The new Rowland 201's are a pair I can think of.
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I second Rx8man's recommendation. My Channel Islands D-100s replaced a pair of Antique Sound Labs 1009 (parallel 845)tube monoblocks driving Vandersteen Model Five speakers. I was able to compare the D-100s to the NuForce Ref8s. In my system, the D-100s were a better choice.
Dusty has struck the perfect balance between solid state (control, frequency extension) and tube (imaging, holographic mids) topologies. Highly recommended!
Thanks all for your input.
Fatparrot - maybe I don't need monoblocks with this type of amp. My limited experience has been that when going from a single stereo amp to two of the same amps bridged mono, the channel separation, clarity and dynamics were significantly better. I assumed that the total isolation of circuits was the main reason for much of the improvement. Furthermore, since manufacturers are making monoblock digital amps, I though that there might be some sonic reason for doing this (not just to make some extra $$$). Any thoughts?
Wrp - what differences caused you to favor the CI units?
I would go with the Channel Islands amps. You can't go wrong because they have a 30 day money back return policy.
I own the Channel Islands VMB-1s which are 40 watts/ch. If you want to save a bit of money and can really live with 40 watt mono-blocks, the Channel Islands VMB-1s are really good at less than $1000 new. However, I've read several post stating that people that have heard both prefer the Channel Islands D-100 or D-200.
If the D-series sounds better than the VMB-1s, they must be truely special. And don't forget that 30 day return policy. You can't loose, but you could save some bucks and get new amps w/warranty direct from Dusty.
All of the CI amps run really cool, putting off nearly zero perceivable heat.
Rowland 201 - retail $4700
H2o Signature Stereo - retail $2800 (I think)
H2o Monoblocks - retail $4000
Channel Islands - unsure of price
eAR - unsure of price
Spectron - unsure of price
Jjaz - unsure of price
Bel Canto's - unsure of price
Just about any digital or PWM amp out there will run without any noticable heat... your hand on the case will feel as if the unit is turned off.
There is much difference sonically between many out there. I personally have only compared the Rowland 201, 501 and H2o amplifiers with this technology... definately suggest a listen prior to purchase.
I have the latest version of the Herron M150 monos. They are terrific amps and run cool. They won't wow anyone with their looks - chassis is very plain, black and small - but they are highly musical, powerful little guys. They are solid state, but they do retain many of the virtues of tube amps. There are rave reviews at Enjoy the Music. Used about 2400-2700.
In my system, the D-100s were more "tube-like" in the midrange than the Nuforces. Being a long time tube amp lover, this was very important to me. In addition, I felt the D-100s had a tad more width at the back of the soundstage.
To use an analogy, the difference between the D-100s and the NuForces in my system was like the difference between Vinyl and SACD. Both offer a very hi-rez presentation, but they are different. I happen to favor a more "vinyl-like" audio presentation. YMMV.
Truth is either one of these amps would be right at home in any high end system. In fact, I'm holding onto the NuForces until my new speakers (DeVore Silverback Reference) arrive, just to confirm which amp has the best synergy.
Hope this helps.
Due to the fact that NuForce has nearly 0 phase shift at 20Khz (compared to 15-degree or so phase shift in Hypex UCD module or Icepower), the speakers should be slightly toed-out to really focus with NuForce Ref-8. Read the latest Soundstage and Stereotimes reviews on NuForce....