tube amp or receiver. I have two and they're the most incredible sound I've heard...and I've listened to a lot of stereo amps and receivers. My units are both receivers: Fisher 400 and 800c Executive. Fantastic!
Go with tube amplification if you listen to a lot of Jazz. Tubes seem to present a "warmer" sound that always sounds better when listening to acoustic music (most of the jazz that I listen to is played on acoustic instruments).
I am not sure it matters what brand you buy .... although Conrad-Johnson makes some good tube amps.
Audio Research, McIntosh, ... there are a ton of companies that make tube amps.
I am not sure what your budget is? The problem with tubes is they can really get crazy with prices.
Stereophile magazine might be a good resource for investigating?
What kind of setup do you want? You can get an integrated amp that contains everything in 1 component. Power supply, pre-amp, and sometimes even a radio receiver all in 1 box.
Or, you can buy a separate power amp, a separate pre-amp, and then all separate components - CD players, radio tuners etc ...
Sorry if I seem preachy ... I love hi-end stereo equipment and love talking about it.
Find a stereo store. Stores that deal only in stereo equipment usually are very professional and would love to help you out with their expertise. That has been my experience. I am not talking about a Best Buy or a Walmarts .... I am talking about the places that you can go into and drop $250,000.00 on stereo equipment. Even you you have no intentions of spending anywhere near that amount the staffs in those type of places are more than happy to help you. That is all they do - stereo equipment. They are always looking to cultivate long term relationships with customers. You would be surprised how well they will treat you even if you are only there with a $500.00 budget.
Tell them what you have and if you want to start over or want to keep all or some of your equipment and add to it. I would bet they would be very excited to help you.
I'll eat my hat. If 2% can afford the cabling, components, and speakers needed to communicate that difference to the ear I'll eat my boots too.
Denon or Yamaha if you're in the majority. McIntosh if you can hear and afford the difference.
On a side note, Audioholics gave props to NAD for their clear and honest spec presentations.
About 30 years ago I used to have an Onkyo which I loved. I believed they are still around and get some good reviews. I do not know about their prices though it has been a long time.
Technics (I believed they are made by Panasonic?) is a good lower end brand.
Someone mentioned Marantz above - They have been around for a long time and they always seemed to have a good reputation for quality.
Good luck ... let us know.
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