Audio Research Reference 5 SEPrice: $13,000 per pair


Ryan said: On paper, Audio Research’s Reference 5 SE is designed to sound like a SET. In practice, it does so perfectly, without the usual flaws or suffocating character that I’ve heard from most SET amps. For those who suffer from the solid-state blues, the Ref 5 SE will make almost any system it’s plugged into sound bigger, bolder, more holographic, and more downright musical -- just as a SET will.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: An ARC preamp -- a classic option for the best systems.