PS Audio vs Bel Canto vs Musical Fidelity shootout

Category: Amplifiers

I wasn’t sure where to post a shootout type of review for the Musical Fidelity A3cr (MF), Bel Canto Evo200.2 (BC) and PS Audio HCA-2 (PSA), each of which I have had in home for extended auditioning, so figured I would post this it a few places so it is found by those who may be interested in any of these amps. This is a fairly lengthy appraisal and mostly is a compilation of scattered notes, but I think I’ve put to paper my experiences as fully and honestly as possible. I’ve gone through many other amps as well recently that I choose not to refer to due to the already imposing length of this review, most of which where more expensive anyways, and the focus of my investigation, for myself, was based on well regarded amps available for around a grand on the used market (I buy everything used!). I gave a bias in review length to the HCA-2; I am also biased towards its sound.

PS Audio HCA-2:

It took me a long time to figure out what I was hearing from the PS Audio HCA-2 exactly, due in part level matching, partly from its highly resolving nature that exposed weakness elsewhere in the chain like no other amps has, but also because of the fire-hose disguised as a power cord that I’ve been using with it. Here starts the short novel:

On the plus side, first things that struck me when I installed the HCA-2 with the PS Audio Lab II cable were the amounts of detail I was hearing that was missing with the Odyssey I had been recently playing with just before, something I wasn’t expecting, as it was detail I’ve not heard from any other amp, even in different systems. The small things stood out; like previously unheard slight crackles and distinct inflections in a voice, newly heard faint breaths or amount of moisture on lips between passages, along with better defined but not etched images, with more reverberant cues to indicate hall sizes and ambient information that were most distinctive between this amp and any other I’ve had at home. This was shockingly different, really, which took time to adjust to. It wasn’t the type of detail you get from a tipped up top end, a hot tweeter, brightness or simply a twist of a treble tone control knob, as the sound was uncannily smooth, full and crisp, but more importantly, it was also natural and believable. I’ve heard similar improvements to a lesser degree with a good external DAC over lesser dacs. This change can leave one on the edge of their listening chair at first listen, but the ears/brain will calm down and the sound produced will amaze, so be patient with this one and don’t skimp on upstream components!

Other impressive sonic aspects inherent in the HCA-2 were its sound stage depth, along with its sheer power and control. Again, in those regards it is among the best I’ve heard in its mid powered 125-200wpc class, price not being a factor. The HCA-2 easily outclassed the MF and BC in bass weight, speed and extension, making the competition sound lethargic and hollow. Though the MF amp is fast relative to most of what’s out there, the speed of the HCA-2 was just unreal, lively and rhythmic, engaging and toe tapping, very musical. The HCA-2 produced chest pounding bass that both I and my neighbors :-) have not had before in my very large living room. This was due to the amazingly fast attack and Peta Wilson’s rock hard bottom type of tightness, with not a hint of overhang or boom, though not over-dampened either! The woofers just came alive with impressive power and control, which made my big and heavy woofer integrate more seamlessly with the other drivers. Again, wasn’t expecting that much of a difference and didn’t know that the big and hard to drive woofers could respond so quickly either, especially with so little power.

From the reviews, I was expecting the huge soundstage, and though huge it wasn’t as big as I had imagined, and as with each amp, I did take the time to reposition the speakers for optimal performance, which did make a nice improvement in each instance. The presentation was about a foot forward from any other amp but never did the vocalist resided far in front of the speakers as I had imagined, only right at the front (when appropriate), but the room and speaker adjustments made differences just as substantial when re-optimizing. There was a lot more air around performers and depth was impressive, maybe 10ft behind the front of the speakers on some tracks, such as the faint, distant signaling trumpet in beginning of the Gladiator battle scene, which put it solidly outside of the room into the street!

After listening for a few days I was compelled to swap out the fire hose for my cheap DIY Belden power cord that are popular with many ($25 cord). Much of the detail was lost, and while still very detailed and no less silky smooth, some subtle cues found before where missing, bass appeared rolled by ~40hz, the soundstage became 2D, the lower midrange was light, images where fuzzy and a slight hiss was also present if you came within 4 inches of the tweeters. With the 5-pound sewer pipe cable in the mix with any amp their performance was slightly closer to the HCA-2 in terms of detail retrieval and bass speed, but the HCA-2 had a clear and very substantial edge in both regards, still among the best I’ve ever heard.

Not terribly unlike the Bel Canto, the PSA amp is delightfully harmonically rich (especially with the MSB Nelson dac, which was tending towards excessive for my tastes), one might say somewhat “tube like” in the midrange, and was just a lot of fun to listen to; a very exciting, intense, realistic, high energy presentation that always leaves you captivated and grooving to the music. I can’t mention that enough!

Alas, as good as the PS Audio was in terms of resolution, bass quality and sound-staging, it wasn’t perfect, there where a couple of tradeoffs. The HCA 2 does slightly come off as a "hi fi" sounding amp with the wrong upstream components, which was the majority of the ones I tried! I found component matching with this ruthlessly revealing and resolving amp difficult, if I didn’t have 3 systems worth of components cluttering up my living room I could have a wealth of negative comments regarding this amps sonic signature, but alas it would have been wrongly placed criticism, the faults where not in the amp but revealed in other components. I don’t think it was HCA’s resolution that could kill the transparency with the majority of sources I paired it with, more so my psychological response to hearing a vastly different sound then what I’ve expected to hear in home. There is a slight leanness to the lower midrange, and I heard this clearly in my huge 25x18x10 carpeted room with brick walls, but when I moved my system into a room 22x15x11 with wood floors and less furniture this area filled in a little. Another negative, the transformer “buzzes like a fridge,” to borrow lyrics from Thom Yorke of Radiohead. It very rarely made a peep in my old home, but now in a 100yr old apartment above a blues bar you can hear it humming its own song if within 4ft of it. Lifting the ground doesn’t help, nor does power conditioning. I will be running a dedicated line for it soon, but am doubtful as to if that will be the cure either….

With the Bel Canto the speakers completely disappear, offering rightness to the sound that I find hypnotizing and soothing; you completely forget about the amp and other gear, forget you’re listening to a recording and become fully drawn into the live performance taking place in your room--which is probably the highest praise I could offer to an amplifier. With the HCA-2, although the presentation is most impressive stereophonically, it wasn’t always as natural, somewhat surreal with the wrong components (such as the Nelson Dac or with lesser PCs); it can make you continually aware of its presence, mainly from its glories but also in its slight lack of transparency. Frustratingly, the HCA-2 could at times match the transparency of the BC or it could not stay in the same room with very small component or wire changes. The PSA could be a Salvador Dali or a Kindade, depending on the associated gear and the room. The HCA-2 always made for more realistic sound throughout the spectrum, with tympani and bass drums having startlingly real presence, bells and horns where solidly in my room, pure and clear. The HCA-2 amp, to use subjective and anthropomorphic language, seemed to be trying to impress at times, doing a very good job at it, yet still seemingly trying. This amp can’t compete with my personal reference, the Parasound JC-1’s, but, even with the synergy frustrations inherent, I wouldn’t buy anything else under $5K.

Bel Canto EVo200.2:

I’m sorry to say, I think Kal Rubinson pretty much nailed his review of this amp, especially as it relates to the PSA. I’m sorry to admit that because it leaves me with little to have experienced, and now to comment about myself! Anyways, the character of this amp and the PSA where strikingly similar at first, casual listen, but it didn’t take long to make a few clear distinctions in the context of my system. The BC literally put me to sleep each and every night. It has a cool, laid back and romantic sort of quality that makes all music soothing, which on some tracks is phenomenal for but I don't find it appropriate for most albums, at least as I had come to expect to hear them. I can see why tube fans would like this amp, however. The bass on this amp is not lacking next to the A3 but is clearly outclassed when compared to the PS Audio amp. The BC couldn’t compete with low level and ambient detail retrieval. The soundstage is much flatter then heard with the other amps, but then again most every amp on the planet will come up lacking next to the PSA in those regards! The digital amps are near equivocal in presence and imaging, both impressive, the midrange of the BC was slightly more rounded, the PSA more bouncy in the same area. The HCA-2 was much more fun to listen to, with superior speed and dynamics, just more engaging, while the BC was more soothing, at ease and less intense. With very HF sounds the BC was slightly rough, but everywhere else impeccably smooth. Both are fine amps but the PS Audio definitely fits my tastes and system better. The BC wasn’t nearly as fussy about associated gear, so may prove the better match for many in its less revealing nature.

One last gripe about the BC was its volume sensitivity. This amp only sounded right, or in the zone, perhaps, when in a very small range on my preamp dial, which was about 95dB in my room. Less or more and the sound was much less detailed, compressed, somewhat incoherent, pretty much a different amp altogether! My friend who loaned me this amp had the exact same issue, for what that’s worth.

MF A3cr:

This amp excelled in top end air and extension, having bass weight and on par with the Bel Canto, but not as relaxed. In my system it offered a trace of apparent warmth and liquidity over the other amps, it was fairly easy going, but overall a bit too polite for my tastes and never settled down to where I could forget about its being in my system. Its main fault was lack of power; its rated output may be quite optimistic. In my system this amp clipped very easily, and it is actually the only amp that has ever clipped audibly in my system, which may have biased my opinion of it for the worse. At high levels the sound compressed and became harsh. Overall the bass was hollow, although deep and articulate it was lacking weight or slam next to the PSA or other esteemed “bass amps” from Krell, Parasound and the Big Classe’s, etc.. Again, extension in both extremes was very good; the very highest frequencies could get grainy, more so then heard from the BC which was rough on very few tracks. On the plus side it is the quietest amp I’ve ever heard and it offered a huge soundstage with impressive depth and, just as importantly, solidarity to that the depth the eclipsed the BC with ease and made further off sounds more real. The bel canto and HCA-2 where more harmonically rich, offering more solid presence, while the A3 and Evo offered a pleasantly rounded midrange.

I tend to think that this amp would likely be a better match to bookshelf speakers playing music with limited dynamics, such as light jazz and classical, which I don’t play much of at all. Easy to listen to but I bored with it quickly.

Build Quality:

Also worth mention is build quality. The casing on the A3cr is rather cheap, the transformers inside are only a hair bigger then those in their preamp (which, along with the MF A3 24 dac, I liked much better then the amp), which surprised me. The feet on the MF amp are absolute mass market junk, the digital amps has feet with slightly higher utility. The binding posts on the MF are stupidly large and a pita for most wires, the posts on the HCA-2 are a joy to use, very high quality WBT’s. The connection layout on the back of the BC sucked, the binding post, though of good quality, where too close together. Overall the A3cr still is well above average on build quality for its price, but I’m not too sure about the digital amps internally.

Most disappointing was the HCA-2 with the hood popped. Open it up and you realize it was probably assembled in a sweatshop; you see why there is only a 3-year warranty on the product, which is insulting to owners, I personally think. A 3yr warranty might be ok on a CD or DVD player, but an amp? Come on! The soldering was very poorly done, and the internal copper wire was exposed and already oxidized heavily at the joints. The circuit boards are thin and flimsy. Amazingly for the sound it produces, there is very little capacitance, only about 32K uf total! I think my dacs and CD transports have more capacitance! The Bel Canto offered 45Kuf/channel but of lesser quality parts. I’m not questioning the designers here, mind you, just an observation that struck me. Anyways, looking inside the HCA-2 and Bel Canto you really wonder what justifies the price tag and the warranty period, there is nothing to them, and they have dozens of parts in common. Any which way you look at these digital amps you see maybe $300 worth of parts that where assembled in a community college by blind students, especially placed next to the MF, which has more impressive components. Ok, so the HCA-2 isn’t quite as bad as I describe, yet I still have to question why an amp only has a 3-year warranty period, especially a $1700 amp. Spectron also has a 3yr warranty, Bel Canto also only offer 5yr warranties on their digital amps, which makes me wonder.

I hope that some of this proves useful. I started out with a short novel but cut to the chase, at that, there is much more I could say with specific difference within musical passages as is popular with some but didn’t, mainly because I don’t much enjoy listening to audiophile approved music that most would relate to, and though I listen to classical and jazz to demo gear I hate listening to it through any stereo. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to hundreds of live jazz and classical performance throughout the US and enjoy the genera’s very much, just don’t like jazz and classical too often at home. For reference my system and music tastes are as follows:

Full range Von Schweikert VR3’s with Vibrapods underneath (VR4SE’s or VR4JR’s to come)
PS Audio HCA-2 amp
Musical Fidelity A3cr preamp
Marantz SA-14 SACD/CD player (filter set to “Custom”)
Musical Fidelity A3 24 dac
DIY Silver cables and IC’s w/WBT connectors
PS Audio and Belden PCs
Marsh/Monster HTS-2500 power conditioner

CDs/SACDs used to demo:

Too many to mention! Here’s a short list of artists.
Portishead, Radiohead, Goldfrapp, Massive Attack, Alpha, Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man, Gorillaz, Bizet, Orf, Gladiator Soundtrack, Gershwin, Diana Krall, Sanatra, Beck, Pink Floyd, Billy Joel, Pearl Jam, Sneaker Pimps, Red Hot Chili Peppers, a dozen operas and handful of audiophile approved classical discs, mostly from Telarc. I use at least 50 albums to in home demo gear with.

I fully welcome any questions so please don’t hesitate to email me or write here. I would also really like to hear others appraisals of these amps as well, especially if you’ve had a couple in your system for evaluation or others to compare them to.

Nice review, including the bits about build quality and warranty. How about more detail on direct comparison of these amps, or of just the HCA2, with your JC1s?
I lovoe it when people spend some time and put some thought into a review. Great job!

I also want to commend and thank you for your thoughtful and thorough review.I am specifically interested as I was going to buy the VR3's or 4's,having owned the Alon speakers previously.Would you elaborate on the Odysseys' place in the evaluation? I also was considering the McCormack.5, and Bryston 3Bst. Are you satisfied with your digital setup?
If you want a lot of amp for little money, with fantastic build quality check out Densen ... I've had a b-100 for about 5 years and it's just a perfect little amp, if a little underpowered for your application.
Thanks so much for the kind words! I had a blast playing with these amps, each wonderful in their own ways.

Calanctus: I wish I could give you a review of the JC-1's but am not fully confident in my appraisal, having only heard them about dozen times in a friends system, and though I'm very familiar with that system it's not my own, so would't be comfortable reviewing them. From what I heard, however, the Stereophile review actually held back, its an even better amp then described. I actually enjoyed the JC-1 more then the 5 figure Spectral, Krell and big Pass Labs amps I've heard recently, which is pretty high praise as they where all killer amps as well (just 2-3x more expensive)!

Tracer: Go with the Vons, you'll not regret it one bit! Check out the new models if you have a dealer, the new VR4SE's will ruin you for any other speaker, but their new smaller speakers are also magical, and I personally prefer the older models to many of the new big dogs. I've heard the McCormack1 and honestly it would have finished last compared to the above amps. Though it is a great amp for the money it's not nearly as refined, balanced or revealing as any of the above, and the top end really puts it in a lower class, though no complaints about power! Regarding the Odyssey amp, that's a long story, please e-mail me if you're really bored and want to hear it.

Seandtaylor99, thanks for the suggestion, I will try to track a used one down to play with!
Thank you captain justice (Kalus or one of his pawns, I'm sure) for your highly useful comments. How long do you wish to kick this dead horse, might I ask? How neurotic are you to bring this matter up here in this unrelated post, let alone doing so a half year later!!! Grow the heck up my friend!

If you would like to stir the pot, let’s stir it a little more vigorously. I'll have you know that I wrote this review well before I was informed of the amp in question supposedly not being a Stratos, though I'm still not entirely convinced of this claim (accusation). Apparently I had the only Odyssey Design Labs model on the planet which someone spent a ton of money CNC fab’ing the exact Stratos faceplate with the right dimensions and took a ton of time silk-screening glass with the "Stratos" name on it (yes, it had "odyssey" on the metal and "Stratos" on the glass, just like all Stratos models and NOT the ODL’s), and also it was the only "ODL" model known to man with the 120,000uf cap upgrade, and other unique components identical to the Stratos, etc. It also looked EXACTLY like the Stratos on the inside from every pic I've ever seen, my friend, an EE, looked inside when I had it and later, looking at another "Stratos" he couldn't find ANY difference, granted this from memory, however. I had NO REASON WHATSOEVER to believe the amp was not an Odyssey Stratos, and I’m still highly skeptical here. From the treatment I received and from reading comments to others with similar dissenting perspectives, I feel that some folks (**read between the lines here**) simply can’t tolerate anything but gushing sheep-minded positive comments to be posted about Odyssey products as being god-like, as seen by past attacks on reviewers that don’t follow the cult path to audio enlightenment. This is nothing new, of course, Bose, B&W, Krell and other companies use the same sort of tactics to the same ends, and “business ethics” is of course an oxymoron.

Another point, supposedly shipping damaged jolted the unit I had and knocked it "out of spec," (ambiguous terms given to me, just passing it along), it later blew fuses due likely to abuse by the owner, and I'd like to see it proven that it wasn't in spec when I heard it rather then just after shipping it ONLY. It shipped 4 times after it left my hands, and a lot can happen to a 60lb package under such conditions, though that’s neither here nor there.

Either which way you take that fun filled story I’ve presented so far there is one more chapter for the final climax to add, in that I've since heard another "Stratos" just to prove my own sanity. (I’ve heard probably 40 amps in the past year alone, 25 or so digital sources, a few dozen speakers, 20 preamps….I get around, all around the country to different showrooms and have a ton of stuff going through my home. It’s a fun hobby for me, except for issues like this one that just won’t die!). I still wouldn't trade either a PSA or Bel Canto digital amp for it, no way, no how! The digital amps, to my ears, with my music, are clearly superior in terms of bass handling, smoothness, soundstage solidarity, PRAT, midrange richness and detail, musicality and lack of sterility that most SS amps possess and good tube and digital amps avoid, these things those highly important to me, I concluded the digital pieces all around “better” amps to ME. The Stratos has a trace more transparency with more etched (yet 2D) images on its side, and, in the case of the HCA-2, a slightly more cohesive tonal balance on its side in the midbass without use of a $500 powercord, but I don’t much value those things in the small degree they differed, given the HUGE tradeoffs present in favor of the other amps. If the HCA-2 and Evo2 are "A" grade amps then Stratos is maybe a B/B-. Sorry, fans, that's just the way it is as I hear it.

To get preachy, not even a deaf person would confuse the Odyssey sound for the PS Audio or Bel Canto sound, to think that personal preference wouldn’t lead folk’s one direction or the other is also something I can’t get over here, that some can’t seem to understand this, that aesthetics (high end audio) is purely subjective and some simply may not like the Odyssey sound! I’m completely fine if someone favors the Odyssey products, I really don’t care what someone else likes, I really don’t! The Odyssey big chief himself even mentioned (reluctantly and with back-peddling, granted) that folks have favored the digital amps for some of the reasons above, according to BB posts on I've also been given a few testimonies via email of folks that read my review here, bought the HCA-2 and sold their Odyssey amps (though one guy kept the monoblocks as they simply fed his hungry eStats where the HCA-2 turned off at high levels). There have been TONS of odyssey amps sold on audiogon, they had to be replaced by something, right…..:) Good value from Odyssey, sure, great warranty and pleasing aesthetics/build for the superficial is a plus for many, but there are better amps available to my ears, lots of them! If another found bliss and an exit-level product in Odyssey, I’m happy for them, I won’t judge them, peace be with you.

Do I sound sour, bitter even in this reply? Maybe I’m overreacting here you think? That’s quite likely, but it's only because the owner of Odyssey Audio made me this way, as well as emails and comments online from his good buddies also involved with the ordeal in one way or another. I’m sure most didn’t want to hear this and really don’t care to know the details, as no sane person with a life should, but apparently there are those with mental disorders that do! I let the issue go and haven't mentioned it since publicly, not once (!!!), someone apparently hasn't let go for whatever sick reason and I'm frankly sick of addressing it repeatedly and getting emails about the Odyssey amp, so, to amuse myself, I decided to let it all out of the bag, only because prompted, just move get on. I'm done on the subject, there's nothing left to be told, and will not respond to this matter again. I’ve anticipated ever question I would have received in my initial much briefer response to this topic, hence the seemingly undue length of this reply to the simple statement above. I have MUCH better things to do with my time/life. Have a nice day, thanks for reading. THE END.

P.S. Captain truth, try an HCA-2 or eVo2 next to a Stratos then tell me what you think. You can even borrow my amps if you are near D.C..
What's your opinion on the A3 24 DAC? I am considering adding one to my MF A3 CD player. Have you compared this to other DACs in the same price range?

Great thourough review by the way.
Cosmic_void: The A3 24 dac was my favorite amongst a MSB Nelson, Bel Canto dac 1.1, Chord 64, Rega Jupiter and Jolida JD100 listening spree I had a few months back when on a digital binge. The MCD205 McIntosh 5 disc changer that ST reviewed against it DOES indeed sound almost exactly like this dac in its strengths, I also hear that at my dealer and brought the A324 along. I owned the A324 for a while before getting bit by the SACD bug, still have very fond memories of its uncanny openness, fabulous soundstaging, nicely enriched midrange and smooth presentation. Only real fault was in terms of electronic-music-like bass slam in the 20-40hz range. The bass speed and articulation was superb but it lacked the more vicseral, feel it rather then hear it type of bass that I crave for my high intensity and dynamic trip-hop, Mahler and other demanding music listening sessions. Otherwise it's hard to fault in its price range, very balanced, non-fatiguing yet very detailed with glorious topend extension and clarity, nothing to draw attention to itself and it's only faults are seen with a direct a/b comparison and careful listening. Only cavaet, and it's a big one, is that it requires a VERY GOOD transport to shine or else it can sound downright awful. The A3 CDP, I'm sorry to say, suprisingly isn't a very good transport for this dac, many folks have noted this, as odd as that sounds. A Theta Basic, Pear or Jade, or even Sony 9000ES would do it justice. I like a Silver or silver coated digital with this dac, PC's didn't make much of a difference with it. Hope that helps, if you need more info feel free to post or email me.
Thanks for you response. I was looking for a relatively inexpensive way of upgrading my digital end. Thought that this coupled with my A3 CD would have been the answer. Perhaps I'll look at the Classe CDP-10. Been hearing nothing but good stuff about this one.
Socrates, I disagree with some of your assessments but I certainly appreciate your calling them the way you see them. Did you try your super pc on each amp or vice versa the stock against the stock?
I tried the PS Audio against the Odyssey Stratos Mono not the standard Odyssey. The PS and the Odyssey sounded different. The Stratos was more cohesive, the PS was more explosive. Detail was on par. Depth was on par. The Odyssey also sounded better with the PS power cord than it did with its own. The Stratos has to be on all the time to sound good. Period. The PS sounds good (after break-in) as soon as you turn it on. The Odyssey was more transparent, the PS sounded faster.
However, I'm a tall guy and I don't drive cars I can't fit in. Why be uncomfortable. I don't keep amps that can't drive my preferred speakers. Why limit myself to only a few records at lower levels. I liked the PS immensely. Is it better than the regular Odyssey? I don't know. I never had one. Is it bettr than the Monos? No. Did I like the way it sounded definitely.

Would I buy the PS. Depends on the speaker.

I also listened to the BC and agree completely with Socrates. I did not have one in direct comparison with the other two. I did spend two days listening to a BC in another system.

The Odyssey and the PS I had at the same time.

And I still defend Socrates.
Thank you for the comments, Dannylw, I appreciate the defense and always good to hear multiple perspectives to see how gear works in other systems. Any seasoned audiphile will tell you that the amp-speaker interaction is what makes or breaks the percieved quality of an amp in any system. I own speakers that are well know to respond to the speed, power, ease, smoothness and magical midrange of digital amps, the digital-amp sound if you will (at least as I've heard digital amps sound "in general"). Other speakers have other needs and differnt demands in terms of load and power. Big estats with 83db efficiency will eat a HCA-2 for breakfast, as they will most sub 500WPC amps, for example. That said, my full range Vons are only 87db efficient, yet I've pushed my HCA-2 to night club level volumes once a month at parties in my home, with my european friend techno playing with my volume dial set to "kill-tweeter and blow fuses" level (which it did with MANY other amps that where given this task) for 3 hours non-stop, yet the HCA-2, to steal Kal Rubinsons line, pumped out the power like a nuclear power plant. No clipping, just effortless, controlled and still smooth power.

I've tried every amp I've owned with a variety of PC's to varying effects, though too many cords and too small of a difference to waste time telling a story about them!

I feel that the Odyssey amps must be kept on 24/7 is also a huge drawback to those paying the elctric bill, while the 90 some % efficiency of digital amps, that they come "on song" with 10 minutes of warmup is great, and the cool running nature is a huge plus in my book, not to mention the space saved. Another note for potential buyers, I feel the HCA-2 to be one of the most revealing amps I've ever heard. When folks find faults with them it's usually not in the amp but a problem upstream getting magnified, at least in my experience with mating it with dozens of other components, though the ability to mate with the speakers is no doubt of paramount importance.
FWIW, I agree with Dannylw's assessment of the PSA and Odyssey. Also, I do own a a Bryston and an Odyssey and am hardly a minion or Klaus :) The Stratos absolutely has to be left on all the time to work it's magic - it starts doing its thing after about 2-3 full days left on. This could be seen as a drawback to some, I'm sure. No problem with your personal taste on this issue -- could care less what you like better, but all the facts help make this more useful to other ppl reading.

Also, ODL did produce idential amps physically (but bias'd very differently) to Odyssey before they were forced to change the glass plate. (Also Stratos's design has evolved quite a bit even in the past few years). So, relax a little Socrates, and thanks for the comparison. Your SACD shootout was very helpful and I tend to agree with everything you wrote in your digital review. Thanks for taking the time to write that up, and I look forward to hearing you opinions of the DV50 or 5900 :)