what about a bel canto evo 200.5?
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You must add the Bryston 9B-ST to your "must audition" list. MSRP is $3800, but it can be bought at discount for around $3k. Outstanding amp -- selected as a "Class A" component by Stereopiles magazine. Output is rated at 125 wpc x 5, but is actually about 150 wpc x 5. With the 20-year transferrable warranty, it's a great buy.
If you listen to 80% music I would suggest a seperate stereo amp and ht amp. I think many multi channel amps don't sound as good as a good stereo amp. I also listen to 80% music. I listened to the Classe CAV-150 and thought it a decent amp, but I think the CA series is better made and sounds better. I bought a used CA-200 (200 wpc) and CAV-75 for under $2200. The CAV-75 bridges to (3 X 150 wpc) for the surrounds. New these two retail for $5K, you can get a good deal on the used market. If the wife acceptence factor allows 2 amps, I'd recommend seperate stereo and home theater amps.
I agree with Jmcgrogan, and took it a step further. I faced the same quandry as you not long ago and decided to not integrate the two. I use my main rig for music, and in the same room I've set up a HT system. I believe the two applications, movies and music, demand different things for different reasons. Main audio rig (in a custom stand): Oracle DelphiIV/SME345/Grado Reference, Lehmann Black Cube phono stage, YBA CD Integre CDP, Magnum Dynalab tuner, BATVK30 preamp, BATVK500 Amp, Martin Logan Quest Z speakers. This system is very musical, and I truly enjoy listening to seemingly endless hours of music through it. HT set-up (electronics fit in my TV stand): Sony 36" tube, Direct TV dish, Toshiba DVD player, NAD T760 receiver, Marantz MC2000 II remote, Gallo Acoustics Micros (5) and Gallo MPS150 powered sub. Family loves the set up, provides all the surround sound effect you need, and the gear is unobtrusive. So, the question you have to ask yourself is: if your requirement is 80% music, why not make a modest investment in a decent HT system and continue along the never-ending upgrade path for your personal audio nirvana? ATB, Jeff
I have been very pleased with my Parasound 2205AT. Put a B.M.I. Whale on it and be prepared to be amased. The 2205AT can be had at www.world-exchange.com for about $1800.00. A B.M.I. Whale can be purchased direct call (856) 875-7737, The owner or the company will get back to you. Good luck on your choice.
I agree with several of the comments above. I too think that a "multi-channel" version of a two channel amp sounds quite different even though the basic circuitry is supposed to be "near identical". As such, i use a two channel amp ( Sunfire Signature ) for the mains in my HT system and the multi channel version ( Sunfire Cinema Grand Signature ) for center, surrounds, subs, etc.. The entire system runs at 4 ohms, so there is plenty of power on hand. With an advertised capacity of 6450 RMS, i think that i'm pretty well covered even if the amps fall slightly below rated output.
I've had multi-channel amps from several other manufacturers before arriving at this combo. Most of them tend to sound a little more forward and brighter than their stereo counterparts. I would imagine that this is done to add "life" or "energy" to what is already a typically "hyped" or "hot" sound courtesy of Hollyweird. You have to remember that the 2 channel and the HT market are quite different and the products are "voiced" accordingly.
Some of these amps are relatively "grainy" sounding, especially when pushed hard or using low efficiency / low impedance speakers. Much of this probably comes from lack of power supply, regardless of what the advertisements say or the pictures show. A quick way to tell if the amp is "under power supplied" is to compare the 8 ohm and 4 ohm power output levels. If there is not a VERY sizable increase, i would avoid it.
Be careful when shopping for multi-channel amps, as most rate their power output in a rather "flattering" manner. With all channels driven, quite a few do not meet advertised spec. From one test that i saw, the Sunfire Cinema Grand ( non "Signature" model ) also fell into that category. I would suggest buying more power than you actually think that you'll need or making SURE that the amp will drive your specific speaker array with ease.
Even with "slightly altered" sonics as compared to their stereo versions, multi-channel amps can be configured into a system and sound quite good. You just have to work with the sonics of that specific amp when dialing things in. DON'T take for granted that what works with the Brand X stereo amp will work with Brand X's multi-channel amp. They literally are two different creatures. Sean