beginner seperate system


all the listening I do leads to crazy high prices.  anyone out there that can do great high fi on a couple grand budget?  I have nad 275bee bridged mono with focal aria 948.  I would like to experiment with maybe a tube setup or a really reverby ss if exists.  I have a couple rythmik 15 in subs that can do bass.  have a few headphone systems that really have opened my eyes on sound.  can hifi wonky/tubes be done with subs?  and lowest entry point worth the money?  would be great to find something under 5k that can play well with aria speakers.
D704d97f 6a57 4ecd b79b 1d9a6f0ec410austin_jeff
Primaluna tube integrated amps are within your budget. Some one also mentioned a Bob Carver tube amp here 275 Crimson which is 75 watts per channel and going for $2500, that would drive those Focals very well. But you'd also need to pair it with a preamplifier.

I would highly suggest the bigger two PrimaLuna integrated with the KT 150 tubes for the sound you are looking for. They are very lush and majestic sounding amps.
thanks, I seen an ad for that crimson tube amp...think in same mag saw a tube 50% off which is scarey to think why.  gonna get driven down to local dealer in next week or so, but not sure if they have tube amps...they just carry the mcintosh, sim moon, avr stuff i think.  can you mail order with easy returns from some tube amp makers?
Why not search for a tube preamp?
will a tube preamp give me the tubey sound?
It all depends.  Rogue less so than some others.  It varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and even from model to model--check out push-pull, ultralinear, SET, etc.
U.S.A. made Schiit Freya preamp, 3 instantly switchable modes resolve any mystery regarding tubes vs. solid state (passive, FET, and tube)...balanced and single ended ins and outs...I’ve had one for over a year and it sounds great, and there’s actually nothing like it. 700 bucks or so, their class A/B Vidar amp is the same price. I run my Freya into a Dennis Had SE tube amp and the sound is astonishingly good through efficient speakers. I also own a couple of Schiit Magni 3 headphone amps, and a Loki EQ...all very well built and designed by smart guys.
wolf, a while ago I watched/listened to a you tube which compared the difference in sounds between the Freya preamp modes.  I know that you tube is not way to test anything, but all three modes, SS, tube, passive sounded remarkedly the same.  Do you hear much difference?
I was gonna ask about shiit audio as its american made and priced in my range...also seen some chinese tube amps on amazon...Im not looking to play tubes very loud well I guess if I like em alot they will be played loud :)
Are you looking to replace the NAD amps or just needing a preamp?  You have a pair to NAD 275s bridged and a speaker system (Focals and subs). Looking to add to this with a budget of 2K.
Sorry, meant to erase the last two statements leaving only the question.
I dont plan on changing away from my current setup.  but would like to add a tubes setup.  not sure whether a totally different path or adding a tube into current setup.  was thinking if I could just add into mix an integrated tube...what would easiest way be to add tubes?  avr preouts to bridged nads to speakers currently....
Schitt  Audio gives a lot of good stuff on a lower budget.
kimber8tc cables,  Emotiva, or Svs for Loudspeakers 
just a sample of low budget entry level gear 
You could get a Prima Luna integrated, used.  I believe Uncle Kevvy has a couple of them listed on his web site.
May I ask why you want separates? With your budget you could get a very nice integrated Amp in either tube or SS. You really are not sacrificing anything these days with integrated amps.   
Jeff, welcome to the rabbit hole of audiophilia! I think a lot is possible in building a system on a budget. You will need to become very familiar with Schiit Audio and their products, because, as stated already, they make great stuff, and great stuff for the money. I own many pieces of Schiit 😀. Also you will need to know the market for other equipment because you will find nice things for less than retail here and on other sites. Through study and knowledge and knowing a deal when you see one, you can build a nice system for less. Also one that is upgradable. Read, study and shop! Good luck! RJ
If you amp/speaker combination satisfies and you want to add tubes to the system then I suggest you purchase a tube amp that is compatible with your amps. I believe most any 2-channel preamp would be superior to usig a AVR as a pre. 

I currently run a Jolida tube preamp into a SS amp. Like you wanted tubes, just not a tube amplifier.  

Good luck in your search!
I looked at purchasing the Focal Aria 948's and I kept asking the dealer, "WHERE'S THE BASS."  I am sure your subwoofers were able to give the added bass extension they needed.  I did like the tweeters and mid drivers, as they were very musical.  Surprised you have not looked into buying a pair of the REL T/9i's or the REL S3's.  They work differently than the Rythmic and are more discrete to build a larger sound stage.

I ended up with a pair of the Paradigm Prestige 85F's and I should have held off and purchased a true 3 way speaker.  I am not sure why Paradigm designed these as a 2 1/2 way.  However, the Vienna Acoustic Mozart's are also a 2 1/2 way.  They have a very solid bass extension.  I believe they get down to 24 Hz.  

I went to the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in October and listened to a pair of SALK Song3 Encore's, priced at $6,000 and they sounded better than a pair of $60,000 speakers I listened to.  Jim Salk sells direct and as a result, he can afford to buy the best drivers available to deliver incredible sound quality.  They get down to 24 Hz and there would be no need to add a subwoofer.

Not sure what the attraction is for a tube amp.  I know they sound warm, but can they deliver the detail like the Parasound Halo Integrated Amp?  I am a huge fan for Parasound,  I am also very satisfied with the ARCAM AVR550  I purchased.  However, the ARCAM AVR859, at a price of $6,000 is really incredible, as it sounded much better than the MacIntosh I listened to side by side.  Their G technology provides pure A for the first 50 watts.  The nice thing about ARCAM is you can listen to both 2 channel and surround for home theater applications in the same room.
Quicksilver. Good reasonable tube amps. Mid monos by Quicksilver made the top 5 list for a respected audio expert with no skin in the game. Don't do Chinese, I did and it was terrible.
I own Quicksilver Mid Monos too.  Great amps !!!   They just came out with a pair of new 60 watt monos that look awesome.  Auto bias scheme that adjusts with respect to output power.    I think QS represents one of the best values anywhere in audio.   Stuff is built like a tank and has been super reliable.  
If I were you, I would either PM or call Johnny Rutan (Audioconnection). He will set you up with the best you can get for the money- with no pressure or sales pitch.
He knows home stereo like the back of his hand.
I only post this because you are going to get lots of recommendations, and Johnny knows just about all the gear out there and can give you some great advice as to how to proceed.
HTH
B
The Freya passive and FET modes sound very similar, the tube mode sounds great with much higher gain and provides tube rolling adventures...I've heard the newer versions have less of a gain jump for the tube setting. If I was putting together a budget tube system that wasn't based on a single ended power amp, I'd consider a new Jolida tube amp with a Freya as Jolidas are pretty cool, relatively inexpensive, and well made (I owned a 502p for years). Tubes provide more detail generally, making music sound more realistic with a harmonic content most SS amps simply can't do.
Jolida and shiit gonna check out.  might go to local brick mortar and check them out.  broke in the new year with too much partying and not so much sleep...and the world is punishing me,,,,lol.
Primaluna. I think Upscale Audio pairs alot of them with Focals.
primaluna always has a lot of buzz around their amps...but always see them for sale on used market...decisions...think Im gonna make a trip to listenup this weekend or next week and listen to their sales force.  bad thing about going to listenup is seeing the new revel be and kanta 2/3 speakers...might put the tubes on back burner and get new speakers lol.  and throw budget out window in process...
maybe just make some phone calls :)
and then I see some cheaper than dirt ideas on massdrop....https://www.massdrop.com/buy/fx-audio-tube-p1-amplifier?utm_placement=2&referer=236SQC&mode=.......is this even worth the 100 bucks?
May I suggest something like the lyngdorf tdai 2170 or Antrhem STR integrated. both of these have very well engineered room correction systems built in, plus enough power to run most speakers out there. Reason I suggest these is for the room correction and that ability to make up for other area in your system and also sub integration. 
Rogue Audio amps have great bass and imo sound terrific 
i have an all Rega system.  the new Brio is a delight partnered with their RS1 speakers.  all in with a DAC and their cables about $2,200.00 i think it sounds better than the 10K system i had 15 years ago.  definite synergy.  DAC's have not improved that much in the last 10 years.  if Rega thought they could produce a better DAC since the DAR R they would have.
I have a Red Wine Audio (no longer made) Integrated that I use and love.  It’s A tube preamp with a battery power amp side.  May sound weird on the form but my ears say it’s good.  Easy to find used models and Vinnie still services them.  

Had as a bad experience customer service experience with Schiit but their stuff is appealing (USA made, very reasonable prices, great reviews).  Not trying to color your decision just want to give you a 360 view. 
Another vote for PrimaLuna Jeff.  I bought a used DiaLogue HP a couple years back.  This amp has really grown on me over time.  It has  beautiful tone--full color saturation if you follow.  It is smooth, neutral, and begs you to listen for hours on end.  I could go on.  A couple of points.  Regarding the comment to not buy Chinese--rubbish!  The build quality on this unit is among the best and far superior to many American built brands. It is silent with NO operational quirks--very well thought out.  So if you choose to not buy Chinese for political reasons, that's fine.  But not for quality reasons.  Secondly, in your quest for tubes, the amp/speaker interface is critical (more so than solid state).  The HP has a lower output impedance and will be more forgiving in this regard but my VS VR-33's have a very simple first order crossover and get along great with tubes.  I would never advise "force fitting" of this pairing.  

 
From what you seem to be looking for sonically, you should consider the Rogue Cronus Magnum II. It has warmth and detail and the power to drive your speakers effortlessly. IMO
when I go visit my local brick mortar I will listen to some mcintosh tube setups with my focal aria 948.  these are out of my price range but will give me a decent idea plus listen to what dealer thinks...I have a chinese tube headphone amp and thus has me curious to what tubes can do with my focals.  of course everytime I visit dealer I have a dream of taking focal sopra 3's home...a dream.  the reviews on jolida seem to have some qc issues and/or bad experiences.  appreciate all the comments...will be researching until I pull the trigger.  gotta do my taxes before I buy tho.  been having to write checks last few years to govt so gotta look a lil closer this year...been slacking lately on taxes :(
If you are going to keep most everything you may consider a tube preamp.  Don Sachs can make you a great piece for under 2k.  You may be shocked at how much different the sound of your system can be just from the addition of a quality preamp.  Other companies have tube pre's or hybrids in your price range. 
In your price range, Schiit audio is worth consideration. The thing that I hear time and again about Chinese gear is that when you buy it, you own it, they reputedly have lousy service. Remember, that’s hearsay, I can’t say that I know. The Freya is a good for the money preamp, but it’s colored. To get good tone you need Ken Rad tubes, but they are flat, so you will need OLD Raytheon’s for a really good soundstage, though depth I never really got out of mine, and I spent a ton on NOS tubes. Far, and I do mean far better is the DS2, Don Sachs has taken Roy Muttram’s SP14 and blown iy up, he has gotten the DC quiet, that’s what usually obscures low level detail. From there it depends, I don’t know how efficient you’re speakers are. If 60 to 80WPC can drive them to levels that you are comfortable with, then stay with tubes, if not, the Schiit Vidar is likely a good choice, but that’s hearsay. If you can live with 60 to 80wpc, than tubes are definitely the way to go. Now the question is do you want to get a lifetime amp, or a stepping stone amp. Bob Latino sells a very nice tube amp, an ST-120, but get the Octal driver board Roy Muttram sells, Bob works with Roy, so he can get it and build it if you are uncomfortable with kits. 6SN7’s rule and will sound WAY better than the stock driver board. If you want to stick a fork in your amplification hunt, get Don Sachs’ KT88 based amp. He started out with a Latino kit, though it was a slight variant, a prototype Roy Muttram was designing. Anyway, Don was so impressed that he modded the basic kit into a crazy good amp. I bought a different prototype from Roy myself, but it really couldn’t drive KT88s, and had other issues, so I upgraded to many of the same parts Don uses, but I wish I had just purchased Don’s amp, I thought I could save a few dollars with the lesser amp, but it wasn’t for me. Don’t get me wrong, everyone who heard it was amazed, but I knew it could sound better. Some have suggested Primaluna, I have a Prologue Five. The Roy Muttram amp absolutely smoked it, not even in the same league. If you really want to go inexpensive I have a Freya and the Prologue Five, I intend to sell both, but haven’t gotten around to posting them, but if you want them, I am sure we can come to terms, I can post them, Audigon is hosting this after all and supporting them is the right thing to do, besides, it costs me to post, not you. I’d highly recommend that you save a ton of money chasing rainbows, bite the bullet and buy from Don Sachs, but obviously it’s your call! He is the best bang for the bucks that you are going to find if you want high end quality, Bob Latino’s gear isn’t junk by any stretch of the imagination either though. If you want to save on the preamp, Roy Muttram will build an SP14 for you, and he can also do a few upgrades that will help it sound a little more like a DS2. Here is a review of the ST120, but this isn’t even using the much better sounding Octal driver which with the right tubes, will smoke the stock driver board.
http://dynacotubeaudio.forumotion.com/t1930-comparing-my-vta-st-120-with-my-mcintosh-mc275
Don, Bob, and Roy who designed everything except for Don’s gear, which is primarily based upon Roy’s designs, make crazy good equipment for far less than you would pay if it were not being sold directly. If you go with Roy’s preamp get your 6SN7 tubes from him. If you decide to go really inexpensive with an ST-70, again, go with the 6SN7 driver board, and get Genalex Gold Loin KT77s, it can’t drive KT88s, not properly they will be biased to low, but the KT77s actually have a little kick to them, most EL34 type tubes have no bass, but the Gold Lions are not bad, they aren’t properly biased Gold Lion KT88s, but they are as close as any EL34 family tube as I have ever heard! Don's amp comes with auto bias, but if you get one of the other Roy Muttram amps, from him or Bob, get the auto-bias! Good luck, and happy hunting!
I run my 936's with a 31 watt Pass F5. We're talking about speakers here designed to be driven by a voltage source, not a constant power source like a Mc. They want direct coupled solid state power from an amp that doesn't crap it's pants at a 2.5 ohm load. Not too many tubes fill that bill. 
+1 for the Rogue Cronus Magnum integrated ... I think it would be an excellent match with the Arias. Plenty of tube power to drive them for a very reasonable price from a great American company. 
Generally I agree with Kosst that solid state gear is likely to pair better with Focal’s based on the impedance load/curve of most their speakers. Couldn’t find a published curve for the Aria 948, but with a minimum of 2.5 ohms the tubes are likely to be working hard. I think the Rogue will be enough to drive them well.  I  drive my Focal Electra 1007 Be speakers with a 100 watt Audio Research SS amp with great bass extension without need for a subwoofer in a small - medium room. 
i think Im good with my nad amps bridged for ss...the website says over 1200 watts bridged....https://nadelectronics.com/product/c-275bee-stereo-power-amplifier/
but I do want to try tubes.  i see some great suggestions, just wrestling with my budget.  I dont know/understand alot of the terminology or names in tubes...so Im googling all the suggestions.  I appreciate them as I am learning as I go.  all good stuff.
If you want to experiment with tubes using your current system — as suggested by many above— you will get a good taste with a tube preamp. Depending on how much you want to spend, three good choices to purchase NEW would be the Schiit Freya ($700), Brown Audio SP-1B ($1150, which includes an excellent moving magnet phonostage), and the Atma-sphere UV-1 ($1900). All American made, and well reviewed. Based on your investiture in the Aria 948, I would probably lean towards the Atma-sphere UV-1, and give thought later perhaps to a different solid state amp. If you are willing to consider used gear, would recommend looking at Audio Research offerings on Audiogon. 
One last thought. I myself have been looking at a tube preamp for my second system in my den ... and while a custom tube preamp from Don Sachs has been in my eyesights, I’m a little concerned about the longevity of a boutique company.  How long will he be around to service it if something goes wrong? Not to hijack the thread, but does anyone else have this concern?
Hi Austin_Jeff,

There are a lot of great suggestions here. IMHO If looking for the best sound for the budget you have - with the equipment you have... 

I would take Wolf_Garcia's suggestion and hook up the Schitt Freya to your existing NAD 275bee . Freya is by far the best bang for you buck as it has several options and respectable specs.  As you get comfortable with the set up you can roll NOS tubes and get a real sense of the tube feel.  

The least expensive and best way to maximize your investment in the Focal Aria 948s  is to take Larry5729's suggestion on upgrading your subs to the REL S3. 

REL is known for their  quick, seamless ,musical sub bass system with the Neutrik SpeakOn connectors. However Its only worth the investment with the connectors. I believe Analysis Plus makes The REL Cables on request. - if you decide to go this route request bananas connectors for the binding posts on the amp end. It will be easier to hook up.  

Schitt Audio - $699
http://www.schiit.com/products/freya

REL - $2,400
https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lis99dcj-rel-acoustics-s-3-pair-available-subwoofers

REL Cables - $ 240/$500 
https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lis990j9-signal-cable-inc-double-run-spk-rel-speakon-cable-subwoof...

https://www.analysis-plus.com/pro-audio/#custom_built_cables

With about $1,500 to spare I would invest in a couple to decent power chords to maximize the performance of the NAD 275bee and Schitt Freya

I think you will be extremely pleased with the results.

What ever you decide, enjoy!

May I suggest considering the Rogue Sphinx or Pharaoh. Both integrated with tube pre , phono stage , headphone jack and remote control . Needs 1 quality power cord and some Telefunkens to replace the stock tubes . Plenty of quiet , clean solid state power to handle the low impedance swings and voltage requirements . A quality integrated will also save you money on multiple power cords and Interconnects. Also look at Khartgo products . Both of these brands are American made with great support and resale value . Happy Listening , Mike. 
Sorry you asked about separates . I own a Schiit Yiggy, Bifrost and Loki . I’m currently considering a Freya to use instead of my Rogue Pre. I am extremely pleased with their products as they offer great value . I’ve updated my Rogue with NOS Telefunkens and run a Mowwrow MPA4 power cord and MA5 Interconnects and Herbies footers, however it has too much gain and doesn’t pair well with high power amps . Don Sachs builds a fabulous pre . You might also consider Odyssey Audio too.  They offer a tube pre and a matching SS amp(s)  in stereo or mono bloc’s at reasonable prices . I was trying something similar to you , but with vintage  JBL studio monitors. I was never happy with the JBL’s and changed direction to Zu and low power. However I intend on revisiting this and I hope that you post your results, Mike. 
Decware Rachael integrates if you fond of SET tube amps. 
I wouldn't consider an Atma-Sphere amp for Focal speakers. Ralph is a great guy, but he designs amps intended to drive benign, sensitive speakers. 948's are moderately sensitive, but NOT benign. 
Tubes, for power amplification, aren't going to make those speakers do what they should. If you're looking for a good tube sound, aim for a simple single ended pre-amp and pipe that into a solid state class A amp that smirks mockingly at 2.5 ohms. 
Actually, Atma amps are pretty stable for a tube amp. If impedance drops are severe, he recommends using the Zero Autoformers.
Even Steve McCormack says they make his SS amps sound better.
Bob
Hi dcevens,
As for your concern about Don's preamp, if Don should meet with some tragic circumstance after you bought a preamp from him, Roy Muttram, and Bob Latino are loosely connected with him, so I am sure that they would help, but frankly his gear is well built, he doesn't have a lot of issues or else his reputation would be shot. Beyond that, there are plenty of people who have worked with tube gear for years and would be quite capable of repairing his gear if needs be. The ONLY real problems would be parts as he is using transformers and output capacitors from Europe so there would be a time lag as neither currently have US distribution yet.
I didn't do a good job of proofing my original post, when buying tubes, I go through Don, not Roy. Don uses the best new production tubes, some of which are better sounding than NOS tubes. Roy uses lower end tubes IME. Roy designs rock solid gear, but Don Sachs makes improvements in the circuits at times, and he absolutely uses fantastic sounding components.