I am now in search of improved sonic quality (on a budget).
Which would be what ? $1k ? $2k ?
In terms of my budget, around $2K, either new or used. I am interested, if it exists, in search of a more "musical" sounding solution. I do not picture myself as a "tube" person, but power is not my priority. Does a more musical product in this price range even exist, or does my search end here with such limited financial resources?
I haven't heard your speakers and the match with them would be the most critical factor for you, I'd guess, but I have owned a few amplifiers in your price range that I can comment on.
The McCormack, Audio Refinement and Sim Audio solid state amps I've had have all been wonderful, musical, versatile and trouble free.
The only way I've been able to make a significant difference in musicality in the same price range is by going with tubes. I have an AES amp/preamp combination and, for the last week, a Rogue Cronus integrated.
The two tube setups are quite different. The AES is 15 watts of triode sweetness and the Cronus is 55 watts, more dynamic and less fluid than the AES but still more 'musical' than any of the solid state amps.
Following up on Sfar's advice -- you can get some of the tube magic by mixing a tube preamp with a solid state amp. Solid state amps like McCormack DNA-125 with high input impedance generally offer best match for tube preamp -- I've owned a DNA-125 with conrad-johnson (PV10 and PV12) and Eastern Electric Minimax tube preamps -- really nice combinations, both musical and powerful. I'm not sure how well your Aragon amp would get along with a tube pre.
Another suggestion -- buy a used Naim Nait 5i integrated -- see Robert Harley's Absolute Sound review, which gets it right (google "naim nait harley review" and go to the PDF posted by one-hifi dot com). I have been very happy with my Nait 5i -- it has changed the way I listen to music. I'm no longer constantly trying new combos of amps and preamps -- just enjoying listening because it sounds right. (I've owned Creek integrateds, but the smaller ones, not the Destiny, so I can't compare to the Nait 5i.)
Thank you for your help! My Sonus Faber Electa's state in the liturature a suggested power rating of 55 - 150W. I have read about the virtues of tubes, but I am concerned about maintenance and too little power to produce good low level slam and articulation. However, maybe these concerns are bogus. I am brand-new to this site, and am very grateful to hear from people for their experience and suggestions. I think I am still biased towards a more musical solid state solution to the Aragon for 2K.
My interest in the Creek is a result of a "Class A" review of the product and the price. Another integrated, the Ayre AX-7e received a similar rating and I can find a used one for about the same price as a new Creek. I still am unable to audition either of these products and would be interested in opinions. Lastly, the bottom line, would I be significantly upgrading the musicality of my Aragon system with either of these, or is any improvement realized, not worth the investment?
Buy a used Nait 5i for a good price on Audiogon (they have been going for ca. $850 - 950 depending on condition). Treat it well. If you don't like it, you can sell it at minimal loss. These amps hold their value, for good reason.
You might also go to the Naim forum. You will need to register to search but it's easy to do. Not all posters to the forum are proselytizers for Naim -- you can usually get opinions from a variety of perspectives. Here's the URL (substitute period for [dot]):
http://forums [dot] naim-audio.com/eve
I had a Naim 5i for several months. Wish now that I would never have sold it in my jumping around testing different amps. It has a very immediate yet natural sound for a solid state piece. It was connected to Talon Peregrine X Mark II speakers and made great sound just short of the better tube units I have had. The Talons are simply fantastic speakers that allow you to get super fast and down to 20 hz bass with 95 db efficiency and a coherency throughout the frequency spectrum that makes other Dynamic Speakers (I still admire the Advantgard Duos and Trios) sound broke. Prior to the Talons I had B&w 801 series 3 for 8 years. They needed oceans of power to gain control over them. Never again will I buy speakers that hold you hostage to power hog amps that do NOT have the immediate, delicate, fast and detailed sound a smaller amp with simpler circuit can buy you.
I've used a Aragon 24K (P&G volume, improved PSU) for a couple of years and was pretty happy with it. Then I bought an Audio Research LS-2 preamp and realised that the Aragon wasn't as good as I thought and had been holding back the potential of the system for a long time. So I suggest to try some other preamps in your system and listen if you hear any improvement. The 4004 seems to be pretty good, so I'd hold on to that. That being said, any older (power)amp might benefit from some TLC. Have the caps checked and replaced if necessary, adjust the bias etc. That might improve things as well.
Thank you, Satch. I have the exact same Aragon preamp you have described. Others have suggested Tube amplification as an option for improved musicality. Perhaps a tube preamp may give me some of that "Tube Magic", that is if my 4004 can reproduce, with some accuracy, the sonic qualities of a tube preamp.
Anyone with some additional thoughts on this? Does a decent preamp exist for around 2K? Is a tube or hybrid a good idea, or should I stick with a better SS connected to my 4004?
I have an Aragon 2004 Mk II with a Conrad Johnson PV10BL tube preamp and couldn't be happier. Speakers are Magnepan MG12. I also had good results with a Bottlehead Foreplay 2.
I've seen many others using the Aragon 2004/4004/8008 amps with tube pres and maggies so I would say there's no problem there. You could get a used CJ preamp for a lot less than 2K to see if it works for you without jumping in with both feet.
Thank you! I think I am getting closer to the audio quality I am seeking.
Taking the advice of a previous response, I brought my 4004 into a very experienced electronics repair shop and requested a tune-up for my 4004. The technician, with over 20 years of experience in this area, managed to get in contact with two Klipsch engineers from the former Aragon. The Aragon engineers provided him with schematics and recommended parts replacement/improvement for the amp. Upgrade is under way now for what I consider to be a very reasonable expense ($300.00) and is claimed to produce a much more musical amp; I'm really excited to hear it upon return!
So, like you, others have mentioned the target I may consider is going after is a pre-amp that may better my Aragon 24k SP. Your recommendation is greatly appreciated.
Now, to find the right pre-amp.. I have no high end dealer in town, or even close, so I appreciate your suggested solution and would welcome suggestions from others as well.
Again - Thank you!
To clarify, $375.00, mostly parts costs. The technician provided me with some really interesting information regarding the history of Aragon amps and their evolution. I am verbose by nature, so I'm not going to get into specifics here, but for those who own an Aragon amp, you may be interested in learning more about this. When the work is completed on my amp, I'll share my perceived results.