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!

Ok.  So where can I get an Odeon?  I want to pair it with Aerial Acoustics speakers for HT and occasional 2 Ch listening...  (Would it be a good match for 4ohm speakers at 86dB?)
Also, Have you ever listened to a Krell TAS (Theater amp Standard)?  Aren't those supposed to be pretty amazing?

Yes i owned it. Good amp but runs too hot and they tend to go back to krell to get recapped because overtime the capacitors begin to leak due to the heat. 

The big update i have is that as many of you know, I find the weak link in my set up to be my preamp. I tried the c2500, classe cp800 and McIntosh mx122. So far, I feel I can get more out of the mc2301s. With that said, I have ordered the reference mark Levinson no52 preamplifier. This would be the most expensive component that I have ever owned at $30,000. Reviews are speaking as if this is the last preamp to own. I can't wait to hear this machine. 
Also, I will be taking a stab at the bel canto m600 monoblocks. These are class d amps and according to a good friend of money who owns far superior gear to what I own, he claims the bel canto will kill my mc2301s. I don't personally believe it but coming from his mouth is certainly enough to make me want to try them out. I don't personally like class d amps because I find them too fatiguing but I have not tried these and they are supposed to be amazing and smooth so here I go again. If these bel canto which retail at 6,000 per pair can take out the $24,000 mc2301s, this will be the biggest upset to my audiophile ears. I simply don't think this will be the case but if they do, I will have to completely redo my set up. 
Stay tuned, things are just about to start getting interesting. :)
Going to the dark side with class D ? Look forward to these reviews ! Put Exogal Comet/Ion on the list to audition please .
i am very interested in hearing your reviews of these.  Your posts are very informative.  
Thanks guys. I am also very curious to hear all these. The mark Levinson no52 has certainly grabbed all of my attention and I can't wait to hear what it can do with these 2301s. I may also have a chance to try the no536 Levinson monos
which are even more money than the 2301s. 
Your review are so great Whitecamaross, I was wondering if you still consider what your wrote before after all the tests you did...
" 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 discard the Anthem brand for amp after what you said, I’m 80/20 movies/music using ascend sierra tower all RAAL ribbon (Google them if you can) , they seems to be very neutral. A per your recommendation about Classe 5200 ... Do you think they’re a benefit going with two amp, one Classe 3200 and one 2200 in my setup? Am using an Anthem d2v for pre-amp and emotiva xpa5 for amp. My setup is a little to bright for my taste.  Thanks

yes, multiple amps are always better than one single amp but you need to have a good power plant like a furman or a ps audio p10 which I really believe is the best power plant available. 
The brightness that you refer to is because emotiva and anthem sound indeed like that together with your speakers. If you need to warm things up a little then use an anthem amp or classe. I don't like any anthem amplifier that is not their statement amps. Stick to their statement stuff. 
I have a couple of subject areas to cover. The first is this...

You stated:
"If you are a person who worries a lot about heat, pass Labs, old krell, plinius, old delta classe are all amps you should never ever consider. Those are heat guns".

I use a Plinius SA-103 and part of my research into this amp indicated the heat issue. However, in practice I don't really notice it getting very hot. I usually use it in class A/B instead of pure class A so I'm curious about how you used it and your experience with the heat issue.

The second thing is about pre's so I'm glad you mentioned them. It has always been my non-scientific opinion that the best way to obtain synergy between the two is to use components from the same manufacturer. I therefore use the Tautoro pre-amp and am quite happy with it. I would appreciate  any discussion/feedback on matching components. It just seems to me that trying to match components from different manufacturers would present more challenges.

Oh, also curious about which model Furman you use.

As others have stated, I very much appreciate you sharing your experiences.
I am looking to possibly get into some of the new ATI Class D amps. I wonder if you have had a chance to hear those.  I know they are supposed to be similar to the Theta Class D amps, but I wonder just how different they would be.  This seems to be the future, but I am more interested in the ergonomics of the ATI Class D amps (Size, weight, power consumption, etc...) so I wonder if I am really going to miss anything with them as opposed to other multi channel amplifier options... I also only want one amp if possible.
I've heard that the ATI Class D amps have a bit more energy than the Theta Dreadnaught D.  A lot of folks really seem to like both of these amps.   I had the Theta DD for a while.

 I'll chime in briefly on this topic. I use two Sanders  Magtech monoblocks with a McIntosh C2300 on my Martin Logan Summit X's. The Magtech has received excellent reviews and they sound great. I also experimented with other amps...a vintage McIntosh MC2255 and a Mark Levinson 532h. I preferred the Magtech's  
ok guys, sorry for the long Hiatus here. I have since my last update used and auditioned the following amps:

Belcanto Ref600 monoblocks
Simaudio 860A stereo amplifier

ok, so with that said, here is my update:

Belcanto Ref600 monoblocks: Amazing bass control and massive power. These amps really are the steal of the century and as good as my 2301 tube monoblocks were, i ended up parting ways with them after i heard these class d amplifiers. I did tons of a/b comparisons and i was extremely impressed with the amount of detail and smoothness that these class d amps have. I will go on record and say that these are the best class d amps i have ever heard and really made me question why we need to spend more money on other more pricy amplifiers. The highs were smooth, midrange was good and great bass. The music never fell apart when driven hard. It remained really composed without any strain of any kind. Nothing really bad to say here. It runs cool, weighs very little, can be put anywhere in your room. I will say that this is a sign of where we are headed in years to come. More efficient amps, more power, less heat and less weight. 
Great amp for the money!!

Simaudio 860A: This amp was a rare opportunity for me. However, i bought my renaissance speakers when i first them being pushed by a simaudio 860a with the 850p reference preamp (amazing synergy). 
when i first plugged in this amp it sounded a bit cold, sterile, lifeless, not much bass and punch. I was very disappointed to say the least, but i proceeded to leave it on for about 4 days and later came back to audition. It was now a different animal. It had gobbs of bass attack, and a level of detailed high frequency that i can only remember hearing from a class A power amplifier. I had approximately 5 days of play time and listened at low and high volume levels and i must say this amp possessed the finesse and punch that the bel canto did not have for me. It contained some of the silkiest highs i have ever heard with zero listening fatigue even after hours of listening. It never made me cringe or want to turn it down. I will say, this amp is perhaps the biggest competition to the pass labs 250.5 or 250.8 or even the  350.5. If you have speakers that need more detail and OOMPH on the low end, do not look any further than this amp. It runs extremely cool to the touch even after hours of listening and it is perhaps one of the most visually appealing amps i have ever owned. If pass labs amplifiers are too much heat for your current room, THIS IS your amp. It is really a reference power amplifier with the bass that i probably can't recall ever hearing. I would say in terms of bass punch, it is as punchy as a pass labs 350.5, but with a better midrange. The only thing the pass labs 350.5 has over it is the extra horsepower, but that is it. 
In my opinion, this is damn close to a pass labs power amp in terms of sound but without the crazy amount of heat. Highly recommended!
alright guys, i have updated above the last 2 amps and my impressions. I am currently auditioning my most expensive purchase and let me tell you, it isn't cheap, but my ears are just not believing what they are hearing. Stay tuned, i will come back and let you all know what amp this is....   The only thing i will say is that it weighs 250 lbs per mono! 
Not many are that big and heavy. I seem to remember Symphonic Line Kraft being about that big.
Very nice review!!! What is the name of the expensive Beast ......cant wait to see who that might be!!!

I agree with your assessment of Ref600M, class D has come a long way. While I have not tried Ref600, I had some experience with Red Dragon Audio S500 and Merrill's Veritas mono's. The Veritas sounded the best with my 800D2's over S500. While S500 in BTL mode had more power, the Veritas outclassed the S500 in speed and deeper background. The smooth mid-range and the bass simply had more slam and accuracy. They are not cheap but with true balanced differential design, larger power supply and over the top design philosophy begs an audition for anyone in the market for a high performance SS amps.

BTW, Veritas smoked the McIntosh MC601's in low frequencies. 
very interesting observation. I will have to try those some day. yes. i do believe class d will eventually be the future and at a much cheaper price point. That said, i know some of you are probably wondering what these monster amps i am playing with right now are... Well, they are a 2 chassis monoblock which makes the total weight of 250 lbs per mono. Monstrous sound which has everyone who has come to listen to them this past weekend leave my house with their jaws on the floor. It is by far the most complete sound i have ever heard in my room. 
OK guys, so i have decided to disclose the amps that i have been using for the past 2 days...  i was not looking for these amps, but i came up on a great deal and decided to give them a shot and let me say that yesterday i sat down at 3pm and listened to music until 3am this morning.. i couldn't get off the couch. It was just impossible to leave my room because of how amazing these amps sound. With that said, i am now the proud owner of pass labs XS150 mono blocks!! :) 
I am just on another planet now in terms of sound. It feels as if i got brand new ears and i am learning to enjoy every single cd, mp3, dsd file that i own. It is really an impressive amplifier and i don't see anything that can come close to its sound quality. 
Here are a few things i can already say:
1. Mouth-watering high frequencies. These are smooth, silky and with a level of detail and organic feeling that is almost impossible to believe. 

2. Midrange: very full bodied, not overblown, and it seems to be as big as the space between both front speakers. 

3. Bass: OMG! It pressurizes the room. It almost feels as if the woofers extend far enough to touch my listening chair. 

The separation is so big that you feel like you can walk in between the instruments. It is a really incredible and magical experience and it should be because these are $65,000 dollar mono blocks. That said, the improvement was MASSIVE in all regards. The only downfall would be that if you push these puppies hard then the temperature rises and they can get hot. It is important to have a room that is not tiny or else your lower legs will be sweating. You need to have enough ventilation in the room. That said, i am going to be selling the simaudio amp and bel canto ref600s in order to recuperate some of the money that i have invested into these Pass Labs XS150s. Let me know if anyone is interested :) 
I think you should post all of your used amps! You have quite the following and I am sure they will all sell rather quickly!!

Congratulations whitecamaross!  I wouldn't mind owning a pair of those myself,  if I could pick them up for under $10k.  Unfortunately, I don't think I'll live that long.

Do you think you've found true love or are there more amps to go in this story?  Enjoy!

thank you guys. i love these amps to say the least and they will be with me for as long as i can keep them. i want to just experiment with different speakers and preamps, etc. As a matter of fact, i used my sonus faber olympica 3s last night with these amps and it made those speakers sing like NEVER before. It was impressive to see what real quality watts can do to a speaker. 
That said, i have listed the simaudio 860a stereo amplifier (against my will). This amp is a giant killer in disguise. I felt it had more "quality watts" than my krell 402e, mark levinson 532h, krell duo 300, classe ctm600 monos, classe ca2200, bryston 4bsst3, 4bsst2, pass labs xa30.8, belcanto 600s. I have it at the top of my list in terms of overall sound. It lacks nothing and really uncovers all the hidden music that you don't hear through other amps. Very composed with iron fist bass control. I tried it with my sonus olympica 3s and the synergy is OUTSTANDING to say the least. 
If I could have a mono for each channel of my home theater setup and price did not matter, the XS amps from Pass Labs would be my dream setup.  I'd have to get a different room/house too :-)   However, since I'm going with a multi-channel amp, I'm still thinking about the Plinius Odeon might some day/year make it to my system.


@jrunr - my guess is that it's good sonics

@whitecamaross - I'm going to speak for myself, but perhaps others might agree - I absolutely enjoy your journey with these amps, even though I might not ever own many of them.  I was actually hoping you would try the XA200.8 before the XS series, to see how it compares to the other amps you have tried.  I'm sure it's a very big step up from the XA30.8 that you had, and may have beat the X250.8.   Of course, then I would have really been curious what you would think about the XS series, and here we are.  Congrats on the amps!

Nice exchange of info here guys.  Simaudio has come a long way for sure.
No doubt that Pass Labs is the best in SS currently.  Mate those amps w/ a Conrad Johnson tubed pre-amp and you will be musically rewarded!

Happy Listening!
 I'm sure it's a very big step up from the XA30.8 that you had, and may have beat the X250.8.
I am also curious how the relatively affordable X250.8 stacks up to the not so affordable XS150.
It's 6.5 times the price of the 250.8... so think of it as comparing a 20k Toyota Corolla against a 120k Porsche Panamera...  far different and more powerful.  It costs about 50 cents per hour to have these monoblocks turned on idling. That's equivalent to having 25 light bulbs turned on...
by comparing this amp to the xs, you skipped the 350.8, 600.8, xa100.8, 160.8, 200.8...
the bass is sledgehammered out of your woofers. The highs linger in the air much longer, the midrange is balanced without any howling of any kind. Comparing the 250.8 against the xs is not a good comparison. Totally unfair. 
The simaudio 860a is another pass Labs 250.8 but without the heat and the 10 year warranty doesn't hurt either. The simaudio is a real treat and probably the smoothest amp under 15k that I've owned. I would give the simaudio
860a the edge in terms of bass over the 250.8. 
Mmmm.....simaudio has the Moon Evolution MC-8 multi-channel amp - perhaps something to consider on the multi-channel side of things?  Requires 240V though  :-)

50c hour x 24= $12 day x 365 days= $4380 year
assuming a 35% tax bracket = $6738.46 income needed before taxes just to keep these sitting @ idle! 😳
Not to metion the added electric bill for aircon etc...
Aaaah thanks but with those kinds of XS’s I’ll Pass.😎
On another note;
how does your Moon 860 compare to the older w7 you had?
I bought a Magnus Audio MA-300 after I talked to a Pass Labs dealer from Colorado. Don't believe me? Just call John at JM Sounds, he will verify my story. I have owned Burmester 911 MK3, Hegel, Chapter Audio, Symphonic Line RG1 MK3 and Graff Audio GM-100. I upgraded the capacitors in my MA-300 to those found in the MA-500, and it is the best amp I have owned.
Have you tried a recent .8 series Pass Labs in your system?  Did you buy the MA-300 from the dealer you mentioned?


The 860a simaudio is far superior to the w7. They may look alike but sound different. i keep saying it, the sim audio 860a is a giant killer. I'd take a simaudio 860a before i touch a mcintosh 452. To be totally honest, i would say that musically speaking the simaudio and pass labs are by far the most musical amps i have owned. Plinius would certainly be up there. The issue is that most of us get caught up with power ratings when in reality that does not tell the whole story. Hell, i am only pushing 150 watts per mono with these pass labs xs150 amps and they are the most engaging, pleasant watts i have had. These amps actually teach you that you don't have to blast your music to hear all the detail and punch. They do this at any volume level and to be very honest, these pass labs sound better at moderate to low volume than at loud levels. I see it as a pro because it keeps you from blowing your eardrums off. i love everything about them except the massive heat. 
Right now, i picked up a krell duo 300 and have been playing with it today and i like what i hear. For a minute there, i was like holy crap this amp sounds good when connected to my mark levinson no52 preamp. i kept listening and i was very engaged in its sound so while i was listening to it, i had the pass labs turned on getting warmed up. I proceeded to connect them to my speakers  and yes, the change in sound was quite obvious. The highs come crawling at you. The bass vibrates your chair and they don't have to be cranked up. That said, the reason why some people say they can't hear a difference in sound is because most people don't have another amp to do a direct a/b comparison. That is really the easiest way to hear a big change in sound if there is any. If i didnt own the pass labs, i would have been happy with the krell/levinson combination, but as soon as i A/B them, it is game over. 
How would you compare the Krell Duo to the Levinson 532H? Are they comparable?  You had said before that they are just incredible amps so I am wondering if there is a tangible difference between those two...

(It is absolutely awesome that we ave a resource like you on here who has so much experience with each of these components!  Please keep the info coming!)
Thank you. I believe this hobby would be much easier if we all shared information with each other. That said, the 532h has great detail. I remember that amp wowing me when I first owned it. Tons of background detail that I never knew was even there. However, the krell duo has more bass and it's built a lot more robust. This is a tricky question for me and I think both amps
are great but what will determine what is best for you is your application and speakers. Both have great detail and nice midrange but the bass is better with the krell. The midrange is a little better on the Levinson. The highs are detailed on both. 
Next up in the near future:

pass labs xa160.5
pass labs xa100.8

I would love to try the 200.5s but i can't justify the price jump from the 160.5s to the 200.5s. I am also looking into perhaps giving the paradigm personas a try although i am such an electrostatic head. I find every speaker i have owned sound narrow and not as HUGE as electrostatics panels. I am unfortunately poisoned by their big sound spread. I tried to replace my Renaissance speakers 3 different times and kept going back to them so it is fair to say that i am part of the electrostatic panel clan.. 


thanks for the input on the 860a, my concern is whether their Stereophile reported output of 180@8 & 290@4 would be sufficient to drive a pair of Magnepan 3.7is?
I have a new 532h waiting for me at home which I haven’t heard yet due to being stuck overseas, but am hoping it would be sufficient for those speakers...otherwise I was thinking of trying out the moon w8.
Lastly, what year is your ss (the Camaro)?