Two integrateds I would recommend in that price range are the Audio Refinement Complete, which might take awhile to find used, and the Onkyo A-9555, which you could buy new for $500.
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I'll second the Audio Refinement integrated suggestion. The NAD C370 and C372 also warrant investigating.
My personal favorite (at just slightly above your budget) is the Vista Audio i84. I've mentioned this unit before at these boards, and while I should practice keeping my mouth shut - this is a unit I wish more people could hear. I've got it setting next to Lamm / McIntosh / Lector gear and it's NOT embarrassed to be in this company.
Couldnt agree more with the Audio Refinement Complete. However, since you mention a Rega P3 as part of your system, as far as I know, the Complete does not have a phono stage (or am I mistaken guys?).
A good match with your Sonus loudspeakers would be Unison Unico (hybrid integrated sporting 2 ECC82) that has an internally switchable MM/MC phono input. You might find one if you could spend an additional $100 or so. Otherwise, there is the less powerful Unison Unico P (also hybrid with 1 ECC82, 50 Wpc/8 Ohm against 80 Wpc for the Unico), whereby the plain Unico is undoubtedly superior to the "P".
Three questions to start... 1) do you need remote, 2) do you need to fill a large room or drive inefficient speakers and 3) do you need onboard phono - if so, MM or MC or both?
Your answer to these will immediately cull your list to a select few choices.
Without knowing the answers, here are a few integrated amps I've heard that you might consider.
Musical Fidelity A220
Musical Fidelity A2
Naim NAIT 1
Audio Refinement Complete (Alpha)
Cambridge Audio Azur 540A v2
There are lots of choices in that price range - be patient and you should be able to find any of the recommendations and resell with little or no loss until you find one you like.
Thank you for your help Soulbrass.
"Three questions to start... 1) do you need remote, 2) do you need to fill a large room or drive inefficient speakers and 3) do you need onboard phono - if so, MM or MC or both?
To answer your Qs:
1.Don't care either way about remote.
2.No large room, 12x24 feet.
3.Sonus Faber Concertino spkrs: Large Bookshelves.
4.On board Phono is a must, MM is fine.
No tubes! Solid Integrated Amp.
I guess that knocks out Jolida right away.
I gotta tell you - I love my denon pma-2000IVR and I can't belive the bargain agnitude on that one (600USD or so used)...GREAT phono stage as well (MC/MM)! One thing with this one - experiment with 'higher-end' power cords as the one that it comes with can easily be improved upon...I used a Denon DL 304 (0.18mV) phono cart and man it sounded good IMHO! try it!
i looked thru your other threads and i see that we have a few components in common. i run a rega 25 (1 "up" from your rega 3) we also use the denon dl-160. my integrated amp is the audio refinement complete. as others have said, if u get the ARComplete, you'll have to get an outboard phono stage. and to get the most out of your cartridge, you'll have to get one that allows for variable gain and input loading. (i've found that gain at 44db and loading at 1000ohms works best with the denon 160) i use a musical surroundings phonomena as my phono pre. it can be had at around $300 used here.
an aside: a year ago, i was in the same situation u are in now...upgrading an outmoded vinyl playback system. it took me a year and more $ than i wanted to spend, but i've reached the point where i now find myself with an ear-to-ear grin when i listen to my kickin' system. good luck in your search
I came to the same conclusion by reading various info online. With my newfound GooGle-wisdom here is what I think:
It appears to me the correct answer for me: ROTEL RQ-970BX (under $200.00) better than most integrateds.
Methink: In a last 15 years none or almost none of the Hi-Fi manufacturers cared about Turn Table users. TT users comprise a very small niche. Therefore absolute majority of integrated Phono stages don't worth shit even if Int-Amp is worth a lot.
I am not saying one cannot get lucky and buy some esoteric Amp with a decent Phono stage ,but I will take a safe road and invest in separate Phono stage at this point in a game.
Go4Vinyl I read horrible professional review of Denon PMA2000
It was recognized as great amp with dual mono design, but the reviewer stated that if "one is looking for Phono stage, you might just forget about this Denon" It is throw away built-in phono stage built on components shared by a range of Japanese manufacturers.
So that review eliminated Denon for me, unless I can use it with separate Phono-Stage. The question is what input on Denon to go through from the Phono?
I looked at a few (20) AMPs and I stil have questions:
1. Should I care about power outlets integrated in a back panel of the Amp? I like the idea of cleaner current.
2. Should I stay with speaker cable clipping or should I switch to banana clips or RCA plugs? Most Amps don't have clips on the back panel but rather RCA jacks (don't like RCA)
I lean towards staying with clips what you say? Any good reasons?
Thank you much.
1. No, you shouldn't worry about the power outlets. They're sometimes a convenience but shouldn't be a factor in your decision.
2. Most of the amps that have been recommended will have speaker 'binding posts,' not spring clips. You'll find spring clips on less inexpensive gear and they don't provide a very secure connection or much contact area. Binding posts generally offer the possibility of using anywhere from two to five connection methods, including bare wire, banana plugs, spade connectors and pins. Any of those are an acceptable way to connect the speaker wire as long as the fit is good.
RCA connectors aren't used for speaker connections on amps like this. The RCA connectors you see on the back of the amp are inputs for sources like a CD player or tuner.
If you click here and look at the picture of the back of the Onkyo A9555 I recommended you can see the RCA inputs at the lower left and the binding posts for two pair of speakers near the center. Those particular binding posts work best with either bare wire or banana plugs (by prying out the little plastic protective caps in the ends of the posts.)
Thank you for your answers. You do not think conditioned power supply form the Amp's transformer would benefit the sound?
Not trying to argue. I am just new to the whole Audio analog hobby.
Aside from simple convenience is there significant benefit in having power coming from the Amp rather than from the wall outlet?
Onkyo cost/feature is really attractive, but my Audio store in Boston does not stock Denon Onkyo Yamaha brands is it because they don't want to compete with Large electronic chain stores?
I used to have a Audio refinement and I am sorry I sold it!! Get one you wont be sorry, you would have so spend a lot even used to do better, the AR complete can be bought for about 450 500 used,to do better used you would have to spend almost triple! I am thinking the next level up would be a Manely Stingray which goes for about 1400 used.This amp while not expensive now soon will be just like the old dynaco st-70 amps getting 700 used new sthey werer under 200.They stopped making the audio refinement and the new amp they make from what I read is not up to stuff,the complete really should have sold for about $1500 new,the only other amp that comes close is the Krell 300i but it will cost you about $900-$1000 used and yes it's better much more power and great bass with lots of air,good luck,Nick
Looked into monster of an Amp Denon PMA 2000, but read only bad reviews form audiophiles and good feedback form Heavy metal guys. Decided to stay away from Denon.
Considered Onkyo A9555, but the price of 440 retail made me skeptical. Reviews form audiophiles confirmed my suspicion that Onkyo is good for watching DVDs and not for listening to classical music from records.
Will be looking for used Rotel, Musical Fidelity or Audio refinement . Trying to stay around $500.00 for Integrated-Amp.
Other advice/suggestions are very welcome and appreciated.
This forum has been a great help . I love it.
Here is an update:
I got Music Hall 25.2 Amp and small Yamaha bookshelf speakers (for now while I am looking for real speakers)).
I swapped speakers for fun and was faced with a very rude awakening. My S. F. Concertino Home speakers are peace of horse manure. They sound like two plastic buckets wrapped in leather and mahogany. Bassy, boomy, bloomy and rolled off on tops. Nothing except bass guitar and drums sounds natural on them.
I also bought (stole) Audio Refinement Complete on ebay and going to compare it to Music Hall integrated.
I hope to end up with some nice gear at the end : something like ATC SCM20 speakers and Krell 300 or Musical Fidelity 300 or YBA Passion since these three are easiest to try and re-sell.
I've read with interest your search for a budget integrated.
I had YBA YA 201 amp (the replacement for the AR Complete) and it is fabulous, contrary to posters who never owned one. Its only weakness is a display that is hard to read in a bright room.
I since sold it for financial reasons (mortgage payment) and bought an Audio Analogue Primo integrated, made in Italy. Another sleeper...very dynamic, but not quite as refined as the YBA 201. I reluctantly sold the AA as a package with my cdp that was for sale (sold the cdp for another mortgage payment...endless cycle). So I'm on the hunt for another budget integrated amp.
I would like your opinion on the MH 25.2 vs. the AA Complete. I'm in the market again and the MHall 25.2's are very plentiful, but I suspect not as good as YBA or AA...but I'm only guessing. I'd like your impressions on the the 2 amps you own.
I nominate the Cambridge Audio 640a v2. Available at Audio Advisor and a few other places new with warranty for $599. Comes with very cool-looking remote. 75 wpc. These things are so fast and transparent, I think they'd be worth it as a line stage alone. As it is, the power sections are equally fast and extended, and have enough current to have a healthy FTC 4-ohm rating as well.
If you spin vinyl, their matching outboard 640P phono stage is also an overachiever. In fact, it's so good that it's launched me on an upgrade quest (speakers, amplification, speaker cable).
I tried CA 840 V2, the latest iteration of their top of the line amp. It was not only not impressive it was downgrade in comparison to Music Hall 25.2 which sells for approx 5 times less than Cambridge.
With Cambridge Audio consumer receives a funky remotes, cool looking knobs , LCD screenies with clickety special effects, and other great fun things.
However the sound it makes is analogous to a car FM radio.
But it is cool and weights a ton ,so it must be great.
On-board Phono stage is a waste of money and time. They are usual afterthought in majority of amps.
I didn't realize you'd already bought the Music Hall when I suggested the Cambridge Audio 640A, which, incidentally is exactly the same price as the Music Hall.
If you were shopping for a budget integrated, why did you look at the $1500 840A?--Which, incidentally, is not a v2 because it just came out, weighs 33 lbs. and not a ton, and has no built-in phono stage. Even its remote is very similar to the MH 25.2's except for the navigation circle in the middle, and that's because it also works on Cambridge's Azur line of CD and DVD players.
Also, the Cambridges take some time to break in, and are bright and edgy sounding until they do.
The other thing, don't sell your Concertinos just yet. The bad sound you're getting may just be an amp/speaker mismatch. I've heard really good speakers sound just as you describe when matched with an amp that doesn't have enough current delivery for the speaker's demands.