an amp or integrated with at least 100wpc or more will maximize your sound, and give you better control (and articulation) of the bass.
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The Auditors, despite their 90db/w/m efficiency rating, really don't come into their own sonically with modest power amps. While the Lavardin amps are excellent, they just do not have enough muscle to drive any Cremona speaker to its real potential. Further, this is a 4 ohm speaker and very few amps today sound their best into 4 ohms.
The ideal integrated amp for your Auditors is the McIntosh MA6900, but it is well above your stated budget. Perhaps you can find a used one near or a little above the top of your range. In the Mac range, the autoformer amps are best in this application. However the direct coupled MA6500 is also excellent, new or used.
Also outstanding and squarely in your price range is the NAD M3 Master Series integrated amp. It is among the solid state integrated amps that maintain their sonics into 4 ohms.
The Auditor is a revealing speaker that can leverage amplification costing a multiple of its price. It is very demanding of quality amplification so at your price range, I advise one of the integrated amps above, rather than any number of preamp/amp combinations that yield substantially less power. You can certainly get good sound out of a quality 50w//ch amp like SF's own integrated or a Lavardin, but the difference in the Auditor's tone and projection with a more muscular amp of similar sound quality, is seriously noticeable, even though on paper it shouldn't be necessary. They love high quality power. I've heard Auditors on McIntosh MC501 monoblocks and even at that was amazed how much better still they were when driven by another step up in the same topology to the McIntosh MC1201s.
I use a Pathos Classic One MKII with great results. I like the tubey sound but its nice to have some extra power from the hybrid too. If you change the stock tubes then the results can be even better.
Can you please let us know how the Auditor stand against the Vandersteens? They were in my short list but I have never had the chance to Audition them.
Zervas: I had auditioned the SF Auditors at a Chicagoland store who also sell Vandersteens. Back in December 2005, I listened to the store's latest model of the 2Ce Signatures for about an hour, with CD's I had brought and my integrated amp (Marantz PM84D) before switching first to the Grand Piano Domus. The difference was quite audible. There was greater clarity of sound, liveliness of sound without inducing fatigue. But the GP Domuses sounded a bit veiled to me, rather like sound emnating from a tunnel. I did not think that the GP DOmus was a significant upgrade over the Vandy's. We then switched to the Auditors and this was a big improvement. The voices sounded like they were present in the room. The sound was much less veiled, and the slight graininess of the sound from the Vandys and the Grand Pianos disappeared completely. The Auditor was smooth, and had terriffic mid range and highs. Bass response was surprisingly good for such a small speaker. Note that the 2Ce Signatures I auditioned in 2005 have been replaced by a new version, one I have not heard. All these comments notwithstanding, the Vandy's were great speakers and superb value for the money. At a price nearly twice that of the 2Ce signatures, the Auditors had better be much better !
BTW, if you are in the Chicago area, you should try this dealer - Quintessence Audio in Skokie, IL. They have a great listening environment, and are low key sales people.
We need people like them to stay in business, so I WILL purchase at least one major item from them in my future purchases. I had bought my Vandy's from them over 10 yrs ago, and will probably buy a REL subwoofer from them in the not too distant future(I auditioned the REL Stadium subs with the Auditors - sounded really nice, filling out the bottom - but want to listen to the Auditors at home b4 making that decision). I hope this is helpful.
I am sorry I did not reply sooner. I had been indisposed due to a variety of health issues. I am still on the look out for electronics to drive my Sonus Faber Cremona Auditor speakers. I am currently auditioning my friend's 10 year old Musical Design SP-2B preamp and D-75 B amplifiers. He has upgraded to Naim Supernait with the power supply, CD player etc. The MD equipment sounds very nice, but my friend is expecting about $1500 for it. With upgrades to bring it to current models of the preamp and amp the total cost will be almost $2300. I will have to add a phono preamp on top of that for my turntable. Has anyone has tried Unison research Unico SE (Hybrid, 130w/ch at 8 ohms)with SF Cremona Auditor speakers ? The nearest dealer for me is in Royal Oak Michigan, 300 miles away who have a brand new Unicon Res Unico SE for $2350. Any other suggestions at that price ? Thanks. I have a Denon DCD 1650 AR cd player, and Audioquest Opal interconnects.
Thanks, guys. I auditioned the Pathos Classic One Mk 3 and the Unison Research Unico SE at home. The CD player was Denon DCD 1650 AR and the speakers were Sonus FAber Cremona Auditors. I decided to go with the Unison Res Unico SE - it projects a wider and deeper soundstage than the Pathos, and is veru musical. I find myself listening to a lot of music after getting the Unico SE. It is a great macth with the Auditors. Thanks for all your comments.