recommendations for starting system


I am looking to buy a tube amp and speakers to match. Our living room is fairly compact (around 14m2) so obviously something small is fine. I tested several amps already (HK970, Cambridge 640, Opera a100 and m100plus) with Amphion Speakers, both ION and Helium2 (which are almost 600usd cheaper here than in the US). I pretty much think that tube is the way to go, as the sound difference between the more "tube like" a100 and the m100 was extremely noticable and desirable. I only have at most 2000usd but more realistilly closer to the 1000usd end.

It is quite annoying because at each of the three shops Ive been to, the owners have said completely conflicting opinions on the amps listed above. Most of the reviews Ive read from the net have been the same. It either sucks or is really great.

I live in Finland so prices tend to be higher here because of taxes, however, because I am originally american and have a stepdown convertor for my keyboards, I can buy in the US and bring back here with me.

My musical tastes are very broad, but I tend to like more avantgard music than pop and generally listen to somewhat lofi rock, highly polished rock like steely dan, late 60's expressionist jazz, avantgard ambient/classical and leftfield hiphop, so I guess I am looking for an amp that is both detailed and has a warm sound that enveloped the listener instead of overwhelming like many solid states do.

So if anyone can suggest a pair of bookshelf speakers paired with a tube amp based of the above for around 1500usd or so, that would be great.

Nathan, I don't want to rain on your parade, but if you are starting out I would stick to a good quality transistor integrated amp, a good source and proper inexpensive speakers and avoid the high cost and more troublesone nature of tube equipment. I realize that there is a resurgence in tube amps and that some are available at very resonable prices, but I simply would not start with tubes. I am sure I will get stoned for saying this, but I never ran in any popularity contest.

Good luck and if you buy used, be very careful. From what I heard at the last audio show I attended, I would recommend Rega and EPOS speakers, but there are many brands that offer a great price/performance ratio.
I don't think the matter of someone 'starting out' has any relevance to a tube/solid state question. If you buy a tube amp you have to replace the tubes every so often. That's about it. But if you have $1,500 for speakers and amp, you may have to buy used (but why else would you be looking on audiogon?!). Browse through the integrated tube amp section and see what fits your price range. I wouldnt spend more than half on the amp. I wish I would get stoned just by answering a question on audiogon! Of course, then they would make it illegal. Good luck!
IMHO: Jadis Orchestra Reference paired with Triangle Titus's or anything else in the Triangle line that you can afford used. The JOR will run around $12-1300 used and the Triangle's used for $250 or so. Happy Hunting and Good Luck!
Thanks for your input. This is what I am looking for. You are certainly giving practical advice. I have checked out the EPOS m12 and m5 as both are readily available here in Finland. As for the troublesomeness of tubes, this is true, but I have owned tube guitar amps since I was 17. Of course a guitar amp is probably less problems than a hifi amp, but fortunately my father is an electrical engineer and has a large collection of tubes and sources for tubes. I realize that tubes are probably only one of the possible problems with these things, but..

So if thats the case, can you recommend a good quality amp then? One that might match up with the EPOS or Amphion Helium2 (which I gather has a slightly deeper sound)..

Lastly, you might get stoned, but from what I have read in some of these forums, people can tend to be a bit upity when they are sporting a 5g amp and 15g speakers. I guess many have forgotten what it is like to have two children under 3, a morgage, be finishing a master's degree and work for student pay in your field.

Thanks for your help.
Considering that Pbb recommended a solid state integrated, have you considered a tube integrated? Jolida and Prima Luna are a couple of brands that won't break the bank and have been widely praised here and elsewhere. You can save a little more if you find them used. TAD also makes some very nice tube amps and Paul usually runs specials here at unbelievable prices.
the gradient intros(made in finland) are great more the kind of music you love...and not fussy about wire or amps
we are actually subletting right now while our apartment is renovated.. the people whose apartment it is are in spain for 6months, so they left everything, including those 1200e gradients that are almost a meter tall, thin and triangle.. to me they are way too dry, i dont really like them so much, but it could be the amp- some solid state onkyo or something.. the guy whose they are is way into metal.. i guess they match his musical taste quite well...