I would wait and live with the Vand 5A for a while until you develop a feel for what is "lacking" in your current set up.
BTW, great speaker.
BTW, great speaker.
Hard to make decisions based on a show as the total system and room impact the sound. The Atlas is a known great match with your speakers and often shown together. The Atlas is a superb sounding amp and you should try one or several amps before deciding.
Can you work with a local dealer? You really need to hear these amps in your system and room. You may also like a different sound presentation vs. another.
I own the Atlas stereo amp and with a good power cord and upgraded NOS tubes, it just sings - very musical amp.
I agree with Keithr about Audio Connection. I've done business with them. John's probably the best Vandersteen person out there; besides Vandersteen himself.
Also, with regards to your amp, have you ever listened to an Ayre/Vandersteen system? I know you like tubes (I do as well), but Ayre is not your typical SS amp.
Good luck with your system. What ever version Vand you end up with, you will definitely be happy.
I heard the Ref 5 with the Ref 150 and the 5A's and the 7's and the sound was nothing short of spectacular. If I was being super critical the bass was a little lean in both instances. I heard the Aesthetix amp twice with different preamps and both times it excelled when paired with their preamp. I would lean towards the Ref 3 with the Ref 150 and if funds permit don't rule out the Ref 250. Good Luck.
I changed from Pass Aleph 2 momoblocks to ARC VTM 200 monos several years ago and I really liked the tube warmth that I gained. And ARC hybrids are not known for having a full clasic tube warm sound. Also, the Aleph 2s were regarded as one of the more warmer sounding SS amps out there.
Count me as fan of ARC and Vandersteen.
BTW I upgraded my ARC coponents to the Ref 5, the Ref 2 phono and the Ref 210s and I am very happy with the combo with 5As.
I also have a Ref110 that I use during the summer, a slight drop off compaired to the 210s IMO mostly in the low bass and low end slam. From what people have written it seems as though a similar difference exists with the Ref 150 and the 250s. I have not heard the KT 100 models but I bet I could live with either.
It is interesting that Richard uses or initially used Ayre with his 7s. But the 7s are a bit less efficient than the 5As and also the 5A carbon IIRC, so the extra power might be nice to have. Ayre would be the first SS amps that I would check out if I were to go that way but I can also see why you are looking into the Aesthetix.