Need Some Help Choosing an Integrated Amp

Hi Folks:

My current system includes an ARC SP-16 and 150.2 amplification. I am considering moving in a different direction--going with a quality integrated amp and a separate, high quality phono stage to be fed by a new analogue rig. Right now I want to focus on replacing the ARC equipment with an integrated. I value build quality, tonal authenticity, good bottom end control and drive, PRat, and a three dimensional soundstage. Tubes are OK but I'm leaning toward solid state. Budget would be around $4k new or used. The amp will drive 97db efficient Daedalus DA-1.1's with an Esoteric X-03se as the source.

I'd like to end up with something that is as good or better than what I am using for electronics right now when running my digital front end. Any help or advice is appreciated. I've seen a few interesting products from Bryston, Ayre, Pass Labs and Sugden.
I forgot to add one thing to my original post--I am not opposed to an integrated with mm/mc phono capability but in my experience these tend to be inferior to most separate phono preamps and my ultimate goal is to radically improve my vinyl playback as part of this scheme.
A used VAC Avatar is worth considering and it includes a high quality phono stage.

If the quality of the Pass integrated in comparable to their separates, I doubt you could do better in SS. They Ayre is also excellent, but at 60 watts, it might limit your speakers choices.

I think you are in the right ballpark.
Pathos Logo might be a really nice match with your current speakers.
The Blue Circle BMPH
I'd recommend at least look at the McIntosh MA2275 before you make a final decision. An amazing integrated for the used price in the $4K range (besides a new version just went up a cool $1K in their recent price increase).
Naim SuperNait.
I second the MA2275 but if you want SS look into Lavardin
I also triple the MA2275, but I'm very biased towards tubes. I don't think you find many folks who have tried the MAC SS and tubes integrated and would say they preferred the the SS. But Pass SS is someting I could live with.
Some really great suggestions here--thanks. The Lavardin looks very interesting but it looks like it doesn't come with a remote, which I like. I hadn't considered McIntosh so will investigate this one further. I also like the look of the Blue Circle. How would you describe the "house sound" of the Mac, Lavardin and Blue Circle products? Texture and tonality are really important to me and the amp has to have enough current to control a large floorstanding speaker.
you may want to consider this:

btw I do not know this person... just a quality amp
I cannot dispute Philojet's recommendation of the Plinius. Although I had the 9200 not the 9100, in my setup the 9200 was excellent for tonality, a slightly warm yet detailed and resolved mid, slightly tubey sound and good low end. In my setup the Blue Circle BMPH has excellent clarity, detail, full mids and has a very natural sonic presentation; not a typical solid state sound yet not a tube sound, just natural, clean and musical. Not lean-sounding either. Build quality is excellent. In stainless steel casing and knobs it is very impressive. From highs to lows a very balanced integrated. Mine has the optional dual Shallco attenuators and optional balanced inputs. Remote function with this integrated can be had as an option. These don't show up in the classifieds often, so you would have to wait for one to show up or buy new. 160 watts per side
Vecteur I-6.2
Plinius 9200
The Luxman 590a II is a very good piece. It has a built in phono stage as well.

I've owned Bryston (b60r) and Audio Research (cd3) gear in the past. The Luxman is in a different league in terms of integrated amps go.
Musical Fidelity A5
With those speakers I would look for a very high quality, lowish power, high current Class A integrated. One brand that comes to mind is Sugden from England. I think too much power would be wasted on speakers as sensitive as yours.
Yeah, I was looking at the Sugden and that seems to be a really nice piece. Not a ton of information out there but it has certainly caught my attention. Pubul57--I think you have accurately stated what my speakers require--high quality, lowish power and high current. Please keep the suggestions coming--you all are keeping me busy researching all these different brands that I've never heard of!
Well, another similar low power integrated with great reviews and user comments is the Red Wine 30.2, 30 watts, battery powered, with a high quality stepped attenuator. See the sixmoons reviews and threads on the GON. I have not heard it, but the feedback is pretty impressive and should very quiet being off the grid.
the best integrated i know of is the Musical Fidelity A1008. stock it is excellent but there is a mod for it that brings every aspect including the DAC up to extreme high end. when the DAC is modded it is possibly one of the best DAC's available for under $6,000. It can do a lot for your digital system.
the Musical Fidelity X-T100 also can be modded to be a giant killer ( i have one), there are still a couple of these left before they are all gone. btw, i wouldn't recommend the A-5 integrated.

good luck, lou
The Musical Fidelity A5 is one of the finest integrateds out there cost no object. This component has continued to improve over the past six months and, powering Vandersteen 2Ce signatures, provides a wide soundstage with the sweetness of tubes. Detail, extension, balance, freedom from fatigue; I couldn't ask for more in an integrated and I have owned and listened to many. Several audio buddies of mine that have listened to this system extensively agree.
I would check out the Pathos and the Unico Unision. They are less expensive, but every bit as good as amps costing way more (price=hype much of the time). I also think the Audiomat is worth a listen, but it might be a bit laid back for your tastes from what you describe.

I personally hate the Plinius and the Naim stuff. It sounds pleasant enough, but ultimately unemotional and a bit bright and dead to my ear. I like at least a tube in the pre stage to liven things up, thus the Unison, which is a solid state amp section and tube pre I believe.
Dodgealum: I preach this often. Much of the satisfaction in an integrated has to do with how well it matches up with the speakers and other components in the system. (true of all components) My case in point: the Musical Fidelity A5 (which I almost purchased). One fellow posted he recommends it period. Another fellow says it's "one of the finest integrateds, out there cost no object." Another fellow says flatly,"I wouldn't recommend the Musical Fidelity A5. Match it up with the right speakers and components and it obviously has impressed the heck out of a couple guys who posted here. I'm sure it would be very satisfying, but in a mismatched system not so much. So whatever integrated you choose, seek out those who know of a strong speaker match.
I recently saw an Accuphase E550 go at auction for $3500...a very god deal.
It seems with those 97db speakers you could buy a 300B based SET like the Audio Note Meishu (I just bought one myself) and live happily ever after. This amp has a giant 3D soundstage, terrific slam (9 watts!) a seemingly endless amount of detail and is very neutral.

I would put it up against anything listed so far and expect it to come out on top (an unbiased POV) :^)

I know, I know, no remote

oh well...
Blue Circle, Naim SuperNait - are super choices in my opinion. Can't agree with hater above. Also have heard the Musical Fidelity A5 sound very very good with Totem and Revel speakers, but don't know they compare to yours. Might also consider PrimaLuna DiaLogue 2 for a tube job.
I went back from separates to integrated and never looked back. The Lavardin is a great choice, very transparent, detailed, neutral. It lacks a little base grunt if your a rock fan. I used it for 2 years with 94db Living Voice Avatars to great effect. I think a remote option is available. I also agree with Philojet, a SET would be a great choice, I happen to prefer 845's. I use a Viva Solista, best amp ever in my system, also Mastersound, Dared I believe. I certainly envy you for having those speakers. I am sure Lou should know what his speakers like and he says MF, can't ignore that either.
Knownothing: I should clarify my dislike for Naim by saying that their top of the line is way better than the lower end stuff, and the disparity is shocking. I think for the money the lower priced stuff doesn't do it. Still, what I hear that I do not like in the lower priced stuff I hear as 'tendencies' (read: aesthetic tendencies) in all their equipment. It's just not for me. I like more dynamic and emotional gear.
Fair enough. One might say Naim's lower end stuff relies on some timing tricks that make music sound "better" than it really does(?), perhaps almost a gimmick. But I like it. Whatever floats one's boat I guess...
Since the SET option was raised, I would also investigate the Almarro 318B which received a strong review in sixmoons, isn't very expensive, has 18 watts, made in Japan by hand, and looks handsome to me. I thought about buying one for a while, but I did not think 18 watts would do it for my speakers, with your speakers it should blow the roof off the house if you felt the need to do that. On the other hand, if the speaker's designer makes a strong (public) recommendation for his speaker (Musical Fidelity), you got to take that into account, for sure.
Thanks everyone--some really interesting things for me to investigate. The Lavardin is intriguing, particularly if they have a remote option. Has anyone heard any of the LSA Audio Group integrateds--formerly DK Design Group? Looks like a very serious piece as well.
I'm surprised no one mentioned the Red Wine Audio 30.2. I've been looking at them, however I just scored a VAC Avatar SE so unless the VAC doesn't work out the RWAs are on the back burner.
I mentioned it (Red Wine) earlier in the thread. If the SE doesn't work for you let me know.

Sorry, I now see you posted it about a week ago. I'm hoping the SE works out because I could use the convenience right now of having the built-in phono stage. I am skeptical that the bass will surpass that produced by my TRL D-225, but I have heard great things about this integrated so I might be pleasantly surprised.

The designer of my speakers voiced them with an Atma-sphere M-30, so I'm hoping the 27 watts triode from the VAC will be enough juice. The speakers are rated 92db efficient, but the designer said that was conservative. If the 27 watts isn't enough I can go with the 60 watt ultralinear option on the VAC. It's been awhile since I have had tubes in the system si we'll see ehat happens.
Anthony, I would be suprised if 27 watts does not do it for you. I had the 30 watt Ars Sonum and it drove my 89db Merlins plenty loud. I've not heard the SE, but all VACs that I have heard have been wonderful; hope it works out for you.
I drove a pair of JM Reynaud Trentes (88db) with a Audio Note Soro SE that has eighteen watts to very loud levels.

Numbers do not always tell the story, the Soro is a very robust eighteen watts and the JMR must have been an easy load because I could hardly tell the volume increase when I went to Audio Note kit 2 speakers (94db)
That is encouraging. The Audio Kinesis Stormbringers are an easy load as well. I guess I'll know more in a week or so.
No question in my mind- look for an LFD and be done w/ it.

I've never heard a better sounding integrated amplifier - EVER. It is just so 'right' in so many ways.

If i were you, i'd also look into Sugden gear. I don't have personal experience w/ it, but if it's anything like what I've read, it could very well be your ticket.
Me too. I've owned a pair of PSB Sratus Gold i speakers for several years & wish to keep. Seems they crave power.
Tried & rejectred Creek5350SE as too polite-this was the original 85 Watt when it first came out and was more like $1,200 new.
Was going to get the Musical Fidelity Tri Vista-when one sees both Sterophile & The Absolute sound agree on enthusiastically recommending the identical product...
Alas, financial woes came on & I've focused the past few years on that, and certainly NOT audiophile gear.
I would surely appreciate feedback, particularly from folks with experience with the PSB Stratus Gold's....
My financial house is getting in order & I want to start thinking about this stuff again.
Just joined aidiogon today after stumbling upon it thru the internet which I have just gotten installed.
Gnpgnp, what is your budget? I assume you would consider new or used.
I would look into the new Luxman Integrateds as well. They have recieved a ton of awards. They come in both class AB & class A designs. With your setup you can use a Class A 20 watt. They are supposed to be very neutral with incredible power.
Right now I could spend $2,000. Later this year , assuming my $ position keeps improving, I could go over $4,000.
There is one on Agon for $3000 as a demo. Has me thinking.
I second the Almarro 318B - incredible value and bested my DK Designs MkII by a mile running ZU Druids. The case is like a piece of furniture.
With your speakers the Almarro would seem to be a real good option; should be on your shortlist IMHO. If you wait till you can spend the $4,000, I would look for a Art Audio Carissa with built-in attenuator.