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

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Robert D

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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.
I tried those two. Cherry Bomb sounded OK with a good soundstage, but the bass was lacking. Girl in Trouble sounded great!
 

ttocs

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I tried those two. Cherry Bomb sounded OK with a good soundstage, but the bass was lacking. Girl in Trouble sounded great!
If no harshness, or instantly fatiguing sound while playing these songs, then things are good between amp/speaker.

There was a tv show on VH1 called Bands Reunited that sought to bring back together the dis-banded. Romeo Void was one of the bands featured on an episode. The sad part was that the sax player couldn't play anymore due to serious tinnitus and hearing problems, so couldn't participate with the reunion.
 
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Robert D

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If no harshness, or instantly fatiguing sound while playing these songs, then things are good between amp/speaker.

There was a tv show on VH1 called Bands Reunited that sought to bring back together the dis-banded. Romeo Void was one of the bands featured on an episode. The sad part was that the sax player couldn't play anymore due to serious tinnitus and hearing problems, so couldn't participate with the reunion.
That track from Romeo Void sounded really good! It makes me want to check them out more. Neither was fatiguing. Cherry Bomb was a bit lifeless and flat, but still had good imaging.
 

MyCu

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I want to strongly reinforce the importance of this particular spec, as it is a great indicator as to whether an amp is suitable for ESL duties.
Not only will the impedance go very low, but it is also quite varied across the frequency spectrum (especially with older passive crossover ESLs); that is tough for an amp to be handling a wide frequency range into different impedances. To maintain a smooth frequency response, the ability to push the needed voltages in an even fashion is important.

Over 28 years of ESL ownership, I can attest to the quality of the Sunfire 'load invariant' amps, as I have a 27-year-old Sunfire stereo, a 22-year-old Sunfire Cinema Gand, and a 20-year-old CG Signature I bought new back in the day. All handle the ESL's just fine.

But the best amp I've found for ESL duties is the Sanders Sound Systems ESL amp, in either the base or the Magtech variant.

Every day, the Sanders ESL amp proves its mettle by driving the huge Monolith panels direct, with no crossovers (I run them in an Active XO setup), so it has to deal with the back-EMF, capacitance, and low impedance of the step-up transformer and panel. Does not break a sweat. Highly recommended for any ESL speaker.

Agree! I tried a couple of amps and the "clipping" effect was something I had read about not experienced before I got my Martin Logans. I bought the Sanders Magtech amp and what beautiful sound I get! None of that tearing sound no mater how wide the dynamic range is of the music, nor how loud I play it. The best!
 

kotedo

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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
I tried this amp with my MartinLogans (Aerius-i and a pair of CLSIIz) and it took all of 10 seconds to tell that the amp was not good enough for the MartinLogans. Yes, it has the power to drive them, but it has no musicality. All brawns, very little finesse. All the details that I am used hearing were gone with this amp.
Not worth the money.
 

Ishaansuri

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Big update! .. finally bit the bullet and have ordered a pair of Mcintosh MC301 monoblocks coming my way in a few days. Shall update you all on when I play the first few pieces of music on the setup.

Taking a moment to thank many of you for some groundbreaking, transparent, and practical advice 👌 🤞🏻🙂
 
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Robert D

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Big update! .. finally bit the bullet and have ordered a pair of Macintosh MC301 monoblocks coming my way in a few days. Shall update you all on when I play the first few pieces of music on the setup.

Taking a moment to thank many of you for some groundbreaking, transparent, and practical advice 👌 🤞🏻🙂
That is going to sound great!
 

Bumpy

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I have a Luxman from -83. 50w class A with my Request. Tried other amps but they didn’t have the warmth I want. Have now had it for 15 years and never felt any need to change. I also recently invested in a Hegel HD 30 DAC. Had a HD 20 before. Big difference in detail and transparency.
 

Ishaansuri

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Mcintosh Mc301 installed with the classic ESL 9. Van den hul hybrid cables. First impressions. Brilliant. Airy clean not to bright not too warm, bass is very controlled and the delivery has confidence and strength. Lots of headroom.

My esl 9 panels are brand new at the moment due to a panel swap by ML as I had some warranty issues on my speakers with level issues and bias boards (more details on another thread) ML changed the entire panel and the bias boards - so basically this is a brand new speaker with the McIntosh. More updates after a few hours of burn ins . Glad I got the monoblocks ..pictures for you!
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Big Dog RJ

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There is no doubt that amplifiers with highly stable current capacity and drive capability are the two most important factors in driving ML stats. However, there's another element that lies between these two factors that I refer to as soul. It's a musicality trait of the amplifier/s to be able to properly grip the stats yet provide that fine level of musicality. Once that soul engages in that immersive soundstage, you'll notice it straight away!

Over the years with reference to amplification, what I've experienced is that one kind of amplifier installed within a specific system will create a signature sound, where nearly every type of music played on the system virtually sounds the same! So basically, this particular brand/ type of amplifier has taken over that signature sound... now whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I'm not sure.

However, for me it's not a good thing, simply because after you've played through different types of music and genres, if that signature sound has taken over, it will morphe and shape every piece of music into that type of sound. To me, after a while it gets really boring, and everything played on it, whether it be CDs, SACD's, digital files or vinyl, pretty much sounds the same.

So, just before I finalised on the CLX's, during my time with Quads and Ethos hybrids, I tried seven amplifiers to determine this. Once I found the most neutral sound, the most transparent sound and one that allows more of the music to flow from your favourite recordings, I then decided on that particular brand. After many years of owning them, several mods were done in order to arrive at a custom sound. I went for full grip in the bass, detailed & well layerd LF, along with a high level of midrange palpablility, and extended airy highs that seem limitless during dynamic peaks. This involved several mods on the power supplies, caps, voltage rails, resistors and large reservoir caps as well. Once that was achieved, several tests had to be done over a year to ensure there was no thermal overload to the trannys. Once that was established, final tweaks were done on Vishay resistors making the amplifiers super quiet, which resulted in even greater transparency and fine detail. So with all that done, I'm very passionate about tubes, and I've used various kinds on stats; from ARC, VTL, Manley Labs, Audio Note, Cary, Golden Tube Audio, Melos, Ayon, Jas Audio, Cayin, and McIntosh all tube designed. So far the only one that gives me total satisfaction, supreme reference quality and absolute synergy with a true custom sound that delivers music according to what's on the recording, is Conrad johnson.

In my systems of big & small, simple and complex, over decades of dealerships, trials and errors, for some darn reason I keep going back to CJ. I guess once you find and appreciate that type of synergy and it works extremely well within a specific setup, might as well just stick with it!
After all "it just sounds right."

Enjoy those very fine tunes!
Cheers, RJ
 
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wink

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If you can afford Spectral amps, give them a try. You won’t be disappointed! I run a Coda amp with my Prodigy…Coda makes excellent amps for big stats also. I switched to Coda from a rebuilt Krell FPB-600…a solid bump in control and overall performance.
 

Brandon Hartwick

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I'm in discussion with a guy to purchase his Jeff Rowland model 1 power amp, doubling in power down to 2 ohms. This will replace my Schiit Aegir that I use to run my Aeries I speakers for video games, YouTube and also I'll now have enough power to use it for music.

Little 30W amp isn't super happy driving ESLs but she never quits! Great piece of USA built gear.
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I will post some results when I get it in the coming days.
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Brandon Hartwick

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The amp has arrived and I'd like to report that it effortlessly drives my Aeries I's. Very nice amp to listen to, lots of detail, zero harshness, smooth. I got this one for $1700 Canadian and it's not the size of a car.

This Jeff Rowland Model 1 is rated at 60W per channel (that's a lie) and doubles down until 2 ohm. It looks to have 24 output devices inside and caps bigger than beer cans, speaker terminals have buss bars.

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Big Dog RJ

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The amp has arrived and I'd like to report that it effortlessly drives my Aeries I's. Very nice amp to listen to, lots of detail, zero harshness, smooth. I got this one for $1700 Canadian and it's not the size of a car.

This Jeff Rowland Model 1 is rated at 60W per channel (that's a lie) and doubles down until 2 ohm. It looks to have 24 output devices inside and caps bigger than beer cans, speaker terminals have buss bars.

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Great choice mate!
This is the J-R Model 1, if I'm correct... although rated between 50-60w at 8 Ohms, it actually triples in power at 2 Ohms and can also handle impedence drops of less than 1 Ohm, which is ideal for stats!

Power output into 8 Ohms with amplifiers stating 100s & 100s of watts means nothing if they can't handle lower impedence swings. I've tried so many so called high powered amplifiers that simply couldn't drive stats, ran out of puff... Their specs are very impressive but upon actual trials the truth is embarrassing.

It's not all about watts & power, rather current capacity is what's needed, with obviously highly stable voltage. The JR M1 puts out something like 22amps to 55amps at a 2 Ohm load, that's a true high current design! It won't flinch one bit under stress. So it will be cruising along...

I've always admired JR's previous models, although his latest is designed around Class D amplification, there are only one or two of those that I've found to be decent. The other thing is nearly all of them accept only balanced inputs. With his older models, both SE & XLR were accepted.

Cheers, and enjoy those fine tunes!
RJ
 

Brandon Hartwick

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Great choice mate!
This is the J-R Model 1, if I'm correct... although rated between 50-60w at 8 Ohms, it actually triples in power at 2 Ohms and can also handle impedence drops of less than 1 Ohm, which is ideal for stats!

Power output into 8 Ohms with amplifiers stating 100s & 100s of watts means nothing if they can't handle lower impedence swings. I've tried so many so called high powered amplifiers that simply couldn't drive stats, ran out of puff... Their specs are very impressive but upon actual trials the truth is embarrassing.

It's not all about watts & power, rather current capacity is what's needed, with obviously highly stable voltage. The JR M1 puts out something like 22amps to 55amps at a 2 Ohm load, that's a true high current design! It won't flinch one bit under stress. So it will be cruising along...

I've always admired JR's previous models, although his latest is designed around Class D amplification, there are only one or two of those that I've found to be decent. The other thing is nearly all of them accept only balanced inputs. With his older models, both SE & XLR were accepted.

Cheers, and enjoy those fine tunes!
RJ
Thanks! I'm super happy with it, it sounds awesome and has looks to match. I really like the circuit design of this amp, it's so simple, outside of the power supply I think there's only 4 film caps in the whole amp outside of the power supply.

I have no experience with there newer offerings, I have seen the class D stuff but haven't heard it. I probably never will hear the newer models as that stuff is wildly expensive. I'm sure it's great stuff but making amplifiers from 500lb blocks of billet aluminum seems kinda excessive.

I actually reached out to Jeff Rowland Design Group and it sounds like they can get me the service records and even offer an "update" package. I'm waiting to hear back from them.
 
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