Integrated CD/Pre + Amp or CD plus integrated amp?


I'm planning on getting two components for my new Silverline SR-15 monitors. Thus, one of them will have to be integrated in some way or another. Two of my favorite brands (at least within the solid state realm) are Musical Fidelity and Electrocompaniet. What would the difference be in the following setups:

MF CD-Pre24 (integrated CD/Pre, now discontinued) + EC AW-220, or

MF A3.2CD + EC ECI-3 (integrated amp)

The best thing, of course, would be to hear each combination, but that's not possible for me given the dealers in my area. These are components that I've heard in various places at various times, but never together. What might be the differences inherent in these two setups? Does anyone know of any other integrated CD players I should be considering, less than $2.5k new? BTW, I can't afford the EC CD player, which would be awesome.

I would not personally buy a CD player with an integrated preamp, because CD transports are the least reliable part of any audio chain, and when it fails you'll need a new preamp. A good amp will last 20 years with minimal servicing. A good CD player might make 10 years, if you're lucky.

I would consider a DAC with a preamp because DACs are very reliable.

However, in your case I think the integrated amp plus CD is much better, and also much more flexible if you ever decide you want to add a tuner, turntable, SACD, DVD player as a future source.
I thought that the idea of a preamp/cd player was a clever idea from a convenience point of view, similar in a way to an Adcom GTP 500 II preamp/tuner combination that I had used for 13 years. I own the MF CD PRE24 and use it in conjunction with a MF A300 CR power amp. I went this route for two reasons: 1. price and 2. what MF was looking to achieve with the CD PRE24.

Price was easy. Because both pieces had been discontinued, I paid about 45% of list for new in the box equipment.

For the second point, I will quote from MF's product literature and Mike Fremer's review in Stereophile .

The design goal of the MF CD-PRE24 was to provide ...

"Performance that surpasses the Krell KPS-25S, priced for ordinary mortals. The blurb goes on to suggest that "we reckoned that the CD-Pre24 would outperform the Krells in every significant technical and sonic parameter," and later cites the CD-Pre24's 0.05% distortion at -70dB compared to the Krell's 0.71%, and a signal/noise ratio claimed to be 23dB lower than the Krell's.

The single-box CD-Pre24 contains a full-function remote-controlled analog preamp, a digital switcher, a CD transport, a 24-bit/96kHz upsampling DAC, and a 16-bit/44.1kHz A/D converter—all for $3000. With it, one can have both analog and digital components connected, and record and play back from both domains without constant plugging and unplugging.

If that doesn't give you a convenient handle to grasp, think of the CD-Pre24 as a CD player with a bonus analog preamplifier, bonus digital switching facility, and analog and digital tape loops. Or as an outboard DAC with a built-in CD transport and a bonus analog preamp section plus A/D converter.

Despite the CD-Pre24's incredible versatility and reasonable price, Musical Fidelity has managed to retain the high parts quality of its more expensive products. The 24/96 upsampling DAC, 8x-oversampling filter, control electronics, CD transport, and choke-regulated power supply are identical to those in the more expensive Nu-Vista 3D CD player.

The CD-Pre24's preamp facilities are said to be very closely related to those in MF's highly regarded A3CR, though improved using techniques learned during the design of the Nu-Vista amps and CD players."

So, my thinking at the end of the day was how often would I get to own $6300 worth of NEW Krell-level equipment for less than $2900. I already owned a MF A3 integrated amp and loved it ... a real sweet and musical sounding amp. I had originally thought that I could use the MF A3 as a power amp for the MF CDPRE 24 (no luck, as the A3 integrated does not have main inputs, only preamp outs). So, I sold the MF A3 integrated and purchased the MF A300CR power amp.

I found the CD MF PRE24/A300CR combination a true step up from the MF A3, in terms of sound and performance. To be fair, it is also the first true high end set-up that I have owned, so I don't a history of similar systems to compare it to.

If I had not received the price breaks that I did, I would have purchased a MF CD player to go with my MF A3 integrated.

Regards, Rich
For the record, I have the EC AW-220s. Talk about sleepers -- these are amongst the best amps on the planet, period. The fact that you can buy a pair for around $2,300 or so has got to make them of the very best buys in high-end.