Don't know about the speaker impedance or efficiency-but I own the Musical Fidelity A3 integrated and think it is a great product.85 watts/8 ohms/170 watts/4 ohms.Very silent running in my system.
There is a lot of hype everywhere. Meaningful and reliable descriptions of the sound signature of a particular component are rare. I suggest you stop reading reviews/recommendations/websites and go listen to things. When you've found something that seems promising, bring it home and try it in your system. Audiogon members can tell you what they've tried and liked (which is worth something), but no one can tell you what will sound good in your sytem, in your room, with the recordings you like to listen to.
Part of the reason for the hype is that many amps sound remarkably similar these days (though there are exceptions), so everybody seems to feel a need to bend over backward to emphasize differences. So listen carefully.
That said, I suspect you'll get more oomph for the dollar in your price range by sticking with integrateds.
Mr. Bomarc is quite right. Don't read the audio press. Listen to the stuff. Try for a home audition so that you will know how it will sound in your own system and in your own room. An integrated will probably provide the best solution dollar-wise. Power does matter, anyone telling you otherwise probably has thin walls and bothersome neighbours. That does not always mean buying the amp that provides the most power for the money, but the best amp for your needs, within your budget. I would start out my quest with a listen to the Bryston integrated and the newer Creek. Regards.
First of all, in your price range, if you want top performance you have to go used. You will get at least twice the bang for the buck. Here is a great example and a solid recommendation. The Hafler Transnova 9300 amp and the Adcom GFP 565 preamp.These were both rated Class B in Stereophile's Recommended Components. They are both giant killers and give up very little to names like Krell, Levinson, Threshold etc in terms of bottom line performance. They sold for $1250 & $900 in the early 90's but can be had readily for $450 & $300 now. Thats about 1/3 of original price. These two components offer about 90% of the performance of the best available for a paltry $750. They work well together and are very reliable. As a bonus the Adcom has a world class phono stage. They are so good and such a bargain that you would be completely safe in purchasing them without an audition.
I own a pair of small Maggies like yours (the SMGc's, in fact) and love them. Unfortunately, I have to tell you that these wonderful little speakers are not well served by just any amp. These guys, like all Maggies, require an amp that will deliver a LOT of current into low impedance loads. Not every seemingly powerful amp will do that, in spite of the hype you mention.
A used Acurus A-250 which delivers 250 watts/channel into an 8 ohm load, for instance, can be bought for around $500, and while it will drive the SMGa's, it won't deliver the deep and tight bass you like. (I know, because I tried that for a couple of years.) I eventually replaced the Acurus with a CODA Continuum Stage Plus amp which is rated to deliver only 100 watts into 8 ohms, and wow, what a difference! The CODA (which retails for around $1,600) just flat walked off and left the Acurus in the dust -- wonderful, delicate highs, smooth midrange, and a powerful, deep bass. So much for published 8 ohm power ratings!
As far as a preamp is concerned, I am delighted with the used Bryston BP-20 preamp I purchased for my Maggies. It has the tape loop you mentioned, is wonderfully neutral, and is one of several you may want to consider. You could probably pick up a used BP-20 preamp for around $550 to $600 here on Audiogon.
You may also want to consider a good, used tube preamp, but I can't advise you on that since I've never owned one. I know a lot of guys who swear by tube front ends and solid state amps, though. Maybe a used Sonic Frontiers preamp -- or maybe a used Blue Circle preamp??
After a lot of trial and error with tubes amps I decided to go with solid state power amp with my maggies (1.6) and I agree that you need all the current and power you can get. I even tried a special Innersound amp that had 1000 watts into 4 OHMS and you would not believe how those speakers rocked. They can handle all you can throw their way I assure you.
I ended up with Plinius but the point is solid state is the way with those speaker if you want tight bass. Even the mighty Rogue 120 Magnums were not enough for them.
I hope this helps
The worst mistake most new folks make is buying an amp that will not handle the impedance load of the speakers. I don't know what those speakers are rated at, but would assume 4 ohm and maybe sometimes lower? You need to make sure that you know this fact, then find out what the receivers are rated at for your setup. It will not be easy to find a receiver that is rated that low (most will be in the 8 ohm range).
Take your time and research. I think that it may be a good idea for you to subscribe to the blue book here on Audiogon while you are in the market to buy used. It is a valuable tool and really helps you understand what is a fair price.
Best of luck – aj
Hurry(!), and buy that conrad-johnson mv-55 that's for sale for $850. The mv-50 was a killer match for my old 1.6's.
I preferred it to my $7000 pass labs amps & my $4000 mccormack dna1reva. So did another person (my friend nolan who now owns both!) To me, magnepans benefit more from tube power than any speaker I've heard.
CJ stuff keeps it's value too.
If you are fairly certain that you prefer the Maggie sound and will want to upgrade to the 1.6's in the future, then save yourself some hassle later on and buy something now that will drive the bigger speakers when you get them. Frankly, if you heard and loved the NAIT, which I believe is about a $1500 integrated, then you should try to audition it with the 1.6's, and if it works, just lay out the extra green and be done with it. That way, you know it will continue to sound good, and you won't have to take a hit upgrading the amp along with the speakers later. But if it's not powerful enough (a real possibility), try to spend about the same amount used if you can, because the 1.6's will need the quality power.
BTW, just a note about some comments above: Maggies actually have a very benign impedance characteristic - 4 ohms, which is ruler-flat compared to most dynamic speakers, and just about purely resistive in nature (as opposed to reactive), meaning no tricky phase or capacitance issues. They are, however, a relatively inefficient design by nature, meaning they suck power in order to go loud or do authoritative dynamics. They are also, unfortunately, quite revealing of the sonic flaws inherent in most lower priced amplifiers (not so much a problem with the SMG's, but it will be when you get the 1.6's, which brings us back to my preceding advice). Also, I own a C-J MV-55 (a great amp), and though they do make an integrated version, the CAV-50, my experience with Maggies tells me that if you like bass or high volume levels, this will not be a match for you. Better to stick to Philjolet's SS recommendation, but just beware about what may be revealed if you try to pick up an older SS model for low $. (I've heard Maggies chew up and spit out a "300w" Adcom, and then turn around and sing with a "100w" Audio Research SS. You'll need the power *and* the quality, I'm afraid.)
I do agree that a solid state amp has a little more bass, but the cj mv-55 is still far and away my number one recommendation at a low price point. In fact that combination (mv-50) is the highest performance/buck I've yet heard.
Tubes are a wonderful, synergistic match for magnepans, and truly bring them alive. I tried several other solid state amps (dna 1revagold, aleph 2), and they sound really dull and lifeless by comparison.
The mv-55 only takes 4 EL-34 tubes, so retubing the power tubes is dirt cheap at $75 or so. Maggies eat tubes up fast, so most tube amps are too costly to run with it. Also, even with a big ss amp, the 1.6's really don't have powerful bass. Lastly, and of note, the 45w mv-50 I owned actually had superior bass with the magnepans compared to my 100w vt100. No doubt about it, and I'm not the only one who heard it.
Check out the review of the mv-60 amplifier on soundstage.com. They actually test with a magnepan 1.6 with it.
Just my opinion and preference.
I also suggest that you listen to a NAD C370. While it definitely lacks the hype (and the prestige that goes with it), it is a powerful integrated amplifier with prodigious bass. It is also an outstanding value, though it does lack a phono input.
It is always essential to keep your b.s. detector tuned and sensitive. Without it, even your hearing (which should be the final arbiter in the selection of audio gear) will be compromised.
I have set of Maggie 1.4's and auditioned alot of Amps and pre-amp combo's before settling on a used B&K ST-202 and a Rotel Pre-Amp.
I had a NAD pre-Amp that was not as good as Rotel's!
The ST-202 I had Modified!Would have been able to live with the stick model,but wanted it updated!
Rotel Amp was my seconf choice,but I thought it added it's own coloration to it!
NAD Amps were good ,but I thought the B&KRotels were of better quality and the B&K sounded more natural!