Ultimate Amplifier for the next 20 Years

Hello all!
Well, you I am again on the amplifier merry-go-round after my last digital amp(noname mentioned!) let me down in the dumps after a comparison with a Halo A21 amp. I had a keen ear friend who reviews for Stereo Times and he felt the same. Musical instruments more real sounding with better decay. Man was I surprised after thinking that the digital amp was my last! BTW, the most important part, my speakers are a pair of Apogee Studio Grands in beautiful piano black!! Now the digital amp is on subwoofers in which it has ALOT of punch! The perfect(but not cheap) subwoofer amp! High damping factor, runs cool, dual posts to run four(4) subs if you choose to and never runs out of juice!!

Anyway, I want to keep it under $5000 used or new. Prefer 2 channel amp and maybe monoblocks. Amp can't run too hot(very important)! My pre/pro is a Lexicon MC12B.
Here are my amps that I'm considering in order:

Classe CA2200- Runs class A up to 60 watts! Right now I have a dealer making me a killer offer. Probably the one I'm going to buy...

McCormack DNA500- My big second choose!

Theta Dreadnaught II- Since I have a 8.4 sound system but don't need alot of power for the other speakers, this would be the perfect multichannel amp for me(remember the .4 is powered by my digital amp). One BIG problem, it runs tooo freakin’ hot!

NuForce 9.2- Hearing great things.

Krell FBC300Cx- Jason Bloom ran only krell amps with Apogees.

Please add your thoughts on any comparison on these amps or a new one that you think are superior. I want this to be my last amp purchase for a long time! Right.... ; )

Presently I'm using an Innersound ESL amp with my Vmps RM 40's which are very revealing. This amp has the most smooth and effortless sound. It runs cool, is powerful(300wpc@8 & 600@4) and was designed to handle the highly capacitive load of electrostatics. The ESL will handle an electrostatic speaker without strain. If you do some research here and at the planar asylum at AA you'll find alot of people feel the same way I do about this amp. The amp is actually made by Coda. Here's a good article by Roger Sanders who used to own Innersound: http://www.innersound.net/esl300whitepap.html
Best of luck in your search.
I've heard the CA2200 driving a pair of B&W 802D, and it sounded pretty trick. The matchup of Classe amps and Apogee speakers is a sentimental favourite of mine ever since I heard an old DR3-VHC blow past KSA-100 on a pair of Divas some years ago.
Warnerwh-thanks for the reply. I have actually have owned in the past both the RM40's & Innersound amp. The only reason I sold the speakers is the Apogee's! Regarding the amp I bought it when I had a pair of Siverline speakers. It sounded to dry and not enough body with them, so I sold it. Coda does make great amp though plus they are located about 5 miles from me! I have read that there class-A amps run hot. The new Classe Delta amp seem to be the ultimate:

Hi Ptheo -

True Class A at 60 watts per channel is defintely not cool-running. Are you serious about needing a cool-running amp? If so, may I be so bold as to suggest that the best deal in the world on a product that does't meet your requirements may not be such a good deal after all.

Warnerwh's suggestion of the InnerSound ESL amp is an excellent one. That's a killer little amp, stable into a .3 (that's "point three") ohm load as I recall. I used to sell them, and have one customer who used InnerSounds on Apogees and several who used them on Sound Labs (a different but still difficult load). You might even stumble across a pair of ESL 600's or Kilowatts, either of which are very very powerful amps.

I'm a dealer for Nuforce, but wouldn't be confident in recommending a NuForce to drive Apogees. You can try it and it might work, but if possible arrange to have the option of returning the amps if they don't work.

I'm also a dealer for Jeff Rowland. The 501 is a very powerful cool-running amp, but doesn't like very low impedance loads (below 2 ohms). I mention this in case you were leaning in their direction, as my experience would suggest you look elsewhere.

An amplifier that I'd be confident hooking up to the Apogees is the Parasound JC-1. In low bias setting, the first 10 watts is Class A (25 watts in high bias setting), so while I wouldn't characterize them as "cool-running", they're a heck of a lot cooler running than the Classe'. I have used JC-1's for years on hard-to-drive speakers. My impression is that the larger InnerSound amps are more powerful, but at least compared with the InnerSounds I'm familiar with (mentioned above) the JC-1 is a better sounding amp. But like I said, I wouldn't call it "cool running", except in comparison to something that really runs hot.

Best of luck to you.

My two cents = The last amp, is the Goldmund, try the Mimesis 18 monoblocks. If the Goldmunds float your boat except for the price, try the plain vanilla version of the Goldmund line = Job or aka stellavox lines. Pair of 200 wpc into 8 ohms with a stunning slew rate for about $2000 per pair of monoblocks. Last if the Goldmunds are too spendy and the Job/Stellavox just too visually challenged, consider the Plinius SA-102 on the secondary market. Plinius product will easily put the Classe to shame, trick will be getting a monoblock pair under $5000 but it can be done with patience. Best wishes on your quest. Any/All of the above will exceed your 20 year timeframe.
I'm also using a pair of Apogee Studio Grands. They are really a great pair of speakers. The good news is that the Studio Grand ribbons are a pretty benign load. They come in around 6 mostly resistive ohms with little variation across the audible spectrum. They are very different from the early Apogee models such as the Full Range or Scintilla with 1 ohm impedances.

That gives you a wide choice of amps to drive them with. I'm using a pair of Pass Aleph 1.2s which sound great on the panels, but definitely violate your low heat requirement. You might consider some of the Pass X series - they sound pretty good and run pretty cool. Even tubes should work if you're so inclined.
Put some tubes on those Apogees, I'm running my Duetta Signatures with Rogue Audio monos for around a month now. Let the digital amps do the subs.

True Class A at 60 watts per channel is defintely not cool-running.

My question is, what is too hot? Having owned a CA-2200, I didn't find this amp to be a "space heater". I left very little clearance above it in my rack and it was warm but not "scorching" hot.
Audiokinesis- Thanks for the info. I understand that the Classe runs class-A according to load. Meaning if not pushed it dosen't get to warm. Besides, a little heat doesn't bother me! Plus as Ghostrider45 states:
'Studio Grand ribbons are a pretty benign load. They come in around 6 mostly resistive ohms with little variation across the audible spectrum. They are very different from the early Apogee models such as the Full Range or Scintilla with 1 ohm impedances'.

Also in my old age now I don't crank it up as much as I use too!! Well, not yet atleast... : ) But when I want blast I want it to have balls!! Meaning: No tubes and no SS less than 200 watts per channel.
Ahhh, I should have also thought about "what is to hot"...my tube amps do run fairly warm. I was thinking more in terms of my Krell Ksa-250 as running HOT...my tube amps do not pump the heat that my Krell does...some tube amps may though?

Brianmgrarcom- Please tell me more about your system and what your feelings are on the Classe CA2200?!

I have a space that is: 12"Hx25W". I think the CA2200 will fit and run perfect in there at the bottom of my A/V Billy Bags rack(22"Hx72"W). My only issue is I have the Lexicon Pre/pro right above on a shelf that runs warm also. 8-9 months out of the year here in Sacto no problem. Its the other 3-4 months that are killer!
I do have one question though about the Classe Delta series. Why is there not a more powerful 2 channel amp the the CA-2200?! There was the CA-301 & CA-401 before. Besides the CA-M400 monos. Is it because it more HT oriented or the new Delta amp are more better? Why not a CA-2300!? : )
The way digital amplification is evolving, no one can say that any amp, analogue or digital, will be a viable option in 20 years.

But I can tell you that in the here and now, the NuForce Reference 9.02 amps would be real tough to beat driving your Apogees. I would seriously think about trying them out, and if I'm not mistaken, NuForce offers a 30-day home trial if you buy from them. My bet is that you won't be able to return them once you hear them perform. Happy Holidays!
The Parasound JC1's would drive your Apogees and I believe there's a switch so you can change from 10 to 25 watts class A. Also Plinius may be a good choice.
I have Plinius 102 right now and it runs freaking hot ! (at least in his Class A setting).
The Odyssey Extreme Monoblocks have lots of power (200-300 watts per channel) and current (180,000 microfarads of capacitance EACH), and a class A/B design. I leave mine on all the time and they don't get hot, but do stay warm. I reviewed them here on A'gon. $2700 per pair, brand new. Underrated in my opinion. If you're looking for 20 years, that just happens to be the length of the warranty, too.
Sdrconsultant- I would love to try a Goldmund but way to expensive. There low priced stuff is digital-no thank you. As for the Plinius, too big and hot! If I lived in Alaska, no problem.

Plato- The newest version (9.02) I have heard is very good. But it seems they are still evolving. I'll bet at the CES they come out with a stereo version!

Warnerwh- The JC1's are to large and to hot. I would have to use them on the side lower shelf's which only have 8"H. No way.

Elberoth2- Thank you very much!!!

Mdhoover- Same problem as the JC1's.

ONE of the many feature that I really about the CA-2200 is it has switchable inputs(XLR or RCA) on the front panel. So I can go digital(DVD) and analog(SACD,DVDAUDIO) out of my modified Denon 2910. Switchable on the fly! : )
I'll second the DNA-500 - have had mine about 8 months and am continually amazed at its performance. I leave mine on all the time and don't have heat issues at all - it just needs a little room to breathe in my rack. Dynamics are incredible when called for, yet inner detail and transparency are also there in a very involving, musical way. My system includes a VAC Phi 2.0 preamp, APL-modded Denon 3910 and Legacy Whisper speakers.

Maybe you should try the McCormack in your system if you haven't already?
Nothing on the original post list is a 20 year amp. And the $5,000 budget is a serious constraint. I can imagine a pair of Audiopax 88 monoblocks being satisfying for 20 years, but they are $15,000/pair.

However, there is one choice at $5,000 -- a used pair of McIntosh MC501 monoblocks. A new MC402 stereo amp would be just behind them. Not only will these amps actually last 20 years, but they'll power anything you'll buy in associated speakers and sound sensational doing it.


You mention the NuForce. Srajan at 6moons has made some comments in comparison of the Nuforce as well as other ICE based amps, and the only ICE based amp he thought standed above the rest of the crowd was the pair of H20 Signature Monos he reviewed. I don't know if you have auditioned these yet, however would recommend audition as they are $5500 new and have an in home trial/audition and/or money back guarantee.

With any new amp, I can not emphasize the point of trying the amp in your room, with your speakers, and your system.

With that being said, I am not certain any amps today will be making the cut in 20 years...

Here is an excerpt from Srajan's review of the Nuforce Ref 9

"From where I'm sitting, NuForce is in exactly the same boat as Tripath, ICEpower and Hypex. Class D has clear advantages - operational efficiencies, cool operation, small possible packaging and lower costs than equivalent power ratings in traditional linear implementation. Good amps can clearly be authored using the Class D concept with its various proprietary wrinkles. Statement amps, too. My first samples thereof were Henry Ho's H2O Audio monos which use an ICEpower module sans SMPS and instead rely on an absolutely massive traditional linear power supply. Those amps were full-bore no-compromise compete-with-the-best beasts priced a lot higher than the NuForce minis.

The Reference 9s very much fit the mold of the Class D amps I've heard thus far - ultra-transparent, fast, very resolved and revealing of extremely low-level information but not as harmonically developed and tonally full as their older (first-rate) competition. Over the ICEpower amps I'm familiar with (H2O excluded), the Ref 9s go an important steps further in how they handle bass. In short, they avoid the unnaturally chiseled, overdamped, monster LF-transient mien that struck me as out of proportion and texturally discontinuous in those ICE sessions. They also exceed the Tripath amps I've heard in body though they still fall short of Class A amps, especially and undoubtedly tubes."
Sounds like you're set on the Classe, Paul. Enjoy!
I've got a Levinson 331 driving a pair of Aerial 10Ts. These speakers love power so I've been trying some other amps with a bit more muscle than the Levinson's 100 amps. While the McCormack DNA 500 is something I'd love to hear in my system, there is no nearby dealer and new, it's out of my price range.

So, I have been listening to both the Nuforce 9s (latest) and the Butler 2250. I'd have to say that most of what I've read or heard about the Nuforce 9s seems true and definitely worth a listen. Articulate, dynamic, extended, detailed soundstage -- they really play to the audiophile in me. Definitely a lot of bang for the buck. But (IMHO after just a few days of listening)... they may be a bit of a left-brained/yang kinda amp. For me, the verdict is still out on how musical they are after extended listening. (not sure if I'll still love them in the morning ;-)

The Butler 2250 seems much more a right brain/yin amp. VERY musical! Plenty of power, very dynamic and extended, and has a mid-band to die for. What this adds up to for me is that it is highly engaging musically. Maybe a PRAT thing. One late night with the lights down low and you just might change your mind about how you listen to your system. Strangely, this amp doesn't get much press but check out the review on 6Moons...


Truthfully, I haven't decided what I'll replace the Levinson with (or even if I will). I'd still love to hear the DNA 500, but the Butler is definitely an unsung hero worthy of a listen.
I'm going to toss yet another vote in for the JC-1s. I acquired a pair on Saturday - actually Bob Crump's (one of the designers of the amp) personal pair. I am driving Sound Lab A-1s with them. In over 30 years of putting together audio systems, I have NEVER had a piece of gear make such a difference - with one exception, the acquisition of the Sound Labs in the first place. They do not run all that hot under load, and are merely warm to the touch in idle.

I no longer have the CA-2200, but I used it with the CP-500 preamp, CDP-100 CD player and B&W 805 Signature speakers; this was a system I really liked. When I changed to B&W 802D speakers I felt the Classe just wasn't getting the job done so I purchased a Musical Fidelity kW500 integrated amp to compare and found it worked better. That said, I have since wondered if there was an issue with that amp because you'd think it would be a perfect match. I really wanted to keep the Classe gear, not only because I liked it before with the S805's but because I liked using the Delta series, it looked awesome and their service was awesome!
I second the odysseys, never break room temp. unless you are driving a very ridiculous load speaker, and 20 year warranty, nothing sounds as neutral and powerfull anywhere near the money.
Mdconnelly: I also heard the Butler amps before getting the DNA-500. The Butlers merely HINT at what the DNA-500 delivers in spades. The McCormack also has a much deeper, tighter and more controlled bass response. The extra power is very noticeable even on very quiet passages, etc. as the amp really controls the speakers exceedingly well.

I would just pick up a DNA-500 used on Agon if $ is an issue - if it doesn't work in your system, you can always resell it without getting hurt. Once you hear this amp, it probably won't leave your system.
Feel free to e-mail me if you'd like to discuss further, and NO, I'm not a dealer nor do I have any connection to Steve McCormack, other than being a very satisfied listener.
Well I still haven't bought the Classe! The dealer told me that I could get a demo for $4000. Still debating!

Fplanner2000- I'm still looking at a DNA500 used for $3500. Being 500watts vs 200watts, I'm sure it’s MUCH more dynamic than the Classe! That is good to know also that it doesn’t run very hot, which I thought it did! But, something bothers me with McCormack vs Classe. McCormack seems to offer upgrades at a expensive cost($$$$) even on there best amp! Classe as I believe, considers hundreds if not thousands of different parts/brands, and uses only the best or makes there own(ex:caps)! I also believe being a newer design has higher technology. But I'm sure they sound much different from each other and sound not tech is what matters most!! I'll bet the McCormack sounds KILLER on my Apogee's!!! Man I want to try one! : )

I've owned two pairs of Legacy Focus speakers before. Bill is a great guy!

213cobra- When I said $5000(new or used), I'm talking Audiogon price! : ) Not retail. I haven't paid retail in more than a decade! I'm sure if you wait long enough you will find Audiopax 88 monoblocks for $5000(1/3 retail)! I've seen the Krell FBC300Cx for $3000(1/3 retail). I wish I could find the Classe for $2500(1/2 retail)! I've seen the DNA for $3500(1/2 retail).
So you can find the ultimate amp of your dreams on Audiogon! In fact, if it wasn't for Audiogon, I couldn't have never found or afforded my system!! And that is the truth!!! I LOVE YOU AUDIOGON! ; )

Audiofankj- I've tried all the above digital amps(Nu Force excluded), and they didn't cut it. My BelCanto Evo6 II is my surround amp. Even in bridged mode, not going to cut it!
Like I said(no names), I tried them all. Still thinking about the Nu Force though....

Thanks Boa2! It's driving me crazy!!

Mdconnelly- I read the review on the Butler amp. I have never tried tubes and the fact that the tube in the amp never needs replacing or even gets hot, is a surprise! Looks like an excellent sounding amp! I really have no info on Butler amps though(reliability, customer service, etc..).

Curriemt11- Being Bob's personal pair(lucky guy!), I'm sure they were modded plenty and are bad ass amps!! Since I liked the A21, I'm still kinda considering the JC1. But I know in the summer being that my HT room faces the west, after a couple of hours of play, and with 3" of clearance, think hot!!!

Brianmgrarcom- Interesting. I guess because the MF Kw500 is integrated tube based and more watts? What did you like better about the MF than the Classe? Was the Classe broke in and what service did it need that you are speaking of!?

Matrix- I'm sure they sound great, but when I saw the insides of a amp, and all the wires used running all over the place, not prof/high tech enough for me. But then again they are only $2000!!! I would like to hear one on my Apogee's though... : )

Thanks guys for all the replys and information!!!
Now what will tomorrow bring.... : )
You might ask Ejlif about his JC1's. They are on multi-level racks, and I don't think they run hot.

Hope to meet soon, and can't wait to hear your new toy!

Ptheo, I couldn't tell all the "why's" that the kW500 was better, but you are right in that the 500 watts may play a role, my speakers like power and it is one area I speculate. As for the tubes, they may play a part; I am not necessarily a tube guy, I am not against them, but I don't think of the kW500 as your "typical" tube unit, even though it has them...good for 100,000 hours is nice.

As for, "what did I like better", everything sonically, I don't recall prefering the Classe amp and pre in any area (sonically).

I really don't know if there was anything wrong with my CA2200, I am simply questioning it for a couple reasons. 1) Classe had some early issues with there CP-500 going full volume at times when you adjusted the volume, thankfully my S805s took it in stride every time, the amp would go into protection; after doing this many times I wonder if some harm came to the amp, though I never noticed a change. 2) A lot of praise has been made on this amp, I too felt the same on my S805s, so why did I feel differently on the 802D's?

The Classe was plenty broke in.

I really think that your concern about heat generated by the JC-1s is a little overblown. I had them running hard for 4 hours last weekend, and at the end of it all, they were a little more than warm. This, by the way, was with the rear switch in 'high' Class A mode, where heat should be at a maximum. They don't produce anywhere near the temps that, for example, my Rogue Zeus did. Having said that, I note that the 3" clearance could be a problem. Is the quoted clearance above the amps, to the sides, or both? Parasound makes it clear that 6" is required above the amps.

One amp that I considered was the McCormack DNA-500. I traded numerous emails with Steve McCormack and was thoroughly impressed by the guy. First, the amp itself should run very cool. Second, those upgrades of which you spoke were designed to bring his previous designs up to his latest thinking. There is no upgrade available for the DNA-500, nor is there one planned. My understanding is that he believes that this unit is just about as good as he can make it at a reasonable price point. As for the cost of the upgrades on older units, if Classe decided to offer something similar, I assure you that their own prices would be high as well. Newer, high spec parts are expensive, and upgrades such as this are generally labor-intensive. Instead, they - like most - simply offer new models. I, for one, applaud Steve's long term support of his creations. In my opinion, you could not go wrong if you decided on a DNA-500.
You can get a demo Pass Labs 250.5 from Audio-Video Logic for $4500 with warranty. Really nice amp. Just a suggestion
Another excellent choice, used for about 3500-4000 is the GamuT D-200 Mk3. This amp runs very cool. I have read 7 reviews on this amp all of them are favorable. I use the GamuT D-100 Mk.3. which I love and is essentially the same as the D-200 with less power supply. The unique feature of the GamuT is it only uses one large switching Mosfet device for the push and pull of each channel giving it single voicing with 0 matching problems. This SS amp challanges even better tube amps for harmonic richness. Of course the DNA 500 has dynamite reviews and I doubt from what I here that you could go wrong. I saw one on Audiogon for $4000 used.
The Krell 300cx fits the bill. Forget what some say about Krell amps, this one is dynamic, transparent and sweet, is built like the proverbial tank and mates perfectly with a tube pre (with minor internal adjustment a dealer otr you can do)or a SS pre. I have used it with both.

Fplanner2000 - I suspect you're right but buying the DNA 500 used, but... $4K without being able to see/hear makes me nervous (likely something I just need to get over ;-)

Since you've heard the Butler, have you also heard the Nuforce 9s?
Belles 350a should run very cool and has lots of power. It's less money too.
Thanks for the replies/info! Still no killer amp!!

I came very close and might still purchase (for the next 5 years atleast!) a pair of Classe CAM-200 monoblocks! Here is the ad and a review:

Half the price of the Delta CA2200, same power, class-A up to 40watts(vs60delta), and they fit perfect together in the middle bottom shelf(11.5Wx2=22"-space is 24"W). The CAM350's are too big. The ONLY negative things I have read about them is that the extreme topend is absent. Any experience with them anyone....?! Then again, not the ultimate amps and I don't know if I'll be satisfied with them. For 2g's though looks like a killer deal! Man it's tuff being an audiophile! So many amps to choose from!!! Out of all the amps spoken of, I still feel the DNA500 is the kick ass amp to get...plus it runs cool!. You are right Curriemt11 about the upgradability options on the DNA500, that amp could be the ultimate (never out of date due to upgrades) 20 year amp!!!!
There are some Ayre V-1XE's on Audiogon now that might fit the bill for what you are looking for in your price range...surprised they have not been mentioned before now. More muscle than the phenomenal V-5X's, and if I had your budget I would already have one in my system.

"Lifetime Warranty on Parts and Labour, Unconditional, Fully-Transferable"

Why worry?
Mattkimb96- The Ayre V-1XE looks like a great amp. But I think the McCormackDNA500/Krell300Cx would be better for that amount of cash($9000).

Loudandclear- Interesting design. Does's anybody out there have any of there amps?! The Z500s amp has a BIG 2,000 VA, but it doesn't double in to 4ohms(250W-8, 400W-4). Not good.

Still working on a deal for the Classe CAM200's($2200). Different seller than the prior ad. This seller includes a 4 year warranty. If I can get my hands on a used CA2200 for $2500, I go for that instead.

Maybe Santa will surprise me..... ; )
I'd get the Delta CA 2200 amp long before the CAM 200. I owned the Delta 2200 and I'm still wondering why I sold it. Although I stepped up to the Rowland M500, the Classe amp was excellent!
I don't think you can go wrong with the 200 especially if you want a high powered musicl amp.
I agree with Mdconnelly about the Butler 2250. I'm using 2 in mono with great results. Very reveling and musical IMO - they also run cool - never hot to the touch. Very powerful at 800 wpc @ 8 ohms in mono. I drive my VR4-JR's with them. Highly recommended!

1) Spirito modular Preamp / Bravo Amps.
2) Cadenza Preamp / Symphony Amps.
Go and get a Pass Labs X-350 amp, tons of power, the Best service department. Nelson Pass stands behind his products,they never break, and if they do he will fix it and wont rip you off. Its a keeper.