Dream Amps I Could Not Afford 20 Years Ago Now Undesirable

As a young audio enthusiast I used to lust for the high-end Audio Research LS25Mk2 and Reference Two preamps but couldn’t afford them during that time. Today at their used prices they are much more affordable now but I no longer find them appealing.

Does anyone here have such similar experiences? Stuff that you dream of owning 20 or 30 years ago do not appeal to you anymore and considered as junk (as an exaggeration).

Another one is Focal JM Labs Mezzo Utopia as the high price made it look unattainable 30 years ago. Now when I look at it in the For Sale ads mostly in poor condition with worn cabinet, the aspiration of owning a seemingly unattainable high-end gear from the past seems to be a thing of the past. The new Focal Utopia speakers are another story though..


I do understand that feeling. A couple of those dreams came true for me, the Nestorovic 5as speakers for one. On the other hand, I dreamed of a Krell KSA 250 for years until I finally realized that for the type of speakers that I preferred and the type of sound that I liked, the Krells weren’t really the right fit.

I lusted for McIntosh equipment for years. I was finally able to afford an integrated a few years back, but was never happy with it. They make great stuff, so I am not sure if it was a mis-match with the speakers, my expectations were too high, or perhaps my taste in sound changed. In any event, I sold the McIntosh and went with a Class A integrated which I love.

I've also lusted for the big corner Klipsch speakers. Never had the room for them. I would still like to try them out one day. 

It is funny you mention this. I remember hearing and seeing these old guys haul out this really expensive Audio Research gear from the dealer in Phoenix fourth years ago. I couldn’t even think about owning in my wildest dreams. The sound was absolutely heaven… but not remotely possible.

While I did get a used Audio Research preamp in 1980, that stayed in my system for over fifteen years, and then a few years later a PH2 phono stage. Which I upgraded several times. Most of the time, my system was Pass, and mostly other solid state components.

But, one by one, starting about fifteen years each component became Audio Research… and moved to Reference level. Now all my equipment is Audio Research Reference. I had no idea such a great system could be constructed. I think calibrating my ears to what real natural music sounded like by attending the symphony in the 7th row center for over ten years helped. The natural, musical sound so like the real thing. I really understand why Audio Research had such a following from its inception. They have mostly never deviated from the objective of reproducing real music with the natural perspective. Many other companies catered to real spectacular and unrealistic splashes of sound, ridiculous detail, and probe the depths of bass beyond realism… ARC has remained true to their founders vision.

So, for me… now I am the old guy, going into the store buying the stuff the young whipper snappers cannot afford. Well, actually my dealer comes to my house and drops off a demo of something he thinks I might like, and if I do, he orders one and comes by for the afternoon and installs it and we listen to it. So, while getting old is a pain in the butt, it has it’s perks… truly understanding what great equipment sounds like and being able to afford it.

Back then I lusted over everything in every store and in every magazine. And I still do.  I mean, who wouldn’t lust after a $50,000 Lampizator DAC or maybe some MBL 101 X-Treme speakers?

For me I lusted over  Krell KSA 250 amp. The B&W Matrix 800s speakers. Now I own the Audio Research Ref 750s. The B&W Matrix 800s. The Krell FPB 600. And the Audio Research Ref 6SE. And still lust over all of them. 🤷‍♂️

B&w 800 matrix, Could never afford them new.

Had the 801's several versions just never got the needed spl  levels out of them

Contacted B&w and actually got a reply about using 2 pair of 801 (one pair upside down) they said wouldn't be much louder.

Well got the 800 matrix here now ( Had to rebuild the Midsection as It got lost in transit years ago)

Whole different animal. Found a Pair of Golden Flute Bass alignment filters for them :)

The converse of this oft-experienced scenario is lusting after "this year's model". 9.9 times out of 10, "this year's model" will become the old has-been you can not believe you once lusted over. Krell was once CH Precision. CH Precision will become the next Krell. And on it goes. 

The solution is simple-stick with the classics-the audio equivalent of Brooks Brothers/Armani-and unless you have more money than you can burn and no desire to support others, avoid audio-nervosa. 

Being a jaded audiophile is not particularly fun but it does provide a sense of secure, confident wisdom. 

Ask anyone with a pair of ML No.33's and let them tell you how much those recaps costed! Amazing amps in their day however expensive to repair and they do require repairs fairly often compared to other amps. 

After hearing one, I lusted after the Classe DR3 VHC for some years.  Eventually, over time I acquired three of them (that's just over 2% of the total production).  I have them in two systems, but run a tube amp in my main system.

When I lived in the UK I lusted after a Krell KAV300i. It was popular in the audio press and I really, really wanted one. It was 3500 GBP back then and I couldn't justify the cost. 

When I moved to the USA a few years later I found an open box 300i at HiFi Heaven in Green Bay WI and snagged it off Jim for $1700. With the exchange rate, it came in at less than a third of what I would've paid back in blighty.

The amp was a POC and I couldn't wait to dump it. Be careful what you wish for and lust after ;)


When I was a college student in the late 1980s I dreamed of a pair of Apogee Caliper or Celestion SL600, and Martin Logan CLS. I also dreamed of a Linn LP12/Ittok/Koetsu Rosewood. I was a part time salesperson in college in an audio store and the Onkyo M508 and Perreaux amplifiers always called to me. 


Now I am 57 and I have had the chance to acquire some of these pieces but chose not to. Some cannot be serviced and restored to their glory. Some of the gear has voicing that I think can be improved upon with modern gear. 

However I have acquired some vintage pieces or their modern equivilent and thoroughly enjoy it. 

Martin Logan CLX ART speakers, they are a dream come true. 

SOTA Cosmos Eclipse with SME V arm. Always dreamed of the SOTA since the first Star Sapphire, and same with the SME. 

Ortofon MC2000 cartridge with T2000 transformer. Recieved a new diamond last year and a tune up, and the magic is there

Kiseki Blackheart. I am so fortunate to find one in OEM condition, and the magic is indeed there. Not the most neutral of cartridges, but it's a treat to experience. 

In some ways the past has been a road map for my current audio travels. Yet in other ways modern gear like my Classe Omega monoblocks and Trinov Amethyst preamp are unique experiences. 


I wanted Wilson WATT / Puppies back in the 1990s. Then I wanted Klipschorns, which I got and still have, and don't listen to much anymore. Now I want to try new and unorthodox things, so DIY is required, and I've lost interest in owning off-the-shelf complete speakers, although new things could come along so I watch with interest. 

I was interested in a DEQX for years, but after enough reading of reviews and experimenting myself with the kinds of phase adjustments and time aligning it might be able to do, I feel I've moved past the need for anything like that. 

The TACT stuff looked interesting to me for a while, more recently Trinnov. I'm no longer convinced that I'd be getting that stuff to do what I want any better than what I've already got. 

The latest object of interest was the BAACH system. After trying active XTC I've decided that while I'm a big fan of crosstalk reduction, I'm getting as much as I need for now with what I've got. You can push it too far.

Now what's on my mind is to set up a double bass array, so I guess I want a bunch of woofers to place on opposite walls. I've got all the electronics to pull it off other than all the woofers. It might be great. Or maybe it won't make much difference over what I've already got. Or maybe worse. It's more an issue of curiosity to try it rather than a desire to have it.

I have always wanted Studer half inch tape pro deck, either tube or with tube outboard playback head amp. This is the ultimate or near ultimate source. All those turntables let alone streamers and dacs are ridiculous by comparison. And that Studer has always been and still is totally unaffordable for me. Ain’t life a bitch ?

Speaking of amps, no, I have never had any particular dream amp in mind. Maybe top of the line Lamm, this is the closest.


Did you go to college in Boston by any chance?

I was there at the time and my first system included SL600s and a SOTA turntable. Purchased at Q-Audio.

I loved those speakers, had them about 15 years, then moved on to Joseph Audio and now Sony SS-AR2, which I an also enamored with. May be my last speakers as they are as big as I can fit reasonably in my room. 

I run a custom built set of Linkwitz Orions from 2008.  I have yet to hear anything better on voices or acoustic piano.  There is a short list of other loudspeakers I feel some audio lust for - Linkwitz LX521, Avalon Acoustics Eidolon and the Dutch & Dutch 8c.  All would be superior to my Orions, but then I put on a good jazz vocal or acoustic piano and all the audio lust goes away.  I can live with this.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.



Nice score! on those Sony SS-AR2 loudspeakers. 


Happy Listening!

I have given this some thought myself. I do have a bryston amp and pre-amp that are about 20 years old, and they are good enough for me. For DACs, I presume their technology is advancing quickly like computers and the value equation favors the current models.

I cant see myself buying any linear amps of any sort since class D has become mainstream. I got an edge a2-300 from ebay for $250 and it sounds surprisingly good to me, so that is the technology I will explore when I upgrade.
Due to the natural progression of my career and children now adults, I do have the money for a lot of those dream items from the 90s that are to be had on ebay, but class D is where I am going forward.

I am also seeking to go with balanced from pre to amp, so that rules out a lot of old amps and pre-amps. My bryston bp 25 has this covered, but at some age of gear, balanced was not implemented at all.

Back in the day I had a threshold stasis amp that was pretty nice, but I sold it. I thought about getting another one, but those are pretty old now and I wonder if the power supply caps can be replaced with new and the solid state devices, and unbalanced, to gonna keep it in the fond memory location. 

@koh_i_noor   If you're a fan of class D and balanced I'd say Atma-sphere is right up your alley. I don't see how you could go wrong.

@rooze just curious.  what equipment were you running with that little krell?  I had one, and it was mind-blowing to me at the time.  just for sh*ts and giggles, i paid USD $2115 brand new.  

Green Acres: I have the impression that the atmasphere device is super nice, but I don't want to spend that much money, so I am keeping an eye out for something less expensive. Ralph sez he is working on an integrated amp--presumably a one chassis one power supply and less expensive. I am just keeping an eye on this product space for now.

@shtinkydog I ran it with a pair of QLN Signature speakers and later I picked up a used pair of Apogee Caliper Sigs that I bought from the same dealer.

The Krell had enough ‘on paper’ watts for the Calipers but couldn’t deliver enough current, so the sound was pretty lame. Course I didn’t know anything back then so I couldn’t figure out why it sounded so bad. Things were a little better with the QLNs but really not that much.

I’ve a vintage KSA 80 right now that sounds fantastic, I wish I had it back in the day.