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Wow, thanks so much for all of the great advice, I am overwhelmed! Oh, and thanks as well for not suggesting that I modify whatever I buy to battery power and install binding posts made of coral from a small atoll off Thailand. So does anyone have anything in their closet gathering dust that they want to sell? If so, please e-mail me directly.
So far, kind of dead ends. To address the suggestions in order, the Creek power amps are kind of rare, the integrateds are much more common, currently none listed. Hafler, under consideration and I have a friend with an Amber so a loan may be in order. I am intriqued by the Sonic Impace and Gainclone, but will have to research these tonight when I get home. The only PSE Studio 4 on the board is listed at $345.00, which is a bit too much of a strech. And Joe, I WOULD make the stretch for a Bedini 25/25, but it would proably end up in the big rig. They are generally both rare and expensive!
Since you are looking to have fun, I suggest you look for an old Harman Kardon 430 or 730 receiver and use the amp portion only by removing the pre out to amp in plug and using the power amps only. These amps are dual mono with separate power supplies. The reviews of these receivers by High Fidelity Magazine showed that these amplifier sections were exemplary and displayed almost perfect square waves on both the high and low frequencies. You will be surprised at how good these amplifiers are. They can compare with very expensive equipment in performance. If you find these in a thrift store or in the flea market, if the fuse is intact, the unit is probably playable. Note also that the amps are individually fused internally. You should be able to find a good conditoned example for $20-$30. This is surprisingly fun. Keep us informed if you go this route. An alternate to this is to look for a built like a tank Harman Kardon Citation XII amp. Even Nelson Pass spoke highly of this amp in one of his early articles. He spoke of its durability due to build quality as well as the sonic performance of this HK-12.
BD, mea culpa. You suggested the B&K ST-140 which I owned, when new, and could never get to drive my speakers of the time, Spica TC-50, cleanly. But it made me think of the Van Alstine MosFet 120B, the amp on which the B&K circuit was, ahem, based, to put it gently. The difference is that the Van Alstine only puts out 60wpc and, unlike the little B&K has plenty of current to below four ohms. It sounds both more powerful than the B&K and less fizzy, if you know what I mean. Somewhere in my garage, among all of the other audio detritus that I have stacked up, is one of these amps. I will put on my hip waders and see if I can find it this weekend. I still want a new fun toy though. The Van Alstine was a fun toy in 1972, but, at least it may buy me some time!
Here's cheap'n'neat for ya: How bout a pair of those cute little Marantz MA-500 monoblocks? Not geriatric, and a pair used should only set you back within $50-100 of your target price at most. I have to admit I've never heard them myself, but I've long felt Marantz receivers sound superior to their prime Japanese competition from Sony or Yamaha where price is matched, and this unique model was generally well reviewed by mags and online owner surveys. Best of luck with the fun!
This is a very old thread so I'm sure you found something cheap and fun; however, in case anyone is still looking for cheap and really fun, you've got to check out:
I've currently have a Fleawatt in my bedroom system and have given 2 of them away as presents to my nephews. Their definitely the most fun I've had in audio in a while :)