Not a monoblock, but a BAT VK60 is under $2k used. 60w/ side. Tons of current, great sound. As with any amp, speaker matching is a good idea. Might should pick these together or at least have something in mind before you buy.
System synergy is truly important. Jfrech is correct -
suggest you pick speakers and match amp to them.
My vote goes to low power SET and High efficiency speakers as being a _magical_ combination.
What are your speakers? I have Cary 300B monos with Alon Lotus speakers and the combo is indeed magic as Ken has suggested above. The Cary's can be had for around $2K and I've seen the Alons for as low as $1500, which is a shame considering how good they are. Whatever you decide to do, good luck and happy listening. I predict you'll never look back.
I would add the AES Six Pac's mono blocs to your list. New "stock" ones are $2400, used they are in your range. 50 watts triode.
I would second the BAT. I have had great success with the Rogues. They are NOT noisy but will run hot.
Question for Ken (Triodeuser). I'm trying out a small single ended amp with a 93db Fostex based speaker. There IS something magic about the combo, especially in the midrange with voices and acoustic stuff. The amp is a SEP not SET. Do you think there's much difference? I'd welcome anybody else's opinions also. Thanks
I don't know what speakers I have in mind yet but I will be spending around 3k and would consider used.
For about 5k, what would you recommend as a tube amp + speaker combo? I need something that will give me a nice soundstage.
MattyBumpkin and Jond: I heard the Cary (which is parent of AES) tends to be "dull" or very soft on the treble which is kind of a turn off for me.
Is it true?
The Six Pac's, with the stock EL34's, does have more of a focus on the midrange as compared to frequency extremes. However, I would not say it is the amp but more of the nature of EL34 type tubes. With this in mind, you may wish to understand the "sound type" of various tubes used in tube amps before deciding on an amp. You should also demo a few amps before deciding, you may find that tubes are not for you.
Try to find the vintage Mcintosh mc30. They are still the best in mid range. And the value keeps going up.
My recommendation is get the speakers you like first and then buy the amp that's capable of drivng it. For all you know you might end up with 94db speakers and fall in love with low power amp sound. On the other hand, you might like power hungry speakers for its dynamic and punch. Either high or low efficiency speakers gives you good sound stage. Take your pick
I would have to say that my Cary 300b's are neutral and well-extended in the treble and not dull at all. It may of course be a relative thing, if you're used to bright and edgy solid state perhaps you might think the treble dull, but even then I doubt it. In the end though the best advice, as always, is to listen for yourself. Good luck!
After doing some on-line research, I think I can narrow down to these: Rogue Magnum M120 and AES Sixpacs.
I had the 120's for two years, and was very happy with them. I did not experience any heat issues (I live in Miami) other than when the amps were new. You can run them with 6550's, KT88's, KT90's and el34 so there's plenty of opportunity for tube rollin'.
They provided plenty of power (~90 dB speakers). A plus for the Rogues is that if you like them you can always send them in to Rogue for upgrade to 150's, as I did.
Another plus, and not one to be undervalued, is the excellent support you will receive from Mark'O and Mark W.
A few words regarding the AES Sixpacs... it is true that the EL34 tubes promote the mids, however, I have to believe there is some system/room dependency that accentuate the frequency extreems, not to mention personal taste (this is why home auditions are absolute key). Personally, I couldn't be happier with my highs in my system using the Sixpacs (with upgraded EH EL34s). Cymbals sound "life-like", I can hear the "tap" of the drumstick to the cymbal before I hear the cymbal. Just a few thought to try to help, good luck.
I have not (yet) been able to do a head-to-head comparison of the Rogue M-120s and the AES Sixpacs. However, I have listened to both amps with essentially the same supporting hardware, and could give some general impressions, but without a side-by-side comparison, I don't know how fair it would be. A shoot-out will occur - I just don't know when.
My friend's M-120s were a bit noisy, but once he replaced a single fuse and cleaned the pins of his tubes, they were dead silent. My Sixpacs are silent as well (with a minimum transformer hum - you have to have your ear up to the speaker to hear it).
The M-120s are only rated as 60 watt amps when run in triode mode, but will really throw close to 100 watts (the sixpacs are only capable of running in triode mode). Trust me, you'll want to run the M-120s in only triode mode. Both amps have a tremendous amount of reserve bandwidth. So while the M-120s is capable of more power, after listening to them, I doubt if you'll use it.
The 50 watt rating of the sixpacs may sound tiny (coming from a 200 watt solid state setup, I know it did for me) but I doubt if you will be disappointed. Even when blasting Rage Against the Machine at excessively loud volumes, I stand in disbelieve that these amps are rocking so hard.
Personally, I don't think you can lose with either choice. Mark O'Brian (Rogue) provides excellent support. I absolutely love my AES hardware (and Kevin Deal @ upscaleaudio.com - my dealer has been great to work with).
While I think the Rogue hardware looks cooler, given the chance, I'd buy the AES hardware again. But then again, my friend who owns the Rogue hardware would probably say the same thing about his Rogue gear.
Check out my system description for more of my opinions on my AES hardware.