Well, it depends! I have a smokin' recommendation at under $800, but it's tubes! The Cayin TA-30 from BizzyBee Audio is a really great sounding integrated amp. I've owned at least 15 different integrated amps that retail for $600-$2500 and the Cayin is my favorite.
If you require Solid State, I would recommend buying used and getting a Bryston B-60. It is a very smooth sounding unit and can sometimes be bought for under $1000 used. It comes with a transferable 20 year warranty, so he should be covered for many years.
I've also owned the Arcam Alpha 10 Integrated which I actually preferred over the Bryston because of its good sound and funtionality. They can be purchased used for $600-750. The Alpha 10 was replaced with the Arcam Diva 85, which gets great reviews. Also, the Creek 5053SE gets great reviews and can sometimes be bought used for under $1000.
OK, let's try that again:
The Arcam is the A85.
The Creek is 5350SE.
Great recommendatioins above. Audio Refinement Complete is often overlooked. Great deals found on the Luxman 491 which has a tubed preamp section. I upgraded the tubes and hardwired an LAT International PC and it really came to life.
If they are not going to "spend like we do"...will they still buy used like we do?...if they will buy used, I second the B-60...have one myself and love it...my system could be had easily for under 3k used...probably more around the 2k mark. I love the sound...and the peace of mind a 20 year transferrable warranty gives me.
now I have to go hear a cayin somewhere since everybody is buzzing about it
couple others right in that price point are older simaudio (celeste versions) and and plinius (8100)
A used YBA Integre. You'll be hard pressed to find a better 50 SS watts. Beautiful top to bottom including the innards. peace, warren
Try a Jolida 302b for $900 new. It's a tube integrated that sounds really exceptional with the right speakers. (My favorite combo so far is the Jolida 302b and Totem Arros speakers, both of which would fit in your friend's $3000 budget.)
I agree with Celtic66. I really enjoyed my Audio Refinement Complete integrated. It's basically an entry level YBA integrated...great engineering and build quality.!
I had the pleasure of hearing the Almarro A205A 4.5 watt integrated at the last CES.
I've been using one (purchased used for $415 -new retail is $800) for about three months (with KEF Q1's).
This thing is BASIC in that it allows only one input.
I sounds, however like something MUCH more powerful (the maker says it is due to oversized output transformers).
I just moved into a new dwelling and have not had the urge to unbox my ARC VT-100 Mk III (but will eventually...).
Using sound as the yardstick, the Almarro just kicks ass! Very pure, fast, clean -you name it!
The maker is thinking about including a headphone jack which would make this puppy a monster!
Death to high priced audio!
Although I have not heard the other suggested amps, I currently own a Audio Refinement Complete Integrated. It compares remarkably well to other more expensive separates I have had.
Krell KAV-300i with Magnepan 1.6/QR. If you get both used, then add a Cd player and maybe a turntable for under $3k.
Panasonic SA XR45 all digital
I also have the Audio Refinement integrated and it is a very friendly sounding amp. It has good bass and relatively good resolution and is listenable no mater what recording I have fed it. You can also find it at some discount if you ask.
I picked up a used Arcam FMJ A22 for $800, and for that money, it is very hard to beat. I would call it a very smooth and liquid sounding amp, but still retaining good clarity and control. While I have not tried any tube integrateds in this price range, it seems like there are a number of very interesting options available.
Bought a Roksan Kandy III for $750 plus shipping from an audiogon dealer (demo) with full warranty. Sounds very strong and smooth, and great soundstage. Actually sounds stronger and cleaner than my old setup of PS Audio IV H and Hafler xl 280, rated 145/ch, which it replaced. And it comes with remote. Everything works great.
See www.roksan.co.uk for details.
I like my Ideal Innovations Custom 30 for $600.
I have a Jolida 1501A hybrid purchased through Galen Audio at a discount which makes great music. I've hooked it up to a variety of speakers and though all sound ten times better with the Jolida.
I have a Chinese made Classic .10, and after 20 years of this crazy hobby, it is by far, THE best deal and the best piece I have owned, period..weighing in at 33 lbs, it is amazing.