Integrated amp recommendation around 3k (I need more power!)


Hi everyone,

Yep, another of those "which amp would you recommend" questions.  My system is settling in very nicely recently.  I've bounced around with speakers quite a bit, but I keep returning to little Harbeth P3esr.  They fit my room well and sound beautiful. However, they have a sensitivity of only 83db.  Right now, my system is comprised of the following:  VPI Traveler Turntable w/Clearaudio Maestro V2 cartridge, Croft RIAA phono stage, and the LFD LE V integrated.  As nice as the LFD is sonically, it just falls a bit short on power 65wpc into 8ohms) with the little Harbeths.

So, I'm looking to move to a more powerful integrated amp.  I'm certainly not a headbanger (or I'd have different speakers), but I would like to have ample headroom and current to maximize the P3s.  I'm looking at a budget of around $3k, used or new.  As I have an all analog 2-channel rig, I don't need a DAC, subwoofer outs, tone controls, balance, etc.  Heck, don't even care about a remote.  Just good, clean, dynamic power. 

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated - thanks!

Best, Scott
smrex13
Just a suggestion because I am not familiar with your speakers.
I understand that you want a refined poweful sound. Older Rowland Concentra and Concentra II, and older Gryphons are hard to find but might do that for you. Gryphon currently has no distributor in the US, I think.
New Redgum from Australia could be quite good too, most likely not as refined as either Rowland or Gryphon, though.
I use old Redgum 120 integrated with warm sounding Michael Green Audio speakers, 89db, and the sound is excellent, quite nice and very dynamic. My Nottingham turntable is happy enough with this combination.
I am sure there are other choices.
Looks like this would fit the bill. A fet amp would go nice with the Harbeth. See if you can get one used. BTW,there is a new one listed here for $4000. If I was looking for a ss amp I would jump on it!
http://www.conradjohnson.com/It_just_sounds_right/ca150.html
Maybe consider one of Yamaha's analog integrateds like the A-S1000, A-S2000, A-S1100, or A-S2100.  All are spec'd at "90w/ch@8ohms" and "140w/ch@4ohms minimum(140w for A-S1000) and I assure you these amps are beasts with the A-S1000 being the lightest at 48.5 pounds.  Prices vary from around $800 refurbished for the A-S1000 to $2200.00 refurbished for the A-S2100.  Used a little lower and new a bit higher.  

Bill
Thanks for the recommendations!

@Yogiboy - I should probably trust your recommendation as you were spot on about the Harbeths.  The CJ was on my short list to begin with, so that's a very likely candidate.

The Yamaha is interesting, and I've heard great things about it.  A little concerned that 90 watts might not be quite enough, but from what I've heard it's a pretty powerful 90.

Keep the suggestions coming!  

Thanks, Scott
Let me play devil's advocate here...What do you expect a more powerful amp to do for you driving those? The 5" plastic cone woofer doesn't reproduce anything at all below ~70hz and rolls over a bunch of even mid and upper bass. The Stereophile review hints by mentioning "gravitating to small group recordings". Probably because midrange is great w/these and they can't do powerful. As a replacement for the BBC monitors when Harbeth lost the license, they are more of a studio monitor than a full range room filler.
Borrow something to test your theory or do an in-home demo before you spend. Cheers,
Spencer 
Coda fits the bill.... Unison 3.3 or a newer CSI or even Newer CSIB... All are very similar,  If you can find a Unison,  it will be more like $1100,  the CSI/CSIB will tap your budget,  but in all cases, your looking at 300 into 8 ohms and 600 into 4.... These are all nice sounding units. 
Good Luck,
Tim
+1 sbank
I use mine with a 70 watt amp and it is plenty. When you double the power it will give you only 3 db more. The Harbeth is not a headbanger type of speaker. But of course more power will do no harm.
Happy hunting!
Yogiboy
@sbank - I understand your point.  I don't expect to drive them to head banging levels or to reproduce kick drums.  However, it does seem that the amp runs out of steam before I'm even able to generate peaks of 80db at the listening position. 

@yogiboy - you are running w/tubes, right?  
smrex- Yep!
However, it does seem that the amp runs out of steam before I’m even able to generate peaks of 80db at the listening position.
Hi Scott,

My suspicion is that what is mainly running out of steam is the speaker, not the amp. The speakers have specified power handling of "50 watts program." Which presumably refers to the maximum amount of power they are rated to handle on the peaks of what the designers consider to be typical musical material. And their continuous power handling capability, were it specified, would be considerably less than that.

Putting more power into a speaker than it can comfortably handle will result in some combination of increased distortion and thermal compression, which among other things would result in a perception of reduced dynamics.

Also, regarding the CJ integrated amp that was suggested, I would have some concern about the suitability of its 10K input impedance with the output impedance of your phono stage. I found an indication that the nominal output impedance of the phono stage may be 500 ohms. However since it is tube-based, and most likely uses a coupling capacitor at its output, its output impedance at deep bass frequencies could very conceivably rise to a few K, which would result in significant deep bass rolloff in conjunction with a 10K load. On the other hand, though, that might not be perceivable with these particular speakers, given their limited deep bass extension. But why risk compounding that limitation?

Best regards,
-- Al

Anyone using a B.A.T. integrated amp ? Which one can you suggest?
@almarg As always, thank you for being so generous with your knowledge and for looking up the specific specs of my gear.  (Maybe I should be looking at a bigger, more efficient Harbeth...). In any event, I appreciate the words of caution with the CJ.  Could you give me some idea of the input impedance that would be more reasonable with the Croft?  I've often heard 100/1 as a minimum ratio, so I'm assuming at least 50kohms would be a target?

Thanks again!
Scott
You're welcome, Scott.  The majority of tube-based components providing line-level outputs utilize a coupling capacitor in series with their outputs, which typically results in their output impedance being highest (within the audible frequency range) at 20 Hz.  If the output impedance at that frequency is known (which will usually be the case if Stereophile has reviewed the product) a load impedance 10 or more times greater than that value will usually be safe.

If as in this case only a nominal impedance is known (nominal impedances usually being specified based on a mid-range frequency such as 1 kHz), I would recommend a factor in the area of 50 to 75x.  So for what is apparently the 500 ohm nominal output impedance of the Croft a load impedance of 37.5K or more would certainly seem comfortable.  And at around 25K or less I would start to feel a bit uncomfortable, especially if you envision the possibility of eventually changing to speakers having significantly better deep bass extension.

Best regards,
-- Al
 
P.S: I’ll add to my previous comments that if some deep bass rolloff were to occur as a result of a less than optimal impedance match between the phono stage and the amp it conceivably could actually help the speakers to sound better, by keeping signal frequencies out of the speakers that they can’t handle comfortably and can’t reproduce anyway. But IMO introducing a known inaccuracy into a system, as a means of minimizing a limitation elsewhere, is in general not a good way to go. Especially if eventual upgrade of the speakers or electronic components is a possibility.

Best regards,
-- Al

The Parasound Halo Integrated is 2500.00, has 160wpc, circuits designed by John Curl, also has 40 amps of peak current.  I went from a Rogue Cronus Magnum 100wpc tube integrated to the Halo integrated and couldn't be happier. 

I agree the limitations may be the speakers themselves.  Before I change amps, I would look for a larger pair of 2 way speakers with at least a 6 1/2 inch woofer to give you a sense of bass and a richer midrange.  There are a lot of  2 way stand mounted speakers in the up to 3K price range.  You will get more sound improvement from changing speakers than with replacing an amp.

@ stereo5 - thanks for the recommendation.  The Parasound looks interesting, but it's got a lot of functions that I don't need (and would be paying for).  The reviews seem good, though.  

With respect to the speakers, I haven't heard anything that I like nearly as much as Harbeth.  I have heard the P3s with a Simaudio integrated, and they sounded far more dynamic than they do with the LFD, which is why I'm considering a different amp.

Best, Scott
Interesting that the LFD LE V doesn’t have the current to optimally drive the P3ESR. When I used the LFD LE III to drive the Harbeth SHL5, the sound is very open and dynamic. The combination sounds a lot better than most of the amps I have tried (with the Harbeth).

Having said that, you may be right about the low sensitivity of the P3ESR. At 83.5 dB it is surely on the low side compared to the SHL5 and C7ES3 which are rated at 86 dB. Also, the SHL5’s impedance is 8 ohms while the P3ESR is at 6 ohms.

The Harbeth surely sounds different with different amps. A powerful amp is certainly useful if one listens at higher volume levels (especially the larger speakers SHL5 and 40.1 / 40.2). A friend who owns the 40.1 has used many amps on the speakers (he currently owns all these amps) - LFD LE III, Exposure 2010S, Leben CS600, Naim 32.5/135 monoblocks, and the Naims got the vote. As good as the Leben and LFD sounds, they lacked power, and they lacked some neutrality of the Naims. The LFD made everything sounds a bit larger than life while the Naims gave a more accurate portrayal. The LFD’s strength or appeal is its tube-like glow which gave music a nice illuminating feel.

You might want to give Exposure 3010S2-D a look.
I run a Rogue Cronus Mag w/KT120 at 100 watts with Vandersteen 2 if that isn't enough  
power the Rogue Pharaoh  has 185 watts tube preamp section solid-state amp I have heard the Harbeths 40.2 on both great sound stage and details 

The Cronus is about $2500 and the Pharaoh is $3500
Rogue Audio is in PA a bunch of great guys too
I am driving right now harbeth shl5 with Synthesis Roma 37DC+ hybrid amp ,d class power 500w per channel+tube input stages. More volume,the more power into the sound and weight,the sound is full with wonderfull midrange.I was inspired by youtube movies of this guy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftQKhGVkdlE and bought one from Italy and it sounds very similar.
Thank to everyone for the recommendations.  It appears that some of the problem (or perhaps all of it) is due to the cartridge.  Out of curiosity, I installed an older cart I have (Shelter 201), and the soundstage came to live.  It has an output of 4.0mV and the cart I'm using has a 3.6mV output.  It doesn't seem like that should make too much difference, but apparently with all the other factors in the chain (low sensitivity speakers, lower powered amp) the .4mV difference is significant.  Of course, the entry-level Shelter doesn't sound nearly as good as the Clearaudio Maestro V2, but at least I have direction to go.  Will be posting additional questions for cart recommendations on the analog forum.  Thanks again for all your input.  Best, Scott
Hi Scott,

Interesting finding. One thing that can significantly affect the tonal balance of a moving magnet cartridge in the treble region, and thereby affect soundstaging and perceived dynamics, is the load capacitance that is applied to the cartridge. And I see that the Clearaudio Maestro V2 has a recommended load capacitance of 100 pf, which is too low for many setups to even come close to achieving. (The load capacitance seen by the cartridge is the sum of the input capacitance of the phono stage and the capacitances of the phono cable, tonearm wiring, and connectors).

I couldn’t find an input capacitance spec for your phono stage, or a load capacitance recommendation for the Shelter 201, and of course I don’t know what the capacitance of your phono cable and tonearm wiring would be. But if you want to change to a different moving magnet cartridge, I would suggest avoiding any having a recommended load capacitance of less than around 200 pf, or an even higher number if your phono cable is longer than say 4 or 5 feet.

Also, I doubt that the difference between 3.6 mv and 4.0 mv has any significance, that being a difference of less than 1 db. However there are two different test records/standards upon which cartridge output specs can be based, which I believe can result in the outputs of cartridges having identical output specs often differing by 3 db.  Which in terms of mv means that a 3.6 mv cartridge under the standard that produces a higher number would be only 3.6 x 0.707 = 2.5 mv under the other standard. So that conceivably could be a contributing factor.

Good luck. Best regards,
-- Al

Buy an LSA Signature integrated amp. Best I have heard and owned under $5000 and I have pretty much owned or heard everything under $5000.
Can't get a better $3000  integrated than Belles soloist 1 from Power Modules. 125w into 8 ohms of clean dynamic power with a wide deep soundstage. and has a 2000 damping factor. Beneficial for your speakers. I own one in my second system with Acoustic Zen Adagios. The Amp plays like any $5000 amp I've ever  heard. David belles is going on 80 years old and has been a legend in the business for a loooooong time. Nothing touches this amp at this price.
65wpc ? Actually, thats more than enough power to drive the P3sr 
I use a Rogue cronos mag (100 wpc) with Spendor S5e 's and feel it's a sweet match - more than enough power 

I'm quite interested in the Harbeth - sound  not sure if the P3's would work in my area.  15 x 18 ft 

Also have a rogue Pharoah and as mentioned it is a beast . Ran Magnepan .7s with it no problems at all 
the Pharoah has a superb phono section  ! 

A possible suggestion is the Anthem 225i (250wpc 8 ohm 340wpc 4 ohm), very low noise floor.  While not my normal speaker this integrated works very well with my home made Ls3/5a speakers that I made ca 1980 so it might match the Harbeths.   Current speakers have 93 DB sensitivity so it seems like overkill yet it has great control of the speakers.

Hegel H160 -- a really fine integrated amp that offers some of the most innovative technology available today.
I would second the CJ recommendation for Harbeths......go on youtube
and find a video of them driving Magnepan .7s at a show to very good levels.......another notoriously hungry speaker.....

I would also suggest you look at replacing the Harbeths.....notoriously inefficient and only 50wpc power handling (program material) according
to two reviews.....of course you can feed them more......

I've owned those speakers and you should look at Ryan Loudspeakers 610 which is about the same price.....86db efficient and 150w power handling.....I've heard these at RMAF and AXPONA and in a home and they will absolutely obliterate the Harbeths in every regard, especially overall musicality and they are not finicky about amplification at all.....

Here they were running them with a 2K or so Musical Fidelity Integrated....
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fe6WznxBdjQ

Here the bigger brothers were being run from a 2500.00 Aurender 100W Integrated......I heard this in person and it was unbelievably musical.....
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkX7v5JeJD0

I am buying the Ryan 610s for my office system to augment my headphone rig......I'm leaning toward the Aurender Integrated or the CJ with an outboard DAC......

As far as cartridge recommendation?

Ortofon Quintet Bronze if you like MC, or Ortofon 2MBlack if you prefer MM
Scott, I am running an Odyssey amp from Klaus Bunge with my Harbeth C7's.  I went through a few integrated amps (NAD Master Series, Hegel, Plinius) before I ended up with the Odyssey amp.  Klaus builds some of the finest amps for the money, and it comes with a 21 year warranty.  I have paired my amp with a Decware CSP3 preamp.  The C7's just sing with this kit!  If your integrated amp has preamp outs you might want to consider just adding the amp as an alternative to replacement.    
Thanks for all the input everyone!  A few quick responses:

-I had the Belles Soloist, but it was far too sensitive to power line noise and I got some interference every time a light, bathroom fan, A/C, etc. was switched on in the apartment.  

-If I switch speakers, it would be to the Harbeth C7.  I have heard the Ryans with Parasound separates and was very impressed.  However, I love the Harbeth sound, so I don't want to go down the rabbit hole of auditioning new speakers.

@alextakeshi - yes, I thought 65wpc would be enough, too.  Al's comments on the cartridge and cabling makes me think that perhaps the problem lies in the phono set up rather than the amp-speaker pairing.

@almarg - as always, your knowledge is greatly appreciated.  I think your wisdom has probably saved people a lot of money and time.  

Thanks again to everyone, Scott
Luxman 505ux  I was very happy with mine when I had it. Bass is full and has lots of features.
I'm real surprised no one has mentioned a Musical Fidelity M6Si. So please allow me to do. Absolute killer integrated amp with plenty of power at the 3K price point. 
A Primare I30 would be worthwhile taking a look at, 100 wpc,very warm tube like sound.Used you can find one for about 1500$ or so.Very nice integrated amp.You can try it for awhile,if it doesn't work out,you can always get your money back as these have a huge almost cult following.For the money,this is the best sounding integrated I have ever heard. I have one I don't use currently,but it's such a nice little piece,I would hate to see it go.Every time I hook it up ,it impresses me.good luck.
PS I bought an Anthem for the ex, I hated it,she hated it,very bright,run sway.
CJ CA200 can be found on Audiogon occasionally. I Bought one about a year ago. It's amazing. Tube sound. 185 watts/ channel. Best amp buy I ever made. Believe it would be great with the Harbeths.

For your speakers, at that price you are looking (3k) I would try to go power amp, not integrated, and straight for the absolutely unbeatable at such price point; Benchmark AHB2. Near perfect amp for 3k - good power, balance, tones, soundstage, bass control is amazing, & details, details, details... It is small, light, but drives anything!!
Can't recommend them enough.
If you really need to stay with integrated amp, i would go for Cambridge Audio latest XD amps, or better Marantz PM-14 or PM-11
Thanks for all the recommendations...

-The Musical Fidelity is a great suggestion that I hadn't thought about.  I heard the previous generation M3i and thought it a very good piece in its price range.  I also like the fact that the M6si is available through Audio Advisor, who has a generous return policy.  

-Luxman is definitely on my short list.  I've never had the opportunity to hear one, but the reviews are very positive.  

-The Benchmark would take up my whole budget and I'd still need a preamp and cables, so that's a not an option for me.  

-Almost pulled the trigger on a CJ CA200 that was on here recently.  Will keep an eye out.

Thanks again - lots of food for thought!

Scott
I can throw in another recommendation for the MF M6si.  I have been using one for about a year and half and am very happy with it.  
@tdimler - do you mind if I ask what speakers you are driving with the M6si?  What is your general perception of the amp's character?  I know it has more than enough power, so my only concern is whether the sonic character would fit with my tastes (clear, no treble grain, slightly laid back).  

Thanks, Scott
Scott, I realize you have asked smrex13, but please allow me to chime in. I have an M6Si I purchased 12/15. I am driving Golden Ear Triton One's. At the time I bought the M6Si I auditioned it against a Krell Vanguard and MA6700. Naturally cost was a factor but even that aside I prefer the Musical Fidelity. If there is anything more specific you would like to know just ask.
I use the Luxman 505ux with my SHL5s and I'm very, very happy. I've tried an Ayre AX-7E, a Rogue Cronus Magnum (bought both of these and listened for extended period) and demoed an Audio Research VSI60 and a friend's Devialet 400. None sounded better than the Luxman. It's a great match with Harbeth and also has a fine phono section MM/MC and, heresy, a loudness control that make listening at low levels very enjoyable. You should be able to find on used on Audiogon for around $2400 in excellent condition.
If Luxman works fine than Accuphase should too, I guess.
OP here just providing an update:

I was particularly interested in Al's comments about the recommended capacitance for the cartridge and the impact a phono cable's capacitance might have on the ultimate performance of the system.  I have made a few cable changes that have significantly improved the performance of my rig.  I replaced my relatively modest power cables to the phono amp and integrated with Triode Wire Labs 10+ and 7+ respectively.  This added an openness and bass depth that was previously lacking.  

However, the biggest change was to add a Furutech AG-12 phono cable.  Right out of the box the treble was cleaner and more extended and the sound stage improved considerably.  The system also seemed louder.  After a couple of days of burn-in, I am getting far better dynamics, overall clarity, and bass response.  It sounds much better at lower volumes, and I don't feel like something is missing.  Most importantly, the last couple of days I have wanted to come home and listen to music rather than troubleshoot my rig. 

Thanks!
Scott
I didn't care at all for the LFD amp that I tried.  Returned it immediately.
was a downgrade to my inexpensive Naad integrated. I have Harbeth HL5plus speakers.   My Bryston at 135 watts is excellent though.
Rotel 1592 just came out
Parasound makes a supremely capable integrated, and the DAC that comes with it is pretty good too.


Hi everyone,

I appreciate all the feedback and the recommendations.  I finally made a choice, and went with the Wells Audio Majestic integrated amp - 150wpc, looks great, has excellent reviews, and a good company behind it.  I will keep you all posted on how it sounds, and thanks again for all the food for thought.  

Best, Scott
Nice! Scott
I am interested in the Wells Audio amp as well. Keep me posted during your initial break-in period.

What other gear, including cabling, is in your system?
I'll definitely update you all as I start to break it in.  My system consists of the following:

Components:
VPI Traveler Turntable w/Clearaudio Maestro V2 cartridge
Croft RIAA Phono Stage w/Tung Sol gold pin tubes
Harbeth P3esr speakers

Cabling, Power, Etc.:
Furutech AG-12 phono cable
Triode Wire Labs interconnect and power cables (10+ and 7+)
JW Audio speaker cables
SuperWiremold Deep-Cryo 9 outlet Power Strip
Maestro wall outlet
Rollerblock Jr. footers

Best, Scott

Nice move Scott.  I've read some many positive reviews about their amps, particularly the Immoras.  I'd love to hear it after it breaks in.
Hi Scott,

Glad I was helpful on the load capacitance/phono cable issue.

Best of luck with the new amp. A question, though. I see that the Wells Audio Majestic has a specified gain of 30 db, which is on the low side for an integrated amp. A gain spec or measurement doesn’t seem to be available for your present LFD amp, but I would suspect that it is somewhat higher. Therefore you’ll probably find yourself setting the volume control on the new amp to a somewhat higher position than you have been using on the LFD.

If with the LFD amp you don’t find yourself using settings above say 2 o’clock or so when you are listening with your Croft phono stage I’d feel pretty certain that there won’t be a problem. (And there certainly won’t be a problem with digital sources). But if you’ve used settings at 3 o’clock or more I’d have some concern.

Best regards,
-- Al