Wow, I am probably one of three experts in this area as I (and I beleive two others on this site) have owned both amps (Spectron II and JC-1's). I know what you are saying about the amp sounding strained, but I don't think that is what you are hearing. The spectron's just don't provide liquidity...instead they give you transperency..it is a trade off. Eventually I will get to posting a real comparison of the two, but in short...the JC-1's will give you more liquidity, bass control, and a touch more inner detail, and more weight to the performance. The Spectron will give you more transperency, more extended highs, and bigger more powerful sounding dynamics. I love both amps....each has strengths and I don't believe either has any great weekness. Neither is bad at any of the things I mentioned above. It is just that each is better at certain things. It comes down to personal taste. I will say this...if I where to stereotype (and I am going out on a limb here), if you are using a very full sounding speaker with convential drivers, the spectron might suit you better. If you where going with ribbons/planer speaker..the JC-1's might suit you better. That being said....I know of at least one person who went from a Spectron to the JC-1's who has convential speakers (VR4 Gen III SE's...the same speakers I own.) Hey, to each his or her own. I will also put out there that I tend not to like the type of sound many of me fellow audiophiles like...and I think that is ok. Also, the spectron likes a fuller sounding pre-amp, while with the JC-1 you can get away with something that lies toward a thinner sound. It's all about balancing your system. Boy, that was alot..but I hope that helps. If you want to talk off line, shot me an e-mail and I can give you a more detailed comparison.