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You're using a receiver with Wilsons? Yamaha and Rotel? Seriously??? And, jumping to monoblocks??
Trolling, or one helluva crazy story here for sure. Odds-on favorite: trolling.
Okay anyway assuming serious, ditch the receiver. Get a good integrated. If you really do have Wilsons, they deserve and will reward a lot better front end than some inboard phono-stage on a card. Get a good integrated, Herron VTPH2A phono stage, whatever VPI table you like, mount the best Koetsu you can afford, connect it all with the best Synergistic Research wire you can afford, sit back and enjoy.
Gheez wiz isn't this the purpose of the discussion to give suggestions. I'm not trolling just want some suggestions on what to get with people who have more knowlege then myself, just want to hear good music. I now know the receiver is crap but that's what I have. I started with speaker which I'm pleased with and now want to go to the next step. These are the components I have and now I want to improve them.
Find a Wilson dealer and go and ask to hear as many integrated amps from $5-7k played thru whatever speakers they carry closest to yours and decide what you like.
Listen to solid state (non-tube) and tube versions.
If you want to be more adventurous try listening to separates (separate preamp paired with stereo power amp or two mono power amps).
hey nobnewob, unfortunately you will find a lot of people on this site that can be arrogant and condescending. Also, many people will tend to push an idea or product because they own and like that direction, or be anti-product in the case with stringeen bad mouthing McIntosh. I will agree that the Yamaha receiver is definitely a weak link in your system. However, I don't think the Rotel amp is too terribly bad. As with all different preferences, some will like McIntosh and others will not.
That suggestion for a Pass Labs integrated may be a good one. Reno HiFi has an INT250 for $9k, which is above your budget. It's basically an X250.8 amp combined with a XP-10 preamp in one chassis. You could look at INT60 or INT150 (essentially an older X150.5 amp I think). If it were me, I would still stay with a higher power amp for those large Wilson speakers. Wilson Audio speakers tend to be very high resolution and very revealing, so in my opinion, you have to be careful about matching. I would avoid anything too solid state (i.e. Hegel, Gryphon, etc.). Wilson can be a little fatiguing to listen to if your electronics are too solid state, but they can sound excellent with the proper stuff. Pass Labs amplifiers are very high resolution, but they are a smooth and controlled sound - great match with the overly dynamic Wilson. A McIntosh integrated could be good as well because they are mild and laid back sounding, but still have a very engaging sound.
The Rotel amp is very nice and is just a little bit on the warm side of sound. It's just a little bit solid state sounding, but it's really not bad at all. I was very impressed with Rotel when I heard it at RMAF. A switch to Pass Labs or McIntosh amps will likely be much smoother but also sound a little different in their unique ways.
A Krell K-300i integrated might be nice because the new Krell sound is VERY smoothed over and lush. Could be a good match with the Wilson's and the K-300i is $7k new. Though it is only 150 watts per channel. Alternatively, you could go used here. There's a used Krell Duo 300 on audiogon for $5k. Make him an offer for $4500? Then spend the difference on a preamp of your choice (Parasound JC2, Plinius, McIntosh?). Lot's of options.
Can’t believe someone sold you those electronics to drive the Wilsons with.
Keep the Wilson’s and Hegel DAC and a Bluesound Vault 2i streamer.
Get a Gryphon Diablo Integrated 300 or 120 whatever you can afford 300 preferably, to make those Wilsons sing like you’ve never heard yet.
Sorry about the trolling comment but people do come on here asking crazy stuff just to get us going then you never hear from them again.
Yours was like that because as you can tell from others comments it makes absolutely no sense the way you've got such high end speakers and such budget everything else- and not even good budget than that, you just can't do worse than a receiver.
Buying a pre-amp you then need amps. And interconnects. And power cords. Done right you can wind up with something quite good. For two or three times as much as an integrated that would sound just as good. If not better.
I am not a tube guy but recently I heard a Line Magnetic integrated that is supposed to be a new release and costing $5K. It was driving a Wilson speaker costing $16K (I forgot the name). It sounded pretty good and the 2 other tube guys (long time audiophiles) in the room were raving about it. I preferred the sound of a Luxman 509x integrated with another speaker but I am not crazy about tubes.
You may want to give MIke a call from the link below and ask him for some Wilson advice. That is where I heard the Line Magnetic.
BTW - I have a preamp and amp I want to get that cost $15K each. A little rich for my wallet so I am going to first try the Benchmark LA4 preamp ($2500) with the $15K amp. I think it will work and there is a 30 day free home trial. Not sure if you will like that preamp with your Rotel. This pre is supposed to not add any flavor to the sound.
I should add that you may want to give the Benchmark AHB2 amp a demo (30 day free home trial). It is small, light, $3K, and sounds great. Supposedly the quietest amp you can buy. I am buying this amp again (sold it) as a backup and to use in the summer. My room is hot with computer equipment.
I don’t think you need to spend a ton to get you up the ladder in sound quality with those Wilsons.
Here's a thought to get you started that won't cost a thing. Read Roger Sanders white paper on tubes vs. Transistors. You might find this helpful. You can track I this down on his website; Sanders sound systems.
Consider the number of sources you will be using. If you get a good DAC with a volume control you can skip the separate preamp and use it with your existing amplifiers for a while. Something like a benchmark dac3 hgc is what I'm thinking about.
Take your time. Don't be in a hurry. Enjoy the music and the journey.
With respect to amplification Audio Research (tubes) and Pass (solid state) both seem to be popular pairings with Wilson speakers.
An interesting post in this thread:
There are presently three used Audio Research Ref 75 (non-SE) power amplifiers listed for sale here, for less than $5K, and for less than $4K in one of those cases. Note though that the ARC Reference series amps provide only balanced inputs, and will not work properly if provided with single-ended inputs via RCA-to-XLR adapters.
Regarding phono stages, personally I would not let the inclusion of a phono stage be a factor in selection of a preamp or integrated amp. It would most likely be best to add a separate phono stage at a later date, such as the superlative Herron that was mentioned.
Good luck. Regards,
Well nob, I think you did the absolutely right thing. To Hell with the nay-sayers!
Buy speakers first and then upgrade everything to that level. I bought Magnepan Tympani 1a's in 1973, because they were the absolute best to my ears. Paired them with solid state kit electronics, because that's all the money that was left over. Eventually upgraded to all ARC, over 5 years. What a journey! Great fun at every stage! Take your time!! Audition and enjoy!!!
Just in case anyone tries to sell you expensive cabling, I suggest that you buy the cheapest cabling you can find. I mean, real cheap. Like $50 a pair, max. Spend your money where everyone agrees that it counts - electronics, turntable, everywhere but cables.
After you've got your system where you want it, then and only then fine tune it with cables. Try out loaners in your system in your own sweet time. If something proves its worth, then by all means buy it. But cabling is a great way to spend much money for little benefit - the worst cost/benefit ratio in audio, IMO. YMMV
Good luck! Have fun!!
"Just in case anyone tries to sell you expensive cabling,.... " I think he's saying for now, don't bother to get the nice cables.. Upgrade the components to closer match the Wilsons.. Then save some more and upgrade everything else down the road.. You can get some cheap cables with good design and live with it for now..
I'm not sure tubes would be the best match with those Wilsons. Perhaps I'm looking at the wrong specs but I think they dip all the way down to 1.9ohms. I would think a used Ayre SS integrated may be a nice way to stay in your budget and get some nice performance. Try as many options as you can for sure for making a final purchase.
Replace the Yamaha and Rotel , for a Hegel poweramp, and even pre-amp. No McInt. Also a good option is a tube preamp.: Audio Note, Ear ,..
Also a very good match is GamuT and /or Gato.
Do you want an “American”: best option is Jeff Rowland. All those thinks gives a good sound with your Dac and speakers. For me the best matches. Try them first and , make a choice.
Enjoy your music!!
You might try contacting Wilson and ask them what amps they use at shows to demo their speakers, where they'd be wanting to make a good impression. Not knowing enough to choose an amp for my Magico A3's, I contacted a VP there and found out they were demoing these speakers at shows with Luxman 509 amps. So I figured I couldn't go too wrong with a Luxman even though I could only afford the 507 model, one step down. Did the same with the speaker cables.
The Magico company's president had recommended a Hegel integrated amp for the A3's in articles I'd read, which I'd also seriously considered. But Hegels being manufactured in China, where quality control is such an endemic issue, was too big a chance to take on a big purchase.
I agree with the others that your speakers are not reaching there full potential with your current amplification. There are many good choices with different benefits. I have in general found separate amps and preamps superior. MacIntosh offers high reliability, long tern serviceability, and good resale value. However I have not found their audio performance a good value. The suggestion to try a local dealer is likely to provide a lot of good choices
I would start with amps first. 2 large mono blocks and 2 mono block tubes. Once you have your base , go for a preamp that best suits your needs. A cherry on top sort of speak.
He only wants to spend $5K-$7K. It seems that a used integrated would be the way to check all his boxes and find something worthy of those Wilsons.
I have not heard a set of Wilsons like you have before - but I’ve heard from associates on other forums that the’re awfully nice / revealing.
It sounds like you already have some pretty decent sources, and the Power Amp that you have could be better, but it’s no slouch either.
If I were being "semi-practical" - looking for high quality, but VALUE = I would be looking at some of the BHK Signature products from PS Audio (Hybrid Tube / Solid State - taking advantage of the properties of both in a "synergistic" combination) Maybe start with the Pre and upgrade to a nice pre-owned set of monoblocks to replace the Rotel Amp later.
Another two decent brands to try for Pre-Amps (Line-Stage) would be Audio Research and SimAudio Moon -
I have heard a local high-end dealer’s demo system - with Vandersteen Model 7 speakers being driven via Audio Research Reference tube components and other goodies. (That was a system in excess of $100,000 retail) The imaging and black levels were almost "spooky" - but for that kind of moolah, they SHOULD be!
The solid middle-of-the-road Audio Research stuff or older, refurbed Reference stuff might be attainable
But with a system like yours and the amount of your budget - I would certainly:
-Audition a few units, to see what sounds best with the rest of your Sys
-Only buy from places with a good Return Policy, so that if you don’t like the way it sounds, you can return it for a (at least nearly) full refund.
-Find a forum with other Wilson Speaker owners, and see what has worked for THEM.
If you want to keep the system "sleek" = minimize the number of boxes to be interconnected, I have it from a reliable source that I trust (a different local HiFi dealer who carries a wide range of price options) that the Hegel integrateds are awfully nice.
Good to hear that you did whats absolutely right. Started with the speakers. I would be careful spending a lot of pre/amps to begin with. Buy some cheap and good class D like XTZ Egde. Then you have power enough. See how you like it. Don’t need a pre to the Vault. The next is your room. Adding a professional room correction unit would make wonders to your overall sound. And will also educate you in sound/listening. No speaker presents a correct frequency curve in a normal listening room.
I really like the way my Wilsons sound using Atma-Sphere MA-1 mono blocks which I found used, in your price range. I have also heard Wilsons powered by ARC Ref 150 and that also was a great match.
I do not own Sashas so if you do decide to look at used Atma-Sphere amps I would contact Ralph directly ((651) 690-2246) to get his opinion concerning the possible impedance issue. He will have a solution if there needs to be one.
I also agree with an earlier poster that said almarg and atmasphere are very good resources on these boards.
You are living one of my audiophile fantasies, here's what I would do. First make sure you have basics covered - decent cabling, power conditioning, room treatment - if you're starting from scratch this could be $1000-$2000, but all must dos to get the most out of your kit. Next, and again this is me, I'd get a Schiit Freya (<$1000), to be able to have an ok pre and be able to compare tubes vs ss in this stage with everything you'll be trying next. Now you've got $3-5000 left and the fun begins - start cycling through amps. If you're close to a solid dealer demos might be an option, Music Direct and others have 60 day 100% customer satisfaction guarantees, and then there's the whole used market. All require some work and cost (shipping for example) but you can try out several incredible amps in your room over the course of a a few months or more. By the time find the amp of your dreams, you'll be ready to reconsider the PRE or maybe add the analog source, or maybe you'll get tweaky with cables or isolation or tube rolling. Tons of good suggestions on amps above, I would +1 BAT, I've heard Wilsons with BAT and they sound splendid.
Thought I'd share my experience, as I upgraded a few months ago from Wilson Sabrina to a used pair of Sasha 2. I've been driving them with an ARC Ref Phono 2SE, ARC Ref6 preamp and a D'Agostino Classic Stereo. Truly fantastic combination, and the Sasha's sound wonderful with that.
BUT - I have a small setup in my home office with a Cary CAD300SEI integrated amp. This is an all tube SET integrated (Single Ended Triode, if you're unfamiliar with tube amps) based on the 300B tube. SET amps are pretty magical for those that appreciate what they offer, which is an absolutely glorious midrange. I had some buddies over, and decided to hook the Cary up to the Sashas. All 15 watts of it! Yes, the Sasha's have a pretty challenging load (4 Ohm nominal with a dip to 2.17 Ohms at 90 Hz), though they're pretty sensitive (92 dB). I have to say, the Cary/Sasha combination sounded fantastic as well. In my particular setup (that is, a very lively room with hardwood floors and no treatments beyond rugs, upholstered furniture and drapes over windows) neither I nor my friends felt anything was lacking in terms of available dynamic range, and that midrange magic was still there.
To me the bottom line is to listen to as many combinations as you can. There are a LOT of great choices out there, and you should give as many of them a try as you can. Take your time and enjoy the process (I rather miss the large amount of time I spent in dealer showrooms listening to different combinations of gear).
I'd also agree with the advice to not worry about a preamp or integrated amp with an on board phono preamp. For your setup, if you're serious about vinyl you'll eventually want a dedicated phono preamp. If you're just starting out there are a lot of good phono preamps for under $2K - or even under $1K you could get just to get started and upgrade later.
Anyone critical of the current mismatch between speakers and amps forgets that standard audiophile advice is to max out on quality of speakers first and then work on what’s up the chain. OP did this and is asking the next step. Bravo!
I would suggest that the best advice would not include a focus on a specific model or brand yet. With a limited budget (even though $5k isn’t chicken feed) I suggest that used gear is the way to maximize the value you get, and the best way to try different combinations of gear is to buy used and listen to them for extended periods; keep what you like and resell/replace what you don’t. To do this, you need to establish a range of brands and models that you're interested in, and be flexible about what used stuff is available at good prices.
So that’s a perpetual journey or at least years. But it’s fun. Buy good quality gear from here, from good dealers, and even ebay and Craigslist (I’ve had plenty of success on both). A modest percentage of your budget (say, 10%-20%) will be in losses in buying and reselling gear, but that will easily be balanced by the tremendous value you get in buying used gear.
Look for brands like McIntosh (rarely a bargain though); Levinson, Krell, Classe, Pass, the others commonly mentioned here.
I’d focus on separates for now because ultimately that is likely to sound best, but also because you can test variables more easily with separates than an integrated. On cables I just would avoid the $5 kind for now. Until you settle on gear that you’re going to keep a long time, you might find more cable mismatches than matches.
With a limited budget, I’d stay with solid state. Tubes are great but they can be expensive and tube gear fussy. And if you are swapping through gear looking for the best combos for those fine speakers, you won’t want to have spent big$$ on tubes that you can’t use when you change gear.
Good luck! This is part of the fun of the hobby; don’t look at it like a leap and a stop...look at it as a series of fun Saturdays!
Don’t let anyone criticize you over your current components. Your receiver is certainly your weak spot and although there is nothing wrong with a Rotel amp, I have to believe the Wilsons would reward you for giving them better power.
Several people have mentioned Pass, which would probably work well. If you like solid state, the Plinius or SimAudio are reasonably price brand to consider. Sim is a little darker while Plinius has a more tube like character.
If you like the tube sound then then you may consider Audio Research. Wilson dealers often pair them together and it does sound very nice. AR is hybrid so they can better handle the challenging impedance curve and power requirements of Wilson better than full tube.
I would seriously consider an integrated. Although separate amp/preamp would be ideal, you will pay more for the components plus you will need cables which adds to the cost. Improving components without using proper cables is somewhat of a waste. An integrated removes the need for the extra cables, so you can spend a little more on a better integrated and put some money towards power and speaker cables.
Enjoy the journey and have fun!