There are bargains in the old bin that do not exist for new products because nothing has changed much to make good amplification cheaper. The big "but" is that reliability is typically riskier with older pres/amps, and sometimes replacement parts are tough to obtain.
I was your in your shoes, pardner, and I'll tell you what just as an example...my Counterpoint even with its selector switch noise pukes on modern day midfi preamps and preamp sections. Some owners, however, have had worse problems with Counterpoints.
Definitely older (out of flavour) high end generally speaking.
In my opinion a good amp is a good amp regardless of when it was made, same with preamps etc, they may need a service, such as recapping Naim etc, but it is all on how it sounds.
Old amps, preamps, turntables, phono sections, tuners...
newer CD, D/A, Speakers, cables.
Thanks for the responses: I have to admit, I was pre-disposed to the older, higher end pieces to be had here on A-Gon. Suggestions would be greatly appreciated in the $1500 range for pre/power. I am very taken so far with the musical unambiguity of the NAIM gear that I've heard. Anything similar out there that I should consider? Thanks.
My pick would be around your asking $$ I would go with a Threshold S/300 amp and a Audio Research sp6 or sp8. These two in good condition together could be pretty close to you budget ....Had them both and worked very,very well.
Depending on your speakers. If reasonably sensitive i would go with Pass Aleph 3 and AES or Cary tube pre. Not very original, i have that combo, but it works for me.
Great thread...and an interesting "dilemna" for new shoppers...new or used? When I recently assembled a very modest system...I went with a highly regarded budget $500 Stereophile class C intergrated...then recently inheritated a hi end solid state amp that is almost 20 yrs old...after doing some a/b comparisons I came to the conslusion that the older amp was slightly more veiled in presentation and not as musical...until I realised I was actually listening to the newer intergrated! OOOOppps.... Yahtzee! Now...to be fair...the differences were slight on first comparison...but over time they have become more somewhat more prenounced...at any rate...they were not night and day...but the older class a/b amp does have class a drivers,,,better wiring... better componets...and ofcourse better build quality...if you wanted to keep things simple and not monkey with the used market and simply make a quality purchase with no regrets...I would go with a new intergrated...such as the Creek,Musical Fidelity, Bryston b-60,etc...at $1500 there are many choices...and most of them very good...however...if you enjoy doing some research, tweaking gear, finding deals,etc..the used market can be very rewarding...but like others have stated...there is a risk...but the nice thing about purchasing a hi-end 2 channel amp(regardless of age) is you get to assembly the preamp of your choosing...and with scarcity of 2-channel amps(it seems everything is multi now)...going used might be the way to go...have I confused anyone yet? At any rate, regardless of new or old, at $1500 for amplification alone...rest assured you will probably have the nicest amp(s) on your block....
Also...you mentioned suggestions...older McCormack,B&K, and even Adcom come to mind..others have more knowledge pertaining to specific models,etc...good luck...
Items with moving parts, given time, will break; (i.e. tape decks, cd players, turntables). I have always bought this new. Items without moving parts will last longer (amps and pre amps). I have always bought these used. Used speakers will reveal their condition quickly, just listen. IMO; used equipment gives you a superior cost to quality relationship.
Good used values:
VTL Ultimate preamplifier..true dual monaural
Audible Illusions Modulus 3A
Audio Research SP8, SP 9
Audiomat Arpege, Prelude
Audio Note SORO
Audio Note P2SE and P1SE (el84 based)
Bryston 2b-LP...great sounding 60 watt SS amp
older Accuphase amplifiers in the 1500 range
Accuphase T100 AM/FM tuner at 550/600..will only go up
Convergent Audio Sl1 Signature phono preamplifier
Audio Note DAC products; older DAC 1, 2, and 3 are excellent values with great performance
PS Audio 2C and 2C Plus very good and very cheap when they come up for sale
anything ten years older or more should be put on a bench with a qualified technician as almost certainly parts will need to be replaced; include this in your budget. For example, I was advised that if I ever wanted a used Kondo Ongaku one can be found in the 20k price range. But, once I acquire it I need to budget an additional 5000 bucks for service/upgrades to bring it to modern standards. Same applies with less expensive units.
Thanks to all...some very good ideas and recommendations here. Hopefully this thread will continue and yield even more fruit.
In your case (and almost as a general rule) old hi-end may serve you better, I switched some years ago from an almost new Audiolab 8000 to Naim separetes (half size versions 32.5/xps/180) and improvements were not subtle.
I second the Pass power with Cary/AES pre combo.
I use a AES (Cary) AE-3 DJH signature pre with the newer and sonically better Pass Labs Aleph 30 poweramp.
The Alephs are single ended pure class A poweramps with 30/30 per channel. It has 26 db gain with the RCA inputs (20db gain with balanced inputs). The Aleph 30 has higher input impedance than the older Aleph 3, so it mates with tube preamps better.
The AES (Cary's sister company and a better value) AE-3 DJH is their signature tube preamp. It has 20 db gain not 12 like most preamps so it compensates for the Alephs 30 watts.
The synergy is awesome.
An interesting note is that when Stereophile reviewed the Aleph 3 and said it was one of the best poweramps available that the reviewer used the older AES AE-2 preamp.
AES/Cary AE-3 DJH preamp used $800 (1200 new)
Pass Labs Aleph 3 or 30 used $900 (2000-2500 new)
Old is best, my whole system bar Shanling CDT-100 is 2nd hand and I have never had reliability problems. Go for the large, reputable, established manufacturers. I have always had helpful fast response from Pass and Conrad Johnson, but I have heard good things about small new companies especially Rogue, Monarchy audio.
I 2nd the view about Pass labs power, I use the Aleph 3, clearly only suitable for sensitive speakers, mine are Living Voice Avatars. I also use a Conrad Johnson Prem 17, but some of the older premier models 10/14 are very cheap and excellent.
I enjoy buying used, there's more searching and interest, going to your local dealer is boring.
Go for the older cj stuff,outstanding,simply puts mid fi to shame,big time.
For even less money get some well modified Dynaco tube gear. It will show how little we have progressed in 40 years.