Digital Amp Advice for Maggie 3.6

sammy -- Fri, 08/15/2008 - 07:42

I love the sound of my Maggie 3.6's with Classe amplification, but feel they would benefit from more raw power (the Classe is 150wpc into 8ohms, double that into the 4ohm load of the Maggies).

With the new class-D amps on the field, I'm very interested in seeing if they can hold up to the class-A/B standard of the Classe. Specifically, Bel Canto's REF1000 monoblocks, or any other of the very high powered new breed (e.g., the in-progress Channel Islands Audio amp based on the Hypex UCD700 class-D kit).

Has anyone experienced how the highly-revealing Maggie ribbons pair with any of the new high-powered class-D amps?

Robert Harley -- Fri, 08/15/2008 - 22:27

I don't have any experience driving Maggies with switching amplifiers, but you should proceed with caution. Switching amplifiers sound very different with different loudspeakers. We (the TAS editorial staff) haven't heard any switching amplifiers that compete with the best linear amplifiers, at least among the units we've tested. We haven't auditioned the Bel Canto amplifiers, although they have been used in some very good sounding demos at shows. The Bel Canto amplifiers appear to be the most promising of the switching amps.

The old adage of auditioning an amplifier with the speakers you intend to drive with it is even more true with switching amplifiers.

Steven Stone -- Sat, 08/16/2008 - 09:49

Although I haven't used my Bel Canto REF 1000 amps with maggies, I have used them with some difficult loads (Genesis 6.1 speakers) with excellent results.

As Robert suggested, try before you buy.

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

sammy -- Mon, 08/25/2008 - 06:46

Mr. Harley,

May I ask whether you do have plans to review the Bel Canto REF1000 amplifier? Knowing that there is much more to an amplifier than its technology of choice, and knowing Bel Canto's tube origins, I am curious whether they have achieved the promise of class-D, without the pitfalls that you covered in your discussion of various class-D amplifiers.

Also, so reading about the Hypex kit makes me additionally wonder whether this approach has perhaps addressed some of the negative aspects seen in other designs (I believe it is Channel Islands Audio that uses the Hypex kit -- and that they are near completion of a monoblock amplifier based on the 700wpc version of the Hypex).

In terms of $/Watt, class-D seems to be all over the other designs, and you can feel good about taking your hi-fi in a somewhat more "green" direction. But I'm not willing to give up the sweetness of my current amp -- as the Maggie ribbons will lay bare any spurious noises in the upper frequencies which class-D designs may be susceptible to.

Your advice is greatly appreciated. And I would certainly always audition before buying -- but in my area, the dealer requires a non-refundable deposit for an audition, which can only be used toward a future purchase -- and that's a commitment I would rather not make unless I have some credible advice that this may be a good pairing.


Robert Harley -- Mon, 08/25/2008 - 13:01

We don't have any plans at the moment to review the Bel Canto amplifiers. I've heard them make very good sounds at shows (with the very high resolution Pioneer and TAD loudspeakers). Nonetheless, even an amplifier such as the $8500 Kharma MP-150 switching amplifier has a characteristic sound that can be traced to the fact that it's a switching amp.

Chris Martens -- Tue, 09/30/2008 - 16:52


I'd like to weigh in on this discussion in that I have used class D amps with Magnepans, though with experiences most drawn from using various class D amps with the comparatively modest MG 1.6.

To provide some background, let me provide a list of the class D amps I've either auditioned or reviewed to date:

--Audio Research 300.2
--Channel Island Audio D-200 monoblocks
--Kharma MP-150 monoblocks
--NuForce Reference 9 v.1 and Reference 9 SE v.1 monoblocks
--NuForce Reference 9 v.2 and Reference 9 SE v.2 monoblocks
--Red Dragon Leviathan Signature monoblocks
--Spectron Musician III.

One caveat: I think it would probably be fair to say that I (or perhaps that Neil Gader and I) have reacted more positively on the whole to class D designs than most of of the TAS editorial staff has. Note that I don't regard class D technology as a panacea by any stretch of the imagination, and agree that it has audible flaws. However, I do think the better class D amps offer excellent value for money as well as certain signature strengths that equivalently-priced linear amplifiers have difficulty matching.

My general observation is that the strengths of class D amps tend to fall in the bass and midrange regions, and in both areas the better class D amps did wonderful things with my Maggie 1.6s. Thanks, perhaps, to their remarkably high damping factors, class D amps extracted deeper, cleaner, tighter and more authoritative bass from my Maggies than I've typically been able to achieve with traditional linear amps. Through the midrange, the better class D designs offered excellent delineation of details, tons of transient snap, a good measure of timbral purity, and an at times explosively dynamic sound that, interestingly, was achieved without requiring gobs of wattage. A personal observation: I found that after listening to class D amps for many months on end, many traditional linear amps began to sound a little bit thick, sluggish and lugubrious to me--as if they couldn't quite keep pace with the music the way that class D amps did. On the other hand, in terms of "liquidity," smoothness, and natural high-frequency sweetness, I'd give the edge to the linear amps. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

Again, the area that tends to be an acknowledged "Achille's heel" for many class D designs is the critical transition region from the upper midrange on up, where some designs tend to sound dull, and others a bit bright, sterile and mechanical. It's in this specific region (one that, as you know, the 3.6s handle in a very revealing way) that traditional linear amps tend to outperform their class D challengers. This is not, of course, a hard, fast rule, but it is a pattern that bears careful listening and evaluation on your part.

So, I would encourage you to try class D amps with your 3.6s with the thought that, even if you ultimately decide class D amps are not for you, you may well find class D designs unleash at least some latent strengths in your Maggies in pretty amazing ways.

However, given that you already love the sound of your 3.6s with a 150 Wpc Classe amp, I suspect your interests might best be served by looking at some of the higher powered linear amps on the market. Two examples: The Parasound/Halo JC-1 monoblocks, or the Musical Fidelity kW750 stereo power amplifier. These would potentially preserve the qualities you love in your present Classe, while adding that Nth degree of dynamic ease (and sheer clout) that makes the best high-powered designs so appealing.

Chris Martens
Editor, Perfect Vision 

agim (not verified) -- Mon, 02/02/2009 - 08:13

that is some very useful insight.  and it sort of begs the question: why not bi-amp maggies with class-D on the bass (and maybe mid) panels, and a linear amp up top?   that might provide the "oomph" for the bass and mids, and avoid the class-D pitfalls higher up.  i'm not sure how one deals with the crossover that seems to be in the wrong place in the chain for bi-amping, and the need low-pass the line signal going into one amp and high-pass the line signal going into the other...

aperolli -- Mon, 02/02/2009 - 08:15

chris, that is some very useful insight.  it sort of begs the question: why not bi-amp maggies with class-D on the bass (and maybe mid) panels, and a linear amp up top?   that might provide the "oomph" for the bass and mids, and avoid the class-D pitfalls higher up.  but i'm not sure how one deals with the crossover that seems to be in the wrong place in the chain for bi-amping, and the need, i assume, low-pass the line signal going into one amp, and high-pass the line signal going into the other...

millicurie (not verified) -- Thu, 04/09/2009 - 13:36

Kinda off topic but I know a lot of Maggie owners like to pair their speakers with Rel sub for extension in the bass region.  Just found this apparent issue with Rel and Class D amp. Just a heads up.

BRsound -- Mon, 12/28/2009 - 06:25

 Oh,man... do you really want MORE POWER ?
Don't waste any more minute and purchase the Californian WYRED4SOUND SX-1000 monoblocks...
They do deliver 570 Watts in 8 Ohms and an unbelivable 1,140 Watts in 4 Ohms.
Someone told me that  " they are TOO CHEAP to be good ". 
They are cheap, allright, but they sound SUPERB and are very,very quiet. Music appears from a pitch black
background. I've tested with the preamps Parasound HALO JC2 and the Bel Canto PRe3.
My own prejudice against CHEAP products was sunk after hearing those amps.
I'm only wondering THE bass you're gonna get from your Maggies ... 
You'll wonder where those low frequencies were hidden !

mdonohue -- Sun, 07/14/2013 - 05:53

How about trying a Crown Audio XLS Drivecore XLS 2500 (440w 8-ohm/775w 4-ohm).Yes, it's a professional amp, but you can get it from Amazon for $499 w/free shipping,and if you don't like it you can return it or save it to power a passive sub. Worth a try,I would say.

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