Get a Bose wave player and be done with it. You can't do better than Atoms and $300 for amplification? If it's the girl, you may need another upgrade:O ) The Studio 20's and a Musical Fidelity, Rotel or NAD integrated would be great with Monster wire connections.
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Bose and pumps jokes aside...
The Virtue stuff is interesting and is getting toward the right idea though.
Im imagining an NAD C 375BEE or the like, just with fewer inputs and controls in a smaller box. Decent amplification, a few inputs and controls and clean to look at. Something like that should be a few hundred dollars given the price of the NAD line.
Searching for a narrow unit (i.e. 12" or less) will limit your options, as most all components are 17" wide, give or take a 1/2". And, you might want to buy used to stay within your budget. Also, the simplicity of inputs and lack of tone controls will also limit your options and will most likely raise the price higher than you want to spend.
A solution that meets your size criteria is the Bel Canto e.One S300i. High WAF, I'd imagine, but is costs 2k. Maybe you can find for 1/2 that, used.
The Creek Evolution 2 Integrated Amp is standard with but less expensive at $1095.00.
As you go down in price, an option is the Marantz PM5003 for $450. It's 17" wide and contains more features than you want. Also, the NAD C315BEE for $350 is another good one at this price point.
Why not check out the Arcam Solo or Solo mini? Either one should fill the bill nicely. They each include a very high quality cd player in the bargain.
They also provide pre-outs should you ever want to add a more powerful amp, though it's doubtful you'd ever need to unless it were set up in a very large room or you wanted to drive large, low-efficiency speakers. But it's nice to know you could ;-) -jz
Your relationship will never workout. If you are an audiophile and given in to her demands at this point, you have no future in audio. If you can accept that, you can continue knowing great audio will never be part of your life. Some great woman are worth the loss of being an audiophile. Be careful.
I own the NuForce Icon that Rcrerar recommended and it does sound as if it would meet most of your requirements. It's beautifully designed, versatile and sounds great. No remote control and only 12 watts of power but in a smallish room with efficient speakers the sound is quite remarkable.
Another possibility might be the new Cambridge Audio Sonata system. I haven't heard it but it's small and looks to be designed with someone like your girlfriend in mind.
Thanks for the suggestions. I haven't even heard of several. There seems to be some focus on the $300. I mainly put that out there as what I consider the threshold for intro hifi. Not Best Buy garbage, but not what many here might consider hifi. Lets call it midfi. More than anything I was just surprised it was so hard to find something of this type short of crazy art tube amps. I know the width request is odd and that ~17" is the standard for rack width, but most people dont use a rack. I suspect that even holds true on this forum.
New or used doesn't matter much to me. If some engineer sold something like this out of his garage in the 70s, that is just fine with me. The goal here is just easy, good sound. No concert hall necessary and no nests of cables desired. Most people just want to hear a good song played well with no fuss. We are strange.
What about the NaimUniti all-in-one audio player?
The NaimUniti is our first ever all-in-one audio player. It combines a ten-input, 50-Watt-perchannel integrated amplifier based on the award-winning NAIT 5i, a CD player based on the similarly acclaimed CD5i, and a digital-to-analogue converter with an output filter derived from that developed for the stunning CD5x. To all that, NaimUniti adds a high quality DAB/FM tuner, the ability to play streamed audio files wirelessly from UPnP servers or internet radio stations, and separate interface inputs for USB memory sticks carrying audio files, iPods and mp3 players. With the NaimUniti, you just need a pair of speakers.
The 9.5" wide Parasound Z Series.
The Parasound Z Series is cute as a button, compact (9.5"w x 2"h), well-built, simple to use, good-sounding, and reasonably priced. The only downside is that they don't offer an integrated. BUT, the line level preamp (ZPre) is just what you're looking for as a control center: 4 inputs, no tape loop, volume, bass, treble, balance, and a remote that repeats those controls including input select, plus mute. The volume control is motorized, so remote volume adjustment is simple and linear.
The long-discontinued oval-shaped Musical Fidelity integrateds would also fit your description, but they didn't have remote. I owned one, and frankly, the Parasound Z-series is much easier on the ears with better tonal balance and bass delivery. The matching Zamp puts out an honest high-current 45 wpc into 8 ohms, 60 into 4, and 90w in bridged mono mode. In other words, room to grow if occasion calls for it. The amps can be daisy-chained for bi-amping or multi-room applications.
Normally these Z products list at about $300 each, but I got my ZPre at a pawnshop for $140 and got a demo v3 Zamp from Audio Advisor for under $200.
My suggestion for the perfect amp for your girlfriend is a nice integrated triode tube amp with MANUAL BIAS. The more power tubes you can get away with the better. Hear me out because there's a method to my madness.
Buy her the integrated you want and over time build a nice system around it. On her nickel, of course. If things work out between you as a couple, you will always be around to maintain the bias on her amp and she'll appreciate you for it. She will love the sound it makes and you will get to play audiophile at HER HOUSE *anytime* you want! Just remember to NOT overdo it.
Should things progress to a mixing of, pardon the phrase, each others equipment, you will have a good start on a nice second or (ahem) bedroom system. You might even be terribly lucky and convert her to "audiophilian" by spoiling her with beautiful music. Even without her consent.
On the other hand, and this might sting a bit, but the odds are that if the wheels do come off for you there's going to be a "next guy". Assuming he'll be at least smart enough to learn how to set the bias on the amp, you know he'll eventually hook up a pair of inefficient speakers with 2 ohm dips. The sound quality will degrade fairly quickly and she will get what she deserves. Weak, hollow, lifeless music in her life because she picked the wrong guy.
I'd be tempted (actually i just might order one) to check out the Virtue (30 day money back guarantee) or any of the cheaper T-Amps and a VALAB or Pardisea DAC. And an Oppo. Together $500-700. OK maybe $800. Some high efficiency vintage speakers off Craigslist for now.
Then you have inputs for an Airport Express (optical), or computer via USB and universal DVD/CD player for 2 channel movies, internet radio etc.