dar wrote:okay help me out here. carver never seems to be mentioned by the serious professional stereophile people when considering best amps. is it just a few here that appreciate the carver sound? does the carver name make "cult status" simply cause the company went under? is the m500 the best amp carver ever produced?
Carver is never mentioned by "serious professional stereophile people" primarily because Bob Carver made a complete mockery of the whole "tube vs transister" thing back inthe 1980's when he answered Sterophile magazine's challenge to build solid-state amps that sounded exactly like some of their coveted super-expensive tube amps. He also made a solid-state amp that matched the sound of a VERY expensive Mark Levinson amp, and tripped up ALL the listeners at Stereophile in EVERY single test. They couldn't pick the "real" amp over the Carver modded amp in ANY of their listening tests. Since then, Stereophile has dropped all advertising from all Carver-related companies, and has been on a sort of jihad against Bob and his ideas. High-end dealers don't like Carver/Sunfire because they have relatively low margin sales prices. End of discussion.
Does Carver gear classify as having a "cult following"? Well, perhaps no more than other super-high-end gear like Krell or Levinson, or Conrad Johnson, or VTL or Spectral or Mcintosh. Any audio gear that has some sort of unique claim developes a cult-like following among a small percentage of it's owners. The difference is that almost ALL Carver owners believe that Carver amps are superior to EVERY other amp in their power classes. I don't think that can be said for any other brand's owners, except maybe Spectral (which are VERY expensive, incredibly hard to find dealers for, and have, for all intents and purposes, a cult status bearing a resemblance to the Illuminati...)
As far as the best amp Carver ever produced, I think we can all agree that it is, in fact the original Silver Seven tube amp. That thing had so many KT88s in it that you needed to install a seperate air-conditioning unit in your listening room. It was HUGE (4 chassis for stereo), EXPENSIVE (I think they retailed new for over $15,000) but they sounded like NO other amp you'd ever heard.
After that, it depends on what speakers you are using, what the rest of your system includes, and what sort of music you like. If you have electrostatics or planars of any sort (Martin Logan, Magnepan, Apogee, Acoustat) or big Polks, then I'd say that either the M-4.0t, or the TFM-75 or the Silver 7t or 9t would be the best amp. If you have most other medium-sized box-type 8-ohm speakers, then just about any of Carvers amps will beat the pants off of any other brand. If you've got smallish speakers (Celestions, Cantons, Missions, Sonus Faber, small Klipsch or Polks) then some of Carvers smaller amps will make them sing without having to worry about over-powering them.
And if you're running small efficient box-speakers for surround channels, the good old M-200t or M-400 series amps are more than sufficient to bring that ambience into a realm of realism and definition that AV receivers (even high-end ones) only dream about.
The Best Amp Carver Ever Made? Depends on your system. Really...
But the M-500t is a VERY fine-sounding amp, and will drive just about any speaker you hook it up to with grace, power, and authority. In fact I've just bought one, and I'm anxious to get it hooked up to the Celestions. I've hear this combination before, and it sounded really nice.