Up to 84% in savings when you subscribe to The Absolute Sound

Begin typing your search above and press return to search. Press Esc to cancel.

Best Power Amplifiers: $20,000 – $50,000


Cary Audio 211 FE


A zero-feedback design, the all-triode 211 FE monoblock updates the classic 211 that Cary has produced for 17 years. Though it may lack the ultimate wallop of a powerful transistor unit, and may­—if you’re into large-scale classical or hard rock—run out of juice before you want it to, this is one gorgeous-sounding amplifier—pure, exciting, and expressive. WG, 205


Audio Research Reference 160S


This stereo version of ARC’s celebrated Reference 160M mono amp combines two channels of the same 140-watt circuit into one chassis with the same aesthetics as the 160M—including lighted “floating” output meters on the faceplate window—for $10,000 less. The sound is simply gorgeous: detailed, fluid, commanding, alive, and highly musically communicative. Rather than a tube amp trying to sound more like a solid-state design, the 160S delivers more of what many solid-state amps can’t quite fully realize: outstanding 3-D soundstaging, image density, and tonal complexity—while still providing excellent frequency extension, dynamic control, and overall resolution. Built like a tank (100 pounds) with a removable tube cover, triode and Ultralinear modes, and auto tube bias and monitoring functions, it comes close to being an ideal tube amp in its price category. KM, 312

Read the full review: Audio Research Corporation Reference 160S Stereo Power Amplifier

D’Agostino Master Audio Systems Progression S350 Stereo and 550 Mono

$27,250/$47,500 pr.

The Progression series of electronics from Dan D’Agostino brings some of the circuits and technology of the vaunted Momentum line to a lower, but still significant, price. The stereo version (monoblocks are available) is a powerhouse, delivering 300Wpc into 8 ohms. As with all D’Agostino designs going back decades, the Progression can double its output power with each halving of impedance. The innovative “Super-Rail” power supply helps the Progression to deliver superior dynamic detail, impact, and lifelike realism. AHC, 300 (new version not yet reviewed)


FM Acoustics FM 108-MKII


Though the latest Swiss firms like CH Precision and Soulution may be getting the lion’s share of attention, venerable Swiss companies like FM Acoustics are still fully competitive. Consider this extremely compact, powerful (70W/66V/15A into 8 ohms, 130W into 4 ohms), beautifully made, and (given its competition) relatively affordable Class A monoblock amplifier from FM’s Manuel Huber. This is a very transparent piece of gear that gives you a keen insight into how recordings are being mastered, how instruments are being played, and how ambient space is augmenting timbre, dynamics, and imaging, and it does all this without adding any sense of the analytic or much color of its own. JV, 286

Read the full review: FM Acoustics Resolution Series: FM 155-MKIIR Preamp, FM 122-MKII Phono Linearizer, FM 108-MKII Mono Amp

Constellation Inspiration Mono 1.0


The monoblock amp in the Inspiration series brings plenty of power to the table (400W into 8 ohms, 800W into 4) along with the circuit design of the much more expensive Reference and Performance Series amp. Compared with the half-the-price stereo version, the Mono 1.0 offers even wider dynamics, a more solid bottom-end, and an effortlessness on musical peaks (which are already excellent with the Stereo 1.0). The Mono 1.0 shares Constellation’s signature sound of tremendous transparency, a finely detailed treble, gorgeous midrange textures, and a sense of refinement and sophistication. RH, 249

Read the full review: Constellation Audio Inspiration Series Preamp 1.0 Linestage, Stereo 1.0 Stereo Amplifier, and Mono 1.0 Monoblock Amplifiers

Pass Labs XA160.8


The 160W, Class A XA160.8 monoblock is yet another inspiring and indisputable success from the mind of Nelson Pass—a man who for the past four-and-a-half decades (his first commercial product was released in 1975) consistently rises to the challenge of besting himself. At the frequency extremes, the XA160.8’s transient speed and pitch definition are superb, while its mids are extraordinary, possessing a purity, texture, and bloom that reminded reviewer GW of the best tube designs. Its paramount strengths are engaging resolution and transparency, with no vestige of glare or the faintest hint of edge. A genuine triumph. GW, 259


Aavik P-580


There is a lot of proprietary technology packed into Michael Børresen’s new 300Wpc into 8 ohms (600Wpc into 4 ohms) stereo power amplifier, which is undoubtedly one reason why the P-580 is the first Class D amplifier JV can recommend without the usual reservations. Thanks in part to Aavik’s unique distortion-reduction circuitry, “resonant-mode” power supply, and high-bandwidth/low-noise UMAC Class D amplifier module (from the Danish pro-audio firm Pascal), the P-580 does not have the usual, digital-like upper-mid/lower-treble glare or brickwall-like top-octave cut-off that Class D amps of the past have evinced. Instead, it is rather soft, sweet, and dark in the brilliance range, like a Class A amp. Of course, it is excellent in the bass (all Class D amps have been, due largely to their very high damping factor) and quite appealingly warm, grainless, and grit free in the midband. It is also surprisingly three-dimensional in its imaging. Though not as finely detailed, as 3-D, as richly colored, or as brimming with energy and nuance as JV’s reference power amplifier, the still unsurpassed Soulution 711, the P-580 costs half of what the 711 does, is much smaller in form factor, weighs about 120 fewer pounds, and runs as cool as a cuke. JV, forthcoming


Audionet Max


The Max monoblocks’ more than twice-as-tall-as-they-are-wide form factor is dictated to optimize inter-stage isolation, as well as to minimize both power supply disturbances and overall signal path length. With an earnest 400 watts into 8 ohms and a damping factor of 10,000, the Maxes can control virtually any difficult loudspeaker load, dynamic, planar, or ESL. With big, bold harmonic texture, superb pitch definition, rife detail, tremendous dynamic life, and full bloom, they breathe life and air into soundstaging like few other solid-state competitors. They are truly exceptional amplifiers by any means of comparison, not just at their asking price. GW, 279


Zanden Audio Systems Model 8120F

$30,500 (includes XLR inputs w/input transformers)

For JV, this large, beautifully built-and-finished, KT120-tube-based, 100Wpc stereo amplifier from celebrated Japanese manufacturer Zanden is one of the great surprises of the audio season. Why a surprise? First, though scarcely inexpensive, it is considerably less money than Zanden’s typical gourmet-audio offerings. Second, though completely tube-powered and tube-rectified, it has none of the image blur, dynamic laxity, ambient grain, and timbral darkness of typical Class AB KT-120-based push-pull tube amplifiers. On the contrary, it is exceedingly fast on transients, extremely hard-hitting on big dynamic swings, extraordinarily finely detailed, with taut bass, and imaging and staging that are truly wall-to-wall. JV, 243


Audio Research Reference 160M


The product of two years of research and development, the Reference 160Ms—ARC’s newest monoblock power amps—don’t sound like any other ARC amplifiers JV has heard, and he’s heard just about all of them. Gone are the characteristic brightness—the incandescent “top-down” tonal balance—and the soft grainy noise that any ARC fan has grown used to. Gone, as well, are some (not all) of ARC’s traditional and seemingly limitless spaciousness and bloom. In their stead are a more neutral (maybe slightly bottom-up) tonal palette, audibly lower noise (resulting in zero grain), more and better-focused detail, richer timbre, fuller power-range response, and a markedly increased sense of control over every aspect of the presentation. JV, 294

Read the full review: Audio Research Corporation Reference 160M Monoblock Amplifier

Boulder Amplifiers 1160


Benefiting from design and build improvements developed for Boulder’s two higher tiers (the 2100 and 3000 lines), the all-new 1160 is significantly better than the amplifier it replaced. The output section is identical in parts and design to that of the 2100 series amplifiers but with less power. Nonetheless, the 1160 can effortlessly deliver a massive amount of clean wattage in ways that make the Boulder sound more powerful than similarly rated competition. It handles deep bass transients with aplomb, providing lifelike dynamics and the ability to control loudspeakers. The 1160’s “voicing” reveals the music rather than colors it, and this makes this amp a remarkably good core component for building a truly excellent system. AHC, 287

Read the full review: Boulder 1110 Preamplifier and 1160 Power Amplifier

Lamm Industries M1.2 Reference


Another winner from the fertile mind of Vladimir Lamm. Combining brawn and finesse, the M1.2 drives even challenging loads with ease. Its siren song of suave harmonic textures, tight bass control, articulate transients, kinetic drive, and essential tonal neutrality is musically most persuasive. DO, 188


CH Precision A1.5

$39,500 ($75,000/pr. monoblock)

The Swiss company CH Precision has come on strong in recent years. Its latest entrant into the amplifier wars is the solid-state A1.5 amplifier, an upgraded version of its A1 amplifier that can be run in a variety of configurations, included bridged or mono. Indeed, the amplifier can be divvied up to run two main loudspeakers and two subwoofers simultaneously. With a new 1700VA toroidal transformer, the A1.5 boasts plenty of power, enough to drive pretty much any loudspeaker with aplomb. Its excellent tonality, low noise floor, and taut control ensure that it always delivers the musical goods. JHb, 305

Read the full review: Editors’ Choice: Power Amplifiers $20,000 to $50,000

Gryphon Antileon EVO


The Gryphon’s triumph is delivering the great virtues of Class A operation—seductive warmth, liquid textures, and a sense of ease—with tremendous speed and dynamic authority, along with visceral excitement and energy. The sound is warm and utterly liquid—almost voluptuous, without sounding thick, colored, or closed-in. The dual-mono design, with 150Wpc, imbues the Antileon EVO with unflappable authority. Throw in spectacular build-quality and striking industrial design, and you have one of the great modern Class A amplifiers. As with all true Class A amplifiers, the Antileon EVO runs hot. RH, 316

Read the full review: Gryphon Audio Designs Antileon EVO Stereo Power Amplifier

MBL Noble N15


Class D amplifiers have come a long way since JV reviewed several of the first high-end samples way back when. This latest version, from MBL’s engineering genius Jürgen Reis, is not only flat-out powerful (560W/36A into 4 ohms); it is also (unlike first-generation D) relatively load-, level-, and frequency-independent. Sweet on top and a shade bottom-up in balance, the N15 is not the last word in resolution or treble extension (even in the MBL line), but then it doesn’t cost what that last word costs. What it is is unfailingly enjoyable, powerful, and musical, fully capable of a realism that raises goosebumps and of a soundfield of head-slapping breadth, width, and depth. JV, 287

Read the full review: MBL Noble Line N11 Preamplifier and N15 Monoblock Amplifier

Absolare Passion 845

$45,500 ($57,750, Signature Version)

These gorgeous, leather-clad single-ended-triode monoblocks deliver the glories of SET circuits in a cost-no-object implementation—gorgeous timbre, a smooth and relaxed treble, tremendous soundstage depth and dimensionality—but do so with enough power to drive real-world loudspeakers to satisfying playback levels. Their 52 watts, coupled with genre-defying bass extension and dynamic impact, offer qualities that fly in the face of conventional wisdom about SETs. But the Absolare’s real magic is in the sense of immediacy—that impression of hearing contemporaneous music-making unencumbered by the electro-mechanical contrivance of the playback system. The result is a deep immersion in the musical expression. RH, 234


Lamm Industries ML2.2


This 18W single-ended triode amplifier from Vladimir Lamm defies all the stereotypes about SET amplifiers. The ML2.2 doesn’t offer a glorious midrange at the expense of the frequency extremes; it offers a glorious midrange in addition to glorious performance over the entire spectrum, save for the lowest bass. Simply put, the ML2.2 is one of the three most lifelike-sounding amplifiers RH has heard (the others are the Berning 211/845 and Absolare Passion 845). The caveat is that you must mate the ML2.2 with a loudspeaker of high sensitivity and a benign load. RH, 230

Read the full review: Lamm ML2.2 Single-Ended Triode Amplifier
Lamm Industries ML2.2

Read Next From Review

See all
A GLIMPSE of Vandersteen's Model Seven XTRM Loudspeaker | Robert Harley Previews

A GLIMPSE of Vandersteen’s Model Seven XTRM Loudspeaker | Robert Harley Previews

Ahead of his upcoming review of the Model SEven XTRM, […]

Krell KSA-i400

Krell KSA-i400 Stereo Power Amplifier

Krell Industries occupies a pinnacle position in my historical audio […]

NAD C 3050 LE

NAD C 3050 LE “Stereophonic” Amplifier

With classic appointments like lighted VU meters, old-timey pushbutton source-selection, […]

Adblocker Detected

"Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit..."

"There is no one who loves pain itself, who seeks after it and wants to have it, simply because it is pain..."