Need some $500 & under Amp recommendations


I wanted to get some opinions this if I could...

I picked up a new pair of Paradigm Atoms v5 and am looking for a good integrated or amp/pre combo to match. My budget is limited to $500 or under.

What I am looking for is whatever would give me the absolute cleanest sound I could get in that price range. I don't need a lot of power as the Atoms are efficient little speakers.

I am open to anything... tubes or solid, integrated or seperates, used or new... I have already done quite a bit of research... at this point my money is on a Nad C325BEE.

I do realize that with sound gear, one thing sounding 'better' than another is largely subjective. Yet, I would still like some opinions to help, especially since I haven't the resources to test a bunch of equipment before buying. I just want to make sure I didn't miss something in my research and that there is a majority opinion of "Oh, well obviously the Turbo Sonic Medulla Stimulator is vastly superior to the NAD C325BEE."

Thanks for the help everyone!
I used a NAD C352 for a short time while waiting for an amp and was thrilled with it's performance. I purchased it over the C325BEE because it has an extra pre out for use with a subwoofer. Although you may not need a sub now, it's nice to know you can add later with ease. Not sure what the retail price is but they can be had here used for less than $400. Good luck and enjoy.
the nad is a good choice.
Awesome, thanks for the affirmation guys.

So, I wouldn't be able to hook a subwoofer up to the C325BEE?
This is something I indeed did want to do in the future. I'm still not sure how to hook a sub up... I heard you can do it via speaker terminals, pre-amp outs, and I have seen amps like the Outlaw RR2150 with dedicated subwoofer outs.

So if I want to hook a sub up, I want to look for an amp with 2 sets of pre-outs? One for the sub and the other for the power amp?

NAD is very decent. My take is this is a two channel rig. I've owned the Atoms and they really liked my then Rega Brio. Bit warmer than the NAD and of course you could upgrade to a newer and/or larger Rega integrated. Construction is substantial and they are quite reliable, an issue as of the last few years with NAD.
It is simpler to hook the sub to an extra set of pre outs, which the 352 has and the 325 lacks. Check this out for complete info. They have a nice feature that lets you look at the back of each amp. Most subs can be hooked via the speaker terminals and some people prefer it this way. I prefer a separate pre out hook up in my system. And yes you can also run the pre out from the amp to the sub and then back to the amps main in with some subs so it would be possible with the 325BEE.
Also, I've owned two recent NAD products (C541i and C352) with no reliability issues. The only negative comment I have about the 352 is the remote volume control was very sensitive. Made it hard to fine tune the volume.
Ya, I'm so confused...

Nad has great reviews from hi-fi magazines, then I go to and the c352 received some pretty terrible write-ups.

Tough to tell... some alternatives that keep popping up are Marantz PM7001, Rega Mira (older), Outlaw RR2150, Rotel RA1062, older Creek units...

Idk, I've been researching this fairly intensely for quite a while now and keep running in circles at this point.
I'll give another vote to the NAD, which I own and enjoy as much for the fact that it's feature-rich (tone controls, headphone jack, remote, balance knob) as its sound quality--which is quite good. The remote is jumpy--about a 5 decibel leap per tap, which is usually too much, so I get up and down half the time anyhow. A sub hooked up to the spkr outs would be viable. As far as your other considerations go, definitely check out the Creek 4330--there's a 4330 SE listen on Agon right now that I'd buy if I hadn't just spent a year on the amp merry-go-round.

Marantz integrateds are great on features and have very good sound, but I owned one that had a cheap-o transformer that buzzed loudly, and it turned out to be a problem typical for that model (the 4000something). I do think that's been corrected in newer models, on the other hand, and they have a great phono stage. A friend of mine owns the Rotel, and its sound is very dry and detailed, which you may or may not like--I don't, really. One other possibility--the Jolida 1501 or 1301, new or used. I owned the 1501 and it had the best sound I've had in my system, was tunable with tubes, rock solid bottom end (huge damping factor) and built like a tank--but few features. The 1301 is 30w and $300? new.

Happy hunting. I don't see how you can go wrong with any of them--each has its good and less-than-perfect aspects, but they're all solid performers.
excellent, thanks for the info.

The Jolida sounded better than your Nad C352?

I would like to be able to hook a subwoofer up though... is there any disadvantage to hooking one up via speaker terminals?
Djembeplay--to my ears, the Jolida did sound better than the NAD (I own the 325BEE). When I switched to the NAD, I lost bottom end extension, clarity of low-end attack (loose sounding bass drum, contrabass), and some warmth and wetness to the mids and highs. On the other hand, it did take some time and expense to tube roll for the sound I wanted from the Jolida. I'm happy with the NAD, and it's a great value, but it's by no means the last word at the price (nor is the Jolida, quite likely; beauty is in the ear of the beholder, and for me these days that includes the NAD's features). Here's hoping one fits your tastes and budget nicely. As long as the sub accomodates it, I don't know that there's any disadvantage to hooking up to the spkr terminals.
I'll make a recommendation as you have researched the contenders. Buy the one you like used and if it isn't what you like you can sell it with little risk. I've done this more times than I care to admit. Not really very risky when buying from members in good standing. It keeps those UPS/fedex drivers busy.
You can't go wrong with any of the amps recommended so far.
The buy used and sell plan has been mine, too--and it works great, except that I could have bought something really sweet with what I've lost on shipping costs over time! If only my area had some great hi-fi stores to balance out the Best Buy... Still, listening is the only way to know--no matter how you have to go about it.
Cool, well maybe I'll keep my eye out for a used Jolida... They have been recommended to me a few times now so it sounds like it could be good. A 1501RC sold not long ago on here for $395... I'm bummed I missed that one.

Do you guys know anything about these tube amps sold on Ebay from China, like this one?
How important is the advertised S/N ratio of an amp? I mean, I don't know if this is a typically inflated figure or what...

Jolida rates some at around 85 (they call it 'noise and hum')... NADs say they are above 100...
They look like great deals, those Chinese amps on eBay. Personally, before I bought one of them I would want to know a good technician. At the least I would want his opinion on the build. There is very good gear made in China and I have some of it (Audio Space and Shanling). There is also very poorly made gear from China and it's buyer beware here.

Rather than take a chance, I would choose Chinese-made audio with a reliable North American distributor. The distributor has had his tech check out the gear before he picked up the line. If you do take a chance, though, make sure you know someone who can fix it.
ya, why risk it I guess... I would rather just go with a used jolida or nad I think.

Anyone wanna sell me theirs? :)
Linn Majik is one fine performer. I used it with Linn Tukan some years ago, and one of the great things about Majik was almost infinite upgrade path.
Hey...dont over thinks this too much...the Nad would be fine...had the 352 as well...and it sounds much more powerful and dynamic that its rating would suggest...for a starter system you have assembled...hard to justify spending any more...unless you upgrade your speakers, some point check out the paradigm studio 20 if you have a chance...happy holidays....
This is all subjective...but have never been blown away by jolida amps...they sound polite and laid back...but kind of boring too...across the board...with different musical styles...the NAD is hard to beat...stereophile got it for once when they claimed the 325 one of the best deals in amps today...and the 352 is an even better amp...
Hey, thanks Phase... your right about not overthinking it... I think I've been far into the 'overthink' world for a little while now.

Ya, I was thinking the Nad sounds nice as it has a 2nd pre-out for an addition of a sub... which I think I will do in the future. Plus, I like the idea of it essentially being a seperate amp and pre-amp, just housed in the same case.

So you favor the sound of the Nads over the Jolidas, huh?
My favourite sub $500 amp (used price) would be a Creek. Also, now that the older Linn Majik is discontinued, it can be found used for under $500. I don't consider NAD to be even in the same ball park as these. I'd also suggest Rotel over NAD.
The NAD is a very good choice.

If you don't need remote control and have only a single source, I'd also suggest an NHT PVC (passive volume control) and an ATI AT602 amp.
If you could strectch your budget by a mere $68 try a pair the IRD MB100 monoblocks for $568 shipped. If not, a single monrachy sm70 pro if your speakers are efficient as you indicate.
How about Odyssey Audio; they get excellant reviews;transferable 20 yr warranty to the second owner; and a guy named Klaus who stands behind his product without question.Also the performance to value is high;if you decide to keep them a upgrade path exists that won't break the bank.
To me, the NAD C320BEE defines entry-level. It (and probably the 325) is very good-sounding for the money and you can get one for well under your budget. You can tweak it with better-quality preamp jumpers and antivibration feet from Bright Star or Herbie's Audio Lab.

If you need to spend more, the Linn Majik is a very good amp and very convenient to use. It needs the right speakers since it has less power than the NAD. (It also requires Linn's own speaker connectors.) IIRC the Majik sounds a bit more neutral, the NAD being a smidge on the dry and analytical side like a lot of lower-end solid state. If you prefer (slightly) warm and lush, go for a Rega. If I were using Paradigm Atoms a small Rega would be my choice if I could find one.

At present two of our systems use the 320BEE and Paradigm Titans. The combination works for the kids but I'm not so terribly fond of it myself. My GF has the 320BEE with PSB Alpha Minis and that is a better-sounding setup to my ears; the mids are not recessed in favour of the extremes. (Your Atoms may be more balanced towards the mids than the Titans, though.)

At present, you really can't go wrong with any of these models IMHO. You would be happy if you just jumped on the first that came up from a reliable seller. Study the used prices for a bit so you know how much to pay; you won't lose much on resale if you ever need to upgrade.

Yes, I think tubes can sound better than solid state but IME you will need to spend a bit more to go tubes unless you are into vintage. If I were you I'd wait and do some learning first.

As for your clean sound requirement, you will make any amp, and especially the ones in this thread, sound cleaner with a quality source. That's why I would go for the entry-level NAD; it leaves more bucks for the source.
Wow, lots of info... Thanks everyone for the suggestions...

There's definitely tons of options... the market is far from being dominated by one or a few companies.

Your right Tobias, that's my plan of action now... just keep my eye out for one of the names discussed and/or something that looks good... It seems far-fetched to me at this point to come to a 'I have decided on the one amp I want'. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, I am a newb after all, but from what I gather, once your at this stage of audio it's a bit like wine... it all comes down to preference.

As for the creeks and regas everyone keeps mentioning, where are you looking? lol... I rarely ever see one under $500... except for an older Rega Mira I think.

I don't get the old amp thing though... I mean, technology keeps progressing, it seems like budget amps of today would match or beat higher-end amps of 10 years ago... unless it's tube. But yet people attest to old amps still... I dont get it.

Thanks everyone
Oh, and as for source... I am going to run a usb out of an ibook to a Paradisea + DAC for FLAC playback. Based on what I have read this should sound superb...
get a used dynaco70 amp there are always plenty here on the gon, remember they say tubes rule because they do!!Nick
Djembeplay--the Rega Brio is $695 at Music Direct. And I will say that Tobias's comments on the NAD are spot-on. With the source you're planning for (especially considering the tubes in the Paradisia, which might balance its dryness), it could be a great fit. I'm sticking with my NAD till I upgrade sources and probably well beyond that. One plus is that there are enough of them out there to find one used pretty easily, and C320 or C325, they seem to hold their value pretty well should upgradeitis strike. Hope you're listening soon.
One thing to keep in mind is that your speakers are small and there might come a time when you'd like to add a subwoofer. The Atoms need to be high-passed, so unless you have separates or an integrated with *both* preamp out and main amp in jacks (like all NAD) you'll be out of luck.
"...Old keeps progressing"...? Are you interested in good sounding amp, or that doesn't matter, as long as is "new" technology? What 'new' technology has to do with good sound?
the Linn does require special jumpers or Linn only cables which kind of limits your options...the only other intergrated i think is worth an upgrade over the NAD would be a bryston b 60...all in all...great choices...just get a good deal on a quality amp and enjoy !
I don't remember any jumpers, except the one that come with the amp for amp/pre amp application. But yes, special speaker 'bananas' that can be easily interchangable with other cables.
What do you guys think about the Rotel Ra-1062 in comparison to a Nad C352?

Thanks for all the advice... I'm adding the recommendations to my mental watch list.

Eldragon - That's what I was wondering about the 'old amp technology'... is if it is getting better with time... I mean, I know speakers have progressed alot... I was just saying I don't understand why this wouldn't be the case with amps.. I wasn't saying it is the case with amps.
Oh no you will find some older, and I mean 40 years old + vintage gear that will blow you away. Like re-conditioned Dynaco, as mentioned above, Older Mac ss amps etc cheaper than the new stuff. Something to look into it also. Good Luck!
Hmm... well maybe I should go that route... Tough choices. That might give me a better sound for the buck, right?

Anyone able to compare the Nad c352 to Rotel ra-1062?
This is just my take on the question, but IMO vintage gear is only a good idea if you are willing to get into the nuts and bolts, and also the history, of the hobby.

You need to know nuts and bolts, and a *good* technician, because older gear needs care: preventive maintenance and repair. It may need modification--volume bypass, preamp out etc.--for some setups. Its value depends enormously on condition and condition is not always possible to judge from appearance. You need to know history because the great names in vintage occasionally produced dud models just like today's makers.

For the OP a Dynaco Stereo 70 after servicing comes pretty close to eating up his budget--a restored and/or modded one could go well over it--and he still doesn't have a preamp or interconnect. I would say do some learning and find out if that's where you want to go, but don't make vintage gear your first step in the hobby, especially for a pair of Atoms. There's time enough later for that.
I was referring it (vintage, or 'old') to his concern about being better... But again, I have my prejudices, I'd never if I can help it, buy Chinese hifi.
What do you guys think about the Rotel Ra-1062 in comparison to a Nad C352?

No "good" way to hook up a sub to the Rotel -- been there with my first system and turned me against subs for many years. Probably the worst mistake I've made in this hobby.
Anyone have any words about Rotel RA-1062 or Creek 4330MK2?
The differences btwn entry level rotel,nad,creek are not profound at their prospective price points...for what its worth...the Brits love Rotel 1062...and the Nad once again cant go wrong...
cool, thanks.

My father offered me his old Crown amps... I think I might go this route.

He used them for his Klipsch corner-horns. He sold the speakers and has no need for the amps now. It's a pre-amp and 2 separate amps.

Old Crown stuff is pretty good, right?
Really? It looks like there is a pre-amp out... but I'm not sure if this would bypass the existing amp. I was assuming since there is a pre-amp out and no amp-in on the back that the bridge between the pre and amp were internal and the one on the back was a secondary output. But this isn't the case?

Anyone know about older Crown stuff?
Back in the 70s I used to demo the best speakers in the store using Crown amplification--the IC150 preamp and the DC300 amp. If that's what your father is offering you, I personally would not go for them. It was a long time ago, but I do not remember those units as capable of transmitting emotion, and the amp would be massive overkill for your speakers.
A preamp out isn't sufficient to integrate a sub with your speakers. You also need the main amp in jacks so that a high-pass filter can be utilized. This also allows you to biamp with the amp in the sub. You'll be much happier letting a subwoofer handle the bass instead of the Atoms.
Hmm, actually I think they are those models... bummer.

Oh well, back on the hunt.
Does anyone know about this peachtree audio decco?

Here is a link:
Unless the sub thing is a deal killer I can recommend the Rotel 1062. I lived with one after a Manley Stingray and before a Mac 6900. Great little amp. Musical preference may be a decider between it and others...the NAD for example. Ive heard it called obnoxious and bright..I disagree. The Rotel is forward, with good dynamics and strong bass, I loved it for rock/metal, but it was good with whatever. It will always be on my list at $500 mark.