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  1. #1
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Amplifier suggestions

    My beloved PSAudio HCA2 is giving up the ghost and repairing it is going to probably cost more than its worth after all these years. I have been lucky enough to not have even considered replacing the PSA as i really enjoy the ultra fast transients, tube like mids, and iron fisted grip the amp has on my B&W CDN7NT's. My budget is up to $2k, what would you suggest? The speakers will dip to under 2 ohms and like a lot of current, although before the amp started letting go, my goal this year was to upgrade the speakers to something more suited to the huge room they're in. However, now the amp is chewing up that budget so let's focus on that.

    I'm considering a vintage McIntosh 250wpc (don't have model #) or a Threshold 400a, so used gear is fine. While I love the tube sound, i honestly can't stomache the inefficiencies and heat of a valve amp. I also obviously like the sound characteristics of good class D amps and have read good things about the NuPrime ST10 but haven't heard it.

    Thank you in advance for your suggestions!

  2. #2
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    There is a nice Classe Amp for sale on Audiogon as well as a pair of Bel Canto REF 500M monoblocks and a Class D Audio Research 300.2 amp. Nuforce Model 9se v2 mono blocks are another nice amp with just the sound you seem to like.

    If you can up your budget a little for a new amp, the Vincent SP-331MK Hybrid tube-SS amp also has the power and sound that you are looking for with out all the heat of a full tube amp
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
    Thorens TD-145 TT, Bellari phono preamp, Nagaoka MP-200 Cartridge
    Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
    Luxman DA-06 DAC
    Van Alstine Ultra Plus Hybrid Tube DAC
    Dual Martin Logan Original Dynamo Subs
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

  3. #3
    Forum Regular Jack in Wilmington's Avatar
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    There is a nice looking Audio Research 300.2 for $1750 on Audiogon.
    2 Channel System
    Dynaudio Contour 1.8 Mk II
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  4. #4
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    TS, what is going on with the PSA? It could be a simple fix like new electrolytic caps. If you have not already done so, give PSA tech support a call and see what they think. Maybe there is a known issue.

    Larry
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
    Thorens TD-145 TT, Bellari phono preamp, Nagaoka MP-200 Cartridge
    Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
    Luxman DA-06 DAC
    Van Alstine Ultra Plus Hybrid Tube DAC
    Dual Martin Logan Original Dynamo Subs
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

  5. #5
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    I'd say you have a lot of options. Repairing the HCA2 is presumably an option as Blackraven suggests; alternatively, a suitable used amp is always likely to be a cost effective option, (as when I bought my Pass X150.5 for US$2500).

    Vis--vis the HCA2, it was always a bit controversial, both technically and soundwise but had its strong proponents such as yourself. My own, somewhat limited experience is the Class D amps can offer great value -- I'm certainly not a Class D hater although there are plenty of those around.

    In terms of current class D amps, the most talked-about are the Hypex nCore amps; Hypex' older, UcD amps are also often favorably discussed and a good deal cheap. N.B. I haven't heard these amp personally so I offer the idea for consideration, not necessarily a recommendation.

    The most affordable Hypex nCore is the NC400 which is available in some commercial products costing around $2000 for stereo model, and also available to DIY'ers. Next up is their NC500 module which is presently OEM only but commercial stereo amps are available for around $2500.

    It is feasible for a non-technical (but diligent) DIY type to build his/her own NC400 for some savings vs. a commercial version. See this article at EnjoyTheMusic ... Hypex NCore 400 Amplifier Enter a great Class D amplifier from the Netherlands. Review By Jeff Poth

    A commercial NC500 based amp is the Merrill Taranis which $2500 ... Taranis Stereo Power Amplifier

    What I do recommend in or somewhat above to their price range are the Class D Audio SDS models, e.g. the SDS-470C for $800 ... SDS-470CP

  6. #6
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Great suggestions, guys. I actually love the ARC sound, but didn't know how well that translated to class D amps. The 300.2 has received mixed reviews, has anybody actually heard it and how well does it portray the arc house sound?

    I'll check out the Classe amp on agon. They are paired W/ B&W quite a bit as they have the same distributor, so I'm thinking there should be some synergy there.

    Thanks for the link, Feanor. I'm not much of a diy'er, but the option sure is intriguing!

    The PSA had the left channel rebuilt by the factory a year ago and the right channel is now coming through garbled. I'm not technical enough to know what is causing the loss in fidelity, but all of the signal isn't coming through clean.

  7. #7
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    There is a dealer here in town that has Classe and B&W. They pair well.

    If you want a new amp, consider the AVA HIFI Synergy 450 amp. I have auditioned this amp and it is tube like in presentation. They have a 30 day return policy. They are nothing special to look at though. It is stable to 2ohms and probably lower. Frank can tell you. He probably can put it in a silver chassis if you ask.

    Audio By Van Alstine (AVA) Synergy 450 Power Amplifier Blockbuster performance for only $1999! Review By Anthony Nicosia

    Here are some user comments-

    https://forum.audiogon.com/discussio...-quality-sound

    Here is a qoute from a review comparing a Krell Full Power Balanced amp and the Synergy=

    "We decided to start the amp comparison with the Van Alstine Synergy 450. My gosh, the sound was so close to what we heard with the Krell that we had to try out a lot of different music to find out if there really were any differences. Bass was a wash because the REL did all the low stuff, turn off the REL and the 3.7's didn't go low enough by themselves to notice any difference."



    Class D amps have come a long way. They give you a lot of air, transparency, speed and dynamics that are found on more expensive amps. I have liked the ones that I have heard
    Last edited by blackraven; 01-17-2016 at 02:07 PM.
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
    Thorens TD-145 TT, Bellari phono preamp, Nagaoka MP-200 Cartridge
    Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
    Luxman DA-06 DAC
    Van Alstine Ultra Plus Hybrid Tube DAC
    Dual Martin Logan Original Dynamo Subs
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

  8. #8
    Suspended
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    The AVA is a good suggestion.

    I would add looking at the Parasound A21

    I would also recommend looking at Merrill Audio's Taranis which is Class D, reviews are available on a search. He allows a trial listen

    Cambridge Audio's big power amp is said to be pretty good and you may be able to get an ATI 2000 series in your budget which are beasts. ATI is probably one of the best kept secrets and over achievers in audio.

    I personally would not buy either Classe or ARC without a listen or unless familiar. Both have a "house" sound. I find Classes, especially newer models to be on the dry side. No offense to anyone who owns or likes ARC, remember I said, personally, I find ARC to have what I describe as a sort of gray or industrial sound. I have heard some classic ARC through Martin Logan ESL's which sounded good. When So I don't know if system synergy or ARC's later stuff went toward the sound I described.

    From the PSA though and wanting something similar you should probably explore higher quality Class D or a high current A/B with a rep for transparency. I thought about trying Channel Island at one point but charging a restock fee turned me off when others are more open with auditions.

  9. #9
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven View Post
    There is a dealer here in town that has Classe and B&W. They pair well.

    If you want a new amp, consider the AVA HIFI Synergy 450 amp. I have auditioned this amp and it is tube like in presentation. They have a 30 day return policy. They are nothing special to look at though. It is stable to 2ohms and probably lower. Frank can tell you. He probably can put it in a silver chassis if you ask.

    Audio By Van Alstine (AVA) Synergy 450 Power Amplifier Blockbuster performance for only $1999! Review By Anthony Nicosia
    Thanks so much for the link, Raven. It's interesting that they used VR 35's as one of the speakers I was seriously considering upgrading to was Von Schweikert's VR33 and I'm very familiar with their sound. I had forgotten all about AVA and am grateful for reminding me. I see that he still hasn't changed his opinion on aesthetics, lol! Just curious, does the tube like presentation they talk about come at some expense to transparency?

  10. #10
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody View Post
    I would add looking at the Parasound A21
    That was one on my list, actually.

    I would also recommend looking at Merrill Audio's Taranis which is Class D, reviews are available on a search. He allows a trial listen
    I'll have to check it out, thanks!

    Cambridge Audio's big power amp is said to be pretty good and you may be able to get an ATI 2000 series in your budget which are beasts. ATI is probably one of the best kept secrets and over achievers in audio.
    An audio dealer I know that was trying to turn me on to Legacy Focus SE's recommended ATI uber alles. In his words, if you wanted an amp that you'll never replace, ATI is the way to go. I've never heard them, but that's pretty high praise coming from a guy whose job is to keep selling you gear through the years!

    I personally would not buy either Classe or ARC without a listen or unless familiar. Both have a "house" sound. I find Classes, especially newer models to be on the dry side. No offense to anyone who owns or likes ARC, remember I said, personally, I find ARC to have what I describe as a sort of gray or industrial sound. I have heard some classic ARC through Martin Logan ESL's which sounded good. When So I don't know if system synergy or ARC's later stuff went toward the sound I described.
    I'm very familiar with the ARC sound and have heard them driving everything from Legacy Whispers to Linn Helix's. I understand the "gray" analogy as they can be somewhat less than focused depending on the synergy of the system. I have enjoyed a Cambridge Audio system in my office for 13 years now, and while it's great for my 93dB/w/m Missions, I don't think the bottom end will have enough grip for the B&W's. Thank you for the recommendation, though.

    From the PSA though and wanting something similar you should probably explore higher quality Class D or a high current A/B with a rep for transparency. I thought about trying Channel Island at one point but charging a restock fee turned me off when others are more open with auditions.
    I agree and that's why I was hoping someone here had experience with NuPrime, which is the new company from the founder of Nuforce. TAS proclaimed it at the best Class D amp currently made, however I prefer to trust my ears, not my eyes.

  11. #11
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven View Post
    TS, what is going on with the PSA? It could be a simple fix like new electrolytic caps. If you have not already done so, give PSA tech support a call and see what they think. Maybe there is a known issue.

    Larry
    Took your advice, Larry, and called PSA just now. Their response: "Send it in, we'll repair under warranty for free." This was despite the fact it was the left channel, not the right, that was rebuilt by them over a year ago. That, my friends, is some pretty outstanding customer service!

  12. #12
    Forum Regular harley .guy07's Avatar
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    I do like Nuforce as my preamp has served me well over the last few years but i am not knowledgeable about the Nuprime or how they are different but I do know they are well made. I have tried class D amps and they did not work for me but that might have been the brand that I tried not working for me. I have heard Bel Canto and Nuprime both make excellent class d amps but for me i like the musicality of class a amps like Pass Labs that is pure class A for the first 10 watts and I love it. You might like class d amps but I would think they would be a complete different sound from your PS Audio in my opinion but who knows it might be what you are looking for

    Marantz SR5008(HT)
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  13. #13
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    That's interesting you are familiar with Legacy. A friend of mine had Focus SE for a time and just recently upgraded to a V system. So we have a common sonic ground there.

    I had an AVA 400r for a short time, I thought it was transparent. I haven't heard the Synergy series. Although I never ran out of power I always wondered about how, or why, Frank used less output devices than some of the amps of similar power and they weighed much less. I'm sure some of the others weight can be attributed to huge metal cases and heat syncs.

    Sounds like you might be milking the PSA a bit longer . The time to look would be now though while you can take your time.

  14. #14
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    TS, glad to hear PSA is doing the honorable thing. As far as the Synergy amp is concerned, it does not sacrifice transparency. It is a better sounding amp than the A21 when I brought my A21 over to Franks to compare to the prototype Synergy amp. The Synergy reminds me sort of like the Marantz sound. Slightly warmer. I do not believe that the A21 would pair well with B&W's tweeters. The A21 has a lot of top end sparkle. The Synergy is smoother and has a sweeter midrange. The Synergy is night and day different sounding than the top of the line hybrid tube/ss AVA R series amps and the A21.

    Larry
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
    Thorens TD-145 TT, Bellari phono preamp, Nagaoka MP-200 Cartridge
    Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
    Luxman DA-06 DAC
    Van Alstine Ultra Plus Hybrid Tube DAC
    Dual Martin Logan Original Dynamo Subs
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

  15. #15
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by harley .guy07 View Post
    I do like Nuforce as my preamp has served me well over the last few years but i am not knowledgeable about the Nuprime or how they are different but I do know they are well made. I have tried class D amps and they did not work for me but that might have been the brand that I tried not working for me. I have heard Bel Canto and Nuprime both make excellent class d amps but for me i like the musicality of class a amps like Pass Labs that is pure class A for the first 10 watts and I love it. You might like class d amps but I would think they would be a complete different sound from your PS Audio in my opinion but who knows it might be what you are looking for
    Maybe. The PSA has a pure class A input stage, it's the output stage that is switching. These days, I think it would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to consistently determine an amp's topology simply by listening to them, particularly in a blind test. You'd be able to tell a good amp from one that's not, but determining if it's tube, ss, switching, or some hybrid of the above? Good luck. There are a lot of tube amps that have extended highs with great grip on the low end just as there are plenty of ss amps that have sweet, almost euphonic upper ends. A good amp is a good amp. These days, I think it's more about what sound the designer is trying to present than the technology they choose to achieve it.

    Personally, I've always like the efficiency of Class D's because it's hotter than the sun where I live and the last thing I need is an amp acting as a space heater in the middle of July while I watch my meter spin to oblivion as my A/C tries to keep up. Hence, no tubes, lol!

  16. #16
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody View Post
    That's interesting you are familiar with Legacy. A friend of mine had Focus SE for a time and just recently upgraded to a V system. So we have a common sonic ground there.

    I had an AVA 400r for a short time, I thought it was transparent. I haven't heard the Synergy series. Although I never ran out of power I always wondered about how, or why, Frank used less output devices than some of the amps of similar power and they weighed much less. I'm sure some of the others weight can be attributed to huge metal cases and heat syncs.

    Sounds like you might be milking the PSA a bit longer . The time to look would be now though while you can take your time.
    Attachment 9916
    This is my friend's rig with Legacy Whispers. He collects reel to reels with his crown jewel being either the Otari on the far right or the Sony Master on the far left. Incredibly transparent speakers. I've learned to not bring my own recordings over as after I've heard them on his system, all I hear are the limitations of my considerably more modest rig! Thankfully, everything fades after a week or so as I'm much more about the music than the gear (as you tell by how frequently I upgrade).

    Once I get the amp and my Yamaha KX1200U deck back in working nick, my next upgrade will be speakers. I really do enjoy the sound of the PSA, a Class A rated amp by Stereophile back in the day (not that it matters). That said, I haven't inserted anything else in the system for over 10 years, so perhaps a modern offering would make a world of difference? Ignorance is bliss in this case.

  17. #17
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven View Post
    TS, glad to hear PSA is doing the honorable thing.
    It's more than honorable, it's incredible! Remember, they rebuilt the LEFT channel over a year ago. To fix the right channel on a 13 year old amp "under warranty" was completely unexpected.
    The Synergy is night and day different sounding than the top of the line hybrid tube/ss AVA R series amps and the A21.

    Larry
    Interesting. Are you saying the R series are that much better than the Synergy line? What differences did you note?

  18. #18
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    TS, go ahead for your info and look at the Taranis by Merrill Audio, retail is around $2500.00 with huge power. There is a new review out on it, I believe it was Positive Feedback, I'm not at home to check now. It's Class D.

  19. #19
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody View Post
    TS, go ahead for your info and look at the Taranis by Merrill Audio, retail is around $2500.00 with huge power. There is a new review out on it, I believe it was Positive Feedback, I'm not at home to check now. It's Class D.
    I'll check it out, thanks! Going to audition the GoldenEar Triton Ones in a few weeks. I'm thinking the adjustable subs will help compensate for the big room they'll be in.

  20. #20
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    The R series amp's have more air and transparency as well as grip on the music. Bass is deeper, tighter and faster. The top end is more detailed. The R series sell for about $3K to $3.5K but sound like a $5-6K amp as they perform above their price point. The Synergy amps have a warmer, thicker sound in the midrange. They sound like a $3K amp for what ever that means. They have air and transparency and are a more forgiving amp. The R series can sound bright in the wrong system. Cymbals sound more natural and detailed than my Pass X250. There is also more air and a wider sound stage. But overall I prefer the Pass in my system. I have a friend that sold his Pass X350.5 amp because the 600R sounded better in his system. The Pass sells for over $12K. Go figure.

    I like you also like the sound of a digital amp. They have a unique sound, at least the one's that I have heard.
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
    Thorens TD-145 TT, Bellari phono preamp, Nagaoka MP-200 Cartridge
    Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
    Luxman DA-06 DAC
    Van Alstine Ultra Plus Hybrid Tube DAC
    Dual Martin Logan Original Dynamo Subs
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

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