I just bought an Ayre Ax-7e. Since i haven't quite received it yet i can't comment on it but all the reviews glowed about how great it was saying it's as close as you'll get to tubes in a solid state package. It might be a little light for your application at 60w but i understand it to be a true Class A 60w and should be usable in most applications including your Vandy's. Just note that most people say the balanced connections are head and shoulders above the unbalanced so if your system is not setup this way you may not reap all the benefits. I believe there is one for sale now around your price range.
I would get the Krell. I have 4 pieces of Musical Fidelity but don't think the A-5 was one of their better efforts. The 300i has a LOT of power.
I love musical fidelity gear. Especially the older stuff. It does not, however, hold its resale very well at all. I recently went through a similar search as you. Looking for about 100 watt integrated. I ended up with a luxman 550 class a 20 wpc. Over your price range though.
And I love the Simaudio I-5. I've owned both the standard version and the I-5 LE and it's one of the few pieces of gear I've ever owned that I can't find any fault with. It's a very neutral, sweet but powerful integrated with the best ergonomics I've encountered in a piece of audio equipment.
For Musical Fidelity, the A308 is a better choice than the A5. I've used Musical Fidelity for years, original X-series, A3, A308, and A5. Currently use the A308, as it has been the best so far. Although rated at less power than the A5, the A308 sounds more powerful, with much better sound quality. Check out the review at SoundStage, an absolutely perfect description of it's sound. They even comment that it outperforms the Tri-Vista in some areas.
Try the Yamaha AS2000. I have owned two of the 3 integrateds you are considering: The Simaudio I-5 and the Musical Fidelity A5.
On the Simaudio, I wanted to like this one, but ultimately gave up after numerous match-ups with various cables and even speakers of the expensive kind. It's all very subjective of course, but I found its sound somewhat lifeless with exagerated ''dry'' bass with a good thump factor but little actual definition. On acoustic bass, I like to hear (and feel) the strings, not just the ''thump''. I know a lot of folks like this integrated, and the build quality is ok for the price.
I did prefer the Musical Fidelity A5 when compared to the I-5. It has more authority, but, as in a previous MF A-300 I used to own, there is a certain brightness to the sound that I could not live with - But if you have less-dynamic speakers (like some B&W's) you could have a good match. But pair the A5 with highly revealing speakers - and listener fatigue comes in big time - it did for me.
I cannot speak for Krell, never owned Krell, and probably never will - it just doesn't call me.
NOW - if you don't mind being laughed at and snobbed at by your ''audiophile'' friends, I would suggest you give the amazing Yamaha AS 2000 a listen.
In my book, and for a LOT less money, it betters both the Simaudio I-5 (that's an easy one) and Musical Fidelity A5 in sound, and smokes them in features. It's not even close on the feature count. Don't let the fact that it has tone controls fool you - they work in a very subtle way and are of the microprocessor kind - suddenly with those, 50% of my cd collection became listenable again.
Do a search for this amplifier and read up on it - it is a very nice package, beautifully built, and sounds stunning, and not just for the price. It is the least expensive of my components in my system - it can be partnered with much higher priced gear - tha's how good it is.
One last suggestion, but in a totally different direction of course - The Naim Nait is of course another proverbial no-brainer, but that's a different story altogether!
I'm familiar with the Ayre. A local dealer *raves* about that piece, and I had written it off as its retail price tag is $3,500 (although I do see one here for $1950, and that guy's local to me). I've really only heard good things about it, but the stereophile review is less than glowing for some reason. At $1950, it's a little more than I wanted to spend - is it really that much of a significant upgrade to the aforementioned integrateds?
I read the A308 review and people do seem to like it better than the A5.
The Simaudio at 70wpc doesn't seem to me like it will drive my Vandy's to the level (or maybe at least in the bass control/volume) that I like. I'd hate to take a step backwards going from my 150W amp in terms of bass control/authority.
Wouldn't most depreciation have already occurred if I'm buying it at a decent used price here? If I can find the A308 for between 1,200 and $1,500 (not sure how much they usually go for used), wouldn't I be able to sell it for close to the same price in a few months/years? Seems like their stuff is popular and well reviewed, even if they do keep changing models faster than most. Am I wrong?
Also - do most people pay for the blue book feature here? I can see with even buying one piece it would be worth it.
''I'm familiar with the Ayre. A local dealer *raves* about that piece''
I am absolutely, positively Triple-Teflon insulated and fully immune to ANY dealer Raving about ANY piece of gear that he is selling, especially those who cannot find even a simple quality in other units they are not selling. Sorry, I've seen this way to often.
I think you should be looking at current carrying level rather than watts in general.i dont want to open a can of worms without backing but thats what i have come to understand about amps.i do own the i5.3..its pretty powerfull for a 85 watt amp,if it comes up look at the lfd integrated,lots of thumbs up from what i hear and read.
The Ayre is very fine, but I don't believe it is Class A as previously stated, if it were, it would very likely be more the sufficient power to drive the Vandies to very, very loud levels - in fact, I would expect the same from A/B power, especially in your size room.
I auditioned both at home and enjoyed the A5 much more than the S300i. It was far quieter and more resolving without being "bright" (unless the recording is that way). I have not heard the A308 or the Simaudio.
The A5's a great piece...Full bodied sound never forward, NOT solid-statey, Non-fatguing...oodles of power. I think you already know your answer...
I second the opinion that 308 is a much better amp than the A5. The new MF M5 is olso very nice, although definately on the warm side (for may it may too much of a good thing).
I wouldn't wirte off the S300i - IMO this the best amp of the lot, you can get one used for as little as $1600, and if you do not like it - sell it with no loss within a week or so.
Wow... xxxx is a much better amp than yyyy .... I love that one! Based on what? Is orange a better color than brown...well for hunting it is! I tried both...for my tastes I like the A5.... but don't begrudge you having a prep for the 308.
Psssst: The OP didn't ask about the 308....
That's the problem with these threads...someone asks a straight ahead question and get's a bunch of people that like the hear their own opinions on topic or not.
I know everyone's tastes are different, but it appears that more people like the A308 than do the A5. Although anything will probably be better than what I have now.
What do you guys expect the 308 to cost? Seems like it came out in March 2003 (at least that's the date on the manual). How much was it new? $3K?
I guess I'll have to wait until someone wants to part with theirs.
Some years ago, I compared a Simaudio I5 to a Musical Fidelity A5 - I bought the I5. The Musical Fidelity was on the clinical side of things relative to the Sim. In fact, in that same session, I also auditioned the Naim Nait 5i, which was far cheaper than the other 2, and it was better than the MF A5 to my ears despite its lower power rating and price.
I have since moved on to the Ayre AX7e, which obviously I view as a notable improvement on either and worth the few hundred $ more on the used market.
I've heard Krell seperates from the same line (or perhaps a previous similar-caliber level) as the s300i powering B&W Matrix-series speakers, and that wasn't my cup of tea - it was too aggressive sounding for my tastes. I'd place the Krell sound as my least favorite of any that I reference in this post.
Try out a Bada Purer 3.3se with the Jan 6189 tubes !..
Some years ago I have spent a few hours in a dealer room comparing the Musical Fidelity A5 and A308 integrated amps. The speakers used were Focal Electra 1027 Be, the CD player was the Musical Fidelity A5. Even though on paper the A308 seems better (it also used to be much more expensive than A5), the two integrated sounded almost identical to me.
Because of Mr. Michelson lack of respect for his customers (releasing new components that are "better" than the old ones every year or so), the A5 and A308 integrates are in my opinion some of the best bargains on the 2nd hand market. Here in Europe these units can be bought for around 1000 euros (from dealers with full warranty!) and often for less than 1000 euros (from private persons). At this price very few integrated if any (new or 2nd hand) can compete with the A5 or A308 (IMO of course).
Regarding the A5 and A308 prices, usually people ask a bit more for the A308, i.e. 1-2-3 hundred euros more. Given my experience with the two integrated I do not think it is worth paying extra for the A308 unless you really like its look and/or need two sets of speaker terminals.
Nvp, your comment ...''Because of Mr. Michelson lack of respect for his customers (releasing new components that are "better" than the old ones every year or so)''....I tend to agree with.
What is just as bad if not worse, is that they change ''looks'' fairly often, enough to make the previous style obsolete. Without being as fanatic as McIntosh about this, many companies keep their styling much longer than Musical Fidelity, or at least a certain family resemblance. Take Simaudio - even though I really do NOT like their sound at all, their I-5 have looked pretty much the same for the past 14 years or so....MF is more like the flavor of the month.