Well obviously there is no best, in any category in this subjective hobby, or questions like this would have a definitive answer. One man's trash is another man's treasure, and vice versa. That said, the best that I have heard in that range is the VAC Avatar, as always, YMMV.
I would be seriously considering any VAC in good condition that can be had for less than $3000. ARC also. Rogue would also be hard to go wrong with.
All these are tube integrateds, so of course pre-requisite is to use them with speakers and in a setup that is amenable to tube amplification as opposed to Solid state.
For SS, I would look no further than a good Class D integrated, Like Bel Canto or Wyred.
Yesterday there was a Hegel 100 (I think), for sale. Retailed for $3,000. Going by word of mouth, it might be nice. Now, if Job releases an integrated........your search may be over. What are your power requirements, speakers, listening tastes/habits. There is a lot of info your not giving us.
Also, regarding what Mapman said, I had a Wyred integrated (STI-500) and loved it. Very non-transistor sounding....in a good way.
The Yamaha A-S1000 and the Harman/Kardon HK-990 have received widespread praise and are quite reasonably priced. I've always liked the HK high-current, wide bandwidth design and sound. And the HK also has room-EQ built-in..
My vote is the Classe CAP 151. I Have been using it for some time now and makes my Apogee Slants sing. The Classe is very neutral and non fatiguing, a great value in a SS integrated (imo)
That HK is an interesting piece!
I'll throw in a vote for the Peachtree Grand Integrated. These retail for $4499, but Peachtree is selling refurbs (units that came back for the X-1 module modification and customers were given brand new units rather than wait for the mod - you can read about it on their website) for $2999. So that just barely makes your cutoff. They have a built-in ESS9018 DAC, tube buffer which can be turned off if it's not your thing, and 440 wpc of Class-D power. Unless your living room is the size of the Beacon Theater, it may be the last Integrated, power-wise, that you'll ever have to buy. What surprised me most was the build quality - it's very solid and feels like every penny of their $4499 asking price. I couldn't have afforded one at $4499, but at $2999 it fit my budget and you can't tell mine is a refurb - it arrived looking flawless. I use it to power a set of B&W PM1 and it's a wonderful combination - not bright, or harsh, very warm and sweet. Lots of great choices for $3K, I bet you end up with something great, good luck and enjoy the music.
System matching is an important part of this. The Absolute Sound went notes over the Rogue Cronus Magnum powering a pair of Magneplanar 1.7s. My audioboddy who owned a pair of those Maggies at the time, bought a Cronus Magnum and verified that it was a great combination. The Cronus Magnum retails at $2195 and makes around 90 wpc.
you can get used krell 300I or 400xi and be very happy!, you would be surprised of the performance for the money you pay, It is my opinion, that there is few, if any that can surpass these for the money!
THose two Krell are always near the top of my list when I look at SS integrateds. Have heard them....very nice! I do worry sometimes about functional reliability of newer Krell, in that they have more often than most proven to be quirky in dealer showrooms.
Classe is another good option that ranks high for me, along with the two I mentioned in the earlier post.
Might consider Marantz integrateds in that range, new or used. Not currently using one of them, but I have in the past and liked them.
Thanks to all who have responded so far. Your suggestions and advice are extremely helpful. I appreciate Johnny 53 endorsement of the Rogue Cronus Magnum which I am leaning toward. Though, the Rogue Sphinx is less money and has gotten very good reviews. (Many members claim the CM is much better than the new little brother) I am still NOT sure if the Rogue CM will make that big a difference in improving the sound quality of the Acoustic Zen Adagios
speakers; and, I hate even simple biasing of tubes which the CM requires bi-monthly or so.
Audiolabyinth and Mapman make interesting recommendations with the Krell S300i and 400xi.I have seen them on listed AG hundreds of times. I have read that the 300i is somewhat quirky in that the remote volume when pushed produces a chuffing sound from volume knob. I believe the 300i is newer and surely looks very smart in silver. However, the older 400xi may be more "glitch free", but MIGHT NOT SOUND AS GOOD AS 300i I have never heard either.
There may be a dark horse in the mix. Musical Fidelity A300 integrated. I once posted a thread to see if there was any creedance to the claims that the MF "300" series produced some outstanding amps. The A300 has even a decent built-in. MM/MC stage. The Soundstage review highly praised the amp, but that was back in 2002, so who knows if the piece is still viable. There are NO A-300'S on AG at the moment. Though, I may have a lead on one. Thanks again, Jimbo
I've heard Rogue Cronus Magnum run Magnepan MMGs (with and without a sub)and results were quite good accordingly.
I've also heard Rogue tube amps run larger Maggies solo, but not the Cronus Magnum.
Have not heard Rogue sphinx yet but can vouch that a tube/Class D hybrid approach (I use ARC tube pre-amp with Class D power amps similarly) can deliver a lot of the best characteristics of both SS and tubes in general together with all kinds of music.
I would expect a significant difference in sound with Sphinx versus Cronus Magnum. Which is better will likely come down to personal preference based on listening habits more than anything else. I would probably not go CM without hearing SPhinx first, but if I tried the Sphinx and the results meet my expectations I would probably not look any further, but that's just me. That's because I suspect the Sphinx would be the more consistent performer track to track, system to system versus the CM, which will shine more uniquely in some cases but perhaps less so in others.
Of course CM is way cool retro-looking, compared to more conventional looking Sphynx, but that's pretty obvious. :-)
I'm a big Rogue fan and in general would not shy away from any Rogue gear, if the application is right.
JRDG Concentra I has been selling used for $3,000 for the last ten years - note that its price has never gone down. For $3k this has always been my favorite. If you can find one!
@ sunnyjim, Oh no, Not the krell s300I, I am talking about the original Kav 300I intergrated and the krell 400xI, both of these units are made in america, and are not quirky what so ever, as a matter of fact Jim, the two units here are some of the most reliable little intergrateds ever made in my opinion, To further elaborate on the two here, I would say the Kav 300I is on the warm side of solid state, where is the 400xI is on the neutral side of sound, I personally prefer the Kav 300I if your cables are revealing, both amps are a good choice for the going used price, whats funny is they out perform units that cost many times the money.
To Mapman, you provide many good points of comparison about the Rogue Sphinx integrated and the Rogue CM. For me,the choice has come down to those two integrateds.
Unfortunately, I have no way of auditioning either. I have seen the 3 recent reviews of the Sphinx which were positive as to its functions and sound quality. Both have the same phono stages which I can use now, or at a later date. The Sphinx minimalist appearance does not bother me.
However I would hate to find out that after a several long listening sessions, I loathed it, and then suffer buyer's remorse (and all that happy horseshit) that I should have bought the Cronos Magnum. There are one or two reviews of the CM I have found which are equally as positive.
Nevertheless, I need to buy something soon because I sold "half" my separates, and have no music. I have the Acoustic Zen Adagios which are 6 ohms at 88db output. Mapman claims or speculates, the CM may be less consistent than the Sphinx in sound quality because it uses a full tube complement. The Sphinx uses Hypex D amp stage which I hope is better than the typical ICE devices used in most class D amps. I happily used Red Dragon M-500 digital mono blocks for three years and want to place them in a good home as soon as possible home. I am tired of all these freakin audio boxes I accumulated when the upgrade bug hit me 5 years ago
Interestingly, I getting to the point, I am not as particular or critical in my listening sessions, but just look for good musicality and good performance from an integrated. I had a Creek SE5350 Classic for 5 years and loved it because it really sounded like music( most of the time)
To Jimmy 2615, There was an Concentra I for sale on AG about 2 months ago. but the seller wanted close to retail for it, and it has been discontinued and was replaced by II version. I have read many positive testimonials of its excellent sound quality. It also looks very sharp in silver
I owned a Rogue CM for 4 years (now sold) and it was probably the best piece of gear I've ever owned. The price is amazing for the quality of sound reproduction.
I now run a solid state Hegel H200 but I know I'll own another Rogue in the future. I love this Hegel but my plan is to move back and forth between SS and tube every few years. That will keep my mind occupied. I'm not looking to ever get off the merry go round. That's just plain boring.
To Donir, Could you provide a brief overview of the sound quality of the CM?? Was the bass tight?? Did it have a high degree of musicality?? What did you like about the sound the most?? Lastly, what speakers did you use with the Rogue CM??
Your comments will be appreciated. As I mentioned I have no way of auditioning either the Sphinx or Cronos Magnus, unless I want to spend $500 to fly round trip to Los Angeles from Honolulu, Hawaii. Thanks
I have been extremely happy with my Rogue Audio Cronus (non-magnum "regular" version) for six years now, first driving Vandersteen 1C's and now matched beautifully with Revel F-12's. The sound of music is sublime, and I am a firm supporter of the Rogue Audio brand. But just to comment and disagree with a concern expressed in SunnyJim's Jan. 10 post ..... the Cronus certainly does not need "bimonthly biasing." I listen to my system, on average, about 15 - 18 hours a week, and I check the tube bias very month. I have not had to adjust the bias since I "upgraded" my tubes (original Svetlana EL-34's replaced by Genelex Gold Lion KT-77's) three years ago, and the bias has remained constant at the recommended 35 level for each of the four tubes. So SunnyJim, if tube biasing is a real concern of yours ... don't worry about it !
And from what I have heard from several folks who know quite a lot about music and audio, the Rogue Audio Cronus is a wonderful amp for the Acoustic Zen Adagio's. Good Luck with your search for a new amp, and please let us all know how things work out for you.
Sunnyjim, characteristics of my Rogue CM were wide open spaces, absolutely no harshness, extremely powerful sounding, great detail at the lower frequencies. With some music it could sound a tad grainy depending on the tubes I was running, but that never really bothered me. I always felt like I was in a dark smokey jazz club with that amp.
The reason I sold it was I wanted to try out a solid state. I love my Hegel although the unexpected result was having to purchase a REL B2 sub. I didn't need a sub with the Rogue.
The Rogue offers a lot of integrated amp for the money. The build quality is very good as well. I never felt I could do better for the money.
Don, Thank you for the comments about the CM performance. it was very helpful and convincing.
I think the LSA Integrateds are a very good value in this price range, especially if you consider that you can get get one new with a 5-year warranty. Pricing from Underwood right now has the LSA Signature (in silver) within this price range. That is a very good amp, but much depends on what type of speakers you are driving. If you need big power/high current, the LSA can compete with or better any other integrated in the sub-$3K, especially for one that is new. If you can get away with lower power, then you may want to go with a pure tube design.
Sunnyjim, I have had the same questions about the CM and also live in HNL. The Rogue guys referred me to a dealer in Berkeley who seems to be a good guy and straightforward. I have plans to get one sometime this year once I move some if my other equipment per agreement with the wife. I listened last year and was VERY impressed.
A Used Decware Zen TorII Mk3 for around $2000.00 and then add some nice used strong testing or NOS Mullard Power tubes and some nice Amperex Gold pin Input tubes and you will climb to entire new level. Google Decware TorII Mk3 and check it out. It will crush the Creek - MF - Krell SS integrated's IMHO...
Take a hard look at any of the amps in the hegel integrated lineup. Used they are all within your budget except for the h-300. Don't think you can go wrong with any of them. Plus they have taken home mid-priced intergrated amp of the year in the Absolute Sound for the pas 3 yrs. must be doing something right. I have the h-200 and I think it's amazing.
I put a good power cord on a Wyred4Sound STI-500 and was VERY happy. Sounded like the benefits of tube & ss without the negatives of either, IMO.
Bought used for $1,450.
"Sounded like the benefits of tube & ss without the negatives of either, IMO."
There you go!
Mapman, I bought someone's DNM HFTN interconnects and ordered another pair directly from Denis. Also purchased DNM speaker cable. Looking forward to get back to DNM and dump my more expensive cables.
The Ayre AX-7e retails for $3500.00 but can be found used for under $3000. If you're able to run it with XLRs, almost nothing else in your price range can touch it.
Once caveat is that that is does not have a "warm" sound, and with the wrong speakers can sound sterile, and more than a bit fatiguing (for example, keep the AX-7e FAR, FAR away from Magnepans). If you prefer a warmer sound, a Plinius 8200 MKII might be something to consider. FWIW, I owned the Plinius, and sold it to get a store demo AX-7e.
I'm very happy with my new integrated, a Rega Elicit-R, which comes in at $3K...your upper limit.
Very musical, good detail, at 105wpc, decent power; nice phono stage. I would highly recommend it. I bi-wire it (Kimber 12TC cable) with my B&W 805S speakers.