VAC Avatar if you can find used. There are 2 versions the Standard and the Super. They also have an amp-in which is rare in integrateds.
14 responses Add your response
Oh my God, you have to listen to the Audiomat Arpege Reference. I'm not kidding. Kick ass value, superb range, rich, detail, bass that rocks, liquid midrange and vocals that have such life and realism. If you happen to live in the bay area in California, you can by and listen to mine--hell, bring your speakers while your are at it.
My Aronov LS960i is very natural, musical, and agile, with never a trace of listener fatigue. Even in the company of the wonderful recommendations above, the bass control, dynamics, and transient speed will impress.
It does not overlay a warmth that is not in the recording, rather it conveys the strength, and complexity of the music, without any annoying brightness, despite its excellent high frequency extension.
GTS87, I second the comments made by Grandpad about the VAMP. I have one that I occassionaly put on my Merlin VSMs and it is worth every penny. (Joule OTL normally in the system). It is an absolute steal for the price that it comes up for used (~$1,500 or so). I have not personally heard it with the TSM but I know it has gotten great reviews at Shows where it was paired with them. Joule did not stop making them because it was a bad product. I guess there was just not enough demand in the market for a near $4k integrated.
The sound of the unit stock is what you are describing. If you want some pics of the internals to appreciate the quality let me know. I think a lot of people don't realize what a great peice of gear it is because there are so few of them out there. It's hidden treasure and I won't sell mine.
I know that this is WAY BELOW your budget, but while you're checking out a VAC Super Avatar, why not spend a few c-notes on an Antique Sound Lab MG SI15. This is a fun integrated, rated at 15 watts in pentode and 5 watts in triode. I used one to drive my Soliloquy 5.3s (90 db), and I was always amazed buy what $450 (used) could do. If I wasn't into vinyl, I daresay it would be my main rig (and I can afford to spend 10Xs more for an amp/preamp set up!) Also, it has only 2 12AX-7s and two KT-88s; retubing won't kill you! Food for thought.
If you can live w/only 2 inputs get a Berning DH270 OTL amp. That's what Bobby @ Merlin would probably tell you. They go for $4500 new(with a waiting list); the occasionally available used one can be had for around $3800, but there's a guy selling a prototype asking $3k. Can't say what a fair price for an ugly box, but I can tell you that the Berning amps sound fabulous. You can always add a Joule preamp later when more $$$ is available...
I'm an ASL fan. I heard a Tulip 3.5 watt-per-channel on a pair of Oskar Heil "air-motion transformer" loudspeakers, and the sound stopped me in my tracks and forced me to listen for an hour. This happens about once every 5 years to me in high-end shops, where much of the equipment simply isn't musical. The Orchid is the integrated version, well under your budget, assuming your loudspeakers are sensitive as well as tube-friendly, or alternatively you have a small listening room. The bass was perfect (surprise, but bookshelf loudspeakers), and it was overall one of the five most perfect sounding systems I have ever heard. ASL make a large variety of tube integrateds