is the thinking behind the product.  At the moment, I am intrigued by the latest Stereophile review of the $3500 Primare A35.2 stereo amp, which has proprietary class D tech.  Herb Reichert the reviewer claims that it is more accurate than my beloved Mytek Brooklyn Amp, which I have found to be more accurate than all much more expensive amps I have heard at home.  I don't take Herb's views as gospel, but I think I will let a dealer run the Primare for a long time and then try it, according to the great advice of Guido Corona.
kren0006,
My last post is merely a statement of several facts.  Chazzzy just re-confirmed that he found the Dag superior to the Lux in every way, INCLUDING clarity.  WC won't disagree that he likes the certain euphonic flavor of the Lux.  This has enabled him to enjoy the DCS direct without the softening of a preamp.

It is you who injects a negative tone to what I really said.
pokey77,
Which TAD class D do you own?  What is its sound character?  I am amazed at the sound quality and value offered by class D.  The debate goes on about whether it is SOTA.
pokey77,
Thanks for your TAD M2500 mention.  This should be of interest to many people here, including WC, as a SOTA contender.
I like the Audio Research better than the Luxman preamps.  I hear the Luxman as being midrange-centric at the expense of the HF,   The ARC shows more details/enunciation in her voice with more sibilants but nothing excessive.  The ARC sounds more lifelike with less coloration than the Luxman.  

I like the recording of the voice which is a good demo piece for your comparisons.  Even though some music may tempt you to crank the volume, on this meditative recording, the voice at live, natural levels is about 75 dB or so.  If you push the volume, she will sound bloated and lose focus, out of character for this music.  If a solo voice is natural at 75 dB, a chorus of 10 voices with be at 85 dB.  In a more impassioned piece, a solo singer could reach 90-100 dB on peaks, so the right SPL depends on the character of the music and the number of performers involved.


WC,
Sorry to repeat, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on the Shunyata Denali vs AQ Niagara conditioners.  In my system, the Denali is worthwhile, but I heard more clarity with the AQ on your video.  In your room, the differences should be more apparent.
WC,
I liked the AQ Niagara over the Shunyata, for the AQ's greater ambience, openness.  Still not much of a difference.  It would have been nice to first hear everything without either AQ or Shunyata.  What do you find without any conditioner, and then with AQ and Shunyata?
whitecamaross--I am new to your thread, and thank you for your extensive honest reporting.  My values are a little different, and I will sacrifice dynamics and bass power for absolute clarity/precision.  I have vintage inefficient Audiostatic electrostatics in parallel with Enigmacoustics electrostatic super tweeters in parallel with a net impedance of about 1 ohm in the highs.  My listening average dB level for classical music small ensembles to orchestra, with some audiophile jazz for testing, is in the 70's.  I don't care about loud passages in the 90's if the clarity in the 70's is mediocre.  Low level detail is really in the 20-40's range.  My present amp is the Bryston 2.5 B SST2.  I am one of few who can tell you that the 2.5B blows away the more popular 4B in clarity and neutrality of tonal balance at modest power levels, despite the official line of Bryston that all the amps in the series sound identical.  I told one of them recently about my findings, and he admitted that the smaller 2.5 may sound better because of the shorter signal path.  I have always felt that fewer transistors helps to avoid the potential errors from slightly unequal greater number of transistors.  
I am writing today because of my excitement over your discovery of the Adcom.  As it brakes in, please report on the tonal balance of it.  Is it crisp, or is it a warmer flavor?  My tastes are in the minority--most people like warmer sound, but I am a violinist and I show everyone I meet that the truth at close range is very scratchy and the opposite of warm.  I do need more power than my little Bryston, and I hope you can report on which amps are most ruthlessly revealing, especially in mids and highs.  Many thanks.
WC, thanks for your helpful comment about the warmth of the Adcom.  This fits with a few reviews of the 565 that say the highs are rolled off.  Beware when someone describes something as smooth sounding--this usually means that highs are subdued.  On the Theta, guidocorona has described how the Merrill class D amps had a long, long breakin period of perhaps 1000 hours, so I hope you give the Theta a good long time and report as you go along.  
Yes, buying an expensive boutique brand with probably poor resale value doesn't make much sense.  But buying a cheap brand with unknown resale value is smarter.  An example is the GTA speaker, whose performance is better than big Maggies.  My $2K Mytek Brooklyn Amp has more clarity/neutrality than any other much more expensive class D or other high powered amp I have heard at home.  No need to mention names for obvious reasons.  Now Mytek has come out with a revision at retail $2500.  A manufacturer will always say the revision is better for marketing reasons, but "it ain't necessarily so."  I'll evaluate this one.
WC,
My defective computer usually can't load comments on your videos, so I don't know whether you answered my question about what you heard with the AQ Niagara 5000 vs Shunyata Denali 6000T, and how each compared with no conditioner.
tjassoc,
Correct and true, but not "politically" correct, which is often untrue.  Funny mistake--on your last line, you probably meant "tirade" instead of "tyrant."
Thanks for your recommendation that for clarity, go for the AQ Niagara 5000 plus Hurricane power cord feeding it.

"Emotion" means many things to different people.  In my case, when I hear more clarity, that leads to a better appreciation of the intricacies of the music I love.  Greater love and appreciation=emotion.  Also, more snap/sizzle (without excessive volume) = more excitement, that type of emotion.
WC, years ago I was taken by the wall to wall soundstage of large Magnepans.  But planar magnetics/ribbons have less resolution than the best electrostatics.  Also, large transducers have time smear due to different arrival times from the top to your ears versus ear level, etc.  When I compared the Maggie 20 to the 3, the 20 had more bass and power of course, but the highs were rolled off compared to the 3.  Of course, the HF ribbons are excellent, but the tonal balance of the 20 was shifted toward lower frequencies.
For clarity/focus, Gryphon>Pass>Luxman.  You forgot to say your findings about Shunyata Denali vs AQ Niagara 5000 conditioners.
In accordance with tjassoc, I think it would be useful for you to give a quick 2 minute take on your findings at the end of each video, because the differences are best heard by you in your own room.  The videos heard on inferior equipment are much less revealing, but they do have the advantage of being able to go back several times to try to describe the differences.  To avoid bias, we can stop the video 2 min before the end so we are not biased by your findings.  Then when we have formed our own judgments, we can hear your conclusions.  The best of both worlds.
There is no political or even business agenda on your videos.  Why should youtube block them?
WC--the soft romantic tubey midrange, ballsy bass, rolled off highs of the McIntosh will turn your Magico in the direction of the Focal.  Sure, more bass and power, but as the highs are reduced, so will the information retrieval be compromised.  Pass is merely a better version of Mac.  Nelson Pass said that he designs amps to please the audiophiles who like so called "musical" sound, not to offer accuracy.  See the latest issue of Stereophile for the lovesick review of the Pass 200.8, with full admission that the highs are rolled off but he doesn't care.  I think the Bryston 28B cubed to be your best idea.  This will give you plenty of power, an excellent level of neutrality and accuracy, but with some amount of sweetness.  I am looking forward to your assessment of the Bryston.
geoffkait, thanks for broadening my view of Aerospace to all the wonderful peaceful applications. 
WC,
Your choice would be easy once you accept the fact that very loud listening distorts the music.  Even most live, unamplified music is at natural modest volume levels.  All of the music on your videos is most lifelike at modest SPL's.  But when certain pieces are too loud, it is unpleasant.  In my first row seat at a live, unamplified concert, I cringe briefly when it is too loud, but then love the crispness the other 99% of the time at the low to moderate SPL's.  The more accurate component at moderate SPL's will give more excitement than blasting the whipped cream/veiled type of sound.

As I wrote above, getting the most natural detail and resolution serves the appreciation of all the subtleties of the music, which is EMOTIONALLY rewarding.
WC--I concur with jafox that every speaker has its pros and cons.  I have not heard either one, but suppose the Focal has more bass and the Magico has more accuracy/information retrieval.  My taste would be the Magico, but your taste might be the Focal, because you love bass and loudness/large scale dynamics.  You said recently that you wouldn't like Bob Marley without sufficient bass, but on the other hand, you value hearing all the words in a song clearly.  So you might be bewitched by the clarity of the Magico so that bass QUANTITY becomes a lower priority.  The Magico might have superlative bass QUALITY with more information retrieval in the bass, with still decent bass QUANTITY.  You'll never know unless YOU try them both.  As you always say, published reviews are less valuable than your own evaluations.  Maybe the difference in resale between sealed speakers and open box is $1000 or so, but this is the price of your own R & D and the fun of this quest.