Take a hard look at Belles Aria integrated.
(I currently own an Ayre AX-7e mp and a Rogue Cronus Magnum II. My next amp will very, very likely be a Belles.)
Not an integrated but as an alternative how about a Schiit Freya preamp and a Vidar power amp for LESS than 2K for both? I have no clue how the Vidar sounds, but I own a Freya and it sounds great. I will suggest a new Jolida integrated as I owned one of their amps and it worked very well for years, and was a steal based on what other stuff cost.
Thank you all for the suggestions so far.
Let me also mention - I would like to have an amp with two sets of balanced inputs. I know the LFD does not, but it made the list due to it’s high praise.
@wolf_garcia I was also thinking about the Schiit Ragnarok, but i’ll consider the separates you mentioned.
I'm currently using the Ayre AX-7e with some light modifications as my reference and think it's a special amp, but to state the obvious, it's not for everyone or every system. It excels at speed, articulation, resolution and micro dynamics, but prefers easier loads and can lean on the dry side. There are 3 relatively straightforward mods that will make it sound a fair bit more liquid. Unsure of match with Spendors and Mytek (I'm currently requesting the Mytek for review).
A used Bryston B60 is a also very nice piece, but not in the same league as the Ayre.
I've also heard the Belles Aria is fantastic but David Belles keeps quite busy and I haven't been able to get one for review yet - I'll check in with him again.
I received the Electrocompaniet PI-2 yesterday. I’m going to let in burn in over the weekend. The dealer instructed that it will sound good out of the box, great at 100 hours, and it’s best around 200. But, I did do some initial listening after running it for a few hours.
Right off the bat, the sound is terrific. Crystal clear vocals, warm and detailed instrumentation, and dead quiet. Much more natural sounding, compared to the Cambridge. I’ve only been using the Mytek so far, but my early indications tell me that vinyl is going to sound fantastic as well.
The PI-2 drives the Spendors with ease. The volume level ranges from 0-127, and right at 50 it's much louder than I would normally listen, but it still sounded wonderful.
I’m going to attempt to be patient, and let is burn in all the way before I do any critical listening...if I can.
Will report back in a few days.
Sony TA1-ES, KEF LS-50's, Martin Logan Grotto, AQ-Cheetah interconnects, AQ-Aspen speaker wires, AQ-NRG4 power cables, SONOS streaming Pandora.
In my 45 years of playing with audio equipment, this is one of the best systems I've heard. Don't fall for the esoteric names. Both Sony and KEF have money for R&D. The Sony runs in class A operation. In a blind test, I bet a whole bunch of reviewers would find this near the top of the test. For lower to mid listening levels, you will fall in love.
Congratulations, great choice. That Electrocompaniet integrated looks fantastic; large toroid transformer, plenty of power supply capacitance and output devices. Everything in that amp looks very well thought out.
Electrocompaniet has a long history of making excellent gear. I also appreciate how great their gear looks as well. Enjoy that new amp.
I was looking for an integrated with a great built-in DAC, and balanced inputs for my phono preamp.
Electrocompaniet didn't have a DAC, vinyl sounding great though
Hegel's DAC was just so-so, vinyl was good
PS Audio great DAC, but the the S300 amp was a little too clean
Lyngdorf - fantastic DAC, but the vinyl was too clinical sounding
Now at the Micromega, great DAC, warm & powerful amp. Vinyl sounds great again!
I did forget one integrated that I used between the Electrocompaniet & Hegel. For about 2 weeks I was using a LFD NCSE MKII. This amp was something special. Paired with the Spendor A6Rs, everything sounded warm, exciting, and detailed. Unfortunately, I couldn't get over not having a remote and the volume had to be dialed in perfectly to achieve that great sound.
@jafant While I was using the PS Audio, Lyngdorf, and Micromega - I was in between speakers as well. There were a couple weeks that I was auditioning Tyler Linbrooks, Salk Songbirds, and Scansonic MB2.5s. While they all had their high points and sounded very good with each amp, I settled with the Scansonics because they did everything very well, with all types of music and sources.
The MicroMega drove/controlled the MB2.5s the best, and to my ears sounded the best too.
@fdpdk I have not. What model would you suggest?
I'm also quite thrilled with the Gold Note IS-1000. Everything I want/need in one box.
Are there any other integrateds out there that:
-Class A/B 100w >
-Built in DAC & Streamer
-MM & MC phono capable
The Mark Levinson 585.5 comes to mind, but that is out of reach for my budget.
The Wyred4Sound definitely has more power, and it quieter than the Micromega, but you'll have to choose your separates carefully. The Micromega - not the case as it's an all-in-one.
@jones4music I had the 2170 on two separate occasions. I really tried to love it, and sometimes I did. However, most of my listening is vinyl, and playing vinyl through the Lyngdorf lost all of the pizazz that I love. I think vinyl should stay in the analog domain, instead of going through an ADC. Just my preference.
Pure analog integrated amps (no DAC or no digital circuitry) are usually better than the ones with onboard DAC & digital circuitry.
Ideally DAC & digital circuitry needs to be separated from critical analog circuitry in order to achieve optimal performance cause digital-analog conversion can potentially inject and induce noise to analog audio circuitry.
What do you think of your Rega Elicit-R analog integrated?
Are you also using Rega CD player or Rega DAC as your digital front end source component? And/or Rega turntable and phonostage pre?
@caphill - I use a Rega Saturn-R with my Rega Elicit-R integrated amp. I also use a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit SB TT using the built-in phono pre-amp in the Elicit-R. It's a fine sounding system and it uses a single remote control for the whole system. Nice!
The Saturn-R also has multiple digital inputs, coax, optical and USB, so you can use it as a DAC. All controllable from the single remote.
I like it a lot. I've had more expensive and more complex systems, but I like the sound and the simplicity of the current Rega system.