Is an amp the next upgrade path for me? Advice...

Hi all, love the forum, long time fan, and a past purchaser of equipment from here.

My equipment prior to 3 weeks ago, were:
Axiom Audio M22Ti, Arcam a65plus integrated, Axiom EP 125 sub, Squeezebox touch, wiring/power all stock.

Recently purchased a set of PSB Imagine T towers to replace the m22.
Very happy with my decision, soundstage has really opened up!!

Of course, I am now limited to the volume I can play my music (I prefer 2 channel), and have noticed things falling apart a bit at higher volumes, mostly with the higher freq. output. The subwoofer I have at 50hz and below, and used mostly to add a lithe bit of "pop" to the electronica music I so much enjoy. Room size is smallish, say 12 feet b/w me and speakers, but will probably employing these in a larger space soon.

What should my next step up be? I'm interested in larger, more expansive soundstage. I want more "feeling" the music, with a bit more lower end. I want to try and improve the higher end "shrill" that I can get with higher volumes.

I AM NOT intersted in changing speakers, as I'm very happy with these towers.
I AM NOT interested in chancing cables, as I am just not completely sold on this upgrade path, at least, at the current level of equipment I have.

Would you recommend an outboard amp? Higher power Rotel or musical fidelity, for example? And how much power? ( I do want something that will last a long time, with further upgrades in speakers, and larger power req. in the future)
Would you recommend a change completely from the integrated to a much nicer integrated unit with higher output?
If I were to spend 1,000$ on a newer higher powered integrated vs 1000$ on a power amp, where would I see the MOST benefit.
Would you recommend a change the subwoofer either in addition to, or alone as a substantial upgrade?

I appreciate all your input! My budget is probably in the 1K range.

thanks all!
you get the speakers then go for the amp. If you like SS then I'd try for a used McCormick'll be shocked at the improvement in sound. A less expensive alternative is an Outlaw RR2150 integrated....big bang for the $$$.
As you suspect, your new speakers may be letting your other component and cables shine through... in particular when you turn up the volume. I don't think the Arcam is your weakest link however. I would start with better power supply for the Touch, and possibly explore alternative cables, such as something used from Anti-cables or Signal Cables.
It may also be that your room is being overloaded with bass, messing up the high frequencies.
I'd say at the volumes you play, you stand to really do some damage to things. Big loud sound on a small budget is burned out tweeters.

Based on THAT fact of volume (each 3dB is about TWICE the power), I'd go to the ODYSSEY site and look at some good quality amplifiers at reasonable prices, or as suggested, look at used McCormack (easier to find) or ODYSSEY (harder to find as it does so well for the bucks and sounds great) gear.

A so, so sonic signature of an upstream component to the amp is less important if your are running out of power. Better sound upstream (preamp, for instance)that is clipping an amplifier downstream will still trash your tweeters.

For your described volume likes you need to shore-up the WATTS ASAP! Or, save for tweeters again, and again.

The ODYSSEY amps can be sent in for upgrades as you can afford a more refined sound as can McCormak's older series stuff (DNA-225 or DNA-500 or older). This is a great way to get some decent power in your system and STILL upgrade stuff later on. Either brand will last DECADES.
I would say the bare Squeezebox is the weakest link, as it's not up to the level of the rest of the gear IMO (I'm sure many would disagree), but your speakers are most likely being underpowered. While its pretty much impossible to diagnose clipping on a forum without actually hearing it, I'd bet that that's what's going on or you're very close to it. The A65+ is a 40 or 45 watt amp. It's a great amp when it's driving speakers within its limits/comfort zone, but I'm pretty sure your speakers aren't within that zone.

If you get an integrated or power amp is a matter of preference. If you're planning on eventually getting a dedicated preamp, a power amp makes sense. If not, a better and more powerful integrated makes sense.

NAD is a natural match for PSB, as they're owned by the same parent company and I'm pretty sure they use each other's gear in voicing. I like the McCormack amps better, but unless you're getting a dedicated preamp, you may get better results with an NAD integrated.

I think the best deals in town right now are Cambridge integrateds. The current line has been discontinued, and you can get new in box ones for about half off. The 840a was about $1800, and is now about $1k. Spearit Sound has several listed here with full warranty. I think they sound a lot better than the NADs and are better built.

I haven't dealt with Spearit Sound, but I know several people who have. All had nothing but great things to say about them.

I'd get a good integrated, save up, and then get a good DAC for the Squeezebox, but that's just me.
I would stay away from McCormack amps; their non deluxe models are mediocre, and in order to lift their performance to "shocking improvement" you will have to spend at least $2000 in upgrades. The Odyssey Stratos is a possibility if you can find one with at least the first level of upgrades

My choice would be the little known internet marketer called Red Dragon Audio which offers several models of digital MONOBLOCK amps. Their M-500 (250RMS) is amazing for its price of $1400 a pair, which on sale could be much less, They are built well and smart looking....Speaker connectors are somewhat hinky, but an excellent value overall. Check out Audiogon's Industry Directory....if it is still working. Of course you will a preamp, or pre-amp with DAC

If you must do an integrated amp, look for a used Creek Destiny I. In addition, Bel Canto has an integrated amp of about 150RMS with their own DAC built in, and a decent MM stage if you still play vinyl. The BC unit will also to my knowledge, accomodate you current computer audio needs
Thanks all for the great feedback!
So after thinking (of course while listening my beautiful little system :) I think I've realized that power is probably the thing I need/want/require the most.

I have looked at the belcantos, which are great power wise, but unfortunately the usb dac would not work properly with the Squeezbox, and I'm not interested in having a separate PC connected to this system.

TheNADS seem nice, but I will admit, I can be vain, and the "look" just does not do ANYTHING for me. Boring, just imho of course!!

Now the Odyssey Stereo amp seems to really stand out to me, I absolutely love the look, modern, yet unobtrusive, all around class. The specs seem up to par, with good power output 150w/ch into 8ohm, with decent current rating of >45, I think plenty for these PSB speakers, and would be good for upgrades down the road.

I really do like my integrated, just not the power output.
Now if there is an integrated that accepts digital inputs, and its own built in dec, with good power output, and a reasonable price, I would be sold!
I'm just not sure that's going to happen.

I figure, get the power now.. Save up, and get a nice pre-amp, possibly one with processor/dac, etc... in the future.
Does this sound reasonable to you all?

Any other amps you recommend I check out other than Odyssey: Something with looks, power >120 watts, and a decent current rating?

Also, in regards to changing the power supply of the squeezebox, after some reading, it does seem like a reasonable upgrade. I'm usually hesitant on power/cable upgrades, but it seems as though this one might be junk. Not sure how much is needed to spend on such a thing however....

thanks again for all your feedback!
Looking forward to responses.
In the price range(1K) you mentioned and the above 100 watts (quality)I can think of a few and some have already been mentioned:

Classe CA-101
McCormack DNA-125
Odyssey Stratos or Khatargo
Parasound Halo A23
B&K ST125
Belles 150 Hot Rod

Out of these I owned the B&K, which was nice, very warm sounding.
I currently own the CA-101 wich is a step up in performance - thought bass performance is not top notch with the Classe.

Best of luck to you.
Lou, Regarding your list: Can you or anyone explain the basis of why McCormack amps get so much attention and praise??.

The DNA-125 is 10 or more years old; McCormack, as a viable company to the best of my knowledge is out of business and was subsequently bought by Conrad Johnson, and SMc only does upgrades on the older Mc amps

McCormack DNA-125 cannot out perform the Odyssey Khartago which is 130 a channel, has received good reviews; and, I would bet the Stratos Standard would smoke it.
The McCormack units get good praise because of their rigged design and up grade path. They sound "good" stock and can be bought for reasonable prices, then upgraded to suit by SMCAudio.

The basic design is very similar to ODYSSEY gear, no fancy parts inside...just good old analog amplifier design. No, not exactly the same, the DNA-225 I owned runs warmer (probably more CLASS A bias) than the KISMET mono amps (run cool as a cucumber) so they are not carbon copies, but the same amplifier component design. No IC’s, just good parts.

But, they are BOTH simpler design perfected over time with better and better sounding parts.

USED MacCormack gear is close to ODYSSEY in value (Stratos amplifier). The advantage ODYSSEY has, are the factory direct sales. You get more bang for your buck, where the McCoramck gear, which is typical distribution sales) is close if you buy used and let the original owner absorb the distribution mark-up.

You can also buy the ODYSSEY amplifier straight-out to your budget, as Klaus is very accommodating to your situation.

I've owned BOTH the McCormak gear (DNA-225 and MAP-1) and ODYSSEY gear and liked them both. I've actually got an RLD-1 I bought used, and am having SMCAudio do platinum upgrade on it as I write this. So I do practice what I preach. Doing the factory direct model with the RLD-1 upgrade on a used pre amp (even a ten year old one) gets a lot of bang for the buck with modern components. The box and circuit board are the only parts that aren't new! And, the ODYSSEY KISMET mono amps are great sounding, too, at affordable prices.
Get a used Bel Canto 3i with built in dac. They come with usb or spdif inputs depending on what the owner wanted. I use one with a SB Touch and the sound is great. My 3i has the usb input and I performed the software hack found on the net to make the SB Touch output the signal thru the usb jack.

Great little ampB
Thanks for the responses everyone! I think I am definitely interested in a power amp, and not another integrated.I figure in the future, once I change to a preamp/processor, I can move the arcam back to powering my axiomM22ti as a nice little bedroom setup!

The Odyssey Stratos has really caught my eye, but I continue to look at other amps to option. Any other suggestions for a good looking, powerful amp? Ended up getting some new speaker cables/interconnects from BlueJeans, I'll let you know if they "do anything" after I get them (mainly i wanted the convenience of banana plugs, figured, why not).

thanks again
I thought I would chime in as I have owned similar equipment to you:

I have a set of PSB image 4T (older version of your imagine set), squeeze box touch (make sure you are feeding non compressed files) and a axiom EP500 sub.

I started with a Sony home theatre receiver, moved to NAD separates (T163, T973) and then to a speaker change from the PSB to Dali and a Cary SLI 80. Then played with DAC's a bit.

From my experience, the more SS power you you add the more things " open up" and a tangible improvement is made. Also, with DAC's I was surprised at the difference you could make with one of these units.

So, with your budget I would offer a suggestion of trying to add more power and try squeeze a DAC in as well. Perhaps a NAD integrated like the 375bee on this site for under a $1k and maybe a Dacmagic, which I found helps the bass quite a bit.

Or like me, get into tubes, which this is a slippery slope - but man, for me nothing makes music like these babies. (though I now want to upgrade these to a " better " version, so it never ends)
In line with the dream integrated you mentioned, Wyred4Sound has a new integrated that includes a DAC. The mINT (mini-integrated). 100W into 8 ohms. Not familiar with your speakers so not sure if that would be enough power for you.
From your description, I would at least DOUBLE the power you have now, no less. And bass is the BIG user of power, too. So crank it up much at all and "poof" there goes your new headroom. Each 3 dB increase in SPL(about what most say is "louder") needs about twice the average power.

You don't really have enough money to buy a DAC for sound quality and an amplifier to get you out of your sonic ditch. Get the AMP pronto before you have a tweeter bill to keep that new DAC even farther away from purchase.
Thanks so much for the replies!
After plenty of research, and input from all of you, I decided that the AMP is really the first purchase I need to make. I do not want to under power my speakers and risk an issue down the road. Also, I liked the idea of going separate so that in the future I can mix and match. I loved the integrated for the system I have had, but future upgrades and changes would be difficult with a simple change to an integrated.

I have just purchased an Odyssey Stratos Extreme+ stereo amp, used here on audiogon, with what I think is a great price. Plus, talked to Klauss himself and seems like this would be a good match. Plus, a 20 year warranty is fantastic. This amp is near new, delivered in sep 2011, so is very up-to-date, and not even broken in yet! My hope is that this amp will be a foundation for years to come as I continue to expand.

I will let you all know how this amp turns out in my system!

Sadly, I have been spending exuberant amounts of time already looking at preamps. This hobby can be damaging to the psyche. lol
thanks again, and will update you all soon once the amp comes in.

take care
Hi everyone!

So I have been listening my new amp (Stratos Extreme SE w/ board upgrades, TS premium/cable upgrade, and WBT connectors) which I got for for an amazing price here on Audiogon.

What a difference!!!!

First of all, this amp is built like a tank, not some old Soviet era tank, but an Abrhams BUILT TO DESTROY type of tank :)

All joking aside, it really is a wonderful piece of equipment. I am not even able to put in my equipment rack, so it is sitting flat on the carpet.

AFter about a day of warmup, I gave it a listen.

The impact of the music was the most noticeable and immediate impact I felt. The music no longer felt so far in the distance, and veiled, instead it had punch, and a "you are right there" type of atmosphere.
I noticed a substantial improvement in the bass.

The soundstage is markedly improved. instruments are more distinctive now.
I had issue with these speakers originally because they did not "disappear" as well as I liked, but not anymore.

Voices are very crisp and almost too upfront compared to the prior amp.

Overall extremely happy with this purchase. I've been very lucky in that the components I have been adding have given noticeable improvements.

I did purchase some Blue Jeans cables for speakers, and interconnects. The build quality is great. I did not a/b the difference from my old monster cables, but then again, I'm not a huge proponent on expensive cable upgrades.

So next up, I have a PSB Subseries 500i in matching dark cherry coming soon, hoping to fill out the lower bass that I know will not be achieved without extremely expensive floor standers.

In the future, will work on DAC and Pre-Amp.
For now I'm happy, and just enjoy the music :)

Any comments/suggestions?