Integrated Amp recommendation for $300 that will balance well with Vandersteen and NAD


I’m looking for a new/used integrated amp that will mate well and balance with my Vandersteen 2C speakers and NAD C542 CD player. My speakers cables and Interconnects are Mogami by 10-Audio.

 

Some Background:

I recently sold my NAD C370 integrated amp. I liked the sound, but it was a bit dark and veiled when I happen to compare it one day to my buddy’s Denon DRA-625 receiver. Granted, the Denon was more “analytical” sounding, but it was noticeably more open, airy when compared to the C370. Also, it seemed to have better (deeper) bass response. Keep in mind, this is what I heard on my system.

In looking for a new/used integrated, I’m thinking I need something that is bright (brighter) but not harsh that will then balance the Vandersteen’s and mate well with the C542 cd player. My budget for this is $300 max. I was reading about the Acurus DIA-100 and thought this might be a good possibility?

Any other recommendations? Also, my room size is 12x12, and the 2C’s are a pretty consistent 8 ohm speaker. Specs indicate they require 40-160 wpc, so I’m wondering too if some of the 30-40 wpc integrateds would work? The Creek 4040s2 or 4330 come to mind. The C370 was 120wpc and it did crank, but so does the Denon… which is 60wpc. I never listen loud anyway. The room is 12x12, so I don’t need much to get it too loud.

Some other integrateds I’m curious about include: Sony TA-F555ES, Yamaha A-S500, Onkyo A-9050, etc. The Sony TA-F555ES is available locally. Anyone have any experience with the Acurus, or any of these integrated amps? 


Sincerely, JSB

jsbach1685

The NAD C542 is a wonderful fast, punchy, detailed CD player.  I am using my 542 with a 2004 NAD T773 AVR and surprisingly, it sounds very nice.  Maybe look for a used NAD C355BEE integrated.  If you want a bit more "neutral", check out a used Cambridge Audio 640Av2.

I also think the Yamaha and Onkyo you mentioned should work out well.

As far as Acurus, I have owned just about every one of the Mondial designs amplifiers and currently own an A200 and A200x3.  Love the sound and build quality.  About as neutral as you can get.  Though I have never owned any of the Acurus integrated amps(DIA-100, DIA-150), I have read nothing but great things about them.


Bill

It's your  $300 ceiling that is an arbitrary but severe limiting factor  in your quest and anybody offering up meaningful suggestions. At $300, the differences and improvements between choices are largely absent in a general "pick 'em" arena of contenders and pretenders.

I had the very same NAD C370 and C542 kit in a prior "B" system (With Totem ARROS and Chord cables) so I know the NAD component strengths and warts very well. IMO your C370 was among the better choices in your current price strata and will best most receivers hands down....full stop.

When it comes to that ethereal system synergy that you are currently lacking, the main non-fixable "wart" against them is their signature NAD sound (you already saw it .....amp AND cd ....) that does not marry well with a not-insignificant number of electronics, speakers, AND cable brands .

The second "wart" against the C370 that IS largely fixable was two mods:
(1) changing the stock uber- crap soldered-in "zip" power cord and
(2) changing the really crummy stock as-cheap-as-you-can-go preamp jumpers.


I had the stock power zip chord professionally dremmelled out in favour of a quality female IEC and external power chord . Big difference. 

Also I replaced those ultra-POS cheap metal jumpers with short run RCA terminated interconnects. Again, a step up.

These two mods together helped tame that "dark" overtone and sharpened the overall performance. ....the improvements  were not subtle.

IMO..... if you accept a higher price ceiling to  say, to a $500-$1000 range for an integrated amp (fuhgeddaboud any receiver with their crummy power supplies and dodgy stats that are already well publicized ) then the available integrated amp suggestion list becomes exponentially meaningful.

The degree of improvement in audio performance in this step-up price point strata that you are craving is not insignificant. These units are all built to a pricepoint and you only get what you pay for.

Postscript on the C370 price point as a comparison

let's not forget that this integrated amp new was $1000+ before taxes and inflation 10-odd years ago ...... The $300 suggested budget ceiling by the OP is at the extreme low end of this unit now in used condition before mods, and expecting "better" at $ 300 is a tall order IMO
Yes, $300 is tough, personally, id recommend to try to save to more like $500 and look at the likes of an Audio Refinement or a Myriad,  both can be had at that price and both are clearly Audiophile material... If not,  Teac makes a sumpin sumpin 301 that's decent... that will run $300 to $400.  If you don't care about a remote, there are several Chinese integrates that are tubes or hybrids that are pretty good too.
I hope this helps,
Tim
The NAD C317 is the best integrated that NAD has ever made up until that point. You should be able to pick one up for a few hundred bucks. My son uses mine (thankfully) so i know it's in good hands. A true classic.
I picked up a Marantz PM8004 for $425 and could not be happier with its detail, extension and dynamic range.

I agree you should stretch your budget a bit.
also try the older Onkyo A-9555,  still a great value
Perhaps used Rotel.
Rotel RSX 1055. 75 Watts per channel 5.1 receiver. $150.00 
You can locate it at Audible Elegance in Cincinnati. 513-793-3737
They currently have it on their consignment on their web page. Or you can go through Ebay. 

www.audibleelegance.com
I am not affiliated with them. I have used them for years.. Might not be open on Labor Day.

N





The weak point was the C370 in my opinion.  I owned the C372 and C326BEE and compared them extensively.  The C372 was indeed somewhat dark and laid back compared to the 326.  

NAD definitely made some changes with the BEE series stuff.  I'm assuming that the C370 was pretty close to the C372.  The Vandersteens are warm already, so the OP needs a neutral or even something on the brighter side, depending on taste.

For the budget, I'd suggest the C356BEE.
I was at audio connections in Verona New Jersey and John used a mad 326bee which sound great with ce sig 2. It was a beautiful combo but it wouldn't play rock well . For acoustic guitar femal vocals and jazz it was wonderful. 
brian
Hi Folks, 

Thanks for all the comments and suggestions. I decided to give the Acurus DIA100 a try. Glad I did... great sounding piece, and noticed an immediate difference compared to the C370. Both units are great... the choice just depends on the characteristics of the rest of the gear you're connecting it to. The DIA100 really opened up the vandies mids... and the bass definition and detail is quite remarkable. The rhythm, dynamics and "punch" of the NAD C542 cd player mates very well with the DIA too. But more importantly, the DIA100's brightness balances out the NAD's slight lack of high end crispness and/or airyness--at least in what I'm hearing. The Vandies might have been some of the culprit too--especially when using the C370. All in all, the DIA is a MUCH better match to this system now--especially for my budget! :-)    
Wow, those were not cheap new, and certainly a step up from the Nad C370 generation.  Congrats on a successful addition!
That hadn't crossed my mind... nice buy.  Buying used, you can only find so much,  that's a nice little  amp. Congrats
Very nice amp with the Acurus.  If like all the Acurus I have owned, it should provide plenty of punch, great detail, be as neutral as can be, and run cool.

Bill