Solid state amp to go with tube preamp; used ok; budget: $3k max


I may have posed a similar question like this a while back, but I'm curious to get any updated thinking from folks, older or newer.

Situation: I have a Quicksilver Line Stage preamp and 60w monoblocks. I'm happy with them. I'd like to have a solid state amp to swap in for the monoblocks from time to time (weather, variety).

Typical desiderata in the amp are, as you'd expect, great grip on bass and pacing, smooth highs, good presence in mids, as wide and deep a soundstage as possible.

I tried Atoll 120wpc integrated (bypassing the preamp), Van Alstine SET 400, and my old Adcom 535L. None did the above to my satisfaction --problem mainly with mid, treble and with soundstage depth.

I've heard that stepping up the quality could bring something to the table, and to look out for Hegel, Ayre, Pass. Open to any topology. My speakers are 87 db, 8 ohm, and are driven just fine by 60w tube or solid state.

Specific recommendations for brands and models are welcome. I'm willing to buy, try, and re-sell if there's a good chance I'll want to keep it.

I'm going to be watching for things on used sites. Again, for this I'm setting an upper limit of $3k but am hopeful I could do fine with much less.
8700e65e 845e 4b1b 91cc df27687f9454hilde45
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@tvad Thanks for the link to the Monarchy. I have to admit to not wanting monoblocks for the solid state out of a desire for (cringe) convenience. Good to have that Pass model specified. 
 
@jason The review in Stereophile of the Eagle 2 is great. 

I'm making a watch list for things mentioned, so keep them coming!


any local pickup only. UPS will pack and ship for you, all they have to do is drop it off unboxed in your name, you ought to be able to get them to do that.

it's been fun looking, best of luck choosing something,

these Vintage SS look tempting

marantz 15

https://www.ebay.com/itm/393624129023?hash=item5ba5d38dff:g:09YAAOSwL7FhZKez

McIntosh MC2100, restored

https://www.ebay.com/itm/154639680001?hash=item24013e4201:g:kWUAAOSwCbthXMoG

Pioneer SA-9100 Receiver, have seller ship it straight to your restorer

https://www.ebay.com/itm/284475392771?hash=item423c0e0303:g:7SUAAOSw1wNhWmkt

https://www.hifiengine.com/manual_library/pioneer/sa-9100.shtml

SAE, I'm guessing 100 wpc, ship directly to restorer

https://www.ebay.com/itm/174795465874?hash=item28b29f2492:g:xuIAAOSw3-Rgvu5N

Sony 100 wpc

https://www.ebay.com/itm/264881455048?hash=item3dac2a3fc8:g:hKEAAOSw0aNfc6jc
.............................................

and this Kenwood tempts me the most, I would ask some questions, get them to say working in writing, make an offer, get paypal protection, get credit card protection, get lucky perhaps.

no returns, any problems, it's worth fixing I think

they forgot to say it is a Kenwood, 170 wpc

https://www.ebay.com/itm/324647640256?hash=item4b9681dcc0:g:46YAAOSwsi1gsIgG

https://www.hifiengine.com/manual_library/kenwood/700m.shtml

file:///C:/Users/ellio/Downloads/hfe_kenwood_700m_en.pdf



Elliott




@elliot -- thanks for the Vintage options. Not confident about vintage but you’re opening my eyes.

Someone locally posted a Coda at $5300. Too much for me to pay but I wonder how Coda ranks...and, more importantly, whether it would ever appear used at $3k or lower.

The key -- key! -- is that this thing be a league above... my Adcom, the Van Alstine, the Atoll. I need, perhaps, to overshoot the mark to make sure I don't land back where I've been. 
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@tvad Would this count? https://www.usaudiomart.com/details/649774010-pass-labs-int-30a-integrated-class-a-amplifier/

As I research past sales, I see this Int 30 doesn't typically sell lower than $3k whereas the 30.5 (amp only) typically goes around $2400 or so. Question is: is the amp section the same in both.
https://www.usaudiomart.com/details/649783884-hegel-h90/ <-- right in colorado, integrated, but you will hear what the hegel sound is, and can resell at that price in a jiffy

https://www.usaudiomart.com/details/649747636-ayre-ax-7e-evolution-integrated-amp/ <-- same idea as above

https://www.usaudiomart.com/details/649780498-yba-2-alpha-hcdt-stereo-amplifier/ <-- very sweet pure power amp, soundstage champ

https://www.usaudiomart.com/details/649778517-mccormack-dna-1-a-legendary-amplifier/ <-- worth a try, could easily resell if doesn't float your boat, or if it does, send to smc steve can make it sound even sweeter
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@jjss49 I saw those and am wondering if it might be better to wait for an amp-only Hegel or Ayre, AND I'm wondering if those models are a bit too low in the lines. I can wait for bigger brothers to come along, used. Not in a hurry. If an H20 came along, e.g....
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Forget all these suggestions, they’re all old tech.


This is the 21st Century where GaN amplifiers are about to make all these obsolete, but not all GaNs are built the same, or sound the same. LSA took almost 2 years of R & D before releasing the Voyager 350. I have owned many high quality SS and tube amps but NONE compare. And the best part it’s only $3000. There are several threads on Agon that will validate what Im saying

https://www.underwoodhifi.com/products/lsa-electronics
@hilde45

good low hours h20’s in the 4 grand range still

i think your salks will be driven well enough by the h90 and you will get a good sense of the sound provided by hegels, which in terms of signature are very consistent up and down the line, 390/590 voiced a touch richer but still very close

btw, agree with @tvad on the pass at reno hifi... no brainer for sq - question is whether 30 wpc will do the trick

**** **** **** ****

to the gan amp point, i still have my mini gan 5, that little amp travels in a usps fixed rate box, easy peasy, i can send to you to try if you want, see if the qs feeding it makes some magic
btw, agree with @tvad on the pass at reno hifi... no brainer for sq - question is whether 30 wpc will do the trick.

RE: 30W power output...Pass Labs amps deliver power well beyond their rating. This is an aspect of all their amps.

Here is a measurements section from Stereophile’s review of the XA-30.5. It produced 130wpc into 8 ohms before it clipped.
While the XA30.5 may give 30Wpc into 8 ohms in class-A (14.8dBW), the distortion at this power level is low, at 0.015%. The amplifier doesn’t actually clip (defined as the THD reaching 1%) until a much higher power level: 130Wpc into 8 ohms (21.14dBW).

It’s a no-brainer at a ~$3000 budget.
@tvad — you’re right. I wasn’t cherry picking, just looking at the wrong thing. The 305 used at Reno looks interesting. 10 years old. $3.3k. Hmmm. For a second amp, I can see myself looking to spend 1/3rd. Still, I know there is Pass Magic at work, so I don't want to just dismiss that factor.

@jjss49 mini gan 5 — that’s a really nice offer and my inclination is to say "yes!" but I suppose the question becomes whether it could possibly compete with the local Hegel.

I like how you guys are chasing me away from my max price point!

As for it being the 21st century, I’m open to the GAN technology, but people’s ears don’t think in terms of centuries -- people love Pass, et al. for a reason, right? Still, open to achieving similar results with newer, cheaper, technology. I’m a skeptic but not a denialist.
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@hilde45 , 

It sounds like you're leaning towards lowering the budget but like the Pass Labs, so consider Nelson's First Watt brand which are more affordable, high-value performers. One suggestion is to watch the recent youtube interview where he discusses the varying design goals and characteristics of a number of the models. They widely vary, so be sure to focus on what fits your personal preferences. I think that may be on Steve Guttenberg's Audiophiliac channel. Cheers,

Spencer
conrad-Johnson MF series ss amps.
@tvad and @sbank -- I may have miscommunicated. I’m looking for a certain performance from the piece, with a maximum of about $3k. If I can get that performance with an expenditure of $1k, then that’s just a better value. If your view(s) is that the Hegel would not accomplish that, then I would just be wasting $1k, though, as @jjss49 comments, I’d be learning about the Hegel in the process and probably re-selling without a big loss.

Regarding your comment about the wattage being sufficient, here’s a nice recent confirmation of your claim by the maker of Pearl Acoustics: https://youtu.be/4yZRdVXT8U0?t=554

@djones and @yogiboy -- thanks for the threshhold suggestions and the Benchmark, too.
@unsound I'd consider CR, too.
As a Monarchy Audio owner,I can highly recommend them. I run the a pair of SM70mkII's. They are the little guys of the line up,however the sound great,and have no problem driving Graham Chartwell LS3/5's. (83db)  I also run a couple First Watt amps. I would recommend them as well, but I don't listen at big SPL levels like others do. 
If you're buying new, then it would be hard to get better value for money than from the Belles Aria stereo amp (2k) or the monoblocks (3k the pair).  I own the monos; they run cool and together take up less space than many stereo amps.

I glanced over at USaudiomart.  Offerings from BAT, T+A, Pass, and others.  Here on the 'gon, you're got Goldmund, Simaudio, Coda.  Perhaps too many options.
IF anyone was interested in that Vintage Trio 700M (Kenwood), I wrote the owner, his response:

New message from: kodache-0 (1,359)

"Maintenance completed Capacitor replacement, speaker output relay contact cleaning, cleaning with all switches, terminals, fuse contact restoration materials, speaker terminal (ch A) replacement, power cord replacement, wood case repainting"

Curiously, the same unit, same photos, same serial # is listed under a different seller, less money, and he accepts returns.

I just wrote them

https://www.ebay.com/itm/115005701748?hash=item1ac6dfbe74:g:WKkAAOSwSa1hTCd9


The Benchmark AHB2 would be a rather nice change of pace to your setup. An excellent state of the art amp.  ($3K)

I recently have the LSA Voyager 350 GAN and it was very good and really good after getting it modded by EVS. ($3500 or less). It sounds somewhat like the AHB2 but with a lot more power. 
Schiit Freya + with 2 Aegirs. This will keep up and hold their own with the big boys.
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Try a used Conrad Johnson MF2550 or MF2275/MF2275SE.

The MF2550SE will be a little over your budget; probably by $500 to $700 ($3,700 total), but the amp will keep up with some of the best tube monoblocks out there (upwards of $25,000). The MF2275 has less power and can be bought used for $1,200 to $1,999.

I had the MF2550SE and regret selling it to this day. While I prefer my tube mono-blocks, the solid state amp had its place in both my A system and B system at different times.
Aesthetix stereo, Ayre, Klaus w Odyssey, absolutely nothing wrong w the Pass..
We recently compared a number of SS amps.  Hegel, Coda, BEL, etc.  For pure musicality the BEL was way above the others.  Class A design and it was bought for $450.  Don't recall the exact model but for that kind of money is was excellent.  Sweet music for sure.  You can easily upgrade the four power supply capacitors and a few resistors and you would probably be laughing al the way to the bank.

Happy Listening.
@hilde45
@jjss49 mini gan 5 — that’s a really nice offer and my inclination is to say "yes!" but I suppose the question becomes whether it could possibly compete with the local Hegel.

as you well know, h90 is an integrated, your stated goal is to have your qs tube pre feed a very good ss amp to achieve a desired synergy between the two (tubey sweetness dimensionality plus solid state impact/grip/foundation)

if i were you i would try the mini gan 5 - i think you read my comments when i got it (if not i know you can find them), i think it is a prime candidate for happiness fed by a nice clean quiet tube pre

the hegel is also excellent, maybe just a teeny touch richer through the mids than the gan, but the gan is really really good, crazy good for the money, and with an ounce of tube goodness, could be winner winner chicken dinner

re the h90, @tvad mentioned rightly the pass 30 wpc rating is conservative, same for hegels i would say, your salks are not current hogs at 8 ohm nomimal, the h90 should do just fine power wise (esp in your low ceiling room), heck the boys in toronto at audio excellence canada had the h90 driving maggies clean and loud, to their surprise and endless amusement for cryin’ out loud :)

of course the mini gan 5 is 200 wpc rms into 8 ohms... so output is no issue there

btw i have a klaus’ odyssey stratos+ here too, with big blue caps upgrade, this one can’t fight its way into my rotation, you can try that too if you want, but shipping will be a bundle its a tank
Belles Aria are good amps and you can get 2 Monoblocks in that price that are single ended.

if you want a one box solution and want a bit of bass Parasound JC5 or A21+
Japanese?
Yamaha A-S1200, or used A-S2100
or vintage Accuphase.
First off: no one mentioning PS Audio. Why?

@twoleftears
@pennfootball71
Good ideas, there. I am tempted by the Belles but is it as good as Pass and Ayre? Might not hurt to try.

Another vote for Benchmark — noted! Hoping for that Class A sweetness…

@mwasilow Schiit up there with Hegel and Ayre and Pass, in your view? I tried Van Alstine for $2.2k and it was not "there" for me. Don’t want to make that mistake twice.

Another vote for Conrad -- thanks for the specific model numbers. Noted.

BEL Canto -- noted.

@jjss49 -- the mini gan is 5 lbs? I hear you on the Hegel. Could be fun to compare, but I’d have to pull the trigger on the Hegel. I’ll send you a p.m.
Quad 909 or Quad Elite QSP. If you don't mind small monoblocks then Quad Elite QMP. Better than all the pass-es, accuphase and McIntosh 
I would look at Ayre and Naim (XS2/3 or SN2/3)
Odyssey Khartago- positive reviews, seems like great price/performance.  Magico’s Alon Wolfe likes them:
https://www.hifivision.com/threads/odyssey-khartago-used-by-alon-wolf-of-magico.8622/
Hello hilde45. The Starke Sound A4-320 is unbeatable, the best value in power amps. Check the reviews. I have three and plan to buy two more (I have five systems.). Home trials, OK. Enjoy the music.
I use a Chord SPM 1050 Mk1 available second-hand for about £2K in the UK as people upgrade to the new Ultra range. Mk 2's are more expensive. Chord amplification is used by the Royal Opera House in London and by a very famous group (Pink Floyd ?), the SPM 1050 is good for 180 watts per side. Should be able to buy one stateside where they were well reviewed. Built to last.
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Belles is better than Pass Labs by a mile and uses better caps and higher quality parts in their virtuoso and Ayer Signature lines.
Pass Labs has a distributor that is marking them up too much to make more profit.
Their preamps are terrible...Pass Amps are okay though. 

I heard them all. 
I use Mola Mola monoblocks myself but they are out of your budget and are the best amps I ever heard next to even higher dollar Audionet and pilium amplifiers.
@pennfootball71 -- Belles better than Pass by a mile. Wow! I knew they were good but I never heard them praised over Pass in this way. Your sentence confused me a bit..."Ayer Signature" lines? 
I am going to sell it in a while, so not currently available, but my Hafler 500 has been running my system for 45+ years with an Audio Research pre-amp (newer one).  I am going to be bi-amping my Maggies using the Audio Research EC-21 that was designed for them, so I will keep the Hafler for the bottom end for a while and use an Audio Research (used) amp on the top.

I had the Hafler checked recently.  It measures well within spec and only needed a bias adjustment, which I think a previous shop (AUDIO ADVISORS--STAY AWAY AT ALL COSTS) did the mess-up.

Anyway, a high-quality SS amp is not my first choice...I will use all tubes when I have the cash, but the Hafler at 46-years-old in my system is just fine, thank-you.

Cheers!
Hilde ... please check out Klauss at Odyssey Audio, Indianapolis

Especially the Stratos:

https://odysseyaudio.com/stratos-stereo-amplifier/
There is a CODA S - 12.5 for $2495 on Audiogon right now. Seller has a 100% - 363 rating. Over 600 views & 10 watchers' so, I'm not sure why it has lasted this long. Maybe it's due to no the lack of a Paypal payment option?