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
@goodsource:

The reports I’ve been getting about the antileon evo is aligning with your statement above. It is the "dark" gryphon while the coliseum is not. The mephisto completely departs from the tonality of their siblings by adding more layers, more organic feeling, more immediacy and impact and last but not least, more neutral than the coliseum and I can probably say more than the antileon as well.
The mephisto has given me the feeling of " you’re there , I have arrived, I am here with you jay" and other amps didn’t quite echo that.
I can’t think of an amplifier that I rather have than the mephisto. Will I still bring more amps? Sure I will. I just don’t know if something else will check as many boxes as the mephisto.
The boulder 2160 has been on my radar as well as the baby gryphon essence. Outside of those amps, I can’t say there is anything else that makes me extremely curious but this doesn’t mean that there isn’t something else worth me trying.
The last video I shot impressed me even when listening to it on my phone.
The massive amounts of positive comments, texts, emails I have received in regards to the last video is unlike anything else.
Of course, if you pay attention to my videos you’ll see there are always 1 or 2 people who do thumbs down and that needs no explanation as to who that might be.
As of right now I have 59 thumbs up and 3 thumbs down lol. Hmmm how interesting right ?
The great thing with YouTube is that you can control the negative comments plus you can see who is leaving negative comments and easily figure out who they are etc. 
That said, I don't know where to go from here when it comes to amps. 

This is a great discussion on the distinctions among various Gryphon amps.  There is probably variability in the tonal character of the various Gryphon preamps as well as cables.  This may be a good idea from the Gryphon management team of different engineers.  Customers have slightly different preferences but all want the high quality of Gryphon products.  They can go for various combinations depending on their tonal preferences.  One engineer with a particular tonal preference himself may create a product for a particular customer, and another engineer who has a different personal tonal preference can design another product for another customer.

There are many, many gradations of "dark."  Over the last 100 years, electronics have evolved to the point that all have near zero distortion, and tonal characteristics are not that much different in top level electronics.  Speakers are much more variable in their sound.  My lifetime experience playing over 1000 violins has shown great variability in each violin's tone.  The greatest violin maker, Antonio Stradivari, made 600 violins in his long lifetime.  I played 13 of them, and they were all so different.  It also makes a big difference in which player plays any particular violin.  Some players have a quick bow stroke with more precision in their right hand bow attack and left hand finger technique.  The result is that a particular violin may sound dark or bright depending on the violin player.

I enjoy this variety of natural sounds from live unamplified instruments and voices--dark, bright, and everything in between.  But I believe that electronics should not impose its own personality on the natural sound.  Let the tonal colors of natural instruments speak for themselves.  I want to look through a clear glass and see the natural colors.  The alternate approach of audio system coloring to me is like looking through many different layers of colored glass--all very interesting, but ultimately not true to the character of the natural music.  I mentioned the rose colored sunglasses which make the blue sky more beautiful, but rob the green grass and trees of their green beauty.
Scroll,scroll,scroll !
Viber- I understand your preference but the problem is how do you know when the glass is clear unless you were standing in front of the violin when it was recorded. I guess the point is it’s never completely clear. Maybe the illusion of clear. What you hear every time you listen to a recording is the recording engineers preference. Maybe thats not your preference, Maybe you prefer the mic to be closer or back further etc. this is why there are so many different successful manufacturers of audio gear. However I believe this latest system of WC’s should be checking most of the box for you. Am I right? Viber I have one question for you,  do you prefer a particular violin?  If so why?
Carey1110,
Yes, WC's system is enjoyable to me, even from my mediocre computer audio.

The most important question you posed is how do I know when the glass is clear?  From my vast experience of hearing live instruments and voices of all types in many venues, I have a composite familiarity with the idea of "clear."  I often walk past a house with an open window and the drummer is playing--I know it is live and not a recording, because of the freshness and general clarity that is hard to put into words.  I walk past a playground where kids are playing handball, and hear the crispness of their hand slaps.  Same for the basketball players and hearing the lower pitch of the bouncing basketball.  When I walk daily, I listen to the natural sounds of spoken conversations, close and further away.  All these sounds are crisp, so I really don't understand why anyone would deliberately not want crispness in their music, but they are free to like any sound they want.

Recording engineers often play games with their artificial processing and manipulations.  This is less applicable to naturally recorded classical and jazz.  Even so, the concept of crispness still applies as a desirable goal--the processing is not so bad as to interfere with the perception of crispness underneath the layers of processing.

A separate case applies to my use of EQ.  I would like to find an EQ that has a clearer glass window than my Rane EQ.  Some recordings have a distant perspective created by engineers who use mellow mikes and mix in distant omnidirectional mikes.  I can take such recordings, use my EQ to boost HF judiciously to successfully make the perspective much closer, to my liking.  The famous Mercury Living Presence recordings of the 1950's are widely respected for their upfront, live perspective, hence the name, "Living Presence."  Even I didn't realize until as recently as 20 years ago, due to my experience in EQ, that these Mercury recordings were done with EQ.  One day I'll get a more transparent EQ with better electronics than my Rane, but even today the Rane's very flexible EQ functions vastly outweigh its slight liabilities for transparency.

But the issue of audio flavoring superimposing itself on the natural colors of live music is still important.  I want maximum transparency without the coloring of electronics.  EQ is a special case which corrects much of the defects of all speakers and the choices of the recording studio that I hear as nullifying much of the live excitement of natural music.  Did you ever go to a store which has parallel mirrors on opposite walls, look into the mirror, see yourself in the first reflection, then look slightly off axis and see the multiple reflections?  How about noisy analog recordings where several generation copies are vastly inferior to the original?  A great thing about digital is that many generation copies still sound close to the original.  These two analogies help explain my position on this subject.

Quality violins are hideously expensive, and I would love to own a few.  I had to settle for my present 1890 Theodor Paulus violin because it was affordable and it had the approximate type of sound I like best.  That sound is detailed and brilliant with still enough tonal sweetness.  But I do like a variety of tonal personalities in other violins.  This gets me back to my overall view that I appreciate tonal variety and beauty of natural unamplified instruments and voices, but don't like electronics that cause additional coloring superimposed on the natural colors.