Newbie needs help


I am just beginning to upgrade my system, and have never been at an "audiophile" level (I have various pieces, including an HK surround receiver). I just purchased some used Paradigm Studio 100s for my main system, and will be purchasing new items for a surround system that will go in my basement.

For now, I am planning on putting the HK 5.1 in the basement, but wiring for 7.1. This means I will need somethin get to drive the Studio 100s. I am confused, but think I generally understand that an amp powers the speakers, but you will need a pre-amp to utilize a straight amp, which is why many manufacturers make them in 1 unit. However, I am unclear as to the benefit of breaking these items up.

Also, when it comes to amps, I see reviews for a $1000 amp that seems as good as a $10,000 amp. Frankly, I'm not sure my ears would notice the difference (at least not now). So, I am confused as to what brands to focus on. Names like Krell, Mark Levinson, and Classe, all seem to have loyal followers and high prices. Audiophile never seems to give "bad" reviews, only less positive, and I have not found any other publication that appears to take audio any more seriously.

Sorry for the rambling, but here are my questions: 1. What is the benefit of having a separate amp/preamp over a single system; 2. What is a good name of amp/preamp (or integrated) that is reasonably priced used ($1500 or less +/- total) that could make a difference in the way I hear music? 3. Anyhing else I should know/missed/mis-stated?
One benefit of separates is that it is easier to upgrade the system. It's also an opportunity to get mismatched components. Stick with the same manufacturer or an integrated.

Any company that has been in business for over say 10 years should be making quality products. I think you should be less concerned with brand name and more concerned with reliability, warranty, features, ergonomics and watts per dollar.

Speakers make sound, quality electronics should not. Thus, concentrate on speakers, the room and setup.

Cabling and tweaks can become a sink hole for money and is generally a coin toss for making any improvement.
Newbie indeed. You have oodles of questions, but it appears that you have very limited listening experiences. Wonder why not a soul (yet) has taken a stab at your post? I would definately, partculary at your listening stage, go with an integrated. Less variables, and integrateds over the years are at world class audiophile listening levels, depending, of course on how much you want to spend. You won't have a problem finding a delicious integrated at $1500 used. How many wpc are you looking at? What kind of music do you like? What kind of listening volume are you comfortable with? What are the the source and amp you are using now? These quesitons will help the audiogon audiophools turn you on to some fine choices. I have (others certainly will) not addressed your other questions because I must get ready for work. You're in a good place, and their are ooldles of audiophiles who have been in your postion before. Fasten your seatbelt, get some asprin ready, cause you are going to go into the audio whirlwind. peace, warren :)
There are many variables . Get out and listen to as many varied pieces of equipment as you can . You first need to find out what you like . Then come back here and ask more pointed questions .
We can only tell you what we like which may not be what you like .
Good luck and enjoy the ride .
One piece of advice I can offer is to take reviews with a grain of salt. You are better off doing your research here, and as Warren says, you'll want a BIG jug of aspirin on hand!
Whow, did you every imagine what you were getting yourself into?
Warrenh's recommendations are right on. There are some other things in your post that I would like to comment on; "So, I am confused as to what brands to focus on": None, do not focus on any single brand. You focus on matching your gear based on characteristics, not brand. That said, your speakers are great, but known to be too bright when matched with some amps. Look for an integrated amp known for smoothness, such as Creek 5350 SE, Unison Unico, and others. Don't forget the importance of your source (poor CD player will result in poor sound) and cables.
The best scenario would be if you could auditon a few integrated amps with your speakers and have your ears decide which one to choose.
Good luck,
Thanks. Right now, I am running Paradigm Studio 100 v2 with a Harman Kardon AVR-25 Mark II (which I just realized is 65wpc, not 75wpc). For me, the 65 is good, but doesn't really go loud as I'd like as I approach above the 270-285 degrees mark on the volume control. As for the cd player, I have a Sony carousel - model CDP-CX300.
Man, this is a coin toss, but I'd think of ditching the cdp before purchasing a new amp, but since this is, like I said, a coin toss, perhaps while the coin is in the air I'd decide on an integrated. Both could use a little up grading action. What did I tell ya? Mind spinning yet? Hang in there, more to come....
Replace both. Look for a used Audio Aero Prima CD player ($1000-$1600) or a used Rega Apollo ($700-$800), and a used Audio Refinement Alpha Integrated amp ($500-$600). Audio Refinement is the less expensive (but equally as good) version of the highly regarded YBA Integre integrated amplifier.

Other options, too...

Prima Luna Prologue 2 integrated...used for around $900.
Audio Refinement is not equally as good, IMO. I would look for used YBA Integre. That would give you a honey of 50 SS watts. Couldn't agree more on a used Audio Aero. With those two babies and your new speakers you will, regardless of your listening experience, be experiencing some incredible sound. I owned the Prima for a couple of years. Wonderful.
10-23-06: Warrenh
Audio Refinement is not equally as good, IMO. I would look for used YBA Integre.
Several published reviews state that it is very close, if not equal. I've never heard it, but it seems like a good value, especially considering the author's budget restriction.

Have you heard the Audio Refinement integrated, Warrenh?

I don't care to get into a debate. I'm just interested to know the basis of your opinion.
I owned the Integre and AB'd it with the Audio Refinement with the exact same electronics. Camry vs Bimmer. Good enough? There's your basis!! You don't want to get into a debate? Tvad, who you kidding....
OK. Fair enough.

One reviewer wrote:
The sonic differences between Complete and standard issue Integre were too subtle and would adversely impact sales of the dearer unit. He also claimed the Complete’s transformer was more substantial than the single Integre’s and, to his ears, offered even better bass performance. On top of which, the Complete was better looking, especially with regard to the logo lettering and silk screening.

The reviewer gave the Audio Refinement Complete a Soundstage Reviewer's Choice Award.

Different opinions. Common in this obsession.

Anyhow, certainly worth checking out.
Srajan also loved the Druids. What's your take on that? Oh, yeah, "different opinions." Sorry Blewis, but Tvad follows me wherever I go. Like a little (malicious) puppy. I am sorry for taking up your thread with this nonsense. Tvad, that leaves you with the last word!! lol...peace, warren
I second each of Bob Reynolds comments.
I'd say you and Srajan share a common ear, Warren, considering he loved the Druids, you both love the Definitions, he liked the Audio Refinement Complete, and you loved its older cousin, the YBA Integre. That's pretty good commonality, and a thumbs up for either the YBA Integre or Audio Refinement, IMO.
Thanks guys. I am getting more info. both from you and "out there." Some of the prices quoted above I could not substantiate from the ads on this site. Also, I cam across a recommendation for a Korsun V8i (or a Dussun)? I have no idea what that is, but found a website that suggests it is effectively a generic version of Levinson (made in the same plant). Also, I predominately listen to "alternative," rock, pop, and some softer music (mostly my wife) - very little classical. I have the speakers about 1' from the wall, and about 6-7' apart, with the listening area another 6-7' away (due to them being on both sides of my entertainment center and across from my couch).

I have also seen suggestions for anthem amps. I believe they may be made by the same company as the Paradigm, so I am not sure if there is some bias there. Finally, I am planning on using the 100s only for audio, so I do not need an AV amp. Thanks again.

10-24-06: Blewis1041
Some of the prices quoted above I could not substantiate from the ads on this site.
Specifically which ones?

There is an Audio Refinement Complete Integrated for sale now for $515, and an Audio Aero Prima for sale for $1600 and another that recently sold that was listed for $1050. There's a Rega Apollo with a sale pending that is listed at $775, and a PrimaLuna Prologue 2 listed for $975 with a pending sale. Other than the PrimaLune Prologue 2, these are all within the price range mentioned above. Also, considering the pricing is for used gear, they prices will fluctuate according to the market.

Are you open to used, or only to new? Used will provide better bang for your buck.

In retrospect, I think the Audio Refinement Complete is underpowered for your loudspeakers and listening preferences, as is probably the Prologue 2. I'm calling a Mulligan on those amplifier suggestions.

I demoed the Dussun V8i and posted impressions in the threads. It's a great value, has lots of power, and it will really bring your Studio 100s alive. It's definitely worth auditioning in your system with the 30 day MBG.

The amplifiers from Odyssey Audio offer excellent peformance for the price...better (more refined in all respects) than the Dussun IMO, although with the Odyssey equipment you'll need a preamp. Klaus Bunge used to offer a complete Odyssey system with amplifier, preamplifier and loudspeakers for less than $5000. That's a screaming value in this hobby. Klaus is a great guy. He'd be worth contacting.

Your speakers will breathe better, and the bass will be less boomy if you have room to pull you speakers out from the rear wall by a couple more feet.