I am the poster boy for all the suggestions on this thread.
I have been powering my 2-channel living room system for 7 years with a
mid-'80s Amber Model 17 preamp and Amber Series 70 (70 wpc) power amp.
For the longest time, this little combo took all comers, as I tried one thing
after another to replace it with something newer and preferably with remote
In the past three years, however, this modest combo has rebuffed many
efforts to displace it, including an Outlaw RR2150 receiver, which couldn't
touch the Amber stack, followed by the 1st-gen Parasound ZPre, which
couldn't dislodge the Amber preamp. I tried a Hafler Series 915 J-FET class A
line stage; no dice. I tried a newly-fixed VSP TransMos 150 power amp, and it
was a definite improvement over the Amber amp, and replaced it.
I still wanted newer, more reliable, more rack space efficiency, and remote
control. After reading copiously about the Onkyo A-9555 integrated amp
(including a post from a fellow A-goner who had owned both the Amber and
VSP), I bought one. Heeding the advice that this amp takes a long, hard
break-in, I ran this thing in 24/7 for 4 days, alternating between an iPod and
I tried various power cords with it as well, which all had an influence on the
sound. You can't pick the power cord until it's fully broken in, however.
My verdict: This thing is for real. It blows away my Amber stack in every way-
-transparency, speed, clarity, extension, ability to follow multiple melody
lines and vocal harmonies, percussion, midrange warmth and honesty--you
name it, it trumps the Amber, and is clearly superior to the VSP Labs as well
(which is at least equivalent to a Parasound HCA 2200 II) in bass clarity and
overall speed without giving up anything in musicality.
The best thing is you can get this marvel for $400 at accessories4less.com for
a factory refurb, or $450 for A-stock from J&R Music World, or $474 from
Amazon in either silver or black, with free shipping and a 30-day trial period.
It is better than any used gear I have tried in the $600-700 range. Usually
shopping vintage gear is a lot of fun and you can often find great sound for a
lot less money. Lord knows I've been doing that for at least 20 years. But this
integrated amp represents a complete paradigm shift in price/performance.
There. I said it.
I am listening to it as i write this and it is simply astounding at this price. It
has remote, too. If you're into vinyl, the built-in phono stage is pretty good,
but I'm using an outboard Cambridge 640P which elevates it to yet another
Of the three power cords I had on hand, the one that's making this amp sing
once broken in is a PS Audio ExStream Prelude.
I can't say this amp is the actual A-B equivalent of the Ayre or Rowland
monoblocks, but it reminds me of those amps more than anything else--fast,
musical, clear, extended, and emotionally involving.
Try one from Amazon; the worst that happens is that if it doesn't work for
you, it costs return shipping. But make sure you don't listen seriously until it
has at least 100 hours on it.
Onkyo also makes a favorably reviewed matching CD player, the C-7555.