Looking for a change.


My current integrated amp is a 90 wpc Yamaha AS2100. I'm thinking about replacing it with a more powerful integrated, or keeping it as a pre and just adding an external amp. My speakers are Sonus Faber Cremona M with two KEF R400B subs. I have a Musical Fidelity Nu Vista Vinyl, so the phono stage is not an issue. The SF speakers are pretty efficient and good with this amp. Like everyone, I'm always wondering what could be. What am I missing with the Yamaha and what would I gain from making a change. I listen to vinyl on my VPI Prime with a Van den Hul MC DDT II Special. I stream with a Node running through the DAC of my Yamaha CD S2100. Is the Yamaha my weak link?

chasda

Those are seriously good speakers.   Not to slam the Yamaha, it's good , but those speakers are not outclassed by amps two or three times the price of your Yamaha.   

I think choice of electronics is very important with any good speaker .   Even more important with a speaker like the Cremona.   Do you have a dealer that would let you take an integrated home to demo?   That's your best bet.   

try a hegel integrated (h120 or 190 given your system)... i think you will be pleased with the improvement - substantially better treble subtlety, air, soundstage depth and specificity, bass control/solidity - all of which would be heard on your quite good, resolving speakers

the sound will seem more easeful and clear at the same time, more effortless yet with more subtle details

no affiliation, other than being a very happy hegel owner...

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What kind of improvements are you looking for and what sound characteristics are most important to you?  Also, what’s your budget?

90 wpc is plenty of power for the speakers which are 91db efficient. If you want to make them sing introduce tube amp. If that doesn't float you boat then add a couple subs, preferably Rel to the mix 

I used to own a set of those. The classic combo is with Audio Research… like a Vsi75 or a Ref 75se amp. These would sound very different from what have now, rendering more realistically with mid range bloom and fleshed out nuance in the bass.. Tube alternatives: Conrad Johnson, VAC, and Cary. Alternatively Luxman would be a good choice with some tubed or not.

 

Here is a gross generality to think about. If you really like lots of details in your face and slam… then sticking with solid state and adding lots more power will tickle your fancy. However, if you want a more realistic sound (with all the details… just not in your face) and the bass more nuanced with great emotional content, then look to tubes like ARC…preamp and amp would be best. Or you can split the difference with Pass XA amp.

If you are unsure… go find a system run on tubes and have a listen. It is easy to think you want more details and slam until you hear a really good musical system. You already have a good set of speakers to head in that direction.

I am powering my current Sonus Faber (same sensitivity as yours) with an Audio Research REF 160… but in triode mode so it is only putting out 70wpc… sound great at at least twice the volume I would ever listen.

As expected the common theme is the Yamaha. I have a friend who is a Macintosh dealer and has been pushing me towards a Macintosh. Of course I could demo at home as long as it's in stock. He also has Prima Luna, which I know a few people mentioned tubes. I've also come across a Rotel RB 1590 which I would use as a external amp. I will begin seriously considering moving on from my Yammie, as the main power source, it has served me well.

@chasda take advantage of the opportunity to demo and listen to as many different manufacturers as possible.

My journey in audio has taken multiple steps and a Yamaha receiver was a significant step up during my journey.

What I've learned in my journey is manufacturers and amps sound different.  If you like them they sound good if you don't then they don't - but the reality is every manufacturer is forced to make compromises and the end result is a specific characteristic.

I have owned McIntosh and thorough enjoyed my units with a tube pre and SS amp.  When I decided to upgrade I was able to listen to Audio Research, Rogue, Moon, Boulder and McIntosh.  I noticed my tastes changed and ended up switching for McIntosh.  Enjoy the process and what every you decided - the person to satisfy is the one looking back at you in the mirror!

 

The Rotel is likely a lateral move.  I would take advantage of demoing gear from your dealer friend.  Personally, I'd be looking at tube gear options.

I have a Plinius 9100 integrated available. Many compare Plinius with Pass Labs. Contact me if interested.

Here is a gross generality to think about. If you really like lots of details in your face and slam… then sticking with solid state and adding lots more power will tickle your fancy. However, if you want a more realistic sound (with all the details… just not in your face) and the bass more nuanced with great emotional content, then look to tubes like ARC…preamp and amp would be best. Or you can split the difference with Pass XA amp.

just for discussion's sake, and not to be argumentative with @ghdprentice, while i agree directionally with his comment above, i feel it is stated too starkly as to the difference between top-flite solid state and tube amps (details in your face or not, bass nuanced/emotional/weak, relatively)... the upper tier of solid state amps (including pass which he mentioned) but also a host of others, nicely ’split the difference’ and then some (with materially better bass response), in my own experience, compared to similarly high echelon tube amps

context: i currently own audio research ref 110, ref 75, vt100, v70, linear tube ref40 but they don’t rotate in often anymore... preference goes to agd and exposure monoblocs, hegel h20, smc/mccormack dna, belles sa30 -- speakers are big harbeths, spendors, proacs, maggies...(further sidebar: i generally don’t run my rel subs anymore... but for those that do, tube amps may well be best of both worlds...)

Have a set of Cremona Auditor M - they are special as many Audiogoners have attested to all over this forum. Play mine now in a Cary - Manley - Line Magnetic - Auralic streaming system. Have also experienced Cremona M floorstanders at length in an Aesthetix - Antique Sound Labs (Hurricane Monos) - Mytek - Auralic setup. Equally fantastic in a larger room especially with the ASL, 100 Watts X (2) of spectacular tube power. These amps are incredible with the big Fabers. Just my opinion but I find this amp/speaker pairing spectacular.

If you're OK sticking with an integrated, take a look at the PS Audio Stellar Strata

If I were just starting my audio journey, it's what I would buy

A tremendous price performance value proposition, IMO

 

I think your Yamaha is an excellent unit. The changes you consider all cost money. With whatever amount you may consider spending on a component upgrade  I recommend you check out an MIT power cord in that price range. I believe you'll enjoy the experience- and money spent on getting great energy to your components is like a permanent upgrade. I've noticed an MIT Oracle Z-lll for $425 for 2 meter. It will likely 'startle' you  :)   ( I am not in the hifi biz in any way :)

@chasda 

Your electronics are the weakest link in your audio chain.  Also. Have you addressed room treatment?

For specific component suggestions, your budget, what sound you’re dissatisfied with, what sound do you want more of, type of music listened to, and your preference for tubes vs SS

I've enjoyed reading your comments and perspectives. Some have asked about my equipment, if you read my original post it's all spelled out there. Some have suggested brands that I would consider a lateral move not a move up. As far as my cables and room, my interconnects are mostly Audio Quest, except the subs which are SVS cables. My budget is not a problem since anything I purchase I will probably get a good deal with my connections through dealer friends. My phono amp is a hybrid tube, I would consider a tube integrated and I do have a Prima Luna source. My musical tastes are anything from early jazz to classic rock and a lot in between. My room could use help, but since it's acually a part of my house, changes can be difficult. Dimesions are 17x15 with vauled ceilings as high as 16 ft. and open on 2 sides. It's carpeted and furnished but I assume the ceilings are an issue. Someone made a comment about power supply and that made me think. Should I consider a power conditioner and power cords before I make changes in my integrated amp? Do power conditioners really work and are they worth the money? Right now everything is just plugged into a power strip then into the wall.

I have no brand recommendations.  However, don't use your Yamaha as a pre-only, at least not for very long.  Integrated units are made to match the pre- and the power- stages...the pre-outs are just for convenience, or subwoofers, or whatever. 

If you want a step up get a better integrated or go fully separates...

I always recommend getting all your components worked out… compatible and synergistic… then work on interconnects and power cords. My objective is always the best possible sound for what I can afford at the time. So best possible components… figure out what it sounds like… then enhance with interconnects… power cords. Then enjoy the music for a few years. Repeat.

I agree with ghdprentice

My rationale is there's numerous interconnects and power cords (I have 3 power cords, 2 sets of interconnects) and they effectively erode the budget of truly upgrading source, amps or speakers.  

The difference in upgrading my preamp had greater impact than interconnects and power cables put together (and it should have given the cost)

So....looking at your gear, I would not say that the yamaha is inherently the weak link. Yamaha makes decent integrated amps and compared to your other equipment is not out of line. It is a $4K integrated.

I would suggest Hegel as an option. It is a lovely line of integrated amps but the H390 or H590 would be steps forward. This a neutral and resolving amp that I think would be a good fit with your speakers. It is extremely clean and low distortion.

If you want to try tubes, Octave makes an amazing integrated amp. I mention this partially because I listed a used unit like 10 minutes ago but they are highly resolving and the super black box will assist in driving any speaker. I was surprised at how detailed and resolving this amp was and I think tonally will match well.

AVM makes some stunningly good integrated amps. The Evolution 5.2 is nice, the Ovation 6.2ME is better. There are great reviews of each in Positive Feedback and Stereophile. These are well made units that are a little to the warm side of neutral but are extremely resolving. The Evolution 5.2 is my internal benchmark amp and what I listen too most frequently. I also have a Hegel H590 here and a variety of power amps.

Musical Fidelity makes wonderful integrated amps but they have been impossible to get lately.

Ayre Acoustics makes awesome units that would be an A+ match. They have a pretty broad range to the price. I have heard the AX5 Twenty as I had one in on trade. Awesome integrated. I have not heard their newer, less expensive units, but would be truly shocked if they were anything less than fabulous.

This is $6k to $15K in terms of price range with most in the middle. All will be better than what you have. It is just a matter of what you want to improve will dictate which direction you go.

Full disclosure, I am a Hegel, AVM and Musical Fidelity dealer, I have a used Octave V80 SE and Hegel H590 for sale. I have no affiliation with Ayre other than being a happy former owner.