The Bryston 4B-ST is one of the best amplifiers on the planet outside of spending crazy money. It gives you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It doesn't pretend to smooth over a bright system or liven up a dull system, it simply amplifies whatever it is fed. Transparency and control are the hallmarks of the 4B-ST. Try it Rick and you will not go back to anything else. Just make sure your preamp is up to the task, preferably a BP20 or 25. I'm sure anyone else who's used one can attest to this. You'll never see mine come up for sale.
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I love mine but there are other good choices - Aragon, Marsh, Classe, etc. All are great products. You should be able to get a 4BST near your budget limit - don't let a newer one get away for $100 over your limit. Superb build, great control and the best warranty in the biz. I let my Bryston preamp go in favor of a tube preamp and as long as I own 4 ohm speakers the 4BST will be buried with me...
I'm another very satisfied owner of a 4BST. It truly is just an amplifier. By this I mean that it really does not have its own sonic signature. It takes its input signal, and adds voltage and current faithfully, and in some cases with brutal honesty. I'm a classical recording engineer that values linearity and reliability. The Bryston will always be my reference.
Here are your contenders in this price range: Aragon 8008BB, Bryston 4BST, Classe (can't recall the model number), McCormack DNA 1 (not quite 200 watts @ 8 ohms) If your willing to spend a little more there's the Krell KAV250. I'm sure others will offer more. All these are great amps w/ loyal followers. Check out audioreview.com
I can't compare Bryston to all the other numerous solid state choices out there, but I'd agree with Mountainking that if ou can do better than a 4B-ST you're going to have to spend somej VERY serious money. That doesn't mean the other amps mentioned by P_mmk aren't worthy of consideration. I do think, though, that if you've got less than $2K available to buy a used amp, you're going to be pretty happy with any of the ST series components (or the matching preamps).
I replaced my Adcom 5500 amp last spring with a Bryston 4B-ST, and I am continually amazed at the improvement in sound quality. Every aspect of the audio quality is greatly improved -- transparency, deep bass control, detail, transient response, etc. I have both owned and heard more expensive amps than the Bryston, but none better it. Throw in a unconditional, transferrable 20-year warranty, and you've got a great product. You may not be aware that Bryston also manufactures the Lexicon product line of home theater equipment -- which ought to give you a gauge of their product quality. Before you buy your amp used, may I suggest you contact the man that sold me my Bryston. His name is Danny Oovlin, and he owns "Bestofdeal", a clicks-and-mortar high-end audio business in Santa Clara, CA. Danny offers very professional service and excellent prices (usually much below MSRP). The easiest way to initially contact Danny is by E-mail at: "[email protected]". I plan to buy several more Bryston products from Danny this spring (SP-1, and 5B-ST amp), and recommend him highly.
My amp of choice until the Marsh came out. Read my recent posting on the Marsh in a recent thread (Marsh vs. Odyssey). Compared to the Marsh the Bryston has thinner highs (read more compressed), less bass control and a less refined midrange. Still, these are nuances: if you value a manufacturers long term commitment and track record over just the sound you might pick the Bryston.
I have been very happy with my 4BST. If you decide to go with a Bryston then you definitely want one of the ST series as it has a much lower noise floor than the previous generation of amps. The fully transferable warranty can't be beat. A pot in the right channel of my amp went bad last summer. All I had to do was to pay shipping one way to the repair center to get it fixed. As far as sound quality it compares very favorably with a Krell KSA 200S that I own. All in all, its rates as a best buy in MHOP.
Rick, get a used Adcom 5802 Amp and have Stan Warren modify it. Stan Warren used to be the S in P.S Audio. This guy is an amazing modifier. He modified my 5802 for 300 dollars. He took out the so so parts and put in top quality parts. After this mod, i have to tell you, this Amp sounds so great. The Amp as it is, is a great Amp. But after the Stan Warren mod, this Amp goes to a new level. You can talk to Stan. His number is 541 344 3696