Help me pick an amp for under $5,000

So I finally have the scratch for an amp and I'm looking for some help. My system consists of a Sony SCD-1, Music Hall MMF-7 (new table in the works), Aesthetix Janus Preamp, and Totem Forests. I posted a thread a couple of days ago but only got one taker (I think I posted it too late at night, or it was too specific).

When I initially heard the aesthetix it was with a Bat VK-250SE and JM LAB 926BEs. I loved the BAT's sound (although find the look of it to be questionable, but I could get over that) but I'm wondering what else I should be looking at in this price range (slightly over is okay too) that would mate well with what I have, and with any possible speaker upgrades, since the Totem's aren't the last word for me (new listening room is 17x20 with high ceilings, so I worry about them dissapearing).

I'd like to stay with SS, and realistically think 150wpc into 8 ohms and above, just to cover myself incase my next speakers are power hungry. So what else would mate well? Parasound JC-1s have been mentioned, but can't get a ton of input on the match with the rest of the gear. Pass X250.5? Something from Simaudio? I feel a bit at a loss since I've not been able to hear the aesthetix with my speakers or other amps, so help is much needed.

FWIW I listen to everything, but concentrate on Jazz, folk/acoustic, Indie rock, soul. and classic rock, with some avante-garde classical thrown in.

Thanks a ton!
Listen to, and then buy one of these: McIntosh MC252 or McIntosh MC402. If you can go for the 402, you're done for a looooooong time.

McCormack DNA 1 upgraded by Steve McCormack to Platinum (SMCAudio).
a mac mc402....and it would be just fine if you upgrade your speakers, though the forests and the mac will fill your big room
I would go for the JC1s. I have them and have compared them to a few different high powered amps including, Ayre V5xe, VTL 450s, Innersound ESL 300. I like these the best and love the power. I think you would learn to love the extra power and in time probably never want to do without it again. The JC1s are smooth on top and have great bass with plenty of drive for dynamics to be top notch. If you are a hyper detail freak they may not be what you want, but to me they are musical. They are a great deal to for their price.

You didn't mention Ayre, but as a caution I've hear that Ayre amps do not work well at all with the Aesthetix preamps
Try a pair of NuForce Reference 9s. You can buy with a 30 day return policy.
I am not affiliated with them. But I do have a pair.

Bob Wood
I agree with Bob, the Nuforce are worth auditioning.
Whatever you get stay balanced. The Janus is going to be much better with the balanced outputs and into a balanced amp.
Another vote for the MC 402! I own an Aesthetix IO into a Plinius CD LAT driving my MC402 with great results. Leaves little on the table.
sim audio 5 le would be my choice of indulgence!
Get a Mac 402 - best amp I have ever heard or owned. Yep, that darn good. Used $3500 or so.

You need to audition for sure. I would add the Cary CAD500MB to my list as well. Yes I do own them so that is my bias. 500 watts of smooth and serious SS mono's, I stopped thinking about amps once I heard mine. YMMV of course and you should buy what your ears tell you is best.
Rowland Model 10. It replaced a Levinson 331 and Pass Labs X250. I recently posted a question asking whether anyone had upgraded from the 10 and, if so, to what. The question was more out of curiosity than anything else since frankly, I don't see where this amp can be bettered. Apparently, no one who has responded has followed this specific upgrade path. The going price for the 10 is $3200-3500 and worth every penny. So far it has held its value for as long as I've owned it.
Looks bad on the BAT ??? Maybe you saw the silver and black version. Go all black then. They have the all black pic posted on

Used, you can also go with a BAT VK75SE in your price range. The BAT tube amps are autobiasing, so tubes are really plug and play. I know you're asking for more power than 75/side. But I doubt you'd be disapointed. The vk75se drives the heck out of my wilson wp 6.0's.

The VK250SE is a amazing SS amp. The 75SE might have better mids is the difference.

Good luck !
McCormack DNA-500 and Belles 350A may be worth your time to check out also.

i gotta go with the reccomendations for a mcintosh amp,the power gaurd feature cant be beat as it allows you to use full power without adding distortion or endangering your speakers from overpowering or distorted power plus if you ever want to upgrade amps again you dont loose any cash at resale time :)

while the mc252 & mc402 (suggested above) are both great amps i would go with a mc500 instead,ive had all 3 in my home & the mc252 & mc400 were very close in power & performance but the mc500 was a much better amp in every way,the mc500 had what seemed to be an endless power reserve & was the most dynamic mac amp ive ever heard maybee even a little more dynamic than the 1201 monoblocks i have now.

the damping factor on the mc500 is double that of any mac amp other than the mc1000 monoblocks which really pays off in bass response at lower volumes & gives the amp a huge amount of head room,the mc500 is rated at 500 wpc in all ohmages but it pushes about 600 watts & has both single ended & balanced inputs.

you also mentioned wanting a good looking amp to replace your bat,i personaly think bat gear looks fantastic but to each his own,i put up a pic of the mc500 so you can judge its looks,i think the mc500 is one of the best values in hifi & at a average used price of $3,800 is extremly hard to beat.


Here is a nod to the Pass Labs .5 series. You can find some nice prices on demo units here on Audiogon. You can get the 250.5 for $4500 or less and you can get the 150.5 for a lot less than that (and it would probably be all you need). Of course, if you can demo an amp in your system it would be well worth your time.
So here's a long list of replies.

Ejlif: I'm very interested in the JC-1s, but can't find a store in NYC that sells them, nor one that would let me demo them in my system. I know you can order through AudioAdvisor and then return, but I want to demo any amp I'd be buying in my system, and the idea of demoing these with 0 hours on them is problematic. The guy I got my Janus from warned me about the Aesthetix/Ayre problem, which is great because I had been thinking of going with Ayre. Can anyone explain the problem to me in detail?

McIntosh Fans: I've never been that keen on Mcs, but haven't heard the 402. Since it got so many endorsements, I'll bring it home for a whirl.

Woodburger: I can't seem to get to the Nuforce website. Seems they let their domain name expire? Doesn't bode well for other areas of the business

Rello: I'm definitely staying with balanced connections (alas, no Edge amps for me) but I'm wondering how having my sony SCD-1 run into the janus will work, as it's not truly balanced. I know there are mods, but I'm thinking of adding a DAC first, so that may be one way to go all balanced.

Jfrech: Yeah, the black is much nicer (still can't figuer out why bat doesn't do any all silver) but the aesthetix and sony are silver, and I'm a little OCD about the matching bit. I sound like my ex g/f. I haven't listed any tube amps because the aesthetix is my first foray into tubes in my system. I'm thinking that since I'm doing all demoing at home, that I might just slide in the VK-75SE to see how it goes. I know i takea beating buying new, but I also get to listen to things in my system first with no outlay on my part.

Pardales: I saw one guy on AA who uses the 250.5 with his forests for a succesful combo. I'm interested in the amp, and love the look, but can't seem to find a pass dealer in NYC. Anyone know who carries them?

Digsmithd: I'll def. be trying out a Sim

Bigjoe: Thanks for the detailed info. I went to the Mc website but all I saw was the mc501, the monoblock version. is the mc500 discontinued? What does it run for?

Stew: Can't seem to locate a rowland rep in NYC that actually carries a full line, otherwise I'd throw them in too.

Thanks a ton evereyone, and keep the advice coming!
I have a pair of Nuforce 9's with the extended bass on order. I have heard and read too many good things on these amps to not try them. Keep researching!
mimberman,the mc500 is discontinued & nothing like the mc501, it's a better amp to my ear's & far above the newer mc402,the mc402 is a great amp but i thought the mc500 was so much better.

a reasonable price for a mint mc500 with shipping boxes is from $3,500 to $4,000,if you wish detailed tech info let me know & i will send you a few link's with detailed spec's.

If I am not mistaken, Stereo Exchange on Broadway downtown is a Rowland dealer.
Stew: you are correct, however, if you go to the store they actually have little Rowland in stock, compared to the other brands they push (Mc, Meridian, etc.).

So no votes for the Bat VK-250. Any VK-250 owners care to chime in? I mean, I'll be using my ears after all, but I'm always curious of other people's impressions.
Odyssey Sratos Extreme monoblocks have been very good to me, driving first a pair of Paradigm Studio 100 V 3's and now a pair of Intuitive Design Summit PSL 624 loudspeakers. This is a well regarded yet still underrated amplifier, in my opinion. New retail is about $2700. I wrote a review on the Odysseys and the Summits, if you're interested. The Odyssey review is the shorter of the two and can actually be read in a single day.......OK, the Summit review isn't THAT long either, but it's
Mimberman, I received the Nuforce 9.02's with the extended bass version and they sound great with my JM Lab 936's. The Proceed HPA-3 I was using is not in the same league as these. I dont know if you have made a decision yet but I would give them a try. Let them break in before any critical listening. At least 20-30 hours. They are very underated at 160w. You can go as hard as you want with these and they will not break up. Find the right combination with wires and speaker placement and I think you would be done. After listening you would think they would cost a whole lot more than they do. What I am hearing regarding there pre/amp is about the same.