I had the ST140 and its a nice sounding amp. However, the McCormack DNA series is far better. The Vincent sounds interesting too. If you want solid state with smooth highs and deep bass, go with the McC. You could probably go with the DNA .5 as the Zu's are efficient.
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Don't confuse silkiness with darkness. It's possible to get a very silky sounding amp that is also quite bright sounding. Just like it is possible for an amp to be dark and harsh. I owned the B&K years ago, and while I would not call it's sound silky, it was smooth (sort of) for an inexpensive ss amp. It was also dark sounding. It is very reminiscent of the tonal color of earlier CJ amps; golden/amber vs. gray/white which many think is more "neutral". I like Unsound's recommendation. A CJ like an MV-50 will give you the silkiness, similar tonal color as the B&K, and a much more refined overall sound. IMO.
I think you'd be surprised how long the ST140 will last. I recently had mine at a trusted shop here in Sacramento and was given good advice to leave it alone and enjoy. Two weeks later I got an itch and purchased a Parasound A23 while visiting a stereo shop in Eureka. The difference was a pleasant surprise; the A23 provides a nice smooth sound but has much better bass punch and better overall balance compared to the laid back sound of the ST140. I know there are many fans of the ST140 but I have no desire to put it back into my system because it can't compare. Even so, the ST140 is a great amp to try if you need to tame any brightness you might have in your system.
Knowing the work that John Hillig does. I would not hesitate to have the B&K upgraded. If you like the sound of your amp why change. What can you buy new for 600 that will compare. If you buy used you may be getting something that in a few years may putyou back in the same place you are now. I have never heard the B&K with upgrades, but like the sound of the stock one. I have heard the Musical Concepts Hafler mods and think they compete with much of the new stuff in 2 to 3k range. The draw back is they don't look nearly as nice.
I can't speak to the long term reliability of CJ amps, as I never owned one long-term, but I am not aware of any bad reputation in that respect. Here is a VERY interesting option IMO. I have no affiliation with the seller, but have been very surprised that these have not sold at this price. I own the MTR 101's which are a version with different heat sinks. They are truly great amps and look beautiful. They have very similar tonal character as the BK but much more refined sounding. They will drive just about anything and have great bass. Do yourself a favor and research them on line. I can't imagine anything better for the money. Good luck.
I would second the McCormack recommendation. I recently made some changes to my system, including moving from a Classe 10 amp to a McCormack DNA-1 amp. The Classe was no slouch, but I could not be more happy with the improvement in my system. The DNA is very musical and smooth, and has a great, authoritative grip on the bottom end of my Vandersteen 2ce Sigs. The McCormack/Vandersteen match is great. Add to that the fact that Steve McCormack still supports and modifies his amps. I have sent a question or two his way and I get a response back directly from him within the day.....a nice plus for sure. Good luck.
Thanks Sturgus, that may be the route I take. With a good going over from Hillig, I may be disappointed if I purchased another amp. Parasound amps have always intrigued me. I always picture them as more of an HT company, butt have ready tons of good reviews for their stereo amps. I would like to try one.