If you can do without a switching feature I would use your passive and get an Audio Research VT100 used. Its a good match for that speaker.
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The best sounding amp that I know which also happens to be incredibly flexible is the Cary SA-280 V12. It will run 100 watts per channel in ultralinear then go in 1/3 increments on-the-fly into triode mode down to 50 watts per channel. Sounds awesome with EL-34's but will also run 6550's/KT-88's and more. I love mine. Great value on used market when you can find one... under your price point too. It tends to run hot but it's very well made and should be a good match with the Maggies (it has both 8 and 4 ohm spkr taps and is very stable, well behaved, and even easy to bias! An additional plus is how cool all TWELVE power tubes look glowing in their "runway" configuration. Good luck, it's worth seeking out. Happy Lissn'n.
Do you already own the Maggies? I had 1.6's for a few years before going to
low powered tube amps and high efficiency speakers. I would buy the best
pair you can afford such as Zu, Audiokinesis, Sonist, Vaughn, Coincident etc.
I use Electra Fidelity SEP el-34 amp with the Lightspeed and Vaughn Cabernet
speakers. Talk to Tony at Electra Fidelity(Clio09 here on Gon). He is honest and
a wealth of knowledge and experience. I have listened to his Atma-Sphere S30
and Music Reference RM-10 which are also great amps. Good luck.
No worries at all...They are very easy to bias, you will get several thousand hours (at least 2 - 3 or more) and the price of EL-34's are still quite reasonable. Each time you re-tube it's very easy to do and the sonic pleasure of running output - tube based amplifiers is both unmistakably pleasant and instantly addicting. The Cary V-12 series is an excellent example of a user friendly and extremely satisfying component in one's music system...it just makes wonderful music and is WELL worth the minor "maintenance requirements" for such soul-satisfying pleasure. YM ("Your Mileage") WON'T Vary... IMHO, as good as many fine SS amps can and do sound, you've never really become "One with the music" until you've basked in the sound of all those glowing music - making valves (no insult intended to you SS folks). Just do it. Good luck
"Is it just me or shared with others - 12 output tubes seem to be too many for a stereo power amp. Tube cost is quite high and more things may go wrong."
Its a legitimate concern. It really depends on the design of the amp. I don't remember all the technical details because it was a long time ago, but I had an Audio Research VT100 and had a tube go bad. It actually did damage to the amp itself, along with the bad tube. I replaced it with a VAC amp and was told that the same thing couldn't happen to the VAC because its designed differently. I would just lose the tube, and nothing else. Like I said, though, it was a long time ago and I just don't remember all the details.