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!


128x128jays_audio_lab

Showing 50 responses by viber6

The system sounds just fine with the $10 generic power cords.   Nordost says that power cords are more important than other cables.  My $350 Nordost Vishnu power cord makes a worthwhile improvement in clarity vs stock cord, but other components are much more important, so save the money for these other components.

Jay, 

You said about Mike, "He is into smooth and soft sounding amps because it keeps him glued to his seat. I’m not there anymore. I’m now more into the "what’s in the recording" type of sound reproduction."

I'm with you. What keeps me glued to my seat is the musical stimulation from hearing more of the information in the recording.  Of course, the SPL can't be too loud.

I just discovered a fantastic new small concert hall in NY.  Tiny stage projecting into a tiny hall, like a horn loaded speaker.  Sitting in front row center, 7 feet away, the piano had anvil-like grip in the entire freq range.  You should hear the FULL AND TIGHT TIGHT bass out of it.  Way beyond the sound of any speaker using conventional recordings.  But I made upfront recordings that replicate what I heard in similar venues.

3 more events at this place on monthly Mon evenings. See bohemiansNYC.org.  Anybody able to come to NY, I will get you in as my guest.  This will be more memorable than any audio show.

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.
WC,
I understand and agree with your 4 pros and 4 cons about the 20.7 with Mephisto.  Your present 20.7 system with all the top supporting components is possibly the finest 20.7 system in existence.  Few Maggie owners have the quality of supporting components you do, largely because of bad industry-wide marketing that advises people to use cheap and expensive components with cheap and expensive speakers, respectively.  However, the company says that some customers do have more expensive components.  Magnepan should pay you to accommodate listeners who really want to hear what Maggies can do.

Your Alexia 2 system is possibly the finest such system, since top components are also used, but the Mephisto enables true appreciation of the differences between the two speakers.  I went back and forth between the latest video with the 20.7 and the last video with the Wilson, using the same music.  I think the 20.7 was recorded a little louder than the Wilson, so I adjusted the volumes as I compared.

Using my mediocre stock iMac audio, I cannot judge bass, imaging and spatiality, but I can compare the tonal qualities of each system.  Yes, the 20.7 has a fine tweeter, but so does the Wilson.  What makes the 20.7 my choice is the rest of the range, due to the low mass planar drivers, and the open baffle, boxless design.  You can hear how the 20.7 presents voices and instruments most naturally as they are in real life, without the overlay of artificial resonances that come from boxes.  The 20.7 shows the beautiful woman with a thin layer of clothing, but the Wilson shows her in a thicker coat so her fine features are  obliterated to an extent.  Obviously, she appears fuller in the thicker coat.  So the fullness comes at the expense of natural detail.  You can hear the true tonal character and detail of voices and instruments with the 20.7.  Spatiality benefits also as the whole freq range of timbres is fully revealed.

This got me to thinking about the many dynamic speakers available using the open baffle (OB) design.  Tweak1 writes that he had the Maggie 3.5 but couldn't get the ribbon tweeter to integrate with the rest of the range, to his satisfaction.  So he got various Emerald Physics OB models, and got the natural detailed sound of his 3.5 plus more dynamics from the dynamic drivers used.  I searched "open baffle speaker" on Agon.  On the 1st page, look for the entries, "Spatial Audio M3 Turbo S open baffle speaker review" and "My new review of the Spatial Hologram M4 open baffle speaker."  Since I have trouble linking whole articles, I excerpted from the Hologram review some pertinent statements that echo what I have been saying about the supreme importance of tonal quality.

"I now understand what posters on speaker forums mean when they say things like, 'Tone is everything. What good are imaging and bass extension if the instruments don’t sound like what they are?'

"This is one way in which the Hologram M4’s truly excel. They are masters of tone. Trumpets, saxophones and other wind instruments sound very real. Orchestral strings sound sweet and woody, with the shimmer of the real thing. Voices are as palpable, expressive and human as the best single driver designs that I’ve heard, and that’s really saying something."

Read his whole article, which I think is spot-on.  He says much of the high cost of excellent speakers with box designs is that of the materials and engineering to make the box sound as boxless as possible, while attempting to get the powerful dynamics that come from box reinforcement.  Personally, I believe that no box speaker can compete with a boxless design for absolutely natural lifelike sound  The top Wilson Chronosonics are probably the best Wilsons, mainly because they best implement time alignment through their concave driver configuration, but before anyone spends $600K on Chronosonics they should listen to top OB speakers.   Spatial sells direct for as low as $2K or less, and their top Lumin line starts at $20K.  The Hologram M4 was $1300 at the time of the 2016 post.  Clayton Shaw designed the Emerald Physics line before moving on to Spatial.

So my latest thinking is that for ultimate natural sound, OB offers the best prospects.  Then the question comes down to which driver technology offers the closest simulation of natural voices and instruments.  I still believe that lowest mass drivers like planar magnetics, ribbons, and electrostatics offer this.  But OB dynamic drivers can now compete with those low mass drivers, and offer more dynamics to boot.  The low mass drivers offer maximum purity with less bass.  Take your choice.

So the 20.7 and ML 13A comparison will be most interesting.


kren,
Right.  But the essence of my post is that ARC, no matter what it is used with, does not have a typical soft, tubey type of sound.  Of course, there are variations, like with the ref 6 vs ref 10, brand of individual tubes, etc. ARC's founder, William Zane Johnson, had a philosophy that tubes can be accurate if you know what you're doing.  In my experience, this is more true about preamps rather than power amps.
stargazer3,
Which active ATC speakers do you recommend?  Prices?  Thanks for this info.

daveyf,

Thanks for your info.  I believe everything you say, since I was SHOCKED at the improvement in resolution, spatiality going from the Denon DD to my friend's original LP12.  Did you actually use the same cartridge/arm, transferring them to all the TT you mentioned?  That's the only way to see if the TT alone is responsible for all the improvements.

Perhaps the bearing is the most critical factor in approaching the ideal of the invisible finger of God spinning the record.  Maybe the current Linn is comparable to the effortless transparency of analog master tape.

I was intrigued with the concept of the bearing in the original SOTA Sapphire TT.  But listening showed the TT was a dog--the entire soft wood construction probably explained its soft, mushy sound.

WC,
Of course, with the next video of the ML 13A, include the same songs as on the 20.7 and Alexia 2.  Same Mephisto amp of course.  Looking forward to this!
WC,
You just proved the points made by techno and me.  Most of your joy now is coming from the Alexia 2.  So you should now elaborate on what the Mephisto gives you that the Merrill doesn't, and also what the Merrill may give that the Mephisto doesn't, using the same supporting components, of course, maybe with the exception of different power cords.  You can also turn both amps off for 10-20 min and then turn on and listen with the same power cord, such as the AQ Dragon.

If the Mephisto is the best amp for what you value, then there is no incompatibility with another speaker.  Even a tiny minimonitor speaker will show the Mephisto's high resolution/detail/etc. at low/moderate levels.  Of course, the minimonitor won't be blasted, but the Mephisto should still improve the playback of Keith Don't Go at 85 dB.

speedbump6,

Certainly the high power of the Mephisto is not needed for a typical horn speaker, which only needs a few watts.  But a well designed amp has low distortion and the same tone quality at all power levels within its limits.  At high volumes, the sledgehammer effect might be delivered, but at low levels, you get detail/accuracy, etc. 

For that horn speaker playing modest volumes, the preamp might be set at 9:00, but for the Maggie, the preamp would be around 1:00 for the same volume.  Then you might say that the limiting factor would be the preamp which might have more distortion at 9:00 than 1:00.  In that case, the best option is to use a good passive preamp with no gain above unity, to yield the least intrusive electronics.

"Real NEUTRALITY is ruthless and it will piss you off too. It doesn’t care about you or your preference. Real neutrality isn’t in the form of coffee with creamer but rather just pure black coffee which some of you can’t stomach because you get heartburn or acid reflux."

Sounds like viber's cup of tea."

Superficially, yes, my cup of tea.  More deeply, no.  The undertone of that quote is unpleasantness.  But the real purpose of audio equipment is to get more information out of the music you enjoy.  Neutrality is the absence of superimposed colorations on the original music.  Neutrality will reveal more information, a happy outcome. I agree with psnyder149 that grill cloth is an obvious factor imposing colorations.  Why would anyone want to subtract information with the grill cloth?  If the bare speaker is unpleasant in sound, the cloth may reduce the unpleasantness, but it also reduces the musical information retrieval.  A no-win situation, so get rid of that speaker, OR work on room placement.  But don't add warm other components which have a similar effect as the grill cloth.

Now for Jay's tantalizing statement--"As a matter of fact, I’ll make a bold statement: these amps have exposed the boulder 2150s character as being a tad sweet and smooth."  Right on!  Gryphon Mephisto monos?  Let's hear more of the real music with the 725 and these new amps!

One reason many people here like warmth is that most of these pop/rock recordings are highly processed, so neutral components reveal more of these unpleasant processing effects.  But live recordings of classical performances have minimal processing and are far superior to production studio processed recordings.  I'll post one soon to illustrate.

Here’s the recording of the live concert from last June. No audience because of covid. I went to this hall last week and was impressed by the utter naturalness and immediacy of the piano sound. I sat in the 1st row just right of center. A cheap simple video recorder was used near me. For this natural recording, there is no unpleasantness, so any warmth in playback would subtract from the delicacy of the music. The soft, delicate piano begins around 1:13. You can appreciate what I said within a few seconds. A female singer begins around 26 min.  Enjoy.

 

Whether using DAW or Alexia 1 or Focal speakers, the essential differences between the Gryphon and Constellation preamps + amps will remain the same.
Guido,
Funny that you mention "corona" as both your last name and the virus.  The mild common cold is causes by lots of different corona viruses.  But the most noble "corona" is YOU, and glad to hear you are well and happy.
Sorry for the length.  YT malfunctioned on me.  Just search Liszt Mephisto Waltz no. 1 Tiffany Poon on YT to hear just that.

I can imagine Gryphon people after they developed the Mephisto, trying to come up with a name for it.  They did not develop a commonplace sweet amp which would go well with anything.  It certainly frustrated you in the beginning, just like the devil, Mephistopheles.
thieliste,
According to your own listening, what is the tonal character of Ansuz cables, any of them?  Have you A/B'ed against Nordost?
Techno,
What forums show different findings from WC on the Mephisto?  Even from my mediocre computer audio, I hear the Mephisto as not at all dark, but very crisp and clear, my kind of sound.  In fact, I heard better clarity with Alexia 2 + Mephisto than from 20.7 + Dag on the song, Keith don't go.  Very surprising to me, but I have to call it as I hear it.
There was a poster who summarized his friends' findings that the CH Precision was very close to the Merrill 118 in sound character.  Since I found the Merrill 114 (close to the 118) to be euphonic compared to my Bryston and Mytek amps, and WC found the Mephisto to be more detailed and neutral compared to his 118, I take the forum comments with a few grains of salt.  I know only what I hear, although I'll be happy to read your links.
Tweak1,
Utilizing WC's findings, I only said that the WW is warmer than Nordost, so I speculated that he would prefer it to the Nordost on the Mephisto.
ron17,
Yes, I am very picky.  Anyone besides billionaires with money to burn should be picky.  This pickiness doesn't just pertain to expensive audio stuff.  Most people are picky about their mates.  But not picky enough, since a high % of marriages end in divorce.  Then it gets expensive and unpleasant.

Most of the high end audio industry is selling expensive mediocre sounding stuff with poor resale value.  I have found a few audio gems that offer more clarity/detail than many much more expensive things I have heard.  

WC may have found an expensive gem in the Mephisto.  I follow this thread to hear about the gems at all prices.  Many posters feel the same way I do, but they are silent because they are enjoying their high performance modestly priced stuff, and don't waste their time in the playground of these discussions.

mikem,

Well said, about choosing components that bring life and avoid boredom, which to me is not pleasant.  Yes, real and natural means including the bite and attack. What do you think about the live recording I posted at the end of the previous page?

Jay, the common meaning of "synergy" as used here, is some magical combination of bite and warmth.  However, the reality is that the warm component will shave off some bite.  If your recordings sound "ruthless" with accurate components, it is because they are processed and artificial.  Tell me if you think that video I posted sounds ruthless on your system.  You don't have to like this esoteric classical music (even I didn't know the 1st half with solo piano, although the piano/singer piece at 26 min is popular)--just listen to the piano briefly to appreciate the delicate detail which is natural.  Any "synergy" combination of components will just shave off this recording's detail and make it just a little in the direction of boredom.

Your ideas about just using a great power cord without the power conditioner have merit, but this is not about synergy.  In my NYC apartment, the power quality is probably much worse than yours in suburban Florida, so in your environment you may be right.  But there are days where the power is so bad that the excellence of my system is nearly completely trashed, to a similar extent as described recently by Mike Fremer in S-phile.  The Shunyata Denali 6000 has improved things to a good extent, compared to other products I have tried.  I like my 2 Nordost Vishnu power cords with it, on the amp and CD player.

mikem,

Glad you enjoyed the recording. The baroque solo piano pieces up to about 15 min are subtle and contemplative. Some people who don’t understand this music might think that contemplative moods call for a laid back, dreamy state and would choose warm electronics for listening. However, to fully appreciate these subtle, sublime moments, it is desirable to choose revealing electronics, speakers, etc. The Prokofiev piano piece from 16 to 25 min is more acrid and dynamic. Overall, this recording is an excellent demonstration of the many-faceted qualities of the solo piano. Of course, the pianist is a superb artist.

If feasible, you would enjoy hearing the upcoming concerts in this hall in NYC as my guest. I marvel at opportunities I have had in comparing great recordings to the live venue, such as when I went to Stockholm and was in the small Stampen where a classic 1976 audiophile favorite recording was made, "Jazz at the Pawnshop."

No, kren and ron.  Although the dictionary definition of "synergy" means the whole being greater than the sum of parts, in common practical audio usage, as well as from Jay, it means a happy marriage of raw detail and "pleasing" warmth.  Warm tube preamps are mated with accurate SS amps, warm cables are mated with accurate electronics, warm amps are mated with accurate speakers, etc.  Jay has accurate dynamic speakers, the XLF, but he is not completely happy with their accurate sound, so he likes the tubes which soften the XLF sound.  But lately, he is back to the accurate 725 preamp and his new accurate mono SS amps.  Nothing wrong with Jay's changing preferences as he figures out what he really wants, which takes time and living with your choices.

Those who believe in some type of synergy should be honest and admit that you can never have everything you want.  The synergy is not necessarily better, even to that person.  He just makes his choices which still involve compromises.  Warm components reduce clarity by subtracting information.  These listeners claim that the warm components yield more beauty, but mikem and I know that real beauty comes from greater understanding of the music itself from higher accuracy/resolution.  

Does anyone really think a woman whose hair is messy is more beautiful than when she carefully does her hair to reveal more detail and delicacy?  At my age, I look younger and better after a nice shave than a few days later.  Even Jay is clean shaven in his videos and unquestionably must look better that way also. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" is only partially valid.  Nobody would claim that the physical beauty of an unfortunate, deformed person is equal to that of a movie star although this is a different subject than the "beauty" of character in the handicapped person who has overcome his hardships.

Ron17, I also criticize his assessment of MSB.  No, I never heard either MSB or Playback Designs in my system, but my criticism is that he doesn't understand the sound of live, unamplified music.  He mainly listens to rock/pop, and has only a rudimentary knowledge of classical music.  Euphonic warmth is his preference.  There is no such thing as too much excruciating detail.  Classical music is much more complex and detailed than any songs he listens to, and full understanding of classical music requires hearing as much detail as possible.  From Jay's videos, MSB is detailed and natural to my ears.

pokey77,

You are excessively broadening the definition of synergy to say it is what pleases you.  Of course, we all seek our own personal preference.  Just observe what Jay has done, by combining warm and accurate components.  He admits, as I do, that there are trade-offs--detail is sacrificed when seeking sweetness, etc.  The concept of synergy in the real world is different from the audio goals of most people here.  With high performance cars, they might not run at all if there are misfitting parts.  There is only the ONE proper SYNERGISTIC way, with compatible parts.  It could run with ordinary tires, but not as well as with the best tires designed for that car.  This synergy IS the best, with no compromises, and not a matter of personal preference, unless the driver is not interested in high performance, and merely buys the car for its looks.

Mikem, what do you think?

Jay,

Mikey still only said that something was "better" without real analysis of the sound.  Your objectivity is much more informative.  Still, his videos on simple mods of Maggies and such are interesting.  And audio boxing matches between high visibility guys like both of you are entertaining.

mikem,

Like you, I love that High Life track--atmosphere, cash register, tinkling glasses, and immediacy of instruments.  Even though it is an analog recording with some tape hiss, the resolution is fabulous.  I roll my eyes when someone says about any component that "the noise floor is lowered"--what complete BS nonsense.  They should just talk about resolution and clarity, which are high in this Proprius LP despite significant noise.  They don't know anything about the noise floor unless they do technical measurements.

On that visit to Stockholm, I just looked in the window of the small club, Stampen where it was performed.  I couldn't go in the PM when they had other performances.  But I saw the tiny stage, about 7 feet square.  I had a similar great experience at Preservation Hall in New Orleans in the summer of 2005, right before Hurricane Katrina.  Preservation Hall is a mere small cave, literally, with a very live sound from the hard rocky cave surface.  The jazz group on that tiny stage is right in your face, with the crackling brass, banging percussive piano, growling string bass.  No stupid electronics and lousy PA speakers of most clubs, which certainly leads listeners to hate that type of live sound.

The stage in that live recording I posted is also tiny, with similar immediacy to the sound.  A cheap recording device was used, proving that great sound is not obtained from studios with expensive processing equipment and multiple poorly placed microphones.  All you need is a great small hall with simple close mike placement, as in this recording.  Let the rich snobs go to the famed Carnegie Hall, pay $500 for a good seat, and be seen in their elite social circles who go to Carnegie.  Better sound is heard for small scale music at this tiny place--Scorca Hall in The National Opera Center, 330 7th Ave between 28th and 29th Streets.

Jay,
I respect all you do, as well as your last post.  Personal attacks against anyone are never appropriate, although respectful differences of opinion should be welcomed.  Respectful disagreements often open the door to more insights from both parties. In that spirit, I will respond to grey9hound below.  I hope you and some others will find it useful.

pokey77,

You said, "Mine is based on many many years of participating in this hobby, attending many shows, dealer visits, and of course, interacting with those in the hobby."

Nothing wrong with that, but it is telling that you didn't mention hearing live, unamplified music, and trying to correlate such listening with audio systems, which I have written about.  

Thus, your standard of reference is other audio equipment, not live unamplified music.  I am interested in high fidelity and accuracy; you are more interested in an audio system as an art form in itself.  This is why you interpret my assessment of Mikey's preferences as sharply critical and irrelevant, but they are factual observations of his preferences for euphonic sound, and it is also likely from his comments that he has little knowledge of classical music and live, unamplified sound, which is mainly how classical music is presented.  Nothing wrong with that, and If someone said I have little knowledge of rock/pop or amplified club sound, that would be factual, not critical of me.  Most rock/pop events use poor electronics and PA speakers, so rock/pop listeners rarely have experience with live, unamplified sound, and therefore are not much interested in high fidelity/accuracy.  The reality of very large audiences for rock/pop means that amps and PA speakers are used.   However, there are opportunities to hear jazz and pop in small venues where natural sound is presented.  Why don't you listen to the video I posted on the bottom of p 369 which mikem also thought had great sound?  You don't have to like the esoteric music presented, but a piano is a piano, regardless of what music is played.  See if you can hear what I and mikem are talking about, which is obvious after a few seconds.  This is also quickly apparent from that live natural 1976 audiophile classic reference, "Jazz at the Pawnshop"  that I and mikem discussed. Other great natural reference recordings are the Sheffield LP's of the jazz band of Harry James, the legendary trumpet player.  Harry was active in the 1940's, and it is interesting to hear him in excellent 1976 sound.  The stage was larger than in the Pawnshop recording, but the sound is also upfront, natural and unamplified.  I heard live, unamplified jazz at weddings, so I could appreciate these recordings with this live sound as a reference.

Forget Swiss vs Danish or any groupthink.  It is about the thinking of individual designers, wherever they come from.  From what I read, the older Soulution 700 series was the perfectionist real thing, devoted to accuracy.  Reviews said that the 500 series was euphonic by comparison.  Never heard them.
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."
speedbump6,
Look forward to all your Tekton setups.  It is a fascinating line.  The Electron SE gives one an opportunity to utilize all Be tweeters in the smaller array comparable to Double Impact.  The smallest, most nimble 5" mid bass drivers are used, so from about 70 Hz to HF you have the most focused nimble speed of the entire line, all for a mere $6500/pr. Dual 8" drivers are for bass.  Dynamics are probably still good, although those who want higher power dynamics with bass extension would choose the Double Impact with standard tweeters for $3K, or people with WC's taste would choose the top Ulf with the double array of Be tweeters for $19-20K to get the ultimate in everything in dynamic speakers.  Has anyone compared even the Ulf with standard tweeters at $10-12K with any top Wilson?
"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.

Jay,

It is possible that people close to you have their inherent biases in favor of expensive equipment.  Truthfully, an expensive amp is more likely to be tops in sound than a cheap amp.  But as you always say, you don't know much until you've owned something and used it for a period of time.  I know you have the integrity not to take advantage of money back 30 day trials, but the worst that could happen is that you review the Benchmark stuff and say it is great for the money and is almost as good as Boulder or Mephisto monos..  More likely, you will find the Benchmarks to be tops for neutrality/clarity, and will wonder that if you wanted to save money for the Wilson XVX/Master Chronosonic, you could do very nicely driving those speakers with excellent Benchmarks.

When I tried the Benchmark AHB2, for the first month it was as good in neutrality and clarity as any amp I tried.  By the 2nd month at the end of my trial, the sound got a little warmer than my Bryston 2.5 B SST2 amp.  You actually might find its very slight warmth appealing to you.  This slight warmth is much less than from typical SS euphonic amps, and possibly the Boulder 2150 which you recently said is a little warmer than your new monos.  Even though you thought my Rouge amp had major shortcomings in HF, over 40% of your YT listeners preferred the Rouge and thought that your mystery amp was euphonic by comparison. I get the feeling from your hints that you new monos (Mephisto monos?) show that the mystery amp was euphonic by comparison to your new monos. 

So I challenge you to put the AHB2 in a dogfight with your new monos and do a blinded shootout.  You won't lose money, and your conscience will be preserved since even Benchmark would welcome the comparison to big buck amps.  They might even use your shootout video or verbal review in their promotions.  I did my 60 day trial of the AHB2 with Music Direct.

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.
tweak1,
I should clarify.  My Mytek has almost as much speed as my Bryston while being slightly smoother than the Bryston.  This is just another example of the tradeoff between speed/detail and smoothness.  On balance, I like the Bryston best, but I need the more powerful Mytek for more dynamic music.
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.

Jay,

You are the master audio businessman.  You've come a long way, baby.  5 years ago, you were listening to mid-fi stuff, and now you are at the SOTA level and with a growing YT following.  You know better than I how to run your YT channel.  So my main contribution to your audio happiness is showing how you can obtain maximum audio pleasure with different components, probably saving lots of money in the journey.  As far as the Benchmark AHB2 goes, several well meaning people have vouched for the outstanding qualities of that amp.  Mikey has gained a great YT presence by recommending cheap, excellent products.  He wouldn't like the neutrality of the AHB2, but you can make a similar YT hit by comparing it to your new neutral amps.

No, not edgy and artificial.  Sounds exciting to me, although I haven't heard this recording on any of Jay's previous systems.  Accurate and lively with clarity sounds edgy and artificial to people who crave euphonics.
I don't know what soft drinks doctors like.  All soft beverages are bad because of the sugar.  I only drink kombucha, plain tea, coffee, water. Years ago, a study on diet coke showed no weight loss compared to regular coke, very surprising.  The chemical sweeteners stimulate the appetite more than sugar.  Both chemicals and sugar cause damage to the intestinal lining, resulting in "leaky gut" which is the gateway to many autoimmune diseases.  Most doctors don't know this, and are busy prescribing dangerous immunosuppressive drugs for these autoimmune diseases.  Very few doctors are health conscious, and are the medical equivalent of hifi salesmen.

Jay, you are very muscular, which is healthy.  I'd be curious to know what your body fat % is.  I like these body fat scales you can buy for $30-60 and use at home anytime.
WC,
Do your experiments, I'm all for that.  However, it is unlikely that a flagship amp like the Mephisto would be designed to sound great only with particular cables, stands, etc.  No doubt many happy Mephisto owners each have different setups.  Every amp has its unique character, regardless of the supporting cast.  Although the supporting cast makes a difference, it doesn't make or break the star of the show, the Mephisto.  

You found that the Merrill has its own readily identifiable character.  We agreed on what that character is, even though I had the 114 and you have the 118, and I have different interconnect cables, zip cord, the Rane EQ, and no stand.  You will find that the Mephisto has its own basic character, although of course the supporting cast will change it, but only somewhat.  So please describe what you like and don't like about the Mephisto at present, so we can help diagnose the problem.
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.