Looking for a good ss amp from an established, reputible, American company....no Krell's, no Levinson's....
Classe is Canadian and is part of the B&W group (since 2001) which is England.
TPpreaves....I did and I have. I had a Model 5 for about 14 years or so ...then I went to 501's and was not impressed with those at all....then a Model 112 - great amp, but not enough juice to move the Avalon's at 6 ohms and 86 efficiency. The bigger Rowlands are just that too big and out of my price range
Well, besides Ayre that you originally mentioned, and Rowland that was suggested, I would also recommend Pass Labs. They make solid state amps that are built like a tank and sound very good. They make a variety of models, in a range of power outputs, including both stereo as well as monoblock designs. They come in a variety of full Class "A" and Class A/B designs. They tend to run pretty warm to very hot. (So a large and/or well ventilated room is a requirement.)
Now, if you are willing to go with a hybrid design, (i.e. with solid state input and output stages, but with a tube driver stage, that has only one 6922 tube per amp), I highly recommend the Lamm series of hybrid designs.
They make two types of hybrid designs:
The first is a 100 or 110 wpc full class "A" design, (the M1.1 or its predecessor, the M1.2 Reference). These will drive most any speaker, and sound incredible. But they do run hot as they run all out, all of the time, so they will heat up a room several degrees.
The second is a 200 or 220 wpc Class A/B design, which is heavily biased into class "A", (the M2.1 or its predecessor, the M2.2). These will drive virtually any speaker design, and sound very nearly as incredible as the full class "A" version. (The full class "A" version is just a touch sweeter sounding.) These run very warm, and will warm up a room a few degrees, but they will not burn your hand if touched.
(Note: the M1.1 and the M2.1 are very slightly dark sounding in comparison to their predecessors, the M1.2 and M2.2. The later two amps are among the finest amplifiers I have ever heard. They are powerful, with outstanding bass control, a well extended and sweet treble response, and a touch of that old tube magic in the mid-range. The only high powered amplifier I have heard that rivals them is the VAC Phi 300, albeit it has different strengths and weaknesses.)
FYI, I own the Lamm M2.1, (and hope someday to upgrade to the M2.2), and have found that using the Nordost Valhalla speaker cables has mitigated the aforementioned slight dark sound for the most part. Used, the M1.1 and M2.1 run around $6-7K, while the current designs, the M1.2 and M2.2, tend to run around $8-10K used, and $22K new.
I am not sure of your budget, so it might help to let us know what that is.
My two cents worth anyway.
Good Luck in your search!
I tried the V-5xe in my system a few years back agains my then McIntosh MC352 and ended up getting a MC402. I found the Ayre to be very musical but seemed to come out a little aggressive in the highs. I have never tried the Classe' but have heard them in the store against McIntosh and think that the Classe' offers a great sound. I really didn't find it to excel in performance over the Mc so have stayed with Mc. But as far as model of Classe' I appologize that I can't remember. It was in the same price range as the 402 is all I can share. I will add that Ayre does provide excellant service, by experience I have had with my C5xe CDP.
About Ayre, I also find their sound to be a bit aggressive for my prefs. I heard them 4 years in a row at RMAF and AYRE electronics, including flagships MX-R and KX-R remains not of my liking.
As mentioned in a private msg to Gary, the JRDG 501 all by themselves can sound a little matter of fact. . . a pair of external JRDG PC-1 rectifier/conditioners will make them sing, but they will add significantly to the cost.
Within Gary's budget and within the classic JRDG line, one device to look at is, to all reports, the Model 8 stereo, frequently seen on Audiogon for under $5K. Several people I spoke to believe Model 8 may have been at the pinnacle of Rowland's classic lineup.
During the last RMAF I was very taken by the sound of a system which used a Belles stereo amplifier--more than likely the 350A. Did not A/B it to my own JRDG 312, but it gave me the same sense of musical ease, revealing low level detail, and grip on speakers. . . I suspect it is definitely an amp to look into. . . I just seen there is a unit on Audiogon for just under $5K offered by Hollywood Sound.
Last but not least, Gamut is also a fabulous brand of amps. The reference level monoblocks featured at RMAF were spectacular. have unfortunately not heard their stereo version, nor have I compared them directly with my JRDG 312.
The Ayre is NOT bright, but open and truthful, so it will point out brightness in other parts of your system/room. Acoustical treatment of the first reflection points in your room
I do agree that the Ayre rooms sounded poor (harsh and dead) at the last two RMAFs. However, the room that had the Ayre equipment paired with Transparent cables this year sounded better. I think it is the Cardas cables that Ayre prefers that ruins the sound. Pity, because that is not at all how their equipment sounds in my system/room.
Consider Bryston SST squared amps also if you are open to more alternatives.
I've got the Ayre V5xe with my Avalon Indras, and it is a great combination. They Ayre isn't aggressive at all, nor is it dry or flat or harsh or any of those things often attributed with solid state. It makes a great soundstage and has a very musical, natural uncolored sound. It does not run very hot at all, if that's a consideration. I've read some people write that it can be a bit light on the bass, but the Indras are that as well, and I don't note that in a significant way. Many friends have been impressed with the Ayre - Indra combination, and it's nice that it's so low maintenance - I leave it on all the time.
I've also got VTL 450's - and while different, I'm not sure which I prefer more with my Avalons. They are both very good.
Kurt - thanks for you Lamm summary - I am considering a major amplifier step up for my Indras and my thoughts were going to the Lamm or the Ayre MX-R.
I've listened at length to the V5Xe, in my own system for a week, and then in Peter_S's system, as well as in one other system. I was very taken with the sound and would also never have thought it to be on the aggressive side. Very well balanced and effortless, with a silky midrange and good soundstaging. I'd agree with Peter that it's not the last word in low end, and that's the only weakness it may have, but it does everything else pretty damn well. If you're sticking to American-made SS I'd also include the Modwright KWA 150 on your short list (disclaimer: Dan is a client of mine). That is the SS amp that caused me to give up an 8 year run of tube-amps only. I think it's a great SS amp with qualities I've seldom heard coming from an SS power amp. It renders some serious strong-arming in the bottom end without breaking a sweat, and yet presents a natural sounding midrange and soaring highs that really do combine the best of two worlds. It really kind of creates a category of its own, in my estimation, as I would not call it "tube-like" nor would I say that it sounded solid state (though it may be difficult to mistake the low-end authority for anything with tubes) I recently have been having the opportunity to bi-amp with KWA-150's in my system and the improvement of having two is addictive (bigger soundstage with greater detail and specificity, which is saying a whole lot as those are all qualities that a single KWA has in spades) and has me trying to figure out how to fit that second one somewhere in my small rack. There's a review by Srajan on 6moons that does a nice job of putting some of the best qualities into words. Peter is going to borrow the extra amp I have here to try out with his Indras so perhaps he (we, if I can make it over to his place) can comment on synergy there. My listening room is highly compromised (a work in progress, juggling the flaming WAF swords) while Peter's room is dedicated, purpose-designed, and is superb!
Ayre V-5xe amps are great! I had the big class A biased Krell/ ML/ Threshold and they were great, but the heat, all that class A; they are good for real impédance varied speakers, like the old Infinity Kappa 8/9; however, the Ayre is a good class A/B amplifier, it is very good with most of todays speakers
Both amps should be fine, as specs show they can both approximately double their wattage from 8ohms down to 4ohms, I like amps that can do this, as they would have good current drive to drive speakers with nasty dipping impedance loads and large negative phase angles, not that the Eclipse has these, but they are very inefficient.
The Classe has a few more watts up it's sleeve and with the Avalon Eclipse this could be a small advantage if you listen LOUD because they are only 86db efficient.
If you don't listen at huge levels then it would come down to which you prefer the sound of.
And I love amp manufactures that give their amps high input impedances, 75kohm for the Classe and 100kohm for the Ayre, as this lets many tube preamps and passive preamps able to drive them with ease, and not get loaded down, and those who know me, know which way I lean there.