Haven't heard Sony ES, but between:
Denon I think sounds the best. Not always the most "watts" but if you look at the specs they tend to have higher current. Most of the others don't even mention current.
There's a catch: Denons are not very reliable.
If you are willing to buy an integrated amp rather than a receiver (you'd only be missing the tuner), then you could probably get a good used unit for around $1,000. Among the integrateds you should consider are:
1. the Creek 5350SE (MSRP $1500);
2. the Bryston B-60 (MSRP $1600);
3. the Arcam Alpha 10 (MSRP $1600);
4. the Audio Analogue Puccini SE (MSRP $995);
5. the Musical Fidelity A300 (MSRP $1500);
6. the Rega Mira (MSRP $950).
If you want a true receiver, and are interested in helping your friend begin to build a 5.1 channel surround system at some point, then you might also consider the Outlaw Audio receiver (MSRP $1100). This unit is sold direct over the Internet, and offers exceptional value for the money. For more info, go to Outlaw's Web site: www.outlawaudio.com
Hope this gives you some initial ideas.
Like Sdcampbell, I would also suggest an integrated amp, unless your friend really wants a tuner. Since you appear to be tube oriented you might consider the Rogue Tempest. Great value but it's a bit large and might not appeal to your friend esthetically. Audio Aero makes a more compact, interesting hybrid unit that I'm actually trying to audition as an alternative myself.
AA also makes a little brother to its famous Capitole tube cdp called the Prima. I use and like it very much.
The LS3/5as are a classic, but tough to find and generally priced in the $900+ region. I have 2 pairs of the old 15-ohm versions, and while they are not always in use I'll never part with them. The modern incarnation is the Spendor S3/5 which sell in the same range new, depending on finish, and a few hundred less used on this site. Some say they actually beat the LS3/5a, and I'll admit to being one of them. A bit more extended highs (not bright) and don't have the (in)famous lower mid hump.
I use the S3/5s with the Prima and Tempest Magnum in my study and just love the sound. Just musical - great for vocals, jazz, and classical, although for real bass extension one should realistically add a sub. Spendor makes one which, not surprisingly, mates very well. I tried it and found I really didn't need it in my 12'x16' room.
If you live anywhere near Southampton, NY drop by with your friend for a listen!
Mcintosh just released a new HT receiver.
Magnum Research, the maker or some of the best tuners you can buy offers a reciever now. I think the model is the 208(?) and it features an excellent Sim Audio amplifier section. High end it is.
i'd go integrated amp as well, and there are LOTS of good choices. if you'd like to stay inexpensive, i'd go rega brio or mira.
or if you'd like to stay *really* simple, there's always the linn classik, which is a true high end cd pplayer, preamp, tuner, and amp all in one. just add good speakers and it's high-end-in-a-box.
I can vouch for Denon being hi-current. I've 'played' around with some Denon receiver models, and they have 'balls.'
Though, I'd recommend an integrated amp, (like others) if she doesn't need a tuner or any 5.1 stuff. You'll get more for the $$$ with an int amp.
B&K, Magnum Dynalab.
Also look at the Lynn Classik which has a CD player also, so the extra cost is worth it.
The NAD C730b is also a 2 channel audio receiver. More at the mid-fi end but still nice. See info at:
Recommend you audition the NAD C740 receiver. I have had an older NAD receiver for about 8 yrs in a 2nd system and have been very satisfied with its performance. While it is not the best made or most attractive piece of gear, it offers sound quality that may surprise you, especially at its modest price.
I don't know if an older receiver is going to be vetoed because of it's age, look, or lack of remote, but I'd recommend a nice Luxman, Yamaha, Pioneer, Onkyo, Marantz, etc. from the late 70s or very early 80s (before all of those companies started downhill). They all sound much smoother than any newer unit...especially Luxman...they're very smooth sounding. They'd also probably cost much less than $750.
I vote heavily in favor of the old Marantz. I sold an early 70's version of a 2275 to my brother about 20 yrs ago and it still sounds great and seems to have tons more power than the rated 75 watts. Good tuner section to boot
Beautiful receiver, Nice, warm sound, excellent tuner.
Get a nice MAC 4100 or 4200 or 4275.Very good receivers and solid sound.
Two companies that used to produce really decent sounding receivers were NAD and Rotel. The NAD receiver were entire entry level separates placed in a single box. The problem with most receivers is that each of the separate sections share a common power supply. That often limits dynamics and clarity compared to separate components that have their own power supply. Another issue that most receiver tuner sections are an afterthought and are not very good. If your friend is going to listen to quite a bit of FM my suggestion would be to go with an integrated amplifier and a separate tuner. As others have mentioned, the Creek is a great sounding integrated in your price range. They also make a very good tuner.
There's a mint demo Magnum Dynalab MD208 up for auction right now at about $1500. Phil's suggestion regarding classic Luxman is also certainly worthwhile.
Yeah, I'll throw in with the people that have mentioned the Magnum Dynalab MD208. Magnum Dynalab is known for their tuners and the preamp/amp section of the MD208 is based on Simaudio integrated amps. Expensive, but well designed and nice to look at. But for $750 used , I really can't think of any receivers close to the Magnum Dynalab. Maybe a good integrated.
I notice on today's "for sale" items that several of the integrated amps I suggested are available: the Creek 5350SE, the Bryston B-60, the Rega Mira, and the Arcam. Looks like good timing for you...
I love your choice of Rogers LS3/5A. The Luxman recommendation is clearly the winner. I've owned pieces from every company mentioned above except for the Dynalab receiver. That one is very nice, very expensive. I own a Luxman 1120A and it is magnificent. Smooth, powerful and the tuner is world class, better than the very best late 70s Yamaha tuners hands down. I've modified mine to include a hardwired LAT International PC and internal soldering between the preamp-out/power-in circuit.
A few thoughts come to mind. I too like your choice of the LS3-5A's; but be carefull, as they can be difficult to drive (15 ohms). Your friend is an acoustic musician so chances are she will not be listening to a lot of Metallica; so you should be OK with them and a quality receiver. I'm going out on a limb here, but most musicians I know don't listen to the radio very much at all. If your friend doesn't, the choice of an integrated makes more sense.
If a receiver is the way to go, I am tempted to recommend an older tubed receiver such as a Fisher (one listed for sale here for 350.00) or a Scott; but the fact that your friend knows nothing about electronics and is "non-technical" worries me as tubes will have to be replaced; and they will be more prone to needing repairs. They will however give her a "sweeter" sound than most solid state receivers, new or old.
As far as "newer" receivers go: to this day one of the most incredible examples of "synergy" that I have ever heard was the sound that an old college friend used to get from his AR turntable, Advent speakers, and Yamaha receiver; all '70's vintage. To this day, one of the nicest sounds I have heard, sweet, clear and direct. Maybe it was the room and the way he had the speakers set up; I would not have believed it. Then again, maybe it had everything to do with the substances ingested in those days.
All kidding aside, I like the recommendation of an all in one unit, such as the Linn Klassic. Simple as you can get, and as with most Linn stuff, really musical. Good luck.
I've owned the Linn Classik/Rogers combination and it works very well. Far cheaper and yet still musical is the
NAD L-40. Own one and use it with the LS3/5As at times with very good results as a travel system.
DMC-electronics.com should still have refurbished for $360.
Thank you all for your thoughtful recommendations. I have bought a Lynn Classic(k) for simplicity. Now, if I could only find a nice pair of ls3/5a's, my friend would be in audio heaven.