Price: $25,990 per pair.
Peter said: Ultimately, and as good as I know the sound of my reference amplifiers to be, I must conclude that the sound of Audio Research’s Reference 250s is finer. If I had air-conditioning, and if my primary reference system were dedicated solely to me and my music, I would have been more than tempted to buy them.
The gist: Peter was smitten.
Doug said: The Ayre Acoustics VX-R is that rare component: a luxury audio component in every way, a reference-caliber performer, and a very good value at its high price. It’s not only one of the best products of any kind I’ve ever reviewed, it’s the very best power amplifier I’ve ever heard.
The gist: A reference stereo amp in a class-leading package.
Michael said: I can say with confidence that if you have speakers that it can drive, the NSL will be a revelation of just how wonderful music can sound, rewarding you with making your music sound special in ways you probably haven’t heard from your system. The NSL was one of the best-sounding power amplifiers I have ever heard. I give it my highest recommendation.
The gist: One look and you know this thing is different.
Ryan said: This is a component for mature listeners who are getting to the finish line and aren’t trying to use their amps to re-edit the signal. Built to last a lifetime, and with a mix of capabilities to match, the Boulder 1060 is an easy component to recommend for listeners looking for their final power amplifier.
The gist: That good, that expensive, and it's not even their top-of-the-line amp.
Howard said: The A-02 has brawn, tough-to-beat sound, museum-quality looks, and Esoteric’s reputation for rock-solid reliability. You don’t typically find all of those qualities in one amplifier. If your system would benefit from high power and is good enough to reveal what the Esoteric A-02 can do, look no further.
The gist: Expensive beauty and brawn from Esoteric.
Doug said: The S1 has several attributes that will make it the ideal amp for someone. It has plenty of stiff competition in and around $2500, but more than holds its own with a refined, appealing, distinctive sound that’s highly listenable over the long term and is worth the price. It’s a compact, high-style, audiophile-grade masterpiece of visual design for those who want their products to blend beautifully and discreetly into their surroundings.
The gist: Compact, powerful, and super cool looking.
Vade said: The J2 is one of the best amplifiers I’ve heard, regardless of the type of circuit used, and it provides an opportunity to own a product from audio master Nelson Pass at a moderate cost. I thought I was a hopeless tubeaholic, but I think I’ve just been cured.
The gist: Solid-state circuit, tube-like sound.
Price: $3000, $3300 with Gold Lion small-signal tubes
Vade said: JE Audio’s VS70.1 offers an attractive set of features: excellent sound, gorgeous looks, and a fair price.
The gist: Distinctively styled tube amplifier from China.