For classical music lovers best amp for large orchestral forces?

I recently upgraded my pre to an arc ref 6se. Currently using pas xa25. It's a very good amp but I'm noticing a fair amount of compression when playing large symphonic works. My speakers are Dalis and they are excellent as is the arc.

For smaller forces, chamber, piano and voices the system works beautifully. But if I'm looking for more transparency and a deeper sound stage for symphonies I find sometimes a boxy cramped sound. Looking to spend around 8k or less either tube or solid state. There have been discussions about the xa25 and what's better but they fill up immediately with tangents of philosophical and technical discussions of how one hears. I'm looking for as many possibilities of actual units that I can read about and possibly hear.

Thanks for your ideas.


I am assuming you have identified the amp as the cause of that compression (it often is). 

Which Dalis do you have?

You want a big solid state amp. You will know the right one, it will be big, heavy, and expensive. I’d go at least 250wpc.

You wanted recommendations: Parasound JC1s or maybe a Bryson 14B or 4B.

I think Class A solid state is a good choice for their ample power reserves as long as it has enough power to begin with   If you like the sound of your Pass but need more power I’d take a look at the Clayton Audio S100 that produces 100Wpc into 8 Ohms and costs $7k new.  Some feel Clayton amps actually sound better than Pass, and I think they offer greater value because you’re not paying up for things like casework bling, marketing $$$, etc.  Anyway, just another option to consider FWIW, and best of luck in your search.  FYI, here are a couple links you may find helpful...

i agree that xa25 is unlikely the root cause of the compression, i too am curious which dali’s the op has and what size of room are they playing in...

the xa25, despite its lowish official power rating, has substantial power and headroom -- that said, nelson and crew have many other, much more powerful amps up the line...

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I would try horizontal BI- AMPING the speakers with an active crossover. It will improve the sound quality from top to bottom immensely. See the article below:



Congratulations on the ARC Ref 6SE. I have one… I love it.

The answer to your question is easy: Audio Reseach Reference 320m. I have an Reference 160m it is simply stunning and so complementary to the 6SE… and the Ref CD9SE… the stuff just works together so well. My next amp will be the Ref 320m.


My analog end has a ARC Ref 3 Phonostage… fantastic phono stage.

Maybe move up the Pass line to a 250.8 that should have plenty of power to handle the music.

I just looked at the specs of the Epicon 8s, and while their 89dB sensitivity is relatively benign the nominal impedance is listed as 5 Ohms.  I can’t remember the last time I saw an impedance level that low, and if nominal is 5 you can bet minimum impedance goes quite a bit lower than that, which would make them a very tough load and may help explain why you’re sensing some compression with demanding material at higher volumes.  I’d call Dali and see what they think as then at least you’ll know for sure.  Just my $0.02 FWIW. 

I am curious how you determined that the Pass was the issue. Compression and separation can come from each source.  You can always have the units modified.  It can be as simple upgrading resistors, capacitors, adding filter chokes, etc. Power supplies make a big difference in this area.

Happy Listening.



hi there. I hear you loud and clear. For my profession I get to sit in a front violin chair in a great symphony orchestra. I listen to all music, jazz, rock, chamber music and also orchestral. There is no denying orchestral music reveals where ones system is at. It tells the story. I only in the last 2 years got into this because during covid I wasn’t performing. I was introduced to one of the worlds great stereo set up people and he has helped me build what is turning out to be a great system. I recently purchased a store demo VTL S-400 ii. It is a fabulous amp. Beyond fabulous, makes my integrated Luxman 590 II sound like a noisy plastic toy. For real. I will be making a major upgrade eventually from my modified AR pre, to CH precision. A great/quiet  pre is so important for classical. For orchestral you just want an amp that gets out of its own way but has a proper decay harmonically. The VtL i bought has that in spades. Reason is I have learned and spoken to Bea Lamm who is the ears behind VTL. She loves classical and we had an interesting conversation. No doubt Pass has some homogenization in the sound. Not sure 8k will take you where you want to go with orchestral. It certainly did not for me. I have also found through much trial that the quieter the system is the more orchestral loves it. For me starting with basic cables (just to hear the transformation) and introducing better and better cables one at a time to see if that was indeed useful has also helped classical in a huge way. in that regard I have heard such a huge transition from so much noise in a system to what my wife and I are finally calling a quiet system. We also found the streamer to be a major issue from a roon nucleus plus with nordost linear power supply (which wasn’t cheap) to a tremendous Wadax server. That also helped clean out and separate voices in orchestral as well. Sorry for the long post.

I can’t speak to your speakers and matching, but my Boulder 1160 attached to my Wilson Alexia 2s will blow your mind at the end of Mahler 2. The timpani shake your chest. The organ will rattle your brain. I love it. 

You’ve got to love it when people say they want to spend X dollars and get suggestions for components costing several multiples of X. Either some people are very careless readers or they are so wealthy that  $10 or $20k is an insignificant rounding error. 🙄

What about an ARC 75SE…? They come on the used market often and it may give you an opportunity to see if the upgrade to an 80s or 160s is worth it…? I had a gryphon Diablo 300 and did just that. The Gryphon had incredible head room and iron fist bass control, but it was a little too dark and clinical for me. The ARC amp was buttery and lovely and not at all harsh with plenty of party for loud passages. I sold the gryphon, bought a used REF 6SE and a brand new 160s and, well… I’m a happy boy. My speakers are Sonus Faber Serafino’s.


I don’t know your speakers, but my Amp Journey took me from McIntosh to Gryphon to Audio Research.


good luck…!

I love the xa25 and the int25 but I didnt like them for classical. They fell apart very quickly when turned up to even moderate listening levels. GI really enjoyed the gsi75 and LM 845-premium were incredible- especially with classical. You had mentioned you have a pre so youre shopping for seperates - that being said one of my favorite amps, and you can find them used for about 4k, is the magnus audio ma-400 - a simply incredible amp. I regret selling it to the day. I had a tube front end on it and Joshua Bell has never sounded better at high volumes in my room. Best of luck in your search!!! 

ghdprentice is giving you the right info. I used to sell Arc stuff and the best symbiotic relationships were Arc connected to Arc. Either the Ref 75 or 150 will do you quite nicely.

Thanks very much for all your suggestions. I had the VTL S200 a while ago and I loved the sound but I found it a bit temperamental and I found dealing with the company not the easiest thing in the world. They do make a wonderful product. But it is a pleasure dealing with arc and pass.

I have been thinking about matching it up with arc but I am a bit leery of matching it up with used tube equipment as opposed to solid state as a used tube unit I bought had a lot of problems. So I bought this arc pre new. Therefore it used up quite a bit of my budget.

Still the 75 and 150 sound wonderful...

I will also read up on bi-amping as that might be cheapest of all.

I appreciate hearing from a musician like dancarlson10 because there is among certain classical music lovers the idea that a person who truly loves it should not be so much into their sound system as it is the music and performance that count. While this is very true a great sound system makes it all the more sweeter and emotionally involving at least for me. Also I've as well felt how a system handles large symphonic forces is the true test. If there is transparency, layers of sound, depth and the creation of a beautiful tapestry all other kinds of music fall happily into place whether it be rock, folk or jazz.

Thank you again.


It might be your Epicon 8’s are the problem.  A Trio is easy for most systems to reproduce, but the more things a speaker has to reproduce, the harder it is, especially at higher levels. 

BTW, Congratulations on the Ref 6se.

All the best.

"What about an ARC 75SE…? They come on the used market often and it may give you an opportunity to see if the upgrade to an 80s or 160s is worth it…? "

I would shy away from any product that often comes on the used market! This likely happens for a reason, e.g., there are issues with it.

Ask you local dealer if they have an amp for you to audition. Or check out amps from some online companies that offer trial periods. Some offer up to 45 days which should be plenty of time to make a decision. SPL amps look interesting. Good luck.



I have a Pass XA25 and Audio research 75SE. I listen to both amps every week. When compared to the XA25 the Audio Research has a wider sound stage, more detail and a cleaner background. When compared to the Audio research the Pass gives a warmer presentation and has stronger bass. I second the recommendations to look at the newer Audio Research amps.

All you guys recommending tube amps, do you know that the OP’s speakers have a stated NOMINAL impedance of only 5 Ohms?  I haven’t been able to find more detailed measurements, but given that I’d have to think the minimum impedance likely reaches well below 4 Ohms somewhere in the frequency range.  Could something like an ARC Ref75SE (an amp I lust after BTW) perform optimally or provide enough juice on demanding recordings played at higher volumes with this kind of load?  I don’t know the answer, but on the surface it does not seem like an optimal situation. 

You probably need more power: try to increase your budget and increase the WPC.  200-400 WPC for starters


I will also read up on bi-amping as that might be cheapest of all.

This just came to mind! See the article below by JBL about BI- AMPING.

FWIW: All amplifiers produce more distortion in lower impedances then higher impedances.




I don’t believe in magic. A 25W/ch amp no matter how good, will not reproduce large orchestral crescendi through an 89 dB speaker convincingly.  If you have a superb tube preamp (you have!), you want a transparent amp with a large current capacity that can deliver into a 5 Ohm load. Dali designs their line to be benign loads… it’s a core tenet of their philosophy you can read in any of their white papers. If you are a he-man with a large budget, and no social conscience, get a Boulder, Soulution, or other similar over-engineered mammoth. If you prefer not to waste money or natural resources, get a Purifi Class D amp. NAD M23 is a starting point. 

My Raven Silhouette is a tube amp and drove my difficult Raidho C3.0 with ease. 
I listen to a lot of large scale symphonies. I have tried 6 different amps and the Ravens won out. I also had ARC VT80SE and they were great with easier speakers like the Focals Electra 1038BEs, Tyler linbrook, usher mini dancer, but struggled with sopra 2 and Raidho  

NAD C298 was laughably bad. Tried it due to accolades everywhere. Can’t believe magazine reviews.  
I might be selling the Ravens to go with SET due to a high sensitivity speaker change. 
They never come up for sale because the actual owners hold on to them. 

On another forum somebody went from a xa25 to an AGD Audion. Affordable and physically manageable Anybody have experience with these?

No, but they are certainly getting universally positive reviews and have the added benefit of being easily upgradeable by the owner when new and improved tech inevitably comes down the road. 

On another forum somebody went from a xa25 to an AGD Audion. Affordable and physically manageable Anybody have experience with these?

op - the search bar above is your friend... just search and you will find 3-4 recent, well populated threads on alberto’s agd’s -- plenty of info to sate your curiosity

i personally have audions, as well as numerous arc tube amps, including the ref 75, as well as having the pass xa25 (twice actually, in the past 2 years, as i changed speakers) - as excellent as it is, the xa25(s) are gone while arc and agd’s i have kept...


yes i love that you want to hear the musical experience that is orchestral playing. Great ears in an orchestra is always being deferential to what voices need to emerge. It isn’t always by any stretch the conductor that brings this out. It is more frequently the musicians that are sensitive. The only system I have heard that totally brought that to me as what I experience on a daily basis is CH precision. Especially the L1 pre amp. Dennis Davis misrepresented me in his review as what I heard in his room is what I heard on stage.  What it did was show the handoffs in the winds, the inner voices of the strings vs, just the 1st violin melodie etc. one should never hear an out of balance orchestra. Never to much timp or brass or 1sts melodie. It all has to work in synchronicity. So hard to get through a system. For example Concertgebouw hall or Szell hall in Cleveland or Berlin hall which are different or Suntory hall in Japan. These are tremendous halls all eclipsing Carnegie hall in my opinion. Balance is the key in orchestral. Never any voice dominating. In my opinion if bass is heavy or timp or organ etc, than it is improperly set up and not accurate. For example i auditioned the s-200 it is totally and completely nothing like the S-400 series 2. Totally different animal. Nothing similar there. Thanks again for letting me chat.

Classe seems to make a nice amp rated to 2 ohms. The delta is the stereo version, or they have a monoblock, which is a bit more expensive. Also, I’ve heard belles, which is actually power Although they don’t have a lot of watts, they got tons of amperage, which is what low impedance speakers need. And the amp was very crisp sounding. That’s just my 2 cents. 

@ghdprentice is totally correct.  TRY it if you do not believe us.

Regarding your box speakers, at the same time, ask your dealer to substitute a pair of Magnepan speakers for these and see if the orchestra does not move into your room with you.

Make sure they are set up CORRECTLY for YOUR ROOM and get back to us and let us know.  You will be blown away!



Yes I have come across many good things said about AGD. I just was interested in knowing how it compared to the xa25 and people knowing my equipment how it might fare.

It’s also helpful to know you had the xa25 twice which means you found it a very fine piece of equipment yet you now use arc and the AGD. The arc75se is a piece of equipment people love yet as somebody noted it is not difficult to come across. Too good to be true in terms of maintenance?

That’s why the AGD new might be a real possibility considering its price. I like Pass enormously and I would have confidence in buying their product used such as possibly the 250.8 or even .5 which might give me the slam and wide open space that I find lacking in the xa25 with my new arc.

And then there is the Audio Research Reference 160m... but is it very expensive? I will have to look it up.

The Parasound Halo JC5 does it for me with both low level and powerful complex loud classical crescendo's with an iron fist grip and a playful nature between the two speakers with 3d imaging  .  Ivan Fisher's Mahler's 2nd from Channel Classics is my go to for my ultimate test of my system after any additions.

One can always use another Mahler 2. I will check it out. I'm afraid the arc 160m is something I can't do. Maybe someday...

Lots of advise.  I would add a couple subs.  That takes a load off speaker and amp.  

Amps from Coda and Pass will do the job.  I go by how heavy they are but Class D broke that rule.  The tube recommendations are good also.

I have an Xa25 with a passive preamp from Khozmo playing Crites speakers, think Klipsch Cornwall.   With two subs I have yet to play anything that sounds compressed.  Including massive hits on a tympani or an electronic bass.  Good luck.

I am a proud and delighted owner of AGD Audions.

In 50 years at this, I have never heard anything like them.

A clear window into the music. Classical is amazing. So much air and separation between instruments. So sweet violins. 
And now there is the $5500 Tempo stereo AGD. Said to be very, very much like the Audions.

And then we now have the Atma-Sphere Class D monos. I don’t know for sure but believe them at the level of the AGD or beyond. 
Ralph, a designer of great tube amps for 50 years, has actually said that tube amps are now on “life support”. That we now have solid state Amos that are as organic and lovely as the best tube amps with greater detail and bass.

Both AGD and Atma are 100 watts  into 8 ohms and 200 into 4.

ARC amps have been developing their designs for many decades and their current amps are also superb. But much more pricey and, perhaps, more “traditional”.



Well, actually I have both the REF 160s and the REF 160m monoblocks. To be honest, I don’t own them… but have had them for over four months. My dealer lent them to me… well, until he needs them. I have been listening to them for so long at this point I just state the status quo. Both are shown in some of my system photos.


The difference. The monoblocks have a slightly greater air and maybe a very small amount of impact. However, this is a very early production model of the REF 160m with low hours, and it is likely ARC tweaked them a bit to improve the sound in the ensuing production runs, so if you bought a new pair they might sound a bit better. The REF 160s actually looks cooler. Until the REF 320m was released I said, if I was buying the 160 again I probably would have gotten the monos. For one reason with mono blocks you can locate them right next to your speakers and use a really short speaker cable… which gives you a big performance gain.

If getting an ARC REF 160 is a stretch for you… then definitely get the REF 160s and I would not feel like I was missing anything. I tried Cardas Clear beyond vs Audio Quest Hurricane power cords… and the difference the Hurricane brought to my 160s was notably greater than the difference in the sound between the 160s and the monoblocks. Also, I brought the 160s performance a bit higher by adding isolation under it.

Also on speaker impedance. My speaker impedance is 4 ohms… no trouble driving my speakers to crazy high volumes in triode mode… 70wpc.

I listen to classical music 90% of the time and am a retired classical musician. ‘The amp I use is the Benchmark AHB2.
It produces a room filling realistic orchestral sound, yet is greatly detailed.
I highly recommend it.

Dear @roxy1927 : " I have been thinking to matching with the arc... ". Well that’s an alternative but for me not the " rigth " one because an amplifier must be matched, first than all , with the speakers: period.


In that sense one great alternative are the JC 1+ monoblocks that are a true challenge even against CH or any other top amplifier ( D'Angostino, Boulder, ML, SimsAudio, Gryphon, etc. ) and the JC 1+ was/is designed by a extremely well regarded electronic designer that’s is John Curl.

Take a look here and I can tell you that you can’t go wrong with and that in the future you will not need to " look " for a different amps. You can be sure that the JC 1+ can outperforms almost all the " names " posted by other gentlemans:


Your call.


Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,