Upgrading amplifiera.

A number of audiophiles upgrade their amplifiers. Is this a futile quest for the holy grail or are those upgrades a smarter way to dramatically improving the sound then purchasing a new one.

Personally, I think it's fun, and always a major loss. :)

I mean, usually what happens is I start upgrading something.... and after a few hundred dollars just go out and get something completely different!

Having said this, tube pre's are essentially expensive capacitors surrounded by a bunch of other junk. Careful upgrading of the 2 coupling caps can be a big deal.



"...tube pre's are essentially expensive capacitors surrounded by a bunch of other junk..."

Hmmm, depending on the definitions of expensive and junk, that description could technically apply to any audio gear, even including multi-driver speakers.

Well thanks for letting me off the " amplifier " hook. How did I let that happen?

Their was a guy that was upgrading the Antique Sound Labs Hurricane tube amps. He was said to re solder all the joints. Costs as much as the amps did new. I thought that was over the top>
Some folks are forced to upgrade (or at least get something different) when they buy themselves those shiny new speakers! 

Upgrading amps goes on all the time in general, maybe too much you could say. I used to think in terms of upgrading, but after a few decades at it, now anymore I buy something modest but inherently good and then just mod and tweak it like crazy to get the sound I want...but, as it goes out there, that's just me.

OTOH, I've just about reached the conclusion that, longterm in this hobby, if you Don't find at least some sort of way, system building wise, to think outside the box (room design or treatments, conditioning, wiring...or Something to help out), then the upgrade marrygoround will be in the end about all that's left for you...whether we talk amps or just about anything else.
You can or you can be happy with the equipment you have. It's a personal choice but for me it builds the upgrade flame. If you buy it right the first time chances you'll die before you need or want to change anything. Having a well balanced system that works well together and serves the music and you're done. My system doesn't do fireworks but it plays music well or well for me. I bought my system in the mid 1990's the only thing I do is changes caps and bias the amp every 10 years or so. Someone willing to do that can play it for a lifetime.
do it before the electrolytic caps blow up

otherwise, not the most important aspect of SQ - speakers, room, cartridge/turntable, DAC all come first
Do most people send their amps in for repair, then have the repair guy say, " I have some great upgrades for this amp ". 

Kalali, I was trying to be humorous, but you essentially have tubes, caps, and resistors in the signal pathway. And there is practically no upper limit to how much you can spend on the caps. :)


Some companies are really good about the upgrades in terms of price, they want to keep there babies up and running and owners happy. I think others view it as a money making proposition. $1,200 for these "fabulous new caps " etc. On the down side if you ever do sell your amp the upgrades don't count for much and can be a liability. ( who did the upgrade and how was it done ) can raise other issues with the buyers.  
I would say let the manufacture do the upgrade. That should help the resale value and the sound. Some of these guys think they can just ad " audiophile caps " and that is going to make it sound superb. Not so sure that is always the case. 
I just (last month)'sent my Rogue Audio,Cronus Magnum back,to,Rogue and had it upgraded to a,Cronus Magnum II. For the $700 I got 6db of gain,increased,in the phono stage, a better headphone amp, lower noise floor, upgraded circuits, wider,Soundstage and upgraded gold connectors.

I did this because I wanted more from my original phono stage and if I was looking to get a stand alone unit I would need to spend more than the $700 I spent on the upgrade. In my book I got  a bargain.
That sounds more then a fair price consider what you got. Where is Rogue Audio located? Obviously in the US. Just curious.

Hi Sounds Real Audio,
What most people overlook is Power. I cannot stress enough how important it is. I was a Skeptic for a long time - because I  did not want to spend money on the most unsexy, unseen part of the system. Fortunately I was exposed to a power cord comparison about a decade ago, and was absolutely floored by the difference.

By adding the right power delivery - was like having a completely new system.  On that first comparison I was I was able to hear the difference inside of 30 seconds. Since then most of my investments have been in power delivery - I still have the same amps speaker etc. and my system, gets better and better with every addition I make to the power delivery. 

What I have learned is that before my investment in power delivery, (chords, wall receptacles, distributor) my system as a whole was only working  at 35% capacity. After my investment I can say it's working over 90% capacity and sounds amazing. Power is the foundation, build a solid foundation and a system will last a lifetime.

The downside is that it's not cheap and requires some discipline.  I have spent about 30% of my overall investment in my system on power. I know there are naysayers regarding this - I was one of them-but only because of my spending habits. Once I was actually educated I have never looked back. I can only share with you what my experience has been as a hobbyist  - I hope it gives you another perspective that is useful in your quest. Best of Luck
I can't say I have experience that kind of improvements but I know that good power certainly can clean things up.

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I don't think some people understand the importance of good amplification  in the chain and everyone knows the importance of eliminating any weak links in the system.  If I was going to fudge a little on a component it would certainly not be the preamp but rather the power amp, however when you can afford it you will want to upgrade this amp as funds become available.
Anyway most upgrades that are done to amplifiers recommended by the manufacturer do make a significant improvement. However I know some people that have spent money on upgrades only to realize that the magic that was originally there was upgraded out and were disappointed in the end but this may be a rare occurrence.
All that really matters is how well the amps work with the speakers you are using.  If you're upgrading to improve some performance aspect (for example, need more power on a difficult speaker), that makes sense.  But most times it appears that people are bored and are changing for something new, but that's not limited to amplifiers.
Why do some people who have for example a 100 watt amp, upgrade to a 200 watt amp, same make. Do they think that another 100 watts would make for a significantly better sound. The only reason I can think of for doing that is that you love your amp, bought a set of hard to drive speakers, and want to drive. 
I mean what the heck. There has to be a better sounding amp out there. 
i upgraded from the 200 wpc Ayre VX-R to the twenty series, significant change in circuit typology, operating temp, warnup time to sound optimal ( always on to 15 minutes !) and in sonics

not saying every manufacturer upgrade is this significant or pricey but IMO worth it.

i seem to have gravitated to and value gear from company that offer upgrades - ARC, Ayre, Aesthetix and Vandersteen.

i have so far upgraded the Aesthetix and Ayre, the others so far have no offerable upgrades...

Without picking on anyone in particular, there are some wayward responses above. The correct answer is that it all depends. The amp has to mate with the loudspeaker. A 16 ohm ultra sensitive horn doesn't need much more than a watt or three and a planar may need a utility sub-station. Pass Labs covers the gamut more than any other top manufacturer in that regard. Beyond a doubt, some enthusiasts become fixated on amps as the focal point of their system just as others focus on their ever-changing search for the "perfect" loudspeaker, etc. Personally, if a speaker is hard to drive and has contorted impedance curves and phase shifts, I wonder why bother. The analogy is to the old perhaps outdated scenario with MS vs. Apple-MS operating systems were designed with the idea that if you threw enough computing speed at them they would work fine and Apple operating systems were designed to be less taxing. Unlike the three major OS's (Linux, Apple, and MS), there nearly unlimited choices as to loudspeakers. 
Some manufactures are very very reasonable for upgrades. I was a dealer for Bricasti and Brian Zolner takes excellent care of his customers. Talking in the $150 to $300 range. I remember on guy who was upgrading the Antique Sound Labs Hurricanes. He charged more then the retail price of the amp. 
Seems silly to spend almost as much on the amp as it is worth.
We have an update with warranty reactivation policy. We also offer options- higher performance capacitors and resistors. We've had these options for decades, they are easy enough to hear.

We prefer to do the work on the amps so that we know its done properly and so can stand behind it if there's a problem. One customer sent us a preamp that had been 'updated'... whoever did it left a rat's nest of flying wires and parts inside the preamp, causing us to have to write an estimate to repair the preamp.

If you are having someone do update work, it is in your best interest to google as much as you can about them so that you know they are doing good work. Some, like Jim McShane who does excellent work on Citation 2 amplifiers, are easy to sort out and others might seem pretty obscure and might be cause for concern.

BTW, a few hints: hot melt glue to hold parts in place is not acceptable! Terminal strips cost a few cents; there is no excuse for parts flopping around inside! The updated work should look like it was born there.