What are the best amplifiers?

Of course, the topic I choose, is a subjective matter. Who will decide what the best amplifiers are on this planet? But, I would like to share what I discovered during the years about amplifiers.

I have lost counting, the amount of amps I have had. I have seen many come and go. I have never really had warm feelings for Japanese amps. I have had a few. A Sony from the ES series and an Onkyo M...something. I highly respect Luxman (in their good period )Accuphase and Audio Note. For the rest, I think the Japanese amps deliver loads of Watts, have good built quality and most have stunning looks. But, they lack in musical performance.

Denon and Pioneer used to made amps especially for the UK market. And they were not bad at all. So, somehow the Japanese engineers have the knowlegde, but probably most products are made for the masses. So, can you conclude that for most people sound quality isn't paramount?

Amps from the USA are like their cars. Huge in size and power. I like them. Well, not all. I have owned a Jeff Rowland 112 power-amp, costing 7500 Euro. It sounded lean and with a floppy bass. When I bought a second hand Aragon 2004, it totally outperformed the Jeff Rowland. So, besides the looks, it was a total failure in my opinion. It didn't took long, the Jeff Rowland was sold to a Porsche owner from Belgium. He came all the way to Holland to pick it up. I hope for him it was worth the ride!

Mark Levinson & Krell

Then I have listened to a Mark Levinson 332 for quite a while. It was a heavy beast with almost 70kg on the scale. It sounded great! Oh, forgot to mention, the pre-amplification was delivered by a Wadia 860X with a built-in pre-amp. ( Later a Wadia 581. ) Later I bought a Krell KST-100 power-amp. It was a bargain and I always wanted to own a Krell. But, it was a dissapointment. The bass was amazing. Even more control than the Mark Levinson. But it had this grain hardness. I couldn't listen to it for long. I sold it, to a guy wanting to use it for bi-amping. The Krell, did what he was made for. To kick some woofers! The irony here is, that the same man behind Krell, designed the Aragon....

As I didn't need such a powerful amplifier for the Wilson Audio loudspeakers, I decided to sell the Mark Levinson. I bought a Sphinx Project 18 power-amp right from the factory from Sphinx. Less powerful, than the Mark Levinson, but much more neutral and 'faster' sounding this Dutch amp was a real delight to listen at. It is the most 'honest' amp I have ever had. It just doesn't add anything to the original signal.

But when it comes to the musical performance the Priboj tube power-amp really leaves the competition far behind. I only payed 250 Euro for this modified piece of Russian electronics. But it just wipes the floor with most the most exotic transistor amps. Once in a while you get your hands on these musical marbles. But ,mostly I want something new after a while. But this time, the Priboj stays.

So, the Mark Levinson on the 3rd place. The Sphinx Project 18 on the second and the Priboj in the lead. And I do not expect this will change for a long time!