what is the best amp you've ever heard


Period.
fruff1976
I am always really impressed by the big Joule monoblocks, just one that comes to mind.
100w Marshall stack

No contest
Atma-Sphere MA-2 Mk III
.
VAC You pick one
Not so fast Tvad. Let's give a very close second place to the Peavey EVH 5150. Rock on.
Karan. I have the I-180, the smallest one. I haven't been fortunate enough to hear the bigger ones.
Divided by Thirteen FTR 37. The most air moved by any guitar amp.
Easy: VTL Siegfried Reference Monoblocks.

I have never, ever heard another amp do what those things did at an open house at my local High End shop. The next year I went to the same hi-fi show and heard the same turntable and disc player into the same speakers, but it was the Ayre preamp and amp instead. The Ayres are very nice, but they weren't even close.

Disclaimer: I've never heard the top line Halcro monoblocks.
Well so far, the best has been some Wavac model @ the 2007 CES show. (Ridiculously priced of course!)

Followed by the Lamm M2.2 and then the DarTZeel NHB 108.
Of all the amps I've had in my system, the AtmaSphere MA-1s have so far been the best. The JJ Electronics (the tube manufacturers) 828 is also very nice - not as dynamic, but sweeter. It's a shame this company doesn't get more attention. They were the shooting star for a while, but then other trends came along, but they make really good amps.
the conrad johnson mv 125 is my favorite amp.
since the character of amps does vary; i would mention a few 'best amps' i have heard.

the Lamm ML3 at CES this year was wonderful......as it should be for 130 large....a bit on the dark side but very delicate and refined, it does space and tonality to die for.

as was the new Tenor 350 monoblocks.....only $90k.....really no weakness and the best really powerful amp i have ever heard. it will drive any speaker known to man with ease and is completely natural and dynamically alive.

the Tenor 75 watt OTL's did some things better than any other amp i've heard....has a fire and sparkle in the mids along with a neutrality and musical flow which beguiled me for years.

and then my darTZeel NHB-108 must be in this mix somewhere.....maybe more like music and less it's own character than the others, an astonishingly low noisefloor, lifelike microdynamics, sweet naturalness, and overall balance makes it my overall everyday choice to live with. it makes me forget about amps and speakers and just enjoy.......

those 4 are above most others i have heard in my book.......you would need to include the ML2.1 with the ML3.

i could probably list 5 or 10 other amps that could be included that i am less familiar with.
Vitus Audio SM-101; Behold BPA768-400; Rogue Audio Zeus
since the character of amps does vary; i would mention a few 'best amps' i have heard.

the Lamm ML3 at CES this year was wonderful......as it should be for 130 large....a bit on the dark side but very delicate and refined, it does space and tonality to die for.

as was the new Tenor 350 monoblocks.....only $90k.....really no weakness and the best really powerful amp i have ever heard. it will drive any speaker known to man with ease and is completely natural and dynamically alive.

the Tenor 75 watt OTL's did some things better than any other amp i've heard....has a fire and sparkle in the mids along with a neutrality and musical flow which beguiled me for years.

and then my darTZeel NHB-108 must be in this mix somewhere.....maybe more like music and less it's own character than the others, an astonishingly low noisefloor, lifelike microdynamics, sweet naturalness, and overall balance makes it my overall everyday choice to live with. it makes me forget about amps and speakers and just enjoy.......

those 4 are above most others i have heard in my book.......you would need to include the ML2.1 with the ML3.

i could probably list 5 or 10 other amps that could be included that i am less familiar with.
For tube amps, I'd have to say a pair of very rare Tube Research monoblock amps driving Soundlab A-1 speakers was awesome. For solid-state, I still love the sound of the old Mark Levinson 20.6 mono amps as being my favorite, certainly much better than their newer models.
I think a pair of atmasphere's ma2's driving a pair of soundlab A-1 speakers; for solid state a upgraded pair of mccormack dna-1 monoblocks driving a pair of merlin 4b+'s had a very stunning sound;but hands down the OTL's of atmasphere are the best I have ever heard.
symphonic line still is my benchmark for price no object....then marantz 8b(and the vac reissue), any variety of the mac mc275, CJ MV125(no need for more)..........the finest budget integrated bar none, the revox ellegance S25, more performance per dollar than anything i've ever heard.....classic marantz receivers in the right system are still at the top also.
Pass Aleph 1.2 monoblocks. they converted a pair of the somewhat forward-sounding B&W-801S3 Matrix speakers to near state-of-the-art. they always said the 801's wouldn't reach their full potential without the right electronics. the 1.2's may not be sufficient for speakers that dip into low impedences, but my brother's pair has never disappointed him on any speaker he has tried. i dare nelson pass to re-issue them- the XA-200.5's are out of my price range...
Mesa Boogie, fed by my brother jammin' live on his 1971 goldtop Les Paul :-) -jz
Best tube amp - pair of Spectron Musician III Mk2 monoblocks
Why - do the audiogon search and see what both reviewers and users are saying !
All The Best
Rafael
...the new chalice audio 'grail' set is the best tube amp i have ever heard...( see the review on positive feedback ) there is ..as i understand it...another review coming out in the near future that will also state the superb sonic abilities of this amp.
Atma-Sphere MA-2's (Tube)
BAT 600M SE (solid state)
In solid state, Marantz Esotec SM 1000
Sam Kim's EL-84 Heathkit 151 wired in triode...NOT a restoration, but
Sam's original design created in the Heath's chassis. The EL84's are MUSICAL tube, and the amp has clarity, jump and just the right amount of tube EL84
MAJIC! It has tone controls too, which I really like. I like this amp even more than my Fi 2a3 monoblocks!
Tube: CAT JL-1 Limited Edition monoblocks ($50k).

Solid State: My darTZeel ($21.2k).

Honorable mention tube: My VAC 70/70 Renaissance Mk. III ($14k).

Honorable mention solid-state: My old Rowland Model 6 monos with Rowland battery power supplies ($16.4k).

I listed prices because we know you are shopping for an amp.

If you really want to spend $7k on a high-powered amp that will last "for at least the next 20 years" and that will not sound like sh-t when you move on to music other than rock, then the suggestion from some poster on your other thread about the McCormack 500 is not bad. As for the "20 years", Steve McCormack/c-j does not have Bryston's warranty policy, however, and now that I really think about it, tube amps, due to the fact that you basically have a new amp each time you retube them, may be preferable for you. Tubes also do really well with rock as compared to solid-state due to their headroom and second-order distortion characteristics. If I were a rocker, I would look for a pair of Sonic Frontiers Power 3 monoblocks ($3.5-$4k used) -- they throw off some heat, but they use good output transformers, are otherwise well built, decent output tubes hold bias in them, they have balls, and when your testosterone level drops and you transition into other forms of music ("1976", right? The clock is ticking for YOU), you'll find they have the finesse as well as the muscle needed to come close to handling music like orchestral and big band that is truly challenging to a stereo.
In 1973 I heard 21 700 wpc Phase Linear amps driving six?, eight? stacks of speakers while Pink Floyd opened their Dark side of the Moon tour... I've yet to hear or see a better single album, one band show give as many goose pimples as did that one. Fascinating experience.

Past that the Levinson 300 wpc mono blocks running the big pair of Magnapans was an erie audition... eyes closed or open. Fast and articulate with startling immediacy.

Tubes? Only time I ever was simply stopped in my tracks and simply stunned by a home audio audition, was the first time I heard Thor 30wpc monos. Wet, organic, and gutsy.... uh, them, not me.
Lamm ML2.
AudioNote Ongaku at a Hi-fi show in England around 1990. Silly price, but they were just wonderful.
My old JA80 KT88 as tube amps and SS the first release of Threshold SA12
Vac 70/70 and I bought one.
LAMM ML 2.1s
VAC 300 Mono Blocks

Where is MBL in this thread? Really liked them at the RMAF matched with the Kharmas.

Would love to hear more of the listed.
Lamm 1.1 monoblocks and Atmosphere MA-1 monoblocks (amazing sound but the tradeoff is a lot of heat). The new Krell monoblocks are also exceptional.
Then: my AudioNote Ongaku and Jadis JA200.
Now: my DartZeel 108 mated with the DartZeel 18.
Best Ive heard in my systems not at shows etc is Musical Fidelity Kilowatt. Purist audio design 300b para feed SET. Wavac MD300B. Ive had a few 45 SET amps rival the PAD and wavac. The MF kilowatt produced the deepest soundstage Ive heard out of a loudspeaker. The SETs just make music sound real.
The Atma-sphere M60s (and I'm sure there bigger amps)sound great with my Merlins which are OTL friendly, and the CAT JL2 which sound great on just about any speaker. In SS, the Pass XA30.5 were the best I've heard/owned. The best integreated I've heard were various VACs and the Ars Sonum (with Merlin speakers).
I'm really pleased with the Almarro A318B & Almarro M33A combo, but also loved the A205A Almarro with Cain SuperAbbys and one Bailey, as well as the Musical Fidelity A20 (20 watts Class A) with B&W 804N's ... all of these were gripping ... but for the moment ... I simply love the Almarro duo ... simply, for so few dollars, wonderful in every way
Fruff1976, what is the best amp you ever heard?
Lamm ML3. Vladimir Lamm loaned us a pair for 6 months and they were to die for but not for mere mortals as they have an MSRP of $139K. Heretofore I would have said my beloved Lamm ML 2.1's but only if I had never heard the ML3. They throw about as 3 dimensional soundstage as anything I have ever heard. At 32 wpc SET pure Class A IMO these amps are the ones by which all others will be judged
EAR 890
VTL monoblocks.
Hello,

I have been fortunate enough to hear some of the great amps mentioned above and on speakers I own or have owned. Many of them shine in their own way and outperform each other in certain areas . I feel there is and always will be a trade-off to be made at every and any price point. On the appropriate speaker I prefer the virtues of tubes over solid-state any day of the week but do concede S/S also has its strong points and realize other may prefer those virtues.

For me, taking all things in to consideration, like .... practicality of ownership, reliability, built to last, customer service, real-world product from a company I'm confident that will be around for years to come, hassle of shipping if a repair is needed, and MOST of all, overall sound quality in every area of performance with no area lacking, which to me means .... it must have no glaring flaws no matter how brilliant it may be in other areas of performance, which also includes being able to drive a wide range of speakers on the market today. The BAT 150se would have to be and is my choice. ..."they are music"...

Best,
Tom
Art Audio Carissa, ha ha
The ARC d79b was always a favorite for me!
Lamm ML2.1
Digital Amplifier Company's "Cherry" amp. http://www.digitalamp.com/
BAT tube amps sound pretty awesome.
The Moon W-5 Limited Edition capable of driven any speaker on the planet, no question about, total control and musical at the same time.
Burmester 911 MK3 mono.
From what I have heard I was might impressed with:
Wawac, VAC, LAMM and really put off by AtmaSphere (dull sound)