Best used 5 channel amp for under $3k?

I am looking to upgrade my home theater amp. Currently, I am running Revel Performa speakers (M20s, etc.) with a B&K Ref 50 processor/pre-amp and an assortment of generally inadequate amps.

I am looking for the best used 5 channel amp available in the $2500 ballpark. My use is 60% movie / 40% music. I am considering the Classe CAV-180 and the Bryson 9B-SST. I insist on having balanced XLR inputs. Any thoughts on these two amps or other alternatives in this price range? Thanks.
If you like the Classe, definately check out the McIntosh 7205 - it is very impressive. If you are stuck with these two, I would go with the Classe since it has more soul than the Bryston IMO.
If by "soul" you mean a "sonic signature" then I'd agree with that. I've found the Bryston to be much cleaner and quicker than the Classe which gives a warmth at the expense of clarity. Depends on what you prefer. For home theatre where dynamics and clarity make you feel more involved in the action I'd recommend the Bryston. If you prefer to watch DVD music (e.g. Eagles Hell Freezes Over) I'd opt for the Classe.
Too bad you insist on "balanced" since the best amp in that category (IMO at "street price") is the CineNova 5 channel.

At .003% distortion balanced input is not needed.


Check out the Proceed Amp 5, a little powerhouse 125 X 5.
In answering Hockey's question: yes indeed sonic signature - the same reason many people here like tubes better than solid state. Personally I like how certain SS amps like the ones I mentioned manage to get the best of both - good bass with silky mids and highs. I was just suggesting, as you did, that Classe and Bryston take different approaches to making music. Simply put, it is either one of two camps: Warm and emotional or Clean and clinical, and he shall decide which he likes better. Arthur
EAD Powermaster 2000 = 400 watts x 5 with Balanced and single ended, 125lbs Extremely musical amplifier. It sounds better than my Audio Research D400 Mkii, SIM Audio W5, etc upgraded through. I'm selling my hometheater but keeping the amplifier for 2 channel, and these are a steal used ~$3000. They cost EAD to much to make (originally $5300 then went up to $7500 before being discontinued) it doubles into 800watts into 4ohms, and will put out 1000watts into 2 channels 8ohms. Make sure to have friends around to move it!

Anything under 200 watts a channel is a waste for hometheater unless you have 90db+ efficient speakers.

The Bryston is an excellent piece but not enough power. The EAD is warmer than the Bryston. Sunfire is a great deal bang for the buck but not for up to the competition when used for two channel critical listening (I just bought a Sunfire Cinema Grand II for hometheater system to use with in wall speakers, and my EAD is going to be used for two channel because I like it so much, and can't afford a pair of LAMM's or VTL 750 monoblocks)

Just to preface my opinions, and not start a flame war, this is my own personal opinion from many years of listening and I do not care for the sound of Classe, Levinson or SIM or most other Bi-polar amplifiers. This is why it is key to hear these components in your system or buy used to try and then sell. System synergy is key to make anything work so try to listen to as much as possible.
If you could find an EAD powermaster 2000 at the top of your price range, I would snatch it up. The caveat to that is that I would make sure it has the Plitron (spelling?) transformer which was used in later versions of the amp because of problems with a faint hum created by the transformer that was used in the amps when they first went on the market. (I'm not sure when EAD changed to the Plitron). The PM 2000 is visually stunning, delivers 400 watts X 5 channels into 8 ohms and it drove my Martin Logan Quests and Logos (which dip down to the 1-2 ohm range) without any strain whatsoever. It is a musical amp, with exquisite accuracy of tone, timbre, dynamic and spacial information without sounding analytical or dry. Within it's generous sound stage subtle and accurate spacial placement of instruments create an experience that is much more involving or "live" than the sound of other multichannel amps I had auditioned (as well as many stereo and monoblocs). And I can't forget to comment on the awe-inspiring, effortlessly tight, visceral bass this amp can produce. Having experienced the PM 2000 in my system for 2 years, my impression is that it is truly an audiophile caliber amplifier, it's performance equally stunning for stereo or multichannel listening. I'm not usually so verbose or hyperbolic. However, I think this amp deserves an enthusiastic and detailed review. Stereophile's review praised the PM 2000 with, of course, the certain correctness of descriptors as well as a coherent, systematic analysis and easily understandable commentary, all of which, unfortunately, my response definitely lacks. So, you might want to check out that review if you are at all interested. Good luck and good listening. Regards, Judd
Hey Cytocycle - I hate to tell you, but if you don't like bipolar amps, you shouldn't like your EAD either. The EAD amps are fully bipolar - input and output. As you have proved to us, bipolars can indeed sound quite nice! I agree with you, system synergy is the most important ingredient, no matter the price.

Bruce: you could also try the BAT 6200. I forgot to mention it earlier but it may be a great compromise between your two possibilities. It may be a bit expensive however. Take care - Arthur
I am going with the Earthquake Cinenova as well. This is one HECK of an amp at ANY price.

Bring a friend to help lift it though!

Check out the conrad-johnson 5600.
EAD, Sunfire Signature, Aragon, or Cinepro. EAD being the best sounding of the bunch.
Thanks to everyone for the great advise and education. I particularly liked Hockey and Aballs' characterization of "warm & emotional" amps vs. "clean & clinical" amps.

....well, I chose an amp that no one mentioned.......

The Krell KAV-500. The decision was based on finding the right deal, plus what I think is a great match for my speakers. This Krell certainly fits more into the "clean and clinical" camp. As much as I love Classe amps, I feel that my "warm" Revel M20s are better matched with an amp like Krell or Bryston. If I were using speakers like B&K Nautilus than I would have certainly chosen a warmer amp like Classe, Proceed, or BAT. Bottom line, it seems best to power warmer/richer speakers with more clean, clinical amps and vice versa.

I am surprised that no one mentioned Krell. For some reason, Krell doesn't seem to get much respect anymore. Its almost like their powerful brand name cache has caused a backlash whereby everyone wants to own a more "boutique" product rather than the powerful beast that is Krell. Curious if folks feel that criticisms of Krell on this web site are valid or just irrational dislike for a hifi brand name that has become too ubiquitous in a hobbyist world that prides itself on individualism???

For what its worth, I was impressed with how many mentions EAD recieved. I never had the pleasure of seeing or hearing these amps, but will now be on the lookout for them.
Bruce - my first multichannel amp was the KAV-500. I use my system 70/30 for music, and the Krell drove my (then) NHT 2.9's SO much better than the receiver it replaced. When I upgrade my front speakers to the Dynaudio Contour line, it still sounded pretty good, but then I put a KAV-250a up front for the L/R and that opened them up a lot. I've since replaced the KAV-250a with an FPB-200c. I've kept the KAV-500 for the center and surrounds throughout. Someday (always someday!) we'll redo our basement and I'll do 7.1 for HT, utilizing the two extra KAV-500 channels I currently have.

Yes, there are those of us who still like Krell a lot. Lots of negative comments in these parts about Krell and the like, but for HT and for the music I like (and the speakers I like) they're superb. I think every hobby has the successful brands that become the target of others in the hobby. Luckily, we don't have all listen to the same system, the same music, and we don't all have to hate HT. -Kirk
Bruce, I have the krell kav-500 in my system also and it is a great amp. I had a krell ksa-250 for my mains so I added the kav-500 for center and rears. I have not listened to anything else I would rather have at any price.
Sounds like you made the right choice in pairing up warm speakers with cool amp. Synergy like that is the most important factor - glad you saw through the fog ;).

I had a Krell KSA100 that I thought was nice but I ended up selling it for a warmer amp. Krell does seem to get a generally bad rap but I like McIntosh which tends to get beaten up too. Hey, if you like your system, who cares what others think! I always see asking here for advice as as an exercise of curiosity rather than a foundation for my opinions. Take care and enjoy - Arthur