Hi, Lotus: I am a very satisfied owner of the Bryston 4B-ST, and can heartily recommend it. If you decide to buy the 4B-ST, drop me a line and I will give you contact info on the dealer where I bought mine at a substantial discount (less than $1800 for a new unit).
The McCormack DNA-1 puts out 185 wpc 8 ohm and 370 wpc 4 ohm and can be had for well under $2000. (used), and is a great sounding amp. And the Sonic Frontiers Power 2 at 110 wpc is a powerful sounding tube amp that would mate well with your SF pre-amp. It should be available for around $2000., also used. If you want a really powerful good sounding amp, the McCormack DNA-2 (300 wpc/600wpc/1200 wpc)can sometimes be found for around $2000. You've got a big room. Good Luck. Craig
Gotta second (third?) the first two posts, Bryston 4BST is a phenomenal amp for the price, BAT VK200 is incredible as well although rated at "only" 100 WPC. I have owned both and feel that the BAT is overall more musical, but the Bryston is more powerful (but not as much as you might think) and has a better warranty. You can't go wrong either way.
I used to own a Levinson #23 which was excellent. I now
use a 27.5 which is lower power (100w/chan) but somewhat
more transparent. The #23 is very stable into a variety
of loads, good imaging and soundstaging and smooth.
While i have NO idea as to what type of music you listen to, the volume levels that you want to achieve, the listening distance that you want to achieve them at, the tonal balance of the source and speakers, etc.. I will say that you need a LOT of power to do things "right" under the circumstances that you've outlined.
The room is QUITE large, the speakers are not very efficient and they present a sligthly lower than average impedance to deal with. Whether or not they are a benign load or reactive would be something that you should find out, as this could further stress the amp(s) and possibly remove some of the candidates from your list.
If you want to play your music loudly, do it cleanly and have authority at those levels, you better look for something that is AT LEAST ( at the very minimum ) 400 wpc @ 4 ohms with decent dynamic headroom. As to why i say this, let me give you some background.
I have speakers of the same sensitivity but are rated at 4 ohms nominally. In a room that is MUCH smaller ( 18 x 15 x 9 ), this took an amplifier that was rated to do 600 wpc @ 4 ( actually clips at 760 wpc ) to achieve the results i was looking for. This amp sounded cleaner at high volumes than when i had two different amps passively biamped but still ran out of steam at about the same SPL. The two passively biamped units worked out to a rating of 900 wpc @ 4, which they would easily do. Just for sake of clarity, i had 400+ wpc for the mids and highs and 500+ for the bottom end. While the two passively biamped amps had better bottom end than the solo amp of different make, the smaller solo amp was cleaner throughout the frequency range above that at any power level.
Even with as much juice as i had on hand with either of those combo's, i could hear the amps starting to stretch and smear on sustained peaks. I ended up using an amp that is rated at ( and easily does ) 1200 wpc @ 4 to do the job that i was looking for with these specific speakers. If anyone would have told me that i would have needed this much power to make them sing, i would have NEVER bought them.
You might be able to get away with a LOT less power than that if you don't want to listen loud, your musical tastes are mellower and have a lower average power demand and your speakers don't go into dynamic compression as they are pushed. Otherwise, you may soon find out that "more IS better" when it comes to wattage.
This experience alone taught me a LOT about what it takes to do the job with low efficiency speakers. Bottom line: If you wanna raise the roof while maintaining good sound quality and not go bankrupt, start off with high efficiency speakers. Your choices on amps are MUCH more flexible and potentially less costly. Sean
I have owned or extensively auditioned the BAT VK-60, VK-200, Marsh A-400, Bryston 4B-ST and Conrad Johnson Premier 11A in my home with Magnepan 1.6QRs (86 db, 4 ohms):
BAT VK-60 is rated at only 60 watts, but subjectively sounds every bit as powerful as the VK-200. VK-60 is the best of all of the amps I have listed. The VK-60 is more musical, more transparent and dynamic than the solid state amps below. The downside is that it runs hot, sucks a lot of juice and the tubes have to be replaced eventually. I have seen this amp on Audiogon for around 2K.
Marsh A-400 is more neutral sounding than either the VK-200 or the Bryston, and has superior bass. It does not need much warm up time to sound good.
BAT VK-200, runs quite hot with a slight emphasis and thinness in the upper midrange, but quite musical overall. Needs at least one hour warm up time to sound good.
Bryston 4BST, sounds veiled, less transparent and less neutral when compared to the Marsh or VK-200. You may still want to consider it for other reasons such as warranty and reputed reliability.
The above post has some good advice about speaker efficiency and power. You may want to consider more efficient speakers if you really want to rock.
Aragon 4004 MKII used for around 800.00 each or else go for BAT.
Sean is right. You're gonna' need a LOT of power. Probably more than you may think.
If you're in love with your speakers and don't want to get something that's more efficient, you may also want to consider the Sunfire Signature (600 watts X 2). There is one listed here on the AudiogoN for exactly $2K. I've heard the non-Signature (300wpc) and it was outstanding. Every bit as good as the Bryston and better than the Aragon (IMHO). At more than twice the power of the Bryston, I think it might be a good solution to your dilemma.
That's a HUGE room!!
I'll say the Classe CA-200. It's smooth, like the McCormack and the BAT. Amps is what Classe does best. Give one a listen, if you can. Can be had used for about $1500 or less.
I'm plugging the local product here - but a very underrated option in your price range is the Plinius 8200P (which is the power amp part of the 8200). I have been playing with one (hey, they are only USD1,000 here you know - I am thinking of getting three of them) and now that it has burned in, it beats many of the amps that go for USD2000 second-hand. It has recently bettered a Krell KSA100S (smooth, but lacks PRAT and dynamics), a McCormack DNA-1 (just a little too crisp and grainy, but good PRAT), Muse 180 (smooth and easy, but with a soft grain and dynamically constrained), and a Aragon 4004 MkII (not in the same league of any of the above) - and on some difficult to drive speakers bettered a Plinius SA100 MkIII.
Its strong points - neutral-to-warm balance (once run in), excellent PRAT, dynamic and extended. It loses out to the Class A Plinius stuff in terms of smoothness and the last smidgen of resolution - but the PRAT is perhaps superior.
I have to be careful here. One can certainly nit-pick this amp compared with the best. But I am recommending it enthusiastically for how it manages to put soul into the music and gets you playing your whole music collection.
I agree with Sean, you need more than 200 wpc in that big room. A Classe ca300 can be had used around $2000. I find my ca200 to be a good match with my Sonic Frontiers line2se, so a ca300 may work well with your line three. Hard to recommend an amp without knowing the speakers though.
First, a question for Redkiwi. What is "PRAT"?
Also, regarding power requirements, sound levels do not have to be earth-shaking all the way at the other end of the room. 200 - 250 w/channel works fine - especially with a pair of powered subwoofers handling everything below 40Hz. Listening position is about 10-15 feet from the speakers, which are Mirage M-3si's. As hinted above, I am considering 2 200-250 watt amps to vertically bi-amp the speakers which are set up for it. Alternatively, I could do it with 4 channels of a 200watt x 5 channel amp, like the EAD Powermaster 1000 -- which can be had very reasonably for the sound quality offered. What do you all think of that option? (part of the issue is long interconnects in the 2 stero amps vs. long speakerwire with the multi-channel amp). Thoughts, comments, suggestions?
PRAT is pace, rhythm, and timing. Sometimes it's tough to figure these out unless you drive on the wrong side of the road.
The sound-level at the "other end of the room" is not necessarily relevant. It's the total "volume" (Cubic Feet) of the room that needs to be pressurized and filled with sound.
If you're considering the EAD five-channel amp, I would also suggest that you look into the Citation 7.1 four-channel amp - 150wpc X 4 or 450wpc X 2. (Jeff's Sound Values has B-stock for $1095 ea.) You could actually buy two with your budget and bridge them to 450wpc and vertically bi-amp them as you've suggested. This might be a very nice solution.
In addition, I would recommend (for the money) a longer run of speaker cable vs. a longer run of interconnects. Others may disagree, but you can purchase a decent quality speaker wire in a long run for less money than a good quality interconnect of equal length. Plus, the longer the run for an interconnect, the more critical high-quality becomes to avoid loss of voltage, RFI, EMI, etc.
My two-cents. Hope it helps.
On my side of the road, I reckon that Harry Pearson of The Absolute Sound gave us a lot of interesting stuff to read, but mainly failed to take us in the right direction. Of course the ideal is to reproduce the sound as it occurred when it was recorded - but this gives us no way of prioritising the inevitable compromises in any real world system. I will refrain from commenting in any detail on the various benders he indulged in over the years, which turned out to be not much more than exercises in semantics.
Stereophile trod similar paths, and most of the audio press (particularly the ones on the right side of the road) followed along obediently.
But if you stop listening just for tonality, detail and dynamics, or worse still, for the sounds of sparrows farting outside the recording venue, or trying to tell whether the venue's shape is curved or rectangular - and just listen for how the music's rhythm grips your musical soul and takes you on the ride, you will discover that different systems do that job very differently.
PRAT is an acronym for pace, rhythm and timing, as stated above - but is about how a system gets the timing queues right. It is often misunderstood, particularly on the right side of the road, as relating to bass reproduction - as if that is the only source of rhythm and expression in music.
Whether PRAT is important to you is really a matter of musical values - but in my mind it stands for the most important element in the reproduction of music. Many would disagree with me on this point and argue that correct tonal balance is paramount. But, to use an analogy, a system that has accurate tonal balance (and even detail and dynamics) can still lack accurate PRAT, and is like a great voice on a lousy singer - the sounds made are wonderful, but that does not make it music.
It has been said before, but is worth repeating - many so-called audiophile systems are less musically engaging than the average car radio - for the very reason that PRAT is not well understood by audiophiles.
I like to think I travel both sides of the road. Most of my gear has been from the US and Canada - but the Poms have a point when it comes to PRAT.
I've owned the CA-100, CA-200, and still have the CA-300. For the money, build quality, and sound, I think Classe is a class act all the way. CA-200 ~$1500, CA-300 ~$2100.
great post, and very well stated. I was not discounting PRAT in any way, only taking a shot at some of our friends across the pond who sometimes lose sight of other musical values in their pursuit of PRAT (I won't naim names) (oops). But you're absolutely right, it's one of the most important aspects of reproduction, and one that many pieces of otherwise exceptional gear can fail miserably at.
I agree totally - I have never liked either Naim or Linn stuff much. Shame they make this PRAT issue such a dogmatic one, and therefore less well considered in audiphile writings than it should be.
Redkiwi, your statement about car audio vs the typical hi end audio blunders, is waaaay true