get a second set of efficient speakers and a Flea Watt integrated (just a power amp with passive volume control)
If you are off grid you might want to look at a Class D amp if you are married to the speakers.
OTOH, just because a speaker is more efficient does not mean it somehow has to be less revealing. You might want to consider a speaker that is easier to drive- you won't need as much power to drive it! A 3db improvement in efficiency allows you to make the same volume with half the amplifier power.
Do you have the original Quests or the Quest-Z? I had (still in basement) the original and they are a tough impedance curve, and may need quite a lot of oomph from the amp. I tried the Mark Levinson ml-27, which sounded wretched. I tried a Classe' CA-200 that dimmed the lights in the house on peaks. I tried the Pass Aleph-0's, which were just boring. The two amps that did well was the McCormack DNA-1 and the Classe' CA-300, and I ended up with the CA-300.
The ML Quest at only 85db, has a pretty evil 2.7ohm load in the bass and mid bass as well, not to mention the 1.4ohms at HF but the -phase angle is kinder up there.
The 80hz mark especially as it is combined with a - phase angle of around -60 degrees, which would take this 2.7ohm load down to an even lower EPDR of around 1.5ohms.
I would say look for a good >100w solid state amp that uses Bi-Polar (BJT) output transistors (not mosfet) and can almost double it's wattage from 8 to 4 to 2ohms This will mean it can deliver current into these low loads. Class D's don't like loads below 4ohm.
Yes, and here we're hitting on the relative idiocy of my original question. I want to keep my speakers but use a low watt amp, which also needs to be cheap, given my current financial straits, where audio equipment lists low.
If I got rid of the speakers -- ow, wow, there I'm already getting misty-eyed at the possibility -- I would need to purchase new speakers in addition to a new amp. The goal is low wattage but also dirt cheap, unless somehow I could get new efficient speakers and a low watt amp for the same price as a low watt amp for my electrostats.
I just really like the sound of the speakers and I happen to live off-grid. When the sun shines I can use a high power amp, and when the sun doesn't I can use my new/used ________ amp, which only cost me $___, I'm happy to say.
I've put together a 'dirt-cheap' system for a guest bedroom with the Andrew Jones designed Pioneer SP-BS21-LR speakers and an AudioEngine N22 amplifier. It sounds surprisingly good. The SP-B21 speakers are @ $100, I bought a pair on sale for $50. For about $25 more their big brother, the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR is even better.
Either would probably work well with the Dayton amp that Mofimadness recommended and you'd have a pretty decent late night system for @ $200.
WOW, I just had a revelation! Deep cell marine 12 volt battery, Class D car amp, solar can charge the battery during the day for many hours of use at night.
Better yet, get a 4 channel amp to biamp your speakers. Keep in mind that all class D amps do not sound the same. My Alpine in my car is much cleaner than the Precision Power that it replaced.
You can grab a used battery for $25-$50 bucks and pay about the same for the amp. This would keep it from depleting your home power and it will run that much cleaner. Keep in mind that most car amps are rated at 12 volts and 14.4 since a car alternator puts out higher voltage and produces more wattage.
I paid $50 for my Dayton amp used and it runs off 12 volts so that would work off it's own battery.
Yeah, we use a battery bank for nighttime use -- 6 volt golf cart batteries wired in series and parallel @24volt, then to a 4000w magnum inverter for 120/250v. We don't run anything at 24 volts because the inverter is pretty efficient and 24 volt requires thicker cable (higher amps for same watts @120v).
Having a separate battery for an amp would keep the amp from draining the main battery bank, and so the wear and tear would only be on a single battery. Though it would need to be charged separately and wired separately, which is a pain and an expense, somewhat. It's a cool idea, though my existing amp would drain a single battery in no time, and if I continued with that idea, I would have to have a big secondary battery setup for the amp, which for me would be silly.
For now I am thinking that a used Parasound zone v2 looks good-- nearly same price as dayton amp, which looked good except that it would be pushed to high distortion with electrostats.
Parasound Zone v2 is a linear amp, hopefully they continued tradition with bi-polar output devices not Mosfets.
This could work Stephenlloydwebber at the level you want, it would be nice to try before you buy.
As into your speakers it "may" not give enough current into the load of the bass/midbass, therefore it could sound a bit light/thin even at low volume. And keep it cool if possible!
I think the older Parasound HCA-800 MkII would be a better proposition though.
If you forget and leave the amp on, you might want to think about the fact that a class D amp will not drain the batteries nearly as quickly!
Seriously, if I were you I would be looking at speakers that are easy to drive. When you make an amplifier work hard, not only will it have higher distortion but it will draw more power from the wall.
A more efficient speaker might mean that the amps only make 15 watts. That's low enough power that you could even use tubes! With a class D amp the power drain would be insubstantial.
A friend of mine lives off grid FWIW...
Stephen, Granted, you have a difficult speaker to match with a low cost amp, but I can offer a positive note on the speakers. I bought mine from a dealer who had a used pair, along with a used pair of Apogee Duetta's. We spent most of the day comparing, and although the Duetta's had a fuller sound and certainly a lust factor, all three of us, including the store owner thought the Quests sounded better. So that's pretty good company. The Duetta's would have held their value better, and I would have loved owning them, but on that day, head-to-head, the Quests held their own. A used amp that works with them will still cost you, but you're within striking distance of good sound.
I went with the parasound zamp v2. It's lower wattage than the v3 which was a perk for me in this case. Using my SAE preamp (which uses 9watts), and this amp (at normal levels uses about 15 watts), plus a couple for the speakers (they plug in), I'm only pulling about 30 watts.
It sounds great. There's a lot less meat on the bass, but I am not complaining. I am happy with this setup.
When the sun is shining and I want to plug in the 100 pound beast (H/K Citation 16), I can do that, and it'll sound better. But I am in no way complaining.
Thanks for all the input.
Hope this thread is helpful for anyone else in a rare situation like the one I have.