Audio Research is reknowned for their tube amps (I owned
a D-125 which was excellent), but their solid state amps
have never impressed the masses as much as their tube
offerings. I also owned a Pass Aleph 5 which was an
excellent Class A solid state amp, and occasionally
available for $1500-1800 used. I personally would lean
to a Pass amp as having a more refined sound.
The Pass Aleph series amps are very detailed and direct, but the affordable models are only 30 or 50 wpc. They do have bigger Aleph models and they have the newer X-series, but they start getting more expensive. I would definitely recommmend listening to some amps in your home before buying. I'm not sure if you would like the sound of the Pass with Megadeath or Metallica. I'm not putting down the music at all...it's just that the amps are very detailed and neutral, and you may not prefer the way their lower powered amps portray distorted rock, and they may not be able to go as loud as you might prefer. I owned an Aleph 3 and, though I appreciated a lot about it's design, purity, and musical detail, I never found myself tapping along as I listened. I constantly found myself distracted and I wasn't enjoying the music. It's an amazing amp, but it wasn't the right amp for me...with my system.
All amps are designed by people with individual tastes and they will appeal people's individual tastes. Some are better at portraying certain styles of music than others...probably due to the designer's individual tastes. Besides all that, you need to know how the amp will mate with your preamp, speakers, and the rest of your system. There are many amazing preamps, amps, and speakers, but they won't sound amazing if they're not matched with compatible components...that's why it's so important to try the amp in your room, with your system and your music.
i think people here will want to know about your associated gear, especially the speakers you are using or speakers you plan to use. the speaker/amp combo should be well thought out for synergy. if you are using a budget speaker, you will likely upgrade that after your amp purchase, and some, including myself, do not think you should proceed this way.
i would pick the speaker i wanted to voice and then choose from an appropriate selection of amps. consider, if you have a fairly to highly efficient speaker (>= 90db sensitivity with a fairly flat impedance curve) you will likely not need a monster ss amp and may find yourself very satisfied with a pass aleph series.
the bottom line is that many feel the amp should be chosen for the speaker it is intended to drive and rarely the other way around.
let us know more about your system
For metallica and 'megadeath' I would definitely stay AWAY from pass labs aleph amps. They have very precise bass, but in your price range the aleph 3 and aleph 5 will be too wimpy. I too have heard that the early ARC solid state amps stank. I have not heard one personally to confirm this. Seems odd that they would have let it out the door.
I would buy an old conrad-johnson mv-50, 52 or 55. These are el-34 based and make electric guitars sound GREAT. No other amp brings out the real sound of an overdriven electric guitar so well. You should be able to find one of these for 600-1500 depending on year/model.
If you want bass string for 1200, buy a mccormack dna-1. Those have awesome bass. If you can find a dna-1/reva or revb you might want to pay the extra cash. Also, the adcom 5802 is a great 300w amp. You can pick those up for under 1000. They are very good sounding amps.
Without knowing what your associated equipment is, it is a little hard to provide specific input. In general terms, though, I have never been as impressed with Audio Research solid state amps as with their tube amps. It always struck me (and it has been a couple years, admittedly,) that the SS gear was an attempt to broaden the product line and keep people who were former AR users (or fans) but wanted to switch to SS. The sound was far less musical than I had come to expect from AR.
I listen to a fairly wide range of music, and have found the Pass X series to be pretty impressive versus much more expensive gear. You can typically find the X-150 for about $2,500 on A-gon and occasionally get luckier. If you have heard and liked the recent Pass amps, IMHO you should probably also give a listen to Plinius - I was VERY surprised at how musical some of their amps are (again a used 100 is about $2,500)
Considering your preferred music, though, you might also consider a "more agressive" sounding amp like a used Krell. While I am not generally a Krell fan (never integrated well with my current or prior systems), I have to admit that they do sound pretty impressive with Metallica and pack a great SLAM on appropriate speakers . (One of my friends is a huge mettalica fan and set his system up around them - he went with Krell amps).
Pas with some heavy duty power would be out of your budget.I would have to differ with everyone else here.I have a Audio Research D-130 solid state amp and it has very good sound,I listen to music with heavy bass and highs,not heavy metal though.You might be pleased with the sound of the Audio Research D-200 which is a 200 wpc amp and it's within your range.Interconnects are important too.I run with balanced Audioquest Diamond and it really does the trick.Good luck.
You may want to consider a couple of older (early 90s) ARC
solid-state amps: the D-240mkII (120wpc/8ohm) and the
D-400mkII (200wpc/8ohm). The amps are fully balanced
low-feedback class A/AB designs biased to run class A for
the first 15/30wpc while doubling power output as impedance
halves. Sound familiar? It should. The current Pass X-series
amps are almost exactly the same design-wise. And they sound
The current ARC 100.2 is similar in design to the D-240mkII
and the D-400mkII.
The ARC D-130/D-200/D-300 amps use much different circuits
than the D-240mkII/D-400mk/100.2 and are not as refined in
I am currently running two ARC D-400mkIIs vertically biamped
into a pair of Kinetic Audio Labyrinths (large transmission
lines based on the old IMF designs). I couldn't be happier.
I used to drive them with two ARC D-200s, then two ARC
My ARC LS-5mkII pre has been a constant, however. Wonderful
synergy with the ARC tube pre and the ARC solid-state amps.
Seems like there are a number of people above who don't believe in Audio Research solid state gear, however I own the 100.2 amp (100 wpc at 8 ohms, 200 wpc at 4 ohms) and think it is an outstanding amp. You can read reviews about it on Audioreview.com. I compared it directly against the Audio Research VT-100 MkIII (tube) and a Bryston amp (ss), and I preferred the 100.2 by a large margin. Better control of the bass and plenty of power. It is a neutral amp that reproduces all types of music accurately without artifically coloring it, and it also works equally well at low volumes -- none of the detail or music is lost. If you have the opportunity, you should try to listen to the 100.2 and the other Audio Research amps listed by the poster above before writing them off your list.
I also listened to a Balanced Audio Technology VK-200 (100 wpc at 8 ohms), and was impressed by its power and accuracy. I preferred it over the Proceed HPA2 that I compared it to simultaneously. Both the 100.2 and the VK-200 run about $1,800-2,000 used here on Audiogon. I cannot recall the model Bryston amp I listened to, so I don't want to give you the impression they are not equal to Audio Research gear. There are a lot of positive comments about Bryston amps, such as the 4B-ST. I have not heard the Aleph amps, so I cannot comment on them.
I second the recommendation for the McCormack. Also, instead of buying a preamp, pick up a used Theta Miles CDP and run it directly to the amp. I used to have a Miles and it was great for rock and metal.
Audio Research LS3B preamp just rocks, but it's not as refined as some other preamps out there. I have one and I used it till I went with a passive control unit, to get that spooky last drop of info on Jazz and classical. It had tons of attack, a ton of gain, great if you like it loud, and I really liked the bass on it. I think it's selling for well under $1,000 now, and it's very reliable and has the classic ARC look. In it's day it was a sterophile class a.
Bryston is affordable and probably very good with hard rock. Plinius have great bass, but needs to be paired with a good preamp. The Audio Research tube preamps sound great with the Plinius amps.
If you want to rock and are thinking about Pass Labs, avoid the Aleph's and go for the X amps. Far more focused and punchy but not as sweet and romantic. Can't comment on the ARC SS amps.
Meisterkleef, i am amazed that you have a set of Kinetic's. I've never known anyone other than myself to own a product from this company. How do you like their TATL's ? I've got a smaller set of their speakers that work quite well. While the cabinets are not real attractive due to how they are constructed, i have to admit that these guys were building "tanks" ( super thick & "dead" cabinets ) LONG before anyone else that i know of. Sean
Thank you all for your suggestions.
I'll be listening to the gear mentioned if and when I get the chance.
As for my gear I currently have
1) NHT 2.9 speakers
2) Arcam Alpha 9 cd player
3) Transparent Ultra RCA's, Transparent PowerBank Ultra line conditioner, 3 Transparent Reference Power Link power cords, Transparent Ultra speaker cables.
4) 2 Dedicated Circuits w/independant grounds and fuses instead of circuit breakers. And 2 FIM receptacles, one for feeding the amp and one for feeding the line conditioner.
5) And I am currently using an Acurus A200 amp and an Acurus RL-11 preamp.
Although I was much happier with this Acurus setup than my previous Adcom, I was wanting something more than the budget amp sound.
I found out from a conversation with Mondial Designs
( the makers of Acurus ) that before NHT loudspeakers sold to Recoton, that they recommended Acurus and Aragon
( Mondial Designs products ) for their speakers.
I was also told that it would be a VAST IMPROVEMENT over the Acurus to use an Aragon 8008BB amp an Aragon 28K preamp even though Acurus is good too. They also said that the Aragon 8008BB was an amp that would never need to be replaced.
Would this be a good amp also compared to the other ones mentioned above??? I would tend to go with what NHT recomends since they made my speakers.
Thanks again for all your suggestions.
I used to have NHT 2.9's. The can sound bright with the wrong amp. After trying a NAD 218 and a Bryston 4BST, I ended up with a Classe CA200, which was a much better match. If you are going to crank Metalica you will need a CA300 or 301 unless you are in a small room. I have not tried Aragon.
Hey Sean - I got my Labyrinths back in '96. Fell in love
with the sound of transmission-line bass done well and came
across Kinetic. Not a very big company but they sure do make
some great t-lines. Also make their 12" woofers, 6.5" mids,
and 1" dome tweeters in-house. I believe the only driver
they now outsource is their 2" dome mid. And yes the
cabinets are deader-than-doornails. But that definitely
comes at a price as they're 250lbs each!!! I love their
sound, and they seem to thrive with as much power as I can
feed them, which is why I stick to SS amps. Real nice match
with the ARC pres/amps. I'll probably have this combo for a
long time to come.