Boulder + dCS (2160 review)

Boulder 2160 Review
A few folks have reached out to me via DM about the Boulder 2160 amplifier and I’m finally getting around to posting my personal listening notes. This is my first time writing a review of an audio product, and I’m not using ChatGPT to assist (or any other AI agent), so I hope no one gets upset, or tries to get me kicked off the forum, again… (!) ; )

I also hope that the review below will be marginally helpful to those considering Boulder as a brand/product.

Before beginning the review, I thought I would provide some context of my system philosophy. I have learned a tremendous amount from others on this forum and many of you have incredible systems with multiple sources and other features that I greatly admire. In my case, I still work 60+ hours a week, live in a NYC apartment, and I have little time for experimentation, critical listening sessions and/or dealer loans. As such, my purchase decisions start with a philosophy that emphasizes longevity and simplicity. I don’t generally “try” products for a few months and swap them out, but instead seek to keep anything I buy for at least 10 years. Accordingly, I do a fair amount of research and ask as many questions as I can beforehand, then make a decision, and unless it is a true blunder, stick with it for some time.

As such, when my longtime modest tube amp, Jadis DA-88S, needed to be re-tubed, this prompted some broader searching around what amp could anchor my system for the next 10+ years of my audio journey. A number of sources communicated to me that their opinion was Boulder was the best amplifier made in the United States. One Boulder dealer I respect indicated that in 20 years of carrying the product he has had less than 5 service incidents (!) This, other research, and a discount opportunity ultimately led to the purchase. My signal path for this review is: Roon Nucleus->Rossini Apex->Boulder->SF Guarneri.

Clarity: It was said to me before purchase that the Boulder 2160 is like a mirror, a zero-distortion reflection of the music source. After four months, I have found this to be true. The detail and clarity from good source material is truly outstanding. Incredible recordings sound incredible, it is as simple as that. Classical greats (too many to list) and jazz greats like Bill Evans, Ben Webster, Cannonball Adderley, etc. sound near-live. To my ears, modern acoustic/folk music like Iron & Wine are just as captivating. To me, musicality should come from the recording, not the amplifier or the electronics.

Power: The Boulder 2160 offers 600W per channel (at 8 ohms) and I am driving 19-year old Sonus Faber Guarneri Homage monitors (ano 2005). These are (very) small speakers relative to most on this forum, in what many might consider a large room: 15m long by 4m wide by 5m high. Even with minimum power the Boulder+SF combination has no trouble filling the room completely with sound. I cannot hear the individual speakers. It’s more like placing my head into an air chamber surrounded by sound. A professional reviewer claimed that that there is no signal too complex, and no speaker too demanding for this amplifier, and I have found this to be true.

Build quality: As one might expect with a ~100kg product machined out of a solid block of aluminum, the build quality is incredible. The product is built like a tank. To my eyes the milled heat sinks on the sides are beautiful, reflecting the power and precision of the manufacturing process. I also find that aesthetically the Boulder pairs wonderfully next to dCS products, both in daylight with the matching aluminum finish, and in the dark, since the dCS display can be turned off, leaving a total of one small light on the amp during playback.

Simplicity: There is zero complexity to this product. There are no RCA inputs, only balanced. The manual instructs the user not the change the manufacturer-supplied power cable. There is one master “On” switch in the back, then one button on the front to toggle between Standby and Operate. There is one light that indicates status. You set it on the floor, connect the ICs, speaker cables and power cable and you are done, for a long time.

Dead quiet: Whether in operation or in standby, the amplifier itself is a void of sound. Though I read this before, this was an incredible surprise. There is no hum, no buzz, no nothing. It is dead quiet. Dead. For all of the power, I find this an amazing feat. My former dCS Puccini had some modest transport hum which was audible and disturbing (to my ears) in soft classical passages. This problem was solved by moving to the Rossini DAC, and now paired with the Boulder my entire system is dead quiet.

It runs cold (!). Incredibly, this is a 600W class A amplifier that runs cold. This is because the power is managed via an analog circuit that minimizes heat and power consumption. The amp is room temperature even after hours of operation. It is amazing.

Clarity: Clarity means clarity, and in this case, in the most unforgiving ways. The lack of quality in bad recordings is magnified, sometimes resulting in a painful listening experience. This doesn’t mean all Redbook CDs are bad, or all DSD/DXDs are good, it really comes down to the recording and mastering. This was a particularly difficult adjustment for me having moved from the lush, warm sound (coloration?) of tubes.

Size/Weight: Three to four men are required to move this product. It is large and heavy. I see no point of placing a stand underneath, which would just mean adding a huge amount of heavy metal below an already huge amount of heavy metal (!). As a result, in my system it sits on the floor in between the speakers and your wife or significant other may not care for it. This in turn also has a slight positive: once set in place she/he won’t be able to move it either way, so you are good! ; )

In summary, am I satisfied with the purchase? Yes, very, with some of the caveats above. I think the product will go the 10+year distance with me, possibly more. Most importantly, I am confident that any speaker I choose next will be a good match for the dCS + Boulder signal path because of (a) the power and clarity of the Boulder and (b) both products’/companies’ pursuit of quality and neutrality.

I can appreciate that other amplifiers may provide a gentle smoothness, which may result in the (perceived?) addition of musicality, per se. Again, for me this took a few months to get use to. I can also appreciate that this aforementioned effect may provide a more consistently good listening experience, over a wider range of recordings. For now, I am enjoying the raw assault of neutrality, which results in some harshness for bad recordings, but bliss in others.

I welcome the thoughts and comments of others.


Nice! :slightly_smiling_face:

Just a couple of comments as a previous Boulder Amp owner and fan;

  • I did perceive increased transparency from having the Amp continuously powered-up across multiple days; give it at least ~3 days to thermally stabilise internally. Not very green of course, but give it a listen and see if the 2160 behaves the same way (both 1050 mono block and the 2060 did). It won’t be day & night, but enough to notice that you can hear slightly deeper into live tracks.

  • Periodic de-oxidation of the Power connector pin. Can’t say I really heard a difference, but it was very satisfying to use Brasso to clear the oxidation off the Power pins and bring it to a shine every 6 months or so.

  • Like you, I thought Boulder would be my “forever Amp”, however, the 993 Gain stage in the 2060 was not the last word in transparency when compared to the best-of-the-best (Tenor in my case). No doubt the 99H2 in the 2160 must be a significant step up though.


Thank you @Anupc. I will explore this.

Further technical information below, pursuant to the above and @Anupc 's post.


Congrats Anup!

Could you, like Richard here, write a brief report about why you have chosen Tenor?

Probably not Erno, my switch to Tenor was actually 8 years ago!

I’ll just say this though; IMHO every Speaker has maybe one or two magical stablemate Amps where the pairing is strangely more than the sum of its parts. People should take their time to find that pairing.


The exact reason why I am working on trying to have a home demo of Stenheim speakers with my new DarTzeel pre + amp. These electronics were used during the development phase


Fine, but just for my understanding: you did switch to a Tenor amp 8 years ago, but just recently got new fantastic speakers. Did you have to rematch? Or Kharma is anyway a good match for Tenor?

Yes actually. And there’s a little bit of science with that magic; Kharma speakers apply what’s commonly known as a Subtractive (or “series”) Crossover, which works especially well with OTL topology Amps like Tenor, for an almost ideal transient response and mid-range clarity.

(Apologies for the OT posts @keiserrg)


No worries at all. I love learning about new products and your system is right at the top.

Tenor’s website still says copyright “2022” (!), but that obviously doesn’t speak to the quality of the product.

I’m glad you’ve found your end-amp @Anupc, and your speakers and electronics are out of this world.


Richard, Congrats and a great writeup on the 2160. I used to own a 2060. Build quality of the Boulder equipment is unlike any other amp manufacturer. Your description of how the 2160 exposes poor recordings was also my impression of the 2060. I did have the opportunity to try the 2060 at 240 volts via the power plate and it made a small improvement. Ultimately, I decided to sell it and purchase a Gryphon Antileon Evo Stereo amp, which I can easily see being my 10+ year amp.
My setup is a dCS Rossini Apex, Rossini Clock, Gryphon Pandora pre-amp, Gryphon Antileon Evo Stereo amp, Rockport Altair speakers and a full loom of Shunyata cables.


Hi Brian,
Thanks for your note.

In the US, on YouTube, there is a guy who runs a channel called Jay’s Audio Lab (or similar). He demos very high end gear, and he also switched from the Boulder to the Gyryphon. So… I’m sure it is an amazing amp!

I was able to get a good deal on mine, live in the US, and wanted to support an American company so I went in the Boulder direction

The 2160 is supposed to be a significant step up from its predecessor, but at this level it starts becoming a matter of personal taste

Friendly fyi, @Mark1961 on this forum has Vivaldi + Boulder + Rockport, so you might enjoy connecting with him too


Brian, if I may ask, what’s been the the most significant sonic differences between the Boulder and Gryphon Amps?

1 Like

I know Jay well. He lives about 30 mins from me. I discovered Gryphon amps via Jay as he first had the Coliseum then Mephisto monos. I think he also has an Antileon EVO Stereo amp for a short time. And I think he now has the Gryphon Apex.

Thanks for pointing out @mark1961. Mark, if you’re out there, which model Rockports do you have?

1 Like


Correct, Rockport Cyngus. This speaker made it very apparent what manufacturers and reviewers mean when they talk about speakers disappearing. It’s uncanny listening to the system as it appears the speakers aren’t even playing, at least when sitting in the sweet spot. Bass is deep and the overall balance just seems right. Plus they play nice with the Boulder. As Richard states this system likes good source material. I have a lesser system in the basement that can make some material sound better, say classic rock. I now believe that some popular rock has the highs deliberately rolled off because they knew the electronics would add the highs in the form of distortion. As a result this music can sound flat when played on a clean system. I have music from the 70s that sounded too bright back then but sounds perfect on the DCS/Boulder/Rockport. Heart Dream Boat Annie sounds amazing for a 1976 recording. While many of the Bob Seger ballads sound flat but sound respectable on my lesser system. For me, I’d rather have some music sound flat than have all my music have added distortion. I guess the moral of my story is sometimes we have to match the source to the system.

1 Like

@Anupc The Boulder 2060 was a great amp but it didn’t have the authority of the Gryphon Antileon EVO Stereo amp. My Rockport Altair speakers have 15" side firing woofers. The Gryphon amp does a better job energizing my room with very low and controlled low frequency sound. The bass the Gryphon produces is a bit more live sounding.


Thanks Brian, very interesting. I’ve never tried a Gryphon, thanks for the insights. :+1:t2:

1 Like

FWIW, and I have no strong opinions on this matter, as every system is different, the same reviewer said that Gryphon is the best amplifier maker in Europe and Boulder is the best in the US.

I share this, again, without prejudice, and with the knowledge that dCS almost always demos with D’Agostino (and Wilson).


@keiserrg There’s usually lots of marketing-based decisions that can lead to who demos with who. D’Agostino, Boulder and Gryphon are all terrific amps. I did learn that often times if you can mate a manufacturer’s pre-amp and amp, there’s lots of system integration benefits that cab be leveraged, I believe part of the better SQ I experienced with Gryphon is due to my use of their Pandora pre-amp with their Antileon EVO amp. Quite possibly the same be said for D’Agostino and Boulder.