I have/love tube amps also. I use a Red Wine Audio 30.2 amp in the summer months. It's a battery operated Tripath based amp with 30 wpc. 6moons has a nice review of it and I've seen them used around your price range.
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I had a belles Ref. 150A for several years, the older model with the better power supply. I have also demo'd the 350A and the MB200 monoblocs. Great amps but not even close to "tube like". Dynamic with great bass and "slam". I wanted tubes but did not want to deal with it in a power amp. I really like the Classe CA-2200, better mids, more air and bloom. A bit sweeter and life like. I can very easily forget the stereo and just listen to music. You may be able to find a used CA-2100 close to your budget. I have not heard older Classe amps.
Thanks to all for the feedback. Another option I just thought of could be a hybrid amp. The Vincent SP331 seems to have steller reviews (for its price point), good power, good bass, layered mids, and is certainly within my budget. Many years back I had Counterpoint hybrid gear that certainly sounded tube like.
There was a used Modwright KWA150 for $3K here (no association whatsoever with the seller), which is an absolute steal for that amp. That's been the only SS amp that's kept me not wanting for tubes. I would say it gives a nod to tubes, but it sounds neither strongly tubelike, nor SS. It reminds me of tubes in the beautiful, natural, non-fatiguing midrange, but its command of the low end and the soaring highs speak more to SS. Disclaimer: Modwright is a client. Another great one but up in that same price range used is the Ayre V5Xe. At $1500, I'd probably agree with Tvad - you'll be back to tubes as I can think of nothing in that range (that I've actually heard myself) that would keep me from going back to what I could do with $1500 in a used tube amp (Grant, if that's a blanket statement, as you might guess, I'd have to disagree with you there...I don't think that's a given, at least not in my experience). Anyway, closest things I can come up with at $1500 and under are a Pass Aleph 3/30/5 perhaps...Bedini 25/25 (be aware that older SS amps may need some investment in new caps). Those amps did not keep me away from tubes though. No idea how they'd mate with the rest of your system. I'm surprised by a few of the recommendations. I guess it has to do with synergy and personal experience, but I don't think Bryston, Odyssey or Parasound have ever brought a tube amp to mind in hearing them (I've listened to all three pretty extensively, and owned an Odyssey for a while). Perhaps the Odyssey a little bit. Not to say they're not good amps, though again, there, I would stick with tubes myself. It might be helpful for the OP to expand more on what exactly they're looking for in switching over. What are you missing with tubes that you think you can get by going to SS with a "tube flavor"?
For your preferred music, I would check out a used Plinius, McCormack, and definitely ARC if you can find in your price range. The Vincent may also fit the bill nicely. Ideally you would be able to try any of these to see how well they work with your VTL and other gear.
Another suggestion is to sell your VTL pre and buy a Naim Nait XS integrated amp. This is a really, really good sounding amp and a nice match for the Quads.
I agree with Jax, if your looking for something like a tube sound the KWA 150 is the ticket. It is a best of both worlds amp. However that may be out of his price range. Also, funny Jax should mention the V5XE from Ayre . I just listened to this yesterday at a friends house. He was driving a pair of Vandy's. Of course it was hard for me to tell exactly how the Ayre contributes to the sound, but the system sounded great to me. It was my first time to ever hear anything from Ayre. I had heard the Vandy's at his house before driven by a BK Components receiver and I don't remember is sounding as nice as it does now. Also, I actually think the older Sims, specifically the W3/W5 don't exactly sound like tubes, but they are warm and lush and will get him close. He should be able to find a W3 used in his price range. I really like the W3, and I don't think PDspecl can go wrong with this either. I can't stand dry, cold sounding amps, but at the same time I don't like the hassle of tubes so it can be tricky finding a solid state solution. The other components Of course contribute to the sound as well so it helps to have a tube pre. Sometimes it just comes down to system/room synergy.
Hello again. I wanted to clarify my post. My current amp is a Sonic Frontiers Power2 amp. Overall, my current set up is the best sounding system I've had but to be honest I have not tried much of what is mentioned above by other Agoners. I'm sure there are other other tube amps - Joule, VTL, AR..... that might sound better and certainly more tube like. The SF amp has plenty of power but uses 16 tubes. It's a tube amp but not overly tube sounding. However, It puts out enough heat to warm up that section of the house. Not bad in the winter but not so good in the summer. My prior set up was older M series Mirages that just could not get enough power. I tried running these with Quicksilver 8417 amps and ended up bi-amping with a SS amp since QS amps could not provide enough juice to power the bottom end properly. I figured the SF amp could power most speakers and provide more options for speakers. Hence the reason for purchase. Fast forward - I now have the QUAD 22L2 speakers, VTL preamp which I just love for the money (acquired both for $1700). The QUADs are much more efficient versus the Mirages. So, I could get by with less wattage and hopefully avoid the eventual & costly retube issue of the SF amp. So, I like tube sound but would like to reduce tube hassle, and heat. But as others have mentioned maybe a SS amp just won't do it.
I guess sometimes you can't have your cake and eat it too.
So, just not sure what to do at this point. Maybe I could acquire a SS amp or Hybrid amp for the warmer months and put the SF amp back in circuit for the cooler months. I'm sure someone will reply that I'm nuts. Maybe so.
I am confident anyone of the amps I listed will please you greatly compared to the SF. The Monarchy line has several Hybrid amps with only one small tube per mono.
I think the Electrocompaniet would be the best, but I see none right now. There is a nice Quad 909 for sale and perhaps that would be a wonderful match to your speakers. Do some reading on it and you will find most say it is very musical and warm sounding.
Small unit and helps you simplify plus saves money and achieves great system synergy.
I second the Electrocompaniet 220 or Parasound. Most members on audiogon have never heard an Electrocompaniet but they will and you will see it show up more on these types of threads. I bought the Nemo monoblocks solely on the reviews and it is one of the most musical solid state I have ever had in my system after the Rowland amps I owned. Excellent value and build quality.
05-29-10: Jax2It was based on the $1500 price point, and the OP's stated background.
It was based on the $1500 price point, and the OP's stated background.
Yep, that's what I thought. We are on the same page and it does not surprise me that I'd completely agree - $1500 buys whole lot more in tubes than it does in SS, and I cant't really think of anything that I've heard that would keep me from tubes. As Kclone has reinforced, so much of this will come down to synergy, as well as to personal preferences (of course).
05-29-10: PdspeclThe vast majority of the best SS amps I've heard put out quite a bit of heat (running largely or entirely in Class A), so that rules out that specific goal. The Ayre I mentioned is the only exception I can think of running largely in A/B apparently. As far as tube hassle/replacement; that also comes with some advantages - tube rolling (expensive in some cases, but potentially transformative). With an SS amp, when the caps wear out you are probably going to be sending it in to someone for replacement rather than the simple job of replacing tubes. Tube amp designs are simpler and arguably more serviceable than many SS designs. Anyway, there are arguments for both sides. Personally, at $1500, if you're happy with your system I'd buy some new music and invest the rest in something else you enjoy or save it for another day. If you find the need for change and think your amp could stand for improvement, I'd look for a used tube amp at that price that might improve on your current one. I'm just not familiar enough with the other components in your system to give a solid recommendation there. Generally I'm a huge fan of Quicksilver and have owned five different pairs of Mike's amps in the past. None of those have been a disappointment. Atmasphere also always have impressed me, but I'm not sure if any would fall into that price. A great bargain if you can find one, especially for the genre's of music you enjoy, is a Mesa Baron with the tri-tube mods. You may be able to find one at that price - just beware that it is a monster to ship and must be very carefully packed (ideally separately from its tubes). That moves entirely towards heat and hassle though, but it is a really fun tube amp and offers great value for the investment at current used prices if you can find one in great condition.
As far as "have your cake and eat it too" - The Modwright KWA150 and the Ayre V5XE occur to me as delivering on that lofty goal, but at a price above your budget. Perhaps it would be worth saving for if that is really your goal.
I just recently purchased and now enjoy the TAD-125, "Hibachi" mono block amps that I bought for the same reason (sub for tube amps). Paul Grzybek designed it specifically to pair with tube preamps. I just sub'ed for a 300B amp and could not be more delighted. Sonically more even than the 300B, but the midrange is very, very close. This is accomplished according to Paul by not canceling harmonic distortion of the kind that tube amp produce. Excellent micro dynamics, without sounding dark. Highly recommended. Keep in mind that Paul designed and repairs tube amps so it is safe bet that knows what he's talking about...
I am an integrated tube guy (Cary 300 SEI and Cayin A-88T) and a solid state guy. The most musical SS equipment that I have owned was made by Ayre. A used V3 should be in your price range. I also like McCormack amps. I have had the DNA 0.5 Deluxe and currently have a DNA-1 Deluxe (purchased to drive Magnepans). You could also consider a D-class amplifier. I had a Bel Canto S300 that definitely did not sound like a standard SS amp, nor did it sound like a tube amp to me. I wound up selling it because I had an Ayre AX-7e that was a very nice match with my Spendor S8e speakers.