Re: Harbeth Monitor 40.1 specific
Some days I have a little time to reply, and other days I'm extremely busy.
I cannot give you a 'hard and fast' answer. That is not because I am being evasive, but because for me, the amplifier worry ceased over twenty years ago. What I mean is that in my opinion electronic amplifiers (unlike electromechanical loudspeakers) reached a certain performance plateau at about that time and real technical improvement since then have been very small. As I am not an audiophile and do not have money to waste money chasing audio dreams, I long long ago decided to standardise on an amplifier concept from that era and have collected several pieces over the years. It's built like a tank.
Like you, I just want to listen to the music at the end of a long day and I am not obsessed with extracting microscopic performance advantages from amplifiers. The amp I uses to listen and design is frankly "good enough" and certainly not exotic. I'm listing through the amp to the speakers and so should you.
It's certainly true that many Harbeth customers are delighted with their Sugden amplifiers and the others you mention. What interests me about amplifiers is not the circuit but the mind-set of the people that create and make it every day. Are they honest engineers? Are they tarting up the mundane as the exotic? Would you feel comfortable sharing a meal and a few pints of beer discussing the rights and wrongs of the modern world with them? Could you empathise with them and through that empathy feel confident in their amplifier's ability to deliver music at home? Are they solid businessmen properly (cautiously) managing their business for the long-run?
The management of the Sugden company is, as you'd expect from northerners (people living in the North of England) blunt, direct, frank, cost conscious and of pragmatic engineers. That encourages me to believe that Sugden amplifiers philosophically and electrically perfectly marry Harbeth speakers. Its up to you to do some research yourself to validate the management behind any company or brand before you spend serious money. People I like and trust may not be people you particularly like, and vice versa. You must make the decision; not me because if I recommend and the amplifier fails, you will naturally hold me responsible. I can say that if you buy a Sugden I believe that they have demonstrated from father to son their long-term commitment to making good amplifiers over about 40 years. In short, they are people of integrity. If service is needed even many years from now, I have the strong conviction that they'll be there to help. To me, that comfort zone is worth far, far more than some hairsplitting or possibly imaginary sonic argument.*
I'm really sorry about I just cannot give you any more specific recommendations as the amplifiers I choose to use is too humble to be taken seriously by today's audiophile. They suit me perfectly. I reiterate yet again: whatever amp you have available will almost certainly make great music with your Harbeths providing that it is working to its original specification.
*Would you buy an expensive and exotic sports car - no matter how incredible the performance - if you were not 100% certain that spare parts would be available in the future? Of course not. So apply the same logic to the selection of an amplifier.
Alan A. Shaw
Harbeth Audio UK