Just read the brochures; that is the method most use anyway. I cannot tell you how many times as a dealer I have lost sales to things the buyer never heard. It is sort of "Prophet in his own Country" effect. I once when I was in Knoxville had a prospective buyer drive up to Louisville to demo a competing produce; the dealer refused to play it for him but he bought it anyway.
Enough venting! Just do what most of us outside major cities do; a hell of a lot of research. There is as much info on the net as you will ever need; it just requires sifting. Look at forums for discussion of the gear you are considering; give first consideration to brands with a proven track record, not necessarily big advertisers. Quicksilver has been around a long time and makes good products but I seldom see any ads for them. Used Conrad Johnson is very good; at your price level I would buy used, much more for the money. A rebuilt Dyna Stereo 70 would be a good choice. You don't say whether you are looking for a integrated or power amp; I would get the latter, especially if you are not using vinyl. there is a good chance a passive pre would be all you need.
You have pretty much narrowed it down with your budget.
I was thinking integrated would be the best bang for buck ? Van alstine is close by and i can hear a piece in his system.And i did just recently see he won an award for his tubed integrated. How much does the actual tubes affect the sound vs the design and products used to build one? Is there a real dramatic sound change from different tubes?
I was in the same boat as you years ago, no real good shops around, so I pretty much did what stanwal said, research, read, research. Then buy something used here. It usually maintains its value. Put together a system, then start tweaking. Say you want warmer sound, identify your weak companant, sell it right here. Say you lose $50, I think of it like an audition fee, no big deal. Buy the next component and keep going. I have built a really excellent mid-fi system over the years. And don't forget, keep buying the music!!
ok . You hit on my main thought .Should i only go with a name brand for resale purposes . Like rogue,manley,jolida,mcintosh,vincent, those are just a few i can think of without looking at the classifieds.or is there other brands well known for those in the "know" about tubed gear ? To hit on the suggestion of a passive : The only passive i am familiar with is the George lightspeed which is $500 new . That would only leave me with $500 for a amp only ? is that a good combo ?
My Cayin-TA 30 with the right tubes has a great sound and has very surprising bass. It is no longer made but the Primaluna Prolouge 1 is an essential clone with auto bias feature and has received rave reviews. Prior to that I used a restored Fisher 400 receiver with original tubes. It was unbelievably sweet sounding for the money but lacked the bass and overall balance of the Cayin in my system. Of course it did have a fantastic tuner section, and it was all in one unit, which received much approval in my household.
For $1k used there are not a lot of choices, unless you look at some of the Chinese brands, which tend to have pretty poor resale value.
The only 2 brands I'd consider at your budget is the Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum, or the Primaluna Prologue one or two.
Both are well built, reliable and sound good.
As far as tubes go, it really depends on the power you need - 300b and EL34's sound the best, but are low powered - usually under 30wpc. KT88's are also popular at that price point - they are less tubey sounding, but offer more power.
As long as you use a moderately efficient speaker with an 8 ohm nominal impedance, you should be fine with 20-25wpc in a room your size (unless you like to rattle the walls). Subjectively, a 20wpc tube amp will have about the same power as a 50-60wpc solid state amp.
I have three comments:
1- You can look at all of the brochures and online specs, but there is no substitute to listening to an actual amp; preferably in your room with your speakers. I know that this is difficult in your case, but to do otherwise is just rolling the dice. TANSTAAFL
2- How many sources will you be using? If just one (CD player, media server, phono stage, etc.) you can save some money by considering a tube amp w/ gain (or volume) control. One inexpensive example is the Sophia Baby amp, which should run you under $500 used. If you can stretch your budget a bit, the Conrad Johnson CAV-50 is one of the best built and nicest sounding integrated amps ever made. And it will hold it's resale value better than most. But there are lots of other great choices if you consider new, used and vintage.
3- Speakers are key; some (like me) would say that the speaker choice is more critical then the amp. Most (but not all) modern bookshelf speakers are of medium efficiency and do not sound best with low powered tube amps. Do you already have speakers that you are planning to use?
Take any of them, of those that Meiwan mentioned. I would get Rogue.
Develop a short list of potential amps, and then read everything you can about each of them. Look at the "professional" reviews as well as user comments on the various audio forums.
Hopefully you'll develop a sense of what attributes are important and have a better feeling about your purchase.
I use the Sophia Electric Baby that Br3098 mentioned. I run 92db towers in a room 17x30. Not a rock concert levels but loud enough that the conversation volume increases sometimes. Don't worry about the single set of inputs, I use a Kramer vs55se switcher for tuner, cd and phono preamp.
What speakers and other equipment do you presently have?
In the interim, I can easily go along with the recommendation of Rogue, however the Cronus Magnum is 90 wpcs and might be a bit much for your room size versus the base Cronus at 55wpc. Regardless of the amp you select, swapping out tubes- brands, NOS versus new issue, etc. will make a difference in what you hear - warmth, transparency, detail, etc. ,it is up to you what you like.
For EL34 tube integrateds research the Cayin A50T, the Jolida 302 and CJ CAV50. Used prices circa $900, $600 and $1100, respectively. The Cayin is well built, has auto bias and is point to point wired. The Jolida has circut boards but is decently built and servicable. The CJ is long out of production but is well regarded as a classic and still supported by CJ. But I warn you CAV50s come up for sale used infrequently. A used Rogue Cronus is worth checking out but may be a little North of your budget.
For EL34 power amps check out PrimaLuna PL1 and PL2 as well as the Tube Audio Design TAD60. All are excellent for the money. The PL2 will allow for both EL34s and Kt88s, while the PL1 only uses EL34s. Both are auto bias. The TAD is not autobias but is simple to bias. It also can function as a single source integrated. It is out of production but still supported by the internet seller. Used prices for these are generally around $1000, give or take.
All of these mentioned, except the CJ and Rogue, are sourced from China but come through US distribution and are built to quality standards. Given your price point these offer the best value IMHO.
Try a late model Jolida 102B. You'll be amazed by what 20 EL84 tube watts can do. Then you have the fun of tube and cable rolling on the cheap. Your room seems small and asymmetrical: it should work well.
I second the Cayin, great sound, great value.
If your speakers are reasonably efficient and you're not trying to fill a large space the Jolida FX10 EL84 based integrated is great sounding, comes with a remote and is auto-biasing.
Sophia Baby Electric may well be the greatest buy in all of Audio,past or present.
As other comments suggest, the efficiency of your speaker will play a big role here. I'd choose a speaker first (keeping in mind that you want ones that pair well with tubes). For speakers, you will want to think about whether you want very high efficiency ones that play well with SETs and what are known as fleawatt amps (a great budget example is the Miniwatt N3 or the S1), or a speaker that needs the 10-50 or so watts that a push-pull design can give. Most bookshelf and monitor speakers are of the latter type. Many in this design have quite low efficiency.
Hmmm. First question I would have asked-
1. What are you listening to now?
2. Do you like that type of sound?
I have found that even if you go to Best Buy and A/B cheap receivers against each other. ( easy to do with their cheap wired all together demo system ) you will notice differences in sound, Some with better midrange, some with better bass, some so bright they make my ears bleed, and some just blah. But still each receiver brand has a signature.
So if you lean toward a warm sound, then that sends you in a certain direction with tubes. EL34-6L6-5881 more warm with euphoric midrange. KT88 a bit warm with more bass. 6550 I find the cooler of the any mentioned here but with good bass.
Some of what folks have mentioned here are not even integrated. Also some mentioned intergrateds are well over $1000 used. People get carried away and want to mention their favorite and forget the question. In your price range, you will be limited with your choices. If your lucky, used CJ, Primaluna, Cayin, Sophia ,Consonance, Jolida or some off Chinese brands. New, you might try Jolida.
IMHO, auditioning "equipment" makes for a fun afternoon, but in all reality it's a waste of time - if the piece is not in your listening space and combined with the rest of your system. When you go listen to a system, what are you (predominately) hearing that you like / don't like? The power? The physical placement? The teleportation tweak? You just don't know.
If you spend enough time on this site (along with other sites) you'll start to see common pairings.