Honest Amp Reviews: Impossible?

So, I’ve noticed a flood of class D junk hitting the market over the last several years. They come from many different brand names from people you’ve never heard of before like "VTV", to popular Internet-in-the-know brands like PS Audio to famous names like Marantz. One thing they ALL have in common: the complete inability to find honest reviews online for these products.

For example, let’s take for instance the Stellar series from PS Audio. Class D junk with the usual attempt to improve euphonics with some kind of input stage. They call this scheme class AD, I guess to differentiate all the other brands that do something similar. However, you’ll never see a review site point this out; they’ll comment briefly on the design and then dutifully call it class AD afterwards as if it isn’t just a class D amp like many others.

Next, the reviewer will invariably lie about the sound. This lying usually takes the form of lying by omission. They’ll gush about how beefy and controlled it is, how neutral it is, how wide and natural the soundstage is, etc. What they WON’T mention is how lifeless, flat, boring and ultimately fatiguing they ALL are. The buyer who doesn’t know any better has to find that out for themselves while he slowly grows to distrust anything a reviewer has to say about anything. So, the only way to actually get value out of a review is to see if a certain amp has the positive attributes you are looking for while trying to painstakingly research any problems it might have because the reviewer won’t mention them.

In addition to the lies of omission, there’s the usual con of giving certain gear to certain reviewers who will appreciate / like the piece. That Stellar will NEVER be put up against a Dan D’agostino or a Pass for example. This could be valuable to the buyer to see how a lesser amp stacks up against a high end one, but it’s not, apparently, useful to the reviewers. Why? Why is telling the whole truth about amps -- all gear really -- taboo?
Everything you need to know about Class D amps - all gear really - you can learn right here without ever reading so much as one single review. Simply look at who is saying the whatever is so great- and who is not.

No one can ever tell you the whole truth. Figure it out. DYODD.
What they WON’T mention is how lifeless, flat, boring and ultimately fatiguing they ALL are.
ALL of them?  Really?  Well I guess that takes any potential bias out of the equation.  Case closed!

Class D junk? Many music lovers are enjoying class D amplifiers. Welcome to the future.
Just take a look at the titles of the 18 threads the OP has started.  They're all "take-down" threads purporting to open the eyes of the rest of us.

Sounds like a Trumpeteer denying reality, believing alternative facts and just pathetically confused.  Why don't you give your leader a call and ask him?  He clearly doesn't know much about anything but he seems to have a lot of time on his hands.  If he doesn't answer your call, try the golf course.  Lately, he's been playing and cheating there daily.  

Alright. For the class D believers please describe your systems. I bet not one of you has anything approaching high-end and you've all been successfully marketed to by the "affordable" audiophile scam. I also bet that none of you have ever compared your class D to a good linear amp on a long term basis, you just got wow'd immediately by the tight bass and high resolution and are in the throes of desperately pretending you like the sound even though you find yourself not listening to it much anymore.
I’ve never owned anything Class D and don’t know that I ever will.      BUT, if Ralph Karsten is exploring and experimenting with the technology; there has to be some potential, for a, "High-End" outcome.       It’s been my experience; if you input an accurate musical signal, to something with, ’Atma-Sphere’ on it, you’re going to get some beautiful music (ie: realism/ambience) out.      Don’t throw the baby out, with the old, funky bathwater (YET).
There is a member her whose name escapes me right now. He owns the top tier Jeff Rowland class D amplifiers and is very happy with them. I believe that he is an audiophile with long experience, and he can obviously afford whatever he wants.
I myself heard early Jeff Rowland class D (small 201 monos I think), and I thought that they were pretty good, but it wasn't a long audition. I've also heard very bad class D from Crown. 
Sounds like a Class D conspiracy theory. What’s one more conspiracy theory?
Bad reviewers! Where’s the bile?

I have 4 Class D amps in my house and listen to them for hours all the time for years.

I’ve been an audio hound for >40 years. Heard it all including the “best” at shows.

Just saying.

Class D is like everything else. You get what you pay for. You will likely get more off it per $$$$ though with Class D. That’s what happens with technological breakthroughs. The rest is all opinion like with many things high end audio.
I dont think a blanket statement like ALL Class D amps are junk really holds much water. BUT, having said that I do agree with the OP that there does seem to be a significant point that he has...and that is that there are reviewer's who seem to fall down ( I won't say, like he does, lie!) as they tend to fail by omission. ( whether that same omission is intentional or not is unknown.) This is exactly why I think it is highly prudent to listen for oneself in one's own system to any component under consideration. Could a Class D amp be the ticket, sure could if it works great with your system and your priorities, IMHO.
Guido Corona ( I think the member alluded to above) certainly likes his Class D Jeff Rowland amps. 
Post removed 
   "This is exactly why I think it is highly prudent to listen for oneself in one's own system to any component under consideration."                            +1  
good post, tvad

i looked at op’s profile, the threads he has started... nuff said - not even worth responding with anything thoughtful

Ive owned all tube systems; Roger Modjeski amp RM 200, OTL Joule Electra, Rogue M150s with cryoed 6550s and EL 34s... several tube preamps; Lazarus, Modulus, Lector balanced tube preamp, multiple SS amps; class A (Kinergetics KBA 75), AB; Bryston 3B, Conrad Johnson, Classe, Brown Electronic Labs BEL 1001 MkII, Parasound A23, more that I can’t recall...

I have also owned quite a few Class D; PS Audio- GCC 250, which I still use in my tv system &, M700s (very nice), several W4S, Emerald Physics, and most recent an EVS 1200, dual mono based on IcePower AS1200 modules, a creation of Ric Schultz with lots of pixie dust: it blows away many/most, and compares to the best amp in memory, the KBA 75

I am on the 1.4 year list for a LSA Voyager GaN based

The last I heard LSA were hoping to start shipping by year's end.  Of course, the proof of the pudding...
The general use of overly broad statements makes the OP's thesis unassailable, not because it rely on hard facts and small, logical inferential steps from them, but instead paints a broad picture of linear amplifier snobbery.  Pure opinion, and even accuses some vague group of writers as being intentionally misleading without evidence.

You literally can't argue a point when it is this vague.

Not the first time the author has done so either:


And this real beauty here:


Though I do have to give the OP credit, if it wasn't for his 2017 meritless bashing of Class D I would have never thought to start so many pro Class D discussions on here.  He gave me the pointer I need to establish my brand.


The general use of overly broad statements makes the OP’s thesis unassailable, not because it rely on hard facts and small, logical inferential steps from them, but instead paints in broad strokes. Pure opinion, and even accuses some vague group of writers as being intentionally misleading without evidence.

You literally can’t argue a point when it is this vague.
Save this. Pin it. To the top of all your posts. And.... wait a minute. Wait just a doggone minute!

He gave me the pointer I need to establish my brand. 

So now you have a BRAND?????!?!?!!

Where is the ROTFLMAOH (hysterically) emoji?

Kinergetics KBA 75 I Class A power anp - well I still own one.  Back in the day it was a great amp in its price range but nothing special especially by todays standards.  I know someone who rebuilt one completely.  BUT that being said, it does not compete to some of the amps out there today.

I said this comment in another thread - I can build anything I want and so far the Class D does not compete with what we build today.  Nice for the cheap prices but I have not heard one that I would want to purchase at this time.

Happy Listening.

I féal the OP!   A lot of economical junk has invaded the Audiophile space.
Sure honest reviews are possible. The problem is that when someone like the OP dosnt agree with them, they believe their personal opinion is the end of the discussion and claim anything that dosnt agree is trash. My question would be why are you even reading reviews. You’ve already made up your mind before you read, so reviews arnt for people like that. Buy what you want and apparently you’ll be happy with that. A lot of people don’t come with preconceived ideas and those are the ones who the reviews are for.

Opie, I’m glad my ears are not ruined by the junk you listen to.
I’m getting fatigued running away from such blinding prejudice.
It’s not a matter of whether I agree with a review or not. The problem is that the reviews aren’t honest. For example, go to any hi-fi review site. You can always tell if a piece of gear is good at imaging or not if the reviewer mentions it. If the reviewer praises imaging it’s probably good at imaging but if he doesn’t mention imaging at all it’s probably bad at it. This is lying by omission and a tactic which seems heavily deployed against low-budget audiophiles.

Furthermore, I constantly see this phenomena of budget audiophiles becoming emotionally attached to budget gear, as if they found an amazing value club allowing them hang out with the big-dollar crowd. In reality they’ve just been marketed to successfully by cost-cutting manufacturers. This marketing scam is facilitated by the review sites which do nothing but feed into peoples’ confirmation bias. The reviewers should be telling these buyers what they are actually getting into honestly. No, there isn’t a free lunch club. There are some legitimate better-than-standard value manufacturers out there but they get swamped by the cost-cut marketing scheme, and these reviewers are complicit in this.

For example, take PS Audio. They make great gear. But they also market class D junk to budget-minded audiophiles. You will search in vain for any review which points out the drawbacks of class D, and often you’ll see lying about how PS Audio defeated those problems if mentioned at all.
The problem is that the reviews aren’t honest.
I don’t know where you get your info or whatever super-duper lie detector you think you possess, but as a former reviewer I can tell you from many years of experience this is hogwash you’ve invented in your own mind to support your notion of some conspiracy theory that doesn’t exist — or at least not nearly to the extent you imply.

If the reviewer praises imaging it’s probably good at imaging but if he doesn’t mention imaging at all it’s probably bad at it. This is lying by omission and a tactic which seems heavily deployed against low-budget audiophiles.
This is also just a load of self-imagined, delusional crap. Reputable reviewers are not gonna potentially trash their reputation to misrepresent what they hear. If I happened to not mention something in a review it was because it was fine and not noteworthy relative to other characteristics that stood out more. Most every review I read has some mention of caveats or limitations where lesser or negative qualities are discussed. They might be lightly worded so as to not completely trash a product someone has usually worked very hard to produce, and this is done because reputable and responsible reviewers realize they’re not always right or infallible and that severe criticism could potentially damage or even drive a good company out of business. So yeah, you sometimes have to read between the lines a bit, but there’s a good reason behind that.

Sorry to pontificate a bit here, but sometimes uninformed and ignorant conspiracy garbage needs to be called out for what it is so it hopefully doesn’t unnecessarily poison even more minds out there. Peace out.

So now you have a BRAND?????!?!?!!

Oh, yes.  I attract all the rift-raft [sp.] who reply to my every post.
my question is why does the op read reviews if his mind is already all made up that class d as a category is sub par... reading reviews till cows come home won’t change that mindset... seems to me he is just venting and trolling...

my sense is that reviewers (or their publications) can have some subtle or not so subtle biases or commercial conflicts of interest -- but for their own reputation and durability as reviewers over spans of time, they need to be more or less accurate and call it as they see it (or hear it...) - negative reviews can be suppressed, or negatives can be stated in their choice of words with softer language than the strengths, so one does need to read between the lines sometimes

the most useful reviews are ones where the reviewer compares the review subject with popular or obvious competing products and highlights differences - this happens too infrequently... for the reasons mentioned above
It is unfortunately true that most reviews are entirely positive.

It is important to learn to read them by omission and by working out language that is actually disguised negativity.   
Hey Madavid0:Replaced my Pass Aleph 0 with ATI 52XX class D amp which in turn was replaced by VTV Purifi class D. Each step was a definite step up.
Preamps: McIntosh C47, Schiit Freya  TT: Garrard 301 in Nantais base, Fidelity Research arm with hot-rodded Denon103 (Boron cant./wood body  DAC: balanced Topping D90. Speakers Wayne Parham 4PiIf this does not meet your standards for resolution, too bad.

my question is why does the op read reviews if his mind is already all made up that class d as a category is sub par... reading reviews till cows come home won’t change that mindset... seems to me he is just venting and trolling...

Yes, and he's also trying to save us from ourselves. As Erik already pointed out he's posted provocative threads in the past. He's also well-known on at least one other forum under a different name. Same. Exact. Relentless. $hit. 

Although this isn’t about Class D, I am in agreement with the OP regarding reviews. It’s what the reviewer doesn’t say that is most important. I aired a gripe about reviewer Greg Weaver reviewing every Von Schweikert speaker allowed to TAS for reviewing. IMHO, Mr. Weaver is a VS fanboy of the entire line. I bought a pair of VS VR33 speakers 7 years ago after reading his very flattering review of them.

I was extremely disappointed in them, actually hated them, and I took a bath on them when I was finally able to sell them. Yet, Mr. Weaver gushed and gushed over them. He said it was the BEST 15K speaker for only $3400.00. He does this with every VS speaker he reviews! I will never trust any of his reviews again and after re-reading the review many times, I came to realize he omitted the most important things regarding the speaker.
Yes that is exactly the sort of lying by omission and also being breathlessly positive over everything being reviewed which makes professional reviews useless. We shouldn't HAVE to read between the lines and pick apart what's not being said.

How did I develop this hatred of class D? I didn't start out that way. I developed that outlook after numerous failed experiments. There was always an excuse, always someone breathlessly extolling THIS amp was the greatest, THIS one is the real deal, THIS one will change your mind about the topology, etc. All LIES. It would have been GREAT if the reviewers had taken on the burden of explaining the serious limitations of class D and how even the best ones will be fatiguing long-term, that way I could have limited my pain being sent down wrong paths for so long. I had to learn the hard way that I'm NOT the target market for cheap cost-cut crap sold at a massive markup to people who were led to believe that they found the secret super value club when in fact were just suckered into a class D scam.

It would be GREAT if reviewers could lead off a class D review with "As my readers know, class D amps are garbage for these reasons. Today we're looking at X amp to see if it can overcome the faults of the topology has been struggling with for decades." If the manufacturers don't like having their products lumped in with "garbage", then they should consider not releasing garbage.
"Why is telling the whole truth about amps -- all gear really -- taboo?"

Think about it. If you said all amps (ditto cables, CD players, DAC's etc) under controlled conditions sound alike, just how popular would you be amongst those who are trying to earn a living selling them?

How popular would you be with your editor?

How popular would you be amongst those who have invested large sums of money in the belief that they were paying for superior sound quality?

If you want to be popular, not to mention hold down your job, you better go with the flow. 

History shows that to be the case. Martyrs only get acknowledged in hindsight, if at all.
If you said all amps (ditto cables, CD players, DAC's etc) under controlled conditions sound alike, just how popular would you be amongst those who are trying to earn a living selling them?
Not very, but you also wouldn’t be a good reviewer if you can’t hear differences between amps, cables, etc.  If you think they all sound the same I feel truly sorry for you, and why are you even here?

And BTW, there is truth to the idea that there are mostly positive reviews because it’s mostly very good-sounding equipment that makes it to that point.  I’m not saying there aren’t bad or otherwise useless reviews out there — there certainly are, but if something’s made it to the point of being reviewed these days it’s probably gotten plenty of good buzz precisely because it sounds pretty darn good.  So it’s not really too surprising most reviews are largely positive.  
there are some good points being made about how high end gear is sold, and how ’professional’ reviews play a role in that...

... but i would also say that the stream of venom and anger in the op’s tone is pretty hard to take, certainly not very enjoyable to read...

we have all made mistakes trying things in this hobby, some fairly expensive -- it is up to us to be discerning and careful in how we gather info, process it, and decide how to act
Slightly off topic but nowadays a similar trend can be observed in reviewers whose primary medium is youtube. Many started off as refreshing alternatives to the more mainstream reviewers al’a Absolute Sound, Stereophile, etc., and were actually very honest, opinionated maybe but still honest, in the beginning. Once they become popular, the devolution goes like this ...

The reviewers starts off as a hobbyist and the reviews are honest and do not tend to ’lie by omission’. Pretty soon, the youtube channel takes off and they quit their day jobs. Now the pressure to keep churning videos every week or daily (e.g. Steve Guttenburg) starts mounting. You gotta pay the bills after all. Next comes the infusion of chifi reviews. But while they claim that the chifi component flavor of the week is a giant killer giving you the same performance at 25% of the price, they will make sure not to compare to the higher end products directly. They will omit any mention of long term reliability, or post sales service. Everything is a giant killer, everything knocks their socks off!

I feel that our last bastion of hope remains forums such as these. Reviews, whether by professionals or amateurs on youtube, should be taken with a truck load full of salt.
As a reviewer, here's my take, attempting to not assault the OP: 

This is what can happen when people chase "giant killer" products. Put a bunch of them together and you do not get greatness. If a reviewer puts an inexpensive product in an upper end rig, the result is nowhere near the same as the guy with all "giant killer" components and speakers. The community is largely ignorant of such things, then blame the reviewers for not getting similar, impressive results.

Reviewers should point out such things, but some do not. It's not so much a "lie" as a different experience that does not translate necessarily. The problem is exacerbated when the budget audiophile believes that cheaper gear should perform on the same level as upper end gear.  I believed it prior to reviewing, but once I got my hands on upper end gear the lie died due to overwhelming proof otherwise. 

Its a case of existing in different worlds, and the experience of putting a budget component into a fine rig is vastly different than populating an entire rig with them. No lie.  

Shall I stir the pot? Sure, why not? 
Imo, as a class, D is overtaking classes A/B and A. I just began a review of a new class D amp (not a value club loser), and to describe its performance as anything other than sensational at the MSRP would be... a lie. Sorry, not a "giant killer", i.e. sub-$2K, but a legit piece of fine kit.  :) 

@madavid0  I have tested Genelec 8341A active speakers. They use class D amps. My old system was Dynaudio contours powered by Hegel H190 which I gave up to downsize. The Genelecs would be hard to best even by speakers ten times their price. 
The real question when I read reviews is how discriminatory is the reviewer in question. Many times it would seem that the rave review, full of hyperbole,is given by the reviewer who perhaps doesn’t have a true standard that is high enough to guide him by. Or maybe he does, and that standard is still low enough that all gear he reviews not only meets the standard, but exceeds it. Personally, if I want to tear apart any piece of gear I have ever heard , at any price point, I can do this...as they all have their issues compared to ‘live unamplified sound’.
Engineering is always a compromise.

Pass Labs, typically $10,000 - $80,000
Dagostino, typically $20,000 - $250,000
class D amps, typically $500 - $3000

Do you see it yet ?

Have you never heard of Mola Mola? They're not all cheap, and plenty are over 3k.
I am guilty of chasing giant killer reviews. My new favorite reviewer is Soundnews.com from Hungary (headphone related). I actually bought 2 pieces last week based only on his reviews. After reading a lot of his reviews I agreed with this reviewer’s point of view on many things. So only based on the reviews, I bought a $500 supposed giant killer headphone amp and the other was a feature rich DAC (almost a giant killer). Which is supposed to be better than my existing more expensive DAC.

The great thing for me is that I own the giant headphone amp that is being killed with the $500 upstart. That is same quality but tiny price. So I can confirm for myself. However, I have a feeling this reviewer is going to be correct. I will be doing a headphone amp faceoff with a $3000 Benchmark HPA4 vs a $424 Topping A90 headphone amp.

In the non-headphone world, there are some giant killer products that are being put into giant systems. There are posts on A’gon about those experiences. A few weeks ago, some guy posted about putting in a Benchmark LA4 into his $100K system. I think he replaced a $20K preamp.

I am waiting on the next giant killer (maybe), more powerful Purifi amps. Not this first batch. 
My new favorite reviewer is Soundnews.com from Hungary (headphone related).
This site seems to be missing?