Which Amp to buy? The most frequently asked question on this site. READ THIS!!

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TomDac

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Slightly left-field wrt most of the comments in this thread, but I've just had a revelatory experience with amps for my Spires. I'd started with bi-amping from my Arcam AVR20 receiver and the sound was excellent - great staging and transparency, but perhaps just a little harshness in the vocals and 'brassiness' in piano and some strings (although room tailoring is still under way). So I swapped in a mint Mark Levinson 331 (recapped) and everything took a step forward - clarity, transparency and staging all improved, with great refinement and delicacy. Which would have been fine, but I'd also recently bought, for our 'analogue' music room system, a pair of Michell Alecto II monoblocs, with the additional MOSFET upgrade by their original designer, Graham Fowler at Trichord Research. On a whim, I swapped these in to the main system, and was blown away - staging was bigger, deeper and more involving, bass control was superb and, above all, they had that elusive 'musicality' that has your toes tapping in all the right places. These amps are as rare as hen's teeth but, in 20 years of Martin Logan ownership, these are the best amps at anything approaching a reasonable price that I've come across for them.
Just love this post. It really is amazing when you upgrade and the differences are so noticeable!!
 

ttocs

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Is that expo great? I've never been to an audio expo.

I've only been the one time in 2019 for two days. I wasn't able to get to everything in two days, but I did get to everything I knew I wanted to hear.

But yes, it was great in that, with enough time, I could ask all the questions I wanted to ask and, in most cases, it was directly to the principles of the company which was really cool. I got to hear D'Agostino amps (one Relentless and two Progressions) with Wilson Alexx speakers and two Subsonic subs that sounded great one day, and not so great the next day, which helped my to appreciate my amps/speakers even more when I got home, plus, this showed me how important setup really is (yes, I sat in the same chair each day, but on that second day the audio just wasn't magical anymore).

And, what was really weird was that, while in line to get lunch, I hear this voice I hadn't heard in about 30 years! Very unmistakeable. So I turn around and there is someone I had known since childhood! Then later, I saw a few other acquaintances. Small world I guess.

Hoping that AXPONA really happens this year, even though some vendors decided not to go this year.
 

Robert D

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I've only been the one time in 2019 for two days. I wasn't able to get to everything in two days, but I did get to everything I knew I wanted to hear.

But yes, it was great in that, with enough time, I could ask all the questions I wanted to ask and, in most cases, it was directly to the principles of the company which was really cool. I got to hear D'Agostino amps (one Relentless and two Progressions) with Wilson Alexx speakers and two Subsonic subs that sounded great one day, and not so great the next day, which helped my to appreciate my amps/speakers even more when I got home, plus, this showed me how important setup really is (yes, I sat in the same chair each day, but on that second day the audio just wasn't magical anymore).

And, what was really weird was that, while in line to get lunch, I hear this voice I hadn't heard in about 30 years! Very unmistakeable. So I turn around and there is someone I had known since childhood! Then later, I saw a few other acquaintances. Small world I guess.

Hoping that AXPONA really happens this year, even though some vendors decided not to go this year.
Looks like a 5 hour drive for me if I went that way. Maybe could fly. Id like to go to at least one. Is this THE one to see in the US, or are there others that are just as good or better? I live in Ohio.
 

ttocs

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Looks like a 5 hour drive for me if I went that way. Maybe could fly. Id like to go to at least one. Is this THE one to see in the US, or are there others that are just as good or better? I live in Ohio.
I don't know if it's "THE" one, but I just happen to be lucky enough to live a half hour away from where it takes place. And normally, just about any brand that could be named is usually a vendor or associated with a vendor at AXPONA.

Most of the rooms are too small to do justice to the products being demonstrated, but, it can be truly amazing to experience how proficient some can be by making the speakers work fantastically in those cramped spaces, in particular, one vendor who had 11A speakers and had them setup very well and sounded great.

It's where I found a speaker that has a difficult time sounding poor provided it's got a great amp behind it, Alta Alec. To date, it's the speaker I like the best after ML.
 

Ishaansuri

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Hi BDH55
What are you thoughts on a parasound Halo a21+ ? And also like someone said up here, do they give you that want to keep listening for days
It seems to be able to drive abd handle impedence swings down to 1.5ohm
I would cross both the Emotiva off the list. All the current gen use the same modules and switch mode power supplies. I think I've mentioned my experience previously with the XPA 2 Gen 3 powering ESL X's. It was meh. Dull and lifeless. Honestly, my Emotiva BasX A-800 (used for surround duty) sounded more dynamic and engaging. I am guessing that's a product of the the XPA being class H and the BasX being AB. I'm just not a fan of the class H SMPS design.

Choosing from what's on your list, I would pick the MC301's. But I might also look around for a new or used MC302 or MC312 2-channel. Unless you're getting a stellar price on the pair of MC301 mono's, you could probably save yourself some cash and get a used 2-channel MC302 or a new/used MC312 that would be more than enough to power your Classics.
Hey the mc152 would be under powered right? 2 channel 150 watts 8/4/2ohm .. mc301 300w mono
 

MisterB

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Hi BDH55
What are you thoughts on a parasound Halo a21+ ? And also like someone said up here, do they give you that want to keep listening for days
It seems to be able to drive abd handle impedence swings down to 1.5ohm

Hey the mc152 would be under powered right? 2 channel 150 watts 8/4/2ohm .. mc301 300w mono
The MC152 is a darn good amplifier. Yes, it's *only* 150 wpc, but that's continuous with up to 300 watts peak. I did a comparison between the MA352 integrated (320 wpc at 4 ohms) and the MC152 (150 wpc at 2/4/8 ohms) over the course of a week. To my ears, with half the watts, the MC152 was better. Just a cleaner sound all the way around with more top end sparkle. More of that trademark McIntosh sound compared to the MA352. It became apparent to me that it's the autoformers that give the Mac gear its trademark sound. The MA352 does not use Mac's autoformers and you can hear the difference. Not sure you can go wrong with anything from the MC152 on up.
 

Ishaansuri

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The MC152 is a darn good amplifier. Yes, it's *only* 150 wpc, but that's continuous with up to 300 watts peak. I did a comparison between the MA352 integrated (320 wpc at 4 ohms) and the MC152 (150 wpc at 2/4/8 ohms) over the course of a week. To my ears, with half the watts, the MC152 was better. Just a cleaner sound all the way around with more top end sparkle. More of that trademark McIntosh sound compared to the MA352. It became apparent to me that it's the autoformers that give the Mac gear its trademark sound. The MA352 does not use Mac's autoformers and you can hear the difference. Not sure you can go wrong with anything from the MC152 on up.
Awesome thanks. Technically I either get an mc152 or a pair of 1 year demo mc301 pair in about the same price from the dealer. 301 are mint..maybe 200 hours, considering lockdowns and covid and low demo walk-ins . Hence the thought..I feel maybe 301 pair maybe long run proof ?
 

MisterB

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Awesome thanks. Technically I either get an mc152 or a pair of 1 year demo mc301 pair in about the same price from the dealer. 301 are mint..maybe 200 hours, considering lockdowns and covid and low demo walk-ins . Hence the thought..I feel maybe 301 pair maybe long run proof ?
Is there any way your dealer can hook both up to a pair of Classic 9's for you to A/B back and forth? Or let you borrow each to audition at home? That's the only way you'll really know for sure which one you prefer. But if it were me, I'd probably lean toward the mono's if I could get the pair for the same price as the 152. The only thing that would concern me is how old they are, and what, if any, kind of warranty is on them. I think McIntosh stopped producing them at some point in 2021. I just know they're not in the current lineup, and there are no other mono's in the current lineup built on the slim 6" chassis like the 301's and the 152.
 

Ishaansuri

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Is there any way your dealer can hook both up to a pair of Classic 9's for you to A/B back and forth? Or let you borrow each to audition at home? That's the only way you'll really know for sure which one you prefer. But if it were me, I'd probably lean toward the mono's if I could get the pair for the same price as the 152. The only thing that would concern me is how old they are, and what, if any, kind of warranty is on them. I think McIntosh stopped producing them at some point in 2021. I just know they're not in the current lineup, and there are no other mono's in the current lineup built on the slim 6" chassis like the 301's and the 152.
Both amps unfortunately in different city dealers..one is in my city so demo om both would be difficult. Let me try

I'm checking on warranty and other info on the 301 wither way but yes I guess the mono would be the better buy and they aren't that old so fingers crossed 🤞🏻😊
 

ttocs

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Both amps unfortunately in different city dealers..one is in my city so demo om both would be difficult. Let me try

I'm checking on warranty and other info on the 301 wither way but yes I guess the mono would be the better buy and they aren't that old so fingers crossed 🤞🏻😊
You could "purchase" the out-of-town amp(s) and have them shipped to the local dealer. Then, demo both, and "return" the out-of-town amps if you liked the "local" amp(s) better.

edit: Please let me amend my previous statement. If the local amp choice is the 301 mono amp pair, then I would demo those ASAP, and if they sound wonderful, buy them. I am of the opinion that mono amps are preferred.
 
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BDH55

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Hi BDH55
What are you thoughts on a parasound Halo a21+ ? And also like someone said up here, do they give you that want to keep listening for days
It seems to be able to drive abd handle impedence swings down to 1.5ohm

Hey the mc152 would be under powered right? 2 channel 150 watts 8/4/2ohm .. mc301 300w mono
Unfortunately, I have no direct experience with the A21+ but my guess is it will likely be built rock solid, sound great and will review way above it's price point. I did check the latest Stereophile Recommended Components issue and they have it listed as a class A component along with several other amps that carry more than $100K price tags!

I don't want to further confuse your search, but when I was skimming thru the Recommended Components I came across the Benchmark AHB2 which is another amp that has gotten just a ton of positive press. Again, I've got no direct experience with it but IIRC, there are a couple a couple of forum members running that amp (and I think there was a thread on it so you might want to try the Search function).
You could "purchase" the out-of-town amp(s) and have them shipped to the local dealer. Then, demo both, and "return" the out-of-town amps if you liked the "local" amp(s) better.

edit: Please let me amend my previous statement. If the local amp choice is the 301 mono amp pair, then I would demo those ASAP, and if they sound wonderful, buy them. I am of the opinion that mono amps are preferred.
Along with what ttocs said, if you decided you wanted to try the Para A21+, you could buy it from the guys at Music Direct and you have 60 days to evaluate it, then if you decide to go with the Macs or something else, just ship them back for a full refund (other than you pay the return shipping fees).

Also, I am 100% with ttocs on 'preferring' mono block amps...
 

Robert D

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I think Shawn, DaVinci Media, deals in that too. Could try him. He's got great prices and service. Bought my BF 210 from him.
 

Ishaansuri

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You could "purchase" the out-of-town amp(s) and have them shipped to the local dealer. Then, demo both, and "return" the out-of-town amps if you liked the "local" amp(s) better.

edit: Please let me amend my previous statement. If the local amp choice is the 301 mono amp pair, then I would demo those ASAP, and if they sound wonderful, buy them. I am of the opinion that mono amps are preferred.
Haha that's a clever idea. I live in New Delhi India, I wish they would offer this service here ... no harm in asking I suppose. The dealer here in my city has demo available and can bring some options over. The mono amp is currently on my preferred list but theres just one pair at the out of town dealer. I may be able to get a demo of the 152 or a few others for trying out though, they have a ma8900 and few others in my city for home demo.
 

BDH55

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I think Shawn, DaVinci Media, deals in that too. Could try him. He's got great prices and service. Bought my BF 210 from him.
Outside of his ML posts, I have no idea what else he sells. Is there a list of brands or components he sells somewhere up here?
 

Robert D

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Outside of his ML posts, I have no idea what else he sells. Is there a list of brands or components he sells somewhere up here?
I get the feeling he carries quite a few brands. When speaking to him on the phone I asked about a brand of amplifier and he is a dealer for that. Id call him if i were you.
 

ttocs

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Brands Shawn represents, from the DaVinci web site:
"Martin Logan, Bricasti Design, Nordost, Classe, Acurus, Aragon, Arcam, Bel Canto, BobCarver, Bose, Cary Audio, Denon, Dynaudio, JPS Labs, Parasound, Halo, Paradigm, Marantz, MIT Cables, Monitor Audio, and many more."
 

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I would cross both the Emotiva off the list. All the current gen use the same modules and switch mode power supplies. I think I've mentioned my experience previously with the XPA 2 Gen 3 powering ESL X's. It was meh. Dull and lifeless. Honestly, my Emotiva BasX A-800 (used for surround duty) sounded more dynamic and engaging. I am guessing that's a product of the the XPA being class H and the BasX being AB. I'm just not a fan of the class H SMPS design.

Choosing from what's on your list, I would pick the MC301's. But I might also look around for a new or used MC302 or MC312 2-channel. Unless you're getting a stellar price on the pair of MC301 mono's, you could probably save yourself some cash and get a used 2-channel MC302 or a new/used MC312 that would be more than enough to power your Classics.
The Emotiva sounded dull and lifeless? Unless it’s underpowered How does the Amplifier change the sound? IMO it has more to do with your speakers and or the content your playing
 

ttocs

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The Emotiva sounded dull and lifeless? Unless it’s underpowered How does the Amplifier change the sound? IMO it has more to do with your speakers and or the content your playing
Well, I agree that is has to do with the speakers, meaning that the amps and speakers need to like each other.

Over the years I've tried a bunch of solid state amps in my home with my system, some borrowed, some I've owned, some I bought and returned. They all had at least the same power into 8Ω as a Krell I've had for about nine years now, or way more than double the power into 8Ω, some doubled in power when halving the impedance, others didn't. Some cost as little as $500 new, or $500 used (old Carver I still have), on up to over $9,000 new. The sound ranged from "dull", meaning not much sparkle and has less sparkle at higher volume like a tone control was turning removing treble and mid-range, to harsh in the higher frequency ranges, and none sounded as good as the Krell multi-channel amp. The one amp model which came closest to the Krell is the Emotiva HC-1 mono amp. Close, but not better, and it's under $900 each.

I'm a big fan of power, but it's not the only consideration IMO. Power can possibly overcome some shortcomings, but not totally with respect to ML stats.

My tube amps have the best soundstage, and most inviting and lifelike sound while having the least amount of power of any of the amps I've tried.

With regard to content, there's a couple key songs I play to find out how any amplifier will handle things with my speakers. They can sound really harsh with the wrong amps, but with the right amps they sound good (this is something anyone with ok hearing will notice). The songs are "Girl In Trouble" by Romeo Void, and "Cherry Bomb" by The Runaways. There's no nuance, they either sound good or sound bad.
 
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