Best Amp/Preamp Combo for around $6K?

Hi everyone - I am hoping you can provide me with a bit of guidance. I am looking to upgrade my current system with a new to me (used is OK) amp/preamp combination for around $6K. I like the "sound" of my current system (which I've owned for 11-12 years), but am thinking about upgrading. I have been told the Threshold amps are fairly strong in low frequency, and I would not want the upgraded system to have less bass. If anything, I'm looking for a "richer" sound. I prefer solid state if possible and would like the amp/preamp to the same brand. My current system is:

- Threshold S/250 (Stasis design, 125 w/c)
- Threshold FET 9/e (phono stage is not used)
- Naim CD5 (recently purchased)
- Alon II with Black Orpheus bi-wiring (~87 db)

I have been reading/researching this purchase for the past 3-4 months and think the equipment below would be an upgrade - unfortunately, no local dealer for auditioning!

- Rowland - Models 8T/10/201; SynergyII
- Pass Labs - X150/X250; X1/X2.5
- Plinius - SA102; M16P

Am I on the right track?
Best choice from brands above?
Any other brands to consider?

Thanks for taking the time to read this and your input is welcomed!
Try a McCormack DNA-2 Revision A amplifier and Pass Labs X-1 or X2.5 preamp.

I am giving strong consideration to the Plinius combo that you mentioned.

Good Listening,

Steve Bachman
If you have a chance you should audition an ASR Emitter I plus.It's an integrated amp with an outboard power supply, weights 100 pounds and looks gorgeous.
A very musical amp but able to deliver the amperes when needed.
A dealer I know is only selling those and its big brother Emitter II lately. Who hears it buys it.
Good luck!
If you like your CD player, continue down the Naim path. You can get an excellent pre/power for $6000 with enough left to buy a Flatcap for your CD player.
Of the 3 you list, I like the Rowland the best. I don't know why you prefer the same brand though. There are some strong contenders that specialize in one aspect. Amps for instance, I'd recommend a pair of Clayton Audio M-100 monoblocks. McCormack, as mentioned by Stehno, also makes great amps. Neither McCormack or Clayton has a strong preamp though. Klyne makes some of the best solid state preamps out there, but no amps. I personally don't think you could do better than a pair of Clayton M-100's amps with a Klyne 7LX-3.5b preamp at the $6K price point.

Thanks for all your inputs. As I suspected, no definite answers!

One question for Herman - going all Naim makes me wonder about amplifier wattage. My Alon II speakers recommend 150+ watts and most Naim products are less than 100. Are Naim watts equivalent to Rowland/Pass/Plinius watts?

Thanks -
I recently went through an amplifier upgrade quest and ended up falling in love with the sound of Theta Digital amps. A 2-channel Dreadnaught II would fit into your budget, although on the preamp side, Theta is apparently more geared towards multi-channel pres (though you can get a Casa Nova for a song, nowadays). However, given your comments about bass and wanting a rich sound, you may want to audition some Krell amps and preamps. Make sure that you check out the FPB series amps. Krell makes some pretty killer preamps, too. If you go Krell, we're definitely talking used market.


A watt is a watt but most amps are spec'd at continuous power output into 8 ohms. Just as important is the ability of the amp to deliver short bursts of power into lower impedance loads. Naim amps do this very well so they can play as loudly as some amps that have higher continous power ratings. I think they can handle it but you would have to try it to be sure. A lot depends on how loud you want it to play.

Of course you could go with the NAP 500 @ 140 watts, but the $22,000 price tag might exceed your budget.