Class A integrated amp recommendations


Greetings 'goners after a prolonged absence from posting here but  eavesdropping on your conversations in the interim! I was hoping to get some feedback on your experiences with class A integrated amps. My audio journey thus far provides some context.

The core of my system, Sim Audio Moon I5 integrated, Joseph Audio RM7si Signature on 20” Sound Anchor stands has remained unchanged for about 20 years. Sources are Sim Audio Moon Nova and Rega Jupiter2000 CD players, Sim Audio Moon LP3 phono for my AR ES-1 turntable with Audio-Technica AT-VM95SH cartridge. Cables are Zu Audio.

Primary music interests are acoustic jazz, small scale classical, classical/crossover, some orchestral; but I can, and do, veer all over the map when a bout of nostalgia hits: classic and prog rock, punk, grunge, reggae, singer/songwriter. For me, it’s always been about the music. The stereo is only a tool. It is not the work. During that time I’ve not felt the need or urge to chase gear. I enjoy music.

Until about 6 months ago when I acquired a new turntable: Technics SL-1210GR with Audio Technica AT33PTG/II and Ortofon 2M Black cartridges. Then a PS Audio Stellar phono. And now, as I’m about to retire, I feel like a kid! Those Blue Note reissues have awakened some kind of Mr. Hyde in me that wants to try new stuff!

Hence this post. Your experiences with Class A integrateds feeding speakers similar to mine would be greatly appreciated. I'm intrigued by, but have not heard, gear from Pass Labs, Sugden, and Luxman. Of course, cost is a concern as the law of diminishing returns keeps me away from the insanity of uber-pricing.

Kind Regards

jlamb

EAR 834 and 8L6 are push pull class A tube amps that a very musical sounding an new, are affordably priced around $6750.  Both are 50 watts and play well into most speakers (not those with multiple really big woofers with low impedances based on my experience with Legscy Focus but great with Legacy Signature IIIs).  Even sweeter is the EAR 899 (discontinued) with 70 watts using a kinkless tetrode K90 tube configuration (or KT88 if one prefers, which I do and own a pair of 890s).  

I previously owned the Sugden Masterclass IA-4 and Pass Labs INT-25. I now own the Pass Labs INT-60, which beats the Sugden and INT-25 hands down. The Sugden is no match to the Pass Labs. The INT-60 is a true reference, and an end-game amp for me in my setup. And using its true balanced differential circuitry has been a game changer for me.

Perla S50. It’s not Class A, but AB, however it sounds very organic, very class A. Single ended inputs only.

I’d compare it to a Pass INT60, but more visceral, present, lifelike. One of those times I walked into a little crummy hotel room at a show and couldn’t un-hear it. Played on Perla’s 2 way speakers. The only other times (years later) I’d ever heard a two way speaker sound so good were Audio Note AN-E/SPe HE’s (? model names get confusing) driven by their most expensive gear, Ocean Way Eureka’s (which I bought) driven by AGD Vivace GanFET’s, and the big QLN Signatures driven by a Gryphon Diablo 300 Integrated.

I am a Pass owner, btw.

Good luck finding one.

Firstly, that’s one of the finest thread questions I’ve read in a long time. Well done!

I’ll get to the point - Another vote for tubes. I own a pair of Martin Logan Summit’s. The price you pay for their mid range brilliance are power requirements. But the fairly new Summits aren’t nearly as difficult to drive as their early predecessors. So that’s where I chose to purchase a pair of used KT88/EL34 monoblocks. That’s some 80 watts total of glorious tube power. That’s much more power than is necessary for these speakers.

I too, if you’ve not guessed from my username by now, possess a penchant for vinyl Blue Note releases. In fact, they’re a must!

Bottom line. I purchased a fabulous used tube preamp, and used tube monoblocks, for about $1500 less than the going price of a used Pass Integrated. Would I switch if I had the opportunity? No, I wouldn’t. Fact is, I’m done acquiring audio gear after some 40 years in this hobby. And I’ve not quite reached my golden years. But they’ll be experienced with tube gear. For, sooner or later, one has to stop chasing the rabbit, and simply chill in the moment.

Enjoy!

Thanks Coltrane1 for the kind words on the thread question.

After much wrangling, almost pulling the trigger on subs, I found a very reasonably priced used Sugden IA-4, which brought me back to my original intention when I opened this thread. It's been in my system for a few weeks now. 

I must confess that I'm infatuated with this amp. My first impressions is that this amp is certainly a level up from my Sim Audio I5. The soundstage appears a little wider but more significantly, deeper, more 3d. The presentation seems richer, more saturated to use a color analogy. I was looking for was more detail, a more vibrant presentation at lower volume levels. The Sugden has given me that!

Will it be an end game amp for me? I can't say just yet. I would still like to audition other Class A integrateds, especially the INT-60. And I haven't discounted adding subs. In the meantime, I'm setting my system up so that I can A/B test the two amps.

Again, my thanks and regards to all who took the time to comment.

Cheers