That's a good list you've got there... There are a few in this price range that are all stellar, and it'll just depend on your tastes (and speakers) as to which is best. The Audio Refinement is fantastic, but is slightly limited in its power output (50wpc, I think). If that's okay with your speakers, it's hard to beat. If you need more power, be on the lookout for the Audio Analogue Puccini SE. I believe it's 85 wpc, and shares similar sound qualities to the Audio Refinement Complete. For solid state integrateds, these two would top my list.
You might also consider some of the tube/hybrid designs out there. The Jolida 1501RC is terrific, as well as some of the other Jolida all tube integrateds (301, 302, etc.). The 1501 is a hybrid design with a tubed preamp section and a 100 wpc solid state amp section. Also in that price range are the Anthem integrateds. I had the Integrated 2 (hybrid design, 90 woc) for some time, and was very happy with it. Great bass, smooth mids and highs, plus tank-like build quality. The Integrated 1 is a pure tube design.
Again, which one of these works best for you will depend on your listening tastes and the demands of your other equipment. I like a warmer, more laid back sound, which explains my recommendations. But, since you've already taken a step into tubes with the Ah Tjeob unit, these units might work well for you too. Best of luck, and happy listening!
I think you should consider the NAD C370. Nice amp, 120x2, dynamic, very reasonable priced, used $350-$400, new $500-$600. It should be a significant upgrade from the 3020. If bought used you could then spend the rest of your funds on a speaker upgrade. Good luck!
From personal experience I would say stay away from hybrid designs. I've owned two and didn't care for either one. (Pathos and Anthem). I would also say, start hunting for an Audio Refinement. I have one and it's the best amplifier I've owned. Contrary to what others think, I think this amplifier is not under powered at all. It may have to do with the fact that I live in an apartment, use monitor speakers, and don't play music extremely loud. I'm not real sure. The Musical Fidelity would probably be a good one, but like you, it's a little much for me.
In new price order, I would consider the NAD C320BEE (new $400; 50 wpc); the NAD C370 ($520 new, but damaged carton at yawaonline.com; 120 wpc); or the Musical Fidelity A3 ($850 plus shipping from Upscale audio; 85 wpc). I own the NAD C320BEE and the Musical Fidelity A3 and am happy with both. The C320BEE has a lot of punch, with very good detail and bass for the money (I posted a review of the C320BEE on Agon). The MF A3 brings you from mid-price to high price and represents a real step or so above the 320BEE in terms of getting more ... more depth, more detail, more substance. In both systems, I use Acoustic Research 302 classic series speakers. When buying the amp, make sure that you will have enough power to drive the "TBD" speakers. Regards, Rich
I agree w/the Jolida hybrid int. amp consideration made by Ewha. I own the little 30w 301 and the JD-102b. Both sound very impressive and they are great values. The Jolida 301 for $350 retail is unbeatable for the price IMO. You will not regret buying. My preferences would be in this order; Jolida 301 ($350 New), Nad 320 BEE (if remote/headphone/and more inputs are a concern...New $400. Under $350 through kiefsav.com), Audiolab 8000 (New $1095, selling for $549 now), Rotel RA-02. This is all under $700 New. If you willing to buy used, may I suggest an Arcam Delta 290. I've seen quite a few come on the market lately. Under $400 used. Moving up in $$ you have other excellent choices as mentioned by others. Good Luck. Bill
i was considering the Jolida 1501 Hybrid, but have heard that there are build quality issues. as i possessing the DIY skills of an armless chimpanzee, i worry that if something goes wrong i'll be without a system while it is in the shop...
Check out HiFi Choice uk maf and What HIFI? uk mags. They recommend good system matches for every budget. For example:
nad c320bee + B&W 602s3 for more detail
arcam a65plus + AE evo 1 warmer sound
You should probably buy the speaker first, see how it sounds and buy an amp that can drive them to the best of their abilities.
Contact me regarding my LFD Mistral SE integrated. It's $1500 new, I'm going to post it for $750 used in a couple of weeks when I return from travel. It's liquid, sweet, easily competes with some $3000 integrateds. I think only the Musical Fidelity might be in the same league, of the ones that you mention. It's just a bit more than you want to pay BUT should retain its value and provide you a lot of pleasure.
Consider also the rc03/rb03 pre-power amp from rotel.Its a little bit more expensive than ra-02 but cheeper than mf3.2(if you want to buy something better only the mf3.2 is worthy from your list).I own this pair for 10 months now(600 hours) and its a very good combination.Plenty of power and analysis,very good dynamics,very wide and fare deep soundstage.I use it with correct polarity,different wall outlet from digitals,antivibration cones and AWAY FROM EACH OTHER!!!!!!!!
Add Audio Aero Prima int. amp to the list. It is a hybrid amp with a 6922 or ecc88 tube and mosfets out at 50 watts. I bought mine used for what you are looking spend last year. They rarely do come up for sale used, probably cause they are a smooth sounding amp, but when one does, it usually goes quick. Go to the web-site or call the distributer for info. Good luck with your search.
The Exposure 2010, is a great unit for the bucks...or the Rega ...had the Jolida, and it didnt last 2 weeks in my system....even changed tubes more than once..not my cup of tea...