To the OP
(1) ricred1 nailed it ....full stop
(2) there is no “best” in isolation because of (1)
(3 Without prejudice to (1) and (2) above you already have three current posts and all with the same core theme
@roberjerman, I used that same combination myself for years, but sold my 25/25 about a year ago. Another worthy contender is a pair of BEL (Brown Electronic Labs) 1001 Mk. V's, ay? The only solid state amp Brooks Berdan liked and sold (he was enough of an idealist to insist on the former before agreeing to do the latter).
@bdp24 : Speak of the Devil! I am sitting here looking at my BEL 1001 Mk I. Serial number 0001. The FIRST production one from Richard Brown! Sold to a friend of his! And subsequently purchased by me! That's what I call rarity! I don't at present have it hooked up. Awaiting some space at my abode for a pair of my Quads to be set up.
I always wanted a Brown Electronics Lab amp after reading that review in TAS so long ago! It was quite pricey at that time! A few years ago I found one on EBay and had the winning bid ($525!). I learned it was being sold by the original owner, a friend of Richard Brown (who passed away way too soon!). I figure it will be at least as good as my Bedini (now in need of repair) for use with my Quads and Rogers LS3/5A's.
my favorite solid state amp is the darTZeel NHB-458 mono blocks, followed by the darTZeel NHB-108 stereo amplifier.
I'm a guy who loves tube amplifiers. and the darTZeel does have a touch of the breath of life of tube amps, combined with a very, very low noise floor and extended and uniquely natural and smooth top end and wonderful micro-dynamic energy.
the darTZeel amps use a minimalist parts count in the signal path and are swiss built like a tank. amazing jewel like quality.
I owned the dart 108's from 2005-2012, I've now owned the dart 458 mono's since 2012.
With respect @akg_ca, I do not understand your concern with this thread. While I understand and agree with @ricred1 that "every component, including the room impacts the sound" the OP asked a simple question for respondents to post their subjective opinion of the SS amplifier they enjoyed hearing the most, i.e., the "best solid state amplifier you have ever heard." The answer to the question is certainly open to variations WRT listener preferences, room size/conditions, accompanying gear, speakers, and more, but there were no caveats as to system goals, power rating, monoblocks or stereo, room conditions, or whether the amplifier had to be owned, borrowed, in the poster’s system, in a friend’s system, or at an audio show or showroom.
For purposes of an internet thread, it is a simple question and I am baffled why people don’t either answer the question, or ignore the thread, but rather feel the need to take it upon themselves to "police" the OP as to the worthiness of their post. He/she may simply be looking at purchase options and trying to learn something. Sheesh, it’s no wonder some people choose not to participate here.
It is hard for say what are the best amps I've heard, given the variability of setups, rooms, other components, etc., but, I can say I've hear some nice sounds from systems that used certain amps. I've consistently heard nice sound from systems with Ayre electronics, so I suspect their amps are decent. I've heard two First Watt amps, one in my own system (J-2) and another in my friend's system (SIT). The SIT amp was actually his own build, based on schematics provided by First Watt. I've heard a couple of decent sounding systems with D'Agostino amps, so they are probably top contenders as far as my particular preferences go. I recently heard a couple different amps from the current lineup from Luxman, and they sounded good; I was particularly impressed with a low-powered integrated that seems to be quite nice for the money.
I've heard systems with top contenders, like Soulution and Constellation; the systems did not do anything for me, but, I cannot separate out the contribution of the amps, so I have no opinion about their sound.
A friend who is, like me, very much into the sound of lower-powered tube amps, said that he liked the sound from a system powered by Bridge Audio Labs (BALabo); that company is out of business and the amp was a six figure item.
As already mentioned, an insurmountable degree of variables to answer properly. For entertainment value and in no particular order: Mark Levinson 29, Audio Research 100.2 and Pass Labs Aleph 30. Yes, I have owned all three over time and am currently using the Aleph 30. Have I listened to every amp on the planet, of course not. Are there better amplifiers, of course.
Naim Statement NAP S1 monoblock amps + Naim Statement NAC S1 linestage preamp driving the Focal Utopia Grande or the Magico M6 speakers.
D'Agostino Relentless & Momentum M400 monoblock amps driving some big Wilson Alexx or Wham.
Audio Research Reference 750 SE vacuum tube monoblock amps (2 pairs) driving (big-amped) Sonus Faber Aida ll speakers.
How do you isolate the amplifier? It's a system and every component, including the room impacts the sound.
Well the customary method is you disconnect it and swap it out with another amplifier. Just be sure to swap only the amp. You must use the same power cord, and cables, and cones, and even the same fuse if an aftermarket fuse is involved. Otherwise if you change the amp and the power cord, or cables, or anything else, then you will never know for sure how much of what you're hearing is the amp or something else. Changing only the one component allows you to hear differences due to that one component and that one component only.
Not only amplifiers, but every other component as well. That is how we do it. It is in fact what every review ever written is based upon. If you want to learn more about this and other essential elements of audio I highly recommend Robert Harley's book The Complete Guide to High End Audio.
Pure SS Musical Fidelity AMS 100
Ayre VX-R Twenty
Vandersteen HPA-5 if you have powered sub or steens
but as Beetlemania said you should consider hybrid like Aesthetix and IF you have powered sub the Vandersteen HPA-7
just 5 parts in signal path, liquid cooling for perfect bias, no emitter resistors, floating ground, built in HRS isolation, the list goes on.....
1. I also highly recommend Robert Harley's "Complete Guide to High End Audio". A consummate guide.
2. I have not heard many of the fine SS amps alluded to, but I can isolate the impact of the new amp in the system as I replaced my excellent Accuphase E550 with the Dagnostino Momentum driving Sonus Faber Amati Homage Anniversiers, and the difference was dramatic. A super clean fine-grained signal, what my wife describes as "pure", That may be something you want to audition if you have speakers requiring current.
I have not heard the m-900u. As good as the 509x is I am sure I will instantly want it...but from what I have heard, it really needs to be driven from the c-900u preamp to totally manifest its magic. This is not in my budget at this time. That being said I could step up to the m-900u and use my dac as pre for a while...but not sure if I’d actually be in a degraded state from the level I have now...which is the best system I’ve ever assembled in this often torturous journey. I recently came from pass x250.8 and xp20 combo. Excellent gear no doubt, but there is more realism and soul, to me, with the 509. I remain sort of in a state of disbelief as the weeks roll on. Thusly I think I’m better off pipe dreaming about the 900 level stuff but in the meantime totally enjoying this wonderful integrated.
Are the Pass 260.8 monos really good - i.e., tone, body, drive? They are sort of on my short list of amps to consider but would be a downward move in power for me. Are they warm, lean, neutral? How about resolution? Do they have a lot of drive for inefficient speakers....not crazy hard to drive but like 86dB efficiency, a minimum impedance of 3 ohms, and a fairly innocuous phase angle? I would appreciate any feedback you care to share.
@dpac996 You are a lot smarter than me. I went to audition the 509x and liked it a lot. The c900+m900u were both sitting there unused and I gave into weakness and asked to switch the speaker cables onto the separates. Big mistake for my financial well being. I am buying the m900u but not sure about the c900u.
I have read online or heard back from users and dealers the following to use with the m900u:
* c900u it the best match for the m900u
* Mola Mola Makua + m900u is better than with c900u
* Linn preamp is a great match with m900u
They replaced a Levinson 333, and in my system they are about as good as it gets for me.My speakers are Shahinian Hawks, I believe 89db and they drive them with ease (4 ohms as I recall but don't quote me), ARC pre, PS DAC/Transport, Magnum Dynalab 809 Internet Tuner and PS P12. Minor tweaks to power cords and thats it. Blows away the Levinson, again, in my system