The Antique SOund Lab 1009 (Now the Cadenza) is a very nice amplifier but there is truly no accurate answer to your question. There are a LOT of options in the $10K range.
You might consider narrowing down your inquiry. Power? SET? Mono blocs? ETC!!!
What speakers you intend to drive would also be helpful. Again, way too many options.
The list of tubed amplifiers better than the ASL 1009 or whatever its' morphed into under $10K is extensive. Be it SET, OTL, PP, etc. your choices include BAT, VAC, Atma-Sphere, Joule, Art Audio, CAT, Lamm, ARC,Thor, Quicksilver, Rogue and on and on. All of these offer superior build quality and higher reliability.
Remember the penny wise and dollar foolish adage.
Definetely agree with AudioFeil's comments.Buy from a reputable long established manufacturer,why spend your hard earned money on questionable chinese knock offs.
I had a pair and sold them for four reasons:
1)I discovered I don't want to bias
2)The thought of of dropping $2k on NOS 845's alone didn't appeal to me
3)Too much heat output for my application
4)Too heavy to move around
They were used on Merlin MX's and Vandy 5A's to good effect.
There appear to be some uninformed answers above.
I owned the 1009's for a while and they were quite impressive in my system. They are not knockoffs of anything. While the some of the amps listed above may have better fit and finish and a fancier chassis, most of them simply don't perform as well as the 1009. NOS 845's are completely unnecessary with this amp. I found however that substituting the EL34's for the Svetlana winged C offered a more even tonal balance in my system.
I have owned several of the amps listed above and the 1009 was the best of the bunch. (CAT and Lamm would be better choices but at several times the price of the ASL). The review of these amps on Salvatore's High-End Audio website is mostly accurate in my opinion.
Great amps. I regret selling them from time to time. It drove Avalon Diamonds and Quad ESL well. I did not have maintenance problem and they sounded great with Shuguang 845B and 845M. Very good texture and a lot of inner detail. It bettered Audio Research and Rogue amps that I had. I did not think they give up much comparing to Nagra VPA. I tried many tubes and ended up with Ei EL34 and Bugleboy 12AU7.
I read Salvatore's review. Parts have to be changed to get them up to speed(The dealer installed Jensens in his 1006's). There's a company that does this to the tune of $1800. As I said before, biasing was a no-no for me as one amp would constantly drift. I guess I'll never own Joules to experience the Variac.
I've purchased 2 pairs of new ASL poweramps the last couple years. The Explorer 805s and Hurricanes were and are reliable and sound great. Having just built a high-sensitivity speaker system and not needing 120 Watts of triode power, I've ordered another pair, the 25-Watt SET AQ1006, in the new, taller version.
The 1009 is all triode (the EL34 drivers are wired as triodes), push-pull of course, uses fairly conventional design concepts, is mostly hardwired (ie does not use printed-circuit boards for audio circuitry), and uses tubes (12AU7s, EL34s, and Shuguang/ValveArt 845s) that are highly available and affordable. It also has separate low- and high-Voltage power transformers and powersupplies and uses NO negative feedback. If 60 Watts is enough power for you and the concept of push-pull amplification doesn't bother you*, go for them.
* Some of us nutty fans of triode amplification also 'need' our amps to be single-ended.
Tab, the later version of these amps have the caps that are recommended. One could install expensive V-caps and get most of the benefit of the 1800 mod for $400 in parts.
WRT the biasing issue, mine stayed steady the whole time I had them. I checked regularly and never had to adjust. A friend had the older version and did experience issues with the bias.
Great amps but like Jeffrey, I ended going the SET route.
On the subject of the ASL gear, I can understand the comments about the bias drift on earlier models but have not had this issue on piece current with the last 2 or 3 years.
I have a pair of the horizontal 1009's (before the Cadenza design) and the EL34's were replaced with KT66 tubes. These amps do belong to a customer for whom I am selling them for on consignment but have set them up for testing and some listening.
None of the ASL gear is a knock-off product and I have found them to be an extremely reputable line. hey are also a tweaker's delight. Is there others out there that better it? Sure, there always is but I think you will have a hard time finding equals at the same price point.
I just sold My Rogue Zeus that I loved, to buy the ASL 1009. I have them in my system now, auditioning them before I buy them. I will be writing a check tomorrow. They have one full music 845 and one valve art in each amp with mullard el34's and ratheon nos 12au7's. they are the finest examples of amplifier's that I have ever heard beside the ASL 1006 which does not have enough power for my speakers. They sound like 120 watts of power instead of just 60. They have the best rendering of the musical event that I have ever experienced within the capacity of my bank account.
After an extensive a to b comparison session of asl 1009 to consonance 211, tenor 75wi, I am happy to say that for me asl 1009 is the clear winner.
The 1009 beats consonance 211 SET in every parameter and Tenor in terms of transparency, musicality, soundstage and dynamics, midrange magic, treble energy and life likeness. Tenor had an advantage in lower octaves in terms of grip and weight and altough I am not sure maybe in imaging and inner detail.
At the end regardless of price I prefered asl 1009 by a wide margin.
Thanks for the comments...
I'll also echo the positive comments regarding the ASL 1009s. A very good friend of mine had a pair in his system, and he's had a ton of amplifiers come and go - from a JRDG Model 5 to OTL monoblocks, to everything in between. For my money, nothing remotely came close to the ASL 1009 amplifiers.
Sadly, because he just didn't like the importer, he no longer has them. Again, BEST sounding amps I heard in his system, by far.