Best used amp for around 500

I'm am desperately trying to upgrade from a Denon AVR-3300 receiver. Looking for a stereo amp for the fronts. I'm entertaining the idea of a five channel amp, but I don't yet have DVD-Audio or SACD, and money is an issue. The receiver is fine for movies, but for music...well, it won't do. I'm currently running Acoustic Energy Aegis 3's for the fronts - silk dome tweets, pretty warm, laid back sound. Any suggestions?
Muse (early) version Model One-Hundred sometimes go for $500.
Keep in mind that certain versions of this amp are much more than $500, such as the limited 2000 Edition. There are about a dozen versions of this model and it was made for over ten years.
Early versions go for about $500-$650. There was a review in the April 1991 Stereophile on page 174 of a very early version. FYI, what year was a particular model made? The first two numbers of the serial numbers will tell you this.
In no particular order there are: A Conrad Johnson Sonographe SA150 or SA250, or even better for a little more is the CJ MF2100. All are about 125 watts at 8 Ohms.

Next there is the older version Bryston 3B and 4B amplifiers, still under warranty (20 years transferable) Check the age with Bryston before you buy (ask seller for the serial number). They've made these for many years. I think the newer ones are 3B-NRB, etc. Not quite sonically up to the ST amps, but very very good for $500.

Also look at Acurus A150 and A250. Acurus does make some multichannel amps as well.

I will suggest Counterpoint SA-100, used $400-$550. If you like it and have extra funding you can always upgrade it by the original designer Mike Elliott, former Counterpoint CEO, at Alta Vista Audio (

FYI, I am not affiliated with Alta Vista Audio at all.

Happy Listening.


I would just like to mention the Classe 70. It is warm, musical, very reliable & has a good amount of headroom, but I can't say that it is laid back. I've seen them running around for about $400.
Look for a Citation 5.1 - these go for about $500-$600.
It is a bridgeable four channel amp. Excellent build quality, and sounds amazing when bridged. The bigger Citation 7.1 goes for $900-$1000, which is a great value too. Try They may still have some of the these amps available.
Check out a used BK amp. It's a great line to start with and you can find them well under $500.
Why buy used when you can buy the Jolida 1501 100 watt hybrid for around $500? this is a smooth powerful amp. I graduated from Denon to Jolida and never looked back.
stock dynaco st-70 for $200-$300 modify as funds allow.
best buy! best sound!
A surprising "ringer" in this category is the Yamaha M-80. Besides being the best sounding amp that Yamaha ever made, it is a TRUE "dual mono" design, complete with seperate transformers and power supplies for each channel. Beat the hell out of a Bryston 4B when i did a side by side comparison ( no offense Sugar ). Another good point about this amp is that it can sometimes be found for as low as $250. Plenty of power as it is 250 wpc @ 8, has jacks and switching for three sets of speakers. Only problem is that the binding posts ARE "funky", so you might have a hard time with various connectors.

As to the Muse amps, they are good quality. Like many other amps of that vintage though, they make use of Mosfets that are no longer available or in production. Should something go wrong with it, you might have to scavenge parts, etc...

Whatever you choose to do, you are in the right place to find some GREAT deals. Sean
audiolab 8000s or 8000a if you require phono stage. These are clinical amps ... maybe good with warm speakers.
Cyrus 2 or 3 with PSX power supply (a must).
I saw some audiolabs on this site recently ... you cannot go wrong with these amps.
How about the Rotel RB-1070 or the model that it replaced (the RB-980, I think?)? 135WPC, very clean inside, with dual transformers. The discontinued model can be had (if you can find it) new for $400, probably $200 to $300 used.

I think you will find this amp a surprisingly good upgrade in sound at low cost -- moving to separates makes a big difference!

When you get rich, buy the system of your dreams, and this amp will be very respectable for a second system (or as I plan to do -- bridged mono for the rest of the house). Depending on your budget right now, it may be better to spend less rather than fooling yourself into thinking you are getting the ultimate piece, which you will replace later anyway.

I demoed this amp against more expensive units. I liked it better than any of the integrateds I heard, not as well as the more expensive amps -- but much better than any receivers. I'm waiting to replace it until I have, say, $2000 to spend on an amp.

- Eric
Brian (or Allan?) of HelloSimplyMusic answered your question above. The best amp for $500 or under is the Muse 100. I have a '92 model in my second system. I have auditioned lots of others. Except for the larger Muse 160, nothing else in the under $2000 new bracket was really acceptable. I haven't heard the Rotels mentioned above. They might be ok.
I'll second David99 on the Dynaco ST-70.

Nothing touches it (even close) at the price and then some. Helps to have a little tube know-how but there are great dynaco web sites for help if you need it. A true entry level hi-fi unit. It will let you know how far the industry hasn't come in 40 years. Short on hype and gloss, long on sound. Get series I if you like warm and II if you like faster more SS sound.

Sincerely, I remain
Add on to above post. Sorry. You will need a pre with the Dynaco (I suggest Bottlehead Foreplay kit) and if you are fussy at all about music for pete sake go with a two channel!!!!!! Forget 5 channels on that budget if you like music.
I run an old ST70 with a PAS3 pre-amp (cheap dynaco) in my basement and it blows the pants off 85% of the systems at the local high-end joint.

I remain
Clueless, i've got a modified PAS 3 running a Marantz 8 in my basement system. Out of curiosity, what speakers are you running ?

To keep things on track here, you guys know that i would HIGHLY second the little Forte' amps. They are quite load sensitive though as we've come to find out, so might not be good in all situations. If you can find a complimentary set of speakers and cables, personally, i think that they are untouchable for the money. The suggestion about the Classe' 70 might be good if Dklap wants something to brighten and liven up the sound of their "pretty warm, laid back" Aegis 3's. Sean
Sean. A classic combo you've got in your basement if I do say so myself.

I run speakers I made myself. Based on Northcreek Rhythm Revelator basically (
Both of mine are moded too - really just replacing stuff though. Mine is very musical and I am sure yours is too. It is always good to listen to it because it brings me back down to earth. I don't think I have $1100 in the system, not including the source, which changes fairly often, and it does hold it's own.

Go for the classic tubes Dklap. Years from now it will be your second system because you will not be able to part with it. Good education too! (little more work now though)

Sincerely, I remain
Thanks for filling me in Clueless. Glad to see that you're not afraid to get your hands dirty too : )

While i sometimes hook up different speakers there, i am usually using a set of modded La Scala's or Heresy's. I currently have the Heresy's GUTTED and am not quite sure what i'm going to do with them. Thinking about building a completely different cabinet and augmenting the bass in some manner. Another project on my list to do this year.

As to the main thread here, do you plan to use the preamp section of the receiver to drive the power amp or go directly into the power amp via variable output controls on a source ? Sean
First, thanks for the recommendations. Didn't expect such a quick response. I'll do some searching to see what amps I can find to listen to. As to Sean's question, I'll likely use the receiver as a pre-amp/processor until it is replaced with a more suitable component. What do you guys hear about the Chiro amps? Also, I recently saw an Odyssey Stratos that has been highly rated - anyone ever hear one?

Stratos: Heard it and I like it if you go for the SS sound. Good prices on used. Get the 120,000uF cap upgrade.

I remain,
Yes the Odyssey Stratos is a great amp. But they usually go for 700 dollars used.

The pre-amp portion of your system has as much, or more, effect on your overall sound as does the amp. This is why people are asking about whether you plan to use your receiver as a pre-amp -- your receiver will continue to be a limiting factor. You might want to see if you can borrow an amp somehow to test with, and buy it only if it really gives improved sound. Perhaps a store in your area that sells used or demo equipment?

- Eric
Ehart gives good advice. Is why I suggested a tube pre amp but that's my prejudice. He is right that the pre is important.

I remain,
Audio Refinement Complete (50/80w/ch 8/4ohms) is a remarkably good integrated; available used around $700 wih a very cool remote.
An integrated would make a lot of sense here -- you would most likely get better sound than using your receiver as a pre-amp into a separate amp, for not much more money. And you can be more confident about what it will sound like when you are done.

I have listened to both the AR Complete that Subaru mentions (nice sound, and the remote is very cool!), and liked it slightly better than the Arcam 75, which I listened to head-to-head (and which has a full-featured but complicated remote). I believe both list under $1200 new; I think my local dealer was selling the Complete for under $1000 new. I demoed these with ProAC speakers, but the same dealer sells AE speakers with these integrateds, and recommends them together.

In my case (inefficient speakers, large room), separates in the same price range (with the benefit of demo/closeout pricing) provided more power and better sound, but many here have reported very good luck with smaller rooms and efficient speakers.

Because you want to continue to use these speakers for Home Theatre also, I'm not sure if eliminating your receiver entirely is really an option? Or do you need to keep your receiver in the loop at least as a pre? Perhaps we are barking up the wrong tree here? Or perhaps there is a way to "wire it up" that someone else can offer?

- Eric
Good followup, Ehart....
he ARC Integrated last listed for $1050 WITH remote, and can be squeezed out for $900 new, or about $700 used.
Try it, Dklp. Quite the nice giant-killer.
You have a lot of great recommendations. Sonograph SA 250, Dynaco St 70 and Complete would be my choices. Interesting mix that would depend on the rest of the system. Integrateds have come a long way and there is more you can do with them. Go after one that has main in and pre out and then upgrade as time and money allow. Counterpoint is good too. Now here is a diferent option. Look for a Adcom 5200 or 5300, which can be had for 2-300 and send it to Stan Warren at Supermods for one of his make overs. If you do not want to go this route, the above suggestions are great. Select 3-4 and see if you can listen to them or get a consensus. Good luck.
I went from B&K to Jolida and man was I happy. The B&K was a 4420. Come to think of it, that would be selling for around $500 now.
Here's one other option. Stan Warren modified Adcom 5200 or 5300. Give Stan a call and check it out.
Dklap, I'm also using a Denon receiver (AVR-3801) as a pre-amp for two channel music. I recently bought an Acurus A150 ($340 used here) to bypass the Denon's internal amps. I highly recommend doing this. The sound is much more dynamic and detailed. I also use an AudioPrism WaveGuide on the power cord to the receiver. This is a nice tweak in lieu of replacing the captive power cord. Highly recommended by a SoundStage reviewer for just this application.

The Audiogon member I bought the A150 from has another one for sale. If you're interested, email me and I can put you in touch with him. Whether you chose this amp or one of the others recommended here you won't be disappointed.

I say go integated so when you want nice 2 channel music you gain the advantage of a better quality preamp. I'm starting like you but the other way around. I bought a bryston integrated here on audiogon recently as my entry into high end and was going to get a Denon receiver to have surround sound, and IMHO, the B60 sounded better in 2 channel form than the Denon AVR5800. good luck
i ended up buying a used ODL (same as original odyssey stratos - long story, check the web). anyway, i'm having it upgraded and tweaked by klaus, the owner of odyssey. it sounds wonderful, and will sound even better when i get it back. it did hum a bit, but we'll see what odyssey can do in their transformation of the amp into a true stratos.

now i'm looking for a good multichannel so when i ditch the receiver and buy a new home theater processor (unfortunately, the system needs to perform both duties) i'll still have power. any suggestions here? better to go the 3 channel route? or a bridgeabel 4, 5, or 6 channel so i can add speakers later?

there's a parasound hca-806 for sale, but it only bridges 4 of the 6 channels. if i go that route, i'll bridge one set for the center, and have two dormant channels waiting around for a a couple rear center speakers....options, options.

You can probably find a used McCormack DNA-0.5 for around that price, and you have the flexibility to have it modded through SMcAudio by Steve McCormack in the future if you want to turn it into a real killer amp. Best of luck.

For quite awhile I went with a Sim I-5080 integrated and Denon 1801 combo. I'd recommend using the approach defined above if you want an integrated system .. using an IC from the receiver pre-outs to an input on the integrated. I'd also suggest you get an integrated that has an HT through-put input .. it worked very well for me (I've since moved on to tubes/separates).