In your price range and excellent contender would be the Wyred 4 Sound ST-500 or STI-500 (Integrated with remote control). That's the amp I'm using after trying many amps including the Cary Audio CAD 120S tube amplifier.
Good luck in your search.
I have a VTL ST-150, and if you find it dark and want something solid state, I'd suggest looking at the Cambridge Audio Azur 840W, which is right in your range - About $2400 new and $1500 used. An excellent solid state amp, with good bass definition and detail. But, it does run hot, so if that's a major consideration, it might not be a good choice for you.
If you generally like the tube "sound" but want solid state convenience you could also consider the conrad johnson MF-2500, which runs cooler and, used, is right in the middle of your price range.
Class D is not high on the list right now. Maybe I'll give W4S a shot sometime down the line.
Rdavwhitaker, I am starting to face the reality that I probably am a "tube guy" -- I like the VTL a lot, as well as my Almarro A205A MkII, and haven't found a reasonably priced SS amp that can produce that kind of organic tonality and richness. It's just that if I have to nitpick, which we all do, the VTL is colored a shade dark. The 2500A is an interesting prospect. Have you owned or at least spent some time with this amp? How does it compare to the ST-150?
My ST150 replaced a McIntosh mc352... The VTL was better in every way, not to mention the money I made/saved selling the Mac. I eventually moved onto the VTL mono 100's since I prefer the el34 sound over the 6550.
have you tried replacing IC or speaker wire? You may be able to tweak your way to happiness. Also, a new PC on your amp can open it up and help with tonal balance.
also fwiw I agree you probably are a tube guy...
I went from a VTL ST-150 to a Wyred 4 Sound ST-250 a few months ago due to child safety reasons and looking for a cool running amp that can be put into a lockable cabinet.
I find that I do like the W4S more so that I would have thought. Compaired to the ST-150 the W4S is actually darker sounding and I needed to retube my TL5.5 pre to brighten up the system a little, going from New Sensor Mullard 12ax7s to New Sensor Tung Sol 12ax7 brought back some of the high end extension and sparkle that I was missing from the ST-150.
The bass control of the W4S is in a completely different world compared to the VTL, very taught and defined bass from kick drums and bass guitars, I would have loved this aspect of the amp even more when I was running Vienna Acoustics Beethovens. The ST 150 sounded great with these speakers except in the bass were it just didn't have the damping needed to control the woofers as well as I would have prefered.
As for that special quality that tube amps deliver that I can't really describe but I love; the W4S ST-250 comes closer than other SS amps I have heard for around this price but it does not sound like a tube amp. It is an acceptable compromise though and I would recommend it especially for the sub $1000 asking price. Going through two retubes over the last 3 years with the ST-150 could have almost paid for the W4S ST-250!
I moved from tubes to a W4S STI 1000 on a lark. It took several hundred hours of breakin to sound good. I had read that that was the case and it was. Anyway I really like it now and I have twice changed back to my previous tube amps and I could not reinstall the STI 1000 fast enought. I also installed a PS Audio Power Plant Premier with very posative results.
Generally I do not like solid state amps but this has something going on especially considering the price. At this time I am using Focal Electra 1037 Be's but the W4S hase been excellent on everything I have tried thus far. Apogee Stage's, Maggie's, JBL's, Hale's etc.
The Pre-Amp section of the STI's is very simillar to the Placette in design (resistor's) so I expect that it would work well with it also.
The equipment replaiced was a very high quality Canadian Pre-Amp and French Power Amp.
I absolutely loved my VTL ST 150, the midrange on good recordings was spellbinding. Since, I've tried a Pass x250, great, but lacked the midrange magic. The only other solid state amp I tried after the VTL was a Belles 350a, which I thought was a good balance between the Pass and VTL. The Belles had plenty of power, great extension, top to bottom, and midrange clarity, it is truly an amp that I miss.
On the MF-2500 - yes, I used to own one. My opersonal opinion is that CJ comes closer than anyone else to providing tube sound in a solid state amp. CJ amps tend to be very balanced, with a smooth high end (I've owned three different models), and the 2500 is a terrific example. It can also drive almost anything.
I gave my Bel Canto C5i another listen this morning and am leaning towards keeping it or going up to the Ref500s with my Placette. It's really a great piece. Doesn't quite have that spooky holographic quality and natural texture of the VTL, but really good bass and perhaps a more versatile sound as I do listen to a wide variety of music, including a lot of rock and some hip-hop and electronica. Obviously the big pluses are the small size, cool temperature, and energy savings. Maybe I will look into W4S too..
Ff116, I am actually moving away from the Belles Reference 150A v2. It is a fantastic amp and does so many things well, but vocals are recessed and I'm looking for a little more richness and weight. Perhaps a bit too neutral for my tastes.
Still, every time I think about stringed instruments, piano, orchestra on the VTL I am fighting myself and wanting to bite the bullet and keep the hot, heavy, expensive to re-tube monster!
Interesting, I was going to recommend the Belles to you, especially with a passive linestage since it has a very high input impedance for an SS amp (100kohm). Perhaps what you seek can be found in a tubed linestage to go with your Belles - you are seeking more richness? you don't get that from a Placette (I do use a passive myself, so no problem on that front, but...)
I certainly get richness with the Placette paired with the VTL, and to a lesser degree a Pass Aleph 3, and maybe even the Bel Canto C5i moreso than the Belles. It's probably the somewhat recessed vocals that is my biggest gripe with the Belles, but that's not to say it isn't a great amp, just my personal preference.
After more listening with the C5i, it is very good in terms of providing big, clear, and coherent sound with smooth, pleasing timbre, but when I started listening to Classical it just didn't do it for me. Violins were too... high pitched? I can't explain it, just not quite natural sounding, lacking the subtle nuances. I hate to use the word "bright" because it's not hard or hot on top in any way, but whereas I find the VTL a shade dark on rock and more dynamic music, I find the C5i a shade "light" on Classical and perhaps intimate acoustics. I don't listen to a ton of Classical, but I enjoy it nonetheless. If I hated it, I could easily live with the C5i.
I'm going to try a CJ MF2500A. It's going to be either that or the VTL for now. Even if the MF2500A falls a little short of the VTL, but at least gives me some of that lushness that I'm looking for, I'll probably go for it over practical concerns.
I would love to hear thoughts from somebody who has owned the MF2500A.
I went from the ST 150 on to the 185 Signatue Mono's and have not looked back. The 185's were noticeably "leaner" sounding, even after experimenting with different tubes,
but I have come to appreciate that in my current set up.
I also sent my VTL 5.5 line stage in and had it bumped from version 2 to version 3 which made a difference.
I had a favorite SS amp for years, and was amazed when going head to head with the 185's the SS amp couldn't duplicate the bass response of the tubes. Never tried the same comparo with the ST-150 but suspect similar results.
I am not one to get stuck on brand loyalty, but I do appreciate what VTL bringss to the table (house sound if you will) in all of their gear (had the 2.5 with phono stage, have the 5.5 LS), so I will move up their food chain again when the need arrises.
This has been an interesting thread regarding your dilemma,overall convenience or pure musical satisfaction.
With your experience with tube amplifiers you now know the inate natural-organic rightness of tone and realism that'good' tube amps can provide.
Once exposed to this attribute your ears will always recognize deviations from this. You could be content with some SS amps for a while but I suspect eventually you`ll drift back to tube power amplifiers. Ears are really something are`nt they.