Which Amp for ML Ascent i?


I just bought the Martin Logan Ascent i. Which amp would you choose from this list:

1. Ayre V5x
2. Plinius SA 102 Mk IV
3. PS Audio Classic 250
4. McIntosh MC 402 (Replaces the MC 352 and sounds just like it.)
5. Theta Dreadnaught II (Two channel configuration)
6. Classe Audio CA 301

My preamp is the Klyne System 7 and my CD player is the Musical Fidelity NuVista 3D. The Klyne is solid state and is voiced like a Conrad-Johnson tubed preamp. The NuVista has an analog-like quality.

I am looking for a smooth, glare free sound on classical and jazz music CDs. I don't want to spend more than $5,100, the price of the McIntosh MC 402. I don't need gobs of power; 120 watts into 8 ohms and 200 into 4 ohms seems to be enough.

Thanks for your help.
I have the ML Odysseys and use a 352 with stunning sound results.
Have you had a chance to listen to the Aragon line of amps. I just heard them the other night. They sounded fantastic. 200 watts for about $1500. Not bad.
I have an older set of ReQuests and here are some of my observations.

The ML's do like power, all of your choices should be sufficient in that regard.

I originally had my ReQuests hooked up to a McCormick DNA-1 Deluxe, but I wanted a bit more bloom and richer tonality.

I tried a Mark Levinson 332, an Air Tight that I can't remember the model number of (georgeous sound, but not enough UMPH!), the Ayre V5x and finally a set of Roque Audio M-120 Magnums.

The Levinson and Ayre were very close, with the Levinson providing an immense soundstage, but the Ayre providing more of the liquidity I was searching for.

To be honest I ended up getting the Rogue's though as they seemed to my ears to provide the best qualities of the other amps in one package. In talking with Mark O'Brian after I had ordered the amps he told me that he had voiced the M-120 on the ReQuests, so I managed to discover a great synergy. Perhaps you should add them to your short list.

Happy listening
I have the Ascents,and I power them with the Pass X-150. Its a great match. Its very musical with plenty of slam,and very detailed. If you can spend 5K, the X-250 or X-350 would be a incredible match with your Ascents.
I second Bingaman above and vote for tubes. From your post it's clear that you are looking for the attributes most commonly attributed to tubes. For example, you mention that your current gear is "voiced like a Conrad-Johnson tubed preamp. The NuVista has an analog-like quality." You go on to say you want a "smooth, glare free sound". Best way to get those things is with a tube amp.

On my SL3 I run a Sonic Frontiers power 1 at 50 watts. I have a room with huge amounts of space and I don't lack for power--even with only 50 watts. Tubes are magical in many ways. Yes, an area where the power is short is in the bass. If you really wanna rock, get the SF power 3 monos. More power than your neighbors will ever let you unleash.

The moral of the story is, there are two kinds of people...

I would like to thank you all for answering my post. I appreciate it!

One of the amplifiers on my list has already hit the dust. After carefully reading the reviews about the Plinius, I have decided that that unit maybe too polite sounding for my tastes and that I don't want to deal with its class A output and all the heat it will generate, which could compromise the reliability of the unit over time.

I probably won't go in the direction of Aragon as S7horton suggests for the Martin Logan, and that also includes the very fine amps made by Nelson Pass as suggested by Krelldog. I have a lot of respect for Pass and his gear; he's a great designer. But I'm looking for something a little more warm and rich, even if it means a loss of detail.

When I auditioned the Ascents using a Primare A30 integrated amp (100 watts into 8 ohms and 180 watts into 4 ohms), the sound was precise, detailed, fast, relatively dynamic, and nicely layered from left to right. Soundstage depth could have been a little greater; and there was sufficient body to hold my interest. However, the combination was a little too aggressive and there was too much detail. I could hear the musicians turn the page, shuffle their feet, and squirm in their chairs. When I go to the symphony, I usually don't hear that kind of detail, except for an occasional cough in the audience. So if I were to lose some of that detail, I wouldn't miss it.

Bingaman and Douglikesaudio may be right: the ultimate answer may be tubes. I have just learned that Rogue has introduced a new amp called the Zeus, which produces 200 watts per channel and weighs 200 lbs! And it only costs $6,000, which has to be a bargain for a statement amp! So what I might do is to bi-amp the Ascents using a solid state device for the bass and a tubed unit for the mids and highs. That's a real possibility. But I will need to see if my preamp can handle the two amps and I am going to have to make sure that both amps have the same gain setting, as Martin Logan suggests.

Anyway, thanks for helping an old guy out. I appreciate the feedback. Your suggestions have helped me sort out my amp questions.

Happy listening,
I would suggest reading the article of amps at roger_russell.com. He was the head of McIntosh research for years.
Switching to tubes on my ML Aerius was the most mind-blowing upgrade. Tubes and electrostats are really special together, and worth extra consideration.
ARC VT100 MK3,Worked great on mine so did krell fpb200c .both used are under your price .
Got the MC402 for my Ascents just recently. The stats sang music like never before. Music was warmer, bodied and very musical. I was just astounded by the big improvement.
House of Music in SF had me audtion it at home. IT WAS WORTH every penny.IMO

Good luck.
I have the Ascents, and originally ran the classe CA 301. The 301 had absolute control and authority over these speakers, but was a little on the harsh side for vocals.

I brought home an ARC VT100MKIII on audition and it never left. The only time I miss the classe ca 301 is if I play very large orchestral works, such as Mahler 3 or such. For Diana, Frank and Ella, the tubes are the way to go.
I can recomend Gryphon Callisto 2100. This amplifier is fantastic and very musical with lot of authority.
Go to martinloganowners.com as you'll find much more info. I vote for Classe for SS and Audio Research for tubes and if your bi-amping stick with two identical amps as it will make your life easier. Remember speaker placement is critical also, I have owned Logans for 13 years and they can be a make it or break it as to there placement but once you find the position they will be magical. Enjoy your new speaks!