Beginner Audiophile. How to chose a right amp? Recommendation for my setup?


I am new to the world of audio and looking for an enjoyable stereo setup for myself.

I have chosen my next set of speakers, DAC, and a streamer, but can’t quite choose a power amp.

You don’t have to read this -->> "How do you pick a right amp for yourself? Do you consider Damping Factor? Do you match Tube DAC + Tube Amp? or Do you match Solid State + Tube Amp? for what reason? What sound do Soild State DAC/Amp + Tube DAC/Amp combos make? Are there characteristics in Amps? like in DACs? if so, what are they?"

Literally, there are just too many questions I want to ask. But, for now, I just want to listen to what you want to say, whatever is in your mind or any advise you would like to give as more experienced audiophiles when you pick a power amp.

I seek for the right components, ideal setups and match because I learned something from my very first set of audio gears I bought for this thanksgiving that I unfortunately returned a few days ago. The sound quality from Sonos Amp was hard to endure! The SVS Ultra bookshelf was great, but not quite so when it dealt with high notes.

So, I did my research this time and found my next set of audio gears.

1. Monitor Audio Gold 100 5G speaker
2. MHDT Lab Orchid DAC
3. MiniDSP SHD Ultra streamer

What I focused on during the research was to pick gears that can produce wide sound stage, great 3d imaging, airy voices, and great details with smooth yet realistic sounds.

But, I don’t have a clue how to choose a right power amp.

I can just pick a internet recommended under $ 1K power amp and be done with it. Maybe I can still be okay. But, I don’t want to just buy something without knowing anything to go through a return process again. I’d rather at least learn some basics before buying a music component, even if I end up returning something. Because I know now that I can be pretty picky on stereo sounds.


Please comment anything you want to add.

Recommend me some used/new power amps + deals (under 1K ish), if you have anything in mind.

Direct me to the right direction.



Post removed 
I'd probably try some of this Schiit..........

I have a Freya pre and a couple of Modi DAC's.
Great schiit for the money.
I'd start soaking up a bunch info on the market in your price range - a really good starting point is Steve Guttenberg's videos:
Also check out the Adcom amp GFA 6002.  My first amp was its predecessor the GFA 535, 30 years ago.

Or the Parasound line at Audioadvisor who has an easy return process.  Both companies have been in the business for a long time.
If you can still score a Parasound A21 new, that is what I would buy. They are around $2500 new and less used.  At 250wpc into 8 ohms and more into 4 ohms it will be all the amp you ever need, even if you make upgrades later to the rest of the system.  The Odyssey Kismet amps being sold here is an excellent buy and would be my second choice. 
Here is another resource link:

It is for the issue on Amplifiers from the Audio Perfectionist Journal at the Vandersteen website. I used it years ago to save time from absorbing a lot of info all at once that I didn't understand and ended up with equipment mentioned throughout the Journal issues.
If you have a local, brick & mortar dealer, go visit them and get your feet wet. Ask them all the questions you want. If you have multiple dealers, visit them all.
Direct me to the right direction.

Since you're new-

The most important amp spec to keep in mind when shopping for an amp isn't an amp spec at all, its the sensitivity and impedance of the speakers. You're buying the amp to drive the speakers, after all. Yours at 86 dB/w/m are moderately easy to drive. You could do better but if you like them that's more important it just means you can cross low power amps off the list.

Watts don't really matter. Not the way they want you to think, anyway. 50 watts is not necessarily better than 20, and 200 may be worse than 50. If the first watt isn't any good, why would you want 200 more of them? You can find really good sound quality regardless of power ratings.

Next most important: integrated. What you will find in time is every component benefits hugely when used with good quality interconnect, power cord, and other tweaks like fuses, cones, etc. Buying separates drives up the cost a lot. 

From this it might seem a receiver would be even better. But receivers cram way too much stuff into one box. The list of technical problems is long, but for now its enough to say everything interferes with everything else. A/V receivers are the worst. KISS: consider only integrated amps.

Now here are the amp specs that really do matter: Pre-out, sub out, built-in phono stage. Quality of RCA and speaker binding posts. 

Notice everything above, not one recommended component. That's your job. You already are doing it right. This we know because:
What I focused on during the research was to pick gears that can produce wide sound stage, great 3d imaging, airy voices, and great details with smooth yet realistic sounds.

So now apply the above info to what you're already doing. When you get your amp if its solid state then leave it on 24/7, preferably playing music (and volume doesn't matter) because it will get a lot better as it burns in. But understand that if its good then it should sound awfully good right out of the box- and should have you really happy within a few days at most. Otherwise, regardless what anyone tells you, ship it back.

These are great questions and I agree with others that a dealer will help you find answers. A good one will help you discover what you love, and, in my experience, that discovery requires actually hearing things for yourself.

- Colin

Fine audio dealer in Nashville, TN
The things you are looking for in a sound system, such as a wide soundstage, great 3 D imaging, airy voices, and great details with smooth yet realistic sounds, has more to do with the speakers, the set up between the speakers and your listening seat, and room acoustics. Amplifiers do have a sound of their own, but we all have our own ideas of what " realistic " is. The amp, ime, should be matched to the speakers, and I would think, at this point, get something inexpensive ( used ) to work with, and take time setting up the room as I stated. A Hafler or Adcom amp can be had for very little, are both good products, and will get you enough from an amplifier, to hear your system, and work with the tuning and tweaking, to your liking. You might find, you do not like your speakers, as you have already sent a pair back. Listen to what I am saying....and I am not saying anyone else is wrong, but as you are a newbie, I believe I am right. Happy Holidays to all, and, Enjoy ! MrD.
Thank you all ! For supporting me to become a proper audiophile. All your opinions and tips are helping me a lot! For some reason, however, all the audio dealers in my are a seem to carrying extremely high end stuffs. This tells me I should definitely not bother them LoL But, in all honesty, they might have a wide variety of goods including more affordable ones. Who knows, I think maybe I will email them first to see if they even have something in my budget range.
If I were you, I'd search every thread you can find on the Monitor Audio Gold 100 5G speaker to discover what others are using for amplification with this speaker. That will net you the best result. Synergy is everything in this hobby and finding an amp that plays well with the speakers you have is very crucial. Do not buy an amp based on WPC or some other spec; buy it based on how it works with the speakers you already have.
Hey K,

If you don't mind buying used gear, there is a couple amps that are extremely fine sounding with many different types of speakers.  

Nuforce Reference 9 SE mono block amps.  

There are a couple for sale on US Audio Mart.  One set has a pencil diameter scuff on one amp.  The other is in very nice shape.  They are selling for $1200 for the pair OBO.  Offer about $1000 and they should be yours.  The other has TDSS upgrades done to them and are V2 so also an upgrade.  They are selling for $1700.  They are overpriced as I bought a pair of V3's for $1400 4 years ago.  TDSS did their level 3 upgrades to them 2 years ago and turned them into superamps for sound and even more reliable.  

These amps sound incredible and take up very little room as they are  advanced class D amps--Nuforce and Nuprime offer excellent sounding amps.  They have very detailed and dynamic sound with excellent bass reproduction.  The Ref 9's used to be their top of the line amps.  These are basically the same company but Nuprime is the company name now.  Jason Lin is the designer and most of Nuforce is still with Nuprime.  

I have these amps at a couple other's recommendation and will for as long as they live.  My system is very resolving and yet is not hard on the ears at any time.  The amps are much responsible for this.  You will not worry about upgrading after buying these.  I've tried them with 5 very different speakers at friend's houses.  In each the Ref 9's produced the best sound with their speakers.

Buy used, best bang for the buck. Audiogon is very reliable.  Most of my systems are used, never a problem with vendor except a dude named Vlad Zharkov in Mississauga, ON (buyer beware!).

Otherwise get amp.  Great value + lots of clean watts for the money in your budget. New.  Made in USA with great warranty.  Not affiliated, but happy customer. Can confirm Tom stands behind his products. Had an issue, warranty honored and upgraded. 

POWER !   get more vrs less !  Most speakers respond with more agility to aps with generous power supplies.  I and all my past speakers) have liked 150 w/ch into 8 ohms and up.   

I didn't mention that the Ref 9 amps we're last $5200 for the pair when they were in production.   That's the BIG reason many of us buy used.
Also, they put out 175 watts/ channel at 8 ohms.  They will drive most any speaker out there except electrostatics.

Thanks everyone. I really appreciate adding great amps on my option! Will check on that monoblock Ref 9!!
Get a good warranty on the amp. If you buy new you should  get at least 5 year warranty. Bryson Amps.
There is no 1000$ amplifier on the market that can produce "wide sound stage, great 3d imaging, airy voices, and great details with smooth yet realistic sounds". Smooth and realistic sound starts with 3000-5000$ mark amplifiers. Save your time and money, buy decent audiophile high-end amplifier immediately. Othervise you'll make 5-10 upgrades before settling down with something that actually pleases you. At the end, your journey will cost you much more than initial cost of high end amplifier.
I agree with twodolphins, IF you're buying new.  However, if you're buying used, you can do it and get all those things he mentions along with killer bass.   I also, agree with him about buy once for quality and sound, and don't have to go through the hassle of buying and selling over and over u until you get lucky.

Read reviews online along with the Audiogon Forum about amps you might be interested in to get the strengths and weaknesses of different amps.  I did all that and then found a seller with the Nuforce Ref 9 V3 SE mono amps.  We agreed on a price and I loved the sound--it was a very good upgrade from the previous Bryston 8B and Edge M6 amps I had before--both bought used, one for $1500, the other for $800.  The cheaper buy of the Edge sounded better than the Bryston.  Both those amps were $3000 amps when new.  Soundwise, the Nuforce was much more detailed, transparent, dynamic, and still very musical.  That's the reason I had Bob Smith at TDSS do the upgrades to it.  He said the amps would be MUCH better in all ways as part of the upgrades was beefing up the power supplies.  I could have lived with the standard Nuforce amps for along time, too, but after the upgrades, I know they will be my last amps.  
One review where lab tests were run, found the sensitivity of the Gold 100s to be 84.5. This is on the low side. 

What is the size of your room and how far is listening position from speakers?

Are you looking for a power amp or an integrated amp? 
Steve Guttenburg listed some amps he liked for reasonable sums.

I use a Rega Brio that could work for you. I was thinking about a used Hegel as an alterativ, thay could be an option.
As a followup, the review is from HiFiNews. They also indicate in the Lab report that the impedance drops to 2.7 ohms at 3.5KHz and is at 32 ohms at 33HZ, quite a swing over the frequency range.  The phase angle runs from -64 degrees at 2.4 KHZ to 52 degrees at 24Hz. 

Though the low impedance does not fall at the low frequencies, I would not consider this speaker to be easy to drive. 

I provide this not to confuse but in hopes that it will better help others to advise. 
In your <$1K I recommend PS Audio S300. I see them used for $900.
Mine plays magic with my miniDSP Studio (why pay for a redundant internal DAC?)
300 w/ch Into my 4 ohm ESLs is all the power I desire.
Audio Arts or Wireworld are my recommendations for speaker cable.
I love Morrow Audio ICs for form factor AND SQ.
The key piece of information here is that your speakers are very insensitive and they are very difficult to drive. One of the first questions you must answer is how loud you like to listen and how big and dead is your room. These are bookshelf speakers so one might expect that you would play them at moderate volumes but If you like to listen at high volumes and if your room is large with a carpeted floor and lots of furniture you are going to need an amp with high wattage that doubles its power into 4 ohms and preferable doubles its power again into 2 ohms.

I suggest that you consider the amp's ability to put out substantial power at 2 ohms as one of your main criteria. If the manufacturer doesn't list power output at 2 ohms then IMO you should rule it out.

Here is an example of an integrated amp that you can find on the used market that has a very high current output - Denon PMA 2000IVR. It's rated at 80 watts into 8 ohms and 320 watts into 2 ohms. I have one of these in my secondary system and it sounds very good. There are several iterations of this amp but the series all has the beefy power output. They cost between $500 and $1000 for one in mint condition. This amp would be a good baseline and later on when you want to upgrade it would be an excellent reference.

If you go out and spend a bunch of money on a new amp it's going to be impossible to make a judgement of its sound because you have nothing to compare it to. You might think it doesn't sound very good but your problem could be any number of things besides the amp. Going with a competent used amp to start with will allow you to optimize your system regarding speaker placement, room acoustics, and maybe the addition of a subwoofer. Then when you get the bug to upgrade you have the ability to hear whether or not it sounds better.
What a fun journey to start! I suggest you read Roger Sanders white paper on transistors versus tubes or something like that. It's on the Sanders sound systems website.
Again, thank you all. I really appreciate all the tips and suggestions. Will keep learning from here.
8th-note, I live in an apartment and definitely don’t want to make any noise problem. I don’t get a sub for that reason. I would like to listen to music in low volume, but with out loss of details, depth, and staging. If that’s the case, what factor should I consider from an amp besides the power? damping factor?
mesch, I live in an apartment and the livingroom is about 8 feet x 13 feet. It is actually larger than that if I include entrance area (about 7 feet x 5 feet ish), but that is the box size of the living room I would say. For now I am looking for a power amp to combo with MHDT Orchid DAC, but I can also just set for a integrated amp like Hagel Rost or H120. 
What I focused on during the research was to pick gears that can produce wide sound stage, great 3d imaging, airy voices, and great details with smooth yet realistic sounds.

To me, what you’re looking for is right in line with what McCormack amps do very well.  If you go on Hifi Shark and search McCormack you’ll find several nice used units.  The issue is that the older models made in the mid/late 90s are starting to have their input boards fail, which basically requires a rebuild of the amp.  I had this issue with my DNA 0.5 Rev A, but I’m not sure if the DNA 1 has the same issue.  There’s a DNA1 deluxe for $999 and a DNA 1 Rev A for $1500 (probably the best $500 you’ll ever spend in audio if you can stretch a bit as this is a really special amp for the price).  You can call Steve McCormack at SMcAudio and he’ll let you know if an amp may have the input board issue.  Or you can wait until a DNA 125 comes available, which was a newer model and shouldn’t have the input board issue.  In any event, I think sound wise a McCormack amp would be a superb fit in your system.  Best of luck. 

I don't believe the Orchid DAC has volume control so you would be best off with a integrated amplifier. Based on your latest thread, you have ~$3500 you are willing to invest in Amp, DAC, and streamer. The Orchid retails about $1100, and is a very good DAC at that price point I believe.  I am not familiar with the streamer you have selected however many are using the Bluesound Node (several threads here on this component) which sells for $500. This then places your budget at ~$2000 for an integrated amplifier. Provided you choose one that is objectively (electrical) and subjectively (your tastes) compatible with your speakers you should have a system that pleases you in reference to the system mentioned in the other thread. 
I was in your position 2 years ago. I think it depends on where you are coming from and where you are at. Assuming you're youngish with some years of earning $ to go, I would not hesitate to start smaller and take some baby steps.  Don't get caught up in the "you have to spend $3000+ to get real sound" nonsense, it would be pointless in a small apartment.  If you're used to basic to medium quality audio products, a step into intro-level audiophile products is going to be a big upgrade, and then you can just build from there.

Some products to consider:
Kanto Audio - TUK powered speakers
Outlaw Audio RR2160 - An integrated amp with good clean power and plenty of room for growth
Monitor Audio - The Bronze line of speakers are fantastic for the price
Meridian Explorer 2 - A pocket USB DAC that will also fully unfold MQA audio and hi-res streaming
I would be a Parasound.  Tons of power and great sound for the money.  Wish they had home theater amp when I was looking.
Lots of great advice here. If you want a small amp you won’t outgrow which doubles down into 2 ohms and has a lower signal to noise ratio than most pre-amps then check out the Benchmark AHB2 used if you can find it. There are a lot of very innovative design concepts built in and I can testify to it’s capability driving my huge 4 ohm 20.1 Maggies which are very current thirsty. I’ve bought a lot of great gear used on Audiogon but the good stuff takes patience to find at decent prices. I agree with others and have passed on my philosophy to my daughter, buy it once and buy it right. I took it to the extreme and lived years with virtually nothing, stereo or TV to save for what I wanted. 
Good luck :)
Vincent amps sound way over their price point I am led to believe, they also use tubes in the pre section on some of their integrated amps, so you can upgrade your sound that way if so inclined.
Good hunting.
talkskiwon OP
Beginner Audiophile. How to chose a right amp? Recommendation for my setup?

These two figures below of the Monitor Audio Gold 100 are within 1/2 an octave of each other and indicates the "need of an amp that is going to be very comfortable and not break a sweat seeing a 2ohm load".

Impedance  2.7ohm @ 3.5kHz
Negative phase –64° @ 2.4kHz

And at 84db the amp to be 100w or more amp also.

Cheers George   
George, that was my thinking though I wasn't nearly so succinct. One positive is that these figures are not in the bass region.
Also the system is to be placed in a small room.

I do like the Vincent amps at the OPs budget. The SV-237MK is rated at 150wpc at 8 and 300 at 4ohms.
mesch and gryphongryph

Thanks for bringing up the Vincent Integrated.

I was almost down for

1. MHDT Orchid DAC
2. Muzishare X7 Tube Amp (can toggle to choose 2 sound character)

but, the SV 237 MK seems like it can sound as awesome as the combo above.

Less cable management and Amazon listing are plus, too :)

Agree with previous posts indicating that you need an amp that can handle a 2 ohm load. The Vincent is a solid choice.  There also seems to be a lot of love in this forum (and on 6moons) for the Kinki Studio EX-M1.
Thanks gotog

What do you think about Peachtree Audio nova300?

+1 on this

As you are just starting out perhaps new is best as what's out there used would require knowing a bit more

Hard to beat I do not have but have listened to their stuff.
OP: if you go the Vincent route, you can deal directly with Audio Advisor.  Some of their phone-answerers are quite helpful, and they can also fill you in on any deals.  Also, I believe they have a 30 day trial period on everything.
One positive is that these figures are not in the bass region.
Yes the bass is where all the power is needed, but it doesn’t matter, it still taxes the amps, look what happens to many amps that try to drive ML’s esl 1ohm at HF, they sound distant and muted or if unstable, can oscillate, at worst blow.

Cheers George
I’ll second the PS Audio s300.

I have one powering Monitor Audio PL 200s. It never runs out of steam - unbeatable, in my opinion, for the price (Around $1,000).

Yes, you can get more refinement and air from other amps, but it will run your another grand - at least. 
 Additionally - made by a great company that supports its products long-term.

I would suggest a Harman Kardon Citation 16 or A Bryston 3 or 4BST. All the power you will ever need. I have a completely rebuilt better than new HK 16 that I would part with.

Research them both. You won't be disappointed and they are easily in your budget. 
I'm fairly new as well and since I don't have any decent audio stores near me, I've ordered equipment, listened to it, didn't like it and returned it. I did this several times until I found a really good dealer about 70 miles away and I finally found what I like---the sound I was looking for. Here's some advice from another novice---once you find your equipment, upgrade your interconnects, A/C cords. To my ears, they have made a HUGE difference over the stock cords. Don't forget to play around with speaker placement too. Also, someone on here suggested watching Steve Guttenberg videos as well as John Darko and Zero Fidelity. Go to an Audio Fest like Axpona or Capital Audio Fest if you can----they are so fun and I learn a lot from them. Finally, enjoy the journey and have fun!!
Synergy...what amp marries up the best with your selected speaker.
Thank you everyone, once again, for the kind recommendations and heads ups !
If you are looking to spend under a thousand you'd be hard-pressed to do better than a Naim NAP 100.
I highly recommend the Adcom GFA-555 or Nakamichi PA-7 power amps.  Both have plenty of power and sound great!  A good Adcom can easily be found online used for around $500, and the Nak will cost you about twice that.  Pair it up with an Adcom preamp (I use a GTP-500, which includes a tuner), and you have all you need to start!  Might want to make sure your preamp has an input for Phono, just in case you get the Vinyl Bug!  ;)