Parasound - Pass Labs - VTL - Krell Amp Selection

I noticed a similar thread to this a few days ago, from Punkawalla, but just wanted to add another variable or two.

I'm shopping for a new amp for Maggie 3.6's....the Krell I'm using is excellent, but I have the upgrade bug and would like a little more power for the 3.6's.

I've seen a few decent amps and just wanted some opinions to help me unravel the options and hopefully make the best choice.
Setup options steer me toward monoblocks, these provide the easiest integration into my room with WAF considerations.

I hope Sean spots this thread, since I know he has respect for Nelson Pass and John Curl, and wondered if ultimately he had a preference.
The amps I've shortlisted are all available used on 'Gon and I'm listing the prices to help with perspective:

Krell 350Mcx Mono's $7700
Pass X600 $6500
Parasound JC1's $3700
VTL 450's $4500

The Krell's at $7k+ are a little more than I want to pay, though if I could justify the higher price based on margin of improvement over the others, I would probably stretch to it.
The JC 1's seem like an absolute bargain, so much so that I'm skeptical if they can really compete against say the X600's with an original $16,000 retail.

The VTL's really whet my appetite, since I'm a tube kinda guy at heart. But, since I've bypassed fuses on the 3.6's, I must have peace of mind that the amps are capable of delivering the current that these speakers need and that there is no clipping at high SPL's. Also, I need to know that the internal protection circuitry is of high integrity....I don't want a tube failure taking out my tweeter(s).
I've read that the JC1's and the X600's have 'tube like' quality, so I guess I'm trying to achieve 95% of what tubes do best from a SS.

I've been trying different amps now for almost a year. My home office looks like an elephants graveyard (for amps and cables), and it has to stop!!
I need an amp that I can plug in and sit back and enjoy the music, without having to worry about power, or if I should have gone with tubes, or whatever else I worry about!!

My priorities are:
Good soundstage and presentation of scale.
Clarity - natural - openess.
Truth of timbre and natural non-fatiguing presentation- it all happens in the midrange for me.
Enough bass but not bass that overwhelms the midrange and hides inner detail.
Clean highs, maybe on the darker/warmer side of neutral.
Fluid - flowing presentation, not necessarily with the dynamic snap, pop and tizzle that many crave.

Everyone has a different opinion about these things I know, but I've had a lot of good advice here in the past, and I don't regret any choices I've made based on the advice that I've received.

Thanks much

Rooze, I've never heard the Parasound JC1's, but I can tell you that I replaced the same amp you currently have with an X-350 and the sound improved dramatically. The grain on the top was gone, inner details came out that I couldn't hear before, and I could go on. Not quite the low end slam of the Krell, but not too far off either. The mids in my system are not bloomy like tubes, I can best describe the sound as natural and totally non-fatiguing and I thought I would never get there with solid state given my speakers. I'm almost afraid to sell my amp and try something else. You definitely won't go wrong with Pass if thats what you decide to get. You can see my system for associated gear.
The Manley Neo-Classic 250 monos look good, 500 watts of SET. for 5,000 used
I would try krell MDA 500 mono blocks. Outstanding detail smooth you can reach out and touch the performers. The VTL will be too smooth after a while. I now have VTL 300 bass is krell like but not as controled. Have has Ksa 250, 300s , mda 300. best was mda 300. On b&w 801#3. Each design will be best on certain recordings, so dont jump at first impressions. MDA 500. Ive found nelson pass to be speed fast but in the long run dissapointing. good Luck
I have used a Krell FPB 200 and VTL 300 Deluxe mono blocks with Thiel CS 6's. The Thiels are very hard to drive and need lots current. The Krell was a little bright for my taste, given the room and associated equipment. The bass was to die for and worth a little perceived brightness. I repalced the Krell with the VTL 300's. The Vtl.'s smoothed things out, yes the bass slam is not as pronounced but is not lacking either. I have had dealings with both companies regarding repairs/upgrades and they were easy to work with and have gone the extra mile for me. When and if I change amps both companies products will at the top of the list.

Good Luck

Esoteric DV-50
VTL 2.5
VTL 300 Deluxe Mono Blocks
Thiel CS 6
the VTL 300 deluxe didn't come with the signature style output transformer which was a dramatic bass improvement over the standard style transformer. The VTL 450 signature will definitely have better bass control and power.
Rooze your sonic preferences which you describe are describing the VTL 450 signature in triode mode.
What, no Wolcotts?

Be sure to check out the latest incarnations of the Krells -
the "cx" series - i.e. the models ending in "cx - like the
Krell monoblocks you cite above - FPB-350Mcx.

They are a departure from the traditional Krell sound - they
are "sweeter" with less of the brightness that Vegasears
reports - but they retain the bass slam.

Dr. Gregory Greenman
I was wondering about the source of the smell eminating from the office.

I have listened to some of the better Parasound amps (I think John Curl might have a hand in the design) but I do not think they compete very well with the other gear you mentioned.

The Pass Labs amps have been very good since the introduction of the 'single gain stage' a couple of generations ago. Eliminating many of those stages seems to have cut back on the SS sound usually associated with big powerful amps like the Pass Labs.

The Krell monoblocks are very good although I would have to disagree with the recommendation for the MDA 500. The price might be good due to the age, but the Mcx versions are considerably more musical. AND the FPB 350Mcx would certainly offer the power you desire. Remember, most gear sells for 80% of the asking price, so the $7700 price may still be within your means.

I don't know much about the VTL's, but they were in the running when I recently replaced my amp. They fell out because they were too much of an unknown quantity, where can you audition them within 200 miles of your home???

My suggestion would be to look into the Pass Labs and the Krell. Do you really need monoblocks, or are you just trying to absorb real estate in the livingroom?
Hmmm...some interesting thoughts and perspectives! I was a little dubious about the Parasounds, they seem almost too good to be true, given their competitive price. Tireguy emailed me since he uses the Parasound with his 3.6 with very good results, though he threw the Classe Omega into the mix as a potential winning option.
Krell would make sense, since I own a Krell, like the sound in most respects, and could probably work with more of a good thing.
Nate, the $7700 was for a used pair of the 350mcx, and it's about a $1000 more than I really wanted to spend, it delays the vinyl project for at least another few months.

Mono's are prefered since I can make use of my Sonoran and Audio Insurgent speaker cables, and save $1000 or more and all the hassles of trying speaker wires. It's not essential, but prefered.

hmmm...what to do....what to do.

Thanks for suggestions so far.

Rooze, Pass is expected to release the X600.5 monoblocks early in the new year. You should also be able to pick up a used X600 pair and upgrade them to the X.5 new standard.
I have owned JC-1 in a past. I don't know what it was but they didn't do anything well. I waited a month for them to open up (they weren't new when I got them anyway) but nothing happened. Make sure you listen to it before making a decision.

I own an old Krell FPB200 and like it better than my friends FPB400cx. The new Krells are indeed warm yet detailed but I find them a bit boring.

Can't comment on Pass or VTL
Not familiar with all those options you are considering, but I should add Gryphon as an alternative here. I own Pass now, but still missing some strong points that Gryphon has.

Roos, people have sold off amps such as above, including the X600 and VTL,
in favor an H2O amp. If I were you, I'd get the H2O Signature ($5k monos).
They exhibit all the attributes you are wanting, plus others you haven't
considered. These amps can work their magic on ANY speaker load at any
volume level, without ever loosing composure.
Thanks for the suggestions. Muralman, I think you and I have 'talked' about the H2O's in the past. You sent me a contact for Henry, and I spoke with him and recieved some info. About that time the price of his Mono's went up a $1000 and it put me off taking the gamble on them. I picked up a pair of Carver digital amps, and had one modified....
Anyway, I wouldn't take a chance on the H2O's without hearing them first in my system.

The pass 600's will probably drop a few more $$$ now that the new model is due to be released. In fact, a pair popped up here yesterday for $6250, which is the lowest I've seen. I'll probably drive the Carver for a while (which is a very nice amp in many ways) and wait for a sub $6k pair of Pass 600's to come along.

Well, it's your choice. Did you talk to Henry about a trial run? The Carver is a nice amp, but it is a Tripath amp, and that is an amp of a different species. I have the H2O Signatures, as you know. I also owned X600 amps. At $5k new, I consider the H2O Sig a steal over a used $6k X600. There literally is little comparison sound wise.

While I can not deny that I like the H20 amps, I think we need to be careful to say that they will "work their magic on ANY speaker load at any volume level"

I have heard situations where the H20 did not synergize with the rest of the system. This is true with just about every amp that we have auditioned. Synergy is key.
Loudandclear, Have you ever heard the H20 monoblocks driving Magnepan? I have Maggie IIIA and may consider upgrading to 3.6 or 20.1.
Loudandclear...thank you for being the voice of reason. There are too many people making wild and unsubstantiated claims about equipment Carvers are remarkable amps for the money. The dealer that I bought them from claimed that people were rushing to trade-in their big Krell and Pass monoblocks for the Carver. Though excellent amongst amps in the $3000 - $4000 range, I hardly think they can compare with a pair of Monoblocks costing $16,000 and I suspect that the H2O's, as good as they might be, would not compete in that league either.

Muralman, I know you have an allegiance to Henry, and you are passionate about the amps you own, there is nothing wrong with that. However, we all have very different systems and rooms, and equipment works quite differently from one setup to another.

I've lost the contact info for Henry, why not talk to Henry for me and see if he'll send a review pair up for evaluation?....I'm active in the Wisc Audio Society and we are always looking for new equipment to review as a group. In January we are hosting Ridge Street Audio with a new speaker design that looks very impressive. If Henry were interested in sending his Mono's along, we would review them at a group meeting and post our findings online. If they are significantly better than the Krell MDA300 Mono's that I'm using at the moment, I'll buy the review set from him.

Rooze, now you are talking. I will see what I can do. I know he is preparing amps to go out to reviews.

Loud and Clear, and the rest, I certainly know synergy is the key. I have a borrowed Adcom I am using. It can go passive, or active. The H2O sounds profoundly better going active. But then, so did the other digitals I've tried.

I've toted my amps from listening room to listening room, equipped with wide assortments of gear. My well broken in amps have won the day, each time. Of course, I brought my Adcom... just in case there was a passive pre in play. ;)

Another thing I have found out. I'm sure this pertains to the Carver too. Ultra clean and fast amps will lay naked any flaw in your system unmercifully.
Guiocorona, see Scott's H2O review in Audio Asylum/Planars and Ribbons. Scott is running the H2O on Maggies.
Muralman, that was a very lyrical and spontaneously drafted review, in the style of stream of consciousness.
Scott is comparing H20 to Aragon 4004 and reports a staggering improvement on MG 2.6 with H20. I am not surprised.
I have used the same Aragon 4004 from approx 1988 to 1998 on the larger MG IIIA pair with very moderately satisfying results. Soundstage was relatively flat, imaging was arguable, bass extension a promisary note. . . no need to beat a dead horse, but Aragon never attempted to be the epitomy of our high end: a good price/performer does not imply stellar performance.
Scott also mentions trying several other brands, without being specific about models. AS Maggies present a relatively difficult load, it is relatively easy to find a poor match for them.
I am currently driving my MG IIIAs with a pair of venerable, yet incredibily sweetsounding Rowland 7M, which while driving the speakers completely effortlessly, could be replaced by something a little faster and detailed.
It would be interesting to find a more dispassionate reviewer who can compare the H2O with some higher end amps than Aragon: the upcoming X600.5 from Pass for one, Rowland 301 monoblocks, ARC VTM 200, and other devices in the same or even more exalted legue.
H2O is likely an excellent price performer, But is it a stellar performer regardless of price?
I am looking forward to any analysis that the folks of the Wisc Audio Society and others will provide on the subject.
Scott's music appreciation certainly took a mega-leap, when he replaced an Aragon with the H2O. I didn't read his review as a comparison between the two, though.

Others have replaced VTL, Krell, Pass Labs, Bel Canto, etc. Have you read the other owner reviews on the H2O site? They are in a similar vein, some less passionate than others.

6moons, and Stereotimes will be doing reviews. The amps will be featured in the HE show in New York.
Thank you MuralMan, for everyone's benefit, I have found the H2O site at:
The fact that you and others are applying these creatures to the voracious Scintillas makes me feel good. I am looking forward to reading more reviews and eventually hearing them. By the way, where does Henry Ho reside?
No problem Guidocorona,

Yeah, the voracious Scintilla. It screams, "Give me more!" Well, we found a match finally.

Henry has relocated to the Washington DC area. He told me they are having a house built. Meanwhile, amp production is keeping up with demand.
Thanks Muralman, I sent henry a note. As I frequently travel to D.C. I might be able to visit with Henry next time.
If you are looking for a warm sound from a ss then I would seriosly consider auditioning the Plinius SA250 MKII. I am not sure if your speakers can be bi-wired or amped but two of these beauties put out 1000 wpc of class A when switched from stereo mode to mono. If I could have bi-amped my Thiels I might have gone with the Plinius over the Pass. I think most people who have listen to the Plinius will say it is the warmest sounding ss amp out there. It also has plenty of power. I just thought I would give you another option.
Spoke to Henry. I found out a couple of technical details about the H2O mono amps missing on the web site:
1. They are a full balanced dsign with both XLR and RCA inputs.
b. The power supply is an analog, continuous Power supply, rather than a switcher.
c. The amps can generate 20 amps continuous and approx 50 amps peak.
I own the X600s and have compared them to both nice SS amps and tube amps. I went with the Pass X600s for a few reasons:

1. I feel the X600s meet in the middle having stellar highs and solid bass with a natural midrange making them very easy to enjoy.
2. Low maintenance - Pass Labs arguably has the best customer service in this business and their products are well built. Plus, there are no tubes to replace on a frequent basis that cost an arm and a leg.
3. Versatility - with a lot of power and a well balanced frequency response, the X600s will match well with many speakers making them an amplifier that you may never replace.

I love listening to music and with the Pass amplifiers I can listen without worrying about them breaking or the company going out of business. I have not heard the newer Krell models, but they are another company that is strong, yet I can not speak to their customer service. When I spend a lot of money on a piece of equipment, I want to feel safe about that purchase. The Pass was the only one that made me feel that way. Quality sound, quality product and quality company!
Good soundstage and presentation of scale.
Clarity - natural - openess.
Truth of timbre and natural non-fatiguing presentation- it all happens in the midrange for me.
Enough bass but not bass that overwhelms the midrange and hides inner detail.
Clean highs, maybe on the darker/warmer side of neutral.
Fluid - flowing presentation, not necessarily with the dynamic snap, pop and tizzle that many crave.

The things you mention above you will get a little of in a stock amp, but probably not all of them, particularly the clarity and openness. None of these amps really delivery this stock. A Tube amp will come closest, but you will lose bass control and probably dynamics as well. Bass tightness comes with SS amps. This is what makes the bass non-fatigueing. The best in your list for bass tightness is the JC-1's. I have a lot of experience with them. If you look at the Stereophile review of the JC-1's you will see that the impedance is so low that even the simulated speaker load results in a flat frequency response. This is really unprecendented. Several of my customers have sold their Pass amps for the JC-1's because they are sweeter on the top end. The are very detailed there, but lack ultimate HF dynamics.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Did I already mention I owned X600 monos? If so, sorry about the redundancy, but The H2O exhibits more clarity, has greater bass control, is more powerful, liquid, and a lot faster.
Very intriguing Muralman! A comparison of H2O with X600 is exactly what I am seeking. Did you already mention in some thread what speakers you are driving?
Are you planning also to audition X600.5 when they become available after CES? It is my understanding that the new monos will be much improved.
I guess all things come down to a dual between personal preference and system synergy.
No one can really comment with any degree of authority on a component outside of their own system. How on earth do you know how it will sound with my Magnepan's, fed by a signal from my ARC LS 15, with Virtual Dynamic speaker wires and in a room that is 25,000 cubic feet?
I've heard many good things about the JC1's and I've been very close to picking up a set. Heck they seem to be a bargain at under $3500 used. But instead, I went with a Carver ZR1600 and had it modified. It supposedly beats the JC1's and 'big' power amps from Krell and Pass. Well, it does in some respects beat the bigger Krells (MD 300's and FPB 200), but not hands down. So it comes down to personal preference. Are the areas in which the Carver surpasses the Krell of more importance to me than the areas in which the Krell surpasses the Carver?
No one can answer that, only me.

One can only truthfully comment on audio components they have listened to extensively, preferably in their own system. I am the only one who has experienced both the X600, and the H2O in the same system. One major critic of my speaker of choice, upon first hearing the H2O on my Scintillas, said, "This is the finest I have ever heard your system."

There is a new review of the H2O here on Audiogon.
Muralman, could you pls post the URL of the new H2O review? Thanks.