Look into a used Van Alstine 450ex or 550ex.
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Do a Bryston 4B-ST for $1,100 or so. They are very well made and sound better than most amps at that price point. In addition, you'll easily be able to resell a Bryston should you need to due to the twenty-year transferrible warranty (perhaps even at a profit). I had a friend who ran one on Aerial 5's (small monitors) and it sounded superb.
well, looked at the bryston and heard several comments about roughness and a bit bright in treble that bothered me. van alstine's website is impressive and the few reviews i could find were positive, would like a little more comparison of it to similar products. nobody has bitten on the parasound, figured there were some fans out there. will look into the ps audio. my goals are good image depth without glare
Parasound is fine. I own one. It has a great punch. Bryston is fine too. But if you're looking for a warm natural sound with the same punch, you won't do better than a McCormack DNA-1 for $800-900. You might do better with a Levinson, but it'll cost you. There's a used DNA-1 for sale right now for $850. Poke around in the forums and read the glowing comments. You won't find anything in this price range that compares.
I agree with Csericks (Customer Service Engineer Ricks?) and Tvad. Assuming what ever you'll be looking at will be used, it's difficult to better the sonic virtues of class D amplifiers at this price point. I drove my 4ohm, 87dB sens. Avalon Eidolons with a PS Audio HCA-2 with ease.
On the linear amp side for $1100-1400 I would suggest the Ayre V-3 for its ability to dive difficult loads and its wonderful presentation.
I don't know about best, but, the c-j solid state amps have a fairly high input impedance, are not overly sensitive (so they don't pick up and amplifiy a lot of noise) and are designed from the get go to work with their own well regarded tube pre's. Some, but, not all of the McCormack amps have similar qualities.
head is hurting but waded through numerous reviews for ps audio. reviewers likem,customers likem, yet there are many for sale and sounded like they have been discontinued. in regards to mccormack, the topology sounded very similar to parasound except for the "distributed node amp" part. seems a little more love for the original dna's but they are 15 years old. right now the ps audio is in the lead spot, van alstines rhetoric woos me, and parasounds design seems solid but not hearing much love. thanks for the comments thus far, what a great hobby
Are you having fun researching and deciding, or would you have more fun listening? If the answer is listening, then buy a used version of whichever amplifier is presently at the top of your list and listen to it in your system. If you love it, then you've succeeded on the first try. If your opinion is mixed, then sell it and buy the next on the list. Reading and researching is only part of the education. The largest part of the education is listening. Only by listening will you discover what you prefer, and your preference will likely not correlate with at least three quarters of the opinions of us numbskulls offering suggestions. That's the beauty of this hobby.
There are a few excellent options offered in this thread. Pick one. Write the check, and start on down the road...
Very brief HCA-2 primer.
PS Audio has a history of designing decent sounding traditional components using parts that are commensurate with their cost. Away from the seen for a few years they returned with the HCA-2 one of the first of a new generation of switching amplifiers. Stereophile gave the difficult to measure $1695 amplifier a class A rating and created an instant controversy. While it doesn't sound like solid state or tubes it does have attributes of both and some of its own.
Other notable manufactures began producing, what is now termed class D, products giving credibility to low cost high performance amplification. As with some manufactures, PS Audio is marketing their second or third generations. The HCA-2 became popular for its price new and now for its value as a used amp. Some simple modifications take its output to even more satisfying levels. It's become one of those affordable stepping stones into high end sound.
If you buy one, when the time comes you shouldn't have a problem selling it.
I almost sold mine but for its current value I think I'll just hold on to it.
i am looking for a bit of an "exit amp" want solid performance with no fatigue. is the sound good for awhile and then fatiguing or simply enjoyable? is its own sonic signature a good one? was its discontinuation due to issues or merely a new model. do you still use yours? thanks for the primer it was helpful. think i am narrowing things down. i do love the research and the listening. just don't want to be repackaging a bunch of return amps. research is always helpful.
If you are seriously considering Class D amplifiers, you might want to send an email to Audiogon member "Plato". He's a reviewer, and he has heard and reviewed the PS Audio amp along with at least one or two other Class D amplifiers. He can give you a well researched opinion based upon listening.
BTW, I have auditioned the NuForce Reference 8, Channel Islands D100 and D200, McCormack DNA-2 Platinum Revision and Odyssey Audio Stratos Extreme Monoblocks in my system with a tubed preamp (First Sound Presence Deluxe II and Modwright SWL 9.0SE). Several of them are excellent choices. They all have strengths and weaknesses.
i actually ran across the channel islands last night in reviews. again, not trying to continue the madness here just dont have the time or money to audition a lot of stuff. the hype on class d is tremendous, but its obvious that they do have a sonic signature, just wondered what it is. again i am going for a non-fatiguing sound, although nothing fat and slow either, just a touch of good warmth and the ability to portray the depth of stage on a decent recording.
McCormack, Odyssey and Channel Islands are all non fatiguing, IMO. In my system, the Odyssey had more top end energy than the McCormack and Channel Islands amplifiers. The Channel Islands sounded somewhat flatter and more sterile than the McCormack and Odyssey, both of which sounded fuller and made the music sound more real to my ears.
Probably the McCormack would be easier to re-sell. However, if you are speaking value in terms of sound bought for the dollar invested, I might lean toward the Odyssey. Both company owners are terrific guys.
Your preamp will require fairly high gain to drive the McCormack if my experience with the DNA-2 was any guide. The Odyssey didn't have a problem with the gain of my preamp, which is 16dB.
I suppose the McCormack is the safer bet. The Odyssey might get you more power, and it'd already be upgraded with high capacitance and excellent parts that you'd otherwise have to have upgraded in the McCormack.
I had a fairly tough time selling my Odyssey Monos, which I bought used at a good price.
could you fill me in on odyssey's design? mosfets, jfets, something would help. cant find the info on the website. they are still the at the top of consideration the musical design amps are frankly just too ugly from the get go. their design doesnt sound groundbreaking either. thanks for the mention though.
I have had both the Odyssey and the Musical Design units on the test bench here and to be candid the Musical Design remains here and the Odyssey has moved on. This is not to disparage the Odyssey, but to my ears and 48 years in this hobby the Musical Design is the better of the two sonically.
It is difficult to find Musical Design power amps. It seems that audiophiles that have them ,keep them. As opposed to the Odyssey that is not hard to find and many are listed on Audiogon.
I wish you well in your search.
Dave, I went thru this process about a year ago when I had to drastically downsize, selling off some very nice Wolcott tube amps and left with a budget of $1500. Like you, I posted here ,got several good sugestions, spent the better part of 2 days reading online reviews. Ended up trying the Van Alstine 550ex hybrid.(Almost went w/ the CI D100 as I've had great use from Dusty's voice control unit, but feared the flat soundstage) The best $1200 I ever spent on the Van Alstine. I'm still impressed that such a neutral realistic sound could be had for a grand.
As you wrote- "am going for a non-fatiguing sound, although nothing fat and slow either, just a touch of good warmth and the ability to portray the depth of stage on a decent recording" Thats what I have along with a fair amount of audiophile qualities with the hybrid.
I saw a solid state on thier website for a grand that might mate well w/ your tube pre. Good luck & good listening.
well, the amp pushes 20 watts to an 89db speaker and sounds terrific. again, a modified jolida 102b. sorry for cliche but now i hear music, before i heard impressive sounds. dont know if its as revelatory as it feels right now, but wondering what the hell i was thinking with solid state amplification. the tube pre didnt really add this type of dimensionality and rightness to my system before. admittedly it didnt add much of anything but didnt detract anything so i was somewhat happy. but this jolida is mystifying. the artificiality is gone even from already good recordings. thanks for the above input, but im getting the conviction that i am firmly in the camp of tube amplification, happy listening