Counterpoint Hybrid Amps: How do they sound?

I've been curious about the Counterpoint SA-100 and NPS amps. They had a tube driver stage and MOSFET outputs. How do they sound compared to other things out there? Are they reliable? Counterpoint was famous for having equipment that was unstable and blew up. I had been told that the designer was not as technically adept an engineer, and that was why the circuit designs were not the most stable, and certain components were stressed in the circuit.

Anyway, the concept of hybrid amps has always been interesting, and very controversial. The different thoughts:

Hybrid amps have the best of tubes and solid state.

Hybrid amps have the worst of tubes and solid state combined.

Hybrid amps should use tube input stages and solid state output stages.

Hybrid amps should use solid state input stages and tube output stages.

Counterpoint products were excellent.

Can you fault them? Sure, but you can do that with any product. Regardless of cost.

I would say that they kept the tube flame burning during the zenith of the big, bruising solid state muscle amps. The tube input was the thing that distinguished them. While it's true that they played in the high current field, I believe they were required to. The premier speakers of that time required a lot of juice to come alive. Apogee, Carver, Duntech, Hales, Magnepan, Martin Logan, PSB, Thiel.

Let's face it, if you were a high end amp at the time, and you could not feed these speakers what they need, current, you would not be able to sell anything. Your amp, in comparison to Classe, Krell, Mark Levinson, and Rowland would sound limp, strained, harsh, and constricted. Those were the direct competitors of Counterpoint. A step or two above Adcom, AMC, B & K, and NAD. A step above Aragon.

A lower powered amp at the time fell into the classification of lower priced, lower quality(back then quality was quantity), exotic - owned by lunatic fringe, or foreign(European - also considered lunatic fringe at the time).

The amps could basically drive anything you needed to drive. Their products could drive a 2 ohm load, and if my memory serves me correctly, maybe even a 1 ohm load. The sound was rich, due to the 6DJ8 and mosfet outputs. But, I feel that there was definitely some mosfet haze, if not to the degree of Adcom, which I feel is the classic example mosfet haze. I can also say that the sound was a bit etched, electronic, and unnatural. But, so were all of the other competitor's amps. There wasn't a sense of lightness or speed of the products, but again, that was the rule of the day. Even of the time's best amps. I would say it was partly due to the "bigger is better" war that was going on regarding power supplies; transformers and capacitors. Part of it were the parts available. Part of it was that "simpler is better" was not embraced by many then.

Parts quality has come along way in the past decade. And, I am certain that had Counterpoint survived, they would have progressed in a manner similar to Jeff Rowland. A continual upward path, resulting in a refinement and smoothness improvement. None of these big amps needed more power. In fact, over the past 5 or so years, speakers have become much more efficient. Mostly necessitated by the reemergence of tubes.

Would I buy a Counterpoint amp now? Sure. If the sound was what I was looking for. The prices, always reasonable for their quality, are good. As has been mentioned, in the right combination, Counterpoint can offer heaven. As always, an audition is required to see if your tastes merge with the marque. I would also agree with the assessment that the power amps as significantly more reliable than the preamps.
I just heard about Aria(?) amps and was on their website the other day. Thought I read the designer was the original guy from Counterpoint, but I could be wrong. Was Counterpoint bought by Red Rose? Anyway, the website was something close) and I got to it through something close) but you might be able to access it directly. The amps were hybrid types so I'm thinking it might be the same guy. Just thought I'd pass this on as I didn't see it mentioned above.

Check out this website for all your Counterpoint needs:
I have owned many many Counterpoint products u until about 6 months ago. I have owned the Sa1000, sa2000, sa11, sa2, sa100, sa220, sa4s, pac5s, pac15s, and did a long home audition of the sa3000. the only failure I had was with the sa220 (i touched the speaker leads and blew up the amp) and the Pac5s.

About 8 months ago I found a sa220 and a sa20 with blown MOSFETS (the most common problem) selling for bargin prices, so I purchased them. Mike E still does repairs on these amps and the cost is minimal. ($175)....after repairs both amps failed a 2nd time and in the process took out my beloved Acoustic Energy Ae2s......however, Mike E does supply excellent service on damaged point of this post is.....if you are looking for a sa100 or 220s for one of Mikes upgrades, I would back that 100%, but would have some reservations on using the 220,20s.100s, 12 stock especially due to their age and inherent volitility

Btw: when the repaired 220 and 20 came back they sounded superb, one of the few amps that I have ever used that made the AE 2s sound reference class. Others have pointed out, wide soundstage, musical, liquid mids, the ability to pick out individual instruments, and voices.
I have owned several peices of Counterpoint equipment over the years. Starting in 92, I had a solid 2 power amp. Bought a SA-3000 preamp a few years later. Moved to biamp by adding a SA-100 hybrid power amp. Sold that setup to a friend, who still enjoys it very much. After the company went belly up in late 98, I purchased 2 NP-400 power amps used, a very good deal considering the equipment sells for about 30-35% of original retail. I have since had them both upgraded to Michael Elliot's highest level, which replaces a lot of parts with much better ones. Michael Elliot still services and upgrades all Counterpoint equipment. You can read all about it at, I also have a review of the upgrades posted on that site. I can't say enough about it, I have compared it to probably 15-20 other fairly expensive amps over the years, but haven't found anything that outdoes it for under 20K, which is far out of my affordability. I have never had any reliabilty problems at all, neither have any of my friends, several of which own counterpoint equipment. I think the reputation of unreliabilty came later from the Counterpoint EASE line, which was astronomically complex and expensive. The big preamp (Magnum Opus?) was about 37k, had 2 separate power supplies weighing over 60 lbs each, 57 tubes in all. It had outsourced custom transformers which had been improperly manufactured, bad shielding, leading to 100% failure in the field. This created a bad reputation, and financial insolvency due to the massive debt incurred to manufacture this new line. It was lights out. Since someone touched on this in the post, I believe it was Conrad Johnson, probably their closest competitor, that bought the name and all designs. I have the Claritas preamp, the CJ "Baby ART" is almost exactly the same thing, different faceplate and some different parts. The hybrid amps, SA and NP series, are the real gems in the line. I would not hesitate to recommend any of these, especially at current market prices. If it matters; I have a Claritas preamp, 2 upgraded NP-400's, a DA11.5 transport, an upgraded DA 10 DA converter, running legacy Focus speakers.