Subtlety ? do any American amps do it?

Not heard that many but it strikes me that everything from the colonies sounds a bit stark and bleached. Spent a year trying to come to terms with a Pass Labs which is vastly overated ( and I mean vastly), listened a lot
to Mark Levinson and thought Thank God I did not spend a fortune on that - clean, clear, hifi and so bereft of soul that it was like a visit to the Dentist !
I'm not that biased, it's taken Naim years to make something resembling music - PRAT ? until recently bunch of narrow minded PRATS.I know lots of Naim fans and their mindset belongs to the third reich !
UK companies like Meridian and Musical Fidelity have managed to do the bizz for at least 30 years that I've known/used and they still manage to make a noise that at least resembles real music. MF get tarred with a do it cheap brush but anyone who has heard their gear and says it's crap is probably a dealer who wants to sell you something at 3/4x the price.
The Brazilians do it a treat - Heard Audiopax 88s at the last Edinburgh show and if anyone there had ears, they should have packed up and went home - different league does not describe it.
Realise this is antagonistic but want some input.
Even the UK press seems blinkered to the crap - Pass, Krell
- whoah, nice hifi, shame there's nothing remotely musical involved, apart from the laughter as they take our hard earned money !

I have a Quicksilver phonostage - lovely and a great customer focused company, had a Lancelot Camelot, super and amazingly friendly & helpful people but go to the Big boys and it's just a money grabbing frenzy ?
I dreamed of a Pass Labs for years and ? my next amp will be coming from somewhere in Europe !

Well, I am staying here, in the States. H Ho's H2O amps, made in Virginia, are my last. That, from a former Pass owner.
I don't know about subtlety, but as far as outstanding, musical products that get your toes tapping and bring you closer to the music: I'd agree with you on the integrity of Quicksilver products and Mike Sanders. I've enjoyed several of his products over the years including the SET amps in my main system. I'd add George Wright to your list, his products go straight to the heart of the music with no frills or bells and whistles and blue LED's. Terry Cain if you're talking speakers, and Josh Stippich of Electornluv (amazing stuff - nothing like it anywhere in the world - subtlety need not apply here). Portal Panache is a very musical integrated with PRAT to write home about and at a bargain price. Those are just a few, and I'm sure there are more.

I've owned one Musical Fidelity product and relative to everything else I've owned in its category, it was crap. Vastly over-rated at its original retail price and still over-rated when I bought it on closeout out at less than 1/2 of original retail.

Maybe it was the one bad MF product over the years, but it sounded horrible. Truely anemic vs. its competition. BTW, it was replaced with QUAD. Now there's a good value piece!


I love my Conrad-Johnson amp. I find it to be very smooth and musical.
You refer to only a few brands. And all the amps you refer to are SS. There are many US brands and they are all different. To my ears the Mcintosh tube amps could express subtlety very well. My deHavilland SET amp can be subtle and no subtle, it depends on the music. I don't think there is any one country you can look to for a particular sound. In the UK how about Naim; subtle? Hardly!
McIntosh, at least the 402, which is the one I own. I have owned British (Musical Fidelity), Canadian (Classe), and others. The MF and Classe were good, but I have never owned an amp that had as much control and finesse as my McIntosh. IMHO, finesse or subtlety requires control and the ability to create really black "blacks" and McIntosh's new stuff does a great job. I am about to receive a new PS Audio GCA 250 for my secondary system, and will see if it is as capable on the subtle aspects as I find the McIntosh. Good luck in your search, and hope the suggestions help, as only your ears will know.
Sounds like you're baiting us Yanks and that's........O.K.

I recently heard the Audio Mirror tube pre-amp, ridiculously cheap and sounded great with McCormack and Parasound SS amps.

I bought the Audio Mirror SS DAC which blew the socks off the dAck!, both being non-oversampling with no brick wall filtering, but the dAck! is battery powered.

This same Audio Mirror also makes tube amps. Vladimir is a transplanted Bulgarian living in Houston, Tx. I count myself lucky to know him.

But, from the tone of your post, I suspect you would prefer spending much more money. Good luck on you.

Have owned both the Quicksilver Linestage and their V4 monoblocks. While both are good, the preamp is easily bested by the First Sound Presence Deluxe Mk II, American as well. The V4 amps are bested by the H2o Signature Monoblocks by Henry Ho - also American. If you are looking for preamp or amp, that gets out of the way and allows the music to flow, not impede or put it's own character on it, I urge you to look into either the First Sound preamp, and/or even more emphatically the H2o Signature monoblocks.

Good luck on your search. I can agree with you on Pass, Krell, and disagree with you on Musical Fidelity- as with every audition I walk away unimpressed, just as with in home trials in the past. Everyone has their sonic "flavor"...
You are a funny dude.Have you ever concidered stand up comedy or something similar at least.Don't waste yourself.
George with a G
Boy, I guess all of us fools in 'the colonies' should just throw away all the things we like, and follow you so we can actually have good gear instead of the junk we thought we liked. While you're at it, can you tell us what car, clothes, and appliances to buy. If I send a picture and a few details about my wife, can you let me know if I should stay married to her or dump her for a Euro version???
No toobs, huh?
My experience is not as broad as I would like, but I will say as a Yank I have easily preferred the SS U.K. electronics I've heard to the U.S. equivalents, which as you point out are often much more expensive. Levinson in particular I just don't get. Krell I need more experience with, but I haven't been impressed so far.

But in U.K. gear I wouldn't pick Musical Fidelity as my standard bearer, even on a price/ performance basis. Naim may be a somewhat better bet, but to my ears entry level Linn or AVI gear is still much better for little or no more money. As an aside, as much or more than the amps, I particularly love U.K. source components.

My experience with speakers, however, is another matter entirely. In this arena, I believe it is B & W that is over rated. And although I like the company generally, Linn speakers as a group are most unimpressive. I did own a pair of KEF's a number of years ago that weren't bad for the price, but nothing to get too excited about.
Looked at your system & think you should treat the room, as it looks pretty hard. An audio bud has Audio Physic & they took awhile to place, so maybe try repositioning? Didn't look to see if you've done anything with the AC or not but it can be blamed for other ills in the system.

I've heard a lot of good things about the newest version of the Pass amps, which have the .5 designation. Most of my listening has been with the Aleph series, so can't comment on what you have.

BAT, Ayre, McCormack & Manley are just a few amps made in the USA that come to mind that sound excellent.
Pass amps need to be left on 24/7 and you need real speaker cables if you want them to work their best. Having a subwoofer firing directly into the chassis of the amp also can't help things much. Sean
Your version of Subtlety as you generally slam people's choices within the context of your post makes me wonder what sound you like---Finger nails and chalkboard??? (Hum,I wonder what wires go with that??) I know it has been arond 230 years__You still pissed about loosing that war???--Sounds like it. Is that Subtle enough??
Personally I throw most of Musical Fidelity right in there with your Krell/Levinson views. Personally I am not a fan of modern British hifi. B&W epitomizes everything you hate about the electronics companies you mention. Personally, if I had to choose a single country of origin for my entire system, I would consider France and then choose the US. That system might consist of:


I think that's pretty damn musical.
The resale value of equipment seems to be higher on the "Made in USA" stuff.
I'd agree with Driver, but don't just stop at treating the room, go ahead and treat the whole damn country. I suspect there is quite a bit of bloating and congestion right in the area around where you live. Could be all that warm beer you blokes drink! Did you have a few pints before composing your post?

With the way your system is setup, you are not qualified to judge what anything sounds like. I think you need a different room.
I know that my Levinson system can sound subtle and stealthy especially when I play the soundtrack Sneakers. (If you haven't heard this yet your in for a treat!) Here I am in that musically induced Zen state listening to the subtleness and microdynamics of the system when Wham! I'm knocked back in my seat by dynamic drum and piano that remind me,"Yeah, this is what I'm paying for! while being musically transported to another place.
When I reflect on these "HiFi" comments that seek to put down other brands of equipment, I can't help but comparing the sounds I hear at a "live" performance and sadly all audio equipment and systems that I've heard, have got a long way to come before they sound like the "real thing".
In my experience, most good systems sound more alike than different as most audio engineers strive to make their components "the absolute sound". What sets some systems over the edge is the owner's perserverence to tweak their system's setup over a period of years instead of trading equipment once a month.
Give McIntosh a try. Otherwise, just buy what you like.
Synergy plays an important role, and I think that with your speakers, musical fidelity is an excellent choice. Everybody has their favorite flavor, MF is my favorite, especially with your speakers.
After looking at your system photo, I agree you would likely benefit considerably from trying to do something about your equipment placement. I DON'T think this is the reason you don't like the U.S. amps you have heard, as bad equipment placement is going to more or less effect all brands adversely (including the U.K. ones that sound better to you).

As an experiment, try getting all your equipment out from in between your speakers and off to the side (on top of a support beam in the flooring, if possible). I know a lot of people use center-stage, symmetrical positioning between speakers for their electronics (allows for shorter speaker cable runs, etc), but in my room/system I was amazed by how this degraded my sound, even using a very good rack. In this position you subject your audio chain to unnecessary vibration from your speakers. This is particularly noticeable if your equipment is resting on wood flooring in an older or less sturdily constructed house (concrete flooring in basements is probably less of an issue). For similar reasons, Sean's point about the subwoofer firing at short range into your equipment is a worthy one. Try moving it.

These are simple things that may well end up giving you more sonic improvements than several thousand pounds in better gear (no matter what its national origin). They are worth a try.
maybe your problem is that you do not get SS amps ?
I do not like most of them too, does not matter US made (Krell, ML, Pass) or European made (gryphorn, MF) all of them are lifeless, spiritless hifi monsters (with a few exceptions, Jeff Rowland, Bluenote, Clayton...), try tube amps they saved me, I was starting to think that hifi is about noise and power, listen to VAC, Manley (I do not like Maintosh), if you like Subtlety the most, and you do not care about dynamic and power at all, maybe try SET amps (I do not like them , yes they are refined but sounds weak to me), I have discover myself in 50-100W tube amps.
Jjmali, having a bad day?
What I want you to know is the way audiophile equipment works around here. Either buy and like what I buy and like, or throw all your equipment in the trash. And "they" say we Americans are arrogant!

I'll keep my Pass X600's and Audio Research Ref II, and VPI Turntable, and FIM/CRL Gold cables. It makes me happy, and that's all I care about.
Hi Guys,
I had a few glasses before posting but it had the desired effect. I'm sure there are loads of fabulous american amps,
shame I don't get to hear very many.
I'm using an Audio Mirror pre and agree, for the money, it's marvelous (it's actually based on a G. Nardi design for Audionote).
Thinking of taking another plunge of the deep end and buying a Supratek unheard. My aspirations are way beyond my budget so it's worth risk taking to get good value for money.
Looking at room treatments as I'm moving into a smaller & very live room - like everything thing else about our hobby there are a lot of different schools of thought to consider.
Thanks for the input , I like to enjoy my gear, my music and a bit of levity in the forums now & again !
I have far to many good friends in the states to think your all listening to'crap'
I've also heard some fabulous gear that cost buttons - valves seems to be the common denominator - maybe I'm allergic to solid state ?

Simon,theres not anything i can say about Supratek that has not been said,i have my Chardonney paired with a CJ MF2500A and am very happy,even with what some folks dont consider very good speakers(Paradigm Sudio 100 V2)my system sounds more soulfull than most more expensive systems ive heard!IMO
Hello, Having owned a stupid number of amps, I have recently become an Ayre fan. Picked up the V3 used on agon and am astonished at how good it sounds. Somebody else mentioned Clayton. That is also a very sweet brand if fronted with the right preamp. They are hard to find used though.
Some rather silly responses here to a rather antagonistic thread.
No country has a monopoly on good audio gear. I have US speakers, Danish amp, Japanese CD player, american DAC, british turntable and subwoofer.

In the past I've owned british speakers and amps.

I think some of the American hifi market is absurdly overpriced and overpowered, but I think great gear comes from all over the world. The trick is finding it.
Simon, you remind me of your namesake on "American Idol". Is there something about the name that makes you inherently rude? After owning a few British motorcycles, an MGB, two E type Jags and a Linn, I wouldn't own anything from the UK. It always seems to have a puddle of oil under it. Even your WWII machine gun was known to yank soldiers as the "Stench gun". Oh well, back to the world's shortest book: "British Haute Cuisine".
Elgordo, "After owning a few British motorcycles....."

Wow, are you a slow learner! :-) Sorry, I couldn't resist.
Yes. Is this a trick question??
I think the Theta Dreadnought or especially the Citadels more than meet the muster of any of the fine European products out there.
El G,
I suppose you'll have another rattle to chuck out of the pram?
The joy of having things with a 'puddle' under them, is if you are in any way handy, it becomes a labour of love to make it not have a puddle under it, then driving it to McDonalds ????????
I have UK gear, US gear, Japanese gear, Japanese cameras, German cameras, and guitars from all sorts of places.
I've no doubt ten years from now EVERYTHING will be sourced from China ! Lighten up.
I guess I was lucky, I have used Clayton with Supratek Chenin, and that not many 4 times more expensive separates on CES sounded better...
VAC Phi sure did...
But now my British Arcam after 9 years of service died and now I have to temporary use SACD SONY as source, wow it really sound now as $200 boombox :), so good source is a must.
I had a Naim CD player for a while. I had to get rid of it 'cause it kept leaking oil all over my rack!

I owned a TR6 (motorcycle)in '69. (single carb.650)Yup, never failed to mark its spot;even when brand new. And on to its electrical--designed by Lucas;--the prince of darkness, was the proper term to describe---.
Marco you must have a big rack!
While we're bashing the british cars I would point out that many US built cars of the same era being described were similar turkeys.

While living in the UK I ran a mini for 100,000 miles with no problems at all. I moved to the US and bought a Grand Am and the intake manifold gasket has failed twice in 70,000 miles. Do a web search on GM V6 lemons.

If the US car market were not much larger than that of the UK I predict some of the US "big three" would have gone the same way as British Leyland.

People who live in glass houses .......
Please forgive me for saying so,but your post sounds polemic. I'm not calling you polemic,but that's how your post sounds to me.

As technology makes the world smaller,as companies may be chartered in one county,design in another,and manufacture in yet another,I wonder if assigning nationalistic qualities to pieces of equipment is a marketing ploy?

I hope you fine something subtle,that appeals to you,but urge you to listen with your ears and not with your atlas.
I am sure Simon is having a bit of a laugh. British humour I suppose. Well, you need a lot of humour when you have to cope with English equipment. I have got EAR, Townshend and MF amplifiers, stands respectively. While soundwise I have no complaints, it's better not to look at the quality of the workmanship and enjoy the sound.
Conrad Johnson. It just sounds right!!!!

I could never take that Brit sound. Too polite, too dry. Sure it may have PRAT, but where is the BASS? I know they all use mini-monitors in the UK, but my speakers have WOOFERS! Naim/Linn/Rega/MF/Meridian are cutesy little dainty units, but they have no BALLS!!!

This, of course, is just my opinion. Sure some American gear sucks, but the Brits can't touch anything like BAT/CJ/Aesthetix/Boulder equipment.


The only solid state amp I like better than my Rowland Model 2, is one of my Pass Alephs.
The only amp I like better than the Pass, is my Cary CAD 300 SEI.

Maybe you should try a Cary SET amp........
Rocking now,
I was having a bit of a laugh.
In all seriousness, I find some of the major players (that I have heard)to be something of an anticlimax.
I've dealt with some hifi Gods who are arrogant beyond belief and some of their dealers who would make Satan on a bad day seem pleasant !
On the other hand people like BAT,Quicksilver, Camelot, Supratek, Kora etc who take the trouble to answer a query and be interested and helpful are always going to set my mind to trying their products.
I realise dealers have to make a living so I am not going to go through the motions of listening to their gear and wasting their time, before sourcing it elsewhere - I could but it's not very ethical ?
Hence I have to buy 'deaf' by reading reviews and the threads on here.
It doesn't always work but how else can I afford to try american stuff which costs more 'used' over here than it costs retail in the states.
This is a great site and the fact they vet & let me post this thread, shows they have no axe to grind.
Many more references to cars and I'll ask if I can post my photos of my cars engine with my system - a manky old Ford Escort but I can't recall many Buicks winning World Rally titles !(That said I'd rather have a Porche, Ferrari, Mitsubushi Evo, M3 etc, etc - when do we get Autogon ? )
And for future 'slags' I am decidedly not a Brit, thanks, call me any prefix before Scot, Scottish or Scotsman !
Cheers Si
Aye Scotland!

Where men are men, and the sheep are nervous.:-)
Since you asked, no. please don't post any pictures of your car engines, for obvious, I hope, reasons.
You can afford a McIntosh now for the first time in history, with the pound so overinflated, so go for it.
2 subtle for me Travis ?