Moderate Priced Integrated Amp

I live in a retirement community and a musician neighbor/friend has requested my assistance in putting together a high value, high performance stereo system to accommodate his tastes in classical (primarily) and jazz music. I am seeking advice since for the past 45 years I have lived in the high-end world. The centerpiece of this system would be a moderately priced solid-state integrated amplifier (or possibly a receiver) at a cost of under $1,000 (and preferably under $700). Purchasing used from a reliable seller is no problem. The listening room is small (as befits a retirement community) and the speakers we select will probably be in the 89db efficiency range. Neutrality, absence of coloration and tonal accuracy are definite requirements, as is reliability. My preliminary research has uncovered such brands as Outlaw Audio, many Cambridge products, Rega, Arcam and Music Hall among others. Further suggestions and bits of wisdom would be most welcome. Thank you for your time and patience.
Neutrality, absence of coloration and tonal accuracy are definite requirements...
With this requirement, you might consider active speakers used in recording studios.

Choices can be see here:

FWIW, I use JBL LSR4328 monitors + LSR4312 sub in my main system and KRK VXT6 monitors in my office system.

Volume can be controlled by a JBL MSC1.
Naim Nait 5i (italic) used at ~$900-1000
Portal Panache
Unison Unico
Naim Nait 5i
I think that you're looking into some good options. I'd recommend:

Music Hall Mambo
NAD BEE series
Audio Refinement Complete
Musical Fidelity A3cr or A3.2cr
Onkyo A-9555 (I haven't heard this one but it gets good reviews)

Musical Fidelity.
NAD or Pre-owned Naim would seem to be ideal.
If you can find a used Van Alstine, I'd recommend that. Perhaps, Frank has something for you. You can check out his site ( and give him a call.

They are built to last!!
Virtue Audio. The One, the Two or the Sensation. Get one of the upgraded power supplies, perhaps the JT Dynamic or Astron, and you're in business.

Those active speakers intruige me! I've never considered them.
I currently have a bedroom system with small speakers and a receiver for playing iTunes.

How do you connect the audio ... analog? ... USB?
How are they sonically? Do they compete with traditional speakers?

I second the NAD BEE series.You can get new equipment,amp and cd player, with that budget.Peace of mind that a warrantee brings will be much appreciated.There are several NAD authorized online dealers.I have done business with Spearit Sound and can recommend them highly.Below is a link to their website.Good luck.
A Bryston B60 or B60R (the remote model) would fit the bill ... even an older unit would still carry warranty coverage. Bryston amps are well known for neutrality (some would say too much so) which befits there professional or studio heritage.

good luck!

the conventional wisdom would be to get your speakers first, then match amp to same. however, if you want to get the amp first, i concur that you're on the right track with your list--arcam, rega and cambridge are all good, reliable all-arounders which should drive any reasonably efficient monitor. if you're planning on using vinyl, keep in mind that some of your candidates don't have a phono stage. on the other hand, if you want the flexibility of a tuner, phono and/or computer audio, the outlaw rr2150 receiver is really good bang for the buck
If he is a musician look at a nice tube integrated like a Primaluna, Cary, Cayin.
If you are using bookshelf type monitors, use the ARCAM A65.
I'd add Classe--an older CAP-80 or 101 or CAP-150 or 151 would be a no-brainer IMO. I'd add older Plinius units as well, unless you want tubes (??).
Rega Mira or Luna
I can't believe no has listed or suggested a Primare I-21 or the older A30.1.

I think the Primare is what your looking for. Go through the reviews and you'll see what I mean. They are also some good suggestions above like the Naim, Classe CAP, Music Fidelity.

They all sound different and I have had these in my rig but the Pirmare did Neutrality, absence of coloration and tonal accuracy very well and had 75wx2@8ohm. It's good looking, has remote, reliable and quiet, perfect for a small room. Can be purchased on Audiogon starting for around $750.

I suggest that you include Primare to your list.
If listening to AM/FM is a requirement, I would go for one of these if he has enough room for it:

They are dirt cheap, reliable, abundant repair facilities, will drive virtually any speaker he would ever own and sound musical, comes with a remote...I don't think you will get all these qualities in another new receiver (or even a new integrated) for that price, although you might be able to get higher resolution at the expense of something else. Otherwise go for a NAD integrated.
Albireo13 (Rob), the input connection on active speakers is typically analog, though some will accept an SPDIF or AES/EBU digital as well. I don't know of any that accept a USB input. There are USB->SPDIF converters that could be used. Studio monitors are usually designed to be neutral.

You might be interested in this article comparing active crossovers to passive ones:

Here's a TAS review of the KRK Rockit 6

These are all good choices, kind of depends on your friend's preferences.


Cambridge Audio Azur 650A - very lively sounding, good PRAT for this price range, good power

NAD C-355BEE - neutral to slightly laid back sounding, good bass

Music Hall A25.2 - sounds pretty good, a little warmer than the Cambridge but not as warm as the NAD, less resolving than either. The new 50.2 is more powerful, better sounding, phono preamp, but a touch over the 1K price barrier

Rega Brio - less power than the Cambridge or the NAD, but a really nice sounding little amp with phono inputs (an all Rega system with their RS1 speakers and Apollo CD player and/or P3 turntable would be hard to beat for the money). Mira amp is better, but also more expensive - maybe used...

Marantz PM 8003 - another nice amp on the warmish side of neutral.


Naim Nait 5i - wonderful amp, lots of PRAT, super musical for solid state but perhaps not the first choice for classical music

Primare - yes, these are also wonderful, more neutral than the Naim and more power reserve
Nad s are always a good value for $ int amps.
There's an Exposure 2010S integrated for sale here that might fit the bill very nicely (no affiliation with the seller).
All the amps recommended here sound different from each other so it is best if you can audition some to determine which one will suit your listening preference best.
Neutrality, absence of coloration and tonal accuracy are definite requirements, as is reliability

I would recommend the Parasound Zamp with a ~$30.00 Alps or Noble volume pot. I love this little amp but beware it does not soften the sound in any way and bipolar's are not as forgiving as MOSFET's or some tube systems.
Since you probably won't want to make your own pre-amp and need more than one input you could try the Parasound Zpre but it will color the sound.

IMHO Naim, Musical Fidelity, Exposure. Naim are all colored and not nuetral.
I would second the advice to begin by selecting speakers first. Then you will know the impedance and power needs.

For acoustic classical and jazz at moderate levels with near-field listening (you said the room is small), I would begin by looking at Spendor, Harbeth, and any of the LS3-5a variations (used originals or current knock-offs). Depending on his tastes and the set up, a sub may not be needed.

If he chooses a 16 ohm Rogers LS3-5a the amp choice could be quite different from some other model with a 4 ohm rating but higher efficiency.
The Creek 5350SE is a great amp.