I can kind of help...
I used to have Auditors and an AX7e as well as a CX7e. That little integrated sounds wonderful with Auditors, however I was running fully balanced chain.
To my ears it sounded better than $11K worth or Electrocompaniet gear and I sold all the Electrocompaniet and kept the Ayre. I have since moved to tube gear and Devore speakers, but I am not sure you can find any better solid state than the Ayre unless you move up big time to many multiples of the price.
Belles makes an integrated Amp... if you like the Belles sound maybe auditioning an IA-01 could be on your list as well.
Ayre makes great gear as well. I don't think you could go wrong with either choice.
Hmm... now I'm almost set on getting a Pass Aleph 30 or Aleph J. :D The reputation of these amps (and all Pass Class A models) is the stuff of legend. The heat and energy consumption were a deal breaker for me, but I figure I gotta have one of these once in my life to see what all the fuss is about. Plus if I just think of it like a tube amp and turn it off when not in use the heat/power draw doesn't seem like as big of a deal... at least that's what I tell my wife!
Of the three, the Pass gear is by far my preference, but you are talking about 30 watts there which may be an issue with some speakers. The J was almost as good as the XA30.5 with easy to drive speakers like my Merlins.
Yeah, the Cremona Auditors are 88 dB @ 4 ohms. Sounds like a rather difficult load, but my 60 WPC (actually 120 @ 4 ohms) Bel Canto C5i Class D had no problem with them though and others have reported they are fairly easy to drive.
Ugh, but now I'm seeing that the Aleph 30 provides only 5A peak current whereas the C5i is 30A, which I think is a significant factor.
I'll just have to buy and try. Don't think I'll have any problem reselling if it doesn't work out!
I own two Ayre AX-7e amps and like them very much because of their excellent sound quality. I have one Ayre amplifier driving my Sonus Faber Auditor M Speakers in my living room (main system) and another one driving my Quad 12L speakers in my family room (2nd system for TV listening only). My living room music source is the Ayre CX-7eMP CD Player running balanced cables (XLR) to the Ayre amp.
The Ayre AX-7e Integrated amp sounds much better running with balanced inputs and not RCA inputs. Many reviewers have said this. If your source does not have balanced outputs to your amplifier, maybe you should look at a source that has balanced outputs (XLR Connections).
The Ayre AX-7e is a basic two channel integrated amplifier without many bells and whistles. It is a great sounding amplifier that works with many different speakers. It includes a remote control and has a small footprint. It outputs 60 wpc for 8 ohms and 120 wpc for 4 ohms.
I suggest you borrow a unit and see how it sounds with your speakers in your listening room.
Hi have used Ayre AX-7E in the past, heard the Belles 150As but now I am settled with Belles 350a reference V2s using them as monoblocks. I can tell you that AX 7E although a very good integrated will not get you the sound that your 150a v2 will give, especially one 4 things, dynamics,transparancy, bass extension, and soundstage. I would recommend against going to Ayre integrated just for sake of saving money because I can surely tell you, you will most likely spend more later on, to get back to the sound you are used to. It is a downgrade for sure.
For price point, Belles 150a v2 offers so much so I suggest you keep it and that in itself is saving money. You can go to Belles' integrated as someone suggested here but I think given the price, you won't be saving much. Also yours is V2 which is Belle's latest that gets you closer to their statement line. Enjoy !
Yup, I think what you have right now is pretty darn good already, unless you go Pass Class A, you probably should stay put, your gear is first-rate.
I have owned both the 150A/350A Ref amplifiers and the Belles Integrated was noticeably better in detail, slam, imaging and overall sound quality.
Thanks for the advice, guys, especially Pkoh70 -- that is very helpful! I've decided to keep the 150A Ref and wait for an Aleph J to arise to compare the 2...
... I'm also contemplating trying out a tube or hybrid amp, but the excessive concentrated heat (I have a one year old daughter who is just about to start walking) and low power have me discouraged. I would love to try an Almarro A318B, but I have read that it runs wicked hot, and 18 WPC into 88dB @ 4 ohms doesn't sound terribly promising. Still, I lust after that natural, lush, holographic SET sound and my aim is to find something more practical that can get me as close as possible, like many of us audiophiles. I'm sure I will end up with the A318B at some point as well as an Aleph.
Pathos Classic One MkIII, Cayin A-88T, PrimaLuna Dialogue Two, old McIntosh SS (MC150, MC7100, MC7200, MC2105, MC2125) -- any thoughts on these vs. my existing gear?
Also, any problem using an integrated as a power amp? I find that a lot of the better more affordable tube gear are integrateds without remotes.
Haven't seen an Aleph J listed since I sold mine 2-3 years ago - seems folks smarter than me hold on to them.
For tube amplifiers, I cannot recommend too highly the custom work of Jim Nicholls:
I have one of his creations, not a SET but a push/pull using 8 EL-34 output tubes, driving my Dali 400's--88 db sensitivity into 4 ohms. The amp sounds wonderful, and it is a great value.
I owned both the Belles Reference 150A paired with a Placette RVC and the Ayre AX7e, driving either Merlin VSMMe's or Lipinski L707's. Overall, I'd say they are more similar than not in what I thought their strengths, transparency, timbre, and dynamics. My experience with the Belles and Placette is similar to yours (the OP's) and I would probably give a slight not to the combo over the Ayre in my system and room, but the AX7e is a great integrated.
A possible addition to the list of tubed integrateds you are researching: the Rogue Tempest II which I also used for quite some time. And as a side note, I currently use a Lyngdorf TDAI 2200 which I have preferred to the many other amps I have used in the past.
Thanks for the direct comparison Fly_fish_nz.
Anybody have thoughts on the Belles Ref 150A vs. the Luxman L-505u? I'm extremely interested in this piece. I heard it VERY briefly at a dealer with an Ayre CDP, but hooked up to Paradigm Studio 60s. Obviously I didn't get to experience the integrated's full potential with those speakers, but I liked the sonic signature -- a little warm, smooth, and natural sounding, but with some liveliness (I particularly recall nice shimmering sound on the ride cymbal). Soundstage depth and focus were not so good, and transparency and clarity were a bit lacking, but this may very well have been the fault of the speakers.
Also heard the megabuck Luxman M800A a while ago with Cremona M driven by a full DCS Paganini stack and CJ CT-5 pre: absolutely fell in love.