Ayre VX-5Price: $7950

Website: www.ayre.com

Doug said: The VX-5 is an extremely accomplished-sounding power amplifier that I could easily listen to and live with as my personal reference for a long, long time, without ever feeling in the slightest shortchanged. For many -- even those expecting to spend a lot more -- it may be the perfect amplifier.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Ayre’s entry level might just be your reference level.

David Berning Company ZH-230Price: $8630

Website: www.davidberning.com

Vade said: I haven’t listened to every power amp out there, but the Berning ZH-230 is the best I’ve ever heard. And while all the technical hoo-ha is fascinating, what counts is that the ZH-230 made music sound right. For me, that meant it was more fun to listen to music with the Berning -- my listening sessions with it ran unusually late. David Berning’s ZH-230 has made it very hard for me to listen to other amplifiers.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: So you really don’t need the transformers after all.

Liberty Audio B2B-100Price: $2499

Website: www.libertyaudio.com

Tim said: I have no doubt the B2B-100 will make waves in the audiophile world. The qualities of sound and build and the low price make the B2B-100 an outstanding value. The Liberty B2B-100 is a great example of why it’s a great time to be an audiophile.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Lots of hardware for the money, and good sound to boot.

Parasound Halo A 23Price: $995

Website: www.parasound.com

Erich said: The A 23 sounded surprisingly good from the moment I first turned it on. Several months later, I hated to turn it off for the last time and send it back.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: John Curl-designed gem for under a grand.

Rotel RB-1582 MkIIPrice: $1599

Website: www.rotel.com

Erich said: Rotel’s RB-1582 MkII is a reasonably priced, attractive power amplifier with a warm sound. Its marked difference in sound from that of, say, the Parasound Halo A 23 is worth exploring for yourself, especially if your taste tends a bit toward warmth. The RB-1582 MkII could soften an overly analytic front end or be the powerhouse of an already comfortable-sounding system. Not surprisingly, it blended well with its preamplifier mate, Rotel’s RC-1570. If all of that sounds appealing -- and I could see it being just that for a lot of audiophiles -- this Rotel should be on your shortlist for audition.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Solid stereo power amp from a reputable, value-oriented brand.

Simaudio Moon Evolution 870APrice: $22,000

Website: www.simaudio.com

Doug said: Ultraclean sound combined with a subtle richness, fullness, and sweetness in the top frequencies of the audioband that’s quite unlike the sound of any other solid-state amp I’ve heard.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Lots of power and finesse in Simaudio’s best stereo amp.

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