Don't make the mistake I made with a Jolida 302B in my first venture into tube land. There are better tubed integrateds out there. What I would purchase instead is a Rogue Cronus or CJ CAV50 (previously owned of course). These are much better choices for about the same amount of money.
Research the Onix SP3. 38wpc. $999 (around $500 used).
Consider the Eastern Electric M520. It has 25 wpc and is a great amp with fantastic build quality. They are around $1500 new from Bill O'Connell at Morningstar Audio. I have first hand experience with this amp and Bill is a fantastic guy when it comes to customer service and product value.
rogue cronus - third vote...
Look at these pieces, and read all the reviews: (http://www.upscaleaudio.com/view_category.asp?cat=36) They have some very worthwhile(user friendly) features too!
cayin is the way to go. great sound, excellent construction, top value and very dependable. The other platforms that use the same chassis, do not sound the same as their design is slightly difference. If you have horns, the t50 is more then enough. I own cayin K88, Citation One's and the VAS pre amp. The sound is better then anything ARC builds today. Check out the TAS analogue March issue for a view of the VAS stuff.
In order of preference: (1) Cary Sli-80, (2) Rogue Cronus, (3) CJ CAV-50, (4) the older ARC integrated (not the one in their current line-up)...
Try a used Pathos Classic, great sound, great looks.
I love my Primaluna PL2. Easy to deal with, great sound, can use a variety of tubes, well built. You can find them used for about 1K on Audiogon.
There are so many items that meet this criterion, you owe it to yourself to do a bit of digging. Almost every response you get here or on other forums will necessarily be colored by that respondent's ownership and biased in the direction of such amp.
At this price level there is no real greatness, only "pretty-niceness" at best. I know, I played in that sandbox a long time. Buy used, with the understanding that you will probably outgrow it. Nothing wrong with that, and it is the path most of us who have been in this game any length of time have taken anyway. Assuming you have some funds and some time to do this and not get crazy serious about it, it can be a lot of fun.
There's still a used VTL IT-85 available here on audiogon. It's a steal at what the guy's asking for it plus it's got remote control. I really like VTL gear. Their house sound is warm and full bodied but not syrupy. Lots of bass for a tube amp also.
The Jolida 302b is a great starter Int. amp. However it can sound kind of blah without a active pre-amp in front of it.
Thanks everyone! I guess I should have mentioned that a remote is mandatory!!! I've been walking back and forth, turning the volume up and down, for 20 years now...
I definitely must have a remote for volume at least....
Any other requirements that you have?
I second the Eastern Electric M520 int amp.. I have tried and used most of the above amps in my particular system and after hearing this amp it is still in my system for the past three years, I can concur for the money it is a great bargain. Very musical and great tone.. If you can afford to replace all of the stock tubes for some NOS Mullards and Telefunkens you will have an amp that will just give you goosebumps!! IMHO.. It has a remote and Bill is a great guy to talk and deal with..By the way this was my first jump to tubes and personally I have enjoyed this amp and tube sound for the past three years. I won't and don't feel the need to go back to SS..The sad part is there are so many people out there that do not know about this little gem..Of course it all boils down to what tickles your fancy..
Well, CD is my only source, so one input is sufficient. I don't have an interest in using an active pre-amp, so an integrated with a decent pre-amp section would be nice. I haven't heard great things about passive versions in the entry level tube integrateds...
I'm intrigued by the talk of SET "magic," but can't tolerate the low power. My speaker system has highly damped drivers, so a little "loosness" in the low end might be tolerated. I want great midrange, detail, and high end extension, but it doesn't have to be perfect...
Basically, I'm looking for an amp that will tell me whether or not tubes are the right way to go with this loudspeaker system. I realize there are many different output tubes that offer different sound characteristics, so of course something down the middle would be great. Perhaps something that can utilize 2-3 of the popular tube types so I can experiment, before making a bigger investment in a particular amplifier, with a specific tube complement...
VTL IT 85 for about $1300 used would be my pick. No brainer IMHO.
Alot of great choices. The Onix SP3 is an excellent integrated but it is not as detailed as say the VTL. I would choose an integrated that is hardwired and get a schematic for it. With the horns you have to make sure you don't get a bright sounding integrated. An old hi fi guy once told me to buy the tube amp with the biggest heavist iron (transformers). That puts the Onix in a league of it's own weighing in over 50 lbs.
I want to hear the new Melody SP7 (same as the Onix but replaces the SP3) featuring EL 34's. If it in fact does have better detail than the SP3 then it will be a killer integrated. Just the EL34's alone gives you some of the best midrange in the world. I have heard the Cayin and it sounds great on Renyards. I like the fact that you can run it in Class A. I can't say I actually heard a differnce though and I have only heard the EL 34 versions of it.
I would also check out Upscale Audio for their integrated amp primaluna. Based on Cost I'd chose the Melody SP7 or Onix's version of it.
Soundquest SQ 88 55wpc ,auto bias, very nice sounding
You know, I'm going to start sounding like a broken record here on these boards, but one of the few truly affordable tube integrated amplifiers that "make the grade" are from Vista Audio. Maybe its that Serbian luv', but these things sound like what a good tube amp should be - top to bottom balance, harmonically rich but not overly warm, great extension, detail, dynamics, >/insert adjective here. From the looks of your requirements, the i34 should meet em.
That said, there are plenty of goodies I have not come across in my travels. The bulk of units I've compared it to have been; Rogue, Anthem, Jolida, ASL, Prima Luna, Dynakit, and Onix. As always, its about synergy and personal taste. A 60 day trial period however makes things pretty risk free.
Whatever you decide on - good luck!
Rogue Cronus is a great choice! Excellent quality and the customer service is superb!!
try a prima luna dialogue one , 36 watts but large transformers(weighs around 65 lbs give it much more power. my speakers are only rated 86 db but can play very loudly in a medium sized room