As you no doubt know, wages and part costs in Switzerland are among the highest in the world, then with customs and distributor costs, Swiss-made gear (FM Acoustics, DartZeel etc) is, in my opinion, somewhat over priced in the US.
Wonderful it may be, and I have no argument there - but there is a premium attached.
fortunately or unfortunately;the Soulutions are many leagues above the best American made amps.In my listening experience only a select few could claim to be able o challenge the soulutions, and all of them European made;and all from the French h-German-Swiss maufaturers;Countries with the best pedigree in manufacturing ultra high end amps.
1.Swiss-Fm acoustics.Tonally different but amongst the very best.
2.German -Burmester reference series-Depending on your SET up the reference series could bettered the Soulutions especially in all Burmester set up.
Gruench-Hair risingly good amp;very little known,but once heard can't be forgotten
ASR emmiter;superb amp and a true bargain.
3.fRench-the Lavardin monoblocs-fussy about set up but ,once done correctly you would not leave your listening chair.
YBA signiture amp-so musicals,so right you will sob with joy listening.Tears come to your eyes easily with this amps..The differance between the sig and the rest of YBA amps are so great I think this should be the only amp YBA make.
These are based on my own listening experience.They aRe good and expensive not because the labor are expensive;BUT because the designers choose to use and accept only the best.............so I say go for the Soulutions if you like;it will be money well spent,....
Audiobrian, without wanting to subscribe to Fafanion's statement regarding US vs. European products, if you are willing to look at other European amps (ss) as suggested, then Tidal must be on your shortlist (even more so should you listen to vinyl as well as cd).
Given the Dollar's adventurous ride in the last few years, I do not know what these amps cost in the US these days, but Tidal Preos (pre) + Impact (stereo amp) should stay well below the 85k you quote, Preos + Impact Monoblocs will probably be in that range. The absolutely breathtaking Tidal Presencio (pre) + Impact might sadly even top that, but it would be worth finding that out with the US distributor.
Is Tidal better than Soulution, then? At that price point, you alone can decide after extensive auditioning. I will just add that given the choice - and after having heard all of the machines mentioned - my own personal choice would be Tidal, hands down, no hesitation. (Yes, I do know the super-rave Soulution reviews, so even if one surmises, that the conditions in which I heard the Soulution combo were not ideal, I would say people who try to sell us this kind of gear have a duty - no less - to create the best possible environment; there and then it didn't convince me.)
Then again, there is also Boulder, Berning (both of which I have admittedly not heard yet) et.al., so happy hunting!
I'll take Tubes over the best solid state any time.
You may want to consider the German company "Behold". Clement Perry and his crew are high on this brand.
Tidal Preos (pre) + Impact (stereo amp),yup,absolutely stunning............definitely should have been in my short list above.
Another German company, Octave audio. They sell a massive mono tube amp (Jubilee) with 200 plus watts per channel and giant transformers. They were at the RMAF in the Dynaudio room. I decided to get the little brothers a few years ago when I was contemplating a superior SS or tube to the equipment I had at the time. Decided the Octave MRE130 were the best deal for me compared to other high end brands, inlcuding Mark Levinson, the target SS designs I was going to upgrade to. Ciao,
Without any doubt Soulution are great amps, as are FM, Sovereign, Horch , Gruensch..., if you can make a good system Halcro, Boulder and a few more are also fantastics, and have you heard EAR Paravicini M 100A, I have heard them with Coltrane speakers, and boy I never have heard the Thiel ceramics drivers so good, and I´m not a big fan of these drivers.
If you want an objective opinion, call Goodwin's high end in Boston. They sell Boulder, Soulution and many others. They will give you an opinion based on experience without the hype. I called them for the same advice you seek. I have Boulder and was interested in the differences based on the reviews.
I'm with jwm...no SS can match the harmonic wholosity of a proper tube amp like the Lamms.
Dealers' opinion can't be all too objective, they'll most likely recommend products with biggest calculated benefits--many variables at play. I believe calling Goodwin's and Singer will have you two differing opinions at best. Imo, if one or two reviews say so--it may be raves or hype, but when you hear good things from all over, it might just be the real deal. Do some research in forums and threads as these, ask opinions and counter check various reviews gathered from as many sources as guides, narrow down choices, and yes, finally there's no other way then to do the final ritual yourself. Good luck.
I have heard the Solutions in the Munich HiEnd show, and to me they sounded nothing special - just another high powered, high negative feedback solid state design. For $80k I'm sure you can get gear that is far more musical, and have enough left over for a car for your wife or kid!
Regards, Allen (vacuum State)
I do not believe Goodwins sells Soulution
I have a sneaky suspicion that the Clayton Audio amps are about as good as anyone actually could "need",from a strictly performance stand point....in a system where their power delivery is adequate.
I'm getting very suspicious of much of the mainstream stuff,that is SO hyped in the press.
From my experience,a well thought out system can be had for a "fraction of what we are led to believe".....
I wonder why?....just one man's opinion-:)
the new GRYPHON colleseum monos and mirage preamp should also be on your list-- with pure linear class a operation, these amps have sheer musicality and authority, and contemporary- art looks.
as for the tidal amps+pre-- if they sound anything like their speakers( and i have a feeling they do...), they the tidal electronics ought to be auditioned as well.
word on the street is that the tidal precensio preamp is a revelation!
At the level of gear to which you refer, I am not sure that there are clear superiors or inferiors. I would imagine that in well-optimized systems each brand provides an array of virtues. The combination of each may differ slightly and ideally you would pick one that suits your own taste. Certainly, the cost of different gear can be attributed in part to the build quality, levels of supply chain markup etc. If you read through reviews of Soulution, you will see that the list prices have risen dramatically from 2005. I believe the 710 preamp began around 14000 Euros and now it is closer to 27000.
I have owned top Levinson, Rowland, ARC, Pass, Brinkmann gear and now have Boulder and Goldmund (second go round with G for me). There are differences between the latter two; how they mate with your speakers will also be critical.
Paul at Goodwin's told me that they will eventually be bringing in Soulution gear and they can order it but given the state of the economy, they are not ready to show the equipment on the floor just yet. This may change and I'd advise inquiring with them.
Stanton Sound and Vision (Thomas) is also a very even-handed and thoughtful person and he can provide an informed perspective on Soulution and Boulder.
Yes, I agree taste kicks-in big time at this level. Also highly dependent are the speakers you will be using them with. Again, it's essential that you do the final lengthy auditioning yourself. As for me, after doing rounds with Gryphon, Halcro, Goldmund Telos, Burmester, I ultimately preferred the Soulution. Probably them being closer to the FMA sound which I liked and had gotten used to.
In comparison to FM 611--the Soul 710 is 'very slightly' less refined up top (micro--inner detailing, air), but with more solid heft to their midbass (punch) and slightly better grip down low. Both equally transparent, have excellent speed and resolution with voicing aim towards the more neutral camp school of amplifiers. To sum it up, imo, they bring to the table closer to live interpretations of music from recorded materials.
However, if beautiful lush sound you are after, then they probably won't suit.
I believe the Soulution 710 amp was initially being listed at 17,900 Euros (Dec.'06). And have, unfortunately, since then increased quite rather dramatically.
I perused the reviews on the Soulution website. I made a mistake regarding the unit to which I was referring. The review from Stereo magazine June 2006 listed the 720 preamp at 13,900 Euros. The 710 is of course the amplifier and Bvdiman is accurate in his price quote.
For those of us living with a currency that is weak against the Euro, the Soulution gear is quite expensive.
Boulder gear offers a bullet-proof build quality and sophisticated materials and design, a pro-audio background and apparently, a "build it then figure out the price" approach for its 2000-series gear. I would say the Boulder gear is liquid, has tremendously rooted bass and is really non-impeachable.
The Goldmund gear I have (current Ultimate class stuff) is different. A sense of air and lightness of touch, tremendous treble purity and lack of grain but at the cost of a little loss of body from the midbass down (attribute this to the amp and not the preamp). My Goldmund gear is not optimal for my current speakers but I will keep it for some future second pair of speakers.
I have been told that Soulution gear is closer to Goldmund than Boulder in sound. Having been on the merry go round with new entrants into the high end audio arena, I now tend to stick with long-lived companies for service, resale etc.
Classic jazz: I have heard similar to you that Soulution is similar to dartzeel or Spectral. Fast but not a warm as Boulder. I was interested in Soulution after hearing all the superlatives, and there were some dealers interested in separating me from my money. Fortunately I spoke with a balanced dealer who was able to describe the differences qualitatively versus quantitatively.
I had the opportunities to hear at a friend's the Kharma Grand Exquisites quad amped with 4 pairs of Telos 5000s (yes, 8pcs). He upgraded from 4 pairs of 2500s and just loves his Kharma/Goldmund pairing. So am more or less quite familiar with the G sound. You may find in Soulution what you felt missing with Goldmund. Them being more full bodied, with solid palpability and packs a wallop from the mid on down--this kind of surprises me too in a way as rumors have it different (lean, too resolute etc.), which certainly is not so at least in the context of my system--partnered with my pre. But You got to let the thing break and spend more time with them. I was just about to return them to the dealer when they began to start sounding good (a good two weeks). Also depending on the speakers of choice, brand may sway. For darker balanced ones--Goldmund, Spectral would be my choice. In between--I preferred the FMA, Soulution. Whilst those with hotter tops--MBL or Boulder would be perfect. So ultimately still no best, just taste, synergy and $$$.
I agree with the above posts...very system dependent..I heard Soulution in New York....remarkeably agile and resolute...I felt a little cool in the upper mids, similar to my old Halcro DM-88's. However great amps, I'm sure, with the right speakers. With the $ being so weak, Boulder and Spectral also are great contenders. High powered tubes would also sound stunning with your German Physiks.
8 Goldmund amps are incredible. I don't find anything lacking in my Goldmund gear but I know my current speakers are not the right fit which is why I am using Boulder gear. I would imagine Goldmund would work well on Verity or Wilson Benesch (two brands of gear I had in the past).
To Brian, how would you characterize the sound of your speakers? I would probably put Goldmund on one side and Boulder on the other and perhaps MBL to the warm side of Boulder (by some margin). From what other have said, Soulution might be between Goldmund and Boulder.
I would imagine your system to be pretty darn excellent. The most radical change would be to switch speakers and keep everything else. Don't know that I would do that though but if we assume the B gear is solid and you want to really change the sonic presentation, speaker change would be the fastest, most radical way. And it would still be cheaper than a Soulution pre/power front end (assuming buying used top-notch speaker vs. new Soulution).
IMO the German Physik Carbon mk IV are as dead neutral as I've heard. However with cool sounding amps they can take on unusual stridency. I need to stay with neutral to slightly warm amps.....Boulder, MBL, Soulution, Pass, Clayton M300's. As the Soulutions are much more $$ than most of the competition, here in the USA, they will have to really stand out at audition for me to make the purchase.
Thanks to all respondants for all the insightful comments and information.
I have owned Lamm 2.1 amps and the L2 preamp, MBL 9008a's ,6010d preamp, 1621a transport,1611f dac and currently own the Soulution 700 monoblocks, the 720 preamp, and am auditioning the 740 cd.
Yes, Soulution is very expensive. Is it worth 3 times the excellent Lamm equipment, 2 times the excellent MBL equipment? It depends on what you are striving for and what you can afford. It was a "no brainer" for me.
Like Davis - i own the 700 monoblocks and the 721 (have separate phono linestage) and for me they are the right choice (wont go into value discussions as of course it is a ridiculous price). I think the comments are interesting on the internet with these amps (710 & 700s). i find some people say they are analytical and others comment that they don't have enough bloom. (i have heard some people say they are not transparent but that is so far off, i just ignore those comments). what you have to realize with both the 710 and the 700s is that they are completely neutral and transparent. may sound cliche by now, but they truly show everything up stream from them. if you get happy with your system (most importantly your cabling) then i think these are one of the best amps out there.
JV on AVGuide was going through his theory of 'Absolute Sound' vs. 'hear everything' vs. 'enjoying the music' - stating these are 'hear everything amps'. i found this funny as the word Absolute by definition is objective, so i would restate his list as musicality, absolute sound, enjoy the music - with these amps being the absolute sound category, anyway, these amps will let you hear everything exactly where the music is supposed to be as it was recorded (soundstaging, quality, etc). if you do get the set-up you like you'll love these amps (i have listened to the 710 extensively and would say it is even more neutral than the 700s). you will find yourselves listening over and over to your favorite recordings, wondering why you like this musician better than another one, because these amps will let you hear the difference. yes, there will be some favorites that were recorded so badly that you don't take them out as much as you used to, b/c the Soulutions will let you know just how bad they are. But that too is music and there is a lot of good recordings out there (Beatles new release in FLAC is amazing). To me, Vinyl is better than ever with the Soulutions. i understand those who state they want the bloom of a tube amp, but most of those people are listening to chamber music and some big orchestra - Soulutions play those well too, but they play everything across the board just like it was recorded (for better or worse).
i think one thing you should take into account when making your consideration that most negative comments on the forums are from people demoing the Soulutions in a dealers systems or hearing them at a show. for those that own the Soulutions or tested them in their own system (and got the right cabling, front-end, etc) i have never heard anything but gushing reviews. in fact, of the big reviews that have happened (in US and Europe) a big percent of the reviewers have kept them as their reference.
any update on your decision
Nothing wrong with either the Spectral or the Boulder. I do not see how the extra cost can be justified. The Soulution in Europe is not that expensive.
Life is short, why not ?? if you can afford them.
I've heard them a few times with magico speakers & they make beautiful music no doubt!
I would love to own the pair someday!! someday...
I like to hear the end of stories. Did Brian make a choice and buy something? If he did, has he any second thoughts that he'd like to share?
Also, I wonder how Vitus amps compare to Soulution or other leading brands. While Vitus seems comparatively weak in watts advertised, some of those watts are pure Class A. Does that give Vitus something of a sonic advantage?
I couldn't agree more to the posting of Brianherlihy. After being a long time fan of the music produced by my top of line Spectral setup, it was a quick and easy decision to move over to the Soulution 721/710 combo. It has all the goodies of the finest Spectral amp setup (resolution, speed, 3D, dynamics, neutrality), and adds to that the smoothness, density of color and finesse of the finest tube amps. I've compared my Spectral amps many times with both SS and Tube competition, but never I heard something that gave me more musical satisfaction. but the Soulutions easily surpassed it.
By the way, I still play disks with the Spectral 4000 pro CD player, which is still the best in my experience (albeit, I haven't tried to find for better very hard, it is that musically satisfying).
Thanks MmHobby for the comparison to Spectral. I am sure there are some intangables that separate the two.
Sorry for my lack of response. I have been taking care of some unexpected problems, outside the realms of audio.
I did audition the Soulutions and found them to be quite musical. However, to my ears, in my system, I found even more musicality and a slightly more natural presentation with a VAC Ren Sig IIa Preamp and a pair of Clayton Audio M-300 class A monoblocks, considerably less expensive.
The Soulution gear tended to be ever so slightly lean with my German Physik Carbons. The tubed VAC reference pre and class A Claytons, with 300/600 wpc class A, just sound completely "right" with the German Physiks.
Of course this is one man's opinion and system dependent.
I am using Stereovox IC's and Speaker cables, and Cardas GR power cords thruout.
My belated thanks to all respondants.
Audiobrian, Thanks for updating us. It is satisfying to have some conclusion to a narrative -- though in the case of audiophiles, the conclusion to one narrative may mark the beginning of another. In any case, congratulations on getting what sounds "right" to you. I briefly heard an earlier version of the German Physiks Carbon speakers at a dealer, and I was greatly impressed. The sense of presence was "fantastic" -- which is to say, real.
There is no best. There is better different though.:)