I have been a tube guy all my life. Have briefly had a Krell Ksa 50 and Odyssey Khartego. My tube amps have been Audio Research, Conrad Johnson, Cary and VTL. Recently discovered an amp that is the best I have ever heard. It is the Gilmore Raptor 500D mono blocks. Believe it or not this is a class D amp which is just astounding. Deep powerful base with gorgeous top end. Resolution is better then any other amp I have heard.
Great micro and macro dynamics. 250w/8 ohms and 5003/4 ohms. They are $2500 for a pair of monoblocks and weigh 37 lbs each
I've read through your post and you seem to be on the right path. I think you should keep #4 mandatory, if at all possible. Also, while you can look at the design of an amp and maybe point yourself in the right direction, in the end the amp has to stand on its own 2 feet with regards to sound quality. Some amps have 4 rubber feet. Thats OK too. Just as long as it sounds good.
I've had several Pass amps, the McCormack you mention and an old Boulder. Never had a Plinius. Also, I think its safe to say that a newer Boulder amp would sound much different than the old one that I had. Given all that, the first amp I would recommend you look at is Ayre. I feel their products are state of the art for SS. That doesn’t mean that you will like them, but to not consider them would be a mistake. Generally speaking a lot of people say that they are analytical. I don't believe that’s an accurate description. Ayre does pass a huge amount of detail through their products but its the cleanest, purist, most liquid solid state I've ever heard. In my main system, I have 2 V5's biamped vertically powering my speakers. Depending on how big your room is and how much volume you need, 1 V5 may be all you need. I won't lie, though, 2 is better.
"I can get BOULDER products but they are WAY high priced." By that statement, I take it you live somewhere near boulder. Ayre is made in Boulder as well, so there should be no problems there.
If it turns out that you don't like the Ayre for some reason, I highly recommend you listen to BAT. In my opinion, they are in the same league but they do sound a little different. Their SS sound falls somewhere in between Pass and Ayre.
One last thing. The weight issue. Are you kidding me? Its not like a girl that you have to go around and be seen with. You need to suck it up on that one. Pay some to move it or through your back out. This is your audio system were talking about here.
Sounds like you've answered your own question well. I am a little confused about which speakers you are using. You should be as spec ific as posible I think you are talking about Dynaudio speakers, are you?
When I owned the original C4's, I used a Plinius SA-102, which is essentially the same as the SA-103 from what I've read. I ended up parting with the C4's because I found them fatiguing and needed to be played loud to sound their best. If I had to do it over again, I would have tried a tube amp on them. Just something to consider. Since I've switched to tube amps, I don't see myself every going back to SS for my primary amp. If you are unwilling to go with a tube amp, I recommend sticking with a class A design. The PASS X350.5 sounds like a good option, or a used Plinius SA-250 would be great too!
If u find a chance, try asr ii.
..Sounds like you've answered your own question...
Well, I wish that was true but I'm not that smart. So far this has been mental gymnastics, really. If this was all audio was it would be too easy.
Yes, I have Dynaudio C4 Signature II's. And no, these are not fatiguing to listen to at all. I find them superbly rich and detailed. I do agree, however, that if you like that softer type sound these are probably NOT the best choice for that. I keep going back to the more detailed sound I seem to enjoy and the big Dyn's provide this with exceptional balance. These are one of the few speakers I've heard that make ensamble music on vocals sound "real". The midrange texture and richness is, to me, addicting.
Loud? I hit 80-83 dB average SPL and maye 90 dB peaks when I listen. Not sure if that's "loud". No, I would not say this is quiet. It's foreground volume, not background.
So I'm considering class A or high bias A/B amps, which on paper extract the absolute best in imaging precison. The C4's will let you hear it if it is there.
For standard A/B amps, the KISMETS are great. Doing better isn't an easy task. An at home better A better B comparison will let me know where this can go sound wise.
Any Plinius SA-103 users out there? Does this amp deliver the CLASS A goods like you expected?
Gamut is worth considering. As for weight, I have 200 lb Classe Omegas, and have learned how to move them around the room just fine. There are ways of doing this - just like the Egyptians built the pyramids. If you have to get them up/down some stairs, you'll need help.
I would go for the pass amp. I have the C4s also and have thought about this amp myself. I have an Innersound ref 500 which is a cool running solid state amp that sounds really good considering you can leave it on all the time and it won't make the house hot in the summer. I'm not keen on having to turn my gear in and off all the time though so cool running solid state is the only thing ill consider.
When you mention, "Bi-amp vertically" does that remove the X-over and use an external one? C4's, of course, don't allow bi-amping. The best speaker would have no power sucking passive cross-over at all. Run amps right to each driver with electronics adjusting the gain into the amplifiers (not a passive speaker cross-over at high power levels!).
Yes, Ayre has come up and I checked it out. I'm trying to decide what CALSS A can bring but, like you say, the end sound result is all that matters not how you get it there.
I can get Ayre, Plinius, and Boulder. PASS LABS dealers are far and few between in the mid west.
For Ejlif...yes, the ODYSSEY's KISMETS are cool as cucumbers and do sound nice. Who knows, I may have the amps I like now and not know it. The Plinius has the A/B option when you want to cut the heat. Hybrid A/B PASS LABS, like my previous DNA-225 hi-bias amp, will run warm all the time.
I'm in the basement so heat isn't as big an issue. The room is 4,000 SQ feet.
Suck-up on the weight? Well, I'm 150 pounds soaking wet and at 55, I ain't no mighty mouse. Oh I'll git-er-done all right but WHEW, it's still a weighty issue. I wasn't so much complaining about the weight, if I USED it! If I buy a big old amp and use 30-100 watts, could I have bough a better sounding amp for less? Still, sound over weight.
Some design does matter. In a given brand (PASS) I'd have to figure the CLASS A amps sound better or why bother? So, ultimately the class A design should "sound" the best if done right. I want to go up a notch in resolution if I can hear it.
I'll tell you one thing, the CS2.7 Thiel speakers with two SA-103's imaged terrificly in the midrange. Positionally stable, pure and full of texture. The speakers can't do that if the amps don't hand it off to them to use or destroy.
In a room that size I would go for as much power as you can afford unless you pretty much only listen at low volume or listen only to delicate music. I would assume not since you have C4s. I have never been satisfied with lower power amps. If it were me I'd be looking at the pass 1000 watt amps or the big Bryaton amps. There is nothing like a speaker being driven by plenty of power, unless you play at low level and even then it's noticeable. And for what it's worth I tried the Ayre V5xe and didn't care for for it at all.
I didn't know that your speakers don't allow for biamping. The reason I mentioned vertical biamping is that it eliminates all kinds of problems that you run into when you biamp traditional (horizontal). This is how it works. You need 2 stereo amps that are the same. Each amp powers one of the speakers. You run a cable from the right output on your preamp to both inputs on one of the stereo amps. (If your preamp has 2 sets of outputs, you can run 2 IC's. If you have only 1 output, You'll have to split it.). You then run speaker cables from the stereo amp to your speaker. One for the high's and the other for the low's. Do the same thing to the left channel.
The advantage of doing it this way is that you are working each amp the same because it is powering a whole speaker, as opposed to using 1 amp for the highs on both speakers and the other for the lows on both speakers. There's no need for active xovers or anything like that. You just hook it up and it works. Keep in mind, though, it only works with stereo amps.
I have to mention the Burmester 911 or 956. My Dyn dealer had Sim and Burmester and I like the Burmester much better. I listened to those with the original C4's not the MKII/Signatures. I now have the C1 Sig's and they don't seem to need as much power as the originals.
OK, but there STILL has to be a passive X-over inside the speaker after you remove jumpers to allow vertical bi-amping as you can't, or don't want to, run full range into the mid/tweeter (assuming a three way speaker) and woofer. The set-up makes sens when you remove passive cross-over components.
C4's are not bi-amp capable. They are pretty efficient at 89 SPL rating and that seems to be accurate as they pump out WAY more sound than my Quatro's with the same amps.
Xti16, what stood out about the Burmester, and which exact model?
I listen to mostly chamber music and folk type music (smaller simpler ensembles) over Symphony and rock (larger busier ensembles). The C4 Signature II mids are to die for on this type of music.
Honestly I can't remember if it was the 956 or 911 and neither can my dealer (NextLevelav). Anyhow for my taste the Sim had great 'control' with all the instruments and vocals BUT was way too detailed. After about a hour of listening I found myself not listening to the music but rather analyizing individual instruments and vocals. I found the same with Classe Omega but that was when I thought I liked B&W speakers. Now the Burmester had all the control with very good detail but was more musical. To me I would have to say the Burmester has better Prat. I found myself listening to the music again which for me gets my toes a tappin again. Unfortunately the Burmester is way out of my price range and have settled on an Octave V70SE tube integrated for my C1 sigs. Very good control and extremely musical. That being said with a few tube changes I can get more detail but seem to lose a little of that great musical sound. In other words I can change the sound characteristics by rolling some tubes and not having to replace the amp. BTW Dynaudio is the North American distributor for Octave and T+A.
Again these are my personal opinions based on my taste.
Yes, audio is odd in that some like less music to be "more" musical. I've switched around preamps and the tube units I've tried left me wanting...for detail and microdynamics. I just can't forget all the nuances of the music I hear with SS units that simple vanished with tube pre amps. Yep, the tube "harmonics" and tonal balance is there, but you loose the qickness and finer detail. My ear seems to want to hear all this. When I have a tube unit in my system, and switch it out, I don't want to go BACK to the the tube unit.
Detail is not "hard" or glassy either. You can have a rich solid soundstage with good musical separtion and layering of the sounds with SS units. Tubes have been too "pastel" and seem to wash away information by design, much like a impressionistic painting. True, this is NOT the case with ALL tube units, but the ones that have been in my price range. A tube unit that can provide the harmionic structure and quickness with full rich texture with proper separation would be a gem, till the tubes change anyway.
Believe or not I agree and if it was even close to be affordable for me I would own Burmester. I'll admit I have about 15K invested/spent on my Octave V70SE - Black Box and various tubes. The tubes can be extremely pricey. Check the cost of a quad of Eat KT88 Diamonds for extreme detail and micro-dynamics. Now add a pair of Gec CV6091/A2900 for drivers for even more dynamics - sparkle and punch. On the other end Tung Sol solid black plates for the most musical.
But remember I have an integrated so I don't need a pre-amp - power cable and Ic's.
"I've switched around preamps and the tube units I've tried left me wanting...for detail and microdynamics. I just can't forget all the nuances of the music I hear with SS units that simple vanished with tube pre amps. Yep, the tube "harmonics" and tonal balance is there, but you loose the qickness and finer detail. My ear seems to want to hear all this. When I have a tube unit in my system, and switch it out, I don't want to go BACK to the the tube unit."
Like you I am running detailed speakers (Revel Salon 2s) and have the same need for speed. I'm currently using a Symphonic Line tube preamp and at least with this preamp I have microdynamics and detail in spades. Very fast too - not getting the slowness and rounding off that it sounds like you're hearing with the tube pres you've checked out.
Your Plinius SA-103 choice seems a sound one albeit with one minor caveat. I ran a Plinius SB-301 in my system before it was replaced by the Symphonic Line Kraft 250 monos three months ago, and it is a very good amplifier. The Plinius provided plenty of dynamics and slam in spades, and had no problems driving low impedance loads. It is a bass monster!
Plinius microdynamics are quite good too, although the SB-301 is not in the same league as the SL monos in that regard (which list for 3X as much and should be better). I also understand that Plinius and Dynaudio are a very popular tandem in Europe, so it would seem there's some synergy there. Very good soundstage with the Plinius too. The one caveat is the Plinius house sound is just a wee bit rolled off.
Getting back briefly to the tube preamp discussion, the Plinius SB-301 sounded really really good with the SL tube preamp, which was a big step up from the Plinius M8 SS preamp. I probably would have stayed with this pairing for quite a while had the Kraft 250s not become available at an insanely good price.
And finally, speaking of Symphonic Line - that's another possibility for your C4s.
Funny, the KISMET's are and ODYSSEY knock-off of the SYMPHONIC line! They aren't so bad at all, by the way.
I auditioned power amps today with a pair of DynAudio C-1 speakers as they are close to the C4 in general timber (those are GREAT small speakers!). WOW, was I surprised.
I listened to a top of the line type tube integrated amp. Very nice soundstage and texture, but...it was still blending the images together like a faint airbrush. I HATE that effect. I'd tell you the brand, but it didn't matter, really, as I moved on in a hurry. Tubes just aren't working for me yet.
The next jump was an odd French made chrome finish integrated CLASS A audio stage with CLASS D power supply hybrid integrated that I called the waffle iron. Now THAT unit sounded good at $15,000.00. But, it was a full system, though; DAC, amp, pre, power, the works.
After that we listened to the PLINIUS SA-103. Rats, this unit sounded too warm (sound, that is but it did get physically HOT) and also not rich and detailed enough. Sounded like a tube unit to me. So my great idea died right there. It fell far from my expectations. So much for paper spec shopping.
Then we tried a BOULDER 860. This amp shot right to the are I like to hear, crisp, detailed, rich and full of inner microdynamic detail and a big expansive background. MUCH better than the SA-103, by far, for my ears.
Then we went to a SIM Audio MOON Evolution 150 watt/channel integrated that was similar to the 860A. Hey, now THIS thing is rocking! It had what the BOULDER 860 had but with even better midrange texture (what tubes seem to do well) and a HUGE soundstage as things opened up. It was remarkably good. The richness was intoxicating.Everything was in its place, and a place for everything.
So now, I'll drag my somewhat light 50 pounds each KISMETS down to the stereo store and A to B to the 860A and see what kind of jump in sound I hear. And, I'd like to drag the Boulder 1060 into the mix. too.
I had NO idea how good the SIM AUDIO stuff was. And, it idles at 55 watts, 5 watts less than my two KISMETS. I can afford to run these 24/7.
The BIG issue is now is a new 860A at $14K or a used BOULDER 1060 at just under that. At the volume I listen to, the 860A had more impactful bass and dynamics than the Boulder 860. But, would the 1060 close the gap and give more headroom? All the Boulder amps are Eco to the max at idle, 17 watts! So, I want to go with SOUND verses what I paid relative to any list price. The 1060 has to be BETTER at 80-83dB average SPL volumes than the 860A. A deal relative to price and worse audio isn't a deal to me. I'd rather pay 14K for the MOON 860A than 12K for a Boulder 1060 if the 1060 sounds worse (who cares what it "listed" for) where and how I use it. "louder" isn't my objective.
This never gets easier, or cheaper! So I save like a demon and maybe this spring I might be ready. My budget just went up time 1.5!
"OK, but there STILL has to be a passive X-over inside the speaker after you remove jumpers to allow vertical bi-amping as you can't, or don't want to, run full range into the mid/tweeter (assuming a three way speaker) and woofer. The set-up makes sens when you remove passive cross-over components."
After reading this response, I don't think I did a very good job of explaining Vert Biamping. Of course there is a passive xover in the speaker. You couldn't do a vert biamp without it. The idea is to work the 2 amps exactly the same way so the sound is consistent. Each amp powers the whole speaker. It amplifies the highs and lows thereby putting the same load on each amp.
Also, you say that the setup makes sense when you remove the passive xover components. That's not correct. You have to have the xover in the speaker or it won't work. If you removed the xover you would just be sending the full frequency range to each driver. That's why you need stereo amps for it to work.
Sorry if I didn't do a good job explaining in my first post.
but have in mind that you have C4 not C1,for that reason sim audio integrated may not provide enough power for c4
I'd go to the 200-Watt into 8-ohms MOON 860A model with the C4's, or the Boulder 1060 if it sounds better. I don't really need more power at the expense of sound quality.
The tube unit was made by Octave. It was the best I've heard so far, but the better SS stuff held my ears attention to a higher degree.
Like pre-amps, amplifiers are vastly different in sound. From thirty years ago, the differences have gotten larger.
Rower30 - Which Octave did you listen to? Also did it have the Black box or super black box attached? Black box makes a real nice difference. Lower noise floor and a hair more forward.
Hey our tastes in amps are different but if you have the opportunity give the Burmester a listen and maybe Soulution. Almost forgot about T+A.
Last which Sim Audio did you listen to?
"After that we listened to the PLINIUS SA-103. Rats, this unit sounded too warm (sound, that is but it did get physically HOT) and also not rich and detailed enough."
Well there ya go - I did mention that it was a little rolled off, but I guess you found it a lot rolled off! No surprise really, given that you prefer the Boulder and Sim gear.
I'll second Xti16's recommendation to check out Burmester and Soulution, as they should both provide the level of detail you crave.
P59teitel, your dead right on that call (someone has to be right, eventually!), the softer nature of the SA-103 surprised me being CLASS A and all. It was a thirty-second read.
Well, I can't afford a Burmester! I'm deeply into the used market for a Boulder 1060 (12-14K range). I think I've lost my mind at 10-14K! But, I'll use it till they shove me in a square 8-foot deep hole. So the buck stop at or south of 14K.
The SIM unit I listened to was a 700i dual MONO, 175 watts/channel. It was VERY good sounding. It was detailed without being thin. Mids were full deep and against a pure black backdrop. Bass was exceptional with a HUGE soundstage. I need to get a W8 or the 860A and the PASS XP-10 going.
I'll have to get back on the Octave integrated I listened to. It was good, but after the i700, no way would I stay with it. I'm not being mean to you tube lovers, I heard the "magic" in the texture of voice on the Octave, for sure. It was nice but, my ear just goes to the detail like a moth to a flame. It's me. Nothing has it all, so you seem to settle on one side or the other.
I have to drag my XP-10 and KISMETS over to try to square-up what I can expect from my XP-10, and what level of improvement I hear from the KISMETS which aren't terrible at all. But against this level of stuff, I expect a difference akin to the Octave verse the sim i700. Both are good, one is better!
Remember, I'll go full balanced with the SIM 860A or Boulder 1060, too. The XP-10 is supposed to be much better with balanced out-puts.
Thanks for hanging in there on this thread. You all are in a better financial deal with the eventual outcome compared to me!
Hey, I just thought of another brand for you to try: Spectral. Very detailed and known for precise soundstaging too.
"You all are in a better financial deal with the eventual outcome compared to me!"
As a lawyer, I am professionally trained to spend other people's money. :)
Keep us posted on the results of the boulder 1060 if you get it. Sound like a solid choice to me
The 1060 was awesome...and over my limit...darn. It had the same sound at any volume. It never seemed to have dynamic compression.
But, I have a line on a MOON W-8 in good condition for 10K and tax (right at my limit). The XP-10 preamp ends up having laser sharp imaging and spectral location to harmonics off the fundamentals. Imagine a cymbal strike. The overtones are dead nuts emination from the location of the fundamental "snap". No other preamp did this, and it, to me, makes music sound live. At least that's what my brain "hears" as it turns out. I had no idea till we switched preamps all around. The XP-10 is an imaging and soundstage precision killer!
Ok, what's not to like about that? It can get harsh on bad stuff, making you back down the volume. What's this got to do with the MOON W-8?
The W-8's are known for a very big soundstage and a smooth solid state sound, that should soften the XP-10 deficiencioes some. To back that up, the i700 MOON was SMOOTH like the Boulder, but with a bigger soundstage at the expense of a little imaging that was so good on the Boulder amp / pre combo. I do mean a little. You kind of liked either amp.
So, the XP-10 with the MOON W-8 may be a nice fit with my C4's. The W-8 has the zero feedback LYNX circuit and a decent amount of power.
I will drag those HEAVY KISMET amps and XP-10 back to the dealer and listen to the XP-10 and the MOON W-8 when the new owner get his MOON 870A (lucky %&$%#@%).
Still, for 10K I think that the Candian built W-8 with five years warranty is a nice amplifier. I just hope it marries my pre-amp well. This take a LOT of time. If not, we soldier on to more of your suggestions. But, I have no "home base" for sonics after I leave Hanson Audio's set-up. Their room is just plain sickeningly good! It is not "live" or "dead" but images with surgical precision. That pisses me off when I go home! My room is next.
Hansen audio is about tired of me by now...as all of you are, too!
Well, I ended up with a Sim Audio MOON W-8. It hit all the right notes (pun intended); build quality, efficiency at idle (48 watts) and sound. This thing hits the scales, too at 100 pounds...ugh! I found this amp by accident, and it stayed at the top through listening tests.
How good is it? That's somewhat subjective. No, make that completely subjective. But, it is much more precise and detailed than my KISMETS but at three time the price! Once I forget about the price, I'll be happy as a clam. Why are clams always happy? Do they have stereos?
The biggest improvement is a clearer overall sound and a tighter image with a more neutral sonic presentation. The KISMETS are a nice but slightly warmer sound. It took a bunch of money to better the KISMETS, but the MOON W-8 does the trick. I mentioned before that I kind of cheated and got the owner to upgrade to the 870A, and I got his W-8. Hey, the tactic worked.
So the last (like I believe it last!) area is speaker cables. With all the current running through these cables, I can hear differences that have so far evaded me on power cords and low capacitance interconnects.
So far, the NORDOST TYR2 sound good with this amplifier. The better cords seem to get the imaging to be much more holographic and deep behind the speakers. Vocal texture is better than my reference cords (1313A with jacket removed and replaced with LLDPE cable wrap). To my ear, the TYR2 seem to be softer in the bass, however. Not terribly so, but it seems slightly lean. Anybody else think so? I'll plop the amp down between the speakers so leads can be purchased pretty short. The loaner leads are 3 meters or so.
Leads are way overpriced, but sell based on the premise of, "what else can you do to improve the sound as much for less?" argument. From that standpoint, my ear says it's true but my pocket book really hates it.
So I know you all were picking on me about the C4 II's with KISMETS, but I still recommend those amps for the price. But yes, the C4's do take advantage of the "best" money can buy. I just tried to get near the best at an affordable (ha!) price. I think the used W-8 worked out real well.
Congatulations on achieving your goal. I have no cable advice other than doing what you do which is to audition as many as you can. I am sure that owner you convinced to upgrade his amp isn't unhappy so no harm no foul.
Congratulations on the new amp! Getting the sound you want - and getting it quickly - are not always easy things to do.
Yes, extensive listening seem to say the C4's eat this amp up. Much better bass control and detail without being too harsh up top. No, this amp is NOT as soft and euporic as the KISMETS (think tubes), but it trades that for the utmost in musical precision and control with a still full bodied sound. Some may not like this super SS sound, but I sure do. The amps is fast, detailed, openess and rich sounding. Well, if the music is recorded half decent, it won't fix my old CD's any. The KISMETS are excellent with sub par source material as they add some warmth...not a bad thing when you need it.
There may be a perfect amp, but once source material is factored in, perfection is still fleeting.