Magnepan and Tekton meet Pass Labs, Odyssey, Job, Merrill, Red Wine Audio, First Watt and Vitus Audio
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  1. #1
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    Magnepan and Tekton meet Pass Labs, Odyssey, Job, Merrill, Red Wine Audio, First Watt and Vitus Audio

    parttimeaudiophile.com Magnepan and Tekton meet Pass Labs, Odyssey, Job, Merrill, Red Wine Audio, First Watt and Vitus Audio by Scot Hull



    Here’s the breakdown:

    Tone Stage Speed Detail Noise Bass Mids Treble

    XA100.5 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
    Kismet 4 3 3 3 3 3 3 3
    Job 225 2 3 4 3 2 3 2 3
    Veritas 3 4 5 5 5 5 3 3
    Liliana* 3 4 3 3 5 4 4 3
    SIT-1 5 4 4 4 3 3 4 4 4
    RS-100 5 4 4 4 4 4 4 5

    *Tube swapping can and will change all of these numbers — the numbers here reflect my experiences with the stock tubes.

    What this means, to me, is that there are quite a few real values to be found out there!

    • First, let’s start at the end and work backwards. With the $14,000 Vitus Audio RS-100, I would offer that this is an incredibly musical amplifier and one that pretty much does everything not only well, but at a true reference level. It’s frighteningly good, but it isn’t invisible in the way that the Pass Labs is — there is a “house sound”, one with texture and a high degree of saturation, but no “thickness”, like say what a tube may introduce. I found it intoxicating. I were in the market for an amp and $15k was what I could spend, I’d be done. Pretty much for forever. For those of you that are curious, I should note that moving up the food chain in the Vitus Audio lineup means more of just about everything — I’ve had some experience here, and I have to confess that doing much more exploring has my wallet cowering in terror.


    • Next, the $10,000/pair First Watt SIT-1 amps are hilariously good, and while I agree with the conclusions that 6moons reached, I found the character of the amps a little different. If you’re surprised by that, you shouldn’t be. Srajan and I are different people, with different expectations and different experiences. He’s also way cooler than I am. But the upshot is, if you have a high-sensitivity loudspeaker, the SIT-1 amps might be real heart-stoppers. While I’m not ready to dump my tube gear just yet, I can understand why Srajan would consider doing so.


    • Speaking of tube gear, the $5,995/pair Liliana monos from Red Wine Audio were easily the surprise of the bunch. It’s hard to argue with these amps — the sound stage is reference-level, the tone is fabulous, and the bass beats the living piss out of what your typical tube amp would ever be able to produce — and they can do that into loudspeakers that would routinely make a tube-amp blush and look for some kind of towel to wrap up in. Speaking of tubes, this is the real secret here — a good tube swap can really do a number on your results, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Just remember to flip to full-battery to get the most that these have to offer!


    • The next up is the $12,000/pair Veritas monos from Merrill Audio. All I have to say here is “holy cow!” Careful matching, both to loudspeakers and personal taste, is absolutely required, but if this is your cuppa, you are in for a treat. Crazy-good dynamics, deep-space backgrounds, and detail retrieval that is on par with the best — the absolute best — that can be had at any price. Of course, the cost to entry here is also pretty stiff, but since Class D seems to be getting so much attention these days (both in the press and from designers), it was worth exploring. And, to be fair, the pair are a good deal less expensive than the Pass Labs monos I have lounging around.


    • The $1,699 Job 225 was a sneaky surprise. I bought this amp on a whim, due in part to the buzz that a friend managed to sneak in when my guard was down (thanks for the tip, Norman!) and in due part to glowing review on 6moons. I will say this, it is very good for the price. As the least expensive amp in the group, the fact that it falls at the bottom of the heap is perhaps not surprising — but. Consider how well it did against some truly reference class gear! The amp needs a bit more exploration on my part, and the performance so far completely justifies that. Stay tuned there.


    • Next-to-last is the chimera I picked up from Odyssey Designs, what I’ve been calling the Kismet-in-Khartago. This amp has set a new standard for performance and very easily earns it’s place as not only the value leader in this bunch (price is ~$4k/pair in my configuration), but a call to Klaus is now my reflexive recommendation for just about anyone looking to move into audio’s high-end from whatever entry-level they started out on. Sure, there’s better, but I’m really not sure you’re going to care. This is crazy good for not-insane coin.


    • Last (but not least!) are the $16,500/pair Pass Labs XA-100.5. These amps are just so scary-neutral it’s nearly impossible to find fault with them. While they may not exactly set SOTA performance levels, they clearly and cleanly exceed “average” in every category I’ve cared to explore with them and do so with a consistency that is exemplary. Perhaps even more importantly, at least to me as a reviewer, is that set very comprehensible standards by which to explore other gear — this is precisely the definition of “reference standard” in my book. Tubes, exotic circuits, esoteric design and rare parts may offer their own fascinating contribution to the sonic signature of any particular piece of gear, but with the Pass Labs gear, it’s all solid design work carrying the day. They help me create a window through which I can see arid landscapes, bucolic fields and jungle wilderness and know those disparate views for their inherent beauty — all while still thrilling on their own merits.
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  2. #2
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    Re: Magnepan and Tekton meet Pass Labs, Odyssey, Job, Merrill, Red Wine Audio, First Watt and Vitus Audio

    One big problem I see with this amp shoot-out is the Job is trying to drive the Magnepan speakers. Certainly not my first choice for such power hungry speakers. On a more benign load, the Job is an amazing performer. Pleas DO NOT hold this review against the Job 225.
    Joe

    Valvet E2, Avantgarde Duo XD, McIntosh C1100, MC275VI, MC452, MC303, First Watt SIT-3, Luxman MQ-300,
    Pass XA25, Job INTegrated, Cary 300B SE, Klipsch RP-160M, Klipsch RB-75, ModWright Ultimate Sony XA-5400ES, ASL Wave monos, Kimber Kables, Siltech, Cardas, Avanti Audio cables, Burmester 948, Linear Tube Audio MZ2, Bricasti M1SE, Naim Supernait 2, Lumin U1 mini, Wyred 4 Sound STP-SE Stage 2,
    McIntosh MCLK12

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    Re: Magnepan and Tekton meet Pass Labs, Odyssey, Job, Merrill, Red Wine Audio, First Watt and Vitus Audio

    Yes, Job 225 will better play with 8 Ohms speakers.

    soundandvision.com Review: Job 225 stereo amplifier Page 2

    Measurements

    Like I said, I don't review amps on a regular basis, but I do own two audio analyzers that can perform amp measurements. So I thought I'd run a couple of quick sweeps on the 225 to get an idea of whether or not it lives up to Goldmund's claims. I used a Clio FW analyzer for these tests. You can see the results in the charts on this page. Note that the power measurements are with just one channel driven; I didn't have enough load resistors on hand to do both channels.

    The frequency response measurement suggests even greater bandwidth than the manufacturer claims. The official spec is ±0.5 dB from 10 Hz to 100 kHz. My measurement indicated +0.05 dB/-0.11 dB from 10 Hz to 88 kHz (Clio's measurement limit), down just -0.05 at 80 kHz.

    Output at 8 ohms is far beyond the 125-watt spec: 194 watts at 0.5% THD, 201 watts at 1.0% THD.

    Into 4 ohms, it's not as impressive. While the manufacturer doesn't specify power at 4 ohms, we typically expect a high-end amplifier to double its power (or come close) into 4 ohms. The 4-ohm numbers I got with the 225 are 218 watts at 0.5% THD, 227 watts at 1.0% THD.