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Best Power Amplifiers: $1,000 – $3,000

Audio by Van Alstine Vision SET 120

Audio by Van Alstine Vision SET 120

$1199

AVA’s quite reasonably priced solid-state Vision SET 120 is rated at 60Wpc into 8 ohms and “much more” into 4 ohms. Those 60 watts were plenty for driving reviewer DK’s Monitor Audio Studios to a more than room-filling blast. The horns at the end of a hard-hitting Spiritualized track came through screaming, purposefully borderline harsh, but the SET 120 never lost control. In combination with Van Alstine’s Transcendence 10 RB tube preamp, the amp generated a deceptively cool sound, in the sense of being laid-back and calm, while still providing a taut low end and just enough sparkle in the upper registers. DK, 290

Read the full review: Audio by Van Alstine Transcendence 10 RB Preamplifier and Vision SET 120 Stereo Power Amplifier
NuForce STA200

NuForce STA200

$1299

Basic solid-state power amplifiers are not, due to their essential nature (boxes with parts inside), sexy objects that inspire a lot of audiophile lust. The STA200 will never be accused of looking sexy or especially stylish unless you’re into stark minimalism. But if sound quality and solid-state reliability are your primary purchasing criteria, the STA200 should be on your radar. You may not be blown away by the STA200’s looks, but its sound turns it into one sexy beast. SS, 268

Read the full review: Optoma NuForce STA200 Power Amplifier
LSA Warp One

LSA Warp One

$1499

Given its rather modest price, you might be tempted to write off the Warp One as just another me-too mid-fi Class D power amplifier. That would be a mistake. SS has, over the years, listened to plenty of Class D power amplifiers; so far, the Warp One is the best-sounding one he’s reviewed. If you have loudspeakers that are at least reasonably efficient (or better), and you have no need to warm up their sonic personality, the Warp One could be an excellent and exceedingly rational choice as your next reference amplifier. SS, 331

Read the full review: LSA Warp 1 Power Amplifier
Wyred 4 Sound ST-500 mkII/ST-1000 mkII

Wyred 4 Sound ST-500 mkII/ST-1000 mkII

$1499–$1999

These high-efficiency power amplifiers—delivering 250 and 500Wpc respectively—have got to be among the great bargains in audio. Although they were not accorded a formal review, PS used them to drive the Emerald Physics CS3.2 II speakers, and then for a good month auditioned them on his Quad 2805s. Throughout they performed flawlessly, delivering sound of exemplary clarity and control, perhaps fractionally on the cool side of neutral, but not excessively so and never compromising the reproduction of warmth. Pricing depends upon options (i.e., WBT binding posts, power, etc.). PS, 249

PS Audio S300

PS Audio S300

$1649

If you can’t get excited over an amp like the S300, you might reconsider your own high-end bona-fides. Based on a Class D ICE module, this dual-mono amp is rated at 140Wpc into 8 ohms. Its sleek low-profile design is matched by first-rate construction quality, Sonically, the era of apologizing for Class D under-performance is over. Music simply snapped into view, in full harmonic bloom. Most vivid was the impression of broad dynamic contrasts from the micro-level to the macro. The S300 was both fast and explosive off the mark, while timbral information was in full-color display. The S300 wears its speed and rhythmic integrity like a badge of honor. NG, 333

Read the full review: PS Audio Stellar S300 Power Amplifier
NuPrime AMG STA

NuPrime AMG STA

$1750

The NuPrime AMG STA is a sleek, compact Class D power amplifier with a Class A preamp stage and a linear power supply. The box is simple, with only a metal switch on the front, a small white LED indicator, and the NuPrime logo. It outputs a solid 130Wpc into 8 ohms in stereo mode and 300Wpc into 8 ohms in mono mode. The AMG STA sounds easy and relaxed with a decently solid low end and a crisp, pleasant midrange. It has enough power to run difficult-to-drive speakers in either stereo or mono mode, and a warm finesse that pairs well with most setups, especially with the NuPrime AMG PRA preamp. DK, 319

Read the full review: NuPrime AMG STA Power Amplifier and AMG PRA Preamplifier
Coincident Speaker Technology Dynamo 34SE MKIII

Coincident Speaker Technology Dynamo 34SE MKIII

$1799

The swanky Dynamo isn’t your typical 8Wpc single-ended triode (SET) design. There is no 300B in sight. A 6SL7 dual-triode drives a triode-connected EL34 output stage. There is no global feedback, and the power supply is tube rectified. Expect a sweet midrange, an exceptionally dimensional soundstage, and a dynamic presentation belying the amp’s miniscule power rating. Harmonic textures aren’t overly liquid, implying decent-bandwidth transformers. Treble textures can be improved via judicious tube-rolling. Here is an amp that shouldn’t be defined on cost. It captures much of the magic of SETs at an entry-level price. DO, 283

NAD C298

NAD C298

$2399

This feature-laden amp is built around a new Class D output-stage module, the Eigentakt, that brings unprecedented performance to switching designs. Rated at 185Wpc into 8 ohms, the C298 has generous dynamic headroom, and can easily be configured to operate as a 1000W monoblock. The bass is nothing short of spectacular—powerful, dynamic, tuneful, and tight. This bass prowess translates into a visceral feeling of rhythmic drive and flow. The mids and treble are clean and open, if a bit forward in perspective. A lot of amplifier for the money. RH, 313

Read the full review: NAD C658 Streaming DAC and C298 Power Amplifier
Odyssey Audio Stratos

Odyssey Audio Stratos

$2700/pr.

Even if you A/B’d these superb, high-resolution, 180Wpc monoblocks with super-amps on super-speakers (as JV did), you might still find yourself pondering whether the difference in sound justifies the difference in expenditure. That JV ultimately concluded it did is beside the point. The way he saw it, the fact that the Odyssey Stratos monoblocks could give even a picky listener like him pause made them super-amps in their own right. Yes, you can buy better. The question is: Do you really want to? JV, 248

Quad Artera Stereo

Quad Artera Stereo

$2995

This 140-watt-per-channel amplifier—the latest refinement of Quad’s innovative, patented, award-winning “current dumping” technology—is, in PS’ opinion, the finest amplifier the company has ever made by a good margin, and unquestionably the most uncompromised implementation of Walker’s current-dumping circuit. PS, 268

Read the full review: Quad Artera Play Linestage/DAC/CD Player and Stereo Power Amplifier
Rogue Audio Hydra

Rogue Audio Hydra

$2995

Rogue Audio has got something with this hybrid, “tubeD” stereo amp. Not merely a tube circuit placed in front of a Class D output section, it creates a sound completely unlike those first Class D amps that bit your ears. Fast, powerful, and resolving, the Hydra reproduces instrumental tones and timbres with accuracy and texture, has good spectral balance, and creates a consistently broad and vivid soundstage. Though GH found an occasional lack of top-end smoothness in the sound of orchestral strings, he noted owners could tailor its presentation by rolling input tubes. GH, 235

Read the full review: Rogue Audio Hydra Amplifier
NuPrime AMG STA

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