My Long List of Amplifiers and My Personal Review of Each!

So I have been in a long journey looking to find the best amplifiers for my martin logan montis. As you know, the match between an amplifier and speakers has to be a good "marriage" and needs to be blend exquisitely. Right now, I think I might have found the best sounding amplifier for martin logan. I have gone through approximately 34-36 amplifiers in the past 12 months. Some of these are:

Bryston ST, SST, SST2 series

With all that said, the amplifiers I mentioned above are the ones that in my opinion are worth mentioning. To make a long story short, there is NO 5 CHANNEL POWER AMP that sounds as good as a 3ch and 2ch amplifier combination. i have done both experiments and the truth is that YOU DO lose details and more channel separation,etc when you select a 5 channel power amplifier of any manufacturer.
My recollection of what each amp sounded like is as follows:

ATI SIGNATURE SERIES 6005 (great power and amazing soundstage. Very low noise floor, BUT this amplifiers NEEDS TO BE cranked up in order to fully enjoy it. If you like listening at low volume levels or somewhat moderate, you are wasting your time here. This amp won’t sound any different than many other brands out there at this volume. The bass is great, good highs although they are a bit bright for my taste)

NAD M25 (very smooth, powerful, but somewhat thin sounding as far as bass goes)
Bryston sst2(detailed, good soundstage, good power, but can be a little forward with certain speakers which could make them ear fatiguing at loud volumes)

Krell (fast sounding, nice bass attack, nice highs, but some detail does get lost with certain speakers)

rotel (good amp for the money, but too bright in my opinion)

cary audio (good sound overall, very musical, but it didn’t have enough oomph)

parasound halo (good detail, great bass, but it still holds back some background detail that i can hear in others)

lexicon (very laid back and smooth. huge power, but if you like more detail or crisper highs, this amp will disappoint you)

McIntosh mc205 (probably the worst multichannel amp given its price point. it was too thin sounding, had detail but lacked bass.

butler audio (good amplifier. very warm and smooth sweet sounding. i think for the money, this is a better amp than the parasound a51)

pass labs (very VERY musical with excellent bass control. You can listen to this for hours and hours without getting ear fatigue. however, it DOES NOT do well in home theater applications if all you have is a 2 channel set up for movies. The midrange gets somewhat "muddy" or very weak sounding that you find yourself trying to turn it up.

classe audio (best amplifier for multi channel applications. i simply COULDNT FIND a better multi channel amplifier PERIOD. IT has amazing smoothness, amazing power and good bass control although i would say krell has much better bass control)

Update: The reviews above were done in January 2015. Below is my newest update as of October 2016:

PS AUDIO BHK 300 MONOBLOCKS: Amazing amps. Tons of detail and really amazing midrange. the bass is amazing too, but the one thing i will say is that those of you with speakers efficiency of 87db and below you will not have all the "loudness" that you may want from time to time. These amps go into protection mode when using a speaker such as the Salon, but only at very loud levels. Maybe 97db and above. If you don’t listen to extreme crazy levels, these amps will please you in every way.

Plinius Odeon 7 channel amp: This is THE BEST multichannel amp i have ever owned. Far , but FAR SUPERIOR to any other multichannel amp i have owned. In my opinion it destroyed all of the multichannel amps i mentioned above and below. The Odeon is an amp that is in a different tier group and it is in a league of its own. Amazing bass, treble and it made my center channel sound more articulate than ever before. The voices where never scrambled with the action scenes. It just separated everything very nicely.

Theta Dreadnaught D: Good detailed amp. Looks very elegant, has a pleasant sound, but i found it a tad too bright for my taste. I thought it was also somewhat "thin" sounding lacking body to the music. could be that it is because it is class d?

Krell Duo 300: Good amp. Nice and detailed with enough power to handle most speakers out there. I found that it does have a very nice "3d" sound through my electrostatics. Nothing to fault here on this amp.
Mark Levinson 532H: Great 2 channel amp. Lots of detail, amazing midrange which is what Mark Levinson is known for. It sounds very holographic and will please those of you looking for more detail and a better midrange. As far as bass, it is there, but it is not going to give you the slam of a pass labs 350.5 or JC1s for example. It is great for those that appreciate classical music, instrumental, etc, but not those of you who love tons of deep bass.

 It is articulate sounding too
Krell 7200: Plenty of detail and enough power for most people. i found that my rear speakers contained more information after installed this amp. One thing that i hated is that you must use xlr cables with this amp or else you lose most of its sound performance when using RCA’s.

Krell 402e: Great amp. Very powerful and will handle any speaker you wish. Power is incredible and with great detail. That said, i didn’t get all the bass that most reviewers mentioned. I thought it was "ok" in regards to bass. It was there, but it didn’t slam me to my listening chair.

Bryston 4B3: Good amp with a complete sound. I think this amp is more laid back than the SST2 version. I think those of you who found the SST2 version of this amp a little too forward with your speakers will definitely benefit from this amp’s warmth. Bryston has gone towards the "warm" side in my opinion with their new SST3 series. As always, they are built like tanks. I wouldn’t call this amp tube-like, but rather closer to what the classe audio delta 2 series sound like which is on the warm side of things.

Parasound JC1s: Good powerful amps. Amazing low end punch (far superior bass than the 402e). This amp is the amp that i consider complete from top to bottom in regards to sound. Nothing is lacking other than perhaps a nicer chassis. Parasound needs to rework their external appearance when they introduce new amps. This amp would sell much more if it had a revised external appearance because the sound is a great bang for the money. It made my 800 Nautilus scream and slam. Again, amazing low end punch.

Simaudio W7: Good detailed amp. This amp reminds me a lot of the Mark Levinson 532h. Great detail and very articulate. I think this amp will go well with bookshelves that are ported in order to compensate for what it lacks when it comes to the bass. That doesn’t mean it has no bass, but when it is no Parasound JC1 either.
Pass labs 350.5: Wow, where do i begin? maybe my first time around with the xa30.8 wasn’t as special as it was with this monster 350.5. It is just SPECTACULAR sounding with my electrostatics. The bass was THE BEST BASS i have ever heard from ANY amp period. The only amp that comes close would be the jC1s. It made me check my settings to make sure the bass was not boosted and kept making my jaw drop each time i heard it. It totally destroyed the krell 402e in every regard. The krell sounded too "flat" when compared to this amp. This amp had amazing mirange with great detail up top. In my opinion, this amp is the best bang for the money. i loved this amp so much that i ended up buying the amp that follows below.

Pass labs 250.8: What can i say here. This is THE BEST STEREO AMP i have ever heard. This amp destroys all the amps i have listed above today to include the pass labs 350.5. It is a refined 350.5 amp. It has more 3d sound which is something the 350.5 lacked. It has a level of detail that i really have never experienced before and the bass was amazing as well. I really thought it was the most complete power amplifier i have ever heard HANDS DOWN. To me, this is a benchmark of an amplifier. This is the amp that others should be judged by. NOTHING is lacking and right now it is the #1 amplifier that i have ever owned.

My current amps are Mcintosh MC601s: i decided to give these 601s a try and they don’t disappoint. They have great detail, HUGE soundstage, MASSIVE power and great midrange/highs. The bass is great, but it is no pass labs 250.8 or 350.5. As far as looks, these are the best looking amps i have ever owned. No contest there. i gotta be honest with you all, i never bought mcintosh monos before because i wasn’t really "wowed" by the mc452, but it could have been also because at that time i was using a processor as a preamp which i no longer do. Today, i own the Mcintosh C1100 2 chassis tube preamp which sounds unbelievable. All the amps i just described above have been amps that i auditioned with the C1100 as a preamp. The MC601s sound great without a doubt, but i will say that if you are looking for THE BEST sound for the money, these would not be it. However, Mcintosh remains UNMATCHED when it comes to looks and also resale value. Every other amp above depreciates much faster than Mcintosh.

That said, my future purchase (when i can find a steal of a deal) will be the Pass labs 350.8. I am tempted to make a preliminary statement which is that i feel this amp could be THE BEST stereo amp under 30k dollars. Again, i will be able to say more and confirm once i own it. I hope this update can help you all in your buying decisions!

Alright guys, i just sat down and started to play these MC601s while i write what follows below:

Plinius SA100MK3: VERY AMAZING AMP. This amp has a gorgeous amount of detail and nice bass. i was very impressed by how much bass it retained even a low volumes which is a hard thing for many amps to do! I really don’t remember ANYTHING bad about this amp. It sounded very nice with my Dynaudio C4s.

Plinius SA103: I bought this amp because i thought the SA100MK3 was amazing so i had to try it. Anyhow, i found this amp very detailed, great overall tonal balance, BUT I DID NOT GET THE SAME OOMPH in the bass department that the sa100mk3 had. I called plinius several times and they told me this amp uses dual transformers and that i needed to re-wire my electrical outlet with a 12 gauge cable, etc, etc which i was not going to do. I felt this amp was a tad more detailed than the plinius sa100mk3, but if i am being honest here, i preferred the sa100mk3. It had bass that "thumped" at any volume level.

Octave Audio v110 integrated: i tried this unit with my Confidence C4s and i will say it REALLY impressed me when i first turned it on. I mean, it was like my speakers became something else. TONS OF BASS that i couldn’t believe what i was hearing. I liked it so much that i wanted to keep it and made it part of my home theater by using its passthrough mode. That said, it just didn’t really keep up with the rest of my amps. It got lost time and time again when action scenes came on. It almost felt as if my front speakers were not even playing at times. I later just realized that Tube amps just don’t have the dynamics and slam needed for movies. I must have tried all sorts of settings, calibrations, etc and i just couldn’t get it to blend with the rest of my set up. If i had a channel set up and no home theater, i would have certainly kept it.

ATI SIGNATURE 4007: Here i was again. Trying to see if maybe i didnt give the 6007 signature amp a fair shot when i first bought it so tried this less powered version. I found that it really is a solid amp if you are looking to do 100% home theater with occasional 2ch listening. This is the amp that you throw in a rack and shut the door and let it play for years and years and years without ever worrying about it. However, it is NOT IN THE SAME LEAGUE as the JC1’s, pass labs, Krell 402e, etc.

EMOTIVA SA250: I was actually very impressed by this affordable amp. i connected my crazy expensive mcintosh c1100 to this amp and i really was amazed by how it handled my electrostatics. I could say that there were other amps that were far more expensive and yet they couldn’t hold a candle to this amp. It had plenty of everything and i really thought if this amp was made by someone else, they could charge 10 times more for it.

Someone above asked me why i don’t try tubes and i think i pretty much said why above. I just feel tubes are awesome for 2 channel and i probably would have an all tube set up if all i did was 2 channel, but in my situation i need an amp that can excel at both.
As far as the xa30.8, that is one great amp. I think it is the amp you use if you live in a nice studio apartment with a nice pair of focal diablo bookshelves speakers or Dynaudio C1s (or something like those) and you do serious listening late at night without ripping your neighbors walls off. This amp will give you every ounce of detail and 3 dimensionality that you wish to have, but IT IS NOT a monster and dynamic amp as the 350.5 or 250.5. or 250.8. The xa30.8 is a very intimate sounding amp. It is not the amp that will make your jaw drop when you let it blast as loud as you can handle. That is when you purchase the x250 or x350.
i want to be very honest, and i want to put this out there. i find the XA pass labs amps to be amazing amps, but you WILL BENEFIT from having speakers with powered woofers such as martin logan electrostatics, goldenear triton 1s,etc. In my personal opinion, the best amps to come from pass labs are the CLASS A/B amps. Any X series amp to be specific. They just have outstanding slam and will knock you back in your chair when you crank them up. Up until this day, i still have not heard a better slam and dynamics than the pass labs x series whether it be the .5 or .8.

One last thing i wanted to say is that i am writing this out for all of you who are looking to gather as much info as possible in order to make a smart buying decision. However, my reviews here are based on my own experience and not what some reviewer got paid to say on a magazine. i don’t get paid, i don’t make anything from this. It is just my passion/hobby. Some of you will recommend other amps from brands that nobody has ever heard of or that are so unknown that i simply won’t dare to buy. Why? because as you can see i go through amps almost on a weekly basis and i also need to be able to sell them when i want to try the next amp. Does this mean that i am missing out on a lot of other amps? i am sure i am, but i am also being smart about my buying decisions. Essentially the sale of each amp finances my next amp purchase. i can’t buy an amplifier that i simply can’t sell for 3, 4, 6 months etc.
One more thing i was thinking about doing was to give my opinion on processors. I have owned quite a few as well and can certainly give my personal opinion on many of these, but that will come later.
Anytime you see something that i am selling, rest assured it is only because i am looking to move on to the next thing and not because there is something wrong with it. I could be totally in love with an amp today and think it is the best I’ve owned, but i will still move on from it when something else catches my attention.
In the meantime, i will continue listening to these 601s.

@whitecamaross - I would definitely welcome discussion on the different processors you have reviewed. I would ask that you start a thread in the "Home Theater" subforum. I would definitely comment as I have been through a number of processors as well.

I see you have very positive review of the Emotiva SA-250. Have you listened to the other XPR/XPA monoblocks? I have not heard the SA-250, but if I remember right, it’s basically a single-ended amp - but has separate power supplies fed from a shared transformer. The XPA/XPR monoblocks are fully balanced/differential with larger power supplies and more output transistors. Just curious. The XPA amps sound somewhat bright/harsh in the highs. The XPR amps sound a bit soft, but a bit cold at the same time (yes, I know it’s weird, but it’s my impressions). The stock fuse is the problem on both amps, as replacing them with Isoclean really helped each amp significantly. I’m running all XPR-1 monoblock just because I can’t find any other "equivalent" amp near the price range that will give me as much.

the XPR monos were on my bucket list, but they are long gone now so that won’t happen anymore. I almost bought a pair of xpa-1 the other day, but i just didnt do it because i am still playing with the mc601s.
What i think emotiva benefits from besides what you mentioned above is from an excellent source and preamp/processor. I think my mx160 processor (which i am selling on here) sounded spectacular with these emotiva amps. I tried other amps i had here and i honestly couldn’t tell them apart. The mx160 made those emotiva amps sing amazing. People sometimes underestimate the importance of a quality preamp or processor. Right now, i am a believer in a tube preamp with a solid state for a 2ch and home theater application. It is tough to beat. 

You mentioned somewhere in one of your posts a second set of speakers ? Are you using both sets of speakers for these trials ? Are these impressions of the amps for just with ML or both ? One might not get the same results once different speakers are introduced . Different pre's /processors will affect the way a amp sounds as well . Lots of variables to put a blanket statement on a amps qualities .

Have you ever used a Krell FPB 400cx or 300cx, and if so, how would you rate their audio quality vs the Pass 250.8, particularly in the area of bass slam and articulation? 

The reason I ask is that I some time ago acquired a FPB 400cx with a view to achieving awesome and prodigious bass and bass slam.  However, I have not found this to particularly be the case.  The 400cx actually replaced a McCormack DNA-1 Deluxe Edition, and I think does sound better, but not as much as I had hoped. 

I have recently actually been getting the bug to upgrade my speakers and/or speaker cables in an attempt to get more bass extension, slam, control, and articulation, but your posts about the Pass amps providing those very qualities has me interested.  Perhaps I am barking somewhat up the wrong tree here with respect to a speaker and/or speaker cable upgrade.  But then, otoh, some people say quality amps mostly sound similar and I might waste $10K on a Pass amp and not find much more bass and slam than with the Krell FPB 400cx.  Thoughts?