Getting started, need amp recommendation

I recently tossed out my 15 year old Pioneer speakers and stepped up to a gently used pair of Paradigm Mini Monitors. BIG improvement! Needless to say, these are a bit more revealing of the (lack of) quality of my other components. Next on the chopping block is my old Kenwood receiver. I have been looking into units from NAD, Rotel, and the Acurus DIA-100. In the sub $400 price range, has anyone got a recommendation for a used integrated amp or possibly receiver for a newbie with mini monitors? This is my first foray outside Circuit City-level of components, and I would appreciate some guidance. I like the detailed nature of the Paradigms, but I can imagine that a bright sounding amp could get a little annoying with them. Maybe it's just the contrast with my previous speakers that I hear.
You will probably get your share of posts here. I suggest you make use of the Audiogon search engine. Each time you see an amp that might interest you, enter it into the discussion search engine and you will visit many threads with lots of commentary on your question. Many threads will lead you to other products which, in turn could use another search.

You will probably need to decided if you want to stick with a receiver or go with seperates. Then comes the ever-running tube vs. solid state(I am a "tube" guy, myself)

Good luck, and have fun.
If you can get by w/o a remote look into the Jolida 301 int. amp. Don't let the size fool you. (Wonderful sounding. Pre-amp stage uses 2 ECC 83 tubes) If you decide to go w/a
solid state int. amp the NAD C-350/Marantz PM series would be fine choices. Another possible choice would be a Kora "Explorer" hybrid int. amp. (A dealer is selling a demo @ a very reasonable cost. Down to Earth Audio in Salem, Va. 24153.) Good Luck!
sub 400 $ range is asking alot. Good bang for the buck is the Rotel .
While this might fly in the face of a lot of "audiophiles" that will read this, i would suggest taking a look at this
Yamaha M-80 or this Yamaha M-80 listed here on Agon. While this is strictly an amp without a means of multiple source selection, it does have input gain controls. This would allow you to directly feed it a signal from a CD or DVD player and adjust the volume using the amp's gain controls. Obviously, this means that you don't have a phono section or any way to select various inputs if you have multiple sources, but this is a good amp at a good price.

For those that aren't familiar with it, it is a true dual mono design i.e. a separate iron core ( non-toroidal ) transformer for each channel. It is quite capable of driving difficult loads and may be one of the very best sounding "mass produced" amps that ever came out of Japan at a reasonable price. Obviously, anything at this price point can easily be improved upon, but in a side by side shoot-out, one of these amps absolutely "wasted" a Bryston 4B in every category possible. The amp has plenty of power for most uses, reducing the risk of out-growing it should you change to lower efficiency speakers or "really want to rock" with what you already have. As a side note, Paradigm speakers typically work best with higher powered amps of at least pretty reasonable current capabilities.

As things progress, you could look for a good but fairly priced used preamp should you need source selection and / or a phono stage.

As to the bad things about this amp, i absolutely HATED working with the "binding posts" on this amp. As one can see from the photo's that the seller has posted, the connections are not like normal "binding posts". If you are using bare wire connections, it might not be a big deal though. Other than that, i do have a copy of a review of this amp complete with test bench results. If someone purchases this amp and wants a copy, they can drop me an email and i'll see what we can work out.

If you are looking for a reasonably priced integrated amp complete with phono stage, take a look at this Kyocera unit. For those that aren't familiar with Kyocera, they are the same company that makes the "high end" CEC belt drive CD players / transports and similar models for Parasound. The name Kyocera comes from Kyoto Ceramics, as this is the parent company to Cybernet. Cybernet is one of the largest electronics manufacturers in the world and produce products for other companies under many, many different brand names. Sean

PS... I have NO affiliation with the sellers of these items or any other items currently on Agon.
There is an Outlaw Audio 1050 receiver for sale on audiogon, it's listed around $400 but does state obo. If you: click on bluebook on the audiogon main page, click on o for outlaw, click on outlaw audio, click on 1050 receiver, you will be able to read a ton of mag. reviews on this receiver. It will not make your Paradigm's sound brite and is one of the best bang for buck receivers you can find in your price range.
In this price range, you should seriously consider the ART SLA-1. You can get a new one for about $200 delivered. There was considerable buzz about this amp a few weeks ago on AudioGon, and a few of us took a small gamble and ordered one to try in our systems. In the end, I decided to stay with my Plinius SA-102, but the SLA-1 performed admirably in my system with components costing many times more. Check the archives for more detailed information. There is a splendid review by one of the members that nails the pros and cons of the SLA-1. If I were just starting out and working with your budget, I wouldn't think twice about it.

Good luck.
Rotel and NAD offer good value in your price range. As Unclejeff indicated, there have been lots of similar discussions here, so do research the archives.

Good luck!
My vote is the Acurus DIA100 or I've seen some DIA150's posted for $450... I heard the little DIA100 (which has a passive preamp built in) power some PSB Gold i Speakers and it was amazing.. Erroring on the high side of power gives you lots of options. I will probably buy one of these for my father when they return from London to power a set of Magnepan's.

If you are new to the whole audiophile thing, stay away from the tube integrated or you might get a bad taste in the mouth if you didn't expect to tinker with the amp a lot, unless you have a local dealer or buying from someone used near you to show you the ropes.

NAD and Rotel also will work but the Acurus has more horsepower and was a much more expensive piece.

You can do an advanced search and use the first three digits of your zip code to identify local for sale adds. remember there are quite a few zips in your area.
I second the NAD and Rotel recommendations and would like to add to the list Cambridge Audio A300 V2.0. It is a nice sounding 50wpc unit that is only $250.00 new. Also a used Creek would fit your budget nicely.

Good Luck!!!!
Save yourself! Run, hide under a rock, turn up the TV, do whatever you need to do to avoid setting toe one on this consuming primrose path! (You've been warned...). Otherwise, welcome to the loonie bin.
A real sleeper...Pioneer elite a35r intergrated with phono...around $150-200 new online...comes with phono...and has a nice warm sound that will work well with the Paradigms...which are a tad bright...also...if you like the minis...check out the studio 20s...a major upgrade for not much more...good luck...also...
Mezmo: that's just how I feel sometimes about this new 'hobby'. :)

I appreciate all the recommendations. There is a dearth of hi-fi gear close to home for me to audition, but I am near enough Ann Arbor and Detroit to have some options. The Cambridge and Creek models are something I hadn't stumbled across on a-gon yet. They look very interesting! As for tubes - hmm - I do intend to spend more time listening than tweaking no matter how much I know about electronics.

I'm going off topic on my own thread, but I noticed another post where someone was upgrading both CD and amp. One response got me to thinking - they said spend more on source, less on the amp. Am I going about this upgrade path in reverse order? My CD player is a circa 1990 Kenwood as well. I planned to replace that later rather than sooner.

Exp_gort, If you ever want to listen to the Vmps line of speakers, Today's Audio here in Flint has them.
I auditioned an NAD 320BEE ($400 list) and an Arcam DiVA 65 Plus ($600 list). I liked the Arcam quite a bit better so now I am considering a bigger budget. I sure that almost never happens to anyone shopping hi-fi :). Anyway, with a $600 plateau, I see that the Audiolab 8000S, the Audio Refinement Complete, and the Creek 4330MkII (all used) are within reach. Considering I like the detail of the Arcam better than the 'warmth' (for lack of a better term) of the NAD, does anyone have relative suggestions for me comparing the A.R.C., 8000S, and the Creek model? Anyone auditioned any of these side by side? Thanks!