VTL S800's or get some Lamm ML2.1 SET amps... both of those should be amazing. Don't bother with the Linn or Pass.
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I would recommend the Lamm M1.2 reference hybrid amps. They are 110 wpc. These have tight, quick bass response, and yet a delicate and extended treble. The mid-range is very refined and it has a nice touch of tube sound in its presentation. (They have one 6922 tube in each monoblock, so you can even do a bit of tube rolling to further enhance the sound, and it allows you to tailor the sound to your tastes. I like the Amperex Orange Globes as a good bang for the buck tube (they are around $20-30/tube), or for the ultimate in sound (& Price!), the Amperex pinched waist tubes are slightly better (albeit for a large increase in price.) The only cavaet of having the Lamm hybrid amps is that they tend to run very warm. (i.e. they will warm your room up a few degrees, but I will gladly accept that in order to get that incredible sound.)
FYI: I use the Lamm M2.1 (200 wpc) hybrid amps with my Revel Studios. I think these are the last amps I will be buying, if not forever, then for a very long time.
Good Luck in your search.
PS The DarTzeel stereo amp might be another good choice as well, since you don't need an incredible amount of power. It is a very refined solid state amp, and while I prefer my Lamms to that, there are some things that the DarTzeel does at least as well, if not slightly better. (It has incredible resolution.)
Kurt_Tank: The Lamm M1.2 is an excellent amp, as I owned the M1.1 but the Maxx's are efficent but require lots of current. So I would opt for the M2.2's if you wanted a hybrid design. 45 watts of Class A is really all you need. My Theta Citadel easily bested the Lamm by a long shot in the bass control department and the 2ohm drops in the bass that Wilson Watt Puppy's and Maxx's do, and made the earlier M1.1's sound a little dark and constrained on top but the Lamms are still the most amazingly organic in the midrange. I owned M2.1's before the M1.1's and shouldn't have switched. The extra current is helpful.
Crna39: I totally blanked on the Pass XA series.. that is another option since this has the warmth of the Alph series but has control also. I still think the Theta, Lamm or VTL has better synergy with the Maxx's.
They aren't Exotic but I can't say how happy I am with my Theta Citadel's... The Ayre MXR are a little warmer with a little more air but the Citadels have Slamming bass control and a deeper soundstage with more detail. If I had bought the Ayre MXR's I could have been just as happy. I have heard the Halcro's also and my old Lamm M1.1's but nothing has caused me to want except for the pair of VTL S800's powering my dealers Maxx 2's with the same front end as I have except Transparent Opus (my next upgrade or Reference MM)
Mike; glad you are enjoying the MAXX II's.
the ASR is similar to the darTZeel (hard to say which is better without direct comparison.....and they may simply be different). you already have 'big' SS......so, if you want a change of pace.....my opinion is that i agree with Ralph; some tubes with a good deal of bloom would take you to another place.
i would recommend the Lamm ML2.1 as something that will be a counterpoint to where you have been. another consideration would be the Joule OTL's. both of these tube amps have very nice bloom and mid-range richness that would be like a great Single-Malt.....just right at times. but neither of these amps are rolled off or dead sounding.
my opinion is that both of those amps have their own signatures; so they are not ideal for my tastes even though i like them both.
the big tube amps like the Audio Research, VTL and others are going to be more like your ASR and 33H than different.
it's like having a Filet instead of a NY Steak......instead of having Wild Alaska King Salmon. if you are looking to go down a new path do it.
A friend of mine is using the big MBL amps and loves them. He can get almost anything and has tried a lot. I use the VTL MB750s. I agree that they have a similar sound to solid state amps he listed. I know someone who used the ASR as well and loved it. In that regard, large tube amps without excess bloom are not a bad choice. They sound accurate, realistic and powerful. Not the fastest out there. I would love to try the MBLs one day. I think the new Halcros are excellent as well. I have heard them sound amazing and also not. Setup and cables are critical.
I heard the Pass Labs XA-160s with the Watt/Puppy 7s and agree with Crna39...a blissful synergy! I ended up buying the Audio Physic Avanti IIIs..not the same Bass responce as the W.Ps but much less $$$ and I feel the speaker had an overall natural sound that escapes the W.P.s. The XA-160s were a great match for them as well.
I do not have the Maxx II's but have heard them at a local dealer being driven by VTL S-400 tube amps and the sound was terrific. I have Watt Puppy 7's and previously owned a pair of Sophias. Since there is what I would term a Wilson "house sound", I believe my experiences would apply to some degree to the Maxx II's. It is my understanding that Wilson uses Audio Research tube equipment to voice their speakers and I had great results using an ARC VT-100 Mark III tube amp on my Sophias. I also liked a Conrad-Johnson Premier 140 on these speakers. I did not think using a 15 wpc SET tube amp drove the speakers well enough and they were dynamically compressed. The WP7's are a more difficult load for amplifiers, but tube amps gave a big soundstage with a liquid, detailed midrange and good bass. That being said, if you really want to hear what the Wilsons can do dynamically and basswise, which IMO is what they do best, nothing beats a solid-state amp. The trick is to find a SS amp that doesn't sound flat dimensionally. I tried BAT and Classe SS amps that just didn't do it for me as the soundstage depth was curtailed. Finally I tried Essence SS amps and they are hands-down the best amps I have ever heard with the Wilsons. The Wilsons will definitely let you know what electronics are upstream, so it is worthwhile trying different products.
I've owned the Maxx 2's for two years. Based on my own experiences and comparisons I would seek audition of the Audio Research 210 or 610T mono's, Atmasphere MA2mk.2.3's and Lamm Hybrid models. I've also heard very positive feedback from freinds with the Maxx 2's who have tried the VTL Siegfrieds and S400.
I believe Wilson uses a pair of the Audio Research 610T's as references, as well as some of the Lamm amps.
I have owned Essence amps/preamps and _cannot recommend_ them for a variety of reasons based on my experiences. I'm surprised they were even mentioned. If you own the ML 33's, then you own exceptional solid state amps that will not sound "flat" dynamically. No need to go looking for headaches.
Essence amps were built from about the mid-90's until several years ago. The owner, Dale Pitcher, sold the company and is now with Intuitive Design. I believe only about 300 amps and preamps were built and they are the best equipment I have ever heard, something shared by others who share in a "cult" following. Samuel, you are the first person who I have ever heard who didn't rave about Essence gear, but there is no arguing in matters of taste, especially when synergy with other components are involved. They come up on Audiogon from time to time.
My quibble was not with the performance of Essence gear. The electronics when completed, and eventually delivered, were decent enough--that is, if what you received for your (pre-paid) money wasn't a work-in-progress prototype that failed to function.
If I am the "first person you have ever heard that didn't rave" about their experience with Essence, you _clearly_ do not know many past owners, past dealers or past associates of that company. Your use of the term "cult following" is entirely accurate, and there it should stay.
Dazzdax: the DartZeel doesn't really have enough current I've read for controling Maxx's. Just like my Lamm M1.1 solid state/hybrid 100watts ran out of juice controlling my WP7's, but the M2.1 worked no problem. So some people buy the DarTZeel Preamp and use another amp to get the characterics of that manufacture.
"Dazzdax: the DartZeel doesn't really have enough current I've read for controling Maxx's. Just like my Lamm M1.1 solid state/hybrid 100watts ran out of juice controlling my WP7's, but the M2.1 worked no problem. So some people buy the DarTZeel Preamp and use another amp to get the characterics of that manufacture."
Even though I am not a DartZeel fan I am not so sure that I agree with you. As for the Lamm 1.1 Ref running out of power on your WP 7's I find that difficult to understand. My son BTW has MAXX ll's and drives them with ease with his LAMM M1.1 Ref. Personally I would still go with the LAMM ML 2.1's as the amp is absolute magic. They drive my behemoth X-2's with ease and plenty of headroom. Not bad for 18wpc.
I have had a similar experience as Cytocycle with the DarTZeel amp myself. (However, not with the Maxx II's, as I have no experience with them, other than hearing them breifly at a dealers.)
My friend uses the Lamm M2.2s, (the 220 wpc successcor to the 200 wpc M2.1s, that I use). He used to use Avalon Eidolons, and when he upgraded to the Rockport Antares, (a more efficient speaker), he decided to test out the DarTZeel amp, as a local seller of one happened to pop up on Audiogon. We listened to both, and while the DarTZeel is an excellent amp (my favorite solid state amp, btw), it did indeed run out of gas trying to get the last bit of bass response out of the Rockports. We both preferred the Lamms to the DarTZeel, mostly due to the bass response, (We liked the treble of the Lamms better too, but I almost think that was more of a preference, rather than one being clearly better than the other.)
My two cents worth.
Oneobgyn: The Lamm M1.1's had tons of mid bass but were missing the last octave at any volume in my system or the midbass bloat was masking the low end (Yes the room was mic'd out with my Tact and then corrected with $3.5k of Realtraps and measured again (Tact was not used for correction after correcting the room). I spent the $1275 roundtrip to ship (they will only accept Fedex Air to their non business address with the crates, no UPS) them back to the factory where the checked out perfect. I then switched to my Theta Citadel amps which made the Lamms sound broken in the lowest octave and exposed the darker character on the top end (which wasn't necessarily a bad thing on ultra revealing speakers in an hyper active room). The Theta's just don't run out of gas and are completely effortless while driving the most complex passages with a huge soundstage and delicate on top like the VTL. I found that my Prior Lamm M2.1 didn't have a problem and the missing 50 watts of Class A was really no loss. I then switched to tubes but ultimately the Music Reference RM200 was not romantic like the Lamms so back to Solid State I went. I loved the organic flavor of Lamms and was looking for M2.2's when I spent 4 hrs at my dealer listening to the Theta and comparing it to the VTL S400 amp (which I couldn't afford). The other ultimate decision why I got rid of the Lamm's each time was that they heated up my 12x16 room 10+ degrees in about 15 minutes and made my AC run non-stop here in Arizona.
All of these amps are world class, I think it comes down to what type of characteristics are appreciated by the listener.
I will probably pickup a pair of Lamm ML2.1 or the new VTL 450's (with autobiasing) to try with my Maxx's during the winter or I'll just add a tube preamp and upgrade my cabling..... the cycle continues...
Rugyboogie: since you want to try a completely different flavor compared to your ML's and the ASR, the Lamm's would really fit the bill.
Marc Mickelson uses ML 2.1's for his AXX ll's
I will say again, for my ears the ML 2.1 is simply the best amp yhat I have ever owned and I have owned many
Elberoth2: Your Avalons are only a minimal 3.6ohm load the Lamm M1.2's will drive those perfectly, it's not the watts it is the current delivery with Wilson Maxx's and Watt Puppies 7's. My Watt Puppy 7 were a minimal 2.73 ohm load at 70hz. The Wilson Maxx II are a 3ohm minimal so they aren't as hard a load to drive, and therefore the M1.2 or M1.1's might work better, but unless you really need the extra 50watts of Class A, I would go with the M2.2 or M2.1's.
But as others keep suggesting Lamm ML2.1'sound like the perfect match.... or big VTL's depending on your liking..
Unfortunatly I have yet to hear the ML 2.1. Have read lots of good things about it especially here on Agon.
Next month I am making a trip down to Seattle to listen to the VTL's. It will be most interesting listening to them on the Maxx II. Definitive Audio carries both of these products.
Anybody in the Pacific Northwest with Lamm ML 2.1 ?
I sold my ML 33hs in 3 hrs so I will hunt for the Lamm ML 2.1's on Agon.
This would be bought on the sole recommendations on all of you out there.
FYI: I am the Viola Audio Labs representative/distributor in California (I think it's important that you know this as I have no wish to mislead anyone or be accused of being a "shill" as others have). This discussion has referenced a number of fairly good products, and a few IMO, not so good. Since your planning to invest a rather large sum of money, you would be foolish not to personally audition the top contenders before making the purchase (if geographically possible).
I would strongly suggest that you find a way to listen to the Viola amps. Specifically, in your application, the Symphony stereo power amplifier. The amp is conservatively rated at 200W/channel into 8 ohms, and extremely high current. It is certainly powerful enough to drive your speakers. Last week in fact, I was running a speaker with an impedance of less than one ohm (more accurately, closer to one half ohm) with a Viola Symphony amplifier. The sound was nothing short of spectacular, particularly in the bass and its ability to set the sound stage.
If you are not familiar with Viola, I would encourage you to visit their web-site at WWW.VIOLALABS.COM. These are the same engineers that designed the early Mark Levinson equipment (before Mark sold the company) and nearly all of Cellos electronics & speakers. Since the company was formed in 2001, nearly all of the production has gone straight to the Far- East, where their equipment is very well known and highly regarded. Despite the Viola factory being located in Connecticut, they have only recently decided to market their equipment in the U.S.
The downside of Viola equipment, besides being VERY expensive, is that it will immediately show you how bad the rest of your equipment is. It wont just show you the weak links in your system; it will show you how really bad those weak links are. Yes, I know that youve heard that line before, but you have NEVER heard anything like this stuff before (particularly the Cadenza preamplifier). It IS that exceptional. Dont take my word for it I wouldnt if I were you. Find a way to listen to it Youll thank me.