Hidden Gems in Pre-Owned Solid State Power Amplifiers?


Browse the listings for power amplifiers (e.g. under $5K) and you notice a myriad of Classe, Parasound, Bryston, older McIntosh and Mark Levinson and lots of Pass Labs.
So many in fact that you wonder why.
What are the true audiophile gems in the pre-owned solid state market? Thanks in advance.
avanti1960
McCormack DNA with the mods.
Plinius, Belles, Krell of certain vintages.
If you are lucky you may find a Benchmark AHB2 for a few hundred dollars off the MRSP of $3K. They tend not to show up too often. Could be that not many were sold or people who bought them tend not to sell them.

Classe, Parasound, Bryston, older McIntosh and Mark Levinson and lots of Pass Labs.
I'd rather have the AHB2. 
The Killer B’s, Bedini, and BEL. Difficult to find them now performing to spec making honey nowadays. Most of them just like to buzzzz now.
The NAD Silverline series , Gryphon amp in a NAD chassis . Under $1000 on the used market 
Belles and McCormack with higher-level mods — beware the older models input boards are beginning to fail and need to be replaced.  I know this because I have one that needs a new board, and it’s an expensive repair. 
avanti1960
What are the true audiophile gems in the pre-owned solid state market?
Audio Research D-200, D-300.
@soix 
With SMc Audio's newer upgrades, they literally only use the chassis and heat sinks and virtually everything else, including the boards, is replaced.  Steve has my pair of DNA-1s that he is doing his "everything" upgrades to, including his new Gravity Base System that is supposed to make a substantial improvement.  I believe there are currently only a few amplifiers with this particular upgrade and I have read three owner testimonials, which are all very positive.  Mine will have new faceplates and should look and sound like substantially different/better amplifiers.
They are all up for sale for a reason.

Happy Listening
Parasound HCA series. John Curl design. Still sounds like magic. From early 90’s and can be had for a bargain. 
Aloia amps. They are 2 pieces (separate the power supply) and sound wonderful. 
Conrad Johnson MF2550SE; 250 wpc, teflon caps, all the good stuff.  Sounds very, very close to the $20,000 to $25,000 tube amps, and are listed on Audiogon now for less than 1/2 of the original retail of $8,000.

Yup, I have had both, and have seller's remorse.
@Ipretiring: I have a Bedini 150/150 and a BEL 1001, among others in my collection. Both still working fine! 
I'm with Bigkidz here. They are all for sale for a reason. "That new girl you just met? Someone somewhere is glad that she's gone!" 
There are lots of good SS power amps out there.  Most important thing IMO is to make sure that any amp over 15 years old has been inspected and serviced by a reputable technician.  Some of my favorites (besides the ones listed above):
1- Bryston Power Packs.  If the footprint works for you it's a lot of amp goodness for very little $
2- Adcom.  I like the GFA-555 MkII.  Some prefer the original.  Great cheap amp.
5- Meridian 555, 556, 557 and 559.  I have a 557 and it's a remarkable amp.  Built like a tank.
6- Hybrid amps.  A lot of my friends swear by hybrid (tube input section, SS output) amps.  Moscode 300s and 600s are cheap and plentiful; most will require rebuilding.  Sounds very different from an all SS amp.

+2 on Parasound HCA series.
Some others — McCormack DNA500, Conrad Johnson Premier 350, Sierra Denali, PBN amps
Original GAS amplifiers: Ampzilla, Son Of Ampzilla and Grandson. I have two Son's and a Grandson. One Son is presently making wonderful music with the DCM Time Windows!

bimmerman2
6 posts
12-08-2019 9:18pm
I'm with Bigkidz here. They are all for sale for a reason. "That new girl you just met? Someone somewhere is glad that she's gone!"

Could be he/she had commitment issues and you lucked into a winner!
Forte, Threshold, CODA and GAS.
It’s always a case of 100 different people stroking themselves heavily. It can’t really be avoided.. due to...:

With hearing being individually built on only ’similar’ hardware for each brain/ear, this situation is inevitable.

As we go through the stages of hearing or learning to hear ...and we can and do each take different paths and the end result is highly personal. Music is about emotion, a kind of thing that is below conscious recognition and rumination, not numbers on a page. We finally arrive at a scenario that might or could be called ’massive emotional and ego investment in our individual position’.

Even though there IS an actual ’absolute sound’.

This perfection, this absolute sound or ’that which hews closest to it’ gets lost among the din of noise of our individualism and individual levels and speeds of development or chapter we might be on, in our path to audio nirvana.

These threads can even be thought of as statements about ’I like it when my partner does me this way’. And then the inevitable, ’that’s disgusting’, and ’you should really try doing it this way instead’ kind of arguments.
The Proceed HPA series are fantastic, but be careful as they are getting quite old and may need to be recapped.
Parasound HCA series. John Curl design. Still sounds like magic. From early 90’s and can be had for a bargain.
I had an HCA 2200 II back in the mid 90s. When I brought in a McCormack DNA-1 it made the Parasound sound broken. I almost lost the sale of the Parasound when the new owner wanted to hear the DNA-1 in my room. The look on his face was priceless..........

Oz



@mitch2 — yeah I know.  That’s why it’s so damn expensive, but then your basically getting a whole new amp.  I’m thinking I might send mine to Steve for upgrades.  Can you let me know what you think when you get the amps back?  I know they’ll be awesome, but if you could describe the characteristics of the improvements after the upgrade it would be supremely helpful.  Thanks!
Sorry I sold my Jeff Rowland Concentra 2
@soix - no problem, I will let you know.
Monarchy Audio. Very nice sounding amps at very reasonable prices. New or used,a great value.IMHO. 
hopefully we find that one man's seller's remorse = another man's great deal and not always just a washed up, flawed hand me down.  
i find that it takes work to get the best out of new pieces in your system, new or used.  
although there are many repeat offenders that wind up on the used market often there are also many items being sold that I own or have owned and understand their value.  
in the end there are many audiophiles that just like to move on regardless.  

I've got a Classe' Audio int. I really like it. The adjustability is great. Nice basic unit.
Bought a McCormack DNA-2 Deluxe one year ago, absolutely beautiful sound and a Threshold S500 mkII is on the way this week to add to my collection. Totally happy with these old gems.
I have probably owned 20 amps over the 40 years as an enthusiast and a Dealer. Closed the Dealer doors some 10 years ago.

Probably the best overall SS amp was a Kinergetics KBA 75, a class A amp. I tried a number of amps to power my then Genesis Vs, the KBA was the only amp that made them stand up and boogie. I saw an upgraded one for sale recently at a very good price, if you can afford the electricity and need a room heater.

There are a couple reasons why you see so many vg amps being sold. Among them; people in the biz selling their older model, impedance mismatch between amp and preamp (more common than you think), a move from SS to tube, OR, a move from conventional SS to class D, and now to GaN. I have owned 6 different class Ds, including W4S, Audio Alchemy and PS Audio Stellar M700s (both bargains), but I have a large room and need more power

Recently I purchased a EVS 1200 direct from Ric Schultz. He starts with the current OEM dual 600w IcePower class D modules (which some people simply put in a box and sell). Not Ric. His are highly tweaked and rival the sound of my beloved KBA 75. He sells direct for a mere ~$2400 + options http://tweakaudio.com/EVS-2/EVS_1200_amplifier.html

Of late,Underwood HiFI has introduced a possible game changer: the Voyager GaN amp, for people who only need ~ 200-400 wpc. Comparing to other GaN amps, it is priced at about 1/10th their price. Underwood is shooting for late December release. I expect to have one soon, If interested, I have a very popular EVS 1200 thread, and will start one once I get the GaN

hth

The KBA75 that tweak1 mentioned for sale was probably mine.  I rebuilt one myself and sold it just a couple of weeks ago.  This is truly a gem of an amplifier.  It has a warm delicate nature, yet still very good detail. The buyer gave feedback that the amp is outstanding.  
Another old amp if properly rebuilt that is Equally good is a Sumo Nine.  Beware without the boards having several parts replaced,  it will not be in the league of the KBA75,  but when updated with quality parts,  this old amp is Excellent.  A few last amps that you don't see mentioned often is a Muse One Hundred Sixty,  Followed by a Muse One Hundred. I Also rebuilt an old Heathkit AA-1600 from top to bottom. Never hear anything about this old amp, but also Excellent.  As with old amps,  at a minimum power supply caps should be updated and most likely much more.  
@roberjerman I have a Bedini 150/150 and a BEL 1001, among others in my collection. Both still working fine! 


No Buzzzzing?    
Sweet!!
Reference Line Audio Silver Signature. Owned one for 20 years and it's still the best solid state amp I've heard.
Perreaux 2150B. 340wpc/8ohms, 680wpc/4ohms, 920wpc/2ohms! Can be found for around $1K. I have one! 

Belles and McCormack with higher-level mods — beware the older models input boards are beginning to fail and need to be replaced. I know this because I have one that needs a new board, and it’s an expensive repair.

True. I had a beloved DNA-1 Deluxe that I used for about 20 years, until it died. Caps or boards fried, and it got REALLY hot, POP! and then one channel failed. I was going to have it totally rebuilt (basically everything replaced, better than new) with the Gold upgrade, for about $2000. It’s a classic amp, but I decided to have Klaus Bunge at Odyssey Audio build me a Khartago++ for about $500 less, and it’s a great bargain amp (Jonathan Valin of Absolute Sound loves them as monoblocks, calling them a fabulous bargain).

I loved my McCormack, and Steve Mc is a brilliant designer. I would love to have a new DNA-1 Gold, top of the line upgrade.

Reference Line Audio Silver Signature. Owned one for 20 years and it's still the best solid state amp I've heard.
I still have a Reference Line PreEminence One passive line stage, and it's amazing. I can't bear to part with it, though it's not being used. I suspect it's like the Tortuga passive, which gets great reviews.

I'd heard his amps were great too. I cannot find anything about the owner of the company... it's like he vanished. Did he die?
 Harman/Kardon Citation 16.

Effortless power. There are a few very affordable upgrades that be done to make them even better. Under a thousand bucks for a good one as well. 
Nice thread. I will be in the market for one in the future. 
A lot of recommendations without any concern for what speakers will be driven (and their sensitivity, impedance, & phase angles) and the preamp/dac that will do the driving (and whether there will be an impedance mismatch between it and the amp)...

Also, plenty of amps are up for sale because of upgrades. People do buy more expensive models from within the same family simply because they love the sound and want "more of it." And some people end up with speakers that don’t match amps they love. I had to sell my Coincident Frankenstein 300b monos for that reason. It’s a lot easier to move an amp than a pair of 300lb speakers. Finally, ears and systems work differently and something that would sound terrible in one situation can be another person/system’s dream amplifier... usually because of problems in speaker/preamp matching.
I first started researching the older models of the Anthem MCA 20, 30, and 50 series of amplifiers but then just the other day I stumbled on the Anthem Integrated 2 Preamp (that I had never heard of) selling for less than $700 and later found out Part Connexion does rufurbs of Anthem products. Although it uses (2) 6922 vacuum tubes I think the Anthem Integrated 2 Preamp is going to be my head unit new toy.
Any love for the Cary solid state power amps? 
They come up regularly but don't seem to be a dime a dozen like many others....
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