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Find a good used Threshold S500. Great SS amp with tons of muscle and fine tone. Better yet, a much harder find, but a much better amp and still competitive with some of the best available today (IMHO) is the Threshold SA I mono's.
Now for real world advise at bargain prices, find a good used late model Muse 160. Usually sold (when available) for $750 to $850.
Oop's, sorry... you said cold. Neutral is as close to cold as my brain would allow. Why would you want a 'cold' amp and consider what usually passes for cold is a threadbare midrange, upper mid-range brightness, and etched highs, or in some cases an absence of good bass tone.
Grisslehamn, I think I understand what it is you're looking for. Give the H2O lineup a listen. They're amazing pieces of equipment. For comments and informaton go to the Discussion and Virtual systems sections of this website and look under H2O. There is a lot of valuable information and owner's comments there. Their website is www.iceh2oaudio.com
Tvad, you keep referring to toroidal vs. SMPS power supplies as if this was a significant point of some sort. Personally, I don't think it is.
I believe there are some very well designed power supplies of both kinds. I also have to say that I believe we have not seen the best from SMPS yet, and that designs like those from NuForce are starting to show that there may be advantages for SMPS such as transient speed capability and the ability to accurately and quickly track wide dynamic swings... You must consider that SMPS is in its relative infancy compared to conventional toroidal technology, and yet, some amps with SMPS are receiving very high praise in the audio press.
I second the Innersound ESL 300 as a clean amp. It sounds very good in the right system. "Cold" and "hard" often have negative connotations, but I think I understand what you're striving for (clean, neutral).
I once borrowed an Edge Si-1M PREAMP and that endowed the system with a very etched sound. I actually liked it. So that's an additional option you can consider, rather than focusing exclusively on the amp.
06-14-06: PlatoFrank, I'm not sure how to take your comment, so let me be precise in why I posted that. It was simply because I found it interesting that both the CI Audio D200 and H2O amplifiers were recommended as filling Grisselham's requirements, and I found it coincidental that they both have toroids.
Having heard several digital amps, and NuForce amps, I prefer those with toroidal power supplies.
I meant nothing more significant than that, and I don't have a clue from a technical perspective how a toroidal power supply is better or worse than a SMPS, or how it affects the sound of an amplifier. I just happen to prefer the sound of the CI Audio digital amps that have toroidal power supplies.
I hope this clears things up. I certainly wasn't looking for a fight.
Mark Levinson No 23.5
It's been a fantastic work horse for me, I picked up a No 27 and run them both to bi-amp my Paradigm Signature S4's. I bought an ARC VT-60 hoping to get a more tubed sound. My goal was to eventually go with a VT-100 Mk III for the bass/mid and the VT-60 to power the tweeters.
I thought the Levinson actually had as good an upper end and mid sound ... and the bass - it's not even a comparison. I expected the VT-60 to keep up at lower volume levels but I'm just not feeling the love. I thinking about sending both the Levinsons into Harmon and have them gone through - bring the No 27 to a 27.5 and call it good. I personally think I own one of the best SS amps with the Levinson name on it. I have never even pushed them. I can bring the volume level from soft to concert level and they dont seem to flinch.
All that being said - there is synergy between amplifiers and speakers ... I found my combo. Your speakers will be just as big a factor ...