The best amp for $2k tube, solid state or hybrid

I want to purchase another amp. I've had GAS Ampzilla's, Melos MAT-180, Karan Acoustic KA-i180, a kit tube amp using dynaco st-70 transformers and UCD class D monos.

I am thinking Butler TBD 2250, Mark Levinson 27.5, Quicksilver V4, Rouge Audio M150, Llano Designs Trinity, Pass Labs X250.

I listen to 70's head/rock (ELP, Genesis, Pink Floyd) and some Jazz. I have a Audio Mirror tubed preamp (model PP1) an NAD T-585 cd/sacd player, Maplenoll Cleo II turntable, ProAc One SC clones and Gemme Audio Tantos.

I want used and to stay under $2500.00 total. I want more of the HIFI sound then the audiophile sound. Sterile is not good for me. Bass must be excellant (Pass X250) and mids should be smooth, but maybe a bit forward. Detail is preferred too, but sound stage and instrument placement is a must. I want to feel the snare drum and hear the fade of the cymbal as well as make out the lowest notes of a pipe organ.

Maybe I am asking too much for my price? Please help with any amp recommendation you've experienced. I am leaning toward the Butler and Pass amps.
The Theta Dreadnaught would be a good choice. It is still one of the best sounding amps out there and should meet your audio requirements. There are quite a few of them listed here on Audiogon in your price range.
Have you considered the Cary 120S tube amp?
I have owned the 27.5 and had the Pass 250 in my system. It depends on your speakers but I loved the 250 bass but didn't care for the mids on my speakers which are Tyler Acoustics. Tylers are not bright at all but the 250 was fatiguing to my ears. Great bass and I have to say the best bass I have heard on my speakers. It better the Krell FPB-200 in bass. The 27.5 is a great amp with better mids and bass than the 27. Overall I liked it better than the 250 because it was not as sterile sounding. I chose to sell it and go with BAT. The 250 maybe a great match for less revealing speakers but I just didn't find it romantic or lush sounding at all. Of course this is my opinion. I have not heard the other amps you speak of but i would be interested in the Quicksilvers or Rogue. Tube bass is not as tight as solid state as you probably know but the mids and highs are wonderful.
The Butler 2250 sounds like a good match for you. There is a brand new in-the-box unit on Audiogon for $1900 - that is a whale of a deal on a very fine amp...I have a 5150 and I am thoroughly pleased with the sound, construction quality, and the look of the unit. The bass output is prodigious and the mids and highs exhibit that sweet tube goodness. BK Butler has really out-done himself with these amps...

Good Luck!

Thanks for the replies.

I did some research on the Theta and there are some good reviews, most in a HT system. Some say the bass is great, but the mids could be better.

I have not considered the Cary 120s. There isn't much info on them from people who have them. There are a few on Audiogon for sale at a great price. I would like to get more peoples impression of it though.

The Pass X250 won't work for me if it is too sterile and audiophile like. I like a more lush sound too, but alive as well or more forward. Tube bass may be an issue. I like a little kick. I am still considering the 27.5.

This info brings me back to the Butler 2250. Price is right and it seems like the best of both worlds. I also like the option of the 12v turn on, just in case I want to incorporate it into my HT system some day.
if you can land a McCORMACK DNA-1 or monster amp DNA-2 with the revision A done by steve mccormack or chris jeter;it will blow away anything out there even up to the 10k price tag.i've seen DNA-1 WITH REV. A UNDER 2K AND DNA-2 around 2800.00.
For $2K, I'd think odyssey Extreme monos, used... or perhaps a Belles 350 given the reports I've seen online, and given what my Odyssey Stratos SE does with my tube preamp. I would also have thought that with a nice tube preamp, even the Krell entry level KAV 250 could be a good choice. The KAV has some mighty impressive bass. My only knock on it was the highs were bright. I was using a SS pre at the time with mine. Better results likely would be had with a tube pre though..... having heard and had both Odyssey & Krell, I'm a tad more interested now in the Belles. Purely from the curiosity aspect though.

If you want more the musical/warm amp, the BAT vk500 is a no brainer... especially with the BAT pack opt. I wish I still had that amp. With either SS or tube pre, it's outstanding.
IMO ,of the gear on your short list..Butler TBD 2250, Mark Levinson 27.5, Quicksilver V4, Rouge Audio M150, Llano Designs Trinity, Pass Labs X250....I would check out the Quicksilver monos..I would definately pass on the Levinson and the Pass 250 given your wants
Best sound and value is anything by Cayin. Sweet it is!
Maybe the b&k m200 sonata monoblocks or the classe s700 might work for you;I had the sonata's driving merlin 4b+'s and dunlavy scIII's with excellant results.
I looked at the McCormack a few years ago. I don't remember why I went another direction. I will research them again. They may have been more then I wanted to spend at that time.

I don't know anything about Odyssey amps. They sure are reasonable though. I don't know much about BAT either except they are fully balanced. I don't know their sound.

I've always heard great things about Quicksilvers, but never heard them, but now because of an earlier comment, maybe iI should shy away from tube equipment because of the lack of bass slam. Not sure.

Cayin....which one? I need some power so less then 100 watts would not be good.

B&K m200 were great in their day. I remember them always beating out Adcom, but I think the Butler would destroy them now. I know the Classe name, but I am not familiar with their sound.
Used Belles 350A Reference or even better, a pair of Belles 150S Reference monoblocks.

IMO, they have less grain, and are more refined than Odyssey Stratos Extreme monoblocks (which I also owned at one time).

There's a purity to the Belles amps that approaches that of the Pass Labs I presently own.
I like my Sonic Frontiers Power 2 amp I recently picked used for $1600. Plenty of power and very detailed. Very easy tube bias adjustment procedure. Certainly not the warmest of various tubes amps tried including Quicksilver but it powers my QUAD 22L2 and previously powered my older power hungry M7si Mirages with no concerns. The Quicksilver 8417 mono blocks just did not have enough power. I ended up having to bi-amp with solid state on the bottom.
How would Belles compare to Butler? Both have the same power.

Sonic Frontiers made some nice stuff. Are they still in business? If not who supports them?

I must be honest. I am leaning toward hybrid or solid state.

I am selling my 350M's for the purchase of a new amp. I want to try something different. I have the bug. I have two people interested and I'll see how it pans out. I figure I'd do my homework in the mean time.
12-03-08: Stereo
How would Belles compare to Butler?
Buy one of each (used) and you decide how they compare. Keep the winner, sell the loser.
PrimaLuna Dialogue 5.
I just got the Butler 5150 for my HT rig to replace my Anthem PVA-7 and it is really sweet. As people are prone to say around here, the difference was not subtle...

I totally agree with Rlwainwright - this is a solidly built piece - the binding posts put a lot of car batteries to shame. In case you are wondering, the Butler manual says that they expect the tubes to last as long as the amp - no tube rolling, they are soldered in.

Detail and layering is tremendous. Dynamics so far are effortless.

Depending how much you want to mess with it, you could get a big Threshold and have Sodenberg work it over. That most likely would fit the bill with a 100 watts to spare over the Butler.

Don't know how helpful this is but FWIW I am very pleased.
Search for recent post from Atmasphere to see why impact of proper impedence matching on bass performance of tube and/or solid state amps!
I can't speak for the DNA-1 or 2 with Rev A, but I have a DNA-125 from McCormack with Gold revision and it is OUTSTANDING. I have had some other units on loan recently (up to $7,000) and no way would I trade the McCormack for any of them. Not to mention that I have exactly $2300 into the Gold DNA-125: not bad at all.
Although not a tube amplifier - it is an integrated unit...I would go with the Rogue Audio Cronus and spend some to upgrade my CD unit or use the CD player for a transport and but a nice DAV from Pacific or someplace. I own a Rogue as well as a BAT VX300Xse with super tubes. The Rogue is not in the same class as the BAT - it is as musical and has extremely nice low-end extension. I have the Rogue in-line and the BAT in a box. I do not miss the BAT - although I miss the low-level sonic detail of the BAT - but the pure musicality of the Rogue makes me forget that small oversight. For the price of $1795 with remote - the Rogue is the best value in audio - next to the Naim 5...but I prefer the Rogue as you can experiment with tubes. I use vintage EL34's and 10M series 12AU7's and 12AX7's. While this does boost the cost a bit - the Rogue form the box is better than any sub $2000 combo I have heard - new or used.

I have owned the Bultler and the Belles. The Belles Reference 350 is a much better amp. For solid state and $2000 the Belles Ref 350 is hard to beat. The real question now is tubes or SS.

The V4's are very good and might cost closer to $2800.

The Bulter amp is very good, but the Belles Ref 350 is BIGGER sounding,has better bass to be sure and smooth highs that soar higher then the Bulter. The Bulter is smooth and does nothing poorly. I found it a little, well , boring.
The BAT VK500 w/BAT PACK will let you listen to more of your classic rock CD collection I believe. There's not a harsh bone in it's body. Gobs of power. I got a whole lot of "they are here" using it with my tube preamp Sony CDP, and VR4 JR speakers. Being a touch to the warm side of neutral with great tuneful bass and bass impact, very good extension up top without grain or gloss, and strong midrange.... use with or without adapters! I did both. Works great with a variety of loudspeakers. Two power cords however, as it's a true dual mono block amp on a single chassis..
Thanks for the responses. I am going to use my NAD CD player as a transport when I finish my TDA-1541A/S2 DAC. I am a big DIYer as well. I think allot of people have underestimated the NAD T-585, because it is a NAD.

I may be underestimating the Belles. Not sure about it's midrange clarity. I may also be underestimating tube amps on their lack of bass slam.

The BAT VK500 sounds interesting too. That sounds like what I am looking for. I don't know what a BAT PACK is. I'll need to do some reading.

No responses on the Llano. This amp seemed like the best deal going. That Trinity 300 was at the top of my list.
You should do a Google search for the Belles 350A Reference reviews. Reading one would answer your questions regarding sound quality.
A BAT PACK option is simple... it provides a greater power reserve. In other woreds, within reason of course, it will not run out of steam (headroom) with the majority of musical passages on the larger majority of speakers. the overwhelming majority of the VK500 SS amps were made with the BP option.

The reviews I've read on the Belles point them towards being solidly more a neutral sounding amp. there's nothing right or wrong about either choice, warm or neutral... it comes down to what you, and your system needs are presently.

If currently your deal is a mite hot up top, or thin elsewhere, warmth might be in order. if things however are really full and fleshed out, neutrality seems the ticket. IMO. If bass is key for you or you're a bass junkie I doubt you'll get what you seek going with tube amps without adding a nice sub.

I know the vk500 has plenty of bass, and the reviews on the Belles indicate they do as well... some models more than others.

Both companies have outstanding customer service and build quality.

having a tube pre will give you some latitude too in attaining the sound you seek if an SS amp is added.
Valve Audio Predator.

Music Direct has a b-stock unit (it's a demo) for sale for $1999 right now. I picked up a used one off another Audiogon member for $1800 and it truly is a great amp. Takes away the sterility of bad recordings but still maintains excellent clarity. It blows away the Simaudio Moon I-5 it replaced.
here is my suggestion:

create a list of all amplifiers within your price range and listen to as many as possible.

the opinion of others is not a predictor of your attitude towards a product.

get the facts and decide for yourself. listening to a component will educate you, while listening to an opinion without your own personal experience, will not.

if it's out there, listen to it. it's time consuming, but it reduces the rsk of making a mistake.
I read some reviews on the VK500. Allot feel it is dark sounding. The Belles may be more my thing. I like clean treble as long as it doesn't make my ears bleed. The class D amps are working really good with the ProAc One Sc clone I built.

Valve Audio Predator is an integrated amp. I just want a power amp. Thanks though.

I do need to go and listed to some amps. We need some better audio clubs so we can listen to others systems that are local. I am 30 miles north of Philly any local clubs?
Following Mrtennis' advice above will result in the best possible choice for each listener.
I think the "Try it for yourself and/or in your system, preferably" disclaimer should be a banner ad at any audio forum website. it goes along without saying it of course. Duh!

It is the obvious answer to about 80% or more, of all the questions ever asked regarding component matching or upgrading. It seldom goes with out being said at some point, by someone who likes to underline the obvious as a pearl of wisdom.... as good advice as it is I just cringe when I see it. I'm also guilty of making it's mention in the past or as a last resort.

Without local facilities for auditioning or facilities which will not allow said auditioning, or a ton of frequent flyer miles, questions like this need to be asked. Perhaps in part to formulate some sort of short list, cull the heard, or simply to see what other's have experienced as food for thought.

For example, I never found the vk 500 dark sounding. Dark to me means less detailed and resolute. I got more "they are here" with that amp in my system then, than I have with any other SS amp I've owned. So I can't account for those notions. Everyone I've spoken to who has owned a vk500 w/BP that sold it to move on and try out some other amps, has always said they wish they hadn't sold it, myself included. So that's something, I think.

Not to digress... Sure enough the "Audiogone buy and try shuffle" works too. Maybe it comes down to merely asking these "What's best" questions so as to attempt to do less shuffling later.

Asking such questions, and then going on responses here has certainly worked better for me these past few years... like as not, I haven't acquired the perfect match at any given aspect, however I am very well pleased with my choices going this way... thus far. It's sure saved me from installing a loading dock and turnstile in front of my home.

At the level of many of the components tallied here, good to very good is an easy enough task to attain. Excellent isn't very much harder, usually it's just more expensive.

The pickier one is the more time, $$$, and frustrating this hobby becomes.

Perfection is a myth in an imperfect world.

Good luck.
The VK-500 or 200 is not dark sounding at all. In fact I say quite the opposite. If you compare it to a Bryston then maybe so. The BAT SS amps are very musical and powerful. It really depends on your speakers I guess. If they are very laid back and dark you might need a brighter more resolute amp. If they are neutral or on the cool side then BAT amps will work great.

And I agree with Blindjims above post :) Not everyone can audition equipment without frequent flyer miles or spending precious hard earned dollars travelling the county auditioning gear. Mr Tennis responses are always the same and most of us do require fellow audiogoners opinions and advice. I do realize we all have personal choices but at least one has some sort of an idea after posting our questions.
Not everyone can audition equipment without frequent
flyer miles or spending precious hard earned dollars travelling the county
auditioning gear.
Samzx12 (Threads | Answers)

I absolutely agree. Auditioning new audio gear is often impossible, and hearing
it at shows or in a dealer's showroom is only marginally helpful.

This is the primary reason most of my amps and preamps have been purchased
used. Wait patiently. Search the listings. Buy an interesting item when it appears
at a price that will allow re-sale if it doesn't meet expectations.

This has proven to be the best and most cost effective method for me. I know it
doesn't work for everyone.
the value of suggestions should be tested.

consider this thread. suggestions for an amplifier costing up to $2000 have been elicited.

consider two lists. the first contains the names and manufacturers of 10 amplifiers., based upon the advice of posters, while the second, is a list of amplifiers chosen arbitrarily.

it is my hypothesis that, without an audition, selecting 10 pairs of amplifiers, randommly from both lists, a buyer will not be better off chosing an amp from either list.

opinions are overrated. one can be just as happy without them. its fun to discuss, but opinions don't make music.
You have all given me allot of great advise. Tvad, I think your advise to "Wait patiently. Search the listings. Buy an interesting item when it appears at a price that will allow re-sale if it doesn't meet expectations." is what I will do. There was a used BAT VK500 I inquired about, but it was too late.

I am also tossing around building an amp.
Good amps go quickly. Facts & opinions, not withstanding.
for us2500 one of those modded mccormacks dna series would be superb.