It would depend on what speakers I owned.
There are a number of good choices in your price range; which one you choose depends largely on your personal preference, speakers, and rest of components.
In addition to the McCormack, Parasound, and Bryston suggestions above, I would also recommend a Pass X-150, Monarchy SE-100's, or one of Marsh's offerings. If you have electrostatic or planar speakers, then consider the InnerSound ESL-300 (which I own).
I should have provided a better description of what I'm looking for. My current set-up is Naim CD5i Source, Arcam AVP-700 pre-processor, Outlaw model-755 five channel amp, Energy Veritas 2.3i speakers.
I looking to upgrade the main two channels of this system form music. HT is fine, but I think I might do better with a better amp for the main channels?
I have a good friend that owns the Classe 300 and the Audire Otez. Both amplifiers sound very good. Infact you may have a hard time hearing a difference comparing them. The Audire amplifiers don't seem to be well known as a whole. Even though they've been around since 1971.This amplifier competes well against its boat anchor brothren in pure massive POWER and CONTROL. If you can find this $5000 amplifier for $1500 it is well worth it. There's an Audire Parlando for sale on Agon now...it's the 100 wpc pure class A version of the Otez. Same amplifier just configured differently.
Gunbei, I'm actually pretty darned happy with the sound I have now. But, having been on the merry go round for many years I'm always asking what if.
I've recently purchased the Naim and Arcam and am totally satisfied with both, and both were an upgrade to what I had. I would like to upgrade my speakers some time in the future, but this is going to be an expensive to get better than what I have now. I heard a pair of Usher's 8571's that I can't get out ot my head.
Therefore, I'm thinking the amp may be my next logical upgrade. The Outlaw's are actually rebadged ATI's and it's a darned good one and an outright bargain for the price I paid. I was in the shcool of thought for many years that say's amplifiers of equal power don't sound much different. I also said this about cables for many years only to find out just recently how wrong I was.
So now I'm going to have to find out just how much difference a good quality two channel amp will make. I figured $1500 used was a good price considering I only gave $1399 for the 755. Not bad for a good five channel amp that will throw out 200wpc rms @ 8 Ohms with all channels driven. Almost doubles as it goes down, but not quite.
I also heard a system that had weight to the piano and horns like I had never heard before, and serious dynamics that hit fast and hard. This was also the same system that I heard the Ushers in. I asked the dealer if it was because of the speakers and he so no, it was the amp. That amp was a Belles 350A. This is what really got me to thinking about an upgrade.
There it is. Please keep the recommendations, comments, discussions going. I'd like to hear your thoughts and recommendations and gather all the info I can before making the plunge.
BTW, by buying used I figure if I make a mistake I wont have to lose too much on the resale.
I personally feel that the preamp has more of an impact on the sound than then amp (assuming the amp and speakers mate reasonably well).
Perhaps what you're looking for is a different sounding system for certain types of music. If so, maybe you would be better off using that $1500 to build a second system for that explicit purpose.
And, sometimes that wise move is to simply acknowledge just how good your system really sounds and stick with it for a while, and give up the chase. Your wallet will thank you.
You may very well realize wonderful benefits by changing the amps (and, of my recommendations above, I think the Monarchy SE-100's would be most to your liking, and about half your budget). But I'm just throwing out a couple other possibilities to consider.
If you want a kick ass killer amp try an AVA Fetvalve amp. They're rarely for sale used though but for a few hundred more you could get a new one.
I've had numerous amps in front of my Vmps RM 40's and this amp is better and it's not like you have to try to hear it. The improvement in timbre is amazing. No SS amp I've heard sounds like this amp. It's not tubey although there's a hint of tube sound there. The Van Alstine amp is actually a hybrid with tubes in the input stage but being they only cost 30 bucks every couple of years and need no biasing I thought I'd add it.
Frank's been doing this for at least 4 decades and I think he learned something or two most engineers haven't thought of.
Another amp, also a hybrid, that I think is outstanding is the Blue Circle BC 24. Either one of these is great. The AVA amps have more power so it will depend on what your speakers and room are like.
There's a Blue Circle dealer, Philnyc at audiocircle.com as well as a Van Alstine forum.
I'd second the Ayre V-3. I think this represents an excellent value and amazing performance. Yet, it does depend on the speaker-amp synergy, which is really the key point here. Also, I've had better experience in the past with upgrading either the source or preamp and this making more profound differences. Just my $0.02!
Odyssey Extreme, Possibly a mcintosh, but your gonna only find pretty old models at that cost.. McCormack is good, but is a toss up between it and the Odyssey depending on the system, another one I never heard but is in the range to outclass many from reviews would be a Belles 350 I believe, but not sure of the used cost.
I've owned an ATI 1505 myself now for almost 9 years. Mated with NHT satellites and sub it creates a nice HT experience for me. However, it didn't float my boat for music and that's what put me on the path to 2 channel exploration.
I was going to say pretty much what Undertow said. McCormack DNA225, Belles 350A, Odyssey Extreme Monos will stretch the budget a bit but I think they'll all be a definite improvement over the Outlaw/ATI. Before pulling the trigger on an amp, read the forums more to see if that's the direction you want to follow. Audition if you can.
Nothing brings home weight and dynamics like a big class A amp. I've heard really powerful AB designs do it as well, but only at really high volume. Krell and Levinson come to mind, but not usually at that price point. You might find an older krell KSA-100 or similar Levinson since you are looking used, but be careful as class A amps might need to be recapped after as little as 10-15 years.
I've never heard a Plinius amp so I can't comment, but I've found that in general, class A amps are able to convey the smallest details of a recording clearly and audibly without making your ears bleed when things get loud, and everyhing has such weight behind it. Each sound has a degree of physicality that makes the experience much more 3d and emmersive. They really work well for home theater and music. The downside of course is size, expense, heat... so they aren't for everyone.
I thought the Channel Islands amps sounded excellent. I heard them at Dusty Vawters and again at RAMF. Very impressive amps, the 200 being a bit better than the 100. Also, I hear Ric at EVS has a killer amp at a very reasonable cost. I believe both these products have a 30 day trial. It might be worth a listen in your system.
It may be of interest to you to audition the Bel Canto ICE power amps. Through Underwood you can get the S300 for about $1200, or two M300 monoblocks for about $1600. I was using Outlaw M200 monoblocks and can't believe the difference. There is so much more detail, bass extension and clarity compared to the Outlaws. They run cool, have plenty of power, detailed without being fatiguing. I love these amps. They were a little bright on the very high end at first, but I don't hear that now. Good luck!
Thought I'd follow-up with a close out post to this tread. Thanks to all who responded, your inputs are much appreciated.
The Outlaw is gone and although I totally smashed my budget, I bought used Belles 350A Reference.
I'll post my thoughts on this amp after I've had some time with it. I just got it a couple of days ago, but I can tell you already this amp is somethig special.