A used B&K amp can be had for that price. Also, for a few hundred more you could get a new factory direct Emotiva amp that has serious watts/current. My friend has one powering Maggies and it sounds very nice for the price point. Will run the Mirages easily.
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I had the M1si, newer version, for many years and you are right they are power hungry. I started with an Adcom 545 (100watts) and ended up in the end with Mcintosh 500 watt amp. For $500 it will be hard to find anything that will bring the M1s to life, possibly an older high power Rotel or Adcom? As for your speaker cables try the Anti-Cable, Blue Jean, or DIY type as they will surely be a huge improvement over what your using now.
I used an Aragon 2004 Mk II for several years on Mirage M5si with very good results. While not optimal for the M1, it would be better than what you are using. An Acurus A250 would probably work well also. I second a look at the Emotiva amps in your price range. Stretch your budget just a little and the Parasound Halo A23 becomes an option.
I'm a long time owner of Mirage floorstanding speakers, including a pair of M5si's I've had for 16 years. You definitely want both power and current, and large gauge cable going to the woofer inputs. I use a 6-gauge cable run to my bi-wirable M5si's. I'd use *at least* 12-gauge wire with the M1s.
The factory specs for the M1 indicate a sensitivity of 83 dB. This is *low*. You need to aim for the most power and current you can get at your budget, preferably high current amps in the 150-200 wpc neighborhood. You can find used high current, high power amps within your budget from Adcom, Parasound, Rotel, older PS Audio, and--as mentioned--Aragon.
If you're willing to go a bit above budget, you can get a new warranteed pair of 200-watt Outlaw Audio M2200 monoblocks for $700.
I just remembered: They aren't nearly as common as used Adcoms, but a *really good* amp well within your budget is the Heathkit AA-1600. I use one of these to power a pair of Mirage OMD-15s and it's marvelous. It's rated at 120 wpc but I think it's actually more like 180. It weighs 41 lbs which is more in keeping with a high current 150-180 wpc amp and it acts and sounds like it.
I picked mine up in very good condition just last summer for $239 at a retail hi-fi store. That's about what they go for on eBay. Even better is its high-powered big brother, the AA-1800. Those go for more like $600-750 but are easily worth it. Very well built, really good-sounding, fast and articulate without being edgy. The AA-1800 was rated at 250 wpc but typically puts out 350.
Yes. That's an even better suggestion than the Outlaw monoblocks I mentioned. 100 wpc more for only an extra $100. Right now they're on backorder but worth the wait. Given that the 1st-gen M1s weren't bi-ampable (except by special order), a fast 300 wpc high current stereo amp is a good idea.
Thanks to all for these very helpful answers! I ordered some gauge 10 cables from Blue Jean and am looking at used heathkit now. The emotiva seems a bit out of my range at this time. Are they ever on sale?
Also, carver is a name I came across with some rather powerful amps for relatively low price. The amps tend to be on the lighter side though (<20lbs). Would anyone recommend this brand to drive the M1's?
Also, I have the bi-ampable version.
I second the idea of looking for a used Rotel or Adcom amp. I'll add NAD to the mix. Tons of used deals to be had on all of them, and I think you'll be happy. I've got a 15-20 year old 200 wpc Rotel tank powering my office system and it's quite good. You can find them and NADs on ebay for pretty cheap.
Go with the Heathkit AA-1600 or AA-1800. I've used a fairly beefy high current Carver P175 and currently use a Heathkit AA-1600. The Heathkit is crazy good for the money and has an engaging combination of crunt, current, and very musical, non-clinical neutrality. Good resolution for the money too.
You might want to consider an NAD amp - they have tremendous reserve power capabillity. NAD watts are better than most other mfgr's watts. A 125 watt NAD 270 will walk all over most 150 watts/ch. amps. Here's one on Audiogon for well under your budget:
You could start with one and then upgrade by buying another and bridging them. The power output will be phenomenal when bridged...