Help me understand the current amp market

I've been doing some research in regards to amplifiers in hopes of purchasing one some time in the near future. However, it's difficult to navigate all the different models and what makes them exactly special. For starters, which amplifier manufacturers are actually coming up with innovative technologies and which ones are more "assemblers" of slightly modified parts? Pilium, for example, is getting a lot of buzz, but the CEO is an ex gym owner that's an audio enthusiast and not an electrical engineer. So what makes them stand out? Also, I'm seeing companies like Solution and Jeff Rowland using switched mode power supplies. Are these truly better than the traditional toroidal transformers? I understand that you need to listen to them to truly understand each amplifier's significance. However, since it's almost impossible to listen to all of them in the same environment, I'd like to narrow my selection by which ones technological sound good first. Any help would be appreciated.


Boy, that Luxman sounds like a keeper to me.  I would be inclined to try some speaker choices.  Fritz has bookshelf/stand mounted speakers that are reasonably priced and easy to drive.  I saw a used pair for about $2300. 

Atmosphere is selling a new Class D hybrid that gets good press. 

My opinion is tubes are a pain.  Hot, unpredictable and expensive.  But, I have a feeling they would sound good in my system. 

I am a Pass XA 25 owner and wont be changing amps.  Good luck.

Current SOTA, sorta....

Expensive and confusing, equipment match concerns, differences in 'what's in the box?' or not.....

Happy to be 'sorta sota' (lower case is appropo....) and happy to listen v. 'getting all clinical 'bout it'....

I don't listen to hear the wires....👍😎

Take a serious look at the Boulder 866.  I had been a tube guy for over 40 years but the Boulder 866 is really good 

you're getting recommendations from Benchmark, Pass Labs, & SET amps...wildly different would need to define better. 

Benchmark is a technical winner for example...but you may find the sound lean or not organic compared to higher distortion amps that subjectively sound Pass Labs 

That's a pretty broad and tough question. Here's just one man's opinion:

Because every human ear is different- the bones in them that vibrate, the size of the chamber, the thickness of skin and bones around the ear- etc. etc. your listening experience will be different than the next guys even in the same room with the same gear. 

That being said - for me anyway, I like established brands that have decades of R&D, proven history of high quality, and committed engineers and staff as my starting point. ARC, Bryston, Luxman, Manley, Pass and the like have a hard won lineage vs. "the latest thing".  Fine audio is not like women's fashion. It must endure for a very long time and perform flawlessly and in a pleasing way. 

Brick and mortar stores are almost gone. So you should join an audio club- listen to enthusiasts rigs and decide what makes you happy. As questions, and have fun with the search. 

The better retailers will ship you a unit on approval. If you don't like it send it back.