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  1. #1
    nightflier
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    Mid-fi amp manufacturer recommendations

    OK, I've located some low-cost power amps that I am interested in but I wanted to know a little bit more about the companies. The amp will be used to drive 4 ohm / 87 dB speakers via a B&K stereo preamp. I was hoping that people could give me their opinions about the following brands:

    - Roksan (caspian line)
    - Fosgate Audionics (FA500.2)
    - Adcom (several models)
    - Parasound (several models)
    - Exposure (mostly used models found online)
    - PS Audio (leaning heavily to the HCA-2)
    - B&K (only because of the preamp)
    - Rotel (several models)
    - Marsh (several models)

    Basically, I'm looking to rule out those companies that produce amps that aren't warm and bass-rich (i.e I don't want a bright, thin sounding amp). Also since I will most likely be buying used, if I should avoid any of these companies because of bad quality control, service, inconsistent product lines or if there are models or time periods I should avoid, please let me know.

    The only amps I have heard in my home are Parasound, Rotel, Adcom, but only a few models, and never side-by-side, so I don't want to make a decision based on that. Also, I am borrowing a PS Audio HCA-2 from a friend in a couple of weeks and will be comparing it to that amp (unless I decide to buy it from him).

  2. #2
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    I have had the Adcom 5400?, the 125 wpc amp, driving some Dynaudio A60's for a couple years now and it has given me know problems and from what you describe you are looking for Adcom should be at the top of the list. It is definitely rich on bass and drives the Dyn's without breaking a sweat. I am less critical of it's sound quality since I have added a new DAC to the system. Adcom amps are also good buys used. www.spearitsound.com did have the 5500, 220 wpc, for $499.00 used.

    I have heard Rotel a few times, mostly driving B&W. They are said to be good amps build wise but I am not a fan of their sound. PS Audio has a good rep and I wish someone around me carried them so I could hear some. The Roksan is also said to be very good.

  3. #3
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Hey Nightflier,

    Paul is selling HCA2's on ebay that he took as trade-ins towards the new GCA's. You can probably pick them up for around $600 or so and you'll be buying directly from PS Audio with a new factory warranty. Doesn't get much safer than that. Better hurry tho.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...775999454&rd=1

  4. #4
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    I have a few Adcoms and Rotels right now. The Adcoms are definitely bass friendly, but are also a bit bright at the top end...they've always been known for that...I wouldn't consider them warm, more wam-bam in your face. On the bright side of neutral, but definitely not thin. Good in the midrange too, but they're a bit fast and aggressive if that makes sense. Not the most sonically refined amps on the planet but they can probably take abuse better than most. Most fans of warm sounding amps don't end up with Adcom.

    Rotel's definitely closer to a neutral sound, still a bit more bright than some warm amps I can think of...I'd say a bit better sound quality overall, but just a slightly different flavor than Adcom...

    If you're looking for warm amps (I generally prefer brighter amps with strong bass as you can see, warm isn't my thing, sounds less lively to me) I'm not sure either of those would make the top of your list.

    I think the PS Audios are worth looking into - they're a bit warmer than Adcom for sure and make great sounding amps.

  5. #5
    Forum Regular psonic's Avatar
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    B&K is an excellent, warm amp for the money. Very warm and natural sounding is my experience, listened to them driving Sonus Fabers at Tweeter several times - very impressed with both. Both the reference and the standard line sound this way. This tells me B&K is able to scale up to speakers costing several times it's price - a good sign. Definately give it a listen. I've heard all of those except Roksan and PS Audio, like B&K the best. I thought PS Audio was a bit pricier?
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  6. #6
    nightflier
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    'Got to be fast...

    Quote Originally Posted by topspeed
    Hey Nightflier,

    Paul is selling HCA2's on ebay that he took as trade-ins towards the new GCA's. You can probably pick them up for around $600 or so and you'll be buying directly from PS Audio with a new factory warranty. Doesn't get much safer than that. Better hurry tho.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...775999454&rd=1
    Yes, I know, I've been watching them attentively, but people keep buying them at the BIN price of $750 before the auction ends. I know that's still a great deal, but it's getting up there for me. Mybe I'll just bite the bullet and get it. I'll see how today goes.

  7. #7
    nightflier
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    OK, I've got it narrowed down to these amps:

    Quote Originally Posted by psonic
    B&K is an excellent, warm amp for the money. Very warm and natural sounding is my experience, listened to them driving Sonus Fabers at Tweeter several times - very impressed with both. Both the reference and the standard line sound this way. This tells me B&K is able to scale up to speakers costing several times it's price - a good sign. Definately give it a listen. I've heard all of those except Roksan and PS Audio, like B&K the best. I thought PS Audio was a bit pricier?
    Still looking for a warm full-bodied sound, so I'm narrowing it down:

    - Parasound's New Classic Model 2125 ($700 new)
    - PS Audio HCA-2 ($750 refurb from PS Audio)
    - NAD C272 ($700 new) (I know this wasn't in my original post, but it comes highly recommended)
    - several B&K used models available at Audiogon $500-800

    I'm a little concerned about buying a used model. Ironically I can't find a single online B&K dealer, but there are many units available second hand, almost as if people can't wait to get rid of them (?). I only inlcuded B&K because I could control it with the B&K preamp, but I'm also reading a lot of good comments about them. For the rest, I'm weighing a refurbished PS Audio amp against new amps from NAD and Parasound.

  8. #8
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Not a fan of Parasound's Classic line. I think the Halo's offer tremendous bang for the buck, but the Classics always sound a little too hard and unrefined for my taste.

    NAD is a seriously ballsy amp with excellent bass extension. A good company but they've had their fair share of QC problems the last few years. I'd take a Rotel over a NAD on durability alone, but Kex has both so he can probably give you a better comparison.

    B&K, great company that makes great amps. As reliable as the sunrise, built like tanks, smooth tube-like sound, can be a bit gritty and colored on more revealing speakers.

    Good luck in your search, any of those listed should make you happy.

  9. #9
    Forum Regular psonic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by topspeed
    smooth tube-like sound, can be a bit gritty and colored on more revealing speakers..
    Is this comment coming from the current series of amps or an older St140? I have spent some considerable time with them with Sonus faber Grand Piano ($3500) and have been nothing but impressed with both new lines. I think they have corrected the gritty and colored, it really sounds full of life and natural now. The reference amp projected a huge, well defined stage with the Grand Piano - I was in awe. I have not had that good an experience with NAD or Rotel (granted the B&K is more money new).
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  10. #10
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by psonic
    Is this comment coming from the current series of amps or an older St140? I have spent some considerable time with them with Sonus faber Grand Piano ($3500) and have been nothing but impressed with both new lines. I think they have corrected the gritty and colored, it really sounds full of life and natural now. The reference amp projected a huge, well defined stage with the Grand Piano - I was in awe. I have not had that good an experience with NAD or Rotel (granted the B&K is more money new).
    Both. The ST140 was worse to be sure, but even the 200.2 still had traces of grain and that B&K trademark of rolling off the highs. Please note this is in my system with my speakers so there could have easily been a synergy thing going on. I could see how people would like SF with B&K as both err to the warm side. Probably gives a very musical presentation, if not "hi-fi" (read: overly defined).

  11. #11
    nightflier
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    Here is what I decided on

    First of all, thanks for the input. It helped a lot.

    I decided to go with a B&K Reference 4420. It has ample power to drive my MB Quarts and because these speakers have tended to be on the bright side, I think this amp will match nicely. I also have the PS Audio HCA-2 coming in (borrowing it). It will be interesting to see how they compare. Here is what the system is looking like:

    - B&K PT3-II preamp
    - B&K Ref 4420 amp vs. PS Audio HCA-2 amp
    - Sony DVP-NS755v SACD
    - MB Quart QL-S830 speakers vs. Polk RT600i speakers
    - Audioquest cables (mostly Ruby, although the preamp-to-amp = Viper)

    Still looking for a good DAC that won't break the bank; the one in the Sony is not very impressive.

  12. #12
    Forum Regular psonic's Avatar
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    Nice, where did you buy it? Give us your impressions once you hear it...should be a good shootout for sure.

    I have a nice DAC that I'm about to sell on audiogon for $195. It is by Euro HIFI company Kustagon, in a nice brushed alum. case. Opt. & coax inputs. Burr Brown Opa627 opamps, Elna audio caps throughout, Crystal CS4390 24bit DAC (same as the $3500 Class A Meridian 508-24 from 99-01). Comes with ext. power supply also. If anyone is interested reply or send a PM. It sounds very good indeed, really helped my DVD player and megachanger. Looking to get a ded. CDP now....
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  13. #13
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by topspeed
    NAD is a seriously ballsy amp with excellent bass extension. A good company but they've had their fair share of QC problems the last few years. I'd take a Rotel over a NAD on durability alone, but Kex has both so he can probably give you a better comparison.
    Keep in mind the two NAD units I currently use are the 3140 and 3020 integrateds from the glory days of NAD in the early 1980's...as the mere continued operation and existence of these two amps demonstrates, NAD did make some good reliable gear...I've beaten the crap out of that 3140 and it just won't die (though it has needed the odd tune-up - $12 dollar push button power switch, a new pot, a new cap, but that's to be expected).
    I have a broken power amp (2200 PE I think the model is) that's been problematics since it's previous owner bought it in the early 90's...
    My understanding of NAD's quality now is that it's back up to snuff now that they've finished their relocation. I don't know. The only issues I hear are of the 320Bee.
    NAD has great resale and I certainly wouldn't consider it poor-quality. But for awhile they really had some problems.

    I really don't know much about Rotel. I've never heard of any major QC issues and nobody's ever mentioned a rough time in their history. I bought the RA-1070 after demoing a bunch of other brands, this sounded to me to be as good or reasonably close for a lot cheaper, and I just had a gut feeling I guess....it was the first time I ever heard Rotel actually, my brother assured me they were a decent company (but he only owns Arcam/Parasound - huge fanboy). I bought the RB-980 amp used after...it's several years old I think...seems pretty tough, works fine...sounds great for a budget amp. So far so good.

  14. #14
    nightflier
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    B&K & Kustagon DAC?

    Quote Originally Posted by psonic
    Nice, where did you buy it? Give us your impressions once you hear it...should be a good shootout for sure.

    I have a nice DAC that I'm about to sell on audiogon for $195. It is by Euro HIFI company Kustagon, in a nice brushed alum. case. Opt. & coax inputs. Burr Brown Opa627 opamps, Elna audio caps throughout, Crystal CS4390 24bit DAC (same as the $3500 Class A Meridian 508-24 from 99-01). Comes with ext. power supply also. If anyone is interested reply or send a PM. It sounds very good indeed, really helped my DVD player and megachanger. Looking to get a ded. CDP now....
    I just received the B&K. What an improvement! I don't want to give a review yet because I don't have the PS Audio here, but it will have to do quite well to beat the B&K. I bought it via Audiogon from a local reseller, jmsound (http://jmsound.com/Display/InvGen?page_id=111). Joe, the owner, is very professional and has some incredible equipment for sale, check it out.

    Regarding the DAC, I've never heard of Kustagon. What country are they based in and are they still in business? Also, what did you mean that it is the "same as the $3500 Class A Meridian 508-24." Is it a comparable or a re-branded identical unit? If it's that good, than $198 sounds like a steal. I'll be watching for it on Audiogon.

  15. #15
    Forum Regular hermanv's Avatar
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    Odyssey

    I know I'm late to the party. Does anyone here own or have listened to the Odyssey Amplifiers?

    Their web site tells a decent story and they seem to emphasize what I at least feel is important. http://www.odysseyaudio.com/index.html

    So, any opinions?

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    Quote Originally Posted by hermanv
    I know I'm late to the party. Does anyone here own or have listened to the Odyssey Amplifiers?

    Their web site tells a decent story and they seem to emphasize what I at least feel is important. http://www.odysseyaudio.com/index.html

    So, any opinions?
    i own a odyssey tempest preamp and 300wpc stratos mono extreme amplifiers and in thier price range i dont think you can do any better. the build quality is first rate and their price would suggest mid fi but thier sound is truly high end. in my opinion they offer the best cost vs performance ratio in the audio industry........

  17. #17
    nightflier
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    Odyssey

    Quote Originally Posted by hermanv
    I know I'm late to the party. Does anyone here own or have listened to the Odyssey Amplifiers?

    Their web site tells a decent story and they seem to emphasize what I at least feel is important. http://www.odysseyaudio.com/index.html

    So, any opinions?
    Herm,

    I have to second what William3rd said, Odyssey looks to be an incredible value. If I hadn't settled on the B&K and PSA amps, the Odyssey would be right up there at the top of the list. You won't read anything negative online about their amps (at least not that I have found).

    That said, the B&K is still an amazing amp and everyday I listen to it I like it more & more. I know that that the PSA has a huge following too, but to my ears the B&K is better. On the other hand, the B&K PT3 preamp, while feature rich, is not stellar. I get more mileage out of my old HK3480 receiver coupled with the B&K 4420 amp.


  18. #18
    Forum Regular hermanv's Avatar
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    Gear for Newbies / Odyssey

    From time to time I get asked to recommend gear for newcomers to the audiophile disease. Over the last few years I have spent some real money for my gear (much of it used) and when I mention my investment most people pale.

    It's certainly understandable, after all the stuff they sell at the mass market store does in fact function; and starting near $1,000 you get separates and speakers that have more bass and treble than most people are used to. On the other hand, the experienced listener often finds these brands harsh and fatiguing.

    I bought some Japanese "mid-Fi" products in the past and was not pleased. Although you can't go too far wrong with the value brand products such as NAD, Creek, Rega and B&K the ones I have heard were still missing a degree of involvement. It's this involvement that converts the music system from a background "fill in" to an entertainment centerpiece.

    My neighbors call it "active listening" a decent term they invented because the idea of sitting around doing nothing else while listening to music from a HiFi is foreign to them. It's something that is far less satisfying on poor performing equipment. With good equipment my wife and I can and do listen for hours on end. (Now if I could just find more decent source material).

    So any brand that might bridge that gap between acceptable and exceptional for a system price that's less than the price of an inexpensive new car is worth knowing about.

  19. #19
    nightflier
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    B&K & Odyssey

    While others may disagree, I consider B&K's reference line and Odyssey pretty much at the same level. I would say, though, that you are more likely to find B&K than Odyssey (new or used), because B&K seems to be better known out there.

  20. #20
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightflier
    While others may disagree, I consider B&K's reference line and Odyssey pretty much at the same level. I would say, though, that you are more likely to find B&K than Odyssey (new or used), because B&K seems to be better known out there.
    It's interesting that you consider both of these at the same level as it appears you haven't heard Odyssey. Reading and listening are two very different things. Everything gets a positive review, even Bose, however internet/factory direct brands in particular are more likely to receive positive reviews on the net than other, more reknown brands. Why? Their consumers are obviously internet savvy and are more willing to go online to tell people about it. Simple.

    I've done blind, level matched testing with the Odyssey and other amps and can attest that it is a very good amp. At around $1K, it is a solid performer and worthy of an audition. However, it wasn't the best, a conclusion that can be attibuted to as much system synergy as personal preference. To my test group, the amp was cold, sterile, and highly analytical. A lot of people like this and consider it "hi-fi," which if fine. I prefer a more musical, euphonic presentation. Tube-like, but without rolled off highs or flabbly lows. Again, it comes down to personal preferences. Nightflier, if you like B&K, there's a very good chance you would still choose it over the Odyssey.

    I think the Odyssey can be a great entry amp into our hobby and know of a number of people that have used it as such. It should be said however that all have moved on to other, admittedly more expensive amps.

  21. #21
    nightflier
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    Touchay (can't figure out how to type an e with an accent)

    Quote Originally Posted by topspeed
    It's interesting that you consider both of these at the same level as it appears you haven't heard Odyssey. Reading and listening are two very different things.
    I have not heard the Odyssey's but several of my friends have. Interestingly, they choose other brands in the end for their own systems. At the $1K price point, it's a crowded field, and Adcom, even Parasound compete well, too. I suppose my motivation for putting them on the list is that I was curious to hear them. My bad. I still think they should be on an audition list.

    I certainly don't like the sound of what you're describing in that Odyssey amp, though. I typically gravitate towards warmer amps and the Odyssey would not be to my liking. The B&K on the other hand, really suits my tastes. It works very well with my MB Quarts as well as the Dynaudio 72's that I'm auditioning. I'm finding that both these speakers really are hungry for power and so anything less that 250W is really not going to do it for me.

    The Odyssey offers ample power for the money, so I wonder how their Mono Blocks would perform. I've also read very good reviews (again, w/o hearing) of their Tempest preamp and for a full-feature pre, it certainly looks good on paper. I'm finding out that my amps behave very differently with different preamps so that's another factor to take into account. A fantastic amp can sound downright lousy with a crappy pre. The B&K PT3-II is not bad (it has some really cool features), but it is bested by my Onkyo receiver on sound and that's disheartening. I will be borrowing a couple of preamps soon to bear these suspicions out.

  22. #22
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    I run a pair of Odyssey Extreme Monos and also have a Stratos Stereo that I just sold. In my system the Odyssey's outperformed in every way the B&K's that I had before. They outperformed the PS Audio HCA-2... and I also felt they outperformed the Simaudio Celeste and Musical Fidelity stuff and easily beat out NAD and Anthem amps too among others. In fact, I've never heard a better amp in my system... but of course that may be an issue of synergy.

    I don't feel the Odyssey's are sterile/analytical/hi-fi sounding, but perhaps some people do. My speakers are very deep and rich sounding speakers so maybe this is affecting the equation. The Odyssey is a bit tighter than the B&K stuff which i find sluggish and bloated and veiled... but that's just my opinion. I loved the B&K when i had it.. but I like my Odysseys now.

    Gershman Acoustics X-1/SW-1 / Odyssey Stratos Extreme Monoblocks / Edge Electronics Si-1m Preamplifier / Sony DVP-NC555ES Transport Modded Caps and Opamps / Pro-Ject Debut II with Shure M97xE / Carver TX-11 Tuner / SonoCable and Harmonic Tech Cabling / Monster Power HTS1000 MKII / Monster Power HTS3500 MKII / Audio Note AN-K/Spe / Radii MSKT88 Monoblocks / SonoSilence One / Akai Reference Master

  23. #23
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by corwin99
    My speakers are very deep and rich sounding speakers so maybe this is affecting the equation. The Odyssey is a bit tighter than the B&K stuff which i find sluggish and bloated and veiled... but that's just my opinion.
    I totally agree with your assesment of the B&K's. System synergy is what it's all about and I can certainly see how a warm sounding speaker would blend well with Odyssey. I'd imagine SF's would be a good match as well, no?

  24. #24
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightflier
    I'm finding out that my amps behave very differently with different preamps so that's another factor to take into account. A fantastic amp can sound downright lousy with a crappy pre. The B&K PT3-II is not bad (it has some really cool features), but it is bested by my Onkyo receiver on sound and that's disheartening. I will be borrowing a couple of preamps soon to bear these suspicions out.
    Man, I envy you. I love doing stuff like that but just don't have the time these days . Like I said, synergy is everything and that goes for every link in the chain, not just amps. One pre/pro that I was very impressed with is the Halo C2. I've heard this with a number of amps and it's really neutral (which makes it easier to differentiate between amps). Personally, I prefer passive pre's as they impart as little a signature as possible. That's just me tho.

  25. #25
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    Haven't tried running SF with my Odyssey's, but I presume they may mate well. Unfortunately passives are not so good with them since they have very low input impedance.

    Gershman Acoustics X-1/SW-1 / Odyssey Stratos Extreme Monoblocks / Edge Electronics Si-1m Preamplifier / Sony DVP-NC555ES Transport Modded Caps and Opamps / Pro-Ject Debut II with Shure M97xE / Carver TX-11 Tuner / SonoCable and Harmonic Tech Cabling / Monster Power HTS1000 MKII / Monster Power HTS3500 MKII / Audio Note AN-K/Spe / Radii MSKT88 Monoblocks / SonoSilence One / Akai Reference Master

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