I demoed the Usher Be 718's in my system running my KR Audio Kronzilla SXi, which is rated at 50W. I didn't have a problem with power. I enjoyed the speakers quite a bit.
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In recent months several SLI-80's have sold on A'gon at or very near to the upper end of your budget. The ones selling for $2300 are upgraded F1's. The standard Signature models go for less.
So if you really liked the sound of the SLI-80 why compromise by buying something else? Just sit tight, keep saving, and wait for the right deal to come along.
If you can't wait then consider a Plinius integrated. Their reputation is for being smooth and "tube like" for solid state.
I heard a 40 watt tube integrated and it didn't sound that great. Lots of reviews and forum posts have also stated the same.
Found another great possibility-- Rogue Tempest with 90 watts, well reviewed and in my price range.
However, when i was at the dealer, i demoed 550 watt monoblocks with a tube pre. The sound was just unbeatable-- and completely professional sounding. It even beat the pants off the Musical Fidelity A5.5 (the cary, too), which has 250 watts of power. I don't know if its just because they are monoblocks, or using a pre and amp instead of an integrated, but the sound was great.
It's a hard decision. All tube sound with the Cary was very nice. But having 550 watts behind it gave a completely new sound.
Anyone have any opinions on using the DAC/tube pre and 200watt monoblocks? Thanks!!! Worried it may have lots of power, but not quite the beautiful "tube" sound of the Cary.
One final thing, i'm currently running my ushers with a Harman Kardon avr 230- about 65 ss watts. It's not bad or anything, but definitely want to add tube sound to it, and upgrade to a better amp to fully utilize the speaker's full potential.
I traded a Musical Fidelity A5 for a Rogue Tempest II and was very happy with the trade. I just wasn't especially fond of the A5; for me, there is nothing (so far!) quite like tubes.
I have the Rogue driving a pair of Dynaudio Contour 3.4s -- a somewhat inefficient speaker -- and it does so very well. The Rogue responds well to tube rolling, so you can tailor its sound quite a bit.
I eventually added a Rogue 99 preamp to the Tempest which was something of a step up too.
I've not heard the Cary, though I bet it too is a great amp.
well, even an all tube system will have its disadvantages. that's why i'm also thinking about the tube DAC/pre with 200 watt monoblocks.
it will give good bass extension and fast, quick sound, with a lot of tube dissonance.
i'm just concerned that the monarchy nm 24 is not as good sonic wise as the rogue, and the tube audio design monoblocks, can only find one person/review who uses them...
I auditioned the Musical Fidelity A5.5 . All I can say is that it's one of the best amplifiers out there at any price and an almost unbeatable value. I don't care about "musicality" or such nonsense, I don't have a "Golden Ear" but when you hear something good, you just know it.
Auditioned with a Helicon 800 MK2, find it hard to believe that any of these components mentioned above can come even close to this combo. Just my 2 cents.