ARC Ref 250Price: $25,990 per pair.

Website: www.audioresearch.com

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.

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The gist: Peter was smitten.

Ayre Acoustics VX-RPrice: $14,950

Website: www.ayre.com

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.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: A reference stereo amp in a class-leading package.

Blue Circle Audio NSLPrice: $19,500

Website: www.bluecircle.com

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.

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The gist: One look and you know this thing is different.

Boulder 1060Price: $25,000

Website: www.boulderamp.com

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.

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The gist: That good, that expensive, and it's not even their top-of-the-line amp.

Esoteric A-02Price: $17,600

Website: www.esoteric.teac.com

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.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Expensive beauty and brawn from Esoteric.

Eximus S1Price: $2500

Website: www.aprilmusic.com

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.

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The gist: Compact, powerful, and super cool looking.

First Watt J2Price: $4000

Website: www.firstwatt.com

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.

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The gist: Solid-state circuit, tube-like sound.

JE Audio VS70.1Price: $3000, $3300 with Gold Lion small-signal tubes

Website: www.je-audio.com

Vade said: JE Audio’s VS70.1 offers an attractive set of features: excellent sound, gorgeous looks, and a fair price.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: Distinctively styled tube amplifier from China.

Jones Audio PA-M300 Series 2Price: $24,000 per pair

Website: www.jones-audio.com

Jeff said: The PA-M300 S2 amplifier competes solidly with models by many established brands, most of which have been making solid-state power amps a whole lot longer than Sam Jones has. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide if you want to take a chance on the new players in town. At least let them in the game and give them a listen. Me? I’d have these amplifiers on my audition list without a doubt.

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The gist: New player gets it right, right out of the gate.

McIntosh MC452Price: $7500

Website: www.mcintoshlabs.com

Jeff said: It’s super-quiet in operation, immensely powerful, gorgeous to look at, built like a tank, and sounds like silk. If you buy one, you can be assured that you’re getting a long-lasting component from a company that has been making power amplifiers for longer than many of us have been alive.

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The gist: Super amp for the real-world audiophile.

Rogue Audio MedusaPrice: $3995

Website: www.rogueaudio.com

Tim said: Rogue Audio’s Medusa seems to be a great idea implemented with great insight and skill, and with outstanding results.

Reviewers' Choice

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The gist: This hybrid yields the best of both worlds.

Vitus Audio Signature SM-010Price: 45,000 per pair

Website: www.vitusaudio.com

Daniel said: My listening sessions never lacked for anything, and I never wanted more. I always heard and enjoyed the music, not the electronics. I played everything I could get my hands on through the Vitus SM-010s, and they reproduced all of it beautifully. Could you ask for more? It’s one of the most complete, most natural-sounding amplifiers I have heard.

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The gist: Expensive monos from Denmark hit the mark.

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