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Best amp around $2k

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15 replies to this topic

#1 of 16 OFFLINE   MikeNagy


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Posted November 18 2005 - 07:25 PM

I'm finally ready to make the leap to separates. I'm seriously eyeing a Sherwood Newcastle P-965 pre/pro, but more importantly, I want to get a 5-7 channel amp that's going to be the cornerstone of my system for years to come.

I would love to be able to audition these, but I live in an A/V black hole. The few dealers in my area are idiots or worse. One always tried to sell me some Denon receiver whenever I walked in the door. Anyway, I need opinions of real people.

My price range is about $2000-2500. I'm willing to go used. Price isn't a factor as long as it's in the range. In other words, I'm not going to choose a slightly inferior amp just to save $300. I don't really care about 7 channels because the wife can barely stand five speakers and a sub taking up living room real estate, and I dare not push my luck with seven. But I know some amps only come in 7 channel configurations nowadays, so whatever.

I've read a lot about the Sherwood A-965, and while most of what I've read is positive, the thing that bothers me is that it's said to be slow. Can anybody shed light on if this is in fact the case? I really want an amp that is quick on its feet and can handle large dynamics.

I've also read great things about the NAD T973. In fact I haven't read any complaints about it. I currently have a NAD T752 receiver, and I've been generally happy with it, especially for the price, so I guess you can say I've got some brand loyalty going. But I can't help but wonder if the T973 is the best out there for the money.

The Outlaw 755 sounds promising on paper, but I've also seen a lot of negative opinions about it, so not so sure it's for me.

I've read a little about Rotel, the primary drawback seems to be that it's a little thin-sounding. This is my pet-peeve. I hate going to concerts or just about any live event because the speakers are always too bright and literally give me a headache. I don't want to be a whiner, but I just can't take bright, tinny, "detailed" sound. I need definition for sure, but not at the expense of a warm, smooth sound.

The B&K Ref 200.7, while being quick, dynamic, and tonally-balanced, is said to sound "dry". Anybody actually listen to it? What did you think of the sound?

I read quite a bit about the Fosgate FAA 1000.5 here (an excellent read, if rather involved), and while other reviews were favorable, those people found that its magical sound was due to its power cord (??), as well as it having some pretty hefty tonal balance issues.

I haven't read too much about the Anthem PVA 7, but it sounds good. A little more musical than purely dynamic (which is good). Also from anthem and in my price range (used) is the Statement A5, but that is said to be bright. And if a reviewer admits that it is bright, I would most likely not like it.

So now that I've rattled off what I've read about all these different amps, have any of you heard these amps in person? Are the descriptions above accurate? Which one would be the best, given my criteria?

#2 of 16 OFFLINE   AlbertD


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Posted November 19 2005 - 01:09 AM

Sherbourn has both a 5 channel 5/1500 and 7 channel 7/2100 amp that deserve a look. Monoblock design, very beefy, and crystal clear. www.sherbourn.com/

#3 of 16 OFFLINE   Arthur S

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Posted November 19 2005 - 02:39 AM

You need to stay away from really accurate, powerful amps like Bryston and Rotel.

Seriously, when you get into believing in things like pace, rythem, slow, dry, grainy, power cords, etc., you are on your own.

The kinds of differences you are talking about are very subtle at best.

I have found that you cannot read your way into a purchase, nor can you rely on the taste of someone else.

Since you seem to like NAD, you might want to go with the 793.

#4 of 16 OFFLINE   Scott_N


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Posted November 19 2005 - 05:02 AM

Well first off I don't agree that B&K is dry. Compared to tubes their amps they might sound dry but not to other SS amps. I'm a tube guy but one brand of SS amps I really like is Parasound. The Parasound 5250 or 5150 might be just what you are looking for. Good luck with whatever you choose.

#5 of 16 OFFLINE   TimmyH



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Posted November 19 2005 - 05:10 AM

You might also look into the "Gemstone" amp (a review is at Secrets of Home Theater), seems well thought of and good "bang for buck".

#6 of 16 OFFLINE   MikeNagy


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Posted November 19 2005 - 09:41 AM

Arthur, do you seriously not believe in using the adjective "dry" when describing an audio system? I've definitely heard gear that I would describe as sounding "dry" or "clinical". Not sure where you got pace, rythem, and grainy, but yeah I don't believe in those either.

When I bought my current system, I had to rely heavily on other people's opinions on gear, particularly speakers. What I ended up buying sounded pretty much like what other people described, and I was happy with my purchases. I don't know, maybe I got lucky. I think if there's a general consensus about something's sound, then that's a lot more clear-cut than something that some people love and some people hate.

Speaking of general consensus, that Parasound 5250 seems to be very well thought of, and seems to be just what I'm looking for. Thanks for the heads-up, Scott.

#7 of 16 OFFLINE   Doug_


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Posted November 19 2005 - 09:52 AM

I have 2 Outlaw 755 amps and will not be replacing them. Outlaw has some great sounding amps that are a great value. I have used Carver, Rotel, NAD and the outlaw has kept pace or outdone them all. With a good 5 year warranty and a 30 day money back guarantee, what do you have to lose? You will have to wait a few weeks though until the new models come out with balanced inputs. They have sold all the 755s. If you want to see how good the amps are, look at how few are for sale on ebay and audigon.

#8 of 16 OFFLINE   Ryan Tsang

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Posted November 19 2005 - 02:44 PM

I agree that Anthem leans towards the "slightly forward" sound. I have a MCA3.

If you want a smooth, warm, (dare I say "liquid") sound then try Classe. You can score a CAV-150 (150x6 @8ohms) used on Audiogon. I too like the warm, smooth sound. I find it more organic than an analytical, dry, clinical presentation.
I do find my Classe CA-150 preferable in this regard than my MCA3.

I've not heard the Sherbourn, Sherwood, Rotel, NAD, or B&K.

#9 of 16 OFFLINE   MikeNagy


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Posted November 19 2005 - 09:56 PM

Ryan, thanks for pointing out Classe. Their stuff sounds pretty classy Posted Image. Ok that was lame. Anyway, I'm having a hard time finding info about it online. Would you care to elaborate on what you like about it and what you dislike?

#10 of 16 OFFLINE   Andrew Pratt

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Posted November 22 2005 - 01:32 AM

I've got both the A965 and P965 in my system and they replaced the Rotel 1075 and 1098 combo. To my ears the S-N gear is a little more open sounding then the warmer Rotel but it doesn't seem to lack any of the detail and at least in my system I'm not left wanting more power. For the most part I've been very impressed with what you get for the dollar with S-N Posted Image

#11 of 16 OFFLINE   Dan Driscoll

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Posted November 22 2005 - 02:30 AM

At your price point there are some outstanding amps available on the used market. Here's a 5 channel McCormack DNA, a Classe CAV-150 and a new B&K 200.7, just to name a few.

AudioGon is your friend! Posted Image


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#12 of 16 OFFLINE   MikeNagy


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Posted November 22 2005 - 07:53 AM

Thanks, everyone, for your replies. I think now it's down to the Parasound 5250 and Classe CAV-150, with the Sherwood and NAD a distant 3rd and 4th. The speakers that I'm going to be driving with these amps are PSB Stratus Gold-i's and Silver-i's. These are neutral-toned 4-ohm speakers, with sensitivity around 89 dB. I really like the power output of the Classe and the Parasound. 300 and 365 watts/channel respectively at 4 ohms. Do any of you have experience with either of these? Or with PSB speakers? Which would sound better with the PSB?

#13 of 16 OFFLINE   Andrew Pratt

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Posted November 22 2005 - 08:05 AM

I replied to your email Michael. With those fine speakers I'd lean towards the Parasound for its nice ballance of warmth and power. Classe might be a little to open sounding for the PSB's and their recent quality issues should also be factored in.

#14 of 16 OFFLINE   Steve Lumbert

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Posted November 22 2005 - 07:22 PM

I picked up a lightly used Lexicon CX-7 in that price range. I have been extremely impressed with it. I have it mated to a n Outlaw 990 pre/pro. It was recently voted Best Amplifier Over $3,000.

Here's a review from Home Theater Magazine:

#15 of 16 OFFLINE   Levesque


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Posted November 23 2005 - 03:42 AM

I sold my Bryston 4BSST and Rotel RMB-1095 to buy the Anthem Statement P2 and P5. 7X325W, 3 power cords, 3X20A dedicated circuits. I never looked back.

Build like tanks, heavy (P2 is 75 pounds and P5 is 140 pounds), really low noise floor... Sweet sounding monsters... Posted Image

#16 of 16 OFFLINE   Ryan Tsang

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Posted November 25 2005 - 06:15 PM

I wouldn't mind test driving an Anthem P2. How does it compare to the Bryston? I've never heard them, but they stereotypically (no pun intended) have a forward, brighter sound, with powerful bass.....I guess very "rock and roll." Is the P2 a different beast or just the same style but better?

Mike: I have the CA-150 (2ch), not the CAV-150. I don't want to get carried away with descriptions cuz I could be the first to fail a blind, level-matched test between amps. However, with my Aerial 7, in the several months that I have had it, I have found music more relaxed, more easy going, and less fatiguing than my MCA3. I like the ability to bridge.....I might bridge it to drive my center. Dislike: no 12V trigger.
I don't listen to well-recorded jazz, blues, classical, or vinyl so a forgiving system is welcomed with my preference of mediocre quality CDs.