the ss amps are fine as ever. the badged tube gear is underwelming.
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I tried the Stereo 800 model and found it to be by far the best SS amp I'd ever listened with--and I've listened with many expensive models. The 800A demonstrated tremendous control, weight and linearity on my Maxx 2's, yet also delivered beautiful tone and pitch differentiation in the upper octaves. It was decidedly un-solid state like in the midrange and had incredible front-to-back image and sound focus, layering instruments in exact positions within the sound-field. Overall, one of the most complete performing amps in all areas that I have ever heard. Worth a listen.
I own and love my ARC 210's, but if I could have a dream SS amp too, this would be it.
FWIW, I demo'd three pairs of ~$3K speakers at a retailer recently. The amp used for all 3 was a Luxman integrated (model #?) with big meters. I heard a Devore Gibbon 8, Audio Physic something or other, and Vienna Acoustics Mozart Grand. I didn't like any of the speakers, to my great surprise. Could it have been the amp? All three sounded thin and lightweight, the Gibbon 8s sounded almost like the mid/woofer was disconnected, the AP sounded less thin, but still had a mid and high range emphasis, and the Mozarts sounded fuller, but tizzy in the treble. Imaging on all 3 was good, but soundstage was just fair. None of these speakers allowed me to connect to the music.
Maybe it was the speakers, or the Luxman amp. CD players were a one-box Esoteric and a Musical Fidellity A5.
It could have been the CD - Pixies' "Doolittle." It's what I happened to have with me for this impromptu audition. However, on my cheap Sony portable player and JVC cans, the CD sounded fairly good.
I will certainly revisit the VAs, and maybe the APs, but I will try a different amp next time.
Frontier1, I just purchased the C 600F preamp. It replaced a very good VAC Standard Mk II tube pre. I would characterize the sound as very rich, mellow but still excellent transparency. It is perhaps a little more closed in than the VAC, but still very dimensional with great soundstaging.
Overall, I would simply say that for my system, there is much better synergy and the rich dense images that the Luxman can create makes listening to all music fun, not just audiophile stuff.
Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.