Need help in deciding

Haven't posted in awhile but need some suggestions to upgrade amplifiers and to add a preamp with home theater bypass to my HT system.Thought is to upgrade the two channel performance for this system.

Current amps are five Nuforce Ref 8B's. Should I upgrade them to the latest version or look for an amp to drive my Sonus Faber Grand Piano Homes with matching center and surrounds??

Current pre processor is the Classe SSP 60 which is fine for home theater but not for two channel. What would you suggest??

Budget for preamp and two channel amp would be 5K total. Upgrade cost for Nuforce amps is 3K for a reference.

All suggestions welcome.
Choosing a preamp can be a very personal journey. I have found that finding the right preamp can be more difficult than finding the right ________.

That said, what kind of sound are you looking for? New or used? More musicality or transparency? Tubes or solid state? Outside of a HT bypass, is there any other features that you want, like a remote control, balance control, phase invert, etc.? Are you looking to run balanced or single ended? I would suggest that if your budget is $2K, maybe single ended would offer more choices. Let us know a little more information,and maybe we can help narrow down the options.

Thank you for your response.Used would be my first option. I would probably prefer tubes since I once owned a Audible Illusions Modulus 3 and liked it alot.Musicality would be my choice. The sound through the prepro is veiled and lacking of prat. A remote would be nice but not to sacrifice sound quality. Not much else needed. Agree on a single ended unit. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
I know what you mean about veiled Hiflyer, I gave up on high end SSP's musical ability about 12 years ago. I never did find one that handled music well.

The AI Mod 3 is a very good preamp, and great bang for the buck. It's a shame it doesn't have a HT bypass for you.
Lately, I've become a fan of 6SN7 tube preamps, with their big, bold sound. Some Cary SLP-98's have a HT bypass, and can be had used in your price range. They are very musical and easy on the ears. If you can't find a used one with HT bypass, you could buy one used and have Cary install a HT bypass for $350.

Here is a link, look about halfway down the page under "Modifications".

Another option is a used BAT VK-3iX(SE). Yes, it is balanced, but does have RCA inputs and outputs, and with BAT, any input can be configured into a HT bypass. That's all I can think of off-hand, maybe others will provide alternative suggestions. Happy hunting!

Thank you John for the two choices. Are either one easier for tube rolling than the other? I will do some research on both units as they appear to be right in my price range.

Does anyone have any input on upgrading the Nuforce amps or replacing them?

Glenn, both are fairly easy for tube rolling. The BAT VK-3iX uses (4) 6DJ8/6922/7308 family of tubes in the line stage and (2) 6V6's in the power supply section, all can be rolled. The SE versions of the BAT use the 6H30 tube, which cannot be rolled easily. So the VK-3iX is very different from the VK-3iXSE.

The Cary SLP-98 uses (4) 6SN7's in the line stage, which also can be easily rolled.

Rolling in the Cary may be a little easier, since there is no cover to remove. :)
I also agree that a new preamp would be the best place to start. For 2 channel, its just too important to not get right. Both the Cary and BAT units mentioned above are excellent. Either will completely transform the sound you get from 2 ch. Another unit you may want to consider is an Aesthetix Calypso. Its also a great all around, excellent sounding component. Its good enough to be your last preamp.

The only thing I would add is with regards to tube rolling. There's nothing wrong with doing it, but I wouldn't lock myself into a choice primarily because of it. The people who design the preamps mentioned above really know what they are doing. They all sound great with stock tubes. I would suggest that it may be better to choose a preamp in its stock form. While the sound of the tubes do factor in, the design does, as well. If this is a component that you plan on keeping for a while, I think you will probably make a better choice going that route.

That said, I think it would be pretty difficult to mess up with the 3 preamps listed above. If you don't mind going SE, Conrad Johnson is a great choice also. As far as the amps go, stick with what you have for now. Your system will sound vastly better with the right preamp. Also, you will need time to get used to the sound and if you change 2 major components at once, it increases your chance of making a mistake. There's a very good chance you would pick a different amp later on, once you get to know your system, than if you were to buy one right now.
+1 wow, some excellent suggestions.

Regarding your NuForce amplifiers. The suggestion to hold on to them for now and become familiar with a new preamp is good advise. I upgraded from version 1 SEs to version 3. While the upgrade was audible It made me realized I wanted to go back go tubes.

Am I assuming correctly that you want your two channel to sound all it can be yet still have it play its part as the left and right channels of your HT system?

Thank you for the update on both units.Like I stated I have used the AI Modulus 3 along with Clayton M 70's and Martin Logan Requests and the sound was magical. The music jumped out at you and the horns were vivid and live sounding. Miss that combination.... The Cary unit definitely is an option.


Thank you for the information on the Aesthetix Calypso. I will do my homework and compare it to the Cary unit. Which CJ unit would you recommend? Have never used CJ equipment and have thought about trying their amps.

The Nuforce amps are fine for HT but I find them a little too analytical for two channel. But will purchase the pre first and see if it helps.


Agree on waiting until I purchase the preamp. What tube amp did you eventually change to? I have never owned a tube amp but would not rule it out especially with Sonus Fabers. The Clayton amp is by far the best I have owned and is my first choice at this point. There is something so right about this amp compared to all others that I have tried. And boy that has been alot!! Open to suggestions to pre and amp combos that have worked together like the AI and Clayton amp.

Glenn, great amps! I owned a pair of the Clayton M-100's, and I thought they were about the best SS amps I've ever heard. Wilson Shen and Stan Klyne are two SS designers that seem to have figured out how to do it right. :)

As for Zd542's reco's, yes, any CJ tube preamp will fall into the musical sound that you are looking for too. I am just not aware of a CJ model that has a HT bypass. If there is one, it should also be on your list.
The Aesthetix Calypso is more on the transparent side of the fence, with preamps like ARC and VAC. These are all good preamps in the right system, but since you responded that you were looking more for musicality than transparency, that's why I did not mention the Calypso. Also, you may not be able to get one for under $2K.