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No, the future is the wireless self-powered speaker system! AND IT IS HERE NOW! Check out Atkinson's review of the Dali Callisto 6 C speakers/Hub/BluOS system ($5750) in the latest Stereophile. Two Class D amps in each 3-way speaker and control through the Hub. If I was starting over again this is the system I would buy! And I would use an ADC into the Hub for my LPs and RTR tapes. JA measured and listened and was quite impressed!
I think the newer hi end integrated amps are definitely gaining ground. The advances in technology and the greater attention paid to the preamp section (not just an amp with an input volume control) has resulted in some very competitive products vis a vis separates. While separates still remain the utmost in hi end, a lot of people who have downsized their rigs have actually increased the overall sound quality by careful selection of the integrated offerings currently available.
Everyone seems to be making logical arguments on this thread but this is a hobby which defies logic and reason. You could almost make an argument that we are heading in the opposite direction. How many amps and preamps in the $10K and up category are based on mono's or feature separate power supplies?
I think that for the for the lower end of the spectrum (eg units with an MSRP of $1500 to $6000) integrated's are catching on. The problem with the higher end units is availability to hear is limited. Try finding a local dealer (I live outside of Boston) that offers T&A, Gryphon, AudioNet, or Ypsilon (SP?). Good luck.
At the upper end category it still seems to be an overseas (Europe and Asia) phenomenon which explains the 240 voltage you see on many ads. There just isn't that much of a market in the US for hi-end integrated's. I hope in the next few years I'm proven wrong.
It’s nice to have options. I have two systems built around separates and two built around integrateds. The integrateds are in smaller rooms and are very enjoyable to listen to, probably even "overkill", especially in my home office where I listen to news more than music and rarely have the volume over just barely audible levels. It would be tough to fit separates into the same space where those systems exist.
It’s hard to imagine an integrated amp replacing my 180 watt tube monoblocks and tubed preamp, at least for anything close to what I spent on those pieces, but it would be attractive if something like that existed that provided the same level of sound quality and all the features I currently have.
Right tool for the right job and all that.
Also it's pretty tough to isolate components in a single box. I'm currently using a tube amp with a tube line stage and tube phono stage. What happens if and when I decide I want to try a SS amp with tube line stage? The flexibility ability and ability individual components has real value to me but I understand that doesn't draw appeal from everyone.
I think it’s kinda natural to make progressions. Like, most start out with AVRs because that’s what Best Buy sells and that’s what they can afford when starting out, and many probably go through a couple over several years.
Then when ready to move move beyond that, an integrated is logical next step. That’s where I am now. Eventually I suspect next system in 15 yrs will be separates, probably tube. Then my final system 15 yrs after that will probably be back to integrated. Then 15 yrs later I’ll probably be dead ...
I bought my first integrated amp in about 1984, an HK PM645vxi. It still sells for about what I paid for it (or more) on Ebay, and I still use mine for a bedroom system.
I've never had a separate preamp or power amp. However, lately I do have separate components to support digital network streaming. These "separates" can include not only hardware (a streamer, computer/server, router, etc.) but also software (Roon, Audirvana, HQPlayer). HQPlayer allows myriad tweaks to the process without ever having to swap out hardware (unless you feel a need to change out a supporting NAA).
I love the concept of the Field Programmable Gate Array as an alternative to being locked into an unchanging, hard-wired DAC processor (like the ESS Sabre Chip in my Peachtree Nova). I wish an FPGA were available in an integrated amp, but AFAIK, it is only available in separate components such as the PS Audio DirectStream DACs. Maybe the day is coming (if not already here) when "integrated" encompasses software/firmware components that more-or-less "future proof" the hardware ... up to a point. Otherwise, rapidly-changing technologies tend to have the opposite effect, by driving continuous demand for the latest/greatest innovations, in contrast to my Harmon Kardon vintage 1984 amp that just keeps running and running.
Been there done that many times over the last 40+ years. I’ve always went back to separates. Integrated amps have been getting better but you also have many limitations with them. Lately for me it’s been the power. I was happy with my Hegel H300 until I purchased larger Usher speakers. Went separates. Went with a new McIntosh preamp with a built in 2 phono preamps and dac. Just sold my Hanss T-60 turntable last week and now selling all my vinyl. Never used the McIntosh dac because I have the superior PS Audio DS dac. In the coming weeks, I’ll be looking to see if I can get rid of the McIntosh preamp and run the amp straight from the dac. So yes, there are ways to consolidate but take different routes to do this. I do use a few integrated amps in other parts of the house.
I enjoy the NAD C-388 integrated with BluOS2i MDC module. It's the best all-in-one I could find with A-B speaker switching to drive 2-ohm loads. Not as fully developed user interface nor as easy to use as Denon/Marantz AVRs (on-screen menus). It checked all the boxes for $1,500 (with MDC) - which I think is a bargain considering some people would spend more than that on the interconnects required for seperates.
In regard to neatness, downsizing and fitting the listening/living room yes I see integrated amps becoming popular. Also if the integrated amp has good connections to all types of sources, a good Dac and the power to drive most speakers that would increase the appeal to certain music lovers. In regard to downsizing in certain quarters active speakers play a role so the preamp with any other inclusive capabilities comes to the fore and power amps, integrated amps and extra cable connections vanish (as the power amps are contained directly in the active speakers).
if the topic remains about INTs under 3K or a mite higher, i’ve always opted for HT receivers sheerly for versatility with connectivity and processing digital info.
there is becoming a strong argument for uber expensive INTS though.
there are plenty of debates on INTs vs one another too.
the idea separates out run INTs is fast becoming invalid given some of these new ‘Statement’’ INTs, ranging from 30K to more than 140K!! ala Vitas new 030, and the VAC statement INT, to name a couple.
look into eastern Europe and there are more interesting INTs coming onto the market.
the main theme for the invested audio nut is still gonna be the baking of the ‘cake’ using the mix and match lets see what will happen with this preamp and that amp, and or when differing toopologies are mated, tube pre SS amp, etc.
that is the mystique or curiosity factor which seems to keep pushing this AN along. past EXP as well says until you get well into the multiple Thousands of bucks separates do seem to rule given the mix and match approach.
but then that mixing and matching adventure can be quite taxing, after a while, depending on how pedantic aor how deep his or her pockets devotee may be.
the main interest for me in a rig whose heart is an INT could be as:
a starter system
a secondary outfit.
an I’m thru messing around I’ll just go all in and nab one of these 25K to 50K retail INTs and kick back!
albeit, there is a strong attraction to see how things work together when designs are completely different… or all the same.
if this is a life long hobby, it should be all about the journey, not the destination, shouldn’t it?
I suppose destination gear is for those who have at some point decided to quit this past time.
Integrated: Reduced Space; Remote Volume; Reduced Interconnects; Reduced Cost.
Remote Volume (modern preamp or modern integrated) effects top shelf space requirements. I used both SS and Tube Amps (Stereo or Mono) for many years on lower shelves before I wanted remote volume. Remote volume requires at least desk high shelf height (my top shelf) for remote beam use.
My 13’ wide room, large speakers away from corners, leaves only 88” linear shelf for active components. R2R on top reduces that to 88”. TT reduces it to 48” = only two short stacks of equipment, 4 of which use remotes.
1 digital stack, 3 remote devices:
Single CD, Multiple CD, Chase Remote Line Controller (my separate digital integrated, I use primarily for remote balance of CD’s, especially compilations of separate recording sessions). I found, a very slight balance tweak can make a surprising amount of difference to many CD tracks. It goes to my Integrated Tube Amp's AUX input.
1 tube stack, 1 remote.
Tube preference, heat from tubes effects top shelf space requirements.
I just designed and built a ventilated enclosure with floating solid glass top so I can stack my modern Integrated Tube Amp Cayin A88T over my old McIntosh Tube FM Tuner/Preamp, mx110z. (they only made 6 tube tuner/preamps, 'separates' took over soon after). The McIntosh incorporating FM Tuner, Phono EQ, Tape EQ reduces the need for those separates. Note: my choices of modern tube amp is limited to units with 16 ohm taps. I expected my modern Carver FM Tuner to beat the mx110z FM tuner, but happily the McIntosh FM is equally awesome. A dedicated FM antenna is needed for these older tuners. I listen to one station, WBGO Jazz, so the Carver was on a lower shelf.
As it has no remote control, I could put the McIntosh Tube Tuner/Preamp 1 shelf down, as I did with prior tube receivers, but that is a compromise I never liked.
I heard the Aesthetix Mimas with a pair of Vandersteen Quatro Wood CT speakers and they sounded incredible. Soundstage came at me from every angle. I just could not believe heft it delivered. Mind you, this is a 150 WPC integrated with more than enough power. On the other-hand, my 120 WPC Simaudio W-3 is decent, but the Aesthetix really drove those babies. Full disclosure: I have the Vandersteen Treo CTs and torn between the Audio Research tubed separates vs. the Mimas. What do you think and have you had any experience with either models?
It is with me. I'm currently looking at several brands of integrated amps to go with my Harbeth speakers. I could look at separates but in many cases you'll be spending more money on an amp/preamp and additional cables. The separates may or may not sound better. But integrated amps are fast gaining ground especially from a sonic quality perspective.
I can't get away from separates because no preamp section on integrated amps really do it for me quite as well, The main issue being I think that power supplies for each given section seems to improve things. But I always love to simplify and reduce interconnects and steps if I can... which can seem to degrade the sound, it's really a very good battle/debate as far as ultimate transparency goes.
My previous system had a 3 box preamp, and biamped speakers with a stereo amp and a pair of class A mono amps plus an external crossover. When the time came to replace it (after 25 years), I replaced all of that with a network streamer (Aurender N10) and and integrated amp (Levinson 585). Instead of buying a whole bunch of interconnects, power cables, and speaker cables, I just had to buy a few. Given today’s prices for good cables, eliminating even one pair of cables saves a LOT of money. I really like the simplicity of the integrated amp, and I suspect eliminating the extra cable helps the sound quality.
I moved away from seperates, to an intergrated amp for my system. At this point I don't think I've lost anything as far as sound quality, and gained the convenience of a single box. What prompted this change are my speakers, being very efficient....I wanted to try a tube based IA. I ended up with a Viva Solistino amp and haven't looked back.