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Anonymous (not verified)
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Amp pricing & diminishing returns / what's your take?

I've been looking at a few amps for my system to run in both HT & 2 channel listening. My source is a Consonance Droplet5.0 tube output player, NAD T773 receiver as pre/pro, AADaudio 2001 monitors (8ohm, 86db sensitivity) The amps in question are: Mac MC252, Bryston 4BSST, NuForce ref 9, Rotel RB1090. Prices new are: Mac-$3800, Bry-$2800, NuForce-$2500, Rot-$1800. As you can see that's a pretty big pricing gap. My question is about the sonic qualities between them & if some really warrant the extra coin? For example the diff in price between the Mac & Rot is $2000. Does the Mac bring $2000 more musicality to the table than the Rot or even the others? At what point does the scale start to tip downwards in regards to cost/performance ratio? I haven't included Krell, Classe, ML because I believe the scale really starts to dip downwards with them. Maybe I'm off base here but I am open for suggestions & your comments. Warranties (although important) re-sale pricing, braging rights etc. would not be a deciding factor in my purchase. I really don't like buying used either, I prefer new.

Buddha's picture
Last seen: 6 years 4 days ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: Amp pricing & diminishing returns / what's your take?

All those amps have good manufacturers behind them. With the exception of Nu Force, they've all been around "forever," which is a great sign for a consumer.

I think you are close to my own point of diminishing returns...I think "the point" settles in relatively close to 2K to 2.5K.

*Purely opinion, though. People with longer green may set the point MUCH higher.

My outer limit if the wife told me "go nuts, but then no new amps for twenty years" would be 5K for a bullet proof long term monster quality toy. But then, I biamp, so I guess I'd stop at 2.5K per stereo amp.

Your answer resides inside your ears. The absolute greatest value a brick and mortar local dealer can provide is to let you audition the amps in your system and make up your mind in your space.

Well worth any internet discount in terms of long term happiness and satisfaction.

Sorry for the evasive answer. Buy the Bryston.

Monty's picture
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 16 2005 - 6:55pm
Re: Amp pricing & diminishing returns / what's your take?

If you assume that every component will add their sonic signature into a system then you would need to determine what that signature is and how well it works with the other components.

The more expensive amps might be more neutral, which is usually a good thing, but a less expensive amp might make a better match for a particular system.

Let's say you have speakers that are very laid back and not the most resolving in the World. A neutral amp would simply present your speakers with their natural laid back and unresolving character. Conversely, an amp that is more forward and resolving could prove to be a better match in your system. You might just as easily prefer one over the other, but how it effects the sound will be a matter of personal taste. Most likely, you will be faced with liking some things about each of them and not liking other things about each of them. One amp might sound great with a certain type of music and not so good with another type.

I'm not sure you can find true neutrality in components even at this level, but I do think each of the ones you are considering would have much to like. If you know how to describe what you like about your current sound and what you don't like, a dealer could probably help you get the better matching amp for your system. Other than that, it's reading reviews and/or swapping out gear and listening.

RGibran's picture
Last seen: 5 years 1 month ago
Joined: Oct 11 2005 - 5:50pm
Re: Amp pricing & diminishing returns / what's your take?

For all the hype on the forums over the Nuforce, there's plenty of reliability problems to be found as well if you search. Very promising company, but their still tweaking that design.

Ten years down the road when you send the Bryston in for maintenance, they replace this and that, retest it...all for free or chump change, you'll thank yourself. And again on that 19th year!


dcrowe's picture
Last seen: 1 year 2 months ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 9:39am
Re: Amp pricing & diminishing returns / what's your take?

Acknowledging that the curve is ever upward beyond my price range, I think the "knee" of the curve, which might be called the point of diminishing returns, is the Creek 5350SE. At $1,500 you also get a pre-amp. Look at JA's data and you will see a very low output impedance, which is as good a predictor of what I will like as any single number (not because it is such an important quantity, but because it seems to correlate with a design whose sound I will like). YMMV, and probably will!

Jeff Wong
Jeff Wong's picture
Last seen: 6 years 6 months ago
Joined: Sep 6 2005 - 3:28am
Re: Amp pricing & diminishing returns / what's your take?

There's no real substitution for voting with your ears. You might consider if you're likely to upgrade any part of the chain in the future. Would you eventually get a preamp that might allow more music to pass through your system? You'll need to consider where your bottleneck might be. You may not benefit from a higher resolution amplifier if something in front of it is masking things. You'd be wasting money spending more. If possible, try to audition the component under consideration in your own system. Like the others said, this is where a good dealer can be quite beneficial.

Over the years, I've found I'll lean towards possibly spending a little bit more even though the returns might be diminishing... getting that last little nth degree of resolution is sometimes the thing that makes the music truly magical. But, only you can decide if paying more is worth it to you, or if you even hear the difference.

You may not care about the warranty, but, I have a friend who had a Bryston serviced somewhere close to the end of its 20 year warranty - they repaired it and brought it up to date at a nominal cost (he may even have only paid shipping) - that's nothing to sneeze at. No other company is going to stand by their goods like this. And it doesn't hurt that their amps generally sound good.

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