As for the amps... in a word, bright. I started out with them, and deeply regret the years I spent with them. Tons of power and very well constructed, but unrefined. Very forward, narrow and congested soundstage. CJ Sonographe, early B&K, Aragon, and countless others will beat these in the same approximate pricerange. I understand the attraction, but I would not recommend them.
I'm sure other members have more recommendations in the Acurus price range, as there are several nice options available cheaply these days - many more than a few years ago when I had my A250 and A100x3.
That said, I am happy with their preamps / processors. I have an RL11 preamp, and an ACT3 processor, and both are very nice for the money. I would recommend both, though sonically the RL11 is easily beatable, I love its simplicity and ease of use, and it does sound good. The ACT3 is so good for the money, I just bought a 2nd one for my brother. I found the Act3 better sonically than the far more expensive B&K Ref. 30 (though the B&K wins hands down for features.) The ACT1 is a much earlier and less capable (prologic) processor that's generally considered a thing of the past now.
I owned an Acurus A150 and an RL11 preamp. The RL11 remote had serious problems. If not aimed directly at the pre, it would cause the wrong function to activate. The worst was when I wanted to adjust the volume and the balance would change. I'd be sitting there marvelling at the avant garde recording tecnique that put all the sound in one channel, before I realized it was the balance control. Eventually, I became paranoid the balance was off, and compulsively had to check the balance knob all the time while listening. The shop I bought it from replaced the remote, same problem. I called Acurus, who tried to explain it away as a feature, saying they thought it was better to take a guess at what the remote command was than to do nothing if the signal wasn't strong. They made a mod to the front panel in which they put a counterbore in the back of the panel so the remote sensor would stick out more. There was also some talk of a firmware upgrade, but I don't know if they ever came out with it. I think they even replaced my whole preamp with one that had at least the counterbore upgrade, but still the same problem. On top of that, I found the sound to be quite muddy. At the time I was using a Sony CD player with its own volume control, which sounded much better direct in to the amp than through the pre-amp. Perhaps for the money, it was ok sounding, but I was extremely happy when I sold it and got a Classe CP-35. More money, but much better sounding, and very well built.
On the other hand, I really liked the power amp. It had reasonably strong bass for its price (although not a world beater), and an easy to listen to, non fatiguing quality, especially on speakers that were a bit hard sounding. I preferred it in most systems to the much more expensive Classe power amps, which sounded more mechanical, although certainly more extended at the extremes. One demo was with a pair of Ariel bookshelves. With the Classe, the highs were unlistenable, but the Acurus made the situation much better. I also spent a weekend with the Acurus separates and an Arcam Delta 290. The Arcam was clearly better in the midrange, but the Acurus was a lot stronger in the bass.
I did not try the brands listed above by Mwilson. One thing I remember hearing at the time (mid 90s)was that the bigger Acurii were less refined sounding than the smaller ones, which may explain some of our differences. I eventually traded the Acurus in for a Pass Aleph3. I also listened to Golden Tube Audio, Proceed, and Meridian amps. Maybe others, but I can't remember.
I don't know why MWilsons experience was so different than mine. Perhaps the brands he was comparing against were better than the brands I compared against, and you can never escape component interaction. Good luck.
I owned the RL-11 and a pair of A-150's for at least a couple of years without any problems. The 150s just sound better that the 250s. Just my opinion, but I really enjoyed them. I am currently using a Llano A100 and an AES(Cary) AE-3 Pre and while I'm very happy with these I do not regret the time spent with the Acurus.
Thanks you guys for your responses. I have taken all thoughts to heart. I think i really am just going to have to save and start with a Theta Intrepid, and then some other from of amplification for my fronts. I have also researched the B&K Ref. 50 & Ref. 200.7, and have heard that setup through a number of speaker combinations, MartinLogans, Monitor Audio GR's, and Polk LSi's, and have heard the Ref 200.7 also drive a pair of B&W 703s, which I believe will end up eing my front channels, and was duly impressed. The price drops on B&K will help me trmendously, and I think that unless I can find a Theta Dreadnaught set up for 7 channels thats a super steal, it'll be the B&K. Bryston is also awesome, and my buddie's new Lexicon MC-8 / CX-7 setup is phenomenal. Guess I'll just see what happens?
Any other recommendations? good, easy speakers to drive?
I run Acurus A-250 and 100x3 for my HT set up and these amps have worked flawless. I disagree with above, these amps are not bright in any way, they do however lack a bit of low end detail and punch, that's where a good sub comes in handy. For the $300 price range on the used market they are a steal, as good as anything in that price bracket. good build quality, but perhaps rated slightly higher in power than they really are.
Bright/Shrill is a good description of their amps. They also will distort much more easily than others in their class.
The Act3 is a nice sounding pre but don't lose the remote.....why do you think they are cheap?
For the same money, buy adcom or rotel.
Obviosly I've had bad experiences.
I need to very much pipe in here....
...as an audiophile with "an ear", I would dissagree that the Acurus amps are bright in general! I owned the superb little ACT 3(only a bit higher noise floor than some if not careful with system matching speakers), and sonically (agreeing with above posts), it's better than any B&K pre/pro ever made! It's very clear, detailed, dynamic, and neutral sounding. Again, 90db sig/noise only, but otherwise, excellent! I also had the 100x5, which was probably the prettiest sounding, most detailed(not bright, sorry), clear, extended(again, not bright, or shrill, thx), neutral, and musical little amp I've owned in 5 ch! It's not warm as the the overly borring and soft B&K and Bryston junketh(IMO), and is rather special sounding. The Parasounds are warmer in boddied, if a little rolled on top, which works excellent with some set ups. Still, that 100x5 was sweet!!!!!! With the right speakers, "rolled off at 80hz" or "small", it was a DEFINITE WINNER! I say this, and I've owned, Classe, Threshold, Pass, Aragon(didn't like the 8004 or 8008bb at all!!!!...plain a bit, and rolled on top a tad), Coda and others. Naw, I think that 100x5 was extremely good, and underated. The 200x5 was a tad brighter, I'll conceed that...can't speak for the othe rAcurus amps.
Actually, I only liked the still slightly warmish Aragon Soundstage and Paladiums ok. Everything else, in amps/pre's, etc, was just descent. Classe was better, if less powered, but similar.
Still, for what the Act 3 and 100x5 offered, there's nothing that can touch that sound for that money! For under $1k, you can get a gorgeous sounding separates system, run everything as "small" on the pre/pro, and use the sub! That is audiphile budget surround at it's best...IMO.
As for the Rotel and Adcom, they can't compete at that price for multi channel, sorry! I've sold all the above lines extensively. Parasounds amps used stomp all that, and the lesser powered Acurus as well as described. The Used B&K's are just not that special either(IMO ofcourse)
I’m brand rabid for Acurus gear, having owned an RL11 Line Stage Preamp, A150 Amp and an ACD11 CD player since the late 90’s. My gear has never been in the shoppe and in 23 years, I’ve only had to replace two fuses, left channel, no big.
Before I settled on Acurus, I tried every 90s ENTRY LEVEL system out there, including BRYSTON (Too soft sounding) ADCOM (Too course sounding without SLAM), ROTEL (Loved their RB980BX, absolutely hated the matching RC980 Full function Pre), NAD, PARASOUND, B&K, you name it. Nothing can touch my Acurus on Kick Drum 🥁 impact or Bass S-L-A-M or Sound stage per dollar 💵 spent.
Is Acurus PERFECT? No. They are so BRIGHT sounding you can read a tech manual, 8pt font in pitch darkness with them playing. So slap 👋 a Tube Phono Stage to play records and a DAC to smooth out the Digital. Finally, NEVER run the RL11 with both Tape outputs (Record & Listen) to the same number (eg Tape 1 R&L) because you’ll destroy the Preamp!!!
If cost is no object, a KRELL or LEVENSON will beat my Gear—-but nothing under $2K each will touch it. My Neolithic ACD11 trounced a new Emotiva CD player and is unbeatable with my SMSL 6th Anno DAC with LPS @ 24/192hrz. The maximum PCM you can extract off of a digital output. Google Acurus and read the reviews...
Old thread but I too have nothing bad at all to say about Acurus. Rock solid reliable, bass slam/punch off the charts, and IMO not bright or shrill but dead pegged on neutral even with my very efficient horn loaded(compression titanium drivers) Klipsch RF-63 floor standers. I own and have owned 12 of their amps and all have been excellent performers especially for their prices on the used market.