Best amp s for 11x14 room under $4000 new/used ?

Hi All,

After getting some great help on the Speakers forum to decide what's best for my 11x14 living room that opens into a kitchen, I've tentatively decided to go with a pair of Ohm 1000s. Now, I'm looking for the perfect amp to drive them.

My ideal sound is a warm, weighty, lush, yet neutral, high-end vinyl kind of sound that's also refined with plenty of inner detail (looking to achieve that with digital sources, ultimately). My ears are also extremely susceptible to fatigue at the high end, which, for example, in my experience has ruled out KT88-driven tube amps from McIntosh, whose rich detail and refinement I otherwise love. I also love the warm, weighty sound of McIntosh solid-state, which seems unique in its beefiness. Still, I wish I could get that without the seeming darkness and relative lack of detail.

I've auditioned Naim and Linn (a nice lushness for ss), Ayre Ax-7e (impressively accurate but maybe a little cold), Luxman 505, 550 and 509 (increasingly impressive, but at a steep price), Krell 400xi (a little rough-edged), Audio Research (high-end fatigue from both the tube and ss models). I've been especially impressed by the sound of Shindo and Leben SET gear, but the former is way out of my range, and in any case I hesitate with even a relatively practical model like the integrated Leben CS600 because I'll need to use this amp for home theater about half the time.

That has left me focused on a couple of possibilities that I haven't yet been able to audition. One of them is the BAT VK-300x, or one of its two hybrid tubed models, which I have asked about in another thread.

Another is the Blue Circle line of integrateds, which I'm told specialize in extreme clarity and neutrality that's nevertheless somewhat warm, musical and not overly analytical, toeing the line between a tube and solid-state sound in search of a "live" kind of sound. They also appear to be a great match for the Ohms. I'm seriously contemplating shelling out for one of these new - the relatively recent Katlas model, for example. But I must admit I'm startled to find myself considering paying $4000 for a brand-new amp that I've never heard and have no means to audition beforehand.

I'd love to hear people's thoughts on whether I'm crazy, whether Blue Circle is really all that, and what all else I might want to consider, given my above-stated sonic preferences, in the $4000-and-under range (way under, down to about $2000 used, sounds great, too...).

In the near term, my idea is to stream lossless files via an Airport Express to this amp, with an investment in a high-quality DAC coming later. I should add that key tests any unit would have to pass include The Who's "Live at Leeds," John Coltrane's "Impressions," and Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring."

Try to audition something from Rogue Audio.
Check out this ad:

I had a Karan before my current Burmester, I believe it's what you're wanting.

Thanks Tpreaves - I actually may be able to audition one of those, so will keep you posted! Would be interested to hear any comments on its sound.

Krell man - indeed, from all I have read the Karan 180 looks like it might be the ideal amp for me, and a used model would be great. I just noticed, however, that the link you provided appears to be a power amp rather than an integrated. Would love to check out an I-180...

Also, I'd like to reiterate that I'm especially interested to hear from anybody with experience with Blue Circle, particularly recent models like the Katlas, as well as the BmPH, FtTH and DAR.

Thanks again!
I would like to suggest to you that if you have a long time to wait, then by all means wait for a LEBEN to show up on the used market. I'm still waiting. But you mentioned that you would like to use with home theater? Your power requirements will dictate our responses. Half the time for HT? ThatÂ’s quite much, especially for high output tubed gear. I would go with PASS. You can get what you want with this. Power, endless listening without fatigue, applicable for 2 channel and overkill for HT (IMHO) but will definitely work there also. They show up used often, have great support, and will apply to your situation perfectly.
Hey Vandermeulen - I think we are of the same mind on Leben - love the sound, but worried about wasting tubes on HT. It's interesting what you say about PASS - I'll look into it again, had been under the impression that the sound was almost too clean, a little cold and lifeless according to some ears, maybe? I'll have to study up.

As far as power requirements - is there anything else to say other than it would likely be paired with Ohms, which are relatively power hungry, and filling a 11x14 room that opens into a kitchen on the opposite wall?

In any case, I DO want a system that's "overkill" when it comes to HT - HT will only be an afterthought in terms of what I want this amplifier to be capable of...
Used Pass Aleph 2 - warmer 100 class A monos $2,500
Used Pass INT150 - neutral 150 watt integrated amp $4,000

I owned the Aleph 2 and loved it. I haven't heard the integrated, but have read they are more neutral with excellent detail and bass control. Smooth highs. These are both great amps, extremely reliable and should work great in your set up. Plenty of power for your small room. Lots of reviews out there too.
There's a Clayton S-40 that just popped up for a little over $2000. I would think that amp would meet a lot if not all of your requirements if you don't need an integrated amp. Best of luck.
I would also ask Ohm for recommendations because the most important part of your choice is the synergy with your speakers. I've learned that the hard way, and the good way, and it's not be taken lightly. It's more important than the looks of the amp, the specs of the amp, the cost of the amp, or what someone thinks is a better amp in some other context. It's really better than just posting here asking what people think of such and such an amp.
You could get a pair of Monarchy SE-100 Mark 2's (or SM70 pros or the 250's if you need more power) along with their NM24 Tube DAC/Tube line and be under your $4000 budget. I have listened to predominantly tube amps for the last 19 years and recently gave the SM-70 pros a shot and have found them extremely musical, non-fatiguing, ... just really enjoyable. And, the DAC is fantastic...