Amps for Sonus Faber Stradivari Homage

I have a pair of Stradivaris that I love, but I´m having a little trouble finding the right amps for them. My system consists of: Emmlabs CDSA SE latest version, Clearaudio Champion Level two/ SME V/ Benz Ruby, ARC REF3, MSB 202 monos.
I have driven the speakers with a set of Pass XA 100.5 before, but they sounded compresed quite quickly. The MSB´s offer more power than the 100.5´s and sound more detailed and airy, but also leaner and brighter.
I love detail and air, but I also crawe bass slam and body in the midths and highs. I absolutly hate lean and bright sound, no matter how detailed it might bee.
I have owned quite a lot of Krell gear in the past. I liked the bass of the ols stuf like the KSA s series + the first FPB stuff. The rest of the frequency range however, sounded rough and "solid state" to me. I liked the detail of the MCX 450´s, but they sounded to lean in the low frequences to me. I have tried tube amps as well, but I have not yet found a pair that did´nt sound like tubes in the bass region
So I am dreaming of a set of amps that delivers a full bodied, warm but detailed sound with bass slam and bass detail as well.
Any recomendations ?
NB: English is not my native language, so I hope for your understanding if my spelling is off !
ARC DS450. Should match well with your REF 3 and should have plenty of power to drive the Strads.
In the Stereophile review of the Stradivari Homage Michael Fremer mentions that the designer Franco Serbin used a David Berning ZH270 amp. No longer available this is a great amp that comes up occasionally on Audiogon.
VAC Ren. Sig. Mk. III 140's were the best I've ever heard with the Strad's.
Electrocompinet Nemo's were also great.
Currently using Goldmund 29.4's & am much more than satisfied.
Before ditching your current amp, I would suggest trying out a NOS tube for the powerstage of your Ref 3. A friend has been experimenting with NOS tubes in his Ref 3, and got good improvement in the areas you mentioned. Just don't hook up the Ref 3 to watch movies. He's blown two NOS tubes already watching exploding scenes.

When the Stradivari were presented at the Arcugnano factory by Franco Serblin he used Krell amplifiers. Our distributor says that the new E series Krell amplifiers sound great with ARC Ref5 preamplifiers - if you have the possibility and budget try the new Krell EVO402e in your system. I heard this combination with Maxx3 and it sounded very good - much better than the old FPBs.

When I owned the Stradivari I could not find a tube amplifier that could control the bass in my room - even the old VTL MB450s.
Microstrip, if it's in the budget, you might want to wait for the release of the Jeff Rowland Model 925 monos. I think Rowland amps mate very well with SF's. The model 925 promises to be really something special.
Hi 0461,

Fantastic speakers, which i have been fortunate to own now for a few years. You will find my own post from a while ago on Powerful Tube Amp for SF Strads. You will see that I used to run the Strads with my old CJ MV60...great voices...but lacking in the power that the STrad is capable of using to deliver powerful bass. (Yes, the strad sounds wonderful with mid-powered tube is just that having ample power reserves for the bass drivers does make a difference in the Strads delivery of bass..which can be very, very good)

in the end, i own a Gryphon Antileon (second hand). Gryphon has a reputation for being a warm, sometimes dark amplifier that has endless reserves of power. Endless. So the warm/darkness feels quiet tubey in some respects. But in terms of power, it is 100%, pure Class A at all Class A/B whatsoever. From 100watts per 8ohm load, it will double down to 3200 watts (peak) power per 0.5ohm load. (The Antileon Signature which is newer is 150watts class A...and also doubles all the way down... i believe one is on A'Gon now)

It made an enormous change to my bass (upper, mid and lower). It also dramatically opened the soundstage. And yet it bettered the midrange of my CJ MV60 which is a well respected mid-powered amp, particularly in the midrange and treble.

I have heard Krell evo 402 with Strads...liked and respected but did not love. OTOH, i thought Krell Evo 2 was stunning with the Cremonas...i think the Homage series need something a little different (to my ear).

I think you will find the Ref 3 to be quite a good match with the STrad...depends on the amp of course. In the case of Gryphon, Aldavis on A'Gon uses Ref 5 with his Gryphon and likes it. Plus I have heard the Ref 3 with Strads and ARC 110s on the Strad, and it was very good though i prefer Gryphons for tighter bass delivery. hope that helps. good luck! and keep us posted.

Hi guys,

Thank you for your responses to my predicament. I have tried Krell EVO 400 and They did not do it for me. They sounded way to analytical to my taste. I think I have narowed it down to either a set of Pass XA 160.5, 200.5 or a set of ARC REF 210. My only worry with the Ref 210´s is if it too will sound "tuby" in the low end. I would love to try one of the more exotic amps mentioned in this tread, but in Denmark were I live, it is very hard to re-sell anything else than the mayor brands. And I am deffenetly one of those hifi neards that likes to change stuff quite often.
A fotnote: The Emm Labs is sent in for repair, and thus I can only listen to vinyl right now ( I dont do that to often ), and via my vnyl rig, I find many of my "complaints" to have disapered. So I am thinking I shuld mabey consider changing the Emm instead!! Anybody has any sugestions with regards to a musicaly sounding cd/ sacd ? I have had: Audio Aero Prestigere ference SE: Nice sound, poor quality. Audio Flight CD ONE MK2: Very nice reedbook sound, but no sacd. ARC REF 7: Very poor cd player in my book, Wadia 381i: very good indeed, but a bit to analytical and lean.

Marry christmas to all og you.

Merry Christmas. One person's opinion...i agree on the Evo. I think the Evo series is fantastic with the middle Cremona range of SF speakers...fantastic. but for some reason, the Homage series seems to respond better to tubes. The Strads however really benefit from power. Can you find CJ? Look at Downunder...he found a pair of CJ Premier 8s (i am sure at much lower price than new since they are so old)...and then he had them completely upgraded with Teflon capacitors by CJ directly. It did not cost that much...well within your price range if you are looking at ARC Ref 210s.

I have heard the will find them to be great speakers, and i know a system that used them with ref 3 to great effect...but i suspect you might be looking for greater "bass snap" and more piston-like precision. I think you might find this is in the CJ Premier 8s with the Teflon upgrade.

I have spoken with Ed at CJ myself about doing this...personally, i have complete confidence in CJs service, and Downunder actually did it! we spoke before he sent them and compared notes.

I have not heard Pass...but if it is in the same line as Gryphon (SS, Class A), you might well prefer it.

The other thing to consider is using a different cable loom to "adjust". I have never liked Nordost cable...but the STrads loved the Nordost Thor power conditioner with uses Nordost Valhalla inside, and the vast majority of owners of STrads on AGon use Valhalla too. that also will deliver greater bass punch if you end up with the ARC 210.

As for CD, i think the CD7 is good but not as amazing as others have clearly found it. I bought used Zanden DAC, and despite some mixed reviews, i also thought quite highly of the older DCS Elgar Plus...very resolved, but also quite smooth and realistic. I prefer Zanden personally, but you can get DCS Elgar plus quite affordably these days.

Prefer CD7 to Krell 505 but you might disagree...and its a big name. i can certainly see why some might buy it.

hope that helps...keep us posted!!!
One more thing...i also have auditioned the Emm. i agree with you. very studio sounding...not bad at all...just different than what i personally was looking for.

Can you get Cary? I have heard their 306 Professional SACD player is great. Metronome is crazy-good!!!!! there is one for USD 19,000 on AGon...stunningly analogue sounding. You may "never" trade up? (If you do, also buy the isolation platform that sits underneath...i am not kidding. it takes a very, very solid player with a tiny, tiny bit of inconsistent frequency range to probably the most analogue sounding i have heard.)

Finally, if you are concerned about resale...i personally am concerned about the Transports. i do not know where CD sales will be in 5 years...but i suspect it will continue to drop until they stop altogether. DACs will have use, but transports that only do Redbook may have less attractive re-sale value.

hence, why i went with Zanden DAC...only 16/44 technology but so analogue i do not care. i will probably create a music everythin in high-bit rates and downsize the files into my DAC...until i find a DAC that i like better which also does higher-resolution.
Living with my second pair of Strads and in my ears
the McIntosh MC-602 or the MC-501 fits very very good.
0461, sorry for jumping in a bit late, but I'd like to mention a great amp pairing I
heard with SF Amati Anniversario. I am very aware that Stradivari is another
beast, but perhaps you want to find out whether it works with this speaker as
well. I have always liked the Amati (Hommage as well as Anniversario) but
perhaps it sounded just a mite too "soft" (for lack of a better
description). Well, that was before I heard it with the Electrocompaniet Nemo
monos. These amps can pump raw power into the room and yet remain utterly
musical. Contradiction? It certainly worked out with Amati, I had never heard
them so authoritative and in control before.

Oh, and as to CDP (no SACD!), give the AMR CD-77 a try, one of the most natural
sounding I know for sure.

Good luck!
I'll second the McIntosh recommendation, either 501s or 2301s. Wonderfully listenable and can really jam when called to do so. Burrmester 911s in monoblock configuration also do very well.
Hi 0461.

I owned STrads for a number of years, but i have not heard them with Jadis...however, i have heard the Strads with a number of different tube amps (2 CJs, ARC Ref, Pathos, Unico) and have not been disappointed once. Based on my experience, I would definitely be prepared to bet it is a remarkably good sound in the areas where the Strad is strong - voices, spaces, life, musicality. I do not know the Jadis and their ability to control bass...despite the bass on Strad being very good, it responds extremely well to high current to control its drivers.

Good luck and please report if you hear them. even though i no longer own the Strads, i would be curious to know about how well they pair with Jadis.
Jadis is a good idea, can can listen to them naked...pure tone will touch your skin :-) another excellent sounding amps are the old Jeff Rowland Model 8 and 9
Some feedback !

I haven´t been able to locate a set of JA 200´s at a reasonable price, but I have a set of Mc Intosh Mc 501 on hand, and I think I will give them a go. Low detail lewel or not... After doing a lot of surfing, it seems clear that quite a few Stradivari owners prefer the "dark" Mc Intosh sound paired with the strads..
Hi 0461,

Good luck with that. i have never heard Macs with Strads before, but i totally agree there are many satisfied owners of such combinations. Further, if you read the Roy Gregory review(i think it was him...i have read them all before buying the strads years ago), and you also look at many of the Strad-based systems out will also note that many of them use Nordost Valhalla cabling somewhere in teh system. Roy Greogry i think mentioned that rather than go with a heavy SS amp (which he did not find synergistic at all)...he preferred to "liven up" the Strads thru cabling instead. I think he had Nordost Valhalla. I myself used Transparent Reference...but found profound improvements using Nordost Thor power conditioner for my entire front-end (and it is wired with Valhalla).

Good luck and pls continue to post.
Hi again,

The quest for new amps pointed me in the direction of McIntoch as allready mentioned. The guy who wanted to sell his 501´s also has a set of almost new 1,2kw, and we are now "negotiating" the price for them. If we can come to an agreement, I would prefer to get them ower the 501´s. Primerly because they are more "top of the line", and I admit to beeing prone to top of the line gear. Also when there is no reason other than the emotional one. It´s like with cars.. I´d rather have the Audi RS6 opposed to the S6 even though I will never really take advantage of the surplus power.... if you know what I mean..
0461...that's great that you have narrowed it down to the MC501 and MC1.2KW but unfortunately they will both not fit that well with your ARC Ref 3. There is a potential impedance mismatch and the place where it will be most apparent is in the bass fequencies, where the Ref 3 has an output impedance above a 1000 ohms. The input impedance of the MC1.2KW is 10Kohms (which gives you less than the minimum 10:1 and certainly less than the often desired 15:1 or 20:1 ratio between the amp's input impedance to the pre's output impedance. The Ref 3's overall output impedance of 600ohms balanced and 300ohms through single-ended connections will barely get you there in terms of the desired ratios but as I said in the important bass region the Ref 3's output impedance goes above 1000ohms. This will cause attenuated and loose bass performance most likely and will therefore muddy up the overall resolution and thicken the sound.

If you look at ARC's power amps (both SS and tube) they are all above 100K ohms in terms of input impedance. So you may have to find a low output impedance preamp to match with your McIntosh SS amps, maybe 1 of their own preamps like the C500T.

Good luck.
Hi Cmalak,
Thank you very much for your words on impedance. I was not aware of that at all. What a downer.... I am very contend with the Ref3.
But but, "problems with mis-matching impedance in hifi excists to be solved" as my grandma used to say back in 1944 ;-) ( joke ).

Well, we haven´t closed the deal on the 1.2KW´s yet doe to a disagreement on price. The seller seems to be unaffected by my arguments about financial cricis in europe affecting re-sell prices on hifi....

Have a nice weekend all..
0461...the impedance mismatch is on paper, meaning given the nnumbers, it suggests they may not be suitable for each other. The best thing to do is to try to listen to the pairing together. If you have any McIntosh dealers around you, if they do not carry ARC products as well, I would take your Ref 3 to their store and listen to it with a MC501 or MC1.2KW and test them out together. If they sound good, then no problems. I was just making an observation based on the reported numbers.
I have ARC REF3 with MC501 on my Strads. It dosent sounds to good. Ive just ordered a pair of Pass XA160.5
The MC501 just dosent have enough power to drive the Strads. The matching betwen ARC REF3 and MC501 is ok.
Try to look for other amps then Mcintosh. It dosent really sound good with Strads. They deserve a better amp to do justice with them.
Hi Johnb30,

How funny... I have also ordred a set of 160.5
Considred the 200.5, but I think they are to expensive compared to the 160.5.
As stated in the beginning of this tread, I had a set of 100.5 which I loved the sound of in combination with the Strads and the Ref3, but I felt I lacked power. So now I look forward to learn if the 160.5´s are powerfull enough.

I'm curious as to when you had your 100.5s, how much were the needles moving when your Strads were sounding compressed?

I love the combo of Pass and SF. The 30.5 is one of the amps I rotate in to drive my Guarneri Homages in my home office. Hope the 160.5's do it for you.

The amps should arrive this week or next week...i will let you know about the sound. Also let me know if u listened to X200.5 and if the upgrade is worthing or XA160.5 is enough for Strads even at very loud levels.
What preamp and what loudspeaker cable and interconnects do u have ?
I have owned the Strad for a few years, I was using Electrocompaniet Nemo and it was working ok for me but not superb, however my Nemo amps was not upgraded to the latest version and there is most likely a different sound from the Nemo amps made in the recent years.
At present I'm using BAT VK 600 SE M monoblock configuration and are very pleased with the results, my front end is dCS Scarlatti (transport-dac and clock), but it was fine using the older Elgar+ stack as well.
I use kimber select 1130 and 3038 for the cables

I have no plan to change out the amps, the only disadvantage is the heat from the amps especially during spring/summer time.
So I reccomend these amps, there is more then sufficient power and finesse from my point of view.

To onemug,

The needles did´nt move much, even at high levels. But the bass became "floppy" and undefined. The timing became off beat, and the mids and highs lost body and warmth. The soundstage became compresed and the airy and transparent quality that I so love the Pass amps for, went out the window. Admitted.. I like to rock the house every now and then, but the above occured at to low levels to my taste. Before the Strads I had a set of Wilson WP6 and drowe them with the Pass amps to very high listening lewels with out problems... appart from listening fatiuqe ! The MSB´s I use now, are rated at 400W in 4 ohms, and they deliver more bass control and air at high listening levels than the XA 100.5 did, but with less warmth, bass slam, and midrange body.So at the end of the day, by ordering the 160.5 I hope for the 100.5 sound, but with more V8 tourqe and power.
My pair of XA160.5 just got in ! The sound is very good but it still needs some break in time. Does anyone knows how long it takes for full brake in ?
The Strads also have about 600 hours of playing.
The pair of 100.5 I had, kept on improowing for the first 200 hours. After that I am not sure if the improovments were psykological or real !
I'm haveing about 250 hours of playing and it still needs to improve. The improvments until now are i think it will be a boom of performance at about 5-600 hours or something...there are 6 caps of 25.000uF which need to be full bruned in for full performance.
A friend has a pair of these speakers. I really like its overall tonal balance, ability to deliver the proper density of sound (harmonic structure) and the lack of artificial edge or brittleness. Overall, a terrific speaker.

The slight shortcoming with this speaker, like a LOT of other speakers, is that it is not the last word in liveliness and ability to deliver the kind of explosive attack that other kinds of speakers (like horns or full range drivers) can deliver. I would try an OTL amp with the speaker. OTLs have a way of bringing to life speakers that are slightly "polite." If I were you, I would audition something like the Atmasphere and Joule amps.
Like others have mentioned above, I Can't say enough about the Macintosh 2301's with these speakers.
The 160.5´s are due nex week. And I have the oppertunity to try a set of X600.5 as well. Will be very interesting to compare them. Will be back with impresions shortly.
My power XA160.5 got about 450 hours and it sounds great. At this moment i'm thinking to change my pre from REF3 to REF 40th Anniversary. Does anyone ever heard this pre in this combination ( SF Stradivari + XA160.5 + ARC REF 40th) ?
Johnb30, haven't that exact combo but would opine:

I have the XA100.5's. I believe a lot in preamps. I matched up a Conrad Johnson ART 3 with them and the combo produces a sound that is the best I've heard. I have a lot of respect for AR's preamps and would imagine the REF 40 would be excellent with your 160.5's. They deserve the best pre you can put in front of them.
I agree with Onemug. i have heard the Ref 5 and 3 fact, just helped someone dial in a system with Ref 5 just yesterday. also have spoken with 2 owns REf 40 yesterday. the other owns Ref 5 with Pass...and loves it. by all accounts i have seen/read/spoken to, the Ref 40 surpasses the 5 by a wide margin...whereas there are differences of opinion beteen ref 3 vs 5. some say great difference...many say improvement but not enough to trade up. good luck...but again i think that will be a world-class combination.

How do you find the cj ART3 coupled with the XA100.5's? What did you have before?

I have the ART3 and I am happy with my cj prem8a's with teflon caps, however always wondering whether I will gain the additional bass control/slamm without loosing too much in the mid and top end, especially tonality and tube amp depth.


The 100.5's drive Maggie 3.6's. With the ART 3 in front of the Pass, I find it very easy to listen to, smooth and excellent low level detail. This is coming from a guy who loves SET/300b amps (have them in another system). I had Mac 1000 monoblocks before the Pass.

Those 8a's with the teflon caps must be nice driving your Strads. Never had a chance to listen to 8a's. I'd say the Pass gives up a little to what my 300b's can do in the mid/upper range (with the right speaker) but it's just a matter of the best amp for the the job and the Pass is it for my Mags. Regarding bass, with the Pass I can feel the low notes fluttering against me rather than just a "one note" pound. I didn't get that with the Mac's even with their 1000 watts.
Today ive just ordered my ARC Anniversary REF40 preamp. Now i'm waiting for it to come. I hope in one month it will be here. Thanks for advices and i will write my impressions after the 600 hours brake in.
Fantastic! Congrats! Definitely looking forward to reading your post!!! Run them 24/7 so we wont have to wait more than a month! :)
I'll try...but my local dealer told me to not push the tubes to hard..and that the powers needs to get the signal to amplify i will run like 12-14h a day unfortunately. Do you think i can run it with the powers switched off ?
The 160.5´s are in.... yhaaa ! The 600.5 are also here, so I have had some very interesting evenings. The 160.5´s have only had about 60 hours of burn in so far. The 600.5`s are pre owned, so they are in a ready to rumble state.
My impresions so far, are that the 160.5´s sound sweeter by a small margin, but the 600.5´s have better low end control and slamm. Thy are deffenetly brothers.... the over all tonallity is the same and the X 600.5´s are sonically very close to the XA´s.
But I will have to say that I have also compared the Pass amps to the MSB 202 monos I have been playing on for the last 6 months, and so far they sound better ower all. First and foremost they are more neutral to my ear. They sound more airy in the top end, and imaging and body is better than the XA´s even. There is no doubt that the 600.5 has more brute power, but they sound like a welding machine in comparison ( = less finess ). It might be that the XA´s will surpass the MSB´s when they get more burn in time, but so far it seems to me that MSB are the winner.
There is also something about the timing of the MSB´s that surpases the Pass amps.. very hard to explain, but the timing is very "natural" and organic. A bit like the sound of the Atmasphere OTL amps, if you know what I mean.

I will get back when the 160.5`s have had more time to settle.
Hi Johnb30

i would have thought if you run signal on infinite repeat thru preamp with power amps off, that should be fine.

My XA160.5 got about 500 hours now and ive just noticed at 470-480 hours that the magic started. Your powers needs a lot more then 60 hours. I think both of us needs more then 6-700 hours. Dont even think to compare them at 60 hours because they are not even closer to the final sound that you will get in the end. About power, ive compared my XA160.5 with X350.5 and yes it can be more power but for Strads are more then enough the XA160.5.
Now i'm waiting my new preamp the ARC Anniversary REF40.

Will let you know when i will get it.

Is not a good choice to keep the tubes on the preamp that hot for such a very long period of time. The tubes will wear off more quickly.
My ARC DAC8 was played like this but this is a solid state.
And yes after 450 hours the capacitors just got braked in.
ARC recomands minimum 600 hours and they say that very clear on a big paper on the box of the DAC.