What about the VTL 85 integrated for $1150 on the 'Gon. That's a great piece. Check into the new Kora integrated for $1,000 which could be a real sleeper.
12 responses Add your response
Celtic66, thanks for the quick response. I have thought of the IT-85 but I live in Japan and I imagine that with the voltage change and o/seas shipping on an amp, it'll be easier to buy it here (and here they run 2+x that). I am looking more for anecdotal experience and opinions than specific deals.
In a class all it's own, both in buid quality, sexy looks and most of all sonics, the Audiomat Arpège by a wide margin. Read both Soundstage reviews, the initial one where it received the editor's choice award, and the follow-up review, a year later I think. I own this great amp, and I am a previous owner of expensive Sonic Frontiers Power 2 and line 2 separates. Let me tell you, I am amazed everyday at the amount of new sounds this amp is able to pull out of cd's. It's a no brainer for those in the know. There are a couple for sale here on Audiogon for about a grand, which makes them an absolute steal, but they are only in ok shape cosmetically. An extra clean unit wil probably set you back around $ 1,500.00 used, and it still smokes anything out there in tubes, and completely dominates such well known ( but way overpriced) solid staters such as the Moon I-5, Musical Fidelity A-300, and Electrocompaniet integrated. I know. I owned all of these before settling on the Audiomat. I wasn't even close nor a fair match-up. Hope this helps and good luck!
Since you are leaning towards the EAR 859, (exc. choice from my reading) I will direct you towards the SV SUN AUDIO 300 BE based on my owning. Japanese, minimalist, good locking "a la Air Thight 300", also sharing with this one the Tamura transformer and dual volume control for one source. Within your price range, (used), and way beyong, paired with the Sophia Elec., you will be hard press to find anything as expressive and beautifull sounding.
Thanks to all for your responses. I ended up purchasing a used EAR 859 after comparing it to the following:
VTL IT-85 (not really broken in)
Manley Stingray (somewhat broken in)
Bow Technologies ZZ-One (broken in)
Marantz Model 66 (not really broken in)
Musical Fidelity A3.2 (broken in)
[the EAR 859 was somewhat broken in]
They were all tested using Esoteric P-70/D-70 Transport/DAC combos, and AKG K-1000 headphones.
The most 'musical' was the EAR 859. Perhaps it was the SET circuit (the other tube amps were all push-pull) but of all the amps tested, it seemed to make the most naturally flowing music (though it seemed to have a tad higher noise floor than most of the others). It was the first time I had clearly heard the difference between push-pull and SET. The VTL IT-85 was excellent and was quite obviously of the same family as the VTL monoblocks in my main system. I thought the Stingray sounded somewhat similar in tone though the increase in power was obvious in a fuller and tighter bass. After much MF-bashing in this forum and on AA, I was pleasantly surprised by the A3.2, but between the two solid state amps, I preferred the Bow as it seemed less lean. The Marantz Model 66 was quite nice as well, very much in the way of traditional Marantz tube amplification but while highly musical, it seemed somewhat mushy in the bass.
The stars of these tests were actually the AKG earspeakers. The AKG earspeakers are absolutely fabulous and I HIGHLY recommend them. Warning: they do suck down A LOT of power. They are supposed to like an 8W amp or better but I managed to make both the EAR 859 (13.5W) and the Stingray (25W) clip on a certain passage in Mars: Bringer of War in Holst's Planets. Despite the clipping, the music was wonderful with the EAR so I will just avoid that disk when using the AKGs.