I'm not sure if i should upgrade, anyway if i do so i'm looking for a used integrated amp in the $2K to $3K price range with balanced inputs.What exactly is wrong with the Classe or the sound of your system that would get you to think about upgrading? What are you hoping to improve?
Your statements above indicate uncertainty. Are you sure you just haven't come down with a case of upgraditis because you have a good offer on your current Classe? You have a very good amp and to trade it for either of the ones you mention, is just trying a new flavor. But what will it improve?
"My source is a Hegel HD12 streaming music from Qobuz via USB."
If that's what you are using for a source, there's no need to worry about balanced operation. Your dac isn't fully balanced. At best, you may notice a slight difference, but nowhere near enough to not go with a single ended component that you like.
The upside here, is your dac has a volume control, and if that's your only source buying just a high quality amp can be a very big upgrade. The biggest problem with integrated amps in your price range is that the preamp section is usually the bottleneck. Its difficult to find a good sounding preamp for 2-3k, let alone finding one in an integrated amp where the cost has to be shared between 2 components. So, if you can't get a good preamp, don't get on at all. There's no shortage of good used power amps within your budget. You can even find a good, high power tube amp like an ARC VT-100 or a VAC PA 100/100. Most tube integrated won't have enough power to properly drive your speakers.
If you’re thinking of a pair of 7.2s, you can’t fiddle around with little amps. You need big power, so look to Threshold or Pass or Krell, etc. If you like the sound of the Classe, look to one of their bigger amps. With a volume control on the Hegel you might not need a separate preamp so more of your resources can go into the amp. Couple of possibilities:
If you were intent on getting an integrated amp, there's this ModWright which puts out 200 watts into 8 ohms and 400 into 4 ohms. Always a good sign when an amp can double up its power output when its impedance halves:
I've had both classe integrated and separates. Still own a cap-101 that I used in my living room that I'm selling. Classe integrateds are nice. I sold my classe separates for my dedicated audio room and went to a Hegel H300 and love it. Much better than the classe cap-101/151 and it includes an internal dac that is comparable or better than the Hegel you have now. If you want to keep your dac, you can use the dac-loop feature of the Hegel h300/360 with your external dac. If you can get $1.6k then I would sell it and that's 1/2 the price of a used Hegel h300
I think that you might be very surprised and happy listening to a Marantz PM-11S3... The Reference Marantz Integrated is very detailed, incredibly fast, yet is NOT cold! It has serious power that easily surpasses its rating and can power most any speaker with ease (it just bullies my 4 ohm Monitor Audios). It has a very sweet, layered approach that offers a huge soundstage with excellent separation.
I have A/B’d the Marantz PM11S3 and the Hagel H300 for many hours and between the two, to me, there is no contest! The Reference Marantz was and is the clear winner!
The Marantz Pm-11S3 Integrateds are balanced units and come up for sale here time to time right at that $3000 point and in my opinion is not only a great deal but a steal and would be something that you would really want to consider....
I think the best choice for a nice reasonable upgrade is the Hegel H360 but for that i would have to sale my Classe and my Hegel HD12.
I auditioned the H360 last november and found it very refined and organic.
Probably one of the best integrated in this price range with a DAC that's at the same level as the HD12.
carmenc yes integrated amps is just momentarily because hopefully within the next 2 years i will have the budget to build an all separates system with gear that's in another league, for that i'm looking at Dan D'agostino Classic stereo amp and Nagra Classic preamp, here we're talking $32K combo.
So that's SS amp with tube preamp like you said.
Hey jafant what are you up to lately ?
Right now i'm investigating on Technical Brain.
Are you aware of that brand from Japan ?
Today i called the ditributor in France and we talked for an hour.
The preamp and monoblocks are unfortunately out of reach for most of us : $125K but the integrated would be worth a listen at $25K.
Therefore i will probably go see the distributor in april to audition the integrated.
He told me this integrated can easily compete with $50K worth of separates.
I don't know if it's in your price range but you might want to look at it for your CS 2.4SE.