Some thoughts.... I went with tube amp and tube preamp a half dozen years ago because of the warmth and palpable presence that inexpensive tube amp/preamp combos have (ie. about 4K) over similarly priced SS electronics. After that 5-6 year period, I went back to SS (at least in part). here is why --- and it is a consideration for you as well --- reliability. Tube equipment is on the fritz all the time. You blow through tube after tube (at least I did). At times the blown tubes damage the circuitry as well. So... because I hate 20% down time and the fact that tubes, even when they do not blow, do degrade, I went SS. Now, preamp tubes are far more reliable than are power tubes. So...
In your price range of 3K I strongly recommend you look at Audio by Van Alstine SS amp with the AVA tube preamp. Reliable, rich sounding, extremely competitive in terms of cost vs. performance, and in your price range.
So... consider a SS amp and a tube preamp combo.
$3,000 Event Opal active studio monitors powered by over 500W of total power per speaker with room EQ electronics.
Get them on solid stands and hook up them to the good preamp with balanced outputs. In the near-field they will sound similar to headphone experience.
These active speakers haven't been 'Stereophiled' or 'TASed' or reviewed by Michael Fremmer, but they have ability to prove their statement onto the audiophile market to blow away 5x or higher priced ones indeed.
Main strengths: maximum clarity, minimum of unwanted resonance in massive aluminium chassis with room correction that allowes to use these monitors not only for near-field. They can throw HUGE and spacious soundstage and provide fantastic imaging in medium and large sized rooms.
My suggestion is very simple.
If you like the music of yesterday. buy tube amp and vintage speakers, if you enjoy HT and the sound of today. you must buy SS amp and newest speaker on the market.
I just bought a pair of MC601 to compare with my MC275 Mono block. SS brings energy and Tube put me asleep. The choice is yours. However I am keeping both.
"If you like the music of yesterday. buy tube amp and vintage speakers, if you enjoy HT and the sound of today. you must buy SS amp and newest speaker on the market."
I think that's a pretty accurate assessment.
Not to say old music can't sound equally good on newer equipment, or vice versa, but harder to accomplish and probably just not the happiest path.
There's a wide gulf between an all tube integrated such as a PrimaLuna and an SS Denon receiver. There are very good SS amps that aren't terribly expensive that would do the KEFs justice. Examples are the Odyssey Khartago or Stratos, a pre-owned Bryston, or new Parasound, whether from the Classic or Halo product lines.
Given that you really like the KEF R500s, I think you should get them. You could get a multi-channel AV surround preamp/processor (NOT a receiver) and a Parasound 2-channel amp for the KEFs. The pre/pro would also have a subwoofer output and you could get a powered sub to flesh out the bottom octave of bass. You'll want that for home theater anyway.
Then when you're ready to go multi-channel, just buy the amplifier(s) you need for center and surrounds and you're good to go.
You could also shop for an integrated that has the inputs/outputs to provide home theater bypass. This enables you to use the premium amp for two channel listening and integrate it into the multi-channel setup (under control of the multichannel pre/pro) for 5.1 or 7.1 home theater.
I agree I think if you liked the Kef 500 and tube amp get that. We all have our preferences. I wouldn't get that if I had that money to spend but that's just me. Sounds like you know what you like and can tell the difference so chances are if you buy anything without an audition first you might be disappointed. I personally don't like tubes for the reasons mentioned above and most of all for me you can't really leave the amp on all the time. I like my gear on for listening at a moments notice. I don't really do listening sessions and then turn off. If that is the way you work, turn your stereo on and listen then turn it off then tubes are awesome.
Oh and personally I would avoid speakers that are going to need a sub. Personally I have never been able to make a sub work wonderful. If it was me and the Kef 500s didn't do it for me in the bass I'd try and find a model up from that did. Others disagree but that's my .02 on subs.
Do you have to buy source gear as well in the budget?
For reasonably priced cables I think the Grover Huffman cables are really good. I've had a lot of cables and to me these cables sounded good and good enough price that I just quit buying cables and stuck with these.
It appears you like a speaker capable of a high level of resolution with an extended treble. Consider a used Thiel CS 2.4 which also has usable bass below 40hz, no sub needed here. Another option is the Martin Logan Electromotion which would give you the choice of tubes or a small class A amp. Bass on the ML is claimed down to 43hz, sub(s) could be added later if you go the HT route. With the Thiel I would look into a new($2500)Wyred4Sound-STI 1000, plenty of power and a high damping factor for bass control on the 2.4. On the ML consider a used Marantz 11S2 which will soften any electrostatic edge and be up to any impedance dips in the treble.
There's nothing old fashioned about modern tube amps...they can sound amazingly clear, accurate, and capable. The added advantage over SS amps is people will think you're a better person than you actually are.
I disagree with the notion that you should tailor your amplifiers to your music preference. I run a pair of relatively exotic -- low wattage -- tube amplifiers and my music preferences mostly range from jazz to rock. The amps that I use are usually recommended for acoustic music (300b SET), but paired with the right speakers they rock with the best. I recently tested a decent solid state amplifier (140w NAD) on my 100db efficient speakers -- out of curiosity -- and found the amp to be veiled, rolled off at the extremes, and undynamic sounding in comparison to my tubes. Granted, my tube monoblocks are a lot more expensive than the solid state one that I tested, yet I doubt that a pricier solid state amp could do better than equal my tubes in a similar test. I also disagree with the notion that tube amps are unreliable and difficult to manage. I have owned my amps for a decade, they were someone elses for five years before that, and I have only had one tube go out on me. I do not know what the previous owner's listening habits were, but I listen to music for several hours every day. So, that's fifteen years with one rectifier tube going out and no damage at all to the power amp. I think that's pretty reliable.
Anybody who questions tube amp reliability should talk to any professional electric guitar player.
I mostly listen to female vocalists, classic/soft rock, and jazz as well. My Triton 7s/Cronus Magnum (KT120 o/tubes are a must) and StraightWire Maestro speaker cables provides me with everything I want (and need) for around $4,000.00.
However, for your budget of $8,000.00 and taking into consideration your music preferences, I would recommend you try The Audes Blues. At 90 dbs sensivity, they should pair well with any tube amp of your liking.
These are a very accurate and transparent speaker. The dynamic range, mid-range accuracy, and punchy bass give the Blues an amazing ability to convey the music effortlessly.
A good friend of mine owns them paired with Rogue Atlas Magnum (KT120s o/tubes) and AR SP9 pre. Amazing!
Thanks guys! Very helpful advises!
I am new to Audiogon. I just realized that for my budget of $5000 for the speakers, there are better options for used on Audiogon! Is it safe to by used on this Web site?
Some of the good one I found around $5000:
1. Pioneer S1-EX
2. KEF REF 203/2
3. B&W 803
4. Revel Ultima Salon
5. Merlin VSM
These options seem to be a step up from my original speaker list. Did any of you has experience trade here before? Any protection for the buyer if someone received a brick instead of the speakers?
Safe if you buy from reputable sellers with 100% positive feedback and with a substantial number of transactions.
Good luck in finding what you're looking for!