I was happy with my system for 30 years; now I need a new amp...and more?

Greetings, can you help? My amps died. I have a wide range of listening: rock and roll mostly (70's mainly), some jazz, minimal classical.


Sources are LPs and CDs. I even still have a Nak tape deck for live music tapes...

I had VTL 80W mono blocks since 1992, combined with VTL Deluxe Preamplifier.

Speakers were EPOS ES11 (still have them, been in boxes for years), then some used Thiel CS3.5 (sold), now some Klipsch R820F that I got at Best Buy (I know).

Source is AR turntable that I've had since early 90's, don't remember what cartridge but it's relatively new.

CD player was Cal Audio Labs that stopped reading discs a few years ago (is this worth getting repaired? Tend to doubt it), now Phillips 900 series CD player, seems solid.


The VTL tube preamp had some bad tubes which are now replaced and it appears to be functioning well.

The tube amps had major issues with capacitors and I decided to sell them and move on instead of getting them repaired.


So! Now I need to get a new amp. Ideally I would use the existing preamp, possibly combining it with a solid state amp. I know the speakers are not that great, and the CD player probably needs upgrading.

The room is small--I sit about 12' from the speakers, the ceiling is average height (10'?), the room has a concrete floor covered with a rug (not carpet) and there are a lot of windows.

Budget is a bit flexible. I was thinking first I need the amp, then maybe upgrade the CD player (is it bad?), and finally the speakers.

One option is the Schiit Vidar 2 amp which, if I just get one, would work with the existing tube preamp (need balanced inputs to use two as mono blocks, which I don't have from this preamp). I would like for the amp to NOT run super hot if possible.


Budget (all are ± $500)

I could spend up to maybe $1500 on the amp

Up to maybe $1000 on the CD player (ideally less, or maybe not at all?)

Up to maybe $2000 on the speakers but that wouldn't be for another year or so. Focal?


Also: Minimal local dealers for stereo equipment! Tough to audition gear, plus it's not the same as hearing it in one's own room.


Looking for recommendations for an amp I can use with my tube pre-amp but also would consider something integrated (and sell the Deluxe to fund it) or other options?





doc, you have a dilemma 

going from Older stuff to newer stuff is an big difference 
you will find the new stuff much brighter with the 70-80’s albums 

I went threw the same thing 10 years ago when rotel CD player went bad 

I went to computer audio & eventually changed everything , 2x

my speakers were definitive technology soft domes

listen to others or make a trip to AXPONA before you start buying 


For $600, I just built a Hypex stereo amp that is a great sounding amp for me, with my Herron tube line stage. Might want to check 'em out.



I might be a broken record but for your budget I would run a Musical Fidelity M5si integrated amp. Plenty of power for whatever loudspeakers you might buy. I might also try a newer but modestly priced CD player. With the right cabling the Klipsch R820Fs might work out OK for a little longer. 

I do have a SONOS ARC sound bar and subwoofer that I use for the TV and also for streaming from my phone or computer. So I'm looking to avoid redundancy.

So can I poll people on whether it's a dumb idea to use my VTL deluxe tube preamp with a solid state amp, vs. buying a new integrated amp? Think I need to start there.



The Van Alstine is integrated with no phono stage so I probably wouldn't go that direction. My speaker cables are excellent.

Musical Fidelity M5si is sold by Amazon and has free returns....that is tempting. Nobody likes the Schiit Vidar2 option?

While someone with a bigger budget buying lots of things at once can have an easier time. For you with relatively small budget buying many things I would recommend the Kef LS50 WIreless 2. This is the active version of the Ls50 Meta. 


But amp is what you want, and within your budget, I can very happily recommend you the Audio Aegir if you listen at sane volume, Used can be had for $600. 

Or the wonderful Van Alstine 120 Vision set. Also within budget. 

If you can sell everything and overstretch your budget, and buy nice quality speakers that can make you very happy, everything complete in 1 package. Look at the Kef Ls60. Shop around, see if you can snatch a good deal from a dealer. Economy is bad. Pretty sure dealers are having a hard time selling. And they will be eager to sell a pair for a nice price.

All the components you need to buy, and the amount of money you have to cash out. I wholeheartedly believe the winning recipe is in an active loudspeaker. Good luck searching. 

Hi, I don't want to sell everything or overstretch or buy an active speaker, but thank you for the input. I also mentioned that I was hoping for an amp that wasn't super hot, and the Aegis is stated to run hot.

I would suggest a Class D if you like things cool and compact. I love my Hypex NC502MP based amp, there's also a 252 based one if you don't need the power. Audiophonics looks nice for the money, you might be able to afford a Purifi based model which is even better. 

that’s a sweet budget. There are about 20 great audiophile brands for amps, 70 for speakers (I just catalogued 69) and 10 or so CD players.

I would buy a Hegel or Musical Fidelity amp and I can’t even begin to list the speakers without your sound preferences: warm, detailed, wide, deep, great bass, great upper end, musical, disappearing, etc. I lean towards smaller bookshelf with very musical forward sound - Dynaudio, Buchardt, Totem, Q.

No clue about CD players, I have put 1000s of hours on my Marantz 6007 and I hear the Rotels are very good, but those are not welcome brands on these pages.

re: Schiit Vidar2 - I am sure you can try it out for 30 days, you should


re: VTL deluxe tube preamp with a solid state amp - I would sell the preamp and put the money towards an integrated. In this price range, under 5K, before monoblock territory, integrated is better value. But of course, that's just a generalization, it's all about synergy. I looked up the VTL, it's looks sophisticated, maybe you would get the sound you like with a used Parasound or Pass Lab amp. 

The catch though is that your room is not that big, you would be fine with 60Watts, I'd put the money toward quality not quantity


The first thing you need to do is decide how serious you are about upgrading your speakers.  Klipsch rates the R820F sensitivity as 97db/watt.  I checked a couple of less expensive Focal towers - they are rated around 91db.  Sensitivity rating are subject to some fudging, but 6db difference = 4x the power required.  Many speakers are listed below 90db/watt.

If you want to upgrade your speakers, you should keep that in mind when looking for an amp.  If you're happy with the sound you were getting, then compatibility with the Klipschs comes first.

Did you get to hear them with your tube amps while still working fine?  Did you feel like you needed more power, or had it to spare?  If all was good (enough), you should consider another tube amp, or a modestly powered SS amp from a reputable company.  If you want the option to change out speakers without having to revisit the amp, SS is far more versatile. 

Personally, I think regular SS is still a better buy on Sound Quality/$ than class D.  Also, on the Hypex amps I checked out, the power ratings were all for peak power - their RMS ratings were only 1/5 of that.  Conventional amps are rated for RMS power.  This makes them tricky to compare numerically.

I feel like a broken record sometimes, but there's a lot of love here on the left coast for Parasound, an SF-based company with a comprehensive line of well-designed & versatile amplification components.  The NewClassic 275 v.2 gives 90 watts/channel for $900 list new, the 2125 model is 150 watts @ $1100, and the 2250 is 275 watts for $1800.  If you get more serious, they have another line (Halo); their top amp is the mono JC1+ at over $9000/side.  The design team is headed up by audio legend John Curl.

Parasound  for sure is one of the best US hifi brands for preamps and integrated

@drbeechwood Wrote:

I could spend up to maybe $1500 on the amp

You only need one Schiit Vidar 2 amp $799 it's 100 watts stereo @ 8Ohm and 200 watts @ 4Ohm.


I don’t know your speakers specifically, but Klipsch by reputation are high sensitivity and easy to drive, and I see some other posters here are thinking along the same lines.  I would definitely stay in the tubed ranks for amplification since that is the main advantage of high sensitivity horn loaded speakers.  Rouge Audio may have something in your price range.  I would go new rather than performing CPR on 30 year old equipment.  You might be able to fix the current issues but surely multiple organ failure lurks around the corner

@kota1 great suggestions 


My personal favorite is Odyssey, OP.  Have two pieces of gear from Klaus ... simply outstanding musicality.  You will not be disappointed with AVA but higher wattage and sublimity with Stratos.  Best buy in audio!!

Don't laugh, this unit sounds very good when I incorporate it into any of my systems. Runs cold: Mini GaN 5 Balanced Power Amplifier.


If I may humbly suggest a budget solution for replacing your CD player. I have an audio lab 6000 CDT playing through a Schitt modi external dac and couldn't be happier. As far as a solid state amplifier paired with a tubed preamp I have run quite a few solid states through my rogue audio metis Magnum with excellent results. With the right pairing you get the best of both worlds; the power, control, and detail of solid state with the warmth of tubes. I wish you well in your search.

Petaluman, you are wise. I agree: I think I want the flexibility of upgrading the speakers in the future, and thus want an amp that can handle a bit more than the Klipsch. I didn't think they sounded spectacular with the 80W tube mono blocks, but again, the room is a bit bright. I don't think they had "power to spare". 


I'm tempted to just get the Vidar and try it with my preamp for a week but I think the better plan is to sell the VTL and get a modern, relatively powerful integrated amp, and probably that Marantz CD player recommended above that can also stream.

Then next year think about better speakers. This thread has been super helpful in organizing my thoughts and giving me some options. More opinions welcome!

Also just for some ideas on music, I would through out:

Grateful Dead American Beauty CD remaster, or live reissues like 5/8/77

John Coltrane Giants Steps LP box 180g 45 rpm

Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon

Joni Mitchell

Tom Petty Wildflowers

Rolling Stones 

Led Zeppelin

Bob Dylan

Anything by Miles Davis

That's what I'm into.

The Vidar sounds like a good choice. I am very happy with my Schiit Ragnarok which could be an option if you are ok with switching to an SS integrated.

The Orchard Starkrimson has gotten great reviews also.


For around $1600,  you might consider a pair of Schiit Aegirs and use them as monoblocks. I believe in mono configuration they produce 40 watts per channel of class A power.

I'd look at the Hsu CCB-8 speakers with the Hsu ULS15 MKII sealed sub. They image better than they have a right to and are very efficient, so you won't have to spend big coin on an amp. Must be heard to be believed. 

You might want to give a 2nd thought on M5i. My reservation is that M5i has pretty high output impedance as 0.2 ohm, meaning that the corresponding damping factor is as low as 40 into 8 ohm speakers and merely 20 into 4 ohm speakers. You might barely have the minimum control on the bass. Also, a bit coveat on the power output for the low-impedance load is suggested from the following Newport lab test results:

where you could see M5i falls a bit short (about 73%) of ideal power doubling into 4 ohm load at low frequency (not a concern on the high frequency). However, the good thing is that the power sustains into lower 2-ohm load.  You might want to pay due attention to these attributes before making the final decision.

I have the same listening tastes as you, Dr.!

Having bounced back and forth between Solid State and tubes over the years I can say that I am never truly happy until I have a tube preamp and power amp together in the system. In my experience having a tube preamp with a SS power amp only gets you 1/3 of the way into tube heaven from a sonic perspective. The Power amp makes the biggest difference. Perhaps small tube monoblocks like the Mid Monos from Quicksilver are a great way to go. i own a pair and love them. They are $2000 the pair new so you should be able to find a used pair within your budget.  I see a pair, listed at $1200 just sold on USA audio mart. they do come up from time to time.

Consider that you got 3 decades of use. Much gear made nowadays likely won't be that durable. Those Quicksilver Mono are still hand built, wire point to point, and will   probably last the rest of your life. At 40 watts a channel, in your small room, that should be sufficient power for all but the most inefficient speakers. 

Not worth fixing the CAL CD player. Digital Audio has come a long way since then. I used to own one. Great at the time. hard or impossible to get serviced now.

I would say continue to use your current Phillips CD player and if you have the urge, jump into streaming, maybe with something basic like a Bluesound Node. You will be amazed at what that opens up to you.... your CD player will probably start gathering dust. Good Luck

+1 petaluman

Excellent advice. If you don’t know whether you will be parting with your Klipsch speakers down the road, or what speaker you might choose, the safest bet would be a solid state amp or integrated — and Parasound has a warmer sound signature that I think you would like if you are a tube fan. Another brand you might consider that is likely more budget friendly is NAD— pairs well with Klipsch, not bright or strident. I would pour all your money into amplification at this time, keep the CD player, consider Bluesound Node2 streamer/DAC down the road as mentioned by alvinnir2 above. I would caution against class D options if you are giving thought to Focal speakers down the road — would not be a good match, likely cool and bright. Good luck!



Maybe try the Epos again once you purchase another power amplifier?

Not familiar with your other speakers, but really like the ES-11's.



I was faced with the same thing with my 30 year old system. One thing lead to another and I ended up replacing everything except the speakers which I had rebuilt. 

It is stretching your budget, but the Odyssey Stratos monoblocks at $2700 suggested by kota1 represent HUGE bang for the buck, and would likely be the last amps you ever buy.  I like the idea of pulling out the Epos for another listen with your new amp. 

why would he need giant monoblocks in a small room? Why? Does anyone read what he has, what he needs? 

I read the OPs requests. He has monoblocks, sits 12 feet from system, and did not request a downsize in terms of boxes. Why so derisive grislybutter? Seems to be a pattern with you.

Epos ES 11 are still terrific! Upgrade the single cap internally and hold. If you keep the Epos you’ve 2K for used tube mono-blocks. Sweet. There are older VTL, Manley, Carey that show up. Cheers

For your bugdget try Emotiva SS Amp, Schiit Aegir, Van Alstine, Bryston or Parasound. Presently, I have Schiit Freya+ paired with Parasound A21Amp and powering my Magnepan LRS+. I’m also using RME ADI-2 DAC. 

Yes, thanks again for all the feedback. The room is 30'x15' but I have the speakers along one long side facing the other long side, hence the 12' from speakers dimensions. I don't think I need mono blocks. Some great ideas in this thread. I think I'm going to put the VTL deluxe preamp on the classifieds here, and go with integrated amp/preamp with plenty of power and see about upgrading speakers later. I do like the idea of a newer CD player with a better DAC that can also stream from my phone, so that Marantz (which isn't sold anymore) or something like it would be a good choice.

I thought a sitting distance of 12 feet suggested that your room is not “small” as proclaimed, but 30’ x 15’?   Seriously?  That is anything but small — and is at least a medium-sized room doc.  A number of contributors to this thread asked for what is important to you in terms of sound (e.g., tonality, timbre, dynamics, soundstage, imaging) without a response.  The point is this — the more accurate and detailed the information you provide us, the easier and the better we can guide you. Just saying. 

If it was me.... I would repair the amp, recap and service the preamp. The Phillips CD players of that era are well regarded, if it's working I would get it serviced by a good tech, maybe upgrade at some point with a used Rega CD player (again, well regarded)... Unless you are invested in digital, and I'm guessing not so much, other than CD's, there is no reason to splurge on a fancy DAC. There are so many nice turntables out there, I'm about to order a new Orbit Theory with a Ortofon Bronze for around $1400. Your AR (especially the two motor) is a valuable piece on the used market, but then why not have a second for mono, or as a spare? I have two TASCAM cassette decks, but then I have tons, literally, of cassettes recorded direct from the sound board by a dear departed friend. No time, (or desire) to digitize... I would put the majority of the budget where the rubber meets the road---SPEAKERS! Good luck and happy auditioning, which is the only way to buy speakers. I have three systems, living room, office, and workshop, all are older and made up mostly of used... Bright and shiny is appealing, but that may not be a good enough reason to abandon a system that has grown more mature, along with your ears. Do you really want to marry the Secretary?

I agree with your consideration of an integrated amplifier. There are many options with a $1500 budget. The Rogue Sphinx V3 has a good phonostage and headphone amplifier.  A tube based preamp coupled to a class D amplifier having 100wpc into 8ohms, 200wpc into 4ohms. I own one serving my living room system.

I am also using a Music Fidelity M3scd which is DAC having a built in CD transport. Has optical, coax, and USB digital inputs which allow for the use of additional audio and video sources.