I worry about very small companies. There are threads here about problems with companies closing at a moments notice with no future support. I would get an Adcom GFA 545 mkII if I were you. Good luck!
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I have the Channel Islands VMB-1 mono-blocks and they are really good sounding amps. I have owned amps that cost twice as much but didn't sound nearly as good to my ears.
I was tempted last week by a pair of Scott Nixon mono-blocks that showed up here on AudiogoN. I would love to try them as I've fallen squarely into the "less is more" camp when it comes to audio.
Samson servo 120 amp ($189.00 from sweetwater) amd Onix amps from av123 are two others that comes to mind.
I have tried the Harman Kardon HK 3470 receiver which was really good for the $180. Lacked bass power, depth, and the highs had a little artificial sheen.
Aball good point about buying from a stable company. But I've heard the Adcom on B&W Nautilus then the dealer switched to Classe. I was forever ruined as to the grainy bright sound of Adcom amps.
The CIaudio VMB-1's are a lot more expensive than the Samson at $999 direct from Dusty. The SN amps are a bit less expensive, but a far cry more than $189.
I'm not a betting man, but I would guess that the Samson sounds more like the Adcom than the Channel Islands.
Lastly, the CIaudio and SN amps have a lot less power than the Samson. If you can get by with lower power, like 30-50 watts of solid state, there are a lot of inexpensive choices. In addition to CI, SN and Clari-T, you could likely get by with a single Monarchy Audio SM-70 or SM-70Pro for about $300-400 used or a Quad 99 for $400 used.
The Quad 99 might be a good choice as it has more power and it has gotten some great reivews.
Cdc I'm not clear on the budget or power requirements. So I'm throwing a few things at you.
I've owned the Monarchy SM70. It is a very musical amplifier for sure! I can't say much bad about it. I really enjoyed it. I've also owned a several Adcoms. The one I prefered out of the Adcom group was the 585 limited edition. Some of Adcom models can be grainy for sure !
I've only spent several hours at a time with Rotel.IMHO a much smoother sounding brand than Adcom. The Odyssey Stratos is also a smooth sounding amplifier but it seems a bit slow for my taste. It has a warm tonality and not as transparent as some other brands I've heard. The Musical Fidelity stuff(like the A300) seems to have a similar tonality.It never seems obtrusive but it does smooth over certain details in the music. It is pleasant to listen to however. It was one of the quietest SS amplifiers I've owned..must be the chokes.It would be a cure for already bright speakers.
I also owned SS Mcintosh which depending on the model,can be purchased used under $1000. I like the Macs for HT but for music they always seem to leave me lacking. Definitely not the most transparent amplifiers. But musical in their own way. Even after listening to the flag ship monoblocks I still got this feeling of lacking about their sound.
The Carver ZR1600 is a beast! The only down fall I could really find in it was the lack of transparency and a high noise floor compared to some other amplifiers. Other than that these amplifiers rock!
Forte 50 wpc class A modified..these are very musical amplifiers that also posses warmth. With it comes speed and transparency compared to Adcom,Rotel,SS Mac and Musical Fidelity. These can be bought fairly cheap and modified.
Another favorite of mine is the Van Alstine Dynaco ST 120. This has to be one of my top favorite amplifiers. It reminds me of the Monarchy SM 70. It just has more punch and a tad deeper/ see through soundstage. Extremely musical little amplifier.
The Van Alstine gear has a sweetness about it like nothing else that I've owned.
The Flying Moles which I also owned are picky about speaker combinations. With the wrong speakers these amplifiers will make you leave the room. With the right speakers they posses a set like quality with way more slam!
The Amber integrated stuff not made anymore has a musical sound about it. Sometimes these come up for sell for cheap.Once you crack one open though..you quickly find out just how well the Amber gear is made.It puts some of the newer gear to shame in build quality.It also sounds pretty good as well. With an edition of new gold rca inputs and copper binding post these integrates would still give some much higher price gear a run for it's money IMHO!
Now to the little ClariT. Man we're talking a whole nother ball game. It may not work in every system. But when you hear it in one it shines in you will know it.
It is one of the most transparent amplifiers I have ever heard. There's plenty of amplifiers with more warmth and lushness.But the things this little guy can do are simply amazing.
It leaves the big wattage amplifiers I've owned in the dust when it comes to transient attacks and dead silent backgrounds. IMHO the little companies get the edge in refinement and bang for the buck.IMHO Adcom, Rotel,Musical Fidelity, unmodded Forte and even some of the Mac gear aren't even close to being in the same league as the ClariT. When it comes to giving you the music and then getting out of the way! The ClariT is at the top of my list. These are my own observations, others may differ.
Good Luck with the Hunt!
Thanks, Reubent, Gmood1, and Aball. I guess my question is can a relatively inexpensive integrated "do it" for sound quality? Creek is a good example but their $500 4330 is now the $1,000 A50. Not the bargain it used to be.
I can get by with some pretty cheap speakers and CDP, but the amp is the sticking point. Rotel, Adcom, Cambridge Audio, and other bargain amps get annoying real quick.
20 watts is enough but the amp needs to be 1) NOT bright, which IMHO is electronic "hash" from high frequency intereference, electrical crosstalk, etc. 2) fast but not with distortion common to SET amps 3) Not grainy - even the older Creek 4330 was surprisingly grainy compared to Musical Fidelity.
Gmood1, isn't the ClariT about $20 from Target? If you have any links on Amber and Flying Mole amps, please post. Thanks.
No the ClariT is $500 which includes shipping. This isn't a sonic impact. I know some try to compare the two, but this is a different animal for sure! Electronic cross talk and hash aren't even remotley close in the describing this little integrated.While on the redwine site checkout the testomonials ..no one mentions any of the negative artifacts you describe.Here's the moles website Flying Moles. If you need more power than the ClariT..check out the Modified Teac AL700P. Or maybe a modified SHARP SD-EX111 ALL-IN-ONE UNIT . None of these units are bright or grainy. Infact the Flying moles are the bright ones out of this group IMHO.They are also more expensive than the rest.