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Best Amp for Audiophile

Posted on March 21, 2010 at 19:41:55

Posts: 1504
Location: fstein
Joined: May 18, 2006
Pro gear seems to be much less expensive than the stuff sold in audio salons. Fprgetting about power output,
What is the best sounding pro amp amp for an audiophile?


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RE: Best Amp for Audiophile, posted on March 22, 2010 at 10:13:29
Bruce B
Industry Professional

Posts: 625
Location: Seattle
Joined: February 9, 2001


RE: Best Amp for Audiophile, posted on March 24, 2010 at 02:23:30

Posts: 444
Location: Vancouver Island
Joined: January 27, 2009
I wouldn't call Bryston inexpensive. However, I have actually heard a PA rig that used all Bryston amps; it shows up year after year for the local country fair's music stage.

People have said positive things about the Behringer A500; it's about $200 new.


RE: Best Amp for Audiophile, posted on March 25, 2010 at 00:37:39

Posts: 5169
Location: 52deg 28'N,1deg56'W
Joined: April 17, 2006
MC2 Audio MC-series.
To my ears better than Bryston and half the money per watt, at least in UK.


RE: Best Amp for Audiophile, posted on March 26, 2010 at 05:47:51

Posts: 220
Location: Atl, GA
Joined: May 24, 2009
I've been using Alesis for a couple of years and I've been happy driving Maggies with it. It was important to me to find a fanless amp and I even go so far as to turn off the house furnace when critically listening.


That depends on your ear-brain interface, in your listening space and what you like!, posted on March 26, 2010 at 08:56:50
I've been an audiophile since I was 7 and now I'm 61. I've always subscribed and studied the latest issue of AUDIO (when it was published), was a member of the AES for some time, and been a DIY builder of audio gear first starting with Heathkits or Allied Knightkits and later graduating to designing and building from scratch. I've come to the conclusion that this industry is full of HYPE. They all, whether pro or consumer, HYPE but I'm sure that is no surprise. They are more interested in selling than they are in delivering QUALITY. You have to audition equipment that is sold on the market. Find a reputable dealer that will let you take amps home and try them out in your listening space with your speakers.

Most PRO equipment have balanced inputs which in the home you DON'T need IMHO and could be debated ad nauseum. Most Pro equipment is designed around 19 inch EIA RACK mount configurations which you may not want in the home if you have a wife that is home decor conscious. Your amp may be relegated to a closet or in the basement. Also rack mounting can cause ground loops if you are not a pro and know how to circumvent them. Ray


RE: Best Amp for Audiophile, posted on March 26, 2010 at 09:35:12
Zero Cool
Industry Professional

Posts: 75
Location: Midwest
Joined: March 12, 2006
Pro Gear is designed to run 24/7 into very demanding loads. it is in essence the Diesel Semi truck where as a high end home audio amp is designed to reproduce every detail and nuance. the are more akin to a high performance sports car. both built to do what they do very well. trying to use one in place of the other...well you get the picture.

In everything there are compromises. and Pro gear is built under a totally different set of design rules then a high end home amp. you would never try and pull a 50,000lb trailer with a Porsche nor would you try and run a lap at Nuremberg with a 18 wheeler.

So take whatever money you have and buy a good used home amp. thats my .02cents YMMV



"run a lap at Nuremberg with a 18 wheeler", posted on March 26, 2010 at 12:57:34

Posts: 5169
Location: 52deg 28'N,1deg56'W
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That would be difficult given that there is no race track in or near Nuremberg. Even rallies are frowned upon there nowadays!
There is however a very famous (well three actually) track called Nurburg Ring which is in a completely different area of Germany.
That said I have seen 18 wheelers doing laps at the old Hockenheim Ring drifting through the corners on a day Mercedes-Benz hired the track for testing.

Btw MC2 Audio MC series amps compete quite happily with say Boulder or Chord amps on every level except price.
Bryston and Perreaux are other pro amp manufacturers holding their own amongst 'high end home amps'.

IMO a better car analogy would be that pro amps are like the cars raced at the 24hrs of Le Mans while home amps are like a shop-bought Ferrari: They may keep up with the pros at first but will break down after a couple of hours flat out.


RE: "run a lap at Nuremberg with a 18 wheeler", posted on March 26, 2010 at 18:07:10
Zero Cool
Industry Professional

Posts: 75
Location: Midwest
Joined: March 12, 2006
Race Trucks during the Truck Grand Prix at the Nuremberg Racetrack , Rhineland Palatinate , Germany , Europe


RE: "run a lap at Nuremberg with a 18 wheeler", posted on March 26, 2010 at 19:01:52

Posts: 5169
Location: 52deg 28'N,1deg56'W
Joined: April 17, 2006
If it's in Nuremburg it is called Norisring and is in Bavaria.

The Nurburgring is in Rhineland Palatinate.

Whoever put that caption up was simply wrong.


Some studios use "home" gear, posted on March 28, 2010 at 13:03:27
I'm interning at a NYC studio that uses a huge collection of SAE amps, and one Mcintosh MC250. Some home gear is made good enough for 24/7 duty, especially if it's installed with adequate ventilation.



RE: Best Amp for Audiophile, posted on March 30, 2010 at 10:45:46
Pro Sound Guy

The first thing is a question for you

How much do you want to spend?

The sky is the limit here and you have to limit it


Best Amp for Audiophile I am very aggrogant and was, posted on April 1, 2010 at 01:09:51

Posts: 586
Location: so cal
Joined: January 28, 2010
generally going to forget this whole thing, I am a single ended tube guy on the side....and once you have heard with a good pair of time aligned speakers the soundstage take a huge leap forward in reality....there is no going back...

that aside , I have heard this particular Behringer and it is surprisingly of the best solid state push pulls in the world I would say....

that aside if you want the best for listening and you can get some better and somewwhat more efficient speakers...say 93db/1w...

Then the current answer hands Nelson Passes new Single Ended all JFET " J2 "....

it is the best solid state on the planet right now....and not too expensive...

Find a way to get to listen to it...just to hear it... put what I am saying to the is worth the experiment...

Have Fun


RE: Best Amp for Audiophile, posted on April 4, 2010 at 07:18:14
Zero Cool
Industry Professional

Posts: 75
Location: Midwest
Joined: March 12, 2006
I would agree with Bryston. it's really midrange audiophile gear that is pretty tough, its about the one that i would consider a crossover item....


RE: Best Amp for Audiophile, posted on April 8, 2010 at 09:54:48
Most good pro power amps are extremely accurate; therefore, "best sounding" would depend more on the program material, loudspeakers, etc.


RE: Best Amp for Audiophile, posted on April 8, 2010 at 10:01:44
I've yet to see a good, apt car / amplifier analogy. I suppose it doesn't help that they are not remotely parallel in their duties, and very few users even know what they do.


RE: Best Amp for Audiophile, posted on April 10, 2010 at 22:15:57
Jonathan 90

Posts: 155
Location: Toronto
Joined: September 12, 2008
I run a pair of Crown K1 on Maggie 1.6 vertically bi-amped excellent amps for fabulous sound.


Watch out for amps using fans for cooling, posted on April 12, 2010 at 19:53:16
Robert Hamel

Posts: 1905
Location: New York
Joined: October 24, 2002
They can be way to noisy for home use. Especially if they are multispeed.


RE: Best Amp for Audiophile, posted on April 14, 2010 at 07:21:13
Max Caliber

Posts: 19
Location: North of MTL
Joined: September 2, 2002
Hi fstein

As you can see there are many good suggestions listed (Bryston, etc), however you’ve alluded to a point where price can be a concern. If this is the case, I would suggest purchasing a used pro-amp from eBay some of which can be really good deals.

I have purchased 2x Yamaha P2100 (85 to 100watts / chn) and 7x P2200 (200 to 235 watts / chn). These older amps (1976) are not true pro-types and would be better classified as semi-pro, but they definitely are very listenable with an excellent audio quality that is simply not available in current generation of amps. The smaller P2100 weighs in at 35 pound and the larger P2200 tips the scales at 45 pounds, (the handles help at lot when moving them). They do not use fans and have large side mounted heatsinks which makes them very suitable for home use.

These amps had a bad reputation in the pro-field as they were not forgiving to wiring errors or speaker faults and usually resulted in blown output transistors of which there were only 6 per channel (too few for a 200+ watt amp). Also, even though they had XLR input connectors, the unit did not have balanced inputs, which although not important for home use were essential for pro use. Another negative point was the over temperature sensors, which if triggered only lit up a LED and did nothing else (i.e. did not shut-down the affected channel). In a pro-environment you could not ask the mixer/controller to constantly watch the amps to see if there was an over-temperature LED on.

For these reasons the Yamaha amps were not preferred for pro-work BUT they are highly prized for home use, I have even seen a defective but very clean unit (no rack rash) sell for over $600 on eBay, the reason being that these amps are really easy to fix, they use mostly standard components.

A feature that almost everyone loves about the larger P2200 amps are the gorgeous large peak reading meters. This I believe was one of the very few manufactures to use a true log-calibrated fast-ballistics peak-reading meters on their equipment, so if you have power sensitive speakers this is a must-have item. Furthermore, the user manual that came with the P2200 is considered by many as one of the best tutorials available for audio amplifier installations, and is a must read for anyone working with sound. It can be gotten for free at the Yamaha manual web site (see link below).

Yamaha tried to correct the pro-issues when they designed the P2002-M a successor to the P2200 in the 1980’s that looked very similar to the P2200. It had 8 transistors per side (instead of 6), true balanced inputs, and a workable over-temperature shutdown, with white peak-reading meters (instead of black) but some people found that it was not quite as clean sounding as the original.

Another semi-pro amp suggestion would be the Crown DC-300A (avoid the DC300 model). Although not quite as listenable as the Yamahas, it was a very rugged unit with lots of reserve power that could easily drive 4 ohm loads. It also does not have balanced inputs or a fan, which was one of its failings as a pro-amp as it tended to over-heat if not cooled with add-on fans. However for home use this was not a problem.

Other amps that could be considered would be the ESS 500, the Phase Linear 700, SAE, Dynaco 400, Bose 1800 all were really powerful however many people found that these units tended to color the sound somewhat. Most had the same failing as the DC-300A listed above for pro-use however for home use the problems would not be an issue.

Hope this helps

Max Caliber
(a one-time JBL service manager)


RE: Watch out for amps using fans for cooling, posted on April 15, 2010 at 14:16:56

Posts: 444
Location: Vancouver Island
Joined: January 27, 2009
Large diameter fans can be tolerable at low speed. At least judging by a Peavey PV8.5C that I used to power home subs for a while. Low speed was nearly inaudible, and it only kicked into high with extended loud bass or in very hot weather. Still, I'd hesitate to recommend it when there are worthy fanless amps with comparable power output. I haven't tried any 2U amps at home, but I'd suspect those fans will be more obnoxious.


Bryston, posted on April 29, 2010 at 10:31:53

Posts: 160
Location: Toronto
Joined: November 28, 2000
Bryston SST (squared) series will run with the best of them. Save money and buy from a pro audio dealer instead of an audiophile store. The pre-squared version were a little SS sounding, but the new ones are tremendous.

You get a twenty year warranty to boot.


RE: Best Amp for Audiophile, posted on July 2, 2010 at 09:04:22

Posts: 10
Joined: June 16, 2009
After much wait, I purchased the new Crown xls1500, 300w/ch, digital amp. I've been using a Bryston 4BST for about 10 years now and find this new Crown amp to be as good and possibly more detailed than the Bryston. I may post some final conclusions on this in a few weeks once the unit is fully broken in. Some things about the unit: It runs very cool, slightly warm to the touch. Completely silent background, Very detailed sound, musical, great volume (as good as the Bryston, they have similar specs), great dynamics, weighs aound 12 pounds (the bryston weighs 80pounds?), Also has the ability to be used for active bi-amp. My speakers are the NewForm Research 645. All for 399 dollars. Hope this helps someone that is looking for other solutions.


RE: Best Amp for Audiophile, posted on August 28, 2010 at 14:22:02
Posts: 3
Joined: August 28, 2010
I'd like to conditionally suggest QSC as the best amp (and probably annoy Bob Lee at the same time...)

1) purchase CX502 for $250 in perfect condition from that auction site
2) audition and be very surprised overall how good it sounds
3) replace low voltage (housekeeping)power supply caps as standard maintenance with good quality cap of choice (I like Rubycon ZA/ZL)
4) add missing pair of 200v 2200uf power supply caps (available at QSC website)because you can
5) replace 100v 470uf power supply caps with 1000uf 90v caps (available at QSC website)because its cheap and you can
6) replace 33078 input opamp with LM4562, check with scope notice no oscillation and virtually no DC offset
7) jumper DC blocking cap after opamp before volume control
8) replace second DC blocking cap after volume control with 10uf 600v polyproplene of choice bypassed with .2uf teflon of choice (I will NOT engage in cap wars...)
9) perform final check on scope
10) audition and notice it sounds as good as anything you have ever heard
11) check sanity by soldering short wires and switch to first dc blocking cap
12) audition and notice that with real music amp sounds noticably less good with cap engaged, clearer, wider, "faster" etc with cap bypassed, much more "detail"
13) ask your self why people spend $10,000 on amps that do not sound any better or months building their own that sound far worse

My theory is that the "sound quality" difference between properly designed competing amplifiers (QSC, Bryston, Krell for instance)is actually the sound of the coupling capacitors (or lack of and to a MUCH lesser extent the sound of the opamps.


RE: Best Amp for Audiophile, posted on December 16, 2010 at 12:28:23

Chinese Crown XLS series sound great, are inexpensive, and they're quiet. Win Win...


RE: Best Amp for Audiophile, posted on February 15, 2011 at 07:37:33

There are also many vintage pro amps that have made their way into many a home stereo. Crown DC and PS series come highly recommended and are sought out for their sound quality. Fanless, and built to last. I saw a mint set of PS-400's got on the bay for $500.

There are, of course, others such as Nikko and BGW.

Of course a "pro-like" amp from Soundcraftsmen will do.

These are all used, vintage amps. But a little patience, and persistence might net something like a Soundcraftsment Pro-Power Four, that sold on the bay, with the pre-amp for around $300. They looked new!


RE: Best Amp for Audiophile, posted on February 17, 2011 at 15:21:17
Was wondering what X/O you are using with your setup......Sounds very interesting. I have a K-1 here & also use the 1.6


RE: Best Amp for Audiophile, posted on February 6, 2012 at 05:16:02
Jack Seaton

Posts: 15756
Location: Spokane, Washington
Joined: October 1, 2004
Bryston? I suppose you just guess what's hidden underneathe the veils, when mixing? Lol


RE: Best Amp for Audiophile, posted on February 9, 2012 at 08:50:12

Posts: 337
Location: Canada
Joined: August 28, 2007
I use a Crown XLS 2500 in my audio system and it replaced a Bryston 3B-ST. I have on order a Yamaha P5000S since my video system has been begging for a new amp. Both the Crown XLS Drivecore series and the Yamaha PxxxxS series amps run very quietly. Also might look at Peavey. I heard their
Peavey PV 3800 runs quiet too.


RE: Best Amp for Audiophile, posted on February 9, 2012 at 09:45:32

Posts: 8745
Joined: July 6, 2005
Lots of good info in your post.

I'd only add... Some Yamahas are well-regarded. Also consider QSC which has a good reputation, and Crown. Not sure if Crest is still around, but they made some fine amps. Some pro studios use Bryston.

The Crown DC300A - not so much. Lots of negative feedback to stabilize the amp, resulting in various types of distortion. But still, it was forgiving even to a 2 ohm load. But in a nightclub, nobody cares. ;)

My 3 cents, adjusted for rising prices, er, inflation.


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