$5000 integrated budget: Please help me choose....


Looking at a very good integrated. I have been in the audio game quite a while, and have bounced around from several speakers. I have just fallen in love with an Opera Callas Divina (full range, 2 way, low impedance down to 4.4 ohm, nominal 6 ohm, 89db/w) and need a nice integrated to go with it. I recently decided to "start over"! Original plan was to purchase a Sonus Faber, but this was similar, for much less money.

I am mainly looking at Integrated solutions at this time. It seems value in this price range is very high, and there are some good ones. Tried matching separates in the past: been there, done that. Tube or solid state is OK, listening preferences are mostly classical, orchestra and chamber, jazz and vocals. Typical music lover stuff. Source will be CDP and the room is fairly big, at 450 square feet. Hard to find anything above a Jolida locally to demo.

Some models under consideration:
Lavardin IT
Karan 180
McIntosh MA2275
Rowland Continuum 250
Jadis (model 60?)
Simaudio I-7 (maybe too thin)?
Cary SLI 80 F1
Conrad Johnson CA-200

I have been running a cheap Jolida tube integrated, but that is a leftover from a previous system, and I would like to step up. I don't need to spend $5000 if I don't have to, but that is my max budget.

Sound wise, the Opera is a bit sweet and smooth, a touch warm (typical Italian sound) and I am looking for a tube amp or hybrid that isn't to "tubey" but rather leans somewhat toward musical and real, but not overly mushy.
komaki
the mac
Hi Komaki, it looks like your speakers have a relatively low impedance and are not the most sensitive in te world. They probably benefit from a lot of current and a high damping factor. . . class D amplification often works very well under such circumstances. JRDG Continuum 250 is such a class D device, provided you augment it with an external JRDG PC1 current rectifier / Power Factor Corrector (PFC). May not be crucial for jazz, but for classical where there is a lot of sostenuto, the PC1 will maximize the refinement and authority of the unit. Seems the JRDG C250 lists about $4500 used, and a used PC1 usually goes for about $750 and can be added at a later time. The Continuum 500 has a PFC device built in, but it seems to be offered used above your budget, unless you can persuade an Agoner or a dealer to give you a sweet deal. G.
C250 has max output current of 35 Amps, damping factor of 1000. Here is the info page:
http://jeffrowland.com/Continuum.htm
Might be on the lower-end of the WPC camp,nut the PrimaLuna Prologue/Dialogue 2 is a hard unit to beat.With its' stock tubes,it might remind you of solidstate-sliding tube.With some inexpensive substitutes,it really is first-rate.The Dialogue 2 allows remote control and triode operation for more intimate/small scale performances.
Any of the large Musical Fidelity integrated: NuVista, TriVista, KW500, KW550. They have tubes [nuvistors] which have a very long life in the front end and will handle low impedance's with no problem. I have the oldest and least powerful of them which was rated at 275 W at 8 ohms , it produced 800 W at 2 ohms driving one channel when tested. They are very neutral in sound but have very good drive and pace which should be good for the speaker you describe. Opinions differ about which of the amps sound better, any would have as much power as you need. Check Audioreviews and other sources for reviews. Mine [NuVista] was in class A in Stereophile while it was current, I think others have been. They are limited production units but often show up on Audiogon
I would go with a Jadis DA60. Its powerful bass and superlative imaging will get the most out of your 2-ways.

Arthur
To my ears - I'd narrow it down to either the Jadis or the Karan.
If you can run balanced the Graaf 50 is excellent.
I used one with a pair of ESP Bodhran ESP SE's (similar specs to your speakers) in a room about the same size as yours and compared to several much more expensive seperates and found it could hold it's own pretty well.
It is also one of the nicest looking pieces I have seen.

I have seen these sell in the low $3k region at which point I think it is a bargain
Thanks for the recommendations. Source is RCA only, although I could run the Graaf with RCA/XLR conversion cables. Is Graaf still making products?

Re: the Jadis and Karan recommendation: how do these two differ in terms of sound? I hear great things about each...

I heard an MF KW500 integrated, and it sounded very thin on a pair of Thiel 2.4's. Could have been the speaker, though. MF's stuff is musical enough?
Heard the new AMR 777 integrated at CES this week. Very nice and features tube preamp section with solid state amp section. Price is around $3500 new.
Considered the new Pass Labs Integrated?
Komaki:

I am running Opera Platea floorstanders with a Prima Luna Prologue 5 power amp and Musical Fidelity CD PRE 24 preamp/cd player. The listening space is roughly 350 sq ft. I agree that the Opera house sound can be sweet and warm sounding, but I also find that I get a good amount of detail from my recordings. I also find the Plateas mostly forgiving of harsher recordings. I like the Opera/PL combination a lot. It has been in place about a year and a half now. For a tube integrated, I would look to the Prima Luna Prologue 2 or the new Mystere line of Prima Luna. I use a PL2 in another system with a Rega Apollo CD player and Spendor SA1 speakers. The listening is in the nearfield position, but the sound is still satisfying.

Regards,

Rich
"I heard an MF KW500 integrated, and it sounded very thin on a pair of Thiel 2.4's. Could have been the speaker, though."

It wasn't the MF, I can assure you.
Yes the Graaf can be used with adapter but this would essentially defeat the purpose...I had not heard anything about Graaf but if they are out this would be a mojor consideration
Check out Luxman. They have class A-operated integrated amps at 20 and 30 WPC and 2 class A/B ones that have around 100 WPC. I have done separates since getting into this hobby. I recently picked up a Luxman L-590AII 30 WPC integrated on Audiogon at nearly half price. I can easily live with this amp and be done with the endless changes. I love looking at the meters! Look at the website from On A Higher Note. They are the US distributor for Luxman.

Good luck.
Look into the BAT VK-300x with 6922 option. Not sure of current pricing but I would think you could buy new for your price or $3000 used if you can find one. I've had one for almost 4 years and it still satisfies. My room is only half the size of yours but it has enough power to be pleasant throughout the house. 150 watts into 8 ohm and double that into 4 ohm. Balanced design with two balanceded inputs with 3 more rca. Rolling tubes is relatively inexpensive with only two 6922 tubes and it is very responsive to tubes and cable changes.

Problem is once you get one of these it's difficult to upgrade because nothing comes close to it without going separates or spending a lot more. No affiliation just happy customer.
I was torn btw the Cary and the Mac ultimately chose the Cary F1 direct coupled and love it. My speakers have similar specs to yours if not maybe a tad lower on the impedence curve (Focals 1007BE). The cary has plenty of power even in triode mode to drive them. I listen to similar music in a slightly smaller medium damped room.

What swung me to choose the Cary is flixibility (triode and ultraliniar) along with its nostagic looks. As far as its sonic signiture I am also a former cj fan and I was told this was closer to cj than mac; that sealed the deal. I wanted an integrated to downsize the system WAF issues with separates. I basically did what you are doing downsized entire system.

The Mac is a beautiful well built unit and they really seem to hold their value well especially the tubed units. So in the end I would suggest either the Cary or the Mac
Italian speaker with italian amp(s). Unison Research maybe. There is a nice new P70 ( P100) now. They also have nice hybrids.
The Leben cs600 32 watt tube integrated is worth looking at considering your listening preferences.
Detailed and accurate... Also beautiful and original looking.
A very special amp.
My advise would be a Symphonic Line RG10mkIV reference. I own a SL La Musica and absolutly love it. It has all the good things of a SS amp lots of bass controll and dynamics but is is not sterile in sound. The RG series is a bit cleaner then the La Musica. Maybe you can find a second hand Kraftwerk.
The SL amps are intergated amps but do have seperate power supplies. In the case of the Kraftwerk even 2 seperate power supplies 1 for the power and 1 for the pre amp. Even is you buy an older model SL you can always have it upgraded to the current specs.
Don't overlook the CODA CSi Limited Edition made in Sacramento, California. First class, high quality build with powerful (220W), dynamic, musical sonics, all with remote control. If interested, run a search on Audiogon for previous reviews/comments. And, you will save somewhere around $800 from your budget.

Good luck!
01-11-09: Clio09
Heard the new AMR 777 integrated at CES this week. Very nice and features tube preamp section with solid state amp section. Price is around $3500 new.

Its big brother, the AM-77 is also interesting, though i'm not sure whether you could get a second hand one for the 5k budget. I've been listening to lots of different integrateds recently and in the case of the AMR i wrote my thoughts here AMR AM-77 Review

01-13-09: Rtilden
Don't overlook the CODA CSi Limited Edition made in Sacramento, California. First class, high quality build with powerful (220W), dynamic, musical sonics, all with remote control. If interested, run a search on Audiogon for previous reviews/comments. And, you will save somewhere around $800 from your budget.

I have to agree with Ron. The only problem with the CSi Limited is that more people are not aware of it. The company doesn't seem to have much visibility.
Kiwi,
Thanks for the link to your excellent and comprehensive review of the AMR. Did you similarly review the Jeff Rowland and Gryphon integrateds, and if so, are they online?

You may also want to audition the Audiomat Opera Reference or Audiomat Recital if seeking that emotional involvement with surprisingly decent bass for an all-tubed topology.
The Karan is a great integrated. I sold mine because it had no pre outs.
How about a used Levinson 383? It's a nice unit.
F1a,

An earlier review on the Jeff Rowland integrated can be found here JRDG Continuum 500 Review . This is being updated after more run in. A review on the Gryphon is presently under preparation.
Out of the list,
my preference would be for the McIntosh unit. It will give you great sound and outstanding reliability. Plus it will handle easily any program material you wish to play.

Another Integrated amp option may be a BAT vk300 it is hybrid design with a tube preamp and solid state output. Its sound is very similar to the McIntosh 2275. Not quite a tube amp sound but pretty tube like in its sonic character. Also well built and very reliable.

Evens so you wont go wrong with a Conrad Johnson, Rowland, or Jadis pieces either. I cannot comment on the others cause I never heard an offering from those companies.

For what its worth I could live with any one of them. So the other factor that I would weigh is accessibility for maintenance and service. Of what you listed the McIntosh will present to you the greatest amount options should you need it repaired.
02-07-09: Stereo
The Karan is a great integrated. I sold mine because it had no pre outs

Given the price of the Karan and no pre-outs is rediculous IMO.
I have a Joule VAMP integrated for a second system. It is a hybrid and if you can find one used I think you would be very happy with it. It has not been made for a few years. Don
I have owned 2 Jadis int amps and have heard many others. The Jadis has a uniquely musical, captivating quality that I have not heard in others. There is currently a DA-60 for $5K for sale, owned by Trelja, who must be one of the best A'goners ever. I know, because I originaly bought a JOR from him. If I was looking for an int amp for $5K, I would buy this one. I have never heard the Ayon Spirit ($4K) but it has great reviews.
02-07-09: F1a
Kiwi,
Thanks for the link to your excellent and comprehensive review of the AMR. Did you similarly review the Jeff Rowland and Gryphon integrateds, and if so, are they online?

I'm working on a Gryphon review right now, but my updated thoughts on the Jeff Rowland Continuum 500 are Here
HI
Try New LUXMAN L505U. It simply outclass Accuphase E450 or
McIntosh MA7000. Also, You will save $1500. Luxman sound
like a tube Amp.
Komaki,

I can recommend the APL-Hifi UA-S1, its an integrated amp with tube pre and transistor out. Its the most natural amplifier I have heard. Its the first amp I ever had in my home to be dead quiet. I did extensive search last year for integrated amp. Before this I had VTL TL7.5pre with Spectron Musician IIISE power amp. The UA-S1 is as I said the best Ive heard. Other integrated amps I looked at include the ASR Emitter II exclusive.
Springbok-
Have you had any reliability issues with your Jadis amps?? There have been a few recent threads from Jadis owners who have experienced problems with their amps. I heard the DA-50S driving some large ProAcs at the 2007 Stereophile show and thought the sound was terrific.
Buy a Coda,spend the rest on tunes
"LUXMAN"L550a m2 or save up some more money and get one of the best Integrated amps on the market...."LUXMAN L590A MK2" http://www.avguide.com/review/luxman-l-550a-ii-class-a-integrated-amplifier-and-du-50-universal-music-player .. http://www.sonicflare.com/archives/rmaf-07-vividluxman-super-system