Most musical S.S. Amp under 2k used ?

i'm counting on you guys to fan the flames of this inquiry.

geez, i’m really going a lil crazy here with all this new and unexpected fervor toward this ridiculously addictive material. my girlfriends actually a bit worried about how much time i can spend on this stuff. guess the possibilities are endless. thank god i have a budget!!!!

just by studying the reviews i like what's been said about some of the krell's and mccormack's. which of these would be considered more musical overall - ksa-100, 150, 250 or dna 125, 225? what does 100 watts of krell sound like compared to 225 watts of mccormack?

other considerations: {please give feedback if you can... and remember - musical!}

PS Audio GCA-100

jeff rowland model 5

ayre v-3

edge g-5

conrad johnson - motif ms 2001

classe 201

gamut 100 mklll

arc 100.2

odyssey extreme

pass labs x-150.5

audio research 150.2

Meridian 205 100 Watts Pure Class A Mono block

Musical Fidelity A5

hosting a dear friend of 30+ years in my home in a couple of weeks and i really hope to have pulled the trigger on my upgrade amp. by then.

quite anxious to sit around the fire with my ole compadre - sippin on something smokey/peety & reminiscing... listening to tunes that helped define our youth. so looking forward to having the opportunity to hear some of our favorite music for the first time - if you catch my drift?

please help me to choose something worthwhile.

much obliged,
It's not actually unusual, but my goodness you have a long list. I haven't
heard any of them, although I have heard other gear by most of those same
manufacturers. My wild guess is you haven't heard most or all of these units

The thing is that to an experienced ear these amps will mostly sound rather
different. A choice depends on the nuances and details which make up the
kind of sound you want. Are you willing to give up bass throb for purity in the
highs, for example, like me? Have you heard two systems, one of which which
gives you that and the other the inverse, so that you know what the choice
means in listening (not intellectual) terms?

Forgive me if I am asking questions whose answers are already clear to you. It
seems to me that you need to do more than study reviews. You need to do
some listening. That is what will get you closer to your musical fireside vision.

Of course if the meeting's timing will not allow you to do the kind of
extensive research which will permit you to choose one of the above units
(and I would add to it the YBA Intégré), then you could probably just jump.
Buy any one of them and set it up. A few weeks' experience would tell you if
there was anything about it that you did not want to live with. If there were,
you could resell at little or no loss and try again with another unit. And your
question here, if you had one, would be more like this:

"I have been listening to the Fireside Single Malt integrated with my
Magic Ear Rockon speakers for the last eight weeks and what I don't like is
the acidy highs on many discs. Is there another amp which will give me the
same bass drive but highs which are sweeter and smoother?"
Edge M4 or M6. M4 is 70wx2 should run $500 to $700. M6 is 125wx2 under $2000. New G series is supposed to be real good as well. The most musical amp that I have owned is a McIntosh MC352. The Edge amps would be second at a much lower cost. Two weeks doesn't leave much DEMO time for you.
You are all over the place and have not defined what you are lookig for. Musical can mean different things to different people. We don't know your system or musical tastes for starters. You may only need a 100 krell versus a McCormack 225. Plus as many have said before, the matchig of an amp to your speakers is the key to great sound. For example, I owned the Pass X-250 amp but with some speakers, the amp sounded like complete crap, with others, like heaven.

So fill in the blanks.

Happy Listening.

I left you a response concerning the MF2500A on your last thread about this subject. Ultimately you have to decide what is best for you the only thing others can do is give you opinions on what they like. Why not try a few by buying and selling used as you won't take much of a hit from depreciation.

I would definitely add the Sim W-5 to your list. Near top of the class build quality, powerful, tight bass, detailed yet smooth. I own both the regular version and a LE version. The LE version sounds quite a bit better, btw. Haven't heard anything better in my set up and I have been through the Classe CAMS (both 200 and the 350s), a Bryston 4BSST, Rowland 201s, and the Levinson 332.
not to hijack this thread, but I think that's an interesting list as well.. which of these amps would everyone consider to have the reputation of being "tube-like"?
While your list is long and I have not heard all the amps you listed, out of the ones that I have heard I would choose the DNA225. Once the upgrade bug hits again you can send it to Steve and have him upgrade it.

There is no such thing as a perfect component, no matter how much money you spend. You will always have some kind of compromise. Buy the one in your budget that meets the most important criteria to you.

Good luck.
I think that musicality is a synergy between components. That being said, amps that have good PRAT tend to be more musical to my ears than ones that are overly bloomy or overly etched. The McCormack's ( I have a near rev A DNA .5) definitely have that PRAT thing going for them, especially after mods, and most especially when paired with a good tubed preamp (I have an Audio Prism Mantissa).

What are your speakers? If they are very efficient (>90db), and you can accommodate it, I would look at some tube amps. Mine have a silk dome Scanspeak tweeter, which I find more musical overall.

In general I get comments about my system that it is not "hi-fi". All the detail is there, it's just not in your face. It's a musical sound for sure. Perhaps a tad less open on the top end than metal dome or ribbon tweeters give you. But I smile every time I listen, and the foot goes tapping very often.


thanks guys. valuable feedback.

filling in the blanks... current system:

power plant: PS Audio PS-600

pre-amp: Audio Research LS3

cd: Naim CD5i

amp: Rotel RB 981 {120 wpc}

speakers: Paradigm Studio 100's V3.

speaker cables: Transparent "The Wave"

interconnects: Interlink "The Link" 200

the listening room is 13 x 22 with vaulted ceilings.

last cd's played? jeff buckley, martin sexton, john coltrane, astrud gilberto, massive attack, kruder and dorfmeister, willie nelson, miles davis, rolling stones, mozart, mc solaar, nora jones, thievery corp., b-tribe, woodwork, stevie wonder, stevie ray vaghn, etc

hope this helps
Though I have not heard many of the amps on your list my vote would be for the Audio Research 100.2. This amp has all the tubelike warmth and lack of grain you could ask for but will still drive reasonable loads that might give a tube amp some trouble. I have compared it directly to the 150.2, which is a radically different design, and prefer the older 100.2. These are hard to find on the A'gon because they are highly prized, but I have seen several over the years and they price in at around $1750. Good luck.
q: Have you heard two systems, one of which which
gives you that and the other the inverse, so that you know what the choice
means in listening (not intellectual) terms?
a: yes, i have heard many hi-end system demos back to back at various hi-fi shops across the country - just not in a while nor with the intention of buying in that moment. i feel that i have a good ear for hearing what sounds like instruments being played and vocals expressed. need to get out and hear more and update my senses.

chuck, thanks for both posts. i like the idea of not being so finite with this decision. need to simply get the ball rolling and choose... can always start over. i'll keep an ear out for the mf 2500a.
the ever musical cj ss stuff pairs well with a very wide variety of speakers.....the mccormicks are very versatle as well. the krell is a bit more unforgiving of poor sounding cd's, but has a great deal of energy even at 100 watts per channel. the paradigms are a well engineered speaker(quite accurate)....if i were you, i would go cj, though many you have listed are remarkable values
Of your list, I've heard the PSA and the MF A5. You might consider the Nait 5i. For my money, it is wonderfully musical with the Naim CDP 5i, and if you have money left over, upgrading to the CDP 5x, IMHO, will bring forth more sheer music than a more costly amp with your present source. I've had several good integrateds and a couple of separates through my room over the last year, but nothing more satisfying than the Nait at twice the price.
go for an older SS amp and save money. Most if not all have not made huge changes in over 40 years.
I run a Krell KAV-250A/3 and Krell FPB-400.

My speakers are B&W Nautilus 802 front, HTM-1 center, and 805s in the rear.

Before the 400, I had the 250A/3 on the fronts...sounds exceptional. The impact of the Krell is awesome. I have tubes in the front though...Cary 303/300 source and Cary SLP-98 preamp with HT bypass which is controlled by the Denon 5803.

I am looking into a Krell integrated (300i?) for my bedroom system (B&W 602s).

To me, there are a lot of similarities between B&W and Paradigm. They, especially the studio 100's, dig power. Krell can give it to can Pass Labs, BAT, Bryston, and others on your list.

The KAV series from Krell (150, 250, 250/3) can be had used well within your price-range...with the exception of the /3, it's a couple hundred more.

Good Luck
Hello, I will try not to pontificate too much here about system matching and long lists etc.. I am a gear head and have owned a number of the amps listed with all sorts of speakers. Yes, it is a sickness.

The Krell amps you listed were fun to look at and sounded OK but be careful of the hums, buzzes, failing caps, etc of the old ones. The KSA-150 sounded great once you turned it up loud enough to drown out the hum and buzz. The KSA-200 was similar. I am sure the newer Krell gear is much better, but it exceeds the budget you have outlined.

The Ayre V-3 is one of the finest on your list and it actually is pretty inexpensive. I really enjoyed that amp and had a lot of sellers remorse after it was gone. If you need the power, that should be a top choice. I sold mine for a whopping 1250.

The CJ solid state gear has a very nice sound too. Avoid the cheaper Sonographe series. Very nasty sounding.

If you don't really need the power, I would suggest that you consider the Pass Aleph series. I have had the 3, 5 and now Aleph 30. They are quite good and provide adequate power for most speakers.

Another amp line you may want to consider is the Coda. Coda is built by a bunch of Nelson Pass's old buddies from Threshold out in Sacramento, CA. The Coda 10.5 or even a clean 10 would be fine for your system.

OK, I have blathered enough here. Good luck with your choice.
you guys are awesome. i am off to audition a few of your suggestions, need to widdle down to my short list. thank you for your time and patience.
I bought 2 Classe DR 8 amps and run them in mono to drive Martin Logan CLS11Z.$2000.00 total for 2 amps.No problems, smooth yet detailed, my power cords cost almost as much as the amps,but I figured I saved on the amps so why not?Best amps yet for the ML's.
ARC 100.2 hands down.

We chose it over literally dozens of other amps. Unbelievable value for under $2k used.

Musical is the first word that comes to mind as we listen to it. The 100.2 just "gets out of the way". You don't hear the amp, you hear the music with all of it's harmonics, sweetness, dynamics, warmth, impact and soul.

With most other amps we auditioned, we heard the amp. This is such a key concept and took us way too long to figure out.

Good Luck!
I am surprised that nobody has mentioned Pass Lab's Aleph series amps yet. You can find several models for under $2k. But these are hard to find on used market and many owners are just holding on to them. I have an Aleph Os, and it is one of the most tube-like sounding amp I've heard. It had been in my second system which was boxed up due to the arrival of my first born two years ago. The system consisted of:
Sonic Frontier SFT-1/Mark Levinson #36/ARC LS-1/Pass Aleph Os/Unity Audio Signature 1s. It was a very musical sounding system. (The amp was not powerful enough to drive my speakers in my main system, otherwise I would have used it) My wife loved my little system more than my main system which is more analytical sounding. I've been contemplating about selling the amp, but I the thought that one day I might be able to have that second system up and running again is preventing me from putting on up for sale.

This is a response from a newbie who's heard very few systems. I'd love to hear what your system sounded like with the Krell KSA. I am going to buy an amp soon and will be very interested to know what you choose, and how you like it.