Try the VTL ST 85. VTL amps seem to retain many of the good qualities of solid state, and give you all the advantages of tubes. LISTEN AND COMPARE IN YOUR OWN SYSTEM BEFORE YOU BUY, THOUGH...
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I have owned many tube amps, CJ ARC and VTL. I currently have Melos monoblocks and personally prefer them. The powersupply provides a lot of punch and the triode circuit is smooth and open without being as romantic as the CJ sound. However, if you can't decide I would go with tubegroover and buy ARC you won't be unhappy particularly with a VT 100 or 200
I was in a very similar situation to yours; I had an Arcam Alpha 9CPre-Am coupled to an Alpha 10 Power Amp. While I enjoyed the sound, it just wasn't as "sweet" as I would've liked...specifically at low volumes...while the "punch" was there, something was missing. I started looking at tube units: VAC, VTL, C-J, Audio Research, & BAT. Dealers and friends began to caution me..."You don't want tube equip...too much hassle, etc,etc, etc..." I happened into a VTL 2.5 Tube Pre-Amp coupled to an Aronov LS 960 Tube Power Amp and let me tell you...what a difference. I understand why tube gear has such a loyal following...tubes sound fantastic!! While the VTL projects a large, airy and detailed soundstage; the Aronov is truly a GREAT amp!! You will be hard pressed to find another pure tube amp that sounds as good...even more hard pressed to find one with such a "muscular" presentation on the low end for 3 times its price. I waswarnedthat "tubes don't have the low end or punch of solid state,"...not so with the Aronov. If you want to get into really good tube gear without spending a fortune, check out Aronov Audio!
Listen for yourself and decide. In my estimation you will not get better "sound" and build quality for the money than Conrad Johnson can provide. I adore my Premier 11a in all aspects. I upgraded from a Hafler 500 and feel that it was a "big" improvement. If you can compare tube amps in your area, do so. I have never heard VAC, but understand it is great gear. So listen to all of the makers if you can. My premier 11a drives my Martin Logan ReQuests to fairly loud levels with no problems. Happy listening!
I am a big proponent of Audio Research although not familiar with VTL, I am familiar with the other two and both are "too tubey" ARC in my estimation combines the best of both solid state and tubes that is to say the transient attacks are quick like solid state and the presence is there like tubes but not so atmospheric like the CJ stuff. Check out to see for yourself, it is always a matter of taste. ARC gear is to my ears among the best of ALL gear, you can't go wrong and it holds its value.
I too upgraded from an Adcom to a CJ Premier 11 and what a difference! Sonically there is no comparison,I love tubes, although you do lose some bass punch.Another factor to consider is the type of music you listen to.I listen to mostly jazz and blues but sometimes listen to hard rock and the amp does not seem to perform as well with rock music.Biasing the tubes sometimes becomes a pain but is only a minor problem.I use my amp with a CJ amp with a CJ Premier 16LS preamp and Thiel 2.3 speakers.I would highly recommend the CJ 11A.Good luck and happy listening!!!Any questions feel free to mail me.