I'm a reasonably well experienced audio nut and have tried a number of "good" integrated amps. I wonder, though, if there are integrated amps that are good enough for the "best", most revealing speakers. (Think Avalon Eidolon, Verity Parsifal, various JM Lab Utopias, and a variety of other fine speakers that do not have mammoth power requirements.)
People talk about the Levinson, the Musical Fidelity KW-500 and the lesser MF amps, the BAT integrated, The Rowland Concerto, etc. etc. etc.
I would like to hear from people who have actually tried the top tier of integrated amps and would be very interested in learning of their findings.
Don't need to be the most expensive. Could be the YBA Passion, Classe, MacIntosh 6900, Krell 400i, or any of a number of integrated amps that are supposed to sound good.
There's a YBA Passion Integre for sale on the 'gon as we speak. Very good price. I'd grab it if I were you. I preferred it over the ML, Concentra II and MF. A very sweet 100 high current watts. Interior design is amazing. You know, when you buy used: don't like it, you can always put it back on the 'gon and if you are lucky, probably break even. peace, warren
I used to own the Pathos Twin Towers, it was the best thing I had. Loved it over tube or solid state. It needs a simpler load, and only pushes 35 watts, so it may not be enough. In that case, the Inpol 2 may be miuch better (though I've never heard it). It has slightly more power.
Then there is the ASR Emitter that TAS has as flavor of the month.....
I have used the Aronov Audio LS-960I which is well worth considering. I have paired it with the very top of the line Mapleshade Records power cord and it has been positively thrilling with a variety of loudspeakers, over the years. At its used price, around $1200, it is a "steal" and still very moderately priced when purchased new, factory direct.
Just got back from CES/Show, This year liked the RCM Bonasus integrated tube (16 watt side, $6000?) At last years show I heard the BAT being used in about half the rooms that I liked used to demo speakers etc...Was actually thinking alot about this question and it is tough. The Audion 300b SET is nice but only 7 watts and not a "true" integrated. I am currently using an Almarro a205a II only 5 watts/channel. Some of the other amps mentioned above I have heard as a demo but seems as they require carefull system matching to sound ok., well allright , all systems need to be matched but some components more of a challenge than others.
I have about 200 hours on my VAC PHI Beta integrated (sells for 19000.) It is simply the finest sound I have had in my system. I have had separates until now, including Macintosh, Pass Labs, Plinius, Aesthetix, and a few others. Coherent sound from top to bottom, plenty of bass focus and punch. Sweet, rich tube sound, with plenty of weight. I am using it to drive my Genesis 501's and it also has a very good phono stage as well. Worth a listen IMHO.Kevin Hayes thinks it's the best piece to come out of his shop, and that's saying a lot. Joe
I was searching this exact question last year. I heard a lot of the amps you mention including the McIntosh 6900, the Krell, the BAT, the Levinson. I've heard the Manley Stingray, Jeff Rowland Concentra, and the Gryphon 2100. I finally settled on the MF Tri-Vista, because I thought it would be the best at driving my JM Lab Alto Utopias. I think all of these amps are superb. I've heard the McIntosh with Kef speakers--top of the line. I heard the BAT with Thiel gear, the Krell with B&W 800 Nautilus, and the Manley and Gryphon with Dynaudio Confidence C1s, C4s and Avant-Guard Unos. I thought the 2300 dollar Manleys outperformed the 7300 dollar Gryphons on most recordings but there were a couple that sounded a bit distorted. The BATs were impressive and had a deep soundstage. But I didn't like the Thiel speakers much. I actually quite liked the McIntosh and Krells. Macs were good all-around amps. The Krells worked quite well with the B&W configuration. They were a bit dry but with my music--electroacoustic--they were highly appropriate. Since I listen to other music besides EA, and since I feel that tubes are superior to solid state, I finally chose the compromise solution of having a tubed pre-stage and solid state power. I'm glad I settled for the hybrid solution. That said, I also heard Pathos gear--both the Logos and the TT, which are both hybrid and I didn't like either. I thought the BAT was superior to both. The MF has given me some well-documented reliability problems but I can't complain at all with the sonics. I hardly ever turn the volume past 9 o'clock. It's a powerful unit and drives the Altos with ease. If i have one regret though it would be not being able to hear these speakers with Jadis amps. I would very much at some point like to hear them with the Orchestra Reference SEs, which probably aren't powerful enough to drive the Altos, but I'd like to try anyway, just for curiosity. Perhaps some day I will replace the MF with Jadis pre and power combo since this is a match that intrigues me, but Jadis gear is expensive and hard to get a hold of used at a decent price, so I may not have an opportunity unless I save up for many years. Otherwise, I'd say that the Tri-Vista and the KW in all likelihood (haven't heard it) are probably the top integrateds--mainly because they are engineered to do so much and have so much power. The two box solution allows for huge transformers to be used. I think the idea of making an integrated in the manner of separate pre and power configurations but combining the circuitry in one box and putting the space hogging power supplies in another is one of the most novel solutions for producing high quality integrated amps. I would like to try the Pathos Classic at some point, and I've yet to have access to a YBA Passion Integre. My general view though is that solid state can't come close to tubes. I've heard some very detailed solid state equipment that has impressed me, but I think tubes breathe more life into the music. I was simply aghast at how well the Manley outdid the Gryphon on that score. Less is often much, much more. Hope this helps.
there are dozens of good ones....sugden, naim, cyrus, revox, arcam, roksan, rotel, bryston, even the creek is still a contender. you don't have to spend a lot to get alot....but if you want to spend more....arc, mac, accuphase, yada yada
I own the Goldmund integrated and I must say that it is really really good. I also own separates (EAD PM2000, Lamm L1) and I have "fooled around" using the Goldmund on my main system (Amati's) and I was quite impressed.
You can't find the Goldmund integrated too much on Audiogon; I guess the people who have them love them too much, but if you ever get a chance, I don't think you can go wrong for not too much money.
The Krell KCT and any of their cx series of amps are electronically identical to an integrated amp because of the CAST connection between the components that keeps the balanced signal in the current domain in the connection implementation. So as much an oxymoron as the multipiece ASR.
While we are on the subject of hi end integrateds: Julian, I don't think this messes up your thread. You have oodles of suggestions and you can always buy my Passion. I'm selling my YBA to delve into tubedom. Purchasing very efficient speakers (Zu Definitions) 101db and want to have a go'round with a tube integrated. Any suggestions? I'm a tube virgin, so be gentle. thanks in advance, warren
Btw - at CES, I also saw an integrated from Vitus Audio (from Denmark) that is going to retail for $12K in the US. Haven't heard it, but I'd guess this would fall into the "Truly High End" integrated amps if its performance warrants the price...
The most musically satisfying and certainly "high end" integrated amplifier I have heard is the Jadis Orchestra Reference. A great amp with one irritating issue - biasing is a huge pain - otherwise it is perfect, at least driving my speakers, Merlin TSM-MXs.
Henryhk: I'm driving Genesis 501's with my VAC PHI Beta. Plenty of power to spare. The Genesis are tunable to the room with built in equalizers- and I find that invaluable. The Vac makes me smile everytime I play music. About 50% SACD's and 50% vinyl--equally good for both. I am an acoustic bass player and the sound is so very accurate. I had Macintosh SS poweramps (501 monoblocs) with Mac tube pre: C2200. I have lost nothing going from SState to all tubes, and feel that I have gained an intimacy and presence which I formerly lacked. Good luck! Joe
you may all laugh but the qinpu a 8000 is definately a contender. it easily bests my old bow zz1 and is a better sounding unit than an audio reseach ls9 +mccormack dna .5 delux and is cheaper-beware of the chinese they are serious.
Have you heard of Simaudio's new Moon i-7? It's supposed to kick as, according to Sim, deliberately underpriced for "extreme market penetration" as someone told me. Check it out - I'll bet it will sound excellent.
Ditto !! I have a MK II that I am using with a Bluenote Stibbert and I have never been more pleased in 30 years of listening. I was a skeptic until a friend came over and said "Lets unplug that Levinson 32 and that Plinius amp and let's pop this baby in." The DK did have a $300 pair of nos Amperex in it,but do the math. Needless to say the Levinson and the Plinius are living in someone else's house now. TRY A DK !!!!!!!
The New Audio Frontiers (Italy) 845 SET integrated is very impressive - think "Ongaku" sound. Strong power supply drives speakers quite well. We have added this line as the pricing is more affordable but the performance is really amazing. Certainly Class "A" in sound, aesthetics and construction in every sense!
I have recently heard some very good things about the new Gamut DI-150 integrated amp that was introduced at CES. Is anyone familiar with that amp?
It is supposed to be a combination of the Gamut D-200 Mark III amplifier and the D3 PreAmp on one chassis. The pictures look very good and the test reports from England & Norway that are listed on the Gamut web site ( http://www.gamutaudio.com/ ) are excellent.
I'd certainly appreciate any feedback on this amp if anyone has seen or tried it.
We are introducing some VERY high-end SET (845) amps from Italy - New Audio Frontiers. The integrated has 2 versions (20 & 25w/ch) including custom, hand-wound silver/copper litz transformers. Extraordinary sound and build quality! Think Ongaku!!!
Integrated hybrids with tubes in the preamp section and transistors in the output are the best compromise for sound, convenience, damping factor, etc, IMO. Pathos Logos is one of my favorite, but as usual tube rolling is crucial for optimization.