WAJ on AUDIO - for truth in hifi / stereo / high-end audioHome
A $10k 'Magic' Amp vs The Maggie; Potentially One of the World's Best Little Amps?
Virtually every audiophile aspires to acquiring the closest approach to the 'perfect' amplifier. This is an elusive beast, logically impossible, with no shortage of pretenders to the 'throne'. In pursuit of this elusive beast some audiophiles reach-out for what they believe is; 'the best money can buy'. But then, how much money is really necessary, for the purpose?
Increasingly, it seems, many believe that near-perfect amp is the vintage Magnavox 93-Series Para-Phase 6BQ5 tubed amplifier. Either that, or they believe it's close enough. And while some are bold enough to declare it amongst the best they've heard, some will simply tell you that they like the sound, perhaps too embarrassed by its current low cost to consider it worthy of the 'throne', after suitable mods.
It's originally from a 1950s/'60s-era stereo-console, boasting a whopping 15 watts per channel, or there-about, at a possible cost around 100 to 200-bucks (plus the cost of refurbishing, or modifications). And, no, this isn't such a joke as it may seem.
In a world dominated by amps costing thousands to very-many thousands of dollars, for units pushing 1 or 2 watts to very-many hundreds of watts, gleaming at potential buyers from countless showroom-floors, why would anyone consider an ancient 50 year-old relic in any quest for something approaching the very best sonics money can buy?
Well, let's investigate!
Let's say your speakers are fairly efficient and you're seeking a decent amp, in the 12 wpc region, for somewhere around 2-grand, or less. OK, so you've already bought the bugger, but you really wish you could have bought something as good as that Manley Neo Classic SE/PP 300B all the mags have raved about in regards to its quality, superior to most amps on the planet, excepting a very precious few which, almost without exception, cost much more than the outstanding Manley. But then, the Manley itself costs over 7-grand. Quite expensive, for sure.
However, what if you could obtain an amp with better sonics than the 7-grand Manley, for less than 1500-bucks?
Oh yeah, according to a reader writing in to one of my favorite web-zines, The Audio Critique, his 1950's Ampex 6973 console amps so comprehensively outperformed his expensive Manley Neo Retro (same amp as Neo, basically) that he sold the latter to make the ancient Ampex mono-blocs his primary amps driving his double-stacked Quad 57s.
OK., so you've heard that story before (perhaps even here) and you're aware it's the reason the average cost of the Ampex mono-blocs has escalated from next-to-nothing to the current level, on the used market. Let's imagine you'd prefer to spend much less, for something that's arguably as good - potentially.
Well, here's another story from the same source: A thirty-year veteran audiophile who claims never to have been totally satisfied by some of the best amps he's owned and heard, including solid-state, tubed, and S.E.T., now claims to be experiencing performance superior to all these from a refurbished Magnavox 93-series console-amp. Amazingly, and even more so than with the Ampex, similar stories are scattered all over the 'net, regarding this amp and its siblings, as audiophiles marvel at the quality of the sound facilitated by these gems - possibly upgraded even further with simple mods.
On now to my own experience with this Magnavox amp, to date.
Perhaps, at this stage, I should give a brief outline of the pre-existing gear, so here goes: Firstly, a UREI 6150 80wpc power-amp (itself an outstanding ss amplifier) drives 95db/w/m-efficient DIY full-range towers. And these are augmented by 18" subs driven by a 200wpc Sherwood power-amp. An Audio-Research LS3 serves as the line-stage pre, an E.A.R. 834P as the phono pre, and a Linn LP12 tt as the main source-component. Other source-components are; a ReVox A77 2trk15ips R2R tape-machine, Thorens TD125/SME tt, a Sony HiFi VCR, and a Dell laptop computer. The latter two items are the sources most frequently used, for the sake of convenience. (Also note that a 20wpc ss integrated amp was recently being experimented with, especially since a minor issue with the UREI was being investigated).
Recently, I placed a series of want-ads, in a popular local newspaper, seeking a few vintage components of extremely high repute, with a view to conducting my own experiments - re; select examples of vintage amps, speakers, and turntables. Among the amps I sought, locally, were: the Ampex mono-blocs (as mentioned above) a ss Quad 520, Stromberg-Carlson AP-55, and the Magnavox 93-Series. Of these, the Maggie is the only one I've nabbed, so far. And, based on its quality, I'm inclined to call-off my search for any other tube amp, confining my amp-search to finding a rare ss Quad 520, locally.
A Paucity of Scruples - And Hints at 'MAGIC': Cutting a long story short, I undertook to enlist the very best local tech, experienced in tube-affairs (though, now converted to solid-state) to refurbish/modify my Maggie with a view to eliciting pretty-near the best performance possible. This tech is also a small manufacturer of very expensive amplifiers. But both he and his amp shall remain nameless here, for reasons which will soon become apparent.
Among other minor points, this tech's main assignment was to replace all resistors with high-quality close-tolerance types, and to replace all capacitors with high-quality versions, with a particular bias in quality toward the coupling-caps. Note that we both recognized at the outset that caps for tube-amps (especially with the proposed level of quality) would be near-unobtainable, locally, so the likelihood of a special order for these was mutually recognized as a prominent aspect of the agenda.
Yet, this tech took the job, replaced only the resistors (and filter-cap) omitted to replace the caps agreed to, charged a high fee, and declared that his job was finished. He cited the local unavailability of the required caps (yes, the very-same issue we'd discussed and resolved at the outset) as his reason for their omission.
Additionally, and in his mind, he'd granted me a 'favor' (unbeknownst to me) he later revealed - supposedly, this excuses disingenuousness and a lack of scruples, among other things. Apparently, his self-imposed labeling of a job as; 'a favor' (which was never solicited) gives him licence to do as he likes while charging exorbitant fees for unfinished work - far short of what he'd commited to.
Because of this, the Maggie is unfinished, obviously. (But thru alternate arrangements and the kind assistance of a friend, the caps are now on the way, by the way - and the special coupling-caps will be obtained later).
Nevertheless, this story is relevant to the performance of the unfinished Magnavox, as compared to what some would claim to be the best in the world. Whether or not the other amp in question is indeed among the world's best is arguable, but we'll see. Moreover, since some have been convinced to part with in excess of US$10,000 for previous versions of this gentleman's amp, then I believe its performance in relation to the Maggie or any other good amp is highly relevant.
Still keeping a long story short, during the whole time this tech had my Maggie, he constantly and repeatedly tried to interest me in his solid-state amp design, which he boastfully claimed to be the very best. Normally, I'd ignore such a grandiose claim but, considering that other audiophiles in the region had seemed somewhat impressed with his (high-powered) tube-amps in the past, I was not about to dismiss his claims for his current solid-state design, even if those claims sounded too good to be true.
Among his claims were that; his amp would make ANY speaker-system sound; not only good, but realistic. That I wouldn't believe the awesome gut-wrenching bass-power of double-stacked Quad 57s, driven by his amp, and reproducing the cannons of Telarc's 1812 Overture - at high volume. (Anyone who really knows that Quad ESL would find this hard to believe, I'm sure). Also his amp, driving his current DIY speakers (consisting of one 8" woofer, four inexpensive 4" mid-woofers with approximately half-inch voice-coils, and eight inexpensive dome-tweeters) achieves sustained peaks of 105db, outdoors. Neither would I believe the realism with which this seemingly puny speaker-system reproduces the low-tones of a grand-piano - all because of the abilities of his amp.
Interestingly, he claims there's absolutely nothing wrong with speakers today, including the popular small-coned speakers I've criticized as intrinsically 'light and bright'. His view is that poorly designed amps are the main culprits precluding realistic reproduction from all these seemingly-compromised speakers. His amp is the answer to that. Once such seemingly-flawed speakers are connected to his amp then that's all that is required for these speakers to be unbelievably realistic. Sales-talk, really. But his caused me to jokingly brand his product as 'The Magic Amp', partly out of awe , and partly out of logical disbelief.
And though I'd indicated that I'm not in the market for any US$10,000 amp, he kept insisting that I give it an audition. I figured perhaps he wanted it reviewed too, so I agreed. In fact, I relished the idea of being the very first to reveal this 'magic amp' to the rest of the world. Indeed, if all his claims were true, then this MUST be the greatest amp ever designed in the history of audio, and by a very wide margin. The ramifications are potentially mind-boggling - revolutionary, even. Sure, I'd be proud to be the one introducing such an amp to the world.
Nevertheless, the proper sorting of the Maggie was my first priority, for the moment.
Yet, this tech only saw fit to ridicule the very idea of seeking to refurbish or modify such an old antiquated amp - tubes are redundant, in his view. More sales-talk. He even had the gall to suggest that I'm refurbishing rubbish. When I cited some of the giant-killing feats this amp is reported to have accomplished, he laughed at those other amps it had vanquished, citing the vast superiority of his own design. When I asked if he had listened to the Maggie, he laughed at that too - he claimed he had no time to waste listening to old technology. I wondered aloud as to how he could claim to be properly sorting an amp if he refused to even listen to it. And his retort was that he and his current ss amp-design are so far advanced, compared to all others, that he cannot bring himself to listening to 'foolishness' (i.e. his term for 'junk', apparently).
Oh, did I mention that this gentleman was 'a little' arrogant and somewhat abrasive, among other things?
However, in retrospect, I believe the gentleman did listen to the Maggie. I believe, combined with his obvious determination to convince me to order one of his amps somehow, this could be the reason he suddenly decided not to complete the job we'd agreed to, in fixing the Maggie. I believe he must have listened to it and, perhaps, the Maggie sounded too good for its own good, and that this may be why this fella decided to drop it like an Iraqi I.E.D. since an amp sounding better than his didn't fit with his agenda.
Nothing else explains the unscrupulous unprofessionalism and utter dishonesty displayed in reneging on one's commitments, especially in such a blatant manner. Combine that theory with the followings facts: At one stage he'd asked if I was aiming to compare the Maggie to his amp, and if this was the reason I was insisting on having it completed before the auditioning of his amp. (Ironically it wasn't, as I was pretty-near convinced that the Maggie, or any other, could never be anywhere near the level of this 'magic' amp, which should be so far superior to everything else on the planet, if the claims were true). However, after asking that question, he received my confirmation that the Maggie took precedence over the audition, in my view, as I'd prefer to listen to his amp on the day I took delivery of my fully upgraded Maggie, not before - with all due respect. On hearing this, and after ignoring the Maggie for close to two months prior, suddenly the gentleman called a day and a half later to inform me that he'd toiled diligently over the past day and that my amp is now 'ready'. (That is; without the important caps agreed to). Obviously this was to speedily facilitate my auditioning of his amp; his own agenda.
Certainly, there's a lesson here, somewhere!
Consequently, my advice to others is this: In seeking a tech, perhaps it's best to avoid those who're also seeking to sell you something of theirs. Many are honest but, in certain instances, your own beloved component could be deliberately undermined in the process - as is blatantly apparent in this scenario.
Nevertheless, the day of reckoning was nearly upon us:
One or two days passed, however, as I was not anxious to go and collect a partially refurbished amplifier - this is not what I'd agreed to. Yet, obviously anxious to expedite the audition, the gentleman eventually called with a query as to whether he could deliver the (unfinished) Maggie to my home later that day. (Note; nothing was mentioned here about a demo of his amp, on that particular day. But then, lo & behold, his amp was very-much present in the back of his vehicle, when he pulled-up to my gate. 'And would I like to hear it?' Sure!
Commenting on the sound of this set-up (with the 20-watter) he suggested that this was ordinary hifi. "Very good, but ordinary...". This is an assessment I'd agree with. In fact, I'd omit the 'very good' in emphasizing the 'ordinary' (especially since the trebles were significantly 'dulled', compared to the norm with the UREI, in addition to other less-obvious compromised aspects). Remarkably, I found myself agreeing with all his assessments, though we may have differed on the causes of one or two of these findings. Nevertheless, as the sub-assisted 20 watter pounded his chest with the solo of a jazz-drummer, he nodded as he asserted; "...Very good, but ordinary hifi...," in his characteristically condescending manner.
So then, it was time for 'Magic'.
A $10,000 'Magic Amp' vs The Maggie: First, let's briefly examine the status-quo, as it pertains to amplifiers. Perhaps mamy audiophiles would agree that there's not much difference between the really good amps of this world. Let's say, for the sake of argument, a Quad 303 represents class C, the least of the 'good'. Let's also say class A is represented by the likes of amps from DarTZeel, Audio-Note, Coincident, Tact, Wavac, or Goldmund; the very best of the 'good'. I submit that, though there may be significant differences, there's really not a very wide gap between the class C Quad 303 and the very best of the 'good' in class A.
Though some complete audio systems may combine components to offer a fair facsimile of live music, all amplifiers share common limitations, more or less, in my view. Most significantly, no amplifier I know of can render/depict instruments (separated) in space in exactly the way they exist in real-life. Other factors also apply, but this could be the main one. (Note; I'm not referring to stereophonic-imaging, here. I'm referring to the stark separation of the notes of each instrument, one from the other, as is apparent in live performance. All amps I'm aware of only achieve a fraction of this 'instrumental-separation').
And this is, exactly, one of the claims the gentleman makes for his amps, when I specifically asked. If this is true, then I'd agree with him that his amp MUST be the very best in the world, and several levels above the best that existed before - giant-steps ahead and above - in a class of its very own. This is what he claims and, IF true, then I'd have to agree. But it goes even further. (Or, I should say; his claims do).
Note particularly his claim that his amp is capable of making virtually ANY speaker-system sound; not only good, but realistic. This is also why I suggested that, if true, then this amp would have to be recognized as revolutionary, a break-thru of earth-shattering proportions, deserving of world-acclaim. 'MAGIC', in other words. Needless to say, I relished the prospect of being the one to bring the world's greatest amp to the world's attention.
Sadly, this was not to be. No magic, here - none whatsoever - not even remotely close!
The gentleman's amp was substituted for the obviously-compromised 20watter, and the immediate impression was that the performance-level nose-dived perceptibly.
Most blatantly-obvious was a decrease in the already compromised levels and perceived quality of the trebles. Closer attention revealed a distinct paucity of finesse in articulating delicate nuances through-out the spectrum - a 'crudeness' similar to that of the cheap 20watter, here. Its only saving-graces were; its seemingly unlimited power, and a hint that it didn't display the lack of lower-midrange weight, characteristic of the 20watter and too many 'hifi' amps. Thru the passive pre-amp arrangement, only a hint of this trait could have been garnered, but it was enough to indicate that the 'magic amp' could be superior to many, in that particular regard. Evidence of micro-dynamic prowess was scarce, while macro-dynamics were outstanding. So perhaps there's some amount of hope for it - after revisiting the drawing-board.
But the fore-mentioned ham-fisted 'crudeness', ineptitude at micro-dynamics, and down-tilted treble-balance, inferior to a cheap Japanese integrated amp, cannot be overlooked or excused. Sure, the treble imbalance can be masked by bright speakers (perhaps he'd hoped mine were as bright as his - they're accurately flat - sorry) but what of those other issues? (Did he actually think these things would not have been noticed?)
Fast talking, past reputation (with tubes) a forceful character, and a whole lot of hype may have influenced others, but this is way below Class C, in my estimation. The 'magic amp' is nowhere near the best amps, let alone "several levels above and light-years ahead of them", as claimed. I really didn't see it necessary to delve deeper into the magic amp's faults.
My guest, on hearing what I was hearing and, I suppose, on seeing my reaction (especially regarding the stark diminution of trebles, vis a vis the 20watter) immediately commenced a fault-finding mission. At first he blamed the source, but relented when I pointed-out that it was virtually identical to what he normally uses (i.e. a laptop). He then attempted implicating the source-material before settling on the speakers as his scape-goat - the only element significantly different from what he uses.
The guy's so obviously full of sh-- it is weirdly amusing. First, he asks what type of capacitors I use in my cross-overs. I explained what they were, in one section... [But why would that matter if his amp was, indeed, capable of making ANY speaker sound realistic?] And, in any case, said speakers with said caps in said crossovers have outperformed some pretty highly-regarded speaker-systems, including my former BC-1, the likes of which he seems so enamored with. Before I could elaborate further, I was cut-off...
Nonetheless, he's convinced that the lack of premium caps in my speaker-system is the reason for the disappointing performance of his amp. (Out of pity, I never bothered to mention that premium caps are actually fitted to the Altec horns and to the 'super'-tweets. Why take away his face-saving excuse? Besides; he'd only find another). So then, out of pity I suppose, he proposes to give me some premium caps, one of these days, if I'd care to visit him and listen to his amp with his speakers (the very scenario I'd advocated, from day-1) with their 16 tweeters, in all their glory. (Btw, can you imagine the amount of restraint necessary to even tolerate such a character?)
Perhaps I should pause here to point-out the fact that the Altec 802/811 compression-driver/horn mid-tweeter system is what is used in my speaker-system, from around 1khz to its upper-limit in the high trebles. This mid/tweeter is used in many systems without the additional super-tweeters my own system sometimes uses since many view extra tweeters as un-necessary with these horns, which are virtually flat to very-near the limits of most adults high-frequency hearing. This is how they're utilized in my system, with super tweeters only augmenting the basically unfettered sonics of the well-known and respected Altec horn. Those who are familiar with it will also be aware of its reputation for outstandingly-realistic upper-midrange presence and lifelike trebles, lagging only very-slightly in extreme 'air', unless crossover-equalized (hence the super-tweets on my system - the other alternative). Those who're familiar will also know that these are constant sonic features of this horn-combo, almost regardless of what types of capacitors are used, within reason. Unless one deliberately seeks to undermine the trebles, it's almost impossible to make this horn sound really dull (as it certainly did with the 'magic amp'). Therefore, even if we disregard my use of premium caps on these horns, and even if we disregard my use of additional super-tweeters extending the already lofty highs, the gentleman's wishful speculation that caps may have caused a lack of mids-presence and ultimate highs would be totally ridiculous to those who really know these horns.
That these highs, etc, immediately re-assert themselves with the mere use of another amp - see below - comdemns the gentleman's arguments even more to the realms of ridicule - and illustrates the quality of his own amp, obviously. Such an amp is really only border-line viable, in conjunction with very-bright speakers, I'd assume.
I could go on, but I'll leave the 'magic' amp there, for the moment. He seemed very concerned that I'd write a bad review of his amp. I assured him that I'd prefer not to write a review at all than to denigrate the amp he'd put so much effort into. He assured me that it'd perform much better with his own (bright?) speakers. I really don't doubt that it would, but.....
[Unfortunately, his subsequent utterances leads me now to expect a pre-emptive attack on my system and/or on my own credibility, targeted at the local audiophile community. Apparently there's no limit to what some will do when embarrassed. Because of this likelihood, though keeping my word in not naming him or his amp, I've related the actual account of these events in order that those he may have sent to this site will have a clue as to what really transpired. Indeed, embellishment does seem to be his strong-suit. Based only on his boastful and grandiose claims, anyone who knows him, i.e. those he may have sent here, will know exactly who he is as they'll certainly recognize his outlandish claims.
Additionally, I'd offer the Magnavox, for comparison with the 'magic amp', any day of the week - just to prove the points I've made. And note; I'm not in the business of selling amplifiers - I have nothing to gain by proving the Maggie's superiority over any other (neither is it my main amp). I really have no axe to grind - except to defend against any misguided attack on my own credibility.]
Significantly, the Magnavox was connected in exactly the same manner, after the demo with the 'magic' amp - absolutely nothing was changed, initially. The most obvious difference was that the trebles sprang immediately to sparkling life, even more so than with the 20watter (which, itself, had been significantly compromised here, yet better at trebles than the 'magic' amp). On hearing this, my guest quickly got up and strolled outside to the front-porch as all his arguments pertaining to caps were undermined by the 'illuminating' performance of the Maggie.
Closer attention revealed more finesse with nuances, not to mention outstanding dynamic alacrity, and scope.
By finesse I mean music's more delicate elements were treated with due respect. The whispy fade of the notes of an acoustic-guitar, for instance, were afforded all the time and atmosphere necessary for said notes to naturally fade into the inky background. Not one iota of this note was slighted, or so it seemed - from the note's initial transient, to its very ending. Notes seemed to float on gossamer-wings, cushioned by air, toward the listener. Unlike some other amps, nothing ever seemed unduly forced or mechanical, or crude. The word; 'natural' keeps cropping-up as one contemplates adjectives to describe the Maggie's sonic characteristics. Moreover, it is quite likely that one can be lulled into a melancolic stupor by the Maggie's delicate charms, including its whisper-quiet low-level dynamism. However, one can also be unceremoniously shocked out of it by this amp's crushing macro-dynamic abilities. So be advised.
Bass-performance can also be outstanding, as well as other areas we'll expand on when the mods are complete. But the very first impression of the Maggie's abilities, on that day, was its ridiculously superior depiction of the treble-frequencies. It bears repeating. Upper-midrange presence was also outstanding, and this, combined with the Altecs' similar strengths, combined to render the upper-mids 'bite' of trumpets, for instance, with absolutely startling realism - another of this amp's outstanding traits.
My guest never offered a comment on this, or any other aspect, and I didn't press for one. (Things further improved when the ARC pre was inserted - more natural body to the mids). From the safety of the front-porch, he shouted for me to bring him the UREI for him to investigate what I may have done to cause its sudden silence recently. (He accurately diagnosed the problem, by the way). He then offered to show me the insides of the 'magic' amp, which he did, while giving another lecture on the merits of premium caps, very-much in evidence here. Anything to avoid commenting on the surprising performance of the Maggie, obviously.
Oh yeah, the whole affair was quite entertaining, and amusing, in its own bizarre way. This was quite a character. (Imagine this, for instance; immediately upon his arrival in delivering the Maggie to my home, and while I was handing him the balance of his very-substantial fee, he was illustrating to me the fact that I'll need to epoxy one of the tube-sockets he'd damaged. Neither was the fact that the amp seemed to lack gain, compared to the 20watter, of any consequence to him. Nor was the fact that it seemed to favor the left channel, in volume, even after the bad 6eu7 tube was substituted for the good one I'd found. None of these things mattered to him, including the lack of the new capacitors we'd agreed to. He was done with it. Neither could he allow any more of his friends to see him with a lowly Maggie. I was on my own.]
Quite a character, indeed. (Needless to say; I'm disappointed. Having entered into this deal with a whole lot of respect for this elder-gentleman - a rare expert on tubes, at least - I'd have expected a much-higher level of integrity). Oh, and quite an amp - very powerful too!
But, truthfully, I haven't much use for either.
Would you be interested in a nice-looking 'magical' US$10,000 amp, by the way? Bragging-rights are guaranteed, and it does make a nice conversation-piece. Let me know what you decide (You'll have to change your speakers tho - they won't be 'good' enough for this amp, unless they're quite excessively bright).
By the way, a long-time audiophile-friend of mine was 'very-extremely' impressed with the Magnavox, despite its ailments. He immediately zeroed-in on the Maggie's high-frequency extension and delicacy, first of all. Adding that its bass-extension and definition were also impressive (repeatedly asking if the subs were operating - they were not) and that it's difficult to believe that such bass-tightness could emanate from such an old tube-amp. Additionally, he singled-out the Maggie's dynamism as very impressive, citing transient-response, micro, and macro-dynamics as equally impressive, with particular regard to the unbelievable way instrumental tones/overtones bloom and expand (from such a small amp). Despite all this, though, he claimed that the Maggie's most impressive attribute, in his view, was the most difficult to describe. He alluded to a unique 'spatiality' (a sense of 'air' around the instruments) not apparent to this level in any amp he'd previously encountered. [Imaging was one aspect that couldn't be assessed, tho due, in this instance, to the current channel-imbalance.]
Incidentally, this friend is the one who'd sold me many of the serious audiophile-components that have come and gone from my system over the years. He'd also accompanied me when I bought that other tt in my rack, the Thorens 125, nearly thirty years ago. The best of the best equipment has passed thru this guy's hands over past years, though he's somewhat less into hifi today. Needless to say, I trust his judgment, especially, in this instance where his assessment of the (unfinished) Maggie coincides almost exactly with mine.
He should have been present at the 'magic amp' demo, btw, but couldn't have made it at such short notice. Nevertheless, he claims that if the 'magic amp' couldn't sound good with my system, then he wouldn't have cared to go to the trouble to hear it, especially after witnessing the performance of the Maggie with the same gear (i.e. laptop and DIY speakers, sans subs).
and more, I'm
seriously considering (in addition to the subs, and their Sherwood amp)
the use of the UREI for its power/quality on the mid-woofers, and the
finesse/delicacy/extension of the Maggie on the horns and super-tweets;
tri-amping. Like the speaker-combo - the best of all worlds? We'll see.
Still, I may prefer its benefits, nearly-fullrange, as I believe it could
be slightly better than the UREI too, as I remember, especially if the
power-issue can be resolved to be closer to the 20watter I'd
experimented with. I'll perhaps do a direct comparison when both Maggie
and UREI are fully fit. This should be quite enlightening, especially
when we consider that the UREI has dispatched quite a few exalted amps
in its day, including models from ARC, Krell, and Levinson.]
On reflection (and to be truthful) the Maggie-demo for my friend was additionally conducted with the ARC pre, a luxury the 'magic amp' did not have. (But there definitely had been similar differences without the ARC, on the very day of the 'magic amp' demo, as indicated). However, I'm sure the ARC could not have restored the high-frequencies that amp undermined (only excessively-bright speakers could do that - perhaps - or EQ). Nor could the ARC have alleviated the general congestion of the sound, characteristic of the 'magic amp' - a pretender, if there ever was one. US$10,000? Ha! Very powerful, though - foremost of its few redeeming traits.
But, no cigar - not even remotely close!
Conclusion: It would be nice to tell you that the Maggie has outperformed a $10,000 amp, but this wouldn't be entirely fair. This is because, even though some may have bought versions of this amp for that price, I'd ponder whether this amp is worth more than a fraction of that. The 'magic amp' is based mostly on quite a lot of empty hype, and on unsubstantiated boasts, obviously (and loads of power). So this 'victory' is a hollow one, and really doesn't count.
That is; except to say that the Magnavox 93-Series amp is obviously better than what some audiophiles would pay US$10,000 for.
The Maggie's impending shootout with the UREI should be vastly more relevant.
There seems to be a significant number of audiophiles who believe that; for a component to be really good it, must be quite expensive (the more the merrier) brand-new, and endorsed by audio-gurus spewing hyperbole. More power to them. Unscrupulous opportunists delight in preying upon these. Let's not disturb their slumber - ignorance is bliss. But for others, there's a bold 'new' world out there, in antiquity. The ancient Ampex and Magnavox amps mentioned in this piece are not alone in their ability to utterly outperform very-expensive modern gear (no, the 'magic amp' still doesn't count here). Seek and ye shall find.
This Magnavox 93-Series amp may not be the last word in extreme detail-resolution, at the stage my own example is at, currently. And the deepest bass on some tracks may cause this little amp some amount of consternation, at 'high' volume at times. But even without the pending upgraded caps, this little amp is still delightfully detailed, devastatingly dynamic, and truthfully toned. In other words, it's vastly better than the vast majority - with increased performance pending, and only a few caps away. That's totally awesome, by any standard.
My main concern, at the moment, is with ultimate power-delivery. Hopefully, that may soon be resolved. But even so, and as it stands, I'm sure this amp would excel in any good system incorporating speakers with anything in excess of a 100db/w/m efficiency-rating. And 95db/w/m is entirely feasible under certain circumstances, and especially if certain gain-related issues are resolved.
Therefore, in the context of a high-efficiency system, the Magnavox 93-Series amp (especially when modified) warrants mandatory recommendation - four and a half (out of 5) stars, and a bullet.
Go for it - with confidence!