Integrated vs Separates, New vs Used - Rogue Audio, Simaudio, McIntosh??? Input Needed!


Hey everybody - I'm getting back into Hi-Fi after a few years off (three kids will do that!). Prior to marriage (2007), I owned a McIntosh MA7000, Logitech Transporter, Focal 1027BE bookshelf speakers, and HSU VTF-3. Great system for my small bachelor pad. I'm a bass player (upright bass from 4th grade thru high school in chamber group and 5-string electric bass since college) and tend to favor setups on the warmer side of the spectrum. I listen to a wide range of music - Willie Nelson to Radiohead, Neil Young to DMB. The McIntosh with the Focals was a nice combination but after listening to higher end equipment, I'd like a little more soundstage, dynamics, etc with my new system.

OK, enough background. I'm struggling with integrated versus separates and new versus used. Here are some options that I worked through (in no particular order).

1. Simaudio Moon Neo 340i (New). This integrated sounded good at the dealer. I wasn't blown away but know that i could be happy with this amp. In order to spread out cost, my bigger picture plan would be to buy this amp and trade up within a year using SimAudio's "To the Moon" program to purchase the Simaudion 700i. A KILLER integrated.  Total cost over two years = $14K plus I'll need a buy phono (TBD) and DAC (Mytek Brooklyn?).

2. Parasound JC-1 Monoblocks (Used) and Rogue RP-7 Preamplifier (New). I liked the RP-5 coupled with the Simaudio 330a power amplifier at the dealer but think the combination could be improved with more gas in the amplifier department. The new RP-7 is a fully balanced tube pre and supposed to be even sweeter in the midrange department (vs the RP-5). Total cost = about $10K ($5K for the used monoblocks + $5K for the new pre). Like #1, I'll still need to purchase phono and DAC.

3. McIntosh MC275 (New) and Rogue RP-7 (New). Tube driven by tube! As a bass player could this be harmonic bliss? Total Cost = 10.5K. In the long run, I'd want to add an addition MC275 for 150 watts (16K total plus Mac cost increase). I'm fearful of cooking with all the tubes and a relatively small office, the high system cost, and I haven't heard this setup. 

4. Rogue M-180 Monoblocks (New) or Rogue Stereo 100 (New) and Rogue RP-7 (New). Same idea as above but with more juice and possibly a mono block configuration. Total Cost = 11K with mono blocks or $8.5K with Stereo 100. I have no experience with the Rogue amplifiers.

5. Sit tight for a (newer) used Simaudio Evolution separates. An 740P preamp and 860A power amp was just on Audiogon for about $13K (versus $24.5K new). My fears that once I enter the world of uber high-end, matching  interconnects, speakers, etc becomes mission critical. I'm not interested in this end of the Hi-Fi spectrum...just want to enjoy the music!

As for speakers, the set-up will be in my office driving KEF LS50's (total overkill I know). Once I'm confident the kids fingers wont be poking the drivers, I'll be looking at floor standing speakers (Focal Supra No 2, Sonus Faber Olympic III - both pretty....Golden Ear Triton?....decisions for the future).

I'd appreciate any insight and/or recommendations! All the options has my brain scrambled!!!
Thanks,
Ken
keoliphant
Add the Benchmark amp to your list ($3k) and maybe the forthcoming PS Audio (IIRC< "Spectral").  I like a nice neutral tube pre (ARC LS25 Mk II) -- older ARC pre's will be warmer or buy an old CJ for lottsa lush, but a SS pre-amp is very easy to live with.

For an integrated the Creek Evo's are very good.

your real problem is too many options (including the active LS50s)
I think you are doing this backward, but, hey, it's your life.

For me, I would audition as many speakers as possible in order to get a fix on what 'sound' I liked. Once I get that locked in, then I would concentrate on the amp, pre and source.
B
gdnrbob - Not the first time I've heard that recommendation. I think that i will take it to heart and instead upgrade my office amplification and DAC (Rega Brio Integrated, Parasound Zdac) with a middle/upper-priced integrated amp to drive the KEF LS50's. Good advice.

Randy-11 - KEF's are not active. Thanks for the Creek Evo recommendation. I'll take a look!

+1 gdnrbob! Speakers first as they will be the ultimately responsible for the final sonic outcome from your system - from all sources.

Kef LS50’s aren’t the only bookshelf speaker to be mounted high enough to keep little probing fingers away. Besides, that’s what grills are for - if you look at models that offer removable grills as most do.
gdnrbob gave great advice and I concur. I have owned the LS50's, IMHO great with acoustic music. Not as good with amplified music like blues which I like. Anyway, start with the speakers that appeal to your listening tastes then find the best partnering amplification. I prefer integrated amps for their simplicity and convenience. Models I have owned fairly recently and enjoyed, Rogue Sphinx, Yamaha A-S2100, Wyred4Sound STI500 (for sale). All have their own flavor but I will say McIntosh has always had my heart...

I'd also say speakers first and in that get something efficient 92db and up as this will open the door to a better selection of amps like  lower powered tube amps. Your should audition more tube integrated amps I think you may like the sound of tubes more being a musician. I played electric bass for years and I always seem to end up with tube gear in the end its more musical In my opinion (Or Class A SS done well like some of the Pass Labs, Luxman etc). living in Canada all the audio dealers are plastered with Moon and Mac stuff I've never been a fan I always found then detailed but boring, again my tastes.

something like ProAc speakers and a nice 45-60wpc tube int would be wonderfully musical and ProAc's have great base for the size. Of course that's one suggestion out of many.

+3 on @gdnrbob comments. For now, I would get a relatively inexpensive amp like a Peachtree or a used Hegel (both have decent built-in DACs) to power the KEF LS50 and once you’re confident that your child is not going to do anything harmful, sell everything and upgrade, starting with the speakers. Good luck!
Buy a pair of KEF LS50 wireless now and when you're ready take a look at the Devialet Expert line especially with Focals though they play spectacularly with anything you pair them with.  You'll get all the soundstage and dynamics you can wish for a so much more.  You'll save a fortune on cabling and have one elegant box that does everything.
What are your sources going to be for the office system?  And have you already purchased the LS50s?
Vincent sv237 for a hybrid integrated...

You can't go wrong with the Rogue Sphinx V2
Ken I use a KR audio va900 integrated and an Resonessence Mirus Pro DAC. Retails at about 15k but swear by it. I'm happy this combo!
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I am in a similar situation to OP. Looking to upgrade from a Rotel RX-1052 to drive my Canton Ergo 1002DCs. I had a Creek Classic 5350SE on loan. It took a long time to open up; but it is a significant step up from the Rotel. It might be awesome with 2-way bookshelfs, but I understand that is not at it's best with big 3-way full range towers. I brought the Creek to a local dealer to compare it with the Rogue Sphinx. Unfortunately the Sphinx was out on loan. For shits and giggles we tried the Belles Aria integrated that he had set up in the main listening room with a set of ProAc bookshelfs. I don't know the model, but they are not my cup of tea. Unlike the OP I love sparkle and these were pretty warm. Now I knew damn well that I could not spend the $1,900 for the Aria. Fixed income and all that geezer crap. 

Guess who picked up a dozen roses on the way home and is taking a part time job. Gotta have that Aria! After an in-home demo of course. I'll try to remember to keep y'all posted on that.
@2channel8, 
yes, the Belles is a great integrated. You are definitely doing the right thing.
Though it looks like you could save a bit by buying used (about $600). But, getting a warranty is sometimes worth the extra money.
B
I've been searching for used for about 4 months and haven't found any. However, I did spot a Krell S-300i for considerably less than the Belles that has given me pause.
I was in this situation recently. I decided to go integrated. Was down to three choices after many months...T+A 2500R, Pass Labs INT 250 and the Prima Luna Dialogue HP (tube). All 3 were excellent, I ended up going with the T+A, love it & it looks phenomenal. 
Thanks for all the input everybody.

I wasn't very clear with my original post. My office system currently includes KEF LS50's, Rega Brio Amp, and Parasound Zdac. Setup sounds good but not great, thus the itch to start with amplification/dac upgrades.  Once kids are a little older, the upgraded electronics will migrate to my home along with future floor standing speakers.

Sounds like this thinking isn't the right approach. Since I'm a little ways away from being ready for floor standing speakers at home (and no room in my office), I'll likely sit tight.

Thanks!
Ken


Not to steal OP's thread; but.....
I think I better not do the Belles. My left ear sometimes gives me some trouble. For the last 3 days it has been reminding me that whatever I get has to have adjustable balance. I am intrigued by the Primare i32 listed here. Has anyone had any experience with Primare? 

Some people say that Krell stuff has a lot of problems. Others say 'Not true. I've only had to send mine back for repair once."  ;^) I am wondering if that's only with the pieces that generate a lot of heat.
I just purchased the top o' the line model of the 340i - dac and phono on board - as I've recently opted to "dumb down" from my amp/preamp setup because I found myself chasing equipment instead of just enjoying the music.  

The 340i is 100 watts into 8 ohm, 200 watts into 4 ohm - sufficient to work with my Thiel CS3.5's - at the level I listen at.  The Sim is a very good integrated. Comparing it to my Pass Labs X150.5/B. A. T. VK3i setup remains a work in progress, but I don't feel I've truly lost anything in the switch.  The Sim is a tad "warmer" than the Pass was, but Pass has been noted to be too analytical by some.  Not I, though - pairing that with Thiel which has also garnered similar opinions was a sweet match.  

I just bought a pair of Thiel CS 3.6 which are replacing my 3.5. - the only way I would ever get rid of my Thiel. 

You have a very enviable budget for your return to this madness. I suggest sticking with the Neo and deciding if the trade up program they offer is worth your while. My MC275 amp blew a tube in the first 14 days of ownership and my experience with their customer service was abysmal. I sold it within a week of that. 

Hi Ken,

If you currently don't have the room for floorstanders, then I wouldn't outlay the funds for options 2-5, except for a moderately priced integrated at this time.

I agree with others that you should ideally nail down your speaker selection before dropping a lot of money on amplification, unless you know that there is a brand of amplification that you really like, which might justify matching the speakers to your amp.

If you liked the Simaudio Neo 340 over what you currently have, then perhaps that's a good intermediate step, and has the options of selling here at some time in the future or upgrading through your dealer; when you have more room for new speakers.

That said, the options that you listed will all have different sonic signatures. You would need to carefully evaluate each of them to find your preference, and also match to new speakers (or vice-versa); regardless of which option you start with.

I have owned the Simaudio i-5, i5.3, 600i, and 700i (currently using 600i). I like many things about the Simaudio sound, which can sound warm at times, but they aren't the warmest out there. They will show differences between speaker cables and interconnects (and power cords), which will also end up giving you something to do!

Good luck and have fun,

Gary

I forgot to mention that for any future speaker and amp purchases, you should try to have everything in your system be of the same league of performance. There is no need for some of the more expensive separates or integrated amps listed in your options, if the speakers won't be in the same league.