I would look in a used Plinius SA 100 or a Pass X 150, both of these amps have tube-like sound for under 2500 dollars. Good Luck.
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You will of course have to buy used since they are no longer made. There is a company here that sells the last of the Aleph 30s with 30% off.
I have the Aleph 30 and it is wonderful, thoroughly recommended if you can live with the limited power. At the present price you could by two and bi-amp, but this depends on your speakers. See Dick Olsher's review on enjoythemusic.com.
Check out YBA, of the many SS amps I've heard these are definetly the closest thing to tube I've ever heard. They make some of the best electronics you can buy. They have several different lines at varying price levels for you to look at. Personally I like the 1 series. Here is the website for the their north american distributor.
With regards to the liquid musical timber, the pace, attack and vibrancy that a tube amplifier can naturally offer (if it is a good tube design and driving a load within it's peak operational performance values), I would suggest that you purchase a used Rowland amp. The Rowland amps seem to "pull" at you to drag you into the vastness of their soundstage (much like a tube amp) and they make you "feel" as if you are a "part" of the musical performance ... and they do it no matter "what" the volume setting... From "barely" able to hear it (microdynamics) to "front row" (concert level) loudness, the Rowland amplifiers are (quite simply) "magical". I am (currently) using Maggie 1.6QR's with a Rowland 112 and it is Audio Nirvana. The result is downright scarey with its holographic imaging and emotionally riviting involvement. Rowlands are not about "power" or "spec's" ... they about stating the "art" and bringing out "musical emotion". Your hunt for an amp will (forever) be over and you will never turn back.You can pick up Rowland within your budget (used), but models will vary. The 112 is usually a tad more than you wish to spend, but who knows what one may find ?
I've owned conrad johnson tube amps for 14 years...and so has my brother-in-law...other than retubing and replacing the on-off switch...no hassles. My formerly owned solid state amps from Hafler and Carver went to the shop more frequently (once each). I also currently own Bryston ... never has broken and has a 20 year warranty. So...are you sure SS amps are less hassle? This has NOT been my experience to date though I'm sure others disagree. Retubing is relatively epensive, but accounts for less than .2 % (.002) of our gross income every third year. We spend more on going to the movies than on new tubes. Lord knows I literally get more useage (time) out of the tubes than the theaters. The c-j s are easy to bias also. I understand Audio Research and VTL are similarly easy to live with. I've also heard good things about Quicksiver tube products and Sonic Frontiers regarding ease of use and lack of problems.
Not to rain on anyone's parade, but no ss amp sounds like tubes. If you want the best that tubes have to offer, then get a great tube amp. There are some very good ss amps, but they don't sound like tubes. The best ss has to offer tends to be at prices that equal or far exceed the price of great tube gear. Stne418 is absolutely correct. I've had far more problems with ss amps over the years than tube amps. Besides, "tube rolling" can allow you to easily mix and match to better accommodate other new additions to your system. Any ss amps out there that can offer the same flexibility? Great tubes and great ss can provide years of enjoyment, but don't kid yourself. They do sound different.
Jctubes,I agree and disagree. I own the YBA Passion Integre. For my ears, this integrated is very sweet, tubelike, and offers the best that ss can deliver. Yes, it's definitely not a tube, but, eyes closed with some great jazz--you can be fooled that you're in tubeland. It's a beauty. Have a listen, and trust your ears. I have listened to a lot of integrateds, and for my money, the Passion is the best out there. Ok, the Tenor is probably better, but I can't say anything first hand, because I haven't given it a listen,......peace
I have determined that the sound I like is the warm mellow slightly dark one very similar to tube sound. The SS amps that fall in this catergory are (WRT family sound): CJ, BAT, Pass, Classe, McIntosh. There are surly more but these are the ones I know. I don't really like the YBA integre (DT or passion - heard them both). I perhaps had too high hopes from all the hype they seem to get but I thought they were similar: thin and a little bright. BUT this is only my opinion - it was just not my type of sound but I realize with the right system they may be perfect. Arthur
I just went through this a month ago. There are no SS amps that sound like tubes. You need to be more specific in what type of sound you are looking for when you say tube sound. I compared over twelve popular SS amps in the $3K - $6K price range. There was a recent review of the Spectron Musician II amp where the reviewer said it sounded like their BAT VK-75SE, no to my ears, I had them side by side. No even close in my sytem.
If you are looking for a warm sounding SS amp, Aragon, Belles 150A, Pass x or Alpha (you need to hear these to determiine which one you prefer), McCormack DNAs are very good amps that are no harsh sounding.
Hope thins helps.
You might want to add Music Fidelity to your list. These are a Brittish SS design that I heard driving much more expensive speakers (the Avalon Opus), and provided a very involving and musical presentation compared to Spectral SS amps that cost 4 times as much. My experience has been that musicality comes at the expense of resolution.
The Rowland Model 2, Concentra or Concentra II (the last two integrated) are good options. I have had numerous tube amps which were not missed once the Rowland came in here. I think that "tube" amps don't always sound like "tubes" in the historical stereotype they are associated. Todays SS and tube amps are so close to "neutral" either can go a bit warm or analytical. So the best thing to do is find an amp which mates well with your speakers. For tubes, I enjoyed the Music Reference MKII as well as anything. The SS options out there to listen to are the Classe amps which are very warm and grainless and others previously listed. The Pass are exceptionally smooth also. But my preference was listed first... Rowland. They are warm, detailed, fast, and just sound like music, combining all the best fetures of other amps. Jallen
Rowland & Aloia are both good suggestions above.
Surprised that no one has suggested the Ayre V3! Typically recommended as a "tube-like" sound; go to Stereophile's website archives & check out their review of the Ayre V3 - it's amazing. Presently available used for around $1800 or perhaps less, but definitely get one with the Ayre Conditioner power supply upgrade. Sounds much better than any tube product :)
Another pathway to "tube" euphoria would be to use a Musical Fidelity (Thank's PhaseCorrect !) X-10D between the Pre-amp and amp. They really do turn the sterile, chalky, Surface of the Sun, bleached sound (of Solid State) into a pleasing and listenable event. They are quite cheap as well. Musical Fidelity does not make them any more, but they pop up (on AudiogoN) from time to time (about 150.00). They use two 6DJ8/6922 tubes and they react well to "tube rolling".In a way, this whole topic is a tad moot at the price range that you are trolling in. 2500.00 for a "used" (or NEW) amplifier is a BUNCH of money (for SS or Tube). No matter what "Solid State" amp that you choose, it will have many positive facets in its favor (and should not have many that will disappoint). There are "always" exceptions to this and I'm sure that we (as Audiophools) have "all" had a "bad experience" or two (or nine). There is no "Gospel" in amp buying.
The Musical Fidelity "A" series does have a nice midrange warmth to it and is very smooth, but I wouldn't ever confuse it for a tube amp, it does many things much better then tube amps typically do. The new SS MF gear is startling in its quietness and 3D layering, the top end is superbly extended and the bass is articulate and goes deep (though not very full), and the sound is blazingly fast, all of which makes it vastly superior to most tube amps I've heard under $3K in those regards, as they had the typical noise, rolled off topend, soggy bass and lack of oomph. I'm guessing if someone wants "tube-like sound" from SS, besides the epxense, they probably want to avoid those negatives usually found in tube amps in the stated price range as well....
I've run tubes and solid state on some of the most revealing speakers ever made. I always strive for clarity, extension, and smoothness. For solid state (all used), Rowlands and Plinius, are very smooth and rich sounding. The Pass X-150 (I just sold one) is more lean, but excels in clarity and extension, plus dynamics.
Swampwalker, I read that last comment on Xmas eve while taking a respite between making batches of hand made chocolate chip cookies for friends. Wish I knew where to send yours because that one comment says a mouthful! Thanks for putting it so well and so succinctly.
Merry Xmas to everyone. Thanks for all the education and help in making my trip down audio lane such a pleasant stroll these last few years.
Twl's four little words should have ended this thread. Not knocking SS, but I have never heard a SS amp sound like a tube amp. Don't give up on tubes yet. There are some very reliable tube amps that need nothing more than re-tubing every couple years. If you have been using tube amps you may find SS to be SS. Hope you find what you are looking for. "Only tubes are tubes". Wish I said that.