Best Pre-Amp/Amp for Focal JMLab electra 920

Hi everyone,

I am pretty new to Hi-Fi, and just bought a set of Focal JMLab electra 920, and kindly wish you could please give me some advices on geting a good amp to get the most out of it.

I mostly listen to classical music, sometimes a little bit rock and Jazz.

I have not heard your specific speaker . I have owned the 906 and the 926 in the Electra line , newer models. My experiences with these were with midfi and highend SS components such as Rotel, Classe, Plinius, Musical Fidelity and McIntosh . I could not get these speakers to give me any life !
They sounded very good , doing all the correct things but without any 'heart' for lack of a better term . I have
found that 'my' tastes run in favor of tubes and would like to , again , try the JML's with tubes sometime .

Given 'my' preferences , I would suggest some nice inexpensive tubed integrateds . Two giant killers would be Cayin A-88T and Primaluna Prologue 2 . The Cayin is what I would term a traditional tube sound , warm mids and rolled off at the top and bottom . Very close to the Cary SLi-80 for less money . The Cayin has a remote and is switchable on the fly between triode and pentode . They are selling in the $1300 range used . The Prologue 2 is more in the modern day direction of tube amps that try to incorperate the advantages of SS and tubes . Not so warm in the mids with better extension and detail . The Prologue does not have a remote or the triode/pentode switchability but is self biasing . They can be had for under $1,000 used if you can find one . Both amps can tailor their sound by switching out various tubes .

Good luck and try to listen for yourself .
For the 920s, you need an amp with a smooth top end and enough power to control those big woofers well. If you get an analytical one, you won't enjoy the music.

You don't say what your budget is so I will guess based on the used prices of 920s. I would highly recommend McIntosh amps - I think they would mate with 920s perfectly. For separates, the MC162 or MC202 amps would be great (and are a great deal), for a preamp I would recommend a Classe 47.5 (or McIntosh C42 if your budget allows). If you want to spend less, an integrated is an excellent idea. The McIntosh MA6900 is very good and for less money, the Classe CAP151 is a swell deal although it won't be as good as match as the 6900 because the 151 can be a little hard in the upper mids.

There are many good options but I have tried many with my Electra 926 and feel these are your best bets. I have heard both the 915.1 and 920 before so I use this info in making my suggestions. See my System page for more info but keep in mind that my 926s sound more relaxed than your 920s.

Depending on your budget, Arcam's Diva line separates or the FMJ separates. Both sound great, just depends on the features you want and a bit more refinement in the FMJ line. I use the FMJ line with JMLab Diva Utopias. Very happy.
Thanks everyone, these are very helpful!

I tried to look for some amp, recently found MacIntosh MC-7300 + C-37 (yes, very old products), and Classe Pre-amp + mono blocks (maybe not the high-end ones, but something like a pair of low ends), not sure what will be the best choice.

I will explore more with the other options that you suggested.

Also, I am also very much into the idea of tubes, since the 920s are a little bit "hard" to me, I listen mostly to classical, with a little bit everything else. The hardness sometimes is killing me. Therefore I think tube might be sweet to solve that.
However, I am kind worry that fist tubes are not powerful enough to push these babies, and second, I heard that tubes will trim the hi and low end that will make the speakers colorles. Will you think so based on your experiences?

Tube amps with 920s won't work well IMO. They are too tough a load unless you only listen at low volumes. I can't think of a good tube amp, moderately priced, that will control those big woofers well.

The 926s have a lot less treble than the 920s and cannot be equated.

The reason I suggested McIntosh SS is because the 920s are a little hard. I personally don't recommend the old McIntoshes you are looking at. Go with the Classe instead although you should steer clear of the CAM200 and CAM350 monoblocks. These amplifiers have more top end than any other CLasse I have heard and that won't work well with 920s either. Try a Classe CA200 instead. All the Classe preamps are very nice. These are my recommendations.

Based on the fact that you purchased the speakers used (or demos?), I ascertain that cost may be a concern. Although I haven't used them (yet), I read something about an Odyssey Stratos working very well with some JM lab speakers, though the actual article and speaker model escapes me. At any rate, if Odyssey amps are as good as users/reviewers describe, they may be an affordable option for you.

I have no affiliation, but with prices and marketing practices such as they are, I am hoping sonically competitive, affordable alternatives exist, are discovered and embraced by those that cannot afford the excellent, but very expensive brands.
Everyone's guess is right, I bought these speakers used, but still considering them as their MSRP, therefore I am thinking of matching them with some used amps that has an matching original price.

Keep that in mind, what will be my best shot? Thanks.
Price is not necessarily indicative of sound quality or , more importantly , synergy . You would do better to just state a dollar amount as some here may not know what your speakers originally sold for years ago .

Some of today's newer tube amp designs are trying to incorperate the plus's of SS with those of tubes . That is to say that they will not be rolled off at the extremes . My Primaluna Prologue 2 is one example . But , as Aball eluded to above , you may need more power than the 40 w. that they produce . Higher powered tube amps can get expensive .

Good luck .
I have the Electra 915s, and I also listen mostly to classical. These are unusually transparent speakers at the price range, so good equipment and proper toe-in are helpful to avoid sounding hard. I have paired them with Rotel and PS Audio's HCA-2/PCA, but my favorite combinations have been Musical Fidelity and the BAT VK60 tube amp.

Like the speakers, the MF gear is more transparent than usual in its price range. Some of the older MF gear was a bit soft in the bass (like the original A3 series), but their newer equipment fairs better. All the MF gear I've heard has airy treble, not harsh, which is a good match for JM's inverted dome tweeter. The older MF gear has a more upfront presentation, though I have read the current lineup is slightly darker and more laid back.

The BAT tube amp had a more full-bodied sound, with plenty of current for the 915s, which have a tough impedence dip. The VK60 avoids syrupy euphony while still retaining tube gear's richer harmonics and more palpable rendering of space with only a slight sacrifice in very low bass authority. The 920s have a more friendly sensitivity and do not have quite as bad an impedence dip. The BAT is a big tube amp, however, and can heat a listening room in the summer. Some of the new tube integrateds from Cayin or Prima Luna may deliver enough current for all but head-banging levels.

Based on prior experience, though not heard with the 915, I think Krell would also be a good match. Krell has a slightly dark sound in the treble, like BAT, giving a more relaxed presentation. The KAV 300iL or 400ix are two excellent, high-powered integrateds. They have plenty of power, and will control the woofers without complaint.

Toe-in is also important. Less toe-in reduces treble energy. Fortunately, the JMs are a wide-dispersion design and do not require heavy toe-in for good center fill. Make no mistake, the 920s are large speakers, and can use a large space for the bass to blossom fully enough to match the top and. I spent more time than usual getting the 915s positioned, but they are capable of disappearing sonically with good electronics and adequately sized room. My room is approximately 12x17 with a 9-foot ceiling.
In solid-state electronics, I should add that Ayre is another excellent choice. Sonically, I'd say it's somewhere between Musical Fidelity and Krell, and about as close as transistors come to a tube-like rendering of space.
Congratulations on purchasing a fine speaker! Its a matter of taste what kind of equipment you end up using. 920's are not a difficult speaker to drive so you have a wide range of choices between solid state, tube, and integrated amplifiers. My 920.1 are driven by Sim Audio P-4001 pre amp feeding Sonic Frontiers SFM-75 monoblocks (75 wpc). My father also has 920.1 being driven by Audio Refinement Pre2DSP pre/processor feeding a Audio Refinement Multi 5 power amp. Both systems sound very good even though they are very different. If I had a choice I would go with a YBA power and pre amp combo. By the way if your 920 speakers are not broken in yet the sound becomes much better after many and I mean many hours of break in. Good Luck!
Thanks for the opinions, everyone!

I think the speakers should have been broken into, since it's been owned by a very passionate and professional musicial, driven by Classe 100W mono blocks, he told me to run a test by holding a small piece of paper to the tweeter, that shows that the hardness might comes from the source that I am using. I believe I'll get better sound when I get the right amp and CD player.

:) will keep everyone posted on my progress.

(PS: really into the idea of tube, now thinking of borrow a set from friend to test it out before I buy it).
Good luck in choosing the right amplifiers. Remember with tube designs eventually you will have to replace tubes which can be costly. I am not saying that you shouldn't consider them just keep that in mind when making a decision. Respectfully the so called "paper to the tweeter test" is completely incorrect. It will not tell you that your system is hard sounding or what is causing the "hardness". If a system sounds "hard" putting paper in front of the tweeter will only make it sound like a "hard" system with paper in front of the tweeters. "Hardness" could be from a number of things from bad ac power, cables, source, acoustics, ect... Best wishes!
thanks, Kentb, actually I just figured out the reason, it's the power!

Beside the hardness, I also found the static noise in the background, especially when playing classical music. Everything is GONE after I installed the Berlkin PF60 power console yesterday! I am so happy.

Regarding the amp, still hunting around for the right one...
Hello again Jaguarcondor,

I am happy you've solved your problem. I know from experience how frustrating audio can be when you're trying to get rid of noise due to grounding issues, or can't pinpoint exactly whats wrong but know something isn't correct. When you decide on a power amplifier it is possible and quite frankly likely that it will draw too much current to plug into your filter. This isn't a bad thing it's just the nature of the beast. It may not sound good because the filter is choking needed current the amp is drawing. There are filters specially designed for the high current demands of power amplifiers if you so wish to have one. Try it out for yourself. Plugging the amp directly into it's own outlet might just sound best! Good luck with your continued search!