Best Tube Amp under 10K?

Having every audio dealer in town recommend their line as "the best unless you want to spend $25K" and buy a ..." is frustrating. Well, like most of us, I can't spend $25K on amps ... but I am curious to know what others consider their "final" amp upgrade under $10K. My listening tastes are wide ranging but will mostly include SACD jazz and classical. I do not have a turntable ... yet. And I ususally play at low to moderate volumes only (the wife factor)-- speakers are reasonably efficient 91DB KEF Ref 4's that I hope to upgrade.
If you want to go single ended, I vote for the Cary 805C or the Unison Research Smart 845's. If the KEF speakers have no less than a six ohm impedence I would also place a vote for the lower priced Atmasphere, Berning or Prodigy OTL amps.
I wouldn't ignore the highly-rated BAT amps--I'm running vk60 monos, but the latest is the vk75se.
I totally agree with Drrasta, the BAT VK-75SE is terrific. The other amps you may want to consider if the KEF's do not have a severe impedance drop are the Atma-sphere MA1 MKII.2 monoblocks. They are amazing as well.
vac30/30 or bat 75 se and may be new arc vt 200 mk2
I had the Audio Research VT100 Mk II and then VT200. Excellent amps if you don't mind the fan noise. I agree the BAT is also great equipment but I wanted more power. Just picked up a brand new pair of Sonic Frontiers power 3's for around $4000 you can't beat them. Plenty of power to drive my N802's and to my ears they sound as good and in some respects better then AR. Used with SF Line 3 SE and Sony 777ES SACD.
Hi, Lorne.

The Cary SLI-80 is a killer for the price. From the right dealer, it will give you access to the most awesome stockpile of NOS tubes in North America.

Price is less than $3,000, and it's an integrated.


I'm off the amp upgrade train now that I have my BAT VK-75SE. Smooth and accurate and beautiful to look at too.
I also agree with the BAT recommends. I have the VK150SEs and couldn't be happier.
Thor TPA 30 new and/or Lamm ML-1 used. For a less well known and hard to find...Komura 845 SET.
Still have to say the Jadis Defy 7 has a special place in my heart.
I have read alot about the McINTOSH MC2000 Amplifier Most peaple that own one, say they would never sell it? Maybe worth a listen.
Good Luck
Ok; There ain't no such thing as "best" amp-or speakers."Best" for me, might not be "best" for you. There are a lot of contenders in solid state; same for tubes. Not sure if we can use, "used" prices.For tubes; I would like to mention Vac 70/70---Way under;used.-Way over new. No,don't own one yet. Then there is Walcott; Different type of speakers, require different power.Then there are a # of great solidstate amps. Many speakers "demand" solidstate.So I think it is the "right" duo working together.
Tough question. Tube amps are different enough that you really have to buy according to your tastes. Some of my favorites are: vt100m2 (which I own)(transparent, full sounding and very natural), BAT 150SE's (even more transparent with amazing precision (I guess the 75s would hit the 10K mark)), and Conrad-Johnson mv-55 (the midrange window is to die for). All very different in presentation.
Although I myself haven't jumped on the tube wagon yet, a friend of mine who works for a speaker manufacturer and who has written numerous equipment reviews considers Art Audio amps to be among the best he's heard. I mention this because as a reviewer he's been in a position to hear just about everything out there. I think their top level amp is in the $6k to $7k range. As others have said, it's still a personal taste and equipment/room interaction thing so the final decision is up to your ears. Best of luck.

I listened to the MC2000, didnt' really care for it all that much. Retail on it is $15k btw, though they have been sold here for $8500 on occasion. A decent enough amp, but not worth 15k. I didnt' care much for the bottom end, it sounded flabby, loose, and overly warm, with little bass or control. this was on Watt/Puppy VI combo.

the Conrad Johnson premier 5 monoblocks (~$3-4k/pair used) I thought were much better than the MC2000, and a whole lot cheaper too.

I recently heard the Transcendent OTL. It is a Class AB design which means it runs a bit cooler than the SE's and by using some feedback there is better bass control. I can't speak about its bass performance because the speakers I listened to it on rolled off at about 65-70hz (EPOS minis) but I can certainly say they are the most transparent 3D natural sounding amps I can ever recall hearing. The best of solid state AND tubes. Price 4K for 80 watt monos and 2.1K for 25 watt Stereo factory direct new. Probably one of the best values in amps so long as you have the right speakers. No impedence dips below 4 ohms though. Bruce has a patent on this design that addresses some of the inherent problems with OTL's. Check out the TranscendentSound web site. No I am not a factory spokesman but I am more than a little impressed with this level of performance at the price point.
for under ten grand you have a lot to choose from, like
ARONOV 9100 monos ($6k) and pre amp(2k +) (excellent sound, powerful enough to drive most speakers. UNISON 845 SE triode
beautiful cherry wood finish (6k) and MYSTERY ONE pre amp about 3K. if you have not heard either of these, don't buy until you do
Thanks you all for the lively discussion! Seems to be a lot of BAT fans out there. In the end, I went with the Aranovs fed by a First Sound passive preamp (Arnovs $2600, First Sound $1075, both on Audiogon - thank you Stewart of SOS.)I now eagerly await my Sony SACD SCD-1 but must also admit I do glance at the turntable ads once and while. --Lorne
used Conrad Johnson premier eights.
I love my Legend Audio triode amps. (monoblocks). The only description that comes to mind with these are seductive and sultry.
I have owned the deHavilland GM70 50 watt S.E.T. monos for a couple of months now. I can't imagine ever needing to upgrade them. The music washes over me. Basses are tight and mids and highs are to die for. They are built 100% in the U.S.A. Tubes are easily replaced. They fill my room up(about 3600 cu. ft.) with Green Mountain Audio Continuum 3 speakers,with about a 90db efficiency. These folks will let you audition for 30 days in home (100% payment up front). I don't think anyone has returned them yet. Amp quest is over after hearing these.
Good luck. Tom
I have Dehavilland 845Gs. Same great sound as the GM70s for a little less money and little less power. Cant imagine wanting anything else. The customer service is outstanding.
jadis ja80 can be purchased from my dealer for 10k new. if you plan on getting more efficient speakers, jadis se300b and jadis se845 are worth looking into.
For less than $1k an ARC D70MkII is a wonderful amp (or possibly a D76A); for 1.5x dollars more you can get a few more watts with the D115MkII. Up from there is a VT200 (original, not MkII) - it is a seriously great sounding amp with lots of authority (under $4k used in good condition). Up a few dollars from there (but I don't know if it sounds better) are VTL MB-450 monoblocks, and then VTL MB-750 mono blocks if you need a small ton of power. The challenges become not only the acquisition cost, but sufficient AC power, heat, amplifier weight, and the work/cost involved in shipping/maintenance; but all these amps should be highly competitive sonic performers at their price points.
Berning ZH270
VAC Phi 110/110 is pretty darn good @ $9500, and even better used. Clear, dynamic, and authoritative with great bass. Like an excellent SS amp with sweeter highs and the holographic quality of tubes.
I own a T+A V10 integrated amplifier which I feel is absolutely amazing.Sunil @ 626-966-6259
I have no idea what is the best. There is a point where the choice becomes a matter of personal preferences and priorities. The THOR TPA-30 Mk II monos are definitely worth a listen. Nicely balanced, they do everything well with no glaring flaws and have a drop dead gorgeous tonality. Made me stop thinking about equipment. If you're considering a 'final' amp, these come with a lifetime warranty.
Depends on what tube you prefer. The 6C33 are nice. Dark background good power. 300B's are great as well. Great in the mids though not much power. The 845's have the same great mids as the 300Bs but with a lot more power.
There is no one best amp. It is all in the eye, or in this case, the ear of the beholder. In any comparison, the result depends upon who is making the comparison, the other equipment, the listener's musical preferences, the listener's financial resources, the listening space, and the listener's personality.

That being stated, I have a BAT VK-60 with a Wadia 850 (directly connected, no pre) and Gallo 3.0. I'm on the 3rd amp, the 3rd pair of speakers and the 3rd CD player. Third time is definitely a charm. My musical preferences include classic, rock and jazz. This system has given me many hours of enjoyment. The VK-60 is definitely magic and looks good as well (especailly when the lights are down low). SET, but without the normal disadvantages of SET.

It was, however, not until I did the acoustical treatments that the system really came alive. If I change this amp, it will be for a VK-75 SE.

Well 6 years later and I have owned a few of the amps mentioned, such as CJ 5's and 8's--A Defy7 mk4 and the Aeries 845g--and have moved past these. I just think it's hard to find good tubes and pricy as well. SO I moved to the SS arena.--Not to mention my stuff is on, to many hours and I use up the tubes quicker than most.
I had and loved the Belles 350a ref;till it failed and I now have the CJ 350 coming this week.---Opps, seems like I am now in the wrong thread as a ss owner.
Quicksilver Triodes.
Belles 350-Reference $4000 I sold BAT products and had the VK-150se monoblocks $18k. A single 350-A (older technology) outperformed the BAT amps in all respects but most notably with solid bass that the Tubes couldn't touch. The character of the Belles is so natural sounding as to seem tube like with a easy lelaxed sound that is tonally perfect. Put a great power cord on one and they are over the top. Every reveiwer who has had his hands on one has remarked that the bass detail and accuracy is the best of any amp at any price. Use wire like you would with $30k amps, they warrant it.
yes, the belles is a great amp, until it destroys your speakers.

i owned one, and thought the sonics were terrific, but the build quality was suspect. that's why i dont own it any longer.
I prefer EAR 890 one of the best tube amps in that price rage for sure go out and listen to one you'll be unsurprised.
Manley makes some decent amps , and don't underestimate McIntosh. The name may carry a bit of "old school" stigma , but Mac has been doing high-end tube amps for a very long time-50 years of experience and sales success isn't a fluke.
has anyone consider the blue circle bc28 or the bc204? i have a bc28 and its very fine tube amp. my preamp is accuphase c-2800, using a sacd sony xa9000es player with acapella fidelio II monitors, ps audio p500 power generator, and all my cables are ps audio latest technology. the blue circle plays very well after an hour of warm-up. david picarsic
Shindo Cortese.Would be fantastic with Jazz and would probably work ok with your current speakers.Would be better with more tube friendly speaks.
I like it better than the $25,000 SET I used to own.
Agree with MeJames Conrad Johnson premier 8A
You can usually pick one up for less than 10K, used. Once you get used to it, there is no going back.
That is what I meant to say above.
VAC Phi 110/110 and Lamm of course used IMHO are beyond competition in $10.000 price range.
Opinion based on HE2001-HE2005.
I second Sorlowski - I picked up a pair of Lamm ML2s for just over $10K last electronic component I've ever heard.
A used CAT JL2 will be hard to beat IMHO. See Soundstage's review comparing it to the ARC Ref 110 and Atmasphere MA1s. I decribe it is SET midrange with Krell bass. A delicate beast that can drive most anything. Does run hot though with 16 (6550s) in Class A, Triode.
blue max by NORTH AUDIO , hand built 1 by 1 by steven vickers, at $7000 A PAIR, out of this world
I would look for a pair of Thor Audio used monoblocks.
They are 60 watts each monoblock and are wonderful amps.
I had them in my system and upgraded to the tpa 150 watt monblocks. The 60 watters are in your budget and with a reasonably sensitive speaker you will enjoy them. Just make sure there is a warranty by the seller as Thor Audio went out of business.
Is Thor still in business?
>>Just make sure there is a warranty by the seller as Thor Audio went out of business<<

Good luck with that angle.
Well I'm suggesting taking some time and going slightly over budget in order to buy a used pair of Lamm 2.1's - $12K- $13.5K. You may never need another pair of amps. The Lamm 2.1's are that good. Of course, if your crazy like the rest of us you buy something under $10K for now and then buy several other amps after that, and after that...
Does anyone try a old beat up Apt-Holman?