High-value ICE offerings or Ayre V3, ARC 100.2

I'm torn between the highly-reviewed class D amps and the "classics" from late 90s/early 2000s such as the ARC 100.2 or Ayre V3. I came of audio-age in the late 90s and looking through the Audiogon listings, I feel like a kid in a candy store.

At the $1500-$2000 range, there are just so many options, such as the Wyred 4 Sound ST-1000, which is apparently competitive with amps costing many times its price. But the question is: how do these new high-value amp compare to the better amps from 10 years ago such as the Ayre V3 or ARC 100.2 or even the VT 100 MKII, which you can also pick up new in the $1500 to $2000 range.

My system is currently AR ES-1 for analog, EAD Utradisc 2000 (transport), Benchmark DAC1 Pre for digital, amp is Plinius 8200 integrated, speaker are Revel Ultima Gems and Dynaudio Contour 1.3 MKII. I've had the 8150/8200 for over 10 years, and I think I'm ready for a change. The 8200 has a warmish signature and I think I want something a tad more dynamic and speedy. I have mini-monitors so it's pretty clear soundstage and imaging are pretty important to me. The Revels are a recent addition, picked up because the Dynaudios sound a little compressed when playing big classical, and I'm thinking I need to step up my amplification.

Musically, I listen to mostly 70s rock, classical (orchestral and chamber) and jazz. The Revels definitely need a sub for classical and that's also on my list.

If you have any other options for suitable amps, I'd love to hear them too.

How about Levinson for your Revels?
My first choice from the current products would be the No. 326S preamp and the No. 532 amp.
My first choice from discontinued products would be the No. 380S preamp and the No. 336 amp.
I actually have a line on a ML 335, but two things hold me back: I really would like to stay under $2K and ML's flat labor rate of $800 should the 335 ever need servicing. And at $3K, the Ayre V5xe also beckons.

There's also the Bel Canto REF 1000 used, and various PS Audios, including the bargain priced HCA-2. Channel Island D-100? Plinius SA-100? Too many choices...
Over a period of several years, I had a V-3 then both the V-5x then V-1xe. I put a V-3 back in my system (to see how it compared) & although it really is a good amp, it couldn't even come close. (I suppose I'd been spoiled by both the V-5x & V-1xe.) The V-5x on the other hand, was a much more capable piece & pretty much held its own next to the V-1x. This isn't to say they're the same but the differences were much more subtle. I've always felt the V-5x was a sleeper.

A few more suggestions I've owned or listened to are the BAT VK-200 and B&K. You might even be able to get a set of mono-block B&K amps at your price point.
I have used several class D amps with varying degrees of success. None of them have disappointed me but I have a feeling they aren't for everyone. Right now I am happily using the Bel Canto Ref S500.
My suggestion is to buy something like a pair of the BC Ref M1000s used and give them a try. At the $2k price used, if they don't meet your needs you can resell them. You won't lose much on the deal and you'll gain the experience to move forward.
Among all the class D amps mentioned, I am by far fondest of the Bel canto Ref 1000M anmd Ref 500M monoblock. Amazingly musical devices and wonderfully resolving. My PFO review of the 1000M is at:
Hey Guido, I read your review of the Ref 1000M, very nice. Have you heard the 300M? If so how much do the give up to the 1000M?
Don't want to hijack this thread but I'm curios.
Sorry TimRhu, I have not listened to 300M. Guido
IMHO, the V3 is a real bargain ( caveat: with Ayre Conditioner and v 1.3 boards ). They can be had in the $1200 range most of the time and my current one has displaced Krell MDA 300s, VTL MB 450s, Rowland Model 6s, Mcintosh MC 402, Threshold 800D and a few I can't remember. Speed, power, dynamics are all there and there is no glare or audio exhaustion at either end of the frequency range. The K5Xe is a bit more transparent but for my $$$ at 1/3 of the Used to Used $ I will take the V3 any day.

Very similar hardware!

Had a Bel Canto S300 for a while. Did not like it at all. It would have made a good sub amp, but everything else sounded the same as my Yamaha surround sound receiver. It was driven by higher end Arc tube pre and very good digital, into my dyn s3.4. While I do understand this is the "beginner" class D amp, I did feel like, based on all the favorable reviews it would give me some insight into the character of sound from this topology. Whatever the reason, I did not like it.

I also had a plinius sa102...dissapinted. Too smooth and polite for my tastes, I guess (hey we all hear things differently!)

I have used (and still do) an ARC 100.2 with the same speakers and find this a very hard to beat combo. I had a VT100MKii also with the s3.4s and it was very beautiful sound in the midband, but lethargic and underpowered for these 4 ohm nominal loads. I find the 100.2 MUCH better. I also had a pass x250.5 and while that amp had an increased sense of resolution and could make the speakers play at insane levels, the 100.2 seems to have an even richer more lucid midrange and sparkly highs. Bass control is very very good and belies the modest rating of the amp.

A friend had Bat vk500 and when we used the 100.2 with his rig (he had the same speakers) he sold the bat and was looking for the ARC-- it never came up and he had a thing for mac's and got the 402. that was a very good sound as well.

I remain extremely impressed with the 100.2. I currently have it driven with a bel canto dac 3 direct via XLRs. I feel like i would have to spend upwards of $5K on an amp to substantially improve upon the results i'm getting with the 100.2.

I highly rec the 100.2 with the dyns. A very synergistic match.

Good luck on the amp merry go round!
Hi. I previously owned an ARC D125 power amp, and still own an ARC SP9MKIII pre - this combination sounded great, albeit the power amp was unreliable. I've heard an ARC VT100MKII, and liked it - not a world away from the D125 - in Australia in the late 90s it was AUS$9000 new - so I passed. Since then, via an excursion to a Jadis integrated, I've purchased two W4S amps - the ST1000 power to run with the ARC pre, and an STI 500 integrated. I've put up a review here re the experience. Needless to add, I'm very pleased with the W4S components - absolute bargains. I do relate to your "candy store" comment, but the W4S amps sound better than my old ARC set up - just as sweet, more detail, absolutely effortless, oomph and clarity in the bass; and better than the Jadis. I have Usher speakers now, but previously had Wilson CUBS, with their low impedence load - the ST1000 was excellent with these.
I sure liked the magic mid range from the ARC VT 100 and the MKII model. You could pick up a ARC LS-3 or LS-2 to use as a preamp for not much money maybe $2000 - $2500 for both.
I would add the ARC PH3 to the above for phono. This would add another $750 for the PH3.