Riddle me this...

Why is it that you cannot seem to purchase a lower-powered solid state amp any more? None of the “names” in solid state amps seem to make any reasonably priced or powered products at all, and most haven’t since about the early 90s. (A few come to mind right off, Levinson no. 29, Rowland Model 1, Krell KSA-80, the family of Pass Alephs). These days, the most modest offering from any of these companies (not to mention everyone else) is many times more expensive, in no small part due to the fact that they are all many times more powerful.

Question is, why? Why should I need 250wpc+ to drive any reasonably designed speaker? What is it about the industry that seems to be in a conspiracy (or, at least, conscious parallelism, for you antitrust geeks) to foist more and more power on the consuming public while, at the same time, doubling or tripling prices for their most modest gear? Why is it that, if I want a really nice amp at less than 100wpc, I have to either go with tubes or with gear that was made at least a decade ago? Why is it that most speakers made these days are either “tube friendly” or “require” an amp with enough power to light a small village to actually go?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve got inefficient speakers and a 250wpc amp which I like the sound of just fine. It just strikes me as preposterous that I (and we, if I may speak for the market) seem to have been conditioned to believe that this is necessary. Why on Earth wouldn’t someone get a reasonably designed, efficient pair of speakers and, say, a Pass Aleph amp for a negligible fraction of ANYTHING built by Pass these days and never look back? I understand there are plenty of legit reasons why more power can be desirable (“never can have too much” yea, yea, I know), but am a bit miffed that, legit reasons or no, the market no longer seems to offer choices. We a bunch of suckers, or what? (Yea, a bit of a rant, but this has been bugging me -- am I the only one? Did I miss something? Can I get a witness?)
My guess is that the market for low powered SS amps has been eaten alive by "monsters" of the tube variety. As such, the "big boys" are concentrating on where they are going to make the most money. Why would anyone want to make a product that is not going to sell well ? As such, let's hope that at least some of the "big boys" read forums like this. If so, they might realize that there probably IS a market for such a product simply because few reputable companies actually market something of this nature. Sean
I think it falls into the same category as buying a Lexus ES300 over a very similiar Toyota Camry V6. I have long thought a lot of people buy expensive stuff because they feel they have too to be legit in the Audiophile community and taken seriously. Then there is always the pride of ownership( my toy is more expensive than yours.) You always read on this forum where price dictates quality which is absolutely not true. It seems people apologize for having inexpensive equipment with statements like I'll make do until I can afford better or I know there is better, more expensive stuff out there. Some how, someway, we have created a monster. As one person stated, "You have to spend a lot of money to find out you didn't need to spend so much." Companies take advantage of this mentality because they know with proper marketing they can sell it.
There are some very, very good low priced products out there. They don't draw much press or interest because they are too "Cheap" to be taken seriously.
As for power, it takes ten times the power to double a given volume level. If you look at the specs in this light, there is not a lot of difference in volume between a 50w amp and a 200w amp. Not nearly what people would have you believe. I'm going to make a statement here and I don't care if people believe it or not but there are a lot more better sounding smaller amps out there than big amps. A lot of times, big amps because of multiple output devices, add more of their own sound. This is not to say they aren't any big amps that sound good but not that many when compared to lesser offering. The Pass Aleph 30 is a good example along with the 60. Pass labs new big amps don't sound as good in direct comparison.
One last little note, when comparing, the louder system will always sound better no matter what the quality. Give it a try.
Give the LINN LK85/LK140 a look. I use(5)in an AKTIV format with a REL sub. Great stuff for the pricepoint.
Well, I'll stand as a witness for Mezmo. Glad someone else sees hype the way I do. I read all the threads before this and agree with all. All the matters is the music.

Good observation (I guess you can tell that I haven't exactly been thinking of shopping for one of these!), at least as far as the 'big boys' go. Of course, there are still lower-powered SS amps available, but they mostly come from Britain and Europe. That leads me to believe that Sean is probably correct (and when is he not?), that the Levinsons, Krells, Passes, Classes, etc. of this world have identified their typical customers as not being in the market for sub-100-watters, but now that even seems to be true of the McCormacks and the less expensive 'world' brands like NAD, Adcom, Rotel, etc. However, two additional thoughts I've had just now, are that A) the resurgence of the integrated amp as a popular market niche has usurped the lower-powered separates approach in most of these lines, leaving high(er)-power as the raison d'etre for component amps, and B) lower-powered two-channel amps don't cater to the requirements of home theater, which has migrated to three- or five-channel designs.
I am with Bigtee on the smaller amps often having a magic that the big amps don't. I used to love the old ARC D51 as an example. I love my current 45 watt ARC amp and have no desire to go bigger. With the right speaker or some careful system planning there would never be a need for a big 200 watt monster. On the other side of the coin there are things out there like MG 20's and big stats that I have always loved, that want more juice than my VT50 can feed em.
I use a Sugden A21a-a mere 25 watts,solid state class A amp.
It's very musical and can blast it out if you want to turn the dial up.
It is British made.
I always thought BIG everything was an American thing.
Marketing. People believe that they are getting more for their money when they get big power. They don't know anything about signal paths or idle-current noise, or amp classes. All they know is that they got 250 watts. When their business associate comes over to be impressed by the new audio system, he is supposed to say,"Wow!". If he says,"You paid all that money for only 25 watts!?", then you have failed to impress, and must go out and buy a much higher power amp, that will pass the "impressiveness" test. Much better to buy the "impressive" amp first, so as to not embarrass yourself in front of your associates.

It's the same thing with exotic cars. The vast majority of exotic car owners couldn't drive their way out of a paper bag. They wouldn't even know the first thing about it. But that doesn't stop them from buying a Porsche, and telling their associates that it has 330 hp and cost $120k. If Porsche depended only on buyers who actually understood, and could properly use, their cars' potential, they would be out of business overnight.

Get it?
How about the monarchy audio amps? I have a SM70 (25 watts class A - paid under $500) hooked up to a little pair of B&W leisure monitors in my office. The sound is sooooo smooth and natural that I sit here for hours listening while surfing. As a pleasent by-product of being class A it also keeps my office warm in toasty in the winter (now if I could just fit my bed in here...).
Ben Campbell is right on the money.

First, you may need to look away from the American companies. Investigate products from Europe, many of which will be smaller companies most people have never heard of. They tend to offer amplifiers with simpler layouts and lower power. The foundation the companies you mentioned Jeff Rowland, Krell, Mark Levinson were built on. 25 - 100 watts, no more parts than it takes to do the job(signal purity, you know), care in the build, and making sure everything sounds just right. What I consider the heart of high end audio; a small(maybe just one person or family) outfit producing very good sounding equipment in a less imposing package.

Yes, there a lot of tube amplifier manufacturers in this lot, but you can find a wealth of solid state equipment.

I know this may go against the grain, but I find little innovation on this side of the ocean in the past 5 or so years. Focus has shifted from music(what AUDIOphiles are interested in) to home theater and multichannel. Our priorities are very different.

We seek out the recreation of a live performance or a natural presentation. We look to soft passages that are important as crescendos, refinement that pleases rather than irritates, and often a seductive, romantic sound.

HT seeks out the recreation of what is heard in a movie theater. Volume, Volume, and VOLUME, bloated midbass, screeching highs, and sound coming at us from all directions.

A few days ago a friend was trying to tell me why 6 speakers are better than 2. One point he made was that it is jaw dropping to hear the sound of a plane roar over your head. For that, rear speakers are needed. True. But I have never listened to a band and wanted to hear a plane fly over me, and I only want to hear bands. Musicians always play directly in front of me, or at least when I am able to get a good seat.

What we go after is different.

And, what is built is different.

Many of the great American companies created formed to make music have shifted production(rightly and smartly so) to where the money and demand is. While audio still plays a significant role, the consumer's focus this holiday season is on plasma displays and subwoofers that make rumbling sounds that I never hear in music or nature. Silver disc playback machines try to cram more and more into the same box; CD, DVD, MP3, and now even DVD - A and SACD - got to cover all the bases. Can a player which does everything master anything? Time will tell...

Many American companies have gone toward what Ben aptly puts as BIG. Designers, architects, electricians, and installers. 25, 50, 75, 100 watts? NO. We need 250, 500, 1000 watts. More power, more channels, more speakers, more lights, more effects, more gadgets, more trinkets. Movie theater seats. Stadium seats. Cupholders. A popcorn machine! The only less they seek is to have the whole kit and kaboodle on one remote.

And, the goal is me when we have Betty White sound like Barry White. After all, what good is a subwoofer if you can't hear and focus on it?

Maybe I am crazy, but I am looking for smaller. For less. Smaller room. Listening in the nearfield. Lower power. Less tubes, less transistors, less things in the box. Simple circuits, cable constructions, and crossovers. The more I think is good is more sensitive speakers.

Shhhhh. You're screwing up the trickle down for us trailing edge guys. Let's all agree to keep this a secret.
Absolutely! The watt rating thing is out of order. I have to believe Bigtree about bigger amps sometimes taking away some of the musicality, thus not a class A sound. Jadis lets you know which of their amps are class A. Ok, so we need to vote which amps for reliability, price, and sound are A as reference, the rest will fall somewhere in the A/B and B category. For instance Electrocompaniet are very reliable, sound great, and reasonable price, so they get a class A rating from me.
The general theme of this thread is right on!
I agree with the one word summary, marketing!
Lots of marketing sell lots of products. Marketing costs lots of money. Money for large marketing budgets comes directly from the margin (profit) on the products they sell.
It doesn't cost a whole lot more to make a more powerful amplifier but to make a more powerful amplifier that is really better (or maybe just not worse) will cost a fortune. As for digital, I used to work for a semiconductor manufacturer that makes some of leading DACs used in equipment made around the world. Do you have any idea what the cost is to the audio equipment manufacturer for a single DAC? In high volume <$2.00. Small volume maybe $10.00! Have you priced "extreme" DAC upgrades from manufacturer xyT? The same goes for 'high qulity' MOSFETs and linear bipolar output devices.
Anyone want to guess what the marketing budget for Krell and Levinson is as a pecentage of sales? I think 18%-20% is my guess.
My experience is with Aloia. Again, low power and from Europe. Not exactly inexpensive but not in the stratosphere either. Excellent build quality and well, the sound is quite nice at least for me.
So, here's to Lugnut, let it trickle down!

Something I've been wondering -why does (almost) every new product from Krell, Martin Logon, Musical Fidelity, Levinson, McIntosh...you know the list get immediately reviewed in "the" mags while Audio Aero, Tenor, Piega, Sound Labs...almost never?
My buddy drives Totem Ones with a Bedini 25/25 and has no urge to "super-size". And less of us average guys can afford to now that we are being "trickled on" again.
The marketing hype surrounding BIG WATT amps is even more pronounced in the mid-fi car audio market where the number of watts is often stamped prominantly on the product itself and its packaging! (Nothing is said as to the quality of the amplification.) From a marketing prespective, this makes a great deal of sense - give consumers what they are looking for, even if they don't know what they should be looking for. An extremely high percentage of the potential consumers of these products are young, foolish boys who have no idea what they're about to do to their ears!
Brian Miller asked me to comment on this thread from the McIntosh perspective. We have made smaller 100 or 120 watt amps in the past. These were good amps but were slow sellers and have been discontinued. In the case of McIntosh the consumer likes a certain size amp and small ones are not it!
The type of music played and its dynamic range must be a consideration as far as what power is needed. Most music will only require one or two watts at a normal background listening level on average efficiency speakers. I really can not handle Britney Spears at more than 20 watts! If you are using a full symphony orchestra at a realistic playback level you may need hundreds of watts per channel on peaks. 10 times the power doubles the volume so you will run out of watts quickly. Most people are surprised when they use one of our large amps and see how much power they need on the watt meters. It depends on the speakers and how loudly one listens.
We do have consumers use our largest 1200 watt amps on very efficient horn loaded speakers. Why? Because they can I guess.
The challenge is to have a very high signal to noise ratio which our double balanced design will permit, in excess of 124Db. Unless the S/N ratio is high the music will be lost in the hiss.
The new high resolution formats require an increase in signal to noise ratio and higher power to cope with the additional dynamic range.
One solution to the problem is a way to monitor and limit the peak output of an amp which we do with our Power Guard circuit. This looks at the input and output waveform of the signal as it passes through the amp. If the signal starts to show a difference this lights an LED driven by a wave form comparator. The LED's light is received by an optically controlled volume control which will turn the volume down and back up in one 1000th of a second. This will limit the highest point of the peak but allow the amp to continue or be turned up farther. If the amp volume is increased all of the music will get louder except for the highest peaks. This will control overload distortion at the speed of light using light beams.
When an amp clips a burst of distortion is created and by its nature will be sent to the tweeter. This harmonic distortion will be many multiples of the original frequency and the speaker crossover will send it to the tweeter. We are seeing an increase of this type of tweeter failier due to DVD-A, SACD, 96/24 and other high dynamic range recordings since they use more power at same perceived listening level as the older more compressed sources.
A single dome tweeter is hard pressed to handle more than 100 watts. They can only move so far and can dissipate so much heat.
The answer to how much power is determined by the speaker efficiency, listening distance, type of music and the dynamic range of the recording. The definition of high fidelity is the accurate reproduction of the original wave form as it was recorded. For many recordings and cinema soundtracks this will require high powered amps.
Thank you,
Ron Cornelius,
I am surprised no one has mentioned the 47Lab Gaincard - the epitome of the minimalist amp - 25wpc (or 50), small # of parts, very minimalist design and circuit. Sounds great!

I think there are many amps out there new and used that
are in the 100 watt range that sound great, that are less than $2500, which translates into around $1500 circa
1988. What in 1988 could you get for around $1500...looking into my handy dandy 1988 Audio Directory:

1.BEL 1001 $1350
2.Belles 450 $1495
3.Boulder 500AE $2795
4. Carver M4.0t $799
5.Classe DR-3B $2995 (25 watts, Class A)
6.Forte 1a $995 (ClassA)
7.Hafler XL280 $650
8.Krell KSA-80 $3700 (Class A)
9.Mark Levinson No.20 $10,700 (100 watts, ClassA)
10.Mark Levinson ML-11 $2100
11.PS Audio PS100C $1195
12.Rowland 3 $4550
13.Sonographe SA120 $895
14.Spectral DMA50 $2495
15.Spectral DMA200 $5995 (200 watts, Class A)
16.Threshold SA/2 $5800 (100watts, Class A)
17.Threshold S/200 $1950

I am not sure about the good old days. Good Amps were not
cheap then either.
Let's not forget about the magazines here. How many times have you read a review of an amp, often fairly powerful amps, where the reviewer tells of how he was listening to some piece of music at insane levels and, lo and behold, the amp clipped. I've seen this on reviews of 300+ watt amps. Always followed by, "but if you listen at normal levels in a normal room you'll be fine". Well, if audio reviewers seem to need power to get their thrills, how do they think their readers will respond. Looking for more and more powerful amps. I realize this doesn't apply to all reviewers but I've seen it in a variety of magazines. Personally, I listen at sane levels and have never needed more than 60-70 watts to drive various speakers.
AH-HA! It's not just me. My bottom line suspicion has always been that it's 100% about money. The production cost differentiation between making an equally nice 60wpc amp and a 200wpc amp (parts being the only difference, as labor, overhead and everything else are more or less static) must be negligible. However, you can sell the 200wpc amp (same brand, same build quality) for many times more money. Simple: costs stay near the same, margins increase by 2-300%, and all folks need to invest in is the marketing to convince consumers it's a good idea. Actually, it's so simple as to be rather obvious. That said, as convincingly noted, it's obviously more complicated than that on a couple of levels -- most of which, again, have very little to do with sound quality and more to do with the rather perverse tastes of the consuming public. Eh, maybe we are suckers (and by "we" I don't mean "us," but, rather the insidious "them." And please excuse the gratuitous use of quotation marks).

All else being equal, and assuming a fantasy world where price equates roughly to quality, I'd certainly prefer my, say, $3k dedicated to 60 super-watts than squandered across 200 commensurately inferior watts -- especially since I can get - no, have to get - the 60 watt amp for 1/3 the price as it was made 10 years ago.... (Yea, Lugnut, I've not been writing this for a couple of months for precisely that reason. What can I say, I just can't shut up). Cheers.
Ron from McIntosh brings up a very valid point and one that i have "preached" on more than a few occasions. That is, dynamic headroom is king when it comes to clean reproduction. Most people do not realize how much their system is compromised when running low to medium powered amps with low to medium efficiency speakers. That is, until they try an amp with a much greater level of power and power reserve. This is not to say that all "big" amps sound good or are created equal, but that more power is not necessarily a "bad" thing if done right.

While i agree with Trelja that listening nearfield can be very rewarding, requires lower power and provides you with a completely different listening experience, it simply does not work well with a LOT of different types of music and / or speakers. Then again, i would hope that the buyer would have taken their listening environment into consideration when purchasing the components ( especially speakers ) for their system.

Unless you strictly listen to chamber music or use your system for background music, i would recommend begging or borrowing a good sized power amp with fast responding wattmeters on it to try in your system. Taking into account the impedance variables that come into play, i think that most of you would be amazed at how much power is required to reproduce momentary peaks when listening. I am talking about "good" listening levels, not even the levels that one thinks about when "cranking".

Personally, i found this out when i brought home a Yamaha M-80 power amp that i purchased for a friend at the same time that i had a Bryston 4B here. As a point of reference, both amps are rated at 250 wpc @ 8 ohms. While i would not call the Yamaha "reference quality", that specific model is about as good as "mass-fi" gets in my opinion. It is a dual mono design with individual iron core transformers for each channel. It is also capable of well over 1000 wpc on momentary peaks at low impedances, so it is not a "push over" when it comes to tough loads or "more reputable" hi-fi brands.

The point that i'm getting at is that the Bryston had clipping indicators on it. During normal listening sessions, the LED's were coming on VERY frequently. I substituted the Yamaha into the system, which has a very large LED based power meter on the faceplate. Rather than just seeing one led flickering per channel on a regular basis, i was able to track the power demands as a whole. What i found is that i was seeing very regular peaks of appr 900 watts appearing on the wattmeters. I then began scratching my head and thinking that the meters just HAD to be wrong. It simply was not that loud, at least not to me. Then again, the Bryston was going into clipping at the drop of a hat, so that made me think twice.

Substituting over a half dozen amps into that same system, i was able to see that some amps could drive the system with far greater ease and musicality than others of similar power ratings. The one thing that really shocked me was that i was able to drive the system to similar peak levels with some amps that were WAY less powerful. At least on paper and on the bench the amps were less powerful. The only consistent difference that i could find was that amps that remained in Class A bias for a longer period of time always sounded cleaner, clearer and "more powerful" than if i had an amp that was of lower bias and rated for more power. This taught me that it is "okay" to sacrifice power so long as the power that you have is of the utmost quality. You can still run into problems with lack of control, clipping, compression, etc.. with a low powered Class A amp, but the sound that you have the other 90% of the time is FAR superior to what you get out of a high powered low bias AB amp.

Obviously, these are just my thoughts and experiences on the subject. You can take them for what they are worth. Personally, i learned a lot with that group of experiments. I tend to think that others running relatively low powered Class A or very high bias Class AB amps have similar thoughts on the subject. Even though i may have GOBS of high biased AB power in most of my systems, i still love and respect smaller Class A amps to a great extent. Sean

Mezmo: The power dissipated in a "good" 50 wpc Class A amp is appr equivalent to what a "typical" 200 - 250 wpc Class AB amp has to dissipate. As such, the costs are about the same to produce. The low powered Class A amp may actually be more costly to produce as the chassis and components have to be able to dissipate more heat on a consistent basis than the more powerful yet lower biased / more thermally efficient AB amp.

Most "good quality" AB amps strive to deliver a good amount of Class A power ( 8 - 15 wpc ) and then switch over to Class B above those levels for increased dynamic headroom / circuit efficiency. Most "mass-fi" amps and quite a few "respected brands" run Class A for less than 2 watts or so.

An easy way to tell if your amp is highly biased is to feel the heatsinks of the amp at idle after being on for a while. If they are not physically warm to the touch, you have a low bias amp. Even if you have a huge amount of heatsinking available, Class A amps dissipate a ton of heat as their efficiency is quite low. Most of the "lost power" is converted into heat i.e. "thermal losses".

A simple trick that some "tweakers" / "modifiers" will do is to raise the bias level on an AB amp and make it richer. This means that the amp stays in Class A for a longer period of time before switching over into Class B for higher power demands. Thermal losses and heat are increased, but so is the linearity of the amp under "most" operating conditions. Sean
My feeling for this kind of a trend is related to a few things. One, I think the trend now for a lot of companies is to multi channel gear, which even by the THX standard thing is promoting 100 watts/ch or more. And having been working around high end audio for years myself, I can see that multi channel, even high end multi-ch, outsells 2 channel by leaps and bounds! People getting into high end, are geared towards doing it with 5 channels and above it seems. And everyone promotes and recommends higher wattage for Surround sound for certain(unless using high sensitivity horns, which do better with tubes anyway) So all that I suspect leads towards an easy obselescence for tiny watt SS offerings...which is already dominated by "niche" tube amp makers for the "tweek" audiophile.(a small market proportionately).
Of what I speak, I speak largely for what's happening in the US market! I'm sure it might be different elsewhere.
If you are really interested in an answer to this question however, may I suggest calling Pass, Krell, and others personally, and talk to them?! That way you can get the inside shimmy as to what's the real reason!!
REally, I've worked in 4 high end audio stores, and 1 chain store over the years, and the Pass lower wattage amps were almost NEVER bought, and outweighed in sales vastely by larger X series amps, and multi channel amps as a whole! We had piles of 35w/ch class A opperation 2 channel SS amps in one store I worked in, and they sat there unmoved for years! I can honestly say i don't recall selling any lower wattage SS amps more than a few occasions, and mostly for high end sound in MULTIZONE/ROOM SYSTEMS, as secondary sound! Of all the lower wattage amps I sold, the tube amps far outweighed sales of SS similar wattage designs. Hummmmm....

Two, lower powered tube amps
Ron, I appreciate you getting involved in the discourse. You and Sean certainly make cogent points.

However, allow me to comment on your assertions as that of an outsider. One who values the McIntosh name, but does not see anything in the current lineup which would make me buy. What I have heard of the newer products does not interest me. Yes, they are high powered and can definitely put a lot of volume out. But, the sound does not appeal to me. I want a tube amp to be a tube amp. I want a tube amp to have delicacy, warmth, romance, musicality. I don't want to buy into the assertion that the sound of tubes and solid state is converging. I find that to be baloney. The best tube amps are not moving toward solid state sound. Tube amps which are moving toward that sound are companies like Audio Research(they may be abandoning this) and McIntosh. Tube amplifiers which many people buy because they sound like a Krell or Mark Levinson, but offer some sort of pride of ownership because the amp actually has tubes in it.

The classic, and most highly prized McIntosh products are those from the 1960's. Lower power, using less output tubes. There is always a buyer for these products either here on Audiogon or ebay.

These products, along with some other notable manufacturers, are what defined classic tube sound. I am of the opinion, and the comments of you and other McIntosh people sort of support this, that McIntosh considers these products to be a definite step down from their higher power stablemates.

The thing I would say to McIntosh is, look at the products that made the name of the company what it is. There are many out here that treasure the sonics of the older, lower power amplifiers. This is not an opinion, this is fact, borne out by the fact that when McIntosh reentered the tube amplifier market, it did so not with one of the newer, larger products, but a reissue of the MC275. Sales certainly reinforced the point that this type of product is viable in this day and age.

I have a dear friend who has some of the finest audio equipment that I have ever encountered. If it isn't pristine, both sonically and physically, he doesn't own it. In the first system one encounters in his home, a McIntosh 40 tube amplifier drives the mids/tweeters of a great sounding system. Countless people visit him, and are awed by the components he owns, yet the McIntosh amplifier NEVER fails to draw some of the most fervent attention.

I do not mean to refute your assertions. What you say is definitely valid. I put forth that there are those who go along with it, and those that don't. Otherwise, there would not be as many viable SET companies in the world as there are. Please allow the consumer the option of determining what is right and what is not right. There are people out here, who held fast in their tube amplifier(especially low power) love. They have driven speaker companies to address our need, those that cater to this market earn the sale, other speakers are overlooked. They are capable of taking a low powered amplifier and making magic with it. McIntosh need not lose sleep over the fact that they did not provide the buyer with 100, 200, or more watts. Believe me, these audiophiles will land on their feet.

What I am asking for is for McIntosh to recognize that some people wish to move to lower power, treasure the McIntosh brand, and would be delighted to be able to marry those two feelings. It would be a win - win situation; an amp for the buyer, sales for McIntosh. Personally, I will own a McIntosh amplifier at some point(my father claims we own one now, he says he has an old 40 laying around - but he's been saying this for about 5 years now...). Whether I buy new or used will solely be answered by McIntosh itself.
I'd like to add, that the speaker manufacturers are complicit in this deal. When the majority of speaker manufacturers are putting out multi-way speaker systems with sensitivity ratings in the mid 80 db range, that is going to require high wattage amps. And then on top of that, they make the speakers with a 4 ohm load, or even a 2 ohm load. It seems like the speaker makers are making every attempt to make a speaker that any amp will have trouble driving. Like some kind of "sick joke". I'm waiting for a speaker maker to come out with a speaker made of a solid bar of copper, with a zero ohm load, and a sensitivity of about 1db/watt/meter, and say "here, drive this! It gives perfect uniform response from DC to light in our pure-vacuum outer space test chamber, and is truly reference quality when driven by a 100 gigawatt nuclear reactor".

None of this is needed for proper audio reproduction, and many audiophiles are realizing that a reasonably efficient speaker design, with a moderately, or even low, powered amp can give excellent results, with equal or better sound than these giant boat anchors.

If your "dream speaker" is a 80db/watt power eater, then you need these high power amps. For the real world, it is totally unnecessary. And remember, if you do get amps like these to power your "dream speaker" it is not a free ride. You are paying the price of many additional gain stages and signal loss, which may actually reduce the sound that those speakers are supposed to reproduce. To say nothing of the hole it will put in your wallet.

When speaker makers start making their flagship speakers with 8 ohm loads and 95db sensitivity, then we will see the amplifier market change.
Twl- Is right. Companies like AR introduced sealed box speakers that sucked power, and the monster amps like
the Phase Linear 400/700, SAEs and GAS Ampzillas became the
wave of the future.

Really enjoyed this thread.

Would like to see more feedback about quality low watt amps that are still being made.

We are committed to continuing new tube designs as the market for these products is strong. Our current amp is a slightly larger version of the MC275 using twice the output tube compliment, 8- KT88s. This amp, the MC2102 is designed by the same engineer who designed the MC275, MC 240, MC225, MC60, MC40,MI200, MI75, MC30, etc., Sid Corderman. The MC2102 is son of 275 with a typical output of around 120 watts per channel. We also have the advantage of much beater coupling and power supply caps, rectifiers, wiring and other parts compared to the past.
We also have modern performance analysis equipment which lets us build a beater amp. If you take one of the old Mc
amps from the Golden Years and install modern parts the old design will sound just about the same as one of our new designs. The difference will be in the signal to noise ratio.
Our most popular tube amp in the 60s was the MC240. Kind of like the three bears I guess the middle one was just right.
We are of course concerned about future tube availability and the KT88/6550 seems to be the most popular tube and is made by a variety of companies in many countries. To build a new design based on less popular tube models would be a risky proposition. The Mc customer keeps their amp for a long time.
These new tubes are approaching or equaling the quality of the benchmark 6550 Tungsol and GEC KT88s. For comparison purposes we tube trace and compare the new ones VS the old.
In some ways tube fans have never had it so good.
If we could get a steady supply of transmitting triodes we would build a son of MI200 but this does not look likely.
Everyone seems to agree the current C2200 pre amp and MC2102 amp combo sounds great. Now if we could scale this down from $11,000 retail in a more compact package obviously we would find a market. We hear your request.
From a value standpoint you can not beat picking up one of the old amps on the used market and rebuilding it with new caps, resistors, etc. Gold plated RCA plugs are good too. Who cares about the collectors! I am in the middle of a of a stereo Marantz One / Six pre amp restoration now. Let the solder fly.

Thanks again,
Ron Cornelius
Sean, I really have to agree with you on the need at times for a high powered amp. Although, this is completely system dependent, there are times when volume, efficiency or whatever will dictate this. Everything has its place.
If you really want to see what's going on in your system, hook your outputs to an "O-scope." You can use a SPL to measure your peaks and average levels. I was listening the other night at 80DB average level and saw peaks jump to around 95DB.
This is one of the reasons I use a 4-ch Theta Dreadnaught for my Vandersteen 3A Signatures in a biamp configeration. Even using the 2wq subs and high pass filters, the Vandersteen's with there 4 ohm or less impedence require some power to get going. The big Theta in this configuration delivers about 450 w/ch for the 4 channels. The Vandersteen's are rated for a minimum input of 100 watts/ch @ 8 ohms. You must have an amp stable down to about 3.2 ohms.
I consider the Theta right there with the best of the big amps. It is the best sounding big amp bar none that I have heard overall.
However, I had a smaller system using 90db efficiency speakers with a Creek 85 w/ch amp that sounded great. It did not clip at anything less than "LOUD!!!" levels. Depending on your situation, you can get by with smaller amps. I do still think there is a place for them and some of them sound remarkable.
Ron, my thanks again for your participation in this thread.

I do hear what you are saying. However, in my experience the new McIntosh tube amplifiers did not produce the sweet tube sound that I crave and have heard from older Mac products. Maybe it was the room, the speakers, the newer parts, I am not sure. Your stating that the MC2102 being sort of a goosed up MC275 is encouraging. For whatever reason, I was not able to hear the magic of the 275 in the newer product. Sid Corderman has and will always retain the respect due his long and illustrious career.

I am a fan of the 240, and that is the McIntosh amp I have most often been fortunate enough to be around most. I would not hesitate recommending it or the MC275 were they in production today, which is probably what a great number of us on Audiogon would love to see.

Personally, I am on record as being a fan of the KT88. I have no quarrel with McIntosh embracing the tube, as it offers a pretty full picture of the audio spectrum. While the EL34 is also a great tube, I can understand that McIntosh may not be interested in it. Most companies are not able to have an amplifier based on this tube produce the top and bottom octaves with the same verve as the larger tubes. In my mind, McIntosh would not really face this problem. The 6550 does not, and has never done much for me. Just a personal thing, but I prefer the KT88 or KT90 in any situation I can imagine. You may feel otherwise...

If Mac did produce a smaller amp, I believe the audiophile community has enough knowledge to make good use of it, and possibley even place it in the same exalted status as the MC240. Again, maybe the MC240 is an amp that the world wants to have another go 'round with. Perhaps a reissue? Might serve as a barometer for the company, as did the MC275 Reissue.

Twl, again your comments are on point. The transistor allowed a lot of speaker ideas and dreams to come to fruition from the 1960's through the 1980's. A lot of interesting development was put forth, and in no way do I demean any of it. Many of these designs offered loads which could only be described in generous terms as "difficult".

Jim Thiel, in particular, has often made the statement that he has no regard for the amplifier manufacturers. Thiel will build the best loudspeaker he can, and it is up to the amplifier people to design something capable of mating with it. There is something to be said for that, seeking excellence, all else be damned is a means of advancing the craft.

The early Apogees, also, were a good example of this. I have often heard that the ribbon was little more than a short circuit.

However, that was then, this is now. Loudspeaker manufacturers were in the driver seat for a long time. Their designs, creative or otherwise, dictated the direction of the hobby. They called the shots. Today, the field is more level than it was.

In the mid - 90's, a small but determined, some would say fanatical, following sought out a different path. The renaissance of tubes has only flowered further. More so than any business person would have ever believed or predicted. This, in an industry whose health has not flourished, is only more remarkable. These people, me among them, embraced the sound and culture of the vacuum tube amplifier. Along the lines of the rebirth in popularity of the Harley - Davidson motorcycle, this group was fiercely loyal and ready and willing to spend their money on a technology most had long written off. It was more than a purchase of an appliance, it was buying into a way of thinking. A way of listening. A culture. A way of life.

This movement led to people seeking out loudspeakers which flew in the face of that which had all but owned the high end for so long. Simpler, rather than more complex. Low tech, where measurement and wow factor had so recently been the ultimate. Less drivers. Less parts in the crossovers. More archaic crossover topologies, no longer requiring a phD in something or other to design or even understand. And a rebirth of horns.

Right or wrong, the numbers of this crowd have only swelled, drowning out more "modern" ideals in the high end community. Speaker companies meeting the new paradigm rose up and flourished. Some of the other companies, Thiel(not my intention to single this fine company out) is even now turning its direction, producing a higher sensitivity speaker(wonder if this will be a trend). In this age of mp3 and satellite radio, how could this ever happen?

I often read about the death of high end audio. Reason upon reason as to how the hobby has already been killed. Staring down the road called the future, these sages only see even darker skies ahead.

Me, I see another vision. One of audio as it has always been. A small, dedicated group of people pursuing a hobby they have always been into. The people are often quirky, and hold on to ideals thought to be ludicrous by most, but never wavering. No, it may not be a place where snake oil salesmen can make millions slapping a name and some pretty braiding on a cheaper wire, and creating a cable. The dot - com 90's are over. But, companies producing gear like the McIntosh and Marantz products of old can survive and live the lives they always have. And, us, we'll keep doing what we have always done. Listen, tweak, coax, strain, buy, sell, enjoy, and maybe even talk about it on Audiogon.
Sean makes a good point, but it seems to me that high speaker efficiency, trumps big watt amps. Just from a mathamatical standpoint. I may have missed it in the thread but has everyone forgotten the recent popularity of tiny, flea size output, SET amps and speakers with 100+ db sensitivity ratings? It seems to me that an 8 watt amp with this sort of speaker could be used as a weapon! Don't get me wrong, what ever works. It's always a system. How you get where you want to go seems to take many different paths in this hobby.
Food for thought, maybe all fingers shouldn't be pointed at at amp manufactures. As Ron has stated, they are only giving the customer what they want; do we not complain when manufacturers don’t do this?

One member above has stated that while he was a salesman, their shop couldn’t move low watt amps.

Also, it has been stated that marketing is the reason for bigger amps, this may or may not be; I recall reading the review of the Mark Levinson No.383 in Stereophile, in the measurements section, they stated, “The Levinson comfortably exceeds its specification, giving 145W into 8 ohms”; the No.383 is rated at 100W. If watts was a major marketing factor, I would think they would advertise the amp higher than 100W. (This of course is just one example.)

Again, just some thoughts.
Trelja, I don't understand the second paragraph of your second post at all? If you want romance read a cheap novel. If you want to reproduce a musical event in the most accurate way it seems obvious that as tube and SS designs improve(become more accurate or faithful to the original event,i.e. High Fidelity) that they will and do sound more similar to one another. The idea that some good tube amps(yes you pushed a button here as I own one of the amps you are putting down with this statement) are trying to imulate SS sound bewilders me. ARC is doing their best to make an amp that sounds "realistic", not some coloration to make them sound like solid state. They may not be your cup of tea, as you state your preference for "romantic" colorations over realism. I'm not saying that there is no room here for variations in taste. You only need to read a few of the posters systems listed and look at the daunting number of audio products available today to see that we all seem to have different ideas of what is accurate or even musical. About a year ago I had an old Dynaco PAS 2 that I dug out if the basement and stuck my stash of old, lightly used Amperex 12Ax7's in it, and hooked it up to the Dyna ST 70(also a very nice tube set with NOS 7199's and Svetlana EL34's) that I had updated for my Nephew. Talk about romantic and musical! This combo was great fun to listen to, but it was a musical event all of it's own making. It was big and deep and lush, but not what I would call accurate.Give me back my "SS sounding" ARC amp any day! Like I said it was fun and had a beauty that was unmistakeable but it didn't sound very realistic in so many ways. I don't want a tube amp or any other amp that sounds "like" a Krell or a Levinson, myself. I want an amp of any design that sounds like live music. That may be a foolish "romantic" notion.
Trelja paints the picture of our reality I think. For the rest Twl & Sean have explained a good deal, in a complementary way. From a historical perspective, the "golden age" of audio sprang from the growth of the recorded medium dominating the music market after WW2. In classical this was very much the case for Europe: orchestras were disparaged during the war, people could not flood the concert halls and the proliferation of recorded music brought the symphony orchestra, based many miles away, to the home. BUT this necessitated equipment in order to listen, better equip to listen better, etc. Remember, entertainment in the old times was radio & the local concert venue -- and the little TV offered little to the music public. PLUS stereo flourished, and made reproduction even more difficult than it had been.

Nowadays, who cares apart from us....
Trelja, Twl beat me to it with his remarks about your post. Remember what I told you a year or two ago? I wish I had half your talent with words. Very impressive!
I think we all pursue this hobby or passion in our own way.
I at least think we do. I am ridiculed by my friends for spending 1000s of dollars for something that might bring that elusive something to my listening pleasure, being an amplifier,etc. I have a wife to contend with, who luckily (for the most part)is supportive of my passion for music.
I think there are very responsive audio companies out there
who are into making good music come alive. Some of those manufacturers are small, some quite large. The range of
choices is larger now than it has ever been. I am not against any company that brings out HT equipment if that helps keep a company alive while in the backroom it still makes its high end audio components.

There are many 50-100 watt SS amps out there that are great sounding. BEL 1001 is still making great sounds. Spectral
makes a killer 100 watter. The Parasound Halo 125 watter for $850 is a tremendous buy. Not to mention McCormick, Marsh, NAD, Classe, Simaudio. And I am sure there some underground models that I have never heard of that are out there.

For Tubed amplifiers in the 1980s, there was really only
ARC and conrad-johnson. Now there are so many choices it is
very hard to believe. Rogue, Cary, VTL, Manley, VAC, Quicksilver, Jolida, etc. Please tell me what is to complain about????

Yes, the Speaker designers are somewhat to blame, but if you want blame it on anybody just blame it on your selves.
You wanted speakers that sounded that much better, well
you got them. Maggies, Apogees, Martin-Logans, Acoustats.
All power hungry beasts!!! Sealed tombs like Avalon, Artemis, and their brethren. Power!!!

Yet even with those power hungry beasts, why a gigawatt of power??? I can drive my power hungry Acoustats with a
Spectral DMA50, 80 watter all day at normal listening volumes. OK, if I want rock concert earsplitting volume
I can drive two of them into oblivion. So the question is
are you all going deaf???
I don't believe ARC is moving toward solid state sound, whatever that may be, but to implementing tubes in a more accurate fashion. The latest ARC tube amps sound awfully good. Wish I could afford a pair of the VT 100's. I don't believe tubes for the most part offer a accurate portrayal of the source. One term I really never hear with a tube product is accurate.
I use a Audible Illusions preamp which I feel adds romance to the sound of my Theta Dreadnaught. I like the combo. The Theta tests like a tube amp with its zero feedback and its tube like distortion products. It also has balanced circuitry which does not allow the use a common output ground.
We all have sound we like and if we didn't, we wouldn't need all the equipment on the market. I have always asked the question, "What is accurate?" I have never heard accurate to know! And if I had, I probably would have missed it.
There is a place for everything just like the many different car choices. Someone posed a question on this forum about what is the best sounding speaker and received about 40 different nominations. So, who made the right choice?
There are as many reasons to use a high powered amp as there are to use a low powered one. It a decision the individual must ultimately make and I guess manufactures will surely help you out(of the money in your pocket!)
The answer is a toughie. I think it comes down to marketing. Despite what a person hears the wattage rating is kind of like horsepower. Lots of speakers are in the 87 to 94 dB 1W/1M class which means they are wasting power as heat rather than transducing it into "sound";ie pressure waves. If that is the case it is easier to "kick" the speaker with watts and produce what many buyers perceive as acceptable loudness. However, the notion of horsepower under the hood also comes into play. Actually to reproduce the transients in musical signals without waveform distortion, compression, etc. would require something on the order of 10,000 Watts. Buyers feel more comfortable with an amp that delivers a couple of hundred watts rather than 50. Enter the concept of marketing. A buyer feels just plain better with more "horsepower" in his amp. And, watts are cheap, but more watts don't necessarily sound better. The original Classe amp produced 20 solid state watts of pure class A performance, sounded very good for a solid state amp, and ran so hot you could have used the heat sinks for waffle irons.

It would be better to have loudspeakers in the range of 98 to 105 dB 1W/1M to take advantage of the simpler circuits in solid state design, vacuum tube amplifiers with only two output tubes in push-pull, or better yet a Single Ended Triode amp that does not require phase splitting of the signal anywhere in the signal path. I think Nelson Pass is doing single ended solid state amps, but haven't kept up with the state of the solid state art. Nelson is, in my opinion, an innovative original thinker. Plus he is a heck of a nice guy. There are lots of tube SET amps that accomplish lovely music reproduction and infuse a kind of life into your recorded music, often quite literally taking your breath away.
I agree that higher efficiency speakers open up a lot of doors in terms of amplifier selection. To attain high efficiency though, one must sacrifice low frequency extension in a sealed design or poorer transient response / less control by going to a vented design. Horn designs would have to be HUGE to get deep bass out of them. Going that route would once again produce a sacrifice though, this one being bass definition and tonality. As such, you have now traded in one sacrifice for another.

Besides all of the above, i have run into more than a few high efficiency speakers that really did NOT like being fed any type of power. Get them up to the point that things are beginning to crank and distortion and compression set in quite rapidly. I'm not saying that all high efficiency designs do this, but that most designs work best within a limited SPL range. Sean
How wonderful it would be if all speakers were easy to drive and possessed of high sensitivity, and less power would get us all by. But it seems to me that what some folks are conveniently overlooking in their romantic reveries about the 'golden age' is that most speakers partnered with the lower-powered amps available back then simply could not deliver either the frequency or amplitude bandwidths along with the low distortion, even dispersion, and flat response that we demand from modern speakers. You can't have it all in a speaker design, and I for one will gladly accept the 'moderate' efficiency of most modern speaker designs in exchange for their now-commonplace combination of neutrality, extension, high S/N ratio, smooth power response, dynamic range, and freedom from resonance and breakup effects.

I am not in this hobby in order to pursue any slightly fetishistic agenda pertaining to certain schools of thought concerning equipment design, comfortable nostalgia, or the self-consciously iconoclastic exclusivity of belonging to some tiny 'club' whose members are more discerning than thou. I just want to hear more of the music and less of the means by which it is reproduced. I am well aware of the general lack of correlation between rated amplifier power output and sound quality, but that works both ways - there are many audiophiles who, while professing agreement with that last statement as it applies to lower-powered amps, seem to take it as a matter of faith that there will be a (negative) correlation between sound quality and rated watts in the case of higher-powered amps. Untrue. Low power is no guarantee of superior sound, and high power is no guarantee of either inferior or superior sound. All other things being equal, if a higher-powered design were to envince no overall sacrifice in sound quality at low-to-moderate listening volumes or playing delicate music versus a lower-powered design, I would take the higher-powered option for its predictable superiority at higher listening volumes or with the most demanding material (disregarding for the moment such practical concerns as purchase price, heat production, power consumption, and size and weight).

If it were indeed true as some would have us believe, that there exists a low-powered amp 'sound' and a high-powered amp 'sound', then both of those supposed identifiably different 'sounds' would represent deviations from the truth, and as such the goal should be to engineer amps that don't impose those characteristic deviations or limitations upon the sound (within, of course, the hierarchy of real-world constraints alluded to above). If that goal can be met with greater rather than lesser available power, then there should be no reasons other than the aforesaid practical ones why that capability should not be offered.

And maybe that's just what has happened. Maybe when people talk of 'convergence', what they're really saying is that today, you don't necessarily need to sacrifice anything desirable of your 40w to get your 150w, practical issues aside. And if today's better speaker designs - which most audiophiles will agree are capable of superior all-around performance compared to just about anything comparable available 20 years ago - can make good use of that power, then it is entirely justified. I've lived happily with under 50w, and know I could have been happy with even less if I owned different speakers. But now that I'm in a house with a larger listening room rather than an apartment with a small one, I'm getting even better sound by using 4X the power, and can still bump up against the system's dynamic limitations if I so choose. To those who would advise me to learn to listen at quieter levels I say, I often do - but feel the parameter of amplitudinal fidelity is too often overlooked by audiophiles focused on other (also worthy) sonic qualities, or understandably compromised by various real-world restrictions. But to me, the problem of reproducing recorded piano at a realistic volume without difficulty is just as important as are the challenges entailed in playback which strives to optimize any of the other well-known audiophile wish-list qualities (and probably more important than many).

As Schubertmaniac's list makes clear, maybe we are not losing anything - even for the money (adjusting for inflation) - in today's relatively higher-powered amplifier universe, and really have nothing to complain about (especially considering the modern plethora of SET's available for those who want). It's just possible. And if true, then the seemingly irrefutable evidence concerning the minimal sales of the smallest and least expensive audiophile models (speaking now of conventional SS designs) is completely understandable, as is any manufacturer's decision to either drop or phase those models upward to a higher power plateau.
Sean- for that matter, can we have efficient FULL-RANGE speakers w/out lots of compromise? Compromise that we pay for elsewhere (i.e. amplification, active subs)? I think that the "speaker + sub" scenario typifies it: we need two separate speaker transducers to even APPROACH full-range reproduction. Or, we have to turn to giga$ speakers, some of which incorporate the "sub" part... which of course requires bi-amping at least. I.e. it's not only the watts in one main amp its also often necessary to have TWO amps, even if the one of the two amps comes with the speaker set (but we pay for it, don't we?).
Three of us experimented with a pair of Avanti -- trying to get "the last ounce" of sound out of it. The best result we could achieve required $20k of amplification + another 7k of branded speaker cable. Spare change.

And, what about the upper register -- the harmonics going beyond that 20kHz standard? How much of that can we normally reproduce through our speakers? Despite the wide-band electronics that are available & hi-rez sources, and s/ware that is supposedly available? Little, I bet...

It seems that the kind of reproduction we are driving for here is an excercise in inefficiency -- in a grand scale.
I'd like to put my 2 cents in regarding these last few posts, that have alot of merit in them.

Nothing is perfect, and we will compromise in whatever we get.Like Sean says, it takes surface area and power to move alot of air for high-SPL deep bass response. Like Gregm says, it takes speed and maybe even some unknown things to cover supersonic frequencies, which may affect the listening experience in yet unkown ways. Like Zaikesman says, there is becoming less difference between high power amps and low power, in terms of accuracy, and sound quality.

So again, it comes back to what each individual wants in their system. A person that uses single-drivers and low power amps, like myself, would be foolish to think that he's going to get 125db at 20Hz out of his system. It is not going to happen. Conversely, there are different sacrifices made when someone selects a system that will produce that kind of SPL/freq. As Gregm points out most full range systems require multiple drivers, maybe multiple amps, alot of gain stages, low efficiency drivers, volumetric efficiency sacrifices in the enclosures, possibly equalization, crossover distortions, longer signal path, etc. If these trade-offs are considered to be acceptible for the SPL and frequency extension desired, then that is a fine choice.

But, there is no free ride. You will make sacrifices that accompany your decisions. There are many who think that they can get the sound quality of a good low powered SET, from their Godzilla amplifiers, and this is simply not the case. There are some who think that they can get the SPL and frequency extension of a high-powered SS system from their SET's, and this is simply not the case, either. It is a "pick your poison" situation.

Of course, there are certain applications where there is no choice, such as sound reinforcement for theaters, or stadiums, or hard rockers who must play music at 120db. For all others there is a choice, as far as home reproduction is concerned. The choices made will ultimately define the capabilities of that system.

Unfortunately, the "hyping" of certain products by manufacturers, magazines, or owners, in an attempt to make others believe that there is no sacrifice to be made in owning that product, leads to less-savvy purchasers being mis-led into thinking that they can have it all. Nobody has it all.
Maxgain, I am glad you also joined the discussion.

I, for one, do not let the word "accurate" go so easily.

Why is it that the word accurate always is used to describe sound which is opposite of musical, romantic, lush, or warm? Why is the word "accurate" used instead of threadbare, white, emaciated, etched, sterile, or analytical?

My point is that I would love to see a more accurate use of the word accurate. People who do not favor a more classic tube sound do not have any more right to the use of the word accurate than does the other camp.

I am sorry, but I do not find the sound of the past few years' worth of Audio Research tube amps(I have heard the new design may be a departure from this - trying to win back the tube amp crowd - haven't listened/not sure) to be accurate. I find them all of the things on the other side of the spectrum from that which you deride as not being "accurate". Which doesn't make it any more accurate, just different. In my opinion, in fact, this sound is LESS accurate. To you, this sound is MORE accurate.

We disagree. No problem.

I submit to you, that the goal of an audio component is to make music. Not that I mind a nice set of measurements. But, I think making a voice, saxophone, or drum sound real is closer to MY definition of "accurate" than a component which seems to be a straight wire with gain on someone's test measurement but somehow alters what I know a voice, saxophone, or drum to sound like.

For every one thing someone says is not accurate about a tube amp, there is also at least one thing that is not accurate about a solid state amp.
Trelja, I will try to be more "accurate" in my descriptions, but language is a plyable sort of thing sometimes. It looks to me that we agree much more than we disagree. For one thing we are both in the tube camp. I want amps to have the least sound of their own that is possible,I guess that is what I mean when I say "accurate". As an exapmle, I have worked for ARC dealerships and Conrad dealerships and have owned both. Both are wonderful but different. I just seem to lean tword the ARC house sound if you will. For me the sound of the VT series amp that I own is just about ideal. One the other hand one of the best and what I would consider reference quality systems for the era I have had the pleasure of spending alot of time with used a Premier One and a Three. I used a Premier Three and Four in my own system for some time.Funny thing is for me that my system does more of what that Conrad reference system did right than ever before.(I will state a preference for Vandersteens as well over anything else I have heard)
I have been working for the past year to get rid of some of what to me were colorations(for lack of a better or more accurate phrase) in my system that I felt were perhaps "romantic". We may have a different idea of what that sound is? I have gotten closer to "my" ideal sound than ever before by working these out of the sound. It is more realistic to me. which is my only benchmark as to if my system sounds good. If it can fool me for even a bit into thinking I am there with the live event keeps me listening.

I have been a tube guy since my brother came home from UofM with a Dynaco ST70 and an ARC SP3a1, while I was still in High School in about 75,listening to my Marantz 1060. I toyed with the idea of getting an ARC tatoo,just like the sweaty Harley guys, to give you a look into where I am coming from.
One thing I guess I should say that while I have an appreciation for low power SET amps, and the speakers which are needed to be partnered with them, that is really not my point in this thread.

I think I have gone out of my way to trumpet tubes in general, not specifically 3W amplifiers. The MC240 and MC275 amps which I have asked for are not low powered. The two amps I own, a Jadis and a pair of Atma Sphere monoblocks, are not low powered. My speakers are not very efficient, but are in no means inefficient. The products I own are sort of the "middle way" as a Buddhist would call them. Not SET, but not 200W either. Not 105 db/2.83V, but not 84 db/2.83V either. I see merit in both philosophies, and believe that both add to the harmony which is the high.
My likes and dislikes I make known, and feel strongly about.

What I have been trying to say is that I prefer tubes to solid state, or some newer tube amplifiers which do not sound very tubelike.

The original question of this thread is "where are the lower power" solid state amps. Amps, I point out that I am supportive of, and have heard those which I would not be unhappy to own. I stated earlier, that these seem to be most apparent from the European manufacturers these days.

Somehow, we have digressed into a comparison where Henry Rosenberg is on the one side, and Dan D'Agostino is on the other. I honor the work and contribution of both men. The discussion is fine, and makes for healthy and interesting pro and conversation. Which this thread has served up in spades.
Thanks for the cogent response Maxgain. I think you are right when you say we agree more than we disagree. Even if we did not, this has to be one of the most interesting and thought provoking threads on Audiogon in a long time. I am both priveledged and thankful to be at least a small part of it. Thanks!
I will also add myself Trelja, that as someone who has listened through tube power amps exclusively for the last few years, lately I have seriously been considering trying to find a reasonable but nice SS amp to bring in as a comparision piece, simply because it's been so long, and the last one I owned would be fairly out-of-date today. I am willing to temporarily invest around $2K or so, just as a self-check and a system-check, and although I suspect that once I am done, I will be reselling the SS amp (whatever it may be), who knows? - I may get surprised or learn more about some things I thought I already knew. But that's one of the great things about Audiogon, of course - there's no other way I can think of that I would be mulling over rolling this kind of dice just to satisfy my itellectual curiousity. (Though I have to admit that it's true I'll need something to listen to during the interem if and when I decide to get my tube amps modded, so I may as well expand my mind if possible.) Definitely an experience I'll be posting about when it comes to pass.
Not everyone. Red Rose (Levinson) has NEW 35 wpc spirit system for $2,000- speakers / amp / cables.