Best Values and worst values in SS and tube amps ?

My choices for best value: Most McCormack amplifiers, past and present, in solid state, and Sonic Frontiers for tubes ( although the S/F is still somewhat expensive, it's terrific sound for the money )

Worst values: In my book, most Sim Audio gear regardless of price. Sexy looking and good build, but dry - dark - lifeless sound. Worst value in tubes: Aronov...

How about YOU ?

This is a bone headed premise for a thread.

I don't think the premise is bone-headed--if readers and posters take all comments as no more than recommendations made from personal experience.

Even then, one would want to know with what other components a person auditioned the various amps in question.

Still, I enjoy learning about what worked for other listeners and what didn't, especially if they give me some context for why their preferences are what they are.

I myself have heard only a few tube amps and never in my own system with music I know well, so I can say nothing about them. However, I have long observed that many people who use speakers similar to mine (high sensitivity coaxials) seem to fall into two camps when it comes to recommending amplifiers: one camp recommends single ended triode tube amplifiers of 2 to 10 wpc output; the other recommends high current, high power solid state (often MOSFET) amps.

I myself use Meitner ampification, which is high current and MOSFET, but not particularly high power (50 to 100 wpc @ 8 ohms). For the quality of reproduction, I consider these amps "best buys".

This is particularly so because the designer continues to refine the circuit and performance and one of his colleagues continues to offer updates and service, although these amplifiers were last manufactured in 1990 or 1991.

All I would say, then, is that you have Porsche tastes but can only afford a Honda Civic, you should consider the Meitner STR-55 stereo amp (50 wpc; stock units typically $400-450 used) or the MTR-101 mono amps (100 wpc; stock pairs typically $800-1200 used). 1991 list prices were $1600 and $3400 respectively.

There are of course many other good amps out there to recommend, moany or most of which I have never heard. I have listened to many much more expensive amps, but only in audio shops and in other people's systems. Such circumstances I do not consider adequate trials on which to base comments.

Other amps owned or auditioned in my system: Muse Model 100 (1991-92 models), Metaxas Iraklis, Bryston 3B and 4B (plain Bs, not NRB, ST, or SST); Quad 405, 405-II, 606, Adcom GFA 555-II.

Hope some other "budget audiophiles" find these comments helpful.



General comments about gear/brands not placed in a system context are indeed bone headed, which was my point.
I like the Aronov for its fair value in comparison to the other big names, but the fact that its performance is excellent to superior doesn't seem to be primary criterion to the member who initiated this discussion. The recent Aronov LS960I tube integrated for something like $1350 mint in box was actually the "best value" buy of the year on used Audiogon postings. If I didn't already own one then it would have found at least one eager buyer. The used listings are sometimes amazingly reasonable for any brand you care to mention. As a bargain hunter I find all mainstream, high quality tube equipment from the big names too expensive at full retail. But labeling a "worst value" company out of so many high priced companies seems a petty slam against one, and a shorthand way to trash a great performing product line. Looking for the worst value is not my idea of enjoying a hobby, although I feel it is necessary to defend a company accused without even the detailed comparisons to supposedly support such a sweeping claim. My own experience is that the performance of my Aronov has favorably surprised owners of the other big name brands with comparable used and new prices. Aronov simply doesn't deserve to be archived with this type of discussion headline. Anyway, amplifier value relates to the entire system, including what type of speakers need driving, and what size room needs to be filled with music. Aronov makes a variety of speakers sing in my systems, and when purchased used (like all my equipment) is a "best value."
It's very hard to tell how an amp will sound in your system, even if you've heard it with other equipment. The best guide is still listening, though, even if you can't do it at home.

Just to prove that YMMV, I loved my Sim Celeste W-4070Se, right up until I sold it to make a big upgrade to Shanling tubes--the SP-80. IMHO both these amps are excellent value. The Shanlings are very melodic and musical, the Celeste was danceable in the extreme.

Linn LP12/RB300 Cardas/Cardas Heart, Shanling CD-T100, Klyne SK-5A, Meadowlark Shearwater Hot Rod, Ensemble cables.
Do you think the system matters as much as subjective preference? It's possible someone who prefers the sound of a McCormack amp over another similar high value SS amp, say Bryston, would always prefer the McCormack even if you change the other components.
I have to agree with Dekay bad idea for a thread.
Everything is system dependant. Almost worthless to do these generalizations. Case in point, Aronov LS960 tube amps.
I have owned many different amps in all price catagories. I found the Aronov to be an excellent value...I have it pushing $20,000 speakers so the price is not the criteria. On the other hand if you listen with your eyes, Sonic Frontiers while looking great on paper....

Yes, I do. I have listened to quite a few mismatched/poor sounding systems made of otherwise desirable components and have also experieced a number of mismatches in my own systems over the years.
Pretty much impossible to say with any certainty what's good or bad becuase it's all about synergy. As case in point was a recent change I made to my system. My original setup was Martin Logan Quest Z's driven by a BATVK-500 amp and Transparent bi-wires, great match. When I sold the ML's and put the Eminent Technology LFT VIII speakers in the mix the sound was very disappointing. I knew I had a cable mismatch and swapped the Transparent for Zu WAX biwires (thanks for the heads up Ron) and voila, bliss. The point is you cannot determine the quality of a component unless it's set up properly; the amps you consider underperformers may very well be set up using wires or even speakers that are not well suited to it's character. Educate your ears and learn to match systems, with few exceptions I really doubt there are "bad" products on the market but I'm certain there are mismatched systems.
sonicbeauty.your thread is not bonehead nor without merit.look how many responses have been given.this is what this site is about.some generalities can be made.if one thinks X equipment is sh.t and overrated that's his's as valid as anyone else is .what i'm trying to say is;if 90% of the people think mccormack is a good buy for the money,it's a good bet that is true.regardless of the rest of the's threads like yours that get people thinking.better this thread than "should i buy a 500$ power cord or a 1000$ one.thanks for the thread.
I'll "third" Aronov tube gear as being great (used) value ! I haven't found anything to bettter drive my Gallo Nucleus Ref's than the Aronov 110W Monos (4 conservatively driven 6550C's or KT 88's ea,) for the price. I used to have Pass Aleph 2.s.
I think this thread itself is an example of what I'm saying about subjective preference. Some people love Aronov and some think it's the worst. Lots of people think Sim Audio is wonderful. Others don't.

It's useless to attempt to evaluate an amp when you mismatch components or use that as proof of why "system" is all important. I'm not talking about mismatches. For the premise of this thread to be without merit would require there is never a similar character or house sound from gear produced by a particular factory. I think you will have a difficult time convincing many of that.

The originator of the thread likes McCormack and I used Bryston to compare as an example since it is also a very popular and well regarded company. It's likely Bryston fans will most always prefer them over a McCormack because they like that sound and vice versa. Let your own ears decide based on your subjective preference.
OK, some explanations from the Thread initiator!!!

I guess I am being somewhat critized here for my immensely personnal biases. Fair enough. This thread is intended for the Audiogoner with the following profile. And in my book this means (again, highly subjective of course)

1. The Audiophile with between 3 to 5 years and more in this crazy hobby.

2. Someone who owned anywhere from 6 to 12 diferent amplifiers - tube or solid-state, and a few different preamps.

3. Decent-quality digital front-ends and cables.

4. A definitive allergy to any Air Supply or George Michael music in tape, cd, SACD or DVD form ( let's include FM on this one ok? )

3. Someone who would find it hard to choose between spending a year on a desert island with Jennifer Lopez and getting a pair of Valhalla interconnects on loan for a week, just to try them out.

Joking aside, my perception of value in audio gear is not without some experience, although I am not an ''experienced'' audiophile compared to most out there, and certainly not a ''wheeler dealer'' on the buy-sell-buy merry-go-round, although have done a few dealings myself, but purchased and sold my amps due to the ''insatisfaction'' bug that seems to develop with audiophiles - you know - getting good stuff but still searching for flaws ?

Just for the record, here is a partial list of past equipement owned in the last 10 years.

Sonic Frontiers Power 1 with Line 1
Sonic Frontiers Power 2 with line 1 and also line 2
Sim audio I-5 first generation
Sima audio I-5 latest generation (now that's a dumb mistake didn't learn my lesson the first time...)
Magnum Dynalab MD-208 ( sorry, but the Stereophile class''A'' rating is a complete joke )
Cary 572 monoblocks with Cary preamp
McCormack DNA-125
Electrocompaniet EC-3
Audiomat Arp├Ęge
Naim Nait2
Naim preamp and amp combo

Now, these are not state-of-the-art by any stretch of the imagination, but I did have state-of-the-art speakers to evaluate these amps. I was very lucky to own a magnificient pair of Verity Audio Parsifal speakers for a period of 3 years. Now that's a $ 15,000 (retail)speaker that, beleive me, makes great music but above all can reveal the naked truth of the amps I had the pleasure to own. I no longer own them, as I have Sonus Faber speakers (Grand Piano Home). Not in the same league of course, but having lived with the Verity speaker for these years gave me some training in separating speakers that sounded musical from the ones that sounded just spectacular for a brief moment. The Sonus Faber line is up there in musicality in my opinion, and one could do much worst for a whole lot more money. They just don't do as much as the megabuck speakers do and have few flaws. I do invite you to read my review posted here on the Verity Audio Parsifal, a truely amazing speaker.

So, in closing, everything is still highly subjective and personnal, I just did not want people to think that this thread was initiated without giving it some thought....

Cheers everyone!
Your taste in speakers is much like mine, I would guess. I would love to have Parsifals or Sonus Fabers, although I don't know the GP Home at all. I will remember that you think Sim and Aronov amps are a poor combination with these, next time I get a chance to hear them.
Just for the record, I don't think Aronov are bad amplifiers. It's just that in my humble opinion they are not as good value as others. On the value ladder, it's just that the top rungs dot not belong to the Aronov. My personnal experience with them: loose bass, unclear imaging and humming transformers. But do remember I had a very revealing set of speakers....playing the same through $ 1,500 PSB speakers my prove to be very different.
Three Aronov owners have already taken the time to point out their favorable experiences, but the fact that they may be enjoying "tight" bass, "clear" imaging, and lack of audible transformers does not erase the fact that Audiogon is the voice of the people, including each individual. If one person is determined to knock one company's product then this constitutes one vote. It is necessary to point out that there is at least one individual (and sometimes more than one) with a negative opinion of virtually any item in comparison to others. This is evident in reading discussions over the years. I think Aronov owners feel protective of "our" company, because the company is so invisible to the greater audiophile community. When its only mention in the archived discussion is so uncomplimentary then one wishes to defend against such a dismissive attitude. Still, as a premise, discussing "worst value" in audio is not going to attract the positive energy and helpful posts for which Audiogon is known. I guess I should dismiss this entire thread as "worst value." My first flame ever, and I feel better already. Notice how each of us can be an army of one in a multi-channel audio world.
In this audio world of $ 2,000.00 interconnects, $ 4,000 cartriges, and $ 10,000 room treatment equipment, not counting the expensive tweaking toys, this is an expensive hobby, and the opportunity for spending money in a less-than-wise manner abound. I have not been negative about anything. As in all things, there are products on the upper ladder and others below. But it's only MY opinion.How many high-end manufacturers do you know that advertise as being ''second best'' or third best'' ? They ask % 100 of your money for a % 100 promise of % 100 performance. Yet, how many provide % 100 satisfaction as promised? It is very realistic to speak of value, and one is confronted everytime with the spending of hard-earned money on these toys, as they are toys. Audiogon is a forum of free speech, and I am absolutely certain that most people have their own idea of what constitutes a bargain or a scam. I just happened to share my views, without bias, and I had hoped without criticism. This is not the case apparently. Why do we not let the statistics rule? I have no trouble with 100 different opinions that are different than mine. This is democracy. And this is why I like this forum! Why don't we just chalk it down to me having bad ears? Case closed.
sonicbeauty,you don't have to explain to the neanderthals,they probably voted for know,everybody thinks along the same lines.don't have a independent're upsetting the powers that be.i don't mean to be redundant,but thanks again for this great thread.. pax

jim b.
Route 9, I DID vote for Bush and I'm still able to see the merit in the thread. Go figure. You'll do better sticking to stereo and staying away from stereotype.