contact Stephen Monte at Quest for Sound, Bristol Pa, he'll tell you what will work and he knows his tube gear.He was a VS dealer.
Hello Jaymark, I'd suggest the CARY 120s. It's simple to bias, holds the bias, sounds great and CARY provides excellent customer service. It drove my 802D speakers with with excellentt results and they have simlar sensitivity/efficency as the Von Schewikert VR 4 JR speakers. Disclaimer: I have one listed (of a few listed) but it does very much fit your criteria for consideration.
I doubt you'll find a better amp than your RM9. Have you tried Roger's RAM KT88s ($65 each)? You might feel like you have a new amp for less, and that RM9 is a classic (but it does not sound like you are actually thinking of selling it). If you really have the itch, I would try a used Quicksilver V4 Monoblocks. Sound great, american-made, point-to-point very reliable, and very easy to bias - of course that's true of your RM9 as well (except the point-to-point).
Gary Dodd makes some clean, mono blocks that run in ultra linear 4 EL34's per amp. 3 signal/phase splitter tubes, and the whole outfit can be retubed for under $300... with great tubes! If you find one with the cap upgrades he offers, you're in business.
I have the MK II 120s... with the cap upgrade. I surely can't complain what so ever about their versatility, and bang for the buck.
you want tubey sweetness? Roll two of the 3 signal tubes. More? Then all 3. Need fast, quick, dynamic, and full range output? Same thing again. With a mediocre outlay for some small tubes, these amps are several amps in one pair... and preowned, I've seen them go for about 2-2500, with the cap and a back up set of tubes! Less of upgrades course for the non upgradeed ones, which you can then get upgraded.
they hold bias well, and have on board meters so it's a cinch to do. I got mine config to allow for an outboard (more accurate) meters use with simple alligator clips which afix to the meter leads.
Great all around amps IMHO. Far gbetter overall than the BAT VK 60 for ex. and near the same price.
Good luck with whatever you choose.
RM9 fans, had a chance to compare with the RM200? I think Roger stopped making the RM9 because of the cost of transformers he used in that series, was something lost? I have the Special Edition RM9 which is a little different, but its as a good an amp as I've heard - the first amp that "allowed" me to sell the CAT JL2.
Sorry for the delayed response. I did not feel the RM200 was as good in the mid-range as the RM9. I think the RM200 has better tonal balance and is more neutral than the RM9. Of course my RM9 was the original version not the SE (although Roger upgraded some parts on it for me). That being said I still wouldn't mind having the RM200 in my system.
Roger ran his with the PITB and a non-descript Sony CDP. Zip cord for speaker cables, his RAM ICs, and stock PCs (not much of a cable guy). At the time we were listening to his prototype electrostatic speakers, which are now in full production. A very impressive set-up that was much different than mine at the time so take that into account as we were not doing an A/B comparison.
SBank, I think it will be hard to find folks who truly have a lot of comparative experience with the amps you listed. I will say the Quicksilver in general sound very good, are built to outlast you, are easy to resell, and you will be very hard pressed to find any owner who doesn't like them, but you will those that have sold them only to come back to to them -- all these comments are also true of the Music Reference RM9 (not monoblocks).
Get a Cary V12R or a pair of Cary V12 (i or r) monoblocks. Bias is easy. I just put in a new set of tubes Thursday in my V12R and it sounds great. The V12R used is probably more in the price range you are looking for and I really can't see the use for monoblocks unless you have the money to burn. BTW I listened to a McIntosh 275 that was won in a raffle the other night and put my hand on the top. It runs as cool as some solid states. The Cary V12R can be run @ 50 watts class A in tridode or 100 watts class A/B in ultra linear or 65 watts in 2/3 triode 1/3 ultra linear mode, however it runs hot enough to heat up a whore house in Alaska. If you can get one for used for $2,500.00 or less you'll realize the wisdom of your purchase past present and future. I bet it even sounds good in Alaska. Some day I may find out. Well time to burn one. Have a great week!
I have a SONIC FRONTIERS POWER 2 amp. VERY easy bias procedures. I've seen the SE factory upgraded version going around $2200. I have the regular version. Very detailed - lots of power. However, does not offer typical WARM tubey sound. If that's what you are after look elsewhere. Can sound very good if paired with the right speakers, preamp. Built very well.
Music Reference amps are amazing in the power they deliver while simultaneously giving great tube life. Read the reviews and discussions here and eslewhere, you'll find it's true across all of Roger's designs.
I have an original RM-9. Roger went through it a couple of years ago, when it was 17 years old and still running the original RAM tubes. He upgraded a few electrolytics and installed nicer biding posts. I reinstalled the original tubes and they still sound great but decided while the amp was in Roger's care it was an opportunity to try the RAM KT88s. They sound amazing.
Better yet, the Sonic Frontiers Power 3 with all the upgrade from Parts connection.
A total, wow, 275 watts of tubes ( 8 KT88 on one side) and a total weight of over 100 lbs each side really demonstrate the power to the speakers.
You can only get it used and sure it will save money too.
Amplifier used before settling in the Sonic Frontiers are:
Audio Research, YBA, McIntosh MC275, EAR and Audio Note.
The Audio Note is in a different breed if the speaker's efficiency is high (I just could not find a better SET amplifier for the voices)
Sonic Frontiers Power 3 for the Maggies or Apogee.