Bob Carver's Sunfire Cinema Amps - What do you think?

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Well-known member
May 9, 2005
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Camano Island, Washington
I have been reseaching Bob Carver's, "Sunfire Cinema", Amplifiers over the past month or so... I have even asked several senior members, of this forum, for their kind and knowledgable input and thoughts regarding BobCarver's Sunfire Cinema amplifiers. The responses, I have received have been very helpful and greatly appreciated. Bob Carver seems like a very talanted inventor and has made some remarkable achievements in amplifier design over the years. I think, Bob Carver, even designed and built ribbon speakers too, for awhile. Maybe that's why his amplifiers tend to favor electrostatic / ribbon speakers? He even designed and built the Bob Carver - "Silver Seven" tube amplifier, which I have read is incredible... I just wanted to know, if anyone has any other information / input or first hand experiance, or opinion regarding, Bob Carver or his, Sunfire Cinema amplifiers? Are you satisfied with the product and the sound? I was looking at the, "Sunfire Cinema Signature Grand 400-seven" amplifier and it seems really well built and very powerful... Also, has anyone had any experience with the, "Sunfire Tube Controller Pre-Amp"?

Love them

I like them so much I have three in my system :)

I think they are a great value and while maybe not the 'ulitimate' amp for ML's, they sure are one of the best values.

I grin every time my system runs, and the three times i've tried another brand, I've returned it and kept my Sunfires.

Thanks for the great feed-back, regarding Sunfire Amplifiers...
It is good to hear, that someone really likes, Sunfire Amplifiers. I guess, other folk's just don't know what to think about, Bob Carver's amplifier products, as they are just so different, than most other, taditional, heavier bodied Amplifiers, which require heat sinks, for their transistors.

I have read that, Bob Carver, also invented / developed a 11", 2500 watt, powered subwoofer. The amplifier, in the subwoofer, is just a little bit bigger, than a large candy bar, which amazes me. ALL the information is on,

I've been using a Sunfire Cinema Grand 200 ~five, passively bi-amped, driving my Aerius i's. I needed an amp with HIGH current capability, AND minimal heat production (since my components sit in an enclosed cabinet). The Sunfire excels in both respects. Runs cool to the touch, even when driven to the max.

I had also considered some ICEpower based amps, but held off as the initial designs lacked short-circuit protection (latest ICEpower modules now include that). Of note, I believe the new Summit actually incorporates an ICEpower module for the woofer! You might want to check out those from Jjaz, Acoustic Reality, IceH2OAudio, or Jeff Rowland.
Hi Robin,

I have a Carver TFM 35x which uses the same principles as the Sunfire gear. I have also heard the Cinema at a friend's house with Logans and thought they sounded wonderful.

If I were in the market for new gear for HT, I would get a Cinema SIGNATURE amp.. The SIGNATURE amp is much different that just the Cinema.. 200 watts compared to 400 I believe.... don't quote me on the exact wattage, but there is a substantial difference.

A lot of talk on the internet regarding Bob Carver's designs.. People love them or hate them... The weird thing is that most of the people who hate them give reasons like "they're not heavy enough - how can an amp that's so light have enough power". Or "they don't heat up". :confused:

The same reasons can be seen why people DO buy them, which I just don't understand either.. Why would the weight (or lack thereof) be a deciding factor when purchasing an amplifier? How they sound should be the primary factor when purchasing an amp.

With all of that being said, the Carver magnetic field amps including Sunfire cinemas work quite well with electrostatic speakers because they can effectively handle a low impedance load. Find a dealer that will let you demo one - that is take the floor model home for the weekend and see how you like it in your system.. See how it sounds in your system. If you like it, you return the demo and purchase a new one. Not all dealers will do this, but some will.

Good Luck!


Thanks for the information. The, "Sunfire Cinema signature Grand 400 ~ seven", is the amplifier I am considering, at this point in time. I will take you advice, I will listen first...

Thanks again,

Robin - I currently use a sunfire cinema signature amp (425 X 5) w my Odysseys. It sounds great. I am using the front channels to power the stats and the rear channels to power the woofers. I have used Carver products for some time now -and have had nothing but good luck ( I have an M500T Carver amp which is over 20 years old - and has never had any maintenance - even while using it thru my college years!!). I compared the sunfire signature directly to a Rotel - and the difference was amazing (in my humble opinion - of course...)

I see you are a new contributing member, let me be the first to offer you a hearty welcome! And... Thank you, for your information on the, Sunfire Cinema Signature Grand. If a, Sunfire Cinema Signature Grand, can drive your ML Odyssey's, and sound great, and more amazing than, 'Rotel' amplifiers, then that is truely high praise... It is all good info. for me to concider.

timm, I must confess, I am very courious as to what are some, of the other components, in your system, i. e., your Processer", Subwoofer?, Center?, Surrounds?, Cables?, etc.?

timm, It is great to have you as a forum member... I look forward to hearing from you soon...

Thanks again,

Well, another new member here. I found this site by accident. I also LOVE my Sunfires!! I have the 2 channel signature amp (600x2 - 1200x2 @ 4 ohms) and the 5 channel signature cinema grand amp (425 x5 - 850x5 @ 2 ohms) the blend of ML's and carver/Sunfires is wonderful. I also have the Theater Grand III processor, they are all the 19" cabinet. I have the Ascent-i mains, Theater C.C. - 2 dipole Paradigm side surrounds (consiering scripts???), and the Aerius-i in the rear. I tell you the sound is incredible with the Sunfires, and you CAN'T get them hot! I have tried. Jon

Welcome to the ML Owners Club!!!
Wow, This thread is attracting all the new folks to this site... I'm honored, really. Jon, your system, as you have discribed, must really sound great. Your Ascent i's are powered by, the Sunfire Cinema Signature Grand 600~two... You have got to tell me more details... How exactly do they sound? Are they as transparent, clear and detailed as, Bob Carver, has said, the electrostatic's (Ascent i's) would be? Do you have them, Biwired to the Current Source (High/Mid) and Voltage Source (Bass)? or just Current Source? Do you hear that much difference between the Current Source and the Voltage Source? What is the size of your room (Room Dimentions)? Also, I was wondering if you had a subwoofer? If so, what kind do you have? Also, what kind of cables do you use?

Thank you for all your previous info., it really helps...

Jon, It is fantastic, to have you as a ML club member.

Robin, I am always reluctant to "describe" sound, cause it seems like the words are often over-used. I will say that my wife and I will sit down, discuss a few things, then hours, sometime many, just be absorbed in music. Playing almost everything you could think of, loving it! I don't have "high end" CD players, but 200/300 disc "mega players" 3 - Sony.

I know I am losing some quality there. I love jazz, and classical, folk, she is country, and rock. Those that say the ML's can't rock, are very wrong. I have the Ascents Bi-wired, not Bi-amped with the Sunfire 2 channel. The mids and highs ARE more articulate, and detailed, in the current source. It is "closer" to "tube like" sound, but not quite. A great design however. The "lows" are voltage wired. I have dual SVS "ultra" passive subs, powered by a K-1 Crown amp. This is "perceived" as a HT sub, It is very surprising in 2 channel, integrates very well with the ML's. For a 12" driver it is fast enough to blend with the ML's. I found the Rel Strada III to be (not much) better on 2 channel, and no contest on HT. My cables/inter connects are hand made by a local person here in Florida. I use balanced XLR inter connects. With all of the wonderful speakers you have, the right amp (many opinions here) would really let those speakers you have sing.

I initially had a Yam RXV-1500 amp, 120 WPC x7. While not a bad receiver, it cannot provide justice, not even close, to the MLs and other comparable speakers. When you have these speakers, you simply CAN NOT do justice with a Pioneer, Yam, Onkyo. Denon, HK, and NAD receivers are an improvement, but these speakers were not designed for "receiver" amplification. The room is presently 19x16x8, however we are building a new home within the year, have blue prints new room at 24x26 with peaked 18 ceiling. Many of the speaker purchases, and equipment were dictated by the new room.
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Robin said:
I think, Bob Carver, even designed and built ribbon speakers too, for awhile.

It was reading about Carver's Amazing Loudspeaker in Stereo Review as a boy that first gave me the audiophile itch. I never did get to hear them, but the review sure gushed about them, and boy did they ever look pretty in the picture. (The only pic I can find on the net now is a bit uglified by the removal of the grilles)

Amazing loudspeakers, Ultimate receivers - modesty's not his priority, is it? :)

Your discription of the music you enjoy with your wife is excellent. I appreciate your sharing. It really does give me a better idea of how the Sunfire amplifiers preform. I plan to listen first before, I buy. The saying around this forum is, "Trust your ears". I think, "roberto", (a senior member of this forum) accually coined the phrase.... and it is great advice too.
Anyway, your feedback is important to me, so thank you.

Your future home design plans sounds exciting, as well as very interesting. Your future HT dimentions will be a sound design challenge. Do you plan any room alterations or will you, maybe adding Script i's. I really enjoy the Script i's in my system. They are a tremendous surround sound speakers. The Script i's, sound wonderful and are so versital / easy to position.

Thanks again, Jon...


Hey, the photo you posted is great... I had never, even seen, the Bob Carver ribbon speakers. They were so big. Wow!!! Now, I can see why he designed such a powerful amplifier, in the first place. Speakers like those would require a very powerful amp., that could double down, with ease. Thank you for showing that photo. Bob Carver seems very proud and vocal, regarding his designs. Well, I guess they are his babies. It is good to hear your recommendation of Sunfire Amplifiers.

Sunfire is the real deal!


If I were to use only two words to describe the sound of a Sunfire amp, I would use openness and clarity. Without a doubt, the Sunfire is among the most open amps I have ever heard when played through a pair of Martin Logan Ascent i loudspeakers. The Sunfire throws a completely unfettered soundstage that's deep, tall, and wide, but not cavernous. There's no hint of strain in this presentation, and imaging is reasonably precise, well-focused, and life-like, especially when vinyl source material is used. The Sunfire also possesses considerable clarity without hyper detail, brightness, harshness, or glare of any kind. The Sunfire is also transparent and detailed; it will reveal weaknesses further up the audio chain the way any reasonably neutral and detailed amp should.

In the Sunfire's Current mode, the music has all the detail, transparency, openness, and clarity that one could possibly hope for from any amp. There is a slight amount of sweetness, warmth, and roundedness to the music that is reminiscent of tubed amplification, but I would not call the sound of the Sunfire tubelike. Many tubed amps I know have a little more texturing, warmth, atmosphere, and less transparency than what the Sunfire provides.

If you like classical music, jazz, and classic rock 'n' roll, you will like the Sunfire/Logan combination. If you like jaw-cracking dynamics, sonic-boom-like bass, overly extended highs, and razor-sharp musical definition, the Sunfire may not be the right choice. But in no way does the Sunfire veil any of the important nuances of the music I love most -- jazz and classical.

Using my current Proceed AMP-5 as a counterpoint, the Proceed is warm, rich, full-bodied, reasonably detailed, dynamic, but not overbearing, and reasonably transparent. However, the Proceed seems a little closed in and dark when compared with the Sunfire. More of the music is revealed through the Sunfire, and the Sunfire has considerably more openness and clarity than my Proceed. Yet, some may prefer the Proceed's greater richness despite the loss of some detail and transparency. These attributes can easily be added to the Sunfire by using a tubed preamp like the Music Reference RM-5. Sunfire's own tubed preamp is far too transparent to add much warmth and textured nuance to the sonic mix.

Incidentally, I had a chance to audition the McIntosh MC402 with a pair of Martin Logan Ascent i loudspeakers at Magnolia HiFi in Seattle last summer. The other components auditioned included the McIntosh MC46 preamp, McIntosh MCD205 CD player, Audioquest Jaguar interconnects with RCA termination, and Audioquest Gibraltar speaker cables. The CDs that I used included “Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section” (Contemporary Stereo S7532, 20-bit K2 edition), “Sarah Brightman: Time to Say Good-bye” (Angel CDC 56511), and Mozart Symphony Nos. 40 and 41 performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and conducted by James Levine (Red Seal Digital RCD14413).

I found the MC402 warm, lush, and rich with an enveloping bottom end and a tipped-up treble that not only spot lit that region but added a rich glow to cymbals and bells that was not completely accurate no matter how seductive it might have been. I also found soundstage width compressed at the expense of soundstage depth, which seemed deeper than normal. Detail, transparency, clarity, and openness were not up to the standards set by the Sunfire Signature 600 – Two, which I had heard the day before.

If you cherish traditional audiophile values of neutrality, balance, clarity, detail, transparency, and openness, you may find that the MC402 will definitely have a sound of its own -- a warm, romanticized presentation -- that will only be exacerbated if it is paired with warm-sounding loudspeakers. If you like that type of sound, then you may enjoy the MC402. If you don't, then the Sunfire is definitely the right amp for you.

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I believe, your most eloquent, discription of the Sunfire amplifier, puts into words, the kind of sound, I am looking for, in a quality, high-end, amplifier. Also, after your discription / recommendation, I will now give a listen to, and careful consideration of the, MacIntosh pre amp. MC46 and the amplifier MC402. I appreciate your taking the time, to really discribe, why you like the Sunfire, as well as the MacIntosh amplifiers / equipment. I am also, going to check out the, Musical Referance RM-5 Pre-amp, as I have plans to add tubes to the path, via Pre-amp equipment, in the not too distant future, after I aquire, the proper sounding, power amplifier.

Sometimes, I just wish, I had, ten thousand extra dollars laying around, to spend on this kind of equipment. But delayed gratification, has it's benifits... It does make the journey, one of careful concideration, as one, carefully saves up, all the money and then, finially makes each purchase.

Thanks again, Artar1, for your insight and clear discriptions, and recommendations, it really helps me, so much...

I don't own any McIntosh equipment, but recently stumbled upon this fascinating website, from the former Chief Acoustic Engineer for McIntosh...

He's got some terrific articles about audio and engineering.
About the McIntosh components . . .


I must admit that I did not like the sound of the McIntosh components. They did not have the balance, detail, transparency, clarity, and openness to which I have become accustomed. Nor did these components have a real tube sound either, like that which one might hear in VTL equipment. :p

Keep in mind that if I were to criticize the Sunfire amp, I would have to say that its clarity, openness, transparency, and detail could use a little more sonic color, texture, nuance, warmth, and atmosphere, but just a little. Some might complain that the Sunfire amp does not have enough "soul," but not I. If one wants to add back that kind of sonic flavor, it can be easily done with the Music Reference RM-5 preamp, which has a sonic signature very similar to the VAC Renaissance Standard preamp I heard several years ago, a preamp that now sells for $8,000. A new RM-5 can be had for only $2,000. While not cheap, it's a lot better than spending four times as much for about the same kind of sound.

If it's of any consolation, my amplifier short list includes the Sunfire Signature 600-2, Theta Dreadnaught II, and the Quicksilver V4 Monos with the Adcom GFA 5500 amp driving the woofer modules of my Ascents in a biamplification arrangement. ;)

Good luck!
Artar1 said:
If it's of any consolation, my amplifier short list includes the Sunfire Signature 600-2, Theta Dreadnaught II, and the Quicksilver V4 Monos with the Adcom GFA 5500 amp driving the woofer modules of my Ascents in a biamplification arrangement.

FYI, in case you mised it, I heard the Dreadnaught II with the Summits. It was hooked up to McCormack Pre MAP-1 and CD player UDP-1. But it had a high-end rolled off, very subdued type sound when I heard it - vocals had a muffled type sound to them. Not sure if this has been your experience or not, but wanted to pass on my listening session with it. Again this is only my experience hearing it, and it could be change with different electronics or different amps.

The Dreadnaught Sinks?


Well, all I can say is thank you for your insightful comments, and, yes, I did miss your previous post about the Theta Dreadnaught II. However, I just looked up your previous writings about the Dreadnaught and was amazed to say the least.

My including the Dreadnaught on my short list was not based upon hearing it, for that will come later, but on reputation alone. Now, I think I will be removing that amp from my list based upon your experiences. Why? Simple. What you wrote made sense to me, and I could see myself having a very similar experience.

It's interesting to learn that what one might think will work with the Martin Logans in fact may not be a good match, as was the case with your experience with the Dreadnaught and my experience with the McIntosh MC402.

Now I am getting a better picture as to what will work and what won't.

So back to my short list:

Sunfire Signature 600-2
Plinius SA102 Mk III
Ayre V5x
Quicksilver V4 Monos
Blue Circle BC26

I could also include the Mark Levinson 431, but I think the sound of that amp will be too close to the sound of my Proceed AMP 5, which makes an excellent match with my Ascents.

The Blue Circle unit has a somewhat low gain setting of only 19 dB, which means on some recordings the volume knob on my preamp will be at the three or four o'clock setting.

I would also include a amp from Classe, but in the past Classe amps have given me considerable listening fatigue (headaches) when paired with Martin Logan speakers.

Any comments? What is your take on the Ayre and the Plinius? Do you have any opinions about the Sunfire? Right now the Sunfire is the front runner.