Looking for $500 integrated amp to match B&W685


I wanted to get some opinions on the subject if I could:

I am looking for a good integrated amp to match the B&W 685 speakers. My budget is limited to $500. I know it’s difficult to buy a very good new amp for this money so my plan is to buy a used one. I don’t need an absolutely purest and cleanest sound - I like it to be soft and rich.

I had some auditioning in a couple of audio stores using my reference CD (instrumental music with some piano and a little bit of vocal). The best sound I got was from Marantz PM8001-it was soft, rich, easy to listen "velvet" sound. The NAD C325BEE sounded perhaps better in bass but for me it was too “mechanical”, less pleasant than the Marantz. The NAD C355BEE was more powerful than C325 but with same type of sound; I had an impression it’s trying to “push” sound in my ears. The Pioneer A/A6 and Pioneer A/A9 pieces were great but the sound was too bright. The Denon DRA 697 sounded bad- all instruments were in the same spots, no stereo base (all others have it).

However, the PM8001 is around $800 and I would not like to spend that much. I believe that PM8001 replaced PM7001 which has good reviews and I suppose they sound very similar. Any opinions on this or experience with Marantz PM 7001?

Or, I should consider some other integrated such as Krell, Rotel, Arcam or others (all used)? I’ve read that Rotel has a “clinical” sound compared with NAD; in this case I don’t think I like it. Cambridge Audio has bad reviews so I would not consider it. I would not like to go with used tube since I’m afraid my little daughter will grab an open tube and burn herself; in addition, they are more expensive. I listen mostly "smooth jazz", guitar music, some old disco and rock, and occasionally classics. No heavy metal, hip-hop etc.

I understand that the best way to pick a piece of equipment is to audition it. Unfortunately, there are not many audio stores in my small town and I cannot afford simply buy things for tests. So all the advices of people more experienced that I am are very appreciated.

Thanks for your help!
You could get the creek 50I integrated that is listed right now. (I am not the lister) but I have thought about buying it. I love creek gear it just sounds right! Even their old stuff 4330 especially se versions. Jolida stuff is worth a look. Or maybe get an inexpensive passive pre $200 and an older Adcom 5400 they seem to be going for like 300 or a B&K st 1400 or something along that line, I like B&K also.

Good luck!
Or you might try the Classe CAP 80 in the for sale ads. Don't know the seller, and the price is slightly out of range, but the amplifier is very nice @ 100 watts, and it has been serviced. Should work well with your speakers.
Rega Brio kicks.
I second the Brio!
Sounds like you like that warm, smooth, " velvet " sound...well...looks like you are a candidate for tubes...jolida,scott, cayin,etc...or the older marantz/sansui vintage gear(solid state in your range) with nice tuners ...
You might want to consider an Audio Refinement Complete integrated amplifier. (Audio Refinement was the budget YBA line.) It is very smooth for a transistor amp and there have been a lot of Audiogon posts on it such as this one. It goes for $500 - $550 used and they pop-up occasionally on Audiogon. The Alpha version is the most current model and they added a preamp-out but not a preamp-in. Search the Audiogon threads for comparisons to other integrated amps.

I have one connected to my Vandersteen 1c and it drives it very nicely. I'm not familiar with the B&W 685 but you can find the amp's specs in the Stereophile review.
I read a favorable review of the Vincent sv-129 with the B&W 685's.The audio advisor is blowing out these amps at $400 new.
Thanks everyone for advices. After looking on some reviews and amp specifications, I decided to go with Classe CAP 80, which was for sale here.

The Classe gear including the CAP line are described as having warm and rich sound with good soundstage- that’s exactly what I am looking for. Another thing that I consider important is that many posters here said Classe is a very good match for B&W speakers; in England, the B&W is the distributor for Classe and I don’t think B&W would distribute amps that don’t match their speakers well. The CAP 80 has a remote, something that CREEK 50I and Rega Brio lack. I know that it’s a CREEK 50IR amp with a remote, but I didn't find it on sale now, as well as CREEK 4330 SE and I don’t want to wait long. I do realize that an amplifier is a device designed for sound amplification, not for convenience of use, but the remote is a convenience which I would not like to sacrifice. The Audio Refinement Complete has good reviews but it's rated at 50WPC which is less than Classe’s 100wpc, and since B&W speakers have a relatively low sensitivity of 88 dB, I was afraid the Audio Refinement might not have enough power. It’s difficult to judge things like this without an audition, but it’s better to be on a safe side. Regarding the Vincent sv-129, it’s too few reviews on it and I was surprised that the price for the new one dropped to $400 while originally it was $900. This make me suspicious. Regarding tubes and separate amp/preamp- I think I am not there yet; for a variety of reasons.

I hope I will have an opportunity to compare CAP80 with some NAD (and perhaps other) gear next month in a local audio store. In this case, I will post test results here.