Help with $600 to $800 integrated amp

I am reducing my home theatre to a 2 channel setup and am looking for a good integrated amp.

Current system
Nakamichi AV8 receiver
Marantz (Ah Thoebs 99') CD
Nordost Blue Heaven interconect
Marantz DV4200 DVD
NHT 1.5 main speakers
Kimber Kable 8TC speaker wire
NHT SA-1 sub amp with NHT 10' sub
NHT AC-1 center channel

I am selling the receiver and center channel for starters and am looking to get an integrated that will be good with a variety of music (jazz and electronica (lounge style) mostly, but also Rock, R&B and classical). I would like to continue using the sub as I enjoy the flexibilty I have over the bass. I like a smooth sound and rarely if ever use high volume. At some point in the future I plan to upgrade my speakers as well, but want to start with the amp.

I am looking for used or new. My consideration list currently has:
Classe Cap-80
Arcam A75 Plus (heard it and was really impressed)
Arcam A65 Plus
Creek 4330SE
Creek 5350R (maybe out of my price range)
Audio Refinement Complete

Any thoughts?
I am also considering the Rega Mira.
Well, first if you are looking for a subwoofer output, the audio refinement is out. It's a great unit, I just sold mine because I upgraded, but it is one stellar little integrated. It doesn't have pre outs. You may not miss the sub. I never did. I haven't heard the Arcam stuff, but have heard good things. The Anthem INT 2 is another good choice if you aren't real picky about remotes. The Creek is also a great little integrated. The 5350SE is an excellent choice and would be good if you could stretch your budget to near 1000 dollars used. Muscial Fidelity would be another good choice. The A3 can be had for somewhere around 800 usually. I would put the Creek and the audio refinement at the top as far as smooth and refined sound goes. Electocompaniet makes an integrated called the ECI 3 and I've seen them go for around 850. I haven't heard one, but I would expect they are nothing but quality. If you decide you want to spend a little less, look into the NAD integrateds. They are a great bargin. Personally, I would stay away from the rotel integrateds. Hope this helps.
This is simple, you have the right idea with Creek which I like more than Arcam or if you can find a naim, either one is the right one to go with.
Also add the Blue Circle CS to your audition list.
Surprised no one mentioned the 60wpc ONIX which is quite respectable and very solid in the bottom end.
Second the Onix...for $400...this is a nice piece...not as bass shy as the Brit amps mentioned IMHO...and despite what some hi-enders think...NAD intergrateds do sound very good...regardless of the cheap price....for 2 channel listening...they will embarrass the majority of feature ridden AV receivers....
Second the Onix...for $400...this is a nice piece...not as bass shy as the Brit amps mentioned IMHO...and despite what some hi-enders think...NAD intergrateds do sound very good...regardless of the cheap price....for 2 channel listening...they will embarrass the majority of feature ridden AV receivers....
I sold my YBA Integre (not the DT model) for $625. You don't have this integrated on your list, perhaps because of the price. If you push the envelope, just a tad, you may find, (not on the block often, I wonder why?) an Integre DT.(if you can find the non DT model you're in like flin for the $) There's nothing, on your list that comes close to this baby. You'll be in heaven. 50watts of ss that can't be touched for twice the $$. (take that with a grain of salt, it's only my opinion, of course) good hunting. warren
Aused Musical Fidelity A3 or even A300 if you could find a used one in your range would be a step up from what's on your list now
why should you look for integrated when you can get even separates for this price range:

McCormack Micro Line Drive/McCormack DNA0.5 wired with canare cables will get you under $800.

For Creek you should upgrade speakers since it's not a great driver and needs efficient speakers although the music in Creeks dominates over the McCormacks.

Having one DNA0.5 if the upgrade bug continues you can get another DNA0.5 and do horizontal bi-amplification if possible.
Now I realize that my previous post missing one main thing due to my non-accurate reading of the real situation in that discussion...

An the main thing is SPEAKERS. with $600...800 if you acquire Vandersteen 1c even new or used for cheaper you will achieve much better results in your situation.

Also consider Totem Arro, Triangle Celius used.
take a look at the denon pma- 2000ivr at $1200 saw it somewhere om the web for $700+. 80 watts per channel 8 ohms,160 4 ohms. 120 amps of current!! check out the denon usa site.
I having been tossing the idea of which I should upgrade first for a while (Amp or speakers?). Your point is well taken as I was on that side of the fence for a while...

What do others think in my situation, amp or speakers first?

I finally concluded that my receiver could not generate the sound I was looking for... Even with better speakers. My original plan was to get both the speaker and amp at the same time with a slightly higher budget (maybe creek 4330 with Epos M12). But I thought this combo would leave me itching to upgrade again, sooner rather than later.

What about the Creek 5350R? (not the SE, the SE is out of my price range) I have yet to find one to audition... Is it very close to the SE?

No one commented on the Classe Cap-80... I have heard it is similiar in sound to the bryston b-60 which I think sounds very good... But I have not heard the Classe.
to upgrade amp AND speakers certainly will bring you excellent results, but i only saw $800 the bottom line.

havn't heard Epos though, but Triangle Celius with Creek 4330R can be giant-killer budget combo. Stretching to 5350R might bring you some punch and dynamics over ultra-soft and low-powered 4330R but that is to see for your taste.

Adcoms, Arcams and Parasounds will not represent too much of an upgrade to your existing Nak.

can't recommend you Classe since there is no good comments i can make(except looks) on this equipment in general.

for jazz and electronica you less-likely will need a sub so you can leave it for HT purposes so it doesn't destroy your music. Sell your mains and get some $50 RadioShack speakers for rears that will work great-enough on cracks and splashes and consider the upgrade complete.
I have auditioned the Arcam, Creek, Audio Refinement and Rega units--unfortunately not in the same setup, so take my thoughts with the proverbial grain of salt.

My .02, since you really liked the Arcam (I did, too), I doubt you will care for the Audio Refinement. It is warmer, less detailed and almost flabby sounding--not really appropriate for rock IMHO. The Creek is fairly similar to the Arcam, but struck me as somewhat unexciting in its presentation. The Rega to my ears sits somewhere in between Arcam/Creek and Audio Refinement in terms of detail and warmth, although on the Arcam/Creek side of the middle.

While the Arcam was my favorite of the four, I would be leery of pairing it with NHTs--could be too bright. I would guess the Rega (my second favorite) might be a better match.
Hi there!

I believe you replied to one of my posts once upon a time (when i, too, was looking for an integrated to replace my Nakamichi AV10 to power my NHT 2.5i's).

I'm not sure that i ever replied to you (although i meant to).

You asked me to keep you posted on what choice I made. Here's what I did:

I tried the NHT's (I tried my NHT 1.3a's in this case, older version of the 1.5's) with a Creek 5350se. I initially really liked the creek 5350se with the Epos M12's. Sounded very, very crisp and tight. Good highs (maybe a tad bright at higher volumes). Good bass especially for the speaker size. However, when i hooked up the NHT 1.3a's, the sound was very lacklustre and lacking in bass. Sounded anemic. The NHT's are not very sensitive and the Epos M12's are quite sensitive. In other words, Creek doesn't seem to work very well with NHT. I scrapped the idea of using creek.

I then went on to check out Classé. One night, I tried out the CAP 151 with a pair of NHT St4's. I figured that I would get a good idea of how it would drive the 2.5i's based on this setup. Source was a cheapo pioneer universal player (300 Canadian dollars) used as a transport along with an MSB Link DAC III with Nelson upgrade and power base 1000.

The sound was very transparent, focussed and holographic. Soundstage was wide and open and there were several layers of depth. Voices were very centered and well defined. The sound was somewhat laid back, but not overly so. I thought to myself, this is the type of sound that i want. The CAP 151 is too expensive for me, so I asked about the CAP 101. The store owner said that the CAP 101 was sonically very similar, simply had less power.

The next day, I asked the owner to set up the same speakers with the CAP 101, but this time using an all in one source - in this case the REga planet 2000 (about which i've heard nothing but good things).

When this setup was fired up, I immediately realize that it was not even close to what i had heard the previous night. I 'm talking about a night and day difference.

I told the store owner that i thought the sound was terrible - flat and one dimensional with no life and no dynamics...I said that the CAP 101 in no way compares with the CAP 151. He then asked me if i was sure it was the amp and not the source. Not knowing for sure if the MSB link DAC could make such a difference, I got him to connect the same cheap pioneer transport with the MSB link DAC III (ugraded as mentioned) while using the CAP 101.

When the first song started playing, I was awestruck. I was hearing 99% of what I had been hearing the previous night with the CAP 151. In other words, the MSB made a HUGE difference. I was stunned. Seriously.

The store owner essentially explained to me that no matter what the amplification and/or speakers, the sound will only be as good as the source. If the detail is not there to begin with, the amp/ speakers won't make up for this deficit.

I am a firm believer now that source is hugely important.

I purchased the MSB Link DAC III with half Nelson upgrade. I will pick it up from the store tonight after work. I don't expect it to sound as good as i heard in the store (seeing as I was using a better amp in the store than what i have at home), but I expect that I will hear a significant improvement overall. I will still upgrade to a good preamp in the future so as to maximize my system's potential, but for now i think the source upgrade was the better option in terms of upgrading.

By the way, the cheap pioneer transport with the MSB link DAC III with nelson upgrade and powerbase was FAAAAARRR superior in sound quality to the REga planet 2000. The two cannot realistically be compared (yes, there is that much of a difference).

In closing, I doubt that Classé will be in the picture when it comes time for me to upgrade my amp. I still want to try out Primare's A20, the YBA integre dt (Which i hear is killer), the Musical Fidelity A3.2r (at least i think that's the integrated), the unison research unico, Blue Circle CS and perhaps one or two others. Creek won't do. Nor will Classé. Then again, i prefer a more up front sound (although without the high frequency harshness). Perhaps you have different tastes.


Wow, what great posts. Thanks everyone.
NHT has a loyal following...but if you are switching to 2 channel sound...they are a bit bright for my tastes...and because of their load..dont work that well with affordable tube gear(which would reduce some of the harshness)...they are pretty good for HT in your current configuration...but since you asked about upgrading both speakers and it goes...

When I was auditioning monitors awhile back...I checked out the 1.5s you own...and did an a/b against other $600 monitors...the Paradigm Studio 20 and the Monitor Audio Silver 4i...and what struck me with the NHTs was their "Focused Geometry" slanted baffle..for whatever reason...the soundstage never went outside the it did with both the Paradigm and the MA...
in short...they sounded a bit closed in...very good imaging between the speakers...but little "out of box" imaging from the outside...the NHT had the better bass...not surprising since they are a sealed design...test disc was MFSL "Darkside of the Moon"...I ended up passing on all three models...mainly due to metallic tweeter issues...

I guess the best advice is take some time and listen to some speakers...find a speaker you like...then worry about the amplification...the NHTs are by no means "bad" speakers...I tend to put a high emphasis on soundstage abilites...others prefer detail,imaging,transparency,or a combination there have to find what you want out of a speaker...and hopefully one exists that meets all or most of your criteria...good luck
For around $500 used...Vandersteen 1cs speakers are tough to beat...they are pretty forgiving on could get away with your NAK for the time being...but to get a full range(40hz) phase correct speaker for this kind of money is absurd...they will also have enough bass if and when you decide on a sub...they go alot lower than their LF specs would indicate...their soundstage and 3-d imaging is vastly superior to your current 1.5s...sell those for $250...get the 1cs...upgrade to an intergrated amp of your choosing (the Vandies dont require alot of power)...and watch your friends jaw-drop when they come over....they are not their best on aggressive rock...but for laid back jazz/electonica you mentioned...they would be perfect///
I picked up an Arcam a65 plus about a month ago. Im using it with PSB Alphas and a Music Hall cd player (rebadged shanling). The sound is pretty good with acoustic music and hip hop and disco, faster stuff might be overwhelming. Low level listening leaves a lot to be desired. This set up needs to be cranked up a little bit to get the best sound, and the Alphas are very efficient (91dbs I think). I know, I know I need better speakers, but no cash right now. I like the Arcam. One note, it doesnt weigh much and doesnt seem very sturdy, otoh my cdp weighs a good 17lbs!
SCD112, what I did to improve my stereo system was I got a hold of an Audio Aero Prima integrated amp. This is an earlier version with 3 inputs and an pre-out for a sub or another amp. I purchased this amp last year, bought a new Mullard tube and a Vandenhal power cord last year all for under a grand. The new Prima's sound nice, but this older model sounds just as good, or even better with the upgrades that I made. The cord really gave it tighter bass and the tube improved the midrange and highs. With the pre-out, which the newer ones do not have, makes it more applicable to use with a sub. This is a hard to find amp, if you do find one, grab it and do what I did and you will not be sorry.