One thing which always amazes me is how so many people were ready, willing and able to throw down 10k or more for Single Power amps, myself included.
By contrast, both Todd and Pete have years of reputation to back up their products and most importantly.............they offer a 30 day money back guarantee in writing on their site; something which Mikhail promised me tons of times but obviously it wasn't to be.
I will never hear the SDS XLR back to back with the Pinnacle, but I am certain that I enjoyed having the Pinnacle in my home more even before I became aware of Mikhail's crookedness. The SDS XLR, looked as my friend called it, like a monstrosity. The day MIkhail delivered it in person to my house (yes this really happened), he set it on my table and there was really loud buzz in the left channel. He opened the amp on spot to fix whatever was wrong. It was then I got to see the inside of the amplifier. Let me tell you all, you would not want to think you spent 10 grand (or even 1 grand) on the mess I was able to see under the hood of the amp. I never expected to later find out that Mikhail's constructions were bomb-like in their lack of capacitor compatibility, but I wasn't surprised to find this out since my amp stopped working just 2 or 3 days after I received it.
While I shipped the amp back to Mikhail for repair, I was ultimately never to see it again. Later on when it became discovered that Mikhail's designs were a hazard I was forced to comfort myself on the matter that had it not broken and I kept that "under-the-hood monstrosity" in my home, I may have been extremely unlucky and could have died or had my apartment set aflame. It is the only way I can view the 10k loss positively and I do so in order to keep myself sane.
By contrast, Todd and Pete have created a very solid amp, which by the way doesn't come with a list of "upgrade possibilities".......Many honorable builders offer Upgrades for pay, but I'll tell you, even from the most honorable builder, this concept rubs me the wrong way. For me it should be.....Build the amp one way, build it the best way or the most cost effective way and call it a day. Don't confuse the consumer (and in some unfortunate cases like Single Power, rip the consumer off) with upgrades which should be either part of the amp's construction or just a different amp altogether. I've calculated that in many cases, the list of upgrades is higher than the base price of the amp. I don't like this and I am appreciative that Todd and Pete do not do this.
Regarding it being 10,000, I doubt Todd and Pete set out to make a product with the intent of it becoming the new Flavor of the Month. I'm sure they are aware of the scarce market for such an amp, but the market is there even if you think it shouldn't be (I disagree that it shouldn't be obviously). As far I'm aware though, TTVJ is the only business around that offers a 30 complete refund on a headphone amp at that price point. To me, after being burned by Mikhail, that favor to the consumer is not the icing on the cake; it is essential to me making my decision.
A great amp is several things, and since the incident with Single Power I rank them this way:
- Reliability: amp should not break by possibly exploding or sparking or worse. Amp should last a long time without problems unless abused.
- Business ethics: Seller you buy it from should be easily reachable (which both Todd and Pete are), and honor all agreements and be forward and honest about his/her policies.
- Sound: Notice sound is number 3, before Mikhail Sound would have been an easy 1st.
- Built in a timely manner: I don't mind waiting for the job to be done right, but I still prefer shorter waiting times, and if you tell me 6 months and wait and this turns into 8 or 9 months I would probably cancel my order.
- Tube availability: Tubes should be available and if not, they should still be easy to track down for replacement and hopefully not at a rip-off price
- Appearance and finish: This is a distant 6th, but it still impacts the enjoyment of the amp for me.
Not everyone is going to agree with my rankings. But I am someone who has been burned BAD, and even if the Pinnacle were only 3/4 as good as another amp from a company who didn't have TTVJ's reputation or business model I would still consider the Pinnacle a better amp. Even still, I don't believe I have ever heard anything as good as the Pinnacle. The 307a is very close and very different to my ears even though the circuitry is reportedly very similar.
Edited by DavidMahler - 12/8/10 at 8:01pm