What amp / int. amp would you still like to try?

Being in job transition (out of work) gives you too much idle time so I just read the thread of Amp Evolution. It was very interesting, but after reading it I wonder, what lies ahead for everyone? I've been in the hobby for about 30 years and its always been fun sampling different things.

In responding, it would be helpful to quickly re-list your amp evolution and then what you are interested in trying and your motivation for it. This way others might be able to comment and offer advise based on their experiences in order to steer you in the right direction. My own amp evolution is pretty long so I'll follow this up at a later time. Hope this can generate a nice thread. Thanks for your input,

I have always wanted to try an OTL design at home. I would like to see how it compares to the mighty Meishu too...
If it were possible, the now withdran, VAC top of the range integrated, the Phi Beta, I think it was. It looks just stunning and from VAC, I am sure it sounds it too
Well, given the first two replies, I feel that I must comment. I am in the process of selling my amp (Atma-Sphere S-30 Mk III) and preamp (Messenger) and purchasing the VAC Phi Beta (directly from VAC...the last one ever produced).

what is it that you hope to improve on regarding the Atmosphere?
I'm a big believer in amp/speaker synergies. So it's fairly useless to talk about amps in a vacuum without considering what they're driving.

For instance, the Atma-Sphere S-30 is said to be a heavenly match with Audiokinesis speakers. So maybe a speaker switch is a better bet than an amp switch.

Similarly, the Quad 57's sound fantastic with McIntosh MC225's (my dad's setup). When I had some later Quads (63's) they sounded extra nice with an OTL Transcendent Sounds amp. And quite good with a lowly Dynaco ST-70 too.

On the other hand, my Maggies sound too laid-back with McIntosh, but really come alive with an Innersound ESL amp.

I extensively auditioned a pair of Green Mountain Audio Calypso's (GREAT speaker), and those were nicely driven by a VAC Phi integrated.

My point is that the amp technologies need to match the characteristics of the speakers to obtain maximum sonic benefit. So it's helpful to know not only where you are going with your amp choices, but where you are coming from, and the speakers that are your partners in the process!
This is very true and a good point. You can never overlook system/room synergy in building a good system or the synergy between amp and speaker.

Even though I realize its all system synergy, whenever I make any system change, I always tend to think about one component change at a time. Any more than that becomes too confusing. When I make the one change, then I can easily evaluate the results. After that, if the synergy between spkr and amp isn't there, I can then think about changing speakers.

Naturally, if I'm radically changing spkr designs, from a high efficiency speaker to a low one, then I'd also have to change amps as well.
Over the years I have heard representations most of the successful analog amplifier designs. I would like to hear all the digital amp designs. So far I have heard a Spectron, a Tact and a Bel Canto, and have been very favorably impressed with the latter two (perhaps our sample of the Spectron was defective). As seductive as tubes are, they "color" and fog the sound, while transistors add noise. Digital seems to have the potential of doing less harm. Whether that has yet been achieved is another matter.
> what is it that you hope to improve on regarding the Atmosphere?

Quite frankly, I’m hoping that the VAC will be the equal of the Atma-Sphere. The S-30 is a great amp. My reasons for going to the VAC integrated are not sonic ones.

> …it's fairly useless to talk about amps in a vacuum without considering what they're driving.

No question about it. For example, I previously owned SoundLabs. I’d say that 9 out of 10 amps could not drive those beasts properly.

> the Atma-Sphere S-30 is said to be a heavenly match with Audiokinesis speakers.

I can sure vouch for that!
Since I am a soundlab owner I to wish for Ralph's MA1 or MA2 model;for pre amp I would like to hear the ARC Ref 3 or 5 and again Ralph's pre amp as well.
I would like to try a Jadis DA30 or 60 integrated. Not that I expect it to sound as good as my OTLs, but I just always loved the way they look, and those that own them seem to love them. Have to agree on the VAC Phi Beta, only heard it once with the Magicos at a show, what a beautiful looking and sounding piece of gear. Do they even make an integrated anymore? You would think something like the Avatar with and without phono option should have stayed in the lineup for a long, long time.
VAC still makes one integrated called the Alpha, housed in a sort of Avatar-like case but containing the latest and greatest from their current lineup. Not sure of the price, but fully loaded I expect it approaches $20K.

I too wonder why they don't continue to build a more affordable integrated.
Having owned so many magazine subscriptions in the early 80's to late 90's and beyond from: Stereo Review, Audio, Stereophile, TAS, HiFi Heretic, Listener, etc., I've probably read more than I've auditioned and owned (and the auditioned/owned list isn't short either). From that, I love the older gear of the 80's and 90's in addition to earlier classic gear too.

Tube gear is without a doubt my favorite. I find whenever I've owned SS gear, it always left me wanting tube gear. At one time, I bought a pr of small brick sized Tim Rawson mono gainclones and they were fabulous. Was using it with a very nice budget preamp (Superphon Revelation Basic Dual Mono) and wished I had a tube preamp to go along with it.

I also tend to want to gravitate to rare gear as well. In addition to wanting to try many of the great products that I've read about over the years: Motif amps & preamps, Spectral DMA50 or 90 and DMC10, PS Audio 200C & 5.5 pre, Meitner, Counterpoint SA-12 & SA5.1 pre, Moscode 300, cj PV-5 or Premier II pre, Perreaux, Belles 400, Klyne preamps - which to me all look great, I'd also like to try a Tandberg 3012 int, Nait II, and a Revox B285 rec'r.

However, being so impressed with the gainclone I'd also definitely like to try the higher powered gainclone amp/tube preamp combo. Basically, just let me hit the lottery really big and I'd just have a huge museum of stacks of classic audio gear from the 60's on :)

And after that, I'd worry about what speakers that I was going to pair this stuff with...
I'll take the retro approach for my answer to this interesting question. I would love to hear (actually own) a pair of Mark Levinson-2 monoblocks driving a pair of Quad ESL-57's. For obvious reasons, I would think!