Threshold, Levinson, Bryston, Krell, ?others? used amps

Hi All.  I'm looking for a bang for the buck, diamond in the rough, 200-ish WPC power amp that will hang really tough with what's out there today in the vintage or recently new realm.  Trying to keep $$$ under 2K.  I currently own a Nakamichi PA-7 (Nelson Pass Stasis design).  Looking for an amp that is great at doing the disappearing act, smooth sounding, but not colored, and with lots of authority.  I realize that there are as many opinions on this as stars in the night sky but thought I would ask anyway.  Been considering a Threshold S/500, Levinson 23.5, Bryston 4B family.  Any standouts that I should try to find?  Let's hear from you.
Bryston 4B squared or 3B squared would represent a great value. I would think that one of these could be had for 2 grand or less. These have now been replaced by the "cubed" series of amps so there are some exceptionally clean "cubed" series ones on the market available still being covered by the balance of their 20 year warranty. I love my 4B2 but will most likely upgrading to the 4B3 at the end of the summer.
most likely upgrading to the 4B3 at the end of the summer

I'm wondering having not done the homework yet, what the major benefits in the new cubed series are.  What are your big draws here?

I have only auditioned the 2.5B3 amp along with the BP-17cubed preamp. I compared these to my 4B2 amp/BP-26 preamp/MPS2 external power supply that I currently have.

My current components are powerful and musical but lack some detail which obscures my ability to really follow the song more naturally. The interplay of the different instruments, vocalists and background vocalists has more clarity and depth to it which really gets you enjoying some of your recordings that you thought were "bad" recordings. Often times these aren't "bad" recordings, they are more often layered, complex recordings that are more difficult for the gear to render the meanings the right way.

Odyssey Stratos amp. Around $1700.00 new and 160wpc. Doubles to 4 ohms and very stable at 2 ohms. Lifetime warranty. Very sorry I sold mine, should have kept it as a back up. Made in Indiana as well.
"I currently own a Nakamichi PA-7 (Nelson Pass Stasis design). Looking for an amp that is great at doing the disappearing act, smooth sounding, but not colored, and with lots of authority". 

What do you not like about the Nak PA-7?

Has it ben recapped and biased by capable tech lately?
Honestly it hasn't.  I was going to check the bias and idle current measurements in the next few days.  It isn't bad at all.  Frankly, I'm wondering if it isn't the reason that Threshold sued Nakamichi and thus Nakamichi came out with the PA-7ii shortly after the suit was resolved.  The PA-7 was a nice jump up from my old Adcom GFA-555ii's and I'm wondering if checking out some of the class leaders' products from back in the day would be yet another jump or if the PA-7 is at the peak of the curve and then you start seeing diminishing returns for dollars spent.
I used to own a Forte 4A 50 wpc Class A Amp. At 4 ohms it was 100 wpc in Class A. This was the budget series of Threshold. Great Amp I still regret selling it. Was known to have enough power to run Maggies.
 Looking for an amp that is great at doing the disappearing act, smooth sounding, but not colored, and with lots of authority.  
I suggest looking at Ayre.
I would have thought that one of McCormack's offerings would have fit the bill.
You might also consider Parasound. They have been offering excellent value for a long time. 

One thing to keep in mind, is that the older the amp is, the more likely it will be that the capacitors are reaching the end of their useful life. If the amp hasn't been recapped, you will likely have a hefty bill in your future for amps that are more than 15 or so years old. 

With the changes in ownership of many prestigious classic brands like Krell, Levinson, Classe, Threshold..., it is getting harder and more expensive to get good service on the older models. While some of the older amps from these brands still deliver excellent performance, the cost of ownership may not make these older amps quite the bargain they initially appear.
Krell KSA 200 s
or FPB 200 if you are stateside and can find one it they both fit your requirement. If needed Krell can do a restoration on the Units. Bar none IMHO The best Ive owned
I had a Mod Squad Quad 405 for over 25 years after having a stock 405 for about 8 years (Mod Squad's Steve McCormack later became McCormack Audio),  a Bryston 8B for several years which was more powerful and slightly more detailed, replaced it with an Edge M6 which was deeper and fuller in the bass and just a little more dynamic and live sounding than the Bryston, and then bought a used pair of Nuforce Reference 9 V3 SE mono amps that are 175 watts/channel.  The Nuforce amps were very detailed, dynamic, with very good bass, with no etch in the highs--a very nice step up in all ways from what I had.  I liked them so much I had TDSS's Bob Smith do the level 3 upgrades to them.  The circuits were not changed, but the power supplies and several other things were--they are now super amps.  I got the Nuforce amps for $1400 used from the original owner.  I've now heard these upgraded amps with 5 totally different but excellent speakers and it was the best each of those owners speakers had ever sounded by a significant margin.  You could buy the amps and later, if you desired, have TDSS do the upgrades when you had more money.  The Nuforce amps already sound very good with a wide variety of speakers--and you'd have a possible end game set of amps if you did the upgrades to them.


Just becareful buying used ,when it does died ,you have nothing but metal.Which could be an expensive piece of junk.
Krell ksa100. Pure class A. Doubles all the way down 2ohm. Beautiful sound and beautiful looking amp. A true classic. Might be had for 2k if lucky. 
In terms of value, I'd lean towards Bryston because unless you're purchasing something super old you're still going to be covered by the warranty and support.

In terms of the sound character you're looking for, there's a reason Bryston is used in so many professional audio setups.

Lastly, to answer your question about the benefits of the newer Cubed models over the previous generation amplifiers, the Cubed amps have even better detail retrieval, clarity of sound, tonal balance, and noise rejection. They just sound better all around, assuming the sound character described above is what you're looking for. I strongly prefer the Cubed versions over the previous generation.
Never heard a PA7 but knew the PA5... I’d sell the Nak as they still bring in decent cash and spend a little more and look at Pass X250. In my system my X250 disappears or actually my speakers do. I do use a tube preamp but I’d say my preamp is more on the neutral side than tubey or soft,  but that being said my system is smooth, but not slow, bass authority but the Pass doesn’t throw the bottom end in your face but it can slam when needed.

I’ve listened to many McCormacks over the years and the past and current Parasounds and they all are very good and I’d pick those over the Nak but no way would I trade any of these for a Pass... even an older X250. Everyone’s taste and system is different but don’t overlook a Pass. The X250 is probably close to your budget but they don’t show up too often but maybe Reno HiFi has one. Yeah it’s a little old, but built like a tank to last.
The Odyssey Stratos or Khartago, as previously mentioned, is a very good candidate. If purchased new, 20 year warranty. Tough to beat for the money. USA made.
+1 on McCormack amps; you may be able to find a DNA-1 with a recent gold-upgrade in your budget.  I had mine upgraded 6 mos ago and virtually EVERYTHING but the chassis was replaced with new and often upgraded parts and boards.  It is essentially a new, upgraded amp, and Steve is still around for repairs and tweaks.  It sounds awesome; I can't' recommend them highly enough.
I never bought a used amps other than from my audio dealer who accept return for up to a year if something goes wrong.  I did start with used ADCOM, then went to  new Carver Monoblocks in the '80s  and settled with the Krell Class A  stereo amp which I bought in 1990.  Thankfully its still kicking up to now powering my Apogee electrostatics. 

Thankfully its still kicking up to now powering my Apogee electrostatics.
Apogee speakers are ribbons, but not electrostatic.
I bought a ML23.5 used and have had it for 20+ years so far. It is now in a second system but sees moderate use still. Running perfectly and recently picked up a full set of caps to overhaul at some point when I can do without it for a bit. It was the basis to moving up to the 3XX series, where I did not have nearly the same luck.
If you can find an Anthem P2 amp grab it I bought mine used 2 years ago, it was 7 years old at the time, it is built like a tank and will drive any speaker out there with clarity and detail.They come up on Agon every once in a while used for around $1,800.00 to $2,400.00There is one listed now for $1,900.00 on Agon
Of everything mentioned above, I would only consider the Krell.  I have heard most of them except the new Bryson amps but was never impressed by their products (MO).  Others to consider in the 200wpc range that are bang for the buck:  Counterpoint - they sound good in stock form but can be upgraded to sound as good as or better than mega buck power amplifiers.  Recently built one for a customer by replacing everything and the customer told me that it crushed his Rogue Zeus and bettered Plinius Reference Mono Blocks.  Others to consider  Harmon Kardon XX series power amp.  This is one of the best SS amplifiers I have heard period other that the FM Acoustic but much more expensive.  We have compared it to Mac, Krell, Levinson, older Bryston, Ayre, Rogue, McCormacks, etc.  You can also look at the HK Citation 16 power amp.  Very nice sounding especially for the money and you can upgrade the caps and resistors for not much money.  The HK will IMO sound better that what has been recommended above.

Happy Listening.
I have a Krell KSA 300S and I absolutely love it but there are some issues with owning a vintage Krell. I'm running a pair of Thiel CS6 speakers which dip below 3 ohms and have low sensitivity (87 db) so the robust power of the Krell is critical to driving these speakers. As much as I love this amp it's not easy to own one. Kinda like having a really hot, high-maintenance girlfriend.

Here are a few things to take into consideration:

These amps are big, heavy, and they put out a lot of heat. It should be on a sturdy stand up several inches from the floor. It should not be placed directly on carpet.

Has it been recapped recently by a reputable tech? If not, be prepared to spend well north of $1k on getting it done - and that's without shipping. Opinions vary but most Krell owners recap after about 20 years.

Research the location of the nearest shop that works on Krell. To my knowledge there are two in Connecticut, one in L.A., and one in Gig Harbor Washington. If you have to ship one of these amps to get it recapped or repaired It will add hundreds of dollars to the cost.

Make sure it has the original carton. If you have to buy one from Krell it's really expensive.

You should have a dedicated 20 amp outlet for the amp. If you plug a big Krell into a regular 15 amp outlet along with your other gear you can get some serious voltage sag.

If your speakers have a reasonable impedance curve and if they are of average sensitivity (90 db or higher) a vintage Krell may be overkill. There are lots of great sounding amps that will be easier to own. OTOH if you own speakers that are difficult to drive there is no better amp.
See what I mean If you look for a good McIntosh amp (there are many over the last 50 years) you dont have to go through any of this PURE class A nonsense, these older KRELL KSA amps ran hot as hell and burn out over time even if your careful with them. Not happening with a MAC even if its 30 years old! Reliability and longevity is why I only buy McIntosh amps. My last amp purchase was a MC352 one of the best sounding solid state amps they ever made and designed by Chief Engineer Charlie Randall, and that was in 2007! It has never been in the shop for anything. Not to mention the KSA looks like an engine block. Great sound though...

Matt M
"The PA-7 was a nice jump up from my old Adcom GFA-555ii’s "

I am wondering what preamp you were using with your GFA 555II amp??If it was one of Adcoms (even the GFP 565) then I see why you may think that PA7 was a lot better?? I have used a very special (not expensive) pre amp a fully tubed Modwright SWL 9.0 and I have to say the two together was magic driving a pair of original UK made EPOS ES22’s these of course had to be Tri-wired with Audioquest crystal cable. Beautiful highs and detail with excellent bass and great tone, really made me understand how nice this ADCOM amp really is.
I have a Bryston.  It is excellent, but a tiny bit neutered campared to my Audire's, which have much bigger power supllies.
My 2 cents...I have been holding onto my Threshold SA4E for a reason. It's a great amp at the cost. A  Super amp at the time and still kicks butt. I had Jon Soderburg do his magic and completely go through the amp and upgrade  stuff...really really nice. If some one would want to contact me...I just might let it go.....Mint...
I’ll mention a couple of real sleepers here that you can get well under $2K, $1K in fact. I agree with the above on the Odyssey Stratos, my friend has one and at 150 wpc it sounds great.

B&K EX442 Sonata, 200 into 8, 360 into 4, 75 amps peak to peak, it is incredibly tubey sounding. I used to sell these at the retail level when they came out and got one for myself. I ab/d against Paoli M70 monos (8417 highly modded Dyna mkIII’s) and very hard to tell them apart.

PS Audio 200C, some were prone to transformer hum, but recently saw one advertised that had no transformer hum for $500 in mint condition.

I would also put a Moscode 300 & Counterpoint SA20/220 on the list as well. I recently heard the Counterpoint and it sounded spectacular.  Some are cheap and I would avoid those.  My friend paid $1600 for his and remarked to stay away from one that is much less, it will be problematic.  I’m sure the Sonographe & Aragon 4004 are both nice sounding amps as well that can be had well under $1K.

Lots of choices but the best bang for the buck is the B&K.
I have A Bryston 4BSST and really like the sound and build quality. I picked it up second hand no regrets. 
I have A Bryston 4BSST and really like the sound and build quality. I picked it up second hand no regrets. 
The D-Sonic M3a-800S amp goes for $1475 new and pumps out 400/800W into 8/4Ohms.  Yeah it’s Class D — shoot me.  There’s a 6Moons review that indicates it punches well above its price, and I think they offer a 30-day trial.  Commence firing. 
I've owned a Nak PA-7aii for a few weeks and the ML 23.5 twice now for 15 years.  It wasn't even close.  The 23.5 is the best amp for Maggies and this was the word from Steve Whiney.  I have Tympani 1-d's and JBL Hartsfields.  Funny thing, I ran the Hartsfields with a Marantz 8b for 10 years straight and put the 23.5 in it's place recently.  There was little difference sonically, other than better bass control.  Apparently, the 23.5 is biased for the first few watts in class A.  It is simply one of the very best SS amps ever made.  Look to pay $2,800.  Now about those ML2's...
Another shout for a Mark Levinson 23.5 and also the 27.5. I own both. They will hold their own against many modern amps costing many times more.

But? These monsters are now ancient and need servicing and probably recapping at great additional expense. Also finding someone trustworthy to do it is a problem.
The smaller ML27.5 blew up spectacularly, complete with awesome pops, bangs, smoke and smell. I emailed Daniel Hertz who is Mark Levinson's new business name, not to do the repair but to recommend someone who could. Got no reply, so good luck with any repairs needed. My ML23.5 now has humm and needs attention. A readable schematic could not be found on the net.

The ML23.5 was chosen after listening to Krell, Aragon, Threshold and others and I would love to restore it to optimum working condition but fearful of wasting more money.

There is one brand seldom mentioned and which I have owned and can thoroughly recommend is anything from James Bongiorno. Look out for the original GAS Son of Ampzilla or his later Sumo The Nine (60W pure class A) or the updated and superb Son of Ampzilla II and his last effort before he passed away, Spread Spectrum Technology,

I personally like Bedini amps. I owned the original 200/200 pure class A, this amp was good to 1.5 ohms. I ran it on the Infinity Servo Static 1A electrostats and the original Martin Logan CLS for 40 years with no problems. I also have the original 25/25  pure class A and the 10/10 class A, which I have also had for 40 years with every day use. These amps sound better than most solid state amps and hold up.

Pyramid Audio in Austin Texas,  is an authorized service center for ML gear.  They have the experience and knowledge required to fix any of the ML gear mentioned thus far.  No vested interest in Pyramid Audio,  I'm a very satisfied customer. 

Good luck, 
Agree with Bedini, older Adcom, and Classe (older true Class A versions) that will drive just about anything.  I also agree that getting servicing on such amps is getting harder and harder to find, and some of those true class A amps are really heavy buggers (over 100 lbs.) so shipping isn't fun or cheap.

If you go that way, be aware that the ratings for Class A outputs are deceptive. I had my 45 watt amps driving the hell out of Apogee Scintillas which are a 1 ohm load and I still use one to drive original ML CLS, a fairly tough load and pretty low sensitivity speaker..
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Plinius make warm sounding class A amps. Great 2nd hand value because they are from a small makerr by world standards but read the reviews!
A little beyond your budget, but I love my ML-532H for the money. Good tonal balance, great measurements, and reveals every change made upstream. I thought 300W was overkill but I'm glad I have it now.
As I am watching the MMA  prelims, I am scanning the "A'gon pages. I might have missed something, but what speakers are being used by the op, how is the room set up, and can an improvement be made upstream, in the system, prior to the amp ?