Pure Class A shootout

Hi after doing a lot of research and listening, I think pure class A is still the way to go for me. I'm wondering if you have any opinions on the following amps and how they compare with each other:

1) Gryphon Colliseum (mono or stereo)
2) Gryphon Antileon Signature (mono or stereo)
3) Pass XA 160.5 or XA 200.5
4) Krell Evo 2

They will be powering Rockport Altair's or maybe Rockport Arrakis (still debating that one too).

I see a few dilemmas. For Krell, it seems like the spirit behind their products Dan D'Agostino is no longer with the firm and thus maybe their brand/lineup in the future may be compromised. Also, Krell's preamp reputation is not as good as their amplification. That's similar to Pass as well - great reputation on the amps but not as reputable on the pre-amps. Don't get offended as I'm only talking relative terms (i.e comparing products at very very lofty levels). For Gryphon, their amp and preamps are supposedly top notch, but right now the Euro is extremely strong vs the US$ and I'm thinking I should be picking up something American as it's more of a bargain. Gryphon + Rockport is a "formula" and I know I can't go wrong with it but I'm wondering if there are other options.

So I guess the question is:
1) Have anyone ever compared the best Pure Class A amps? How do they compare with one another? Yes I know they are all good at this level but unfortunately I have only listened to the Gryphons mated with Rockports.
2) Any other options that I should consider? No tubes please as I have no desire to mess with tubes.
3) Should I even compare/consider the older pure class A amps like the ML 33/33H? i.e are the new pure Class A leaps and bounds better than the older reference lines?

Thanks, -Isaac
hello, on your list, i like the pass labs the most, i thought the evo 2 is a preamp.. so i assume you are trying to match,so, depends on what power amp you choose and match the preamp later, most preamps are class A, so, it is easy, and the ML 33/33h is high bias class AB,NOT pure class A. as i recall, only the no.20/ML 2 series is pure class A.. good luck on your search..

As you mentioned the Gryphon combo with Rockport is a logical move. I believe Andy Payor voices his speakers using Gryphon electronics. I like Pass Labs as well, Accuphase gear is very well received, although I have not heard it. I know you said no tubes, but perhaps a Lamm 1.1 Hybrid amp as well.


I would go for the Colloseum and buy the Tidal - Sunray as a speaker. I think the member "Ozy" had the Colloseum with the Arrakis.
Hah sorry I meant the evo1.

I definitely like the pass xa.5 series too, but I'm not sure about their preamps, and also if they mate well with Rockports. Pass's Xa.5 series definitely seems like a bargain compared with the rest. Paired with Rockports, I've only listened to the Gryphons (mirage, colloseum, sonata allegro, antileon signature all mixed and matched). Gryphons mated with Rockports is almost a no brainer as it's almost like an established formula.

Others to consider are Lamm M1.2 (a hybrid Class A monoblock design with only one 6922 tube per amp), and Clayton M200 or M300, both fully Class A and SS with either 200/400 or 300/600 wpc into 8/4 ohms, respectively.
And buy fast, cause due to the energy problem I can not see us using Class A amps in a few years.....lol
I have the Pass XA200.5. I would merely suggest that the reviews are accurate.

You probably could go with the XA160.5 based upon the 92 db sensitivity, unless your room was huge. I like the XA200.5 because it has tremendous control and ease over the woofers. Orchestral climaxes are clearly delineated without any strain or congestion.

The only downside is the 360 lbs of metal that is too hot to touch for more than a few moments. However, that is the case with most class A and high-powered tube amps.
Changster wrote:
"2) Any other options that I should consider? No tubes please as I have no desire to mess with tubes."

It *is* possible to get the benefit of tubes without the mess - check out the Butler Audio Monad, these are amazing amps and you NEVER have to mess with the tubes:


I recently saw a *pair* of Monads selling for ~ $7k right here on Audiogon. That is a smokin' deal...

If I am not mistaken, true class A amps are 25% efficient.
This means that if the amp is 100watts it will be drawing
400 watts off the wall with no signal. This would be with
an 8 ohm load. A lot of amps are true class A at low power,
at higher power many amps switch to class A/B.
True class A amps usually run hotter than the gates of hell.
Clayton Audio makes the best class A amps (or any other type) I have ever heard. I've owned two of their models, S-2000 and M-200.
My friend uses the Rockport Antares, (great speakers, probably the best I've ever heard actually), and he uses the Lamm hybrid M2.2s. These are 220 wpc monoblock amps, with one 6922 tube in each, (so tube rolling is a snap). However, they are not full Class A amplifiers, although they are heavily biased into Class A, (i.e. the first 41 wpc are full Class A, and then from there it goes into Class B). So basically, only the really loud musical passages actually go into Class B.

The Antares are the predesscor to the Altairs, and based upon my friend's system, I doubt you should be going with anything less than 200 wpc, to be honest. And a 200 wpc full class A amp would be a beast. (And I agree with Drjoe, that they would be hotter than hell, as even the M2.2s will warm up the room a few degrees.)

My two cents worth anyway.

Good luck in your search.
I own the Pass XA100.5 and XP-20 preamp. It's true that Pass built its reputation on it amps, but this new preamp is excellent and is an incredible match with the XA.5 amps. There are some good reviews out there. Don't write off the Pass combo until you hear it. It is also less expensive than the others you mention.
The Krell shouldn't be in the list with all the other fine amps listed and the Pass has a metalic glare at the top end.

A lot of the others mentioned are quite good.

Add an NRG to the list or the Coda 100.

One of the best sounding amps of all time is Class B. The Essence Jasper. He claimes that it is the switchover distortion that is the problem.
Rockport speakers are voiced around Gryphon amplifiers, although Andy Payor has used several different amplifiers both tube and solid state over the years, including ML 33s. If you are considering the Altair and Arrakis I suggest cost should not be much of a consideration. You might audition various candidates including some not mentioned here instead of relying on forum posts. The speakers benefit from having generous power reserves to drive and control them and provide virtually unlimited headroom, nominal sensitivity notwithstanding. Is Rockport working on powered versions of the Altair and Arrakis?
Thank you all for your kind responses.

Clayton Audio - I looked into it but I'm not sure if I'm ready to dive into a brand like this. I've seen the good reviews and I'm sure they're a quality product/company but it doesn't seem like their prices are much lower.

Rtn1 - I don't see the Pass in your listed system. Are you still running the BAT preamp and now using the XA200.5 with it?

Peterayer - Yes I'll try and demo the Pass preamp/amp but it will be hard to do so mated with Rockports, and almost impossible to do A/B testing vs Gryphon, Krell, etc. And I agree they are much less expensive than the others. That's one reason I'm looking at it as a good value (can't believe I can even say this since the XA200.5 is damn expensive still). Have you played around with other preamps with your XA.5 amp?

Argryo - I've seen you tout the Tidal Sunrays in many threads. Have you ever compared them with Rockports, Magicos, etc? Do you still find the Tidals the most lifelike (live) of them all? I love the Rockports because of how "live" and lifelike they sound to me, i.e very similar to the small jazz pubs I frequent, and even the loud rock concerts I go to.

Lamm - thanks & yes I'm taking a serious look at that as well. So many audiophiles swear by them. It's unfortunate they don't have a dealer/distributor where I live (Taipei).

Thanks again for all the responses.
Another class A that has little press is the ISEM Quasar.Maybe another audiogon member can help with information.
Changster i own the altairs and they are fantastic speakers. they are a last purchase for me, although i have considered the arrakis move. i do not understand all this krell bashing. i have owned many krell amps and preamps and have been QUITE HAPPY! i to have considered tubes but each time i do, and then look and listen, i go back to krell. tubes to me are to hot, to much maintenance and to much bloom. there are other great ss amps out there, MBL for one. for me, i love the krell cast set up and i am considering a move to the one's as well. i find the cast interconnectors great, convient, flexable, resonably priced and great sounding. only down side may be exsisting management. time will tell.
Luxman makes several pure class A separates as well as integrated amps:


Koegz - agree Rockports are fantastic. I've looked at your system serveral times on here and must say you have a very nice setup. Did you listen to the Arrakis before you purchased the Altair? Did you think it was a huge difference? I have yet to hear the Altairs. I went straight from Aquilas (brilliant) to Arrakis (unbelievable) as they didn't have Altairs in stocks. Same room, same equipment/cables, same everything else, the Arrakis had the same characteristic as the Aquila but just more of everything. Bigger soundstage left right up down forward backward, more air, bigger dynamics and slightly more resolute. I can imagine the Altair's being 95% of the Arrakis if the Aquila was 85%.
"The Krell shouldn't be in the list with all the other fine amps listed and the Pass has a metalic glare at the top end."

Pure crap. The Krell FPB series are some of the finest amps ever built. Pass .5 series are also among the best sounding amps available.

Duane, my Krell FPB-600C amp will soundly spank whatever it is that you are listening to. Exactly which Krell amps have YOU OWNED?? Pass??
I have owned and played with many Krell products and have known Dan since 1983.

His stuff is sexy and well built and he stands behind his product but Dan has high frequency hearing loss. That is why he auditions amps with headphones.

The reason I have had many of his products is because I have worked in the high end business for 29 years and I have upgraded over 100 people from Krell to better sounding equipment.

Inside the industry they are known as the Sony of high end. This is why when Sony ES introduces a new design they show how it holds its own with Krell.

These are all facts you can check out.
Yeah, buts it's easy to make audiophiles believe something else sounds better. I've been in the high end audio business for a long time too and I've seen and heard a lot of super expensive and high quality equipment. I still like Krell's amps. There are other amps that sound great also but Krell has amazing control over almost any speaker. Which is an important aspect of sound quality. I am not saying there is no better sounding amp in the world. I just think Krell can get the best out of almost any speaker made. I am open to something smaller and less expensive in the future.
Back to the original topic..

I don't think anyway has compared the best pure class A from the Pass pre/post amp vs the top Gryphon pre/post vs the top Krell pre/post. I'm sure all are great. I guess I will just have to coerce these dealers to bring it to my house and test it A/B/C.

Would be also awesome to compare these with the old best pure class A (or at least very high bias) i.e Krell FPCs, ML 33/33H. I don't think anyone has the luck/resources to do it though.

If I find anything out I'll post it here.

>>12-19-09: Dlcockrum
Duane, my Krell FPB-600C amp will soundly spank whatever it is that you are listening to.<<

Well that's foolish.

The speaker is critical in evaluating any amplifier. I can list a dozen amps that will outperform your Krell with certain speakers. Many of which cost far less. Does that make them better than your Krell?

Without knowing what amplifier he employs, your assertion is pure bravado/bluster.

Step back, take a deep breath, and re-think your position.
audiofeil,so you are saying that the quality of an amp is dependent on the speakers and not the other way around? i thought it was the closer to the source? don't the amps make the speaker sing? please explain. oh and i do like(love) krell, that is not to say there are not other options.
Spanking aside, 35 years of audiophilia, my own tastes and 6 years of "cohabitation" tell me Krell FPB 300cx, properly matched with the right cables and preamp, will more than hold its own with any amps near its price range, regardless of Class.

Why limit yourself to Class A?

There is a perception they sound better,and of course they look like they should,but that does not mean they do.

Audiophiles seem to get really sucked in by banks of heat sinks for some reason.
Audiophiles seem to get really sucked in by banks of heat sinks for some reason.
Yes, I read that a lot. (Facetious)

My guess is you are being a bit tongue-and-cheek here, but your post is a simple statement with no follow up. Why do you feel this way? Positive comments I have read on Class A amplification have been consistent in specific qualities.
I have owned and used many Class A amplifiers over the years.All with the expectation that they should sound better than Class A/B.
I have never heard any evidence that this is the case.
They sound slightly different but I would not say better.
I even owned owned a single ended Class A SS amp that looked like a room radiator.
I have owned two amps on which you could select Class A or Class A/B operation.I prefered both in Class A/B but the sonic difference was very slight.
Hey Changster,

You might want to look at this, if you are still considering Krell.

Possible good news for Krell Fans!

Cross your fingers, huh?!
Kurt_Tank - wow that's an interesting read. Hope it works out for their founder. There's always two sides to a story so we'll see what happens.
I've owned the predecessor to the Antileons, the Reference One Mono blocks and from there went to Lamm M1.1. I have also had Lamm M1.2 amps, Krell FPB series, Krell KAS2, Pass Aleph O. If you wish to buy American, you might also consider Boulder, which is top notch.

From what I have read about the Krell EVO, the sound is supposed to be quite good. I am not sure the internal heatsinks dissipate enough heat insofar as they are basically enclosed.

As for sound. The Gryphon I owned were powerful, a bit dark and rough around the edges and were absolute heaters that eventually became unbearable to live with in southern California. But they were impressive nonetheless. The Lamm M1.2 amps are sonically excellent but at their price point, I find the build quality to be reminiscent of something I could pull together myself at Madisound (I refer to the chassis and hardware, not the circuitry of course).
Classicjazz -

Yeah I've also read the same comments on the Gryphon older amps, but I heard their newer stuff (even inluding Antileon Signature amps) is a different breed. I listened to the Mirage/Colosseum mated with Rockports and it was fantastic. The Colosseum was everything the Antileon Signature was, except the soundstage grew bigger, taller, and deeper (forward/backward). Maybe just slightly fuller too in size of the image. All in all, very very close.

Good feedback on the Lamms. There are no dealers where I live unfortunately.
There is a reason why Class A is favored by top producers of amps, preamps, and DACs. It need not matter whether one speaks of transistors or tubes. It is not to waste electricity or to create monoblocks that need to be shipped by freight instead of a routine carrier. You can read the reasoning behind class A on a technical level at manufacturers web sites. To my ears, class A has a very dynamic, energetic, palpable, and 3-dimensional sound. There may be some good A/B equipment which is quite enjoyable, but class A is the real deal and not hype. I had an amp with a A and a A/B switch, and it was akin to going from mono to stereo.

My opinion is to narrow your choices down to 2 contenders, demo each in your own system, and enjoy. If you have not bought your Rockports, get your dealer to help you or at least work with you to clinch the sale. I would think your dealer would be interested in this question as well.
Class A amps do offer lower distortion.But that does not mean they sound better.The distortion levels on A/B amps when well designed are also extremely low.
I agree that Class A amps do tend to image well.But good A/B amps do so too.

My experience with Class A amps are the opposite to those of Rtn1.I have found they lack vibrancy.
I am not talking about Class A tube amps-they are great.
I am not saying they are bad,but rather they offer no real benefits over the more efficient and better value A/B amps.
You are better off spending the money on other components.
They are about marketing and perceptions not performance.
I agree with Rtn1. Try an audition amps with the Rockports. Your perception based on lived experience will help you navigate your purchase decision process. In addition, there is something to be said for the cognitive knowledge of the technology used, if you are convinced that it matters. The perception of what will make one satisfied is personal - Class A or not, tube or not, you set the value for the criterion in question. In the jewelry business with precious stones, people talk of mind clean vs. eye clean. Some wish to purchase flawless or near flawless gems because they know they are so, even if they cannot see the imperfections of other stones with a 10X loupe.
considering the prices paid for krell; i have to say that they are not worth the price.there are better sounding amps out there at more affordable prices both class a and other.
thank the audio gods that we have so knowledgeable audiofiles to protect us from these over priced only fair sounding equipment! i desided i am going to sell everything and copy your set up. i only hope i can find a pair of "monarchy audio se-100 monoblocks". may the gods be with me!
ok koegz no need to get snotty.are there better amps than my monarchy?YES.however i cant afford the :best: and YES THERE ARE STILL BETTER SOUNDING AMPS THAN KRELL.
You're quite correct Energizer but Koegz has every right to collect and play with dinosaurs.

Everybody needs a hobby.
ok energizer I'll bite, what amps with what speakers did you hear with and with out krell, and what amps and speakers spicifically(brand and model). were these side by side comparissons. come on I challenge you to back up your statement! And audiofeil tell us what is it that makes Krell a "dinosaur"? be spicific. you are obviously very knoledgable, so come on here is your chance, be technical. show us all you know. i am waiting with baited breath, show me how uniformed I am! I DARE BOTH of YOU!

I have evaluated LT or owned amps from Gryphon, Symphonic Line, Clayton, Krell (KSA),NRG, Lamm, Essence, Classe' as well as host of tube and Hybrid designs, Of all the Class A bias amps I've lived with I found the Luxman MA800 (stereo) achieved the best balance between pitch articulation, dynamics and musicality. I tried them with Wilson speakers but have also listened to them with many other speaker designs and still recognized their even-handed nature. I know Andy's speakers well enough to know they would mate well with them. I heard the Rockport Antares with Boulder and thought that was extremely impressive but I believe the Luxman's will be a tad warmer and more musical than that or a Krell combo. I would ask Andy for his opinion as well.

The Gryphons are likely a great choice but at these prices its worth some leg and ear work to test a few contenders and find the best match for you.

Happy listening!

Samuel; that is an impressive looking room and set up you have. thank you for your inteligent thought out responce. I will say I have done the highend run around a few times and never have enjoyed it. never really what you want under the right conditions or exact equipment to hear. the best is always whats on hand. don't like the feel of pressure either. even when they are acting like there is none. I am a ware there are many ways to get to the same or similar points. find the bashing and put down of obviously well desighn and thought out equipment to be ignorant and repulsive. I never said Krell is the one and only. I have had experiance with a fair amount of high end co, beyond the product is the backing up of said item. i must say that Krell does that better then most/if not all i have dealt with. which if not important to most it should be. i intended to speak to andy this week. thanks again alway nice to hear from a non basher. HNY p.kogan
You cannot just evaluate the cost of a product on the date of purchase. To test its true value, one must amortize its cost over its useful life. By that measure, my Krell FPB 300cx, though expensive on Day 1, has proven to be an excellent value. After 7 years of use 320 days a year, it has never had a hiccup, burp, mystery outage or any other type of malfunction. I have every reason to believe this reliability will continue for years to come. And I know there will be a company there to service it if something wears out. I don't have to worry if a German or Scandinavian mfr will still have a distributor in US or whether it can the amp can be serviced here.

And, BTW, it sounds great! It may not be to everyone"s liking, but it is to many, and has been for many years.