Sanders ESL Power Amp & Mono blocks

I would be interested to hear feedback from users of the Sanders amplifiers. In particular, why you chose this amp and what else you considered at the time? Further, did you also acquire Sanders Pre-amp or opt for another manufacturer? If another manufacturer who?

I have some power hungry full range planars (84dB sens) to feed.
Had the ESL amp.It was spectacular with a digital source.Fed by analog,it never had the magic.I understand that Roger uses digital as his source.I understand that there were problems with the Kilo-watt amps.I had read HPs' review and took a listen.My set-up required monos,so Roger set me up with mono'd ESLs.
I used mine with a tube pre (Terrasong).
Hi Tpsonic,

Roger strongly prefers SS to tubes and suggests that his own SS pre is a good partner. His view on the SS vs. tube debate is interesting because he has actually designed both. His view is that valves DO sound better than transistors, but only in amplifiers that are clipping. When both valve and transistor amplifiers (and preamplifiers) are operating within their design parameters and not clipping, he maintains that they can (and usually do) sound identical.

What digital source are you now using? Still the Gamut?
Kiwi 1282001, Yes,still the Gamut CD3.
Roger had a local designer build his iTube units and had him working on a tube pre.I believe that whole deal fell apart after Roger no longer controlled Innersound.Only 3-4 iTubes were built.I believe Roger has one and a few customers.
When I had the amps,I was using a modified Mark Brassfield/MSB design trans/dac combo.
I had the Innersound I330 power amp paired with the Innersound Eros Mk 3.5 passive ESL's and the combination was pure bliss. I would highly recommend a used Innersound amp or one from Roger, especially if you own a difficult to drive electrostatic loudspeaker.
I have the ESL preamp, phonostage, esl amp and crossover/bass amp and Eros Mk II and think the sound is absolutely spectacular. Both digital and analogue sound awesome. I purchased my setup from Roger before the big reviews, and before he sold and moved to Colorado, so picked up the whole shooting match for a song. Tough to upgrade as I would probably need to spend $50k just for amps and speakers. I think the synergy of having all the same components may have something to do with it. I auditioned some pretty nice sounding systems (B & W 802, Classe amps/preamp and CD player; Dynaudio 25's, BAT CD player, amps and preamp) and Roger was recommended by a friend of his. Ordered the system from Roger solely based on the design, his buddies recommendation and the fairly limited press at the time. Once the reviews hit, it all became history. I am absolutely delighted with Rogers gear. He is a genius--and was easilly approachable. When my amps went into oscillation because of a speaker wire termination issue (not by him) he not only talked me through things--he gave me his cell phone number!
Ah, some more Sanders amp users...

Why? Well it has one of the purest mids-highs I've heard from SS amps, while retaining the grunt in the bass. Its like a marriage between v good SE tube w/o the euphony, and powerful clean SS bass.

What else? Nothing really. I only consider changing equipment when it is able to move me, draw me into the music. Otherwise I don't really bother. I'm mostly a tube guy, so getting this amp really speakers volumes about its musicality.

Opted for the ModWright SWLP with NOS tubes. Heard the Sanders pre, but I couldn't warm up to its sound.

I don't agree that this amp is meant for digital, that would be very obtuse. The amp is extremely neutral and clean. It would therefore reveil whatever warts or beauty there is from the source.
Hi Cmk,

I was particularly interested to read about your selection of the Sanders ESL PA - mostly because this product is a natural consideration for audiophiles with difficult speaker loads. Unless you've changed your main speakers recently, your Cabasse is quite efficient and certainly does not need the grunt the ESL amp can provide. How then did you end up with such a powerful amp.

Further, i'm also interested in your pre-amp choice. I've read lots of great things about the ModWright pre-amps. Did you try any other pre's with Sanders?

Hi Kiwi

Well whether it is the Cabasse @92db/w or the much less efficient Vandersteen 2CE SigII @86db/w, the ESL stereo amp had the same basic neutrality about it. You don't get the "edge" or digititus when listening to CDs. While the 2CE SigII has the upgraded tweeter, it was a significant degree smoother and controlled with the ESL amp driving it. How I ended up with the ESL amp is because I loved the purity in the mids/highs, in many ways similar to the much more expensive Dartzeel amp.

I also had the opportunity to hear the ESL Monos driving the big Dynaudio Evidence Temptation, which aren't exactly easy loads despite the 90db/w rating. It handled these big speakers with ease and had tremendous control off the woofers. You can hear this when the music gets complex at fairly loud SPLs, and it doesn't break up, or show stress as in muddling of the soundstage.

The dealer which sold me the Sanders also carried the ModWright, so it was a natural choice. Perhaps I should have waited for the 36.5 with the separate power supply, but the price difference pushed that out of my budget. However with the NOS Amperex 7119 in place of the 5687 tube supplied in the SWLP9.0, this pre takes on a very special presence and transparency which is very hard to surpass.
Hi Cmk,

Yes, i was wondering about 36.5 ref but by itself its nearly double the price of the SWLP9.0. Still, other than the optional separate PSU [which looks pretty hideous IMO]but apparently meaningfully improve the audio quality it also comes with balanced connectivity which may float your boat depending on whether its true dual differential or if the rest of your system is configured this way.

Did you do a side by side comparison of the Sanders and Modwright pre? What specifically did you not like about the Sanders pre?
Hi Kiwi

Well I heard both combinations at the dealer's showroom. The Sanders is typical SS sound, very clean and leaning towards the lean/thin side. The ModWright had more body straight off, but does not sound euphonic like older generation tube amps. Perhaps its me, and you might want to get another opinion from Cerrot, who has the complete Sanders system.

You are right about the balanced operation which IS a good thing with the ESL power amp. I did try driving the amp direct via the balanced outputs on my Benchmark DAC, and it was a marked improvement over the SE connection.
The sound from my system isn't lean at all. I do run fully balanced (preamp to amp is Tara Labs RSC Air one balanced and amp/crossover are Tara Labs The One Balanced). I do use Shunyata Python power cables on all components through a Shunyata Hydra and I'm sure it helps. CD player is the Esoteric X03SE (also Tara Labs The One Balanced, Shunyata Python Vx Helix)); tuner is Macintosh MR78 (modded) with Tara Labs RSC Air One single ended (preamp only has one balanced input) and TT is VPI TNT Jr/Benz Micro Glider L2 with Cardas phono cables and phontostage to preamp uses Tara Labs The One single ended. I have Cera pucs under both the ESL amp and crossover/bass amp and Symposium Svelt shelfs under the ESL speakers and fat pads under the preamp. Looking back to the system prior to the power conditioner/power cable upgrade and before putting the speakers on the svelt shelves, and cera pucs under the amps, I could now say that the sound may have been a little lean, compared to the sound I have now. The system now is absolute bliss. SACD is pectacular, as well as very well recorded redbook CD's. It is a very revealing system. Anything other than well recorded CD's don't really want to make me sit there an listen. Vinyl sounds great as well as FM and squeezebox (through Benchmark DAC and CI power supply--also Shunyata Python and Tara Labs RSC Air One). It is a very non-fatiguing, very musical sound. Wide, tall and deep soundstage and it is very easy to hear where each instrument is. You can easilly distinguish steel strings from nylon, violins from violas. The dynamics are excellent and background incredibly black. In Jacintha Goes To Hollywood. Que Sera Sera, in the opening accordian piece, you hear the keys lifting under the fingers of the accordian player. The system benefited alot from the upgrades. I listen mostly to small jazz combos, vocals and classical. Broke put with some 30 year old classic rock vinyl over the weekend (hadn't listened to them in years) and was floored by the sound. I received the 3 SACD set Jazz at the Pawnshop last night and just couldn't stop listening. You just felt where each instrument was and I actually felt they were in the room with me - work night so no wine either!
Hi Cerrot,

Thanks for the feedback.

Out of interest have you tried using the unbalanced connection between the Sanders pre and pwr amp and compared that to the balanced connection? Reason i ask is because the internal circuitry of the Sanders pre-amp is not balanced. A balanced input amplifier converts the signal to unbalanced for operation through the preamp. In theory at least the unbalanced connection should be superior - but i wondered if you had tested that in practise.

Second, have you tried any other pre-amps with the Sanders power amp? If so, would you mind sharing what you tried and what your assessment was?

Some of the differences in experience between you and Cmk are bound to come down to your respective taste in musical presentation.

I was under the impression that the preamp is balanced. I thought I discussed with Roger when I switched from single ended to balanced. I may be wrong. The balanced was a fuller sound with deeper and wider soundstage. More air around the instruments. More of a hologram, if you will.

I first used inexpensive balanced cables and all it did was lower the noise floor. When I went to the Tara Labs RSC Air One and The One on CD player, the difference was much, much more noticible, to what I described in the aforementioned. I tried an Ayre preamp - forgot model but it was $3,000 and I liked the innersound more. It was richer, more lifelike, better transparency, dynamics and just an addictive sound (to me). Again, I think the synergy with the rest of the system has alot to do with it.
I have been using the Sanders ESL amp for several months and I just love it! It sounds very neutral and has great control over my Dali Helicon 400 speakers. I initially used it with a Rowland Synergy IIi, which is a very nice combination. I now use the Dodd Audio battery powered preamp, which sound wonderful with the amp! The only "issue" I am experiencing is the higher gain/voltage from the preamp. I barely turn the volume control past 8 on CDs or 9 on LPs. Roger also makes some very inexpensive and very good sounding ICs. He is a pleasure to deal with, as he worked with me to figure why there was so much noise when using my JRDG balanced preamp into the balanced inputs of the ESL. I did not know this, but Roger told me that there is no universal standard for balanced equipment and he offered to rewire the ESL to make it compatible with my Rowland preamp. I decided to stick with the Dodd after an audition and avoid the hassle of sending the amp back to be rewired. The neat thing about the Sanders amp is that it is designed to be left on all of the time, so it is ready to go. It consumes only 6 watts at idle, plus it stays cool to the touch. Roger's White Papers on amps and cables make for very informative and interesting reading.
I own the Sanders ESL amp and it's spectacular. I use it to drive my martin logan summits and the sheer volume of clean, crystal clear sound this amp is capable of producing is simply staggering. The power and control this amp exhibits are something that must be experienced to be believed.

I've even paired it with my Whatmough 505s in my second system, and even though it's designed with electrostats in mind, it made those babies sing like I was sitting front and center at a concert hall. Transparent, rich, and lifelike. The instruments came to life with a warmth and timbre that absolutely blew my mind.

It has virtually limitless power, is stable down to 1 ohm, and Roger, the owner/slash designer is a totally cool guy who will PERSONALLY help you with any inquiries you may have. The level of personal attention is amazing.

In short, I'd buy one again in a heartbeat, and I recommend them to ANYONE running electrostats or any other difficult-to-drive loads.

If you find one out there for a good price, GRAB IT!

04-26-10: Punishen1
[...] In short, I'd buy one again in a heartbeat, and I recommend them to ANYONE running electrostats or any other difficult-to-drive loads.

I agree. In my quest to find the ultimate ESL i've powered a number of them with the Sanders ESL amp. It has worked flawlessly everytime. Many solid-state amps pop fuses (or much worse) with ESL loads. This has not been my experience to date with the Sander's product.
Have you made any comparisons with the newer Sanders Magtech Mono Amps? And how do they sound compared with Gryphon, Plinius SA Reference, Bedini (803, etc)?

I intend to buy the Magtech Monos for my Shahinian Diapason speakers, Klyne 7 and Shindo Aurieges preamps, and they should outperform my two Bedini BA-803 in biamping. Will they do it, what do you think?
Hi Breezer,

I am sure Magtech are fine amp, however, I owned Diapason speakers for a number of years and the best results I obtained with Spectron Musician III. I know a few more Daiaposon owners who use Spectron amp and who are pretty happy with the combo. One of them wanted to send this amp to Dick Shahinian for trial but I don;t know if he did.
Thanks, Simontju! But have any of these Spectron user could try a Sanders ESL or Magtech amp?
I have been a music lover/audiiophile longer that I can believe and I have had many fine amplifiers over the years, but I can honestly say that the combination of the Magtech power amp and the Sanders Slim Linestage preamp has given me the best sound that I have ever had. Associated equipment: John Dunlavys Duntech Sovereign loudspeaker that I have owned for 24 years. Bel Canto Dac-3, VPI Classic turntable with Ortofon cartridge and a computer based digital CD system. I am truly a happy audiophile. Any of you folks out there that own Planar, Electrostatic speakers or dynamic speakers that need lots of power (and most speakers need lots more power than you realize) should try to audition the Sanders gear. FWIW, I personally think that the Sanders equipment might just be one of the best kept secrets in the audio world.
"But have any of these Spectron user could try a Sanders ESL or Magtech amp? "

I am sure they could but I personally am aware of only single A/B comparison which is anectodal result.

Spectron amp can be taken for 30 days home trial and I believe Sanders amplifiers too.

Good Luck
Any more Sanders Magtech experiences, maybe with Shahinian?