My vote would be Plinius. Which ever one you can afford. I think its one of those pricepoint pieces that is very,very popular..
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Audio Refinement. I've owned it four times. 600 bucks used or so. Other ones to keep an eye out for are Creek 5350 SE, Classe CAP 151, Krell Kav 300i, antique sound labs (many models), Manley Stingray just to name a few. You can't beat the value of an integrated. You get a pre amp and power amp that were designed to function together and you don't have a to buy an additional interconnect. The speakers you use will determine which integrated to pick. Make sure you have enough power.
This is going to be your first system, and I suggest you not spend too much.Also, tubes are not always better and certainly not for everyone; I wouldn't recommend them for the beginning, but if you insist try Yakov Aronov integrated. It is 60watt/ch and sounds powerful with good bass. Start with Audiolab 8000LX or 8000S,both 60watt/ch. I have had the former for 5 years.When I want to upgrade I will get Naim,Gryphon or Rowland ConcentraII. Audiolab will cost you $350-$400 used, and they are very reliable. But no phono stage.If you need it then 8000A will do,find the latest;though it is not as good as LX or S. You will need very good cables to extract maximum performance,I use Purist Audio Design interconnects and speaker cables.The player I have is CEC TL5100Z belt drive;it is better than similar Parasound 2000 Ultra-more neutral and dynamic.Plinius,YBA Integre DT,top of the line Creek may be better in some respects, but they are much more expensive and you will be in the middle,not even close to the best sound available from integrateds.For now you probably don't know how far you are ready to go to chase the dream of ultimate sound quality.First you have to find it out and only then put serious money to work.
Through the last few months, I`ve been researching, reading tons of reviews and learning from the contributors in this forum.
For starters, I`m attracted to the ref. 3a di cappo i speakers for their high efficiency and their ability to be driven by low-powered set amps which I might use in the future.
For a source, I like what I read about the meridian 508.24 cdp.
I haven`t decided on an int. amp yet but the the belles 250-i has gotten my attention from the beginning.
Of course, I`ve made these decisions without hearing anything. Where I live, it`s impossible to audition anything so I`m basically going by what I read.
Tough way to start, huh? In any event thanks for the in-put so far. I`d like to hear more testimonials...
I have a Bel Canto eVo2i integrated and love it. They are fairly rare, but I think there is one being advertised right now. It is basically the eVo 200.2 power amp and the Pre-1 preamp in a single chassis, with one of the preamp gain stages removed. If you like the Bel Canto class-T amp sound, which I think is incredibly balanced across the frequency spectrum, you'd like this. The preamp section adds is very transparent. Power amp output is 120 wpc in to 8 ohms, 200 wpc in to 4 ohms. If you want more details, you should check out the review at www.6moons.com. I think SoundStage is going to be reviewing it soon as well.
The Meridian you are considering is a great unit. I would also recommend the Wadia 830. Great sound . . very quick and detailed, but not gratingly so.
Whatever you decide, good luck with your audio quest!
second the Audiomat tube integrateds: self-biasing; EL-34 tubes are run conservatively and built quality is Sherman-tank like. Above all, incredibly musical.
The Prelude Ref is excellent, if you can stretch the budget a bit to ~$2,500 used (two on the 'Gon for sale right now), although above recommendation of Arpege is also a solid choice.
Believe it or not, Vintage Scott 299-B, 222-C or 222-D ( LK-48) can do just what you need to mate with reference 3a Di Cappo. It is probably one of the best integrated Amp out there. Go take at 2 channel forum on http://www.klipsch.com/. You'll see why many folks really like the Scott integrated amp. You can also look for Cary and Audio Note integrated amp.
I thought the new Arcams were just good marketing until I listened to the A85. Sweet, clean, light, and so very nice. Pick up Murray Perahia playing Bach Keyboard Concertos, or Vaughn Williams "Sea Symphony" and see if it does not move you. Or even W. Nelson's "The Great Divide" and see if his voice does not float in the room. I thnk these Arcams are one of the better deals right now. However, the Magnum Dynalab 208 is a sunset walk on a beach if you like that kinda stuff. The Mark Levinson 383 is confidence incarnate. I owned the Krell 300i for awhile and enjoyed it though I never felt it really did justice to some of my favorite classical works, but very organic nevertheless. All these were listend to with Infinity 4.1t speakers and a Sony CE775 player.
If you want tubes, I love the Cary SLI-80. It's near the top of your budget. Switchable b/w 40w and 80w. Very easy to bias and sounds great. Looks great too! I used it with a Cary CD-308 and MM deCapo i's speakers. Plenty of power and great bass. Overall an excellent amp for the money. I did sell it to try out the world of SETs but sometimes I still miss the extra power and tight bass of the Cary. I now have a Vaic 300B SE, 15w SET integrated and though the bass isn't as tight the virtues of SET's midrange sing clearly in this integrated. Imaging is superb but needs v.good cables to sound it's best. Same CD and speakers.
Capt, Try Audio Aero Prima int. out. You should be able to get a used one for less than what you are looking to spend. Hybrid amp with a ECC88 tube and Mosfet for the power. Website would have more info on this. Mine is an MKI with 3inputs, pre out or use it as a straight power amp. This amp is nice sounding, very affordable and a keeper for a while. The rest: Audio Aero Prima cdp, Cardas Cross bi-wire and IC, van den Hul cords, Tice E4 pc, Kinima G1 speakers and HRS pucks and couplers.
if your considering the 3a's you might also want to consider the Tyler Ref Monitors or Linbrooks as they are close competitors as well as the JMR Trente and Offrande's which have come down CONSIDERABLY in price over the last years as they have new lines out, yet are great speakers.
Best of luck.
I think most of the bases have been covered above, although it does seem there are an awful lot of tubed suggestions!
for solid state you might want to consider:
Sim i5, Plinius 8200
first and foremost you should let us know what you need:
HT pass through?
Correction: The EVS Millennium 1b DAC is the creation of Ric Schultz at tweakaudio.com. Only one DAC per system.
Scott Nixon's Anodyne ATAS DAC is in another system.
I guess all good little audiophiles should be fast asleep at 3 AM, and not trying to be so clever on Audiogon, when too tired to think clearly.
Just a note to mention that my error containing posting which preceded the "Correction" above is missing in action. The correction, by itself, is accurately identifying two very different, and listenable, classic (soon to be vintage?) DAC's.
My vote for integrated amp is the Aronov LS960i, with its natural, and musical presentation. Some special attributes are transient speed, dynamics, and ability to enable the finest bass reproduction from any speaker I have paired it with.
To fully realize the quality in your integrated amp, also look into the interconnects, and speaker cables from firstname.lastname@example.org
For unveiling the three dimensionality or physical presence of the players, and the performance space, together with the kind of fine detailing that makes you believe a musician or singer is right there in front of you, these wires are ridiculously low priced. $120 for interconnects, and $180 for eight foot pair of speaker cables.
They enhanced, or optimized three different systems where I tried them, so not system dependent. There is a version for system where there is any tube equipment in the signal path, as well as a version when only transistor equipment used.