Opinions needed; which is a better choice and why?

My integrated amp died so I am now in the market for a replacement. I have always owned integrated amps, but have contemplated an PreAmp/Amp combo. I am interested in what is a better choice a high quality integrated amp or a preamp/amp combo? What are the pros and cons of either? In addition I would like to spend the same amount of money with either choice does this factor into the equation?
An integrated amp will provide most of the benefits of the pre/amp combo. The power supply is maybe the biggest issue. With an integrated the power supply tends to be smaller due to space constants. Circuitry is often altered in an integrated again due to space. There is some added chance of interference from the transformer to the amp and the pre-amp portion of the unit but this is minor in the big picture. This is why some high end equipment provides separate power supplies, reducing interference and vibration. In your situation, I'm assuming your associated equipment is on par with your integrated, you will find a far greater benefit in buying the best integrated you can afford and not pay for two power supplies, two boxes and a set of good interconnects.
You will get as many different suggestions as there are replies & I suggest you make a decision based on what you hear. You need to audition as many different combinations as possible. With that said, then decide if you plan on upgrading in the future or if you'll likely stick with the same setup for awhile. If the latter, I suggest going with a higher quality int. as you'll have better performance spending the same money vs. separates, although there are exceptions to this. Then there is the question of used/new. Say if your budget was $3,000.00 you get some very nice separates used but couldn't touch even one of the pieces new. So, lots of considerations, although I personally would go for used separates.

Also keep in mind that separates require more connections & the possibility of upgrading PC's & IC's. Lots of variables here. I have an integrated second system which I'm very happy with but it'll never have the sonic qualities that my main system of separates has.

If your ultimate goal is the best sound possible & you're willing to do trial & error to get there, go with separates & have some fun. If you want the best possible sound right now & want to stick with it for some time, get an int. This is a very broad & generalized statement but is also meant as food for thought.
As Jadem6 says, dollar for dollar you'll get more from an integrated than separates. A major virtue of separates, however, is flexibility, especially at upgrade time. For example, should you ever want to get into multichannel, with a power amp you've already got 2 channels of amplification. Of course, if your integrated is externally coupled, that also buys upgrade flexibility.
I agree with Jade, economics plays a role in integrateds and there are some good single box units out there. Playing Devil's advocate: keeping the amplifier and preamplifier seperate has it's advantages, allowing you to upgrade/change either the preamplifer or amplifier (or interconnect) to suit your tastes as budget allows. It also allows you to mix and match solid state and tubes, something I find desirable. If you have to decide on where to spend the cash I would lean towards a better preamplifier and acquire a decent amplifier that could be improved upon when you feel the need. Buying used means your budget goes a long way, lots to pick from here at A'gon! Jeff
That was the main reason I was starting to lean towards the pre/amp combo just to be able to have the best of both worlds a tube pre and SS amp. In your experience, are the synergy issues matching pre to amp a big pain?
I am new to Audiogon and have never bought anything from the site. Have you had good experiences buying from the site? Also do you put faith in the user ratings of sellers?
Speaking to your question about buying from Audiogon sellers: I have put together two systems, one for music and
one for HT primarily from used equipment for sale on this
site and have been more than satisfied with the results!
Sellers have been extremely helpful, and all the purchases
have been as described!
To answer you intelligently we'd need to understand your associated equipment, listening room, musical tastes, and budget for a preamp/amp then you'd get a ton of recommendations. As for buying here, I've had nothing but success. Selling here...another story altogether
1.Associated equipment; lets just say I am completely rebuilding my system, I had tried the HT route and built a system that was unbearable in 2 channel and sold most of the equipment. I kept my CD player an old denon; which I plan to replace and my old Integrated which is now dead and a pair of Paradigm Mini monitors, which also need to go.
I have been listening to equipment nearby, but unfortunately there are not many high-end dealers in my area. I listened to the CJ CAV-50 integrated through Dynaudio Audience 122's with an EAD CD player (not sure model) which sounded great but was a little over my planned budget at the new price. I also have listed to the Bryston B60 integrated with a Rega Planet 2000 and B&W CDM 9NT, the soundstage was impressive but the setup was a little too bright for me, which I assumed was due to the B&W speakers.
I also listened to the Audio Refinement Complete Integrated, with the Complete CD player and Mirage OM5. I liked the sound but was not impressed with the speakers. So far my listening preferences tend towards a warmer sound I cannot handle a bright system at all! That is why I am thinking Tubes or Hybrid.

2. Listening room leaves a lot to be desired! I rent a 75-year-old flat that has leaded glass window everywhere. I do not have a dedicated listening area here but I will not be living hear forever. I am planning on putting the system in the living room with the back of the system facing a wall of windows. I planned on covering the windows with a large hanging rug. There will be no side walls as the living room is in between the dining room and solarium and the speakers will face the couch which will be set in front of the fire place. The ceiling is probably 11 ft with coffered corners and the room is probably 15x12. It is obviously that a system will not sound its best here but I am planning on buy a house with a dedicated listening room in the not to distant future.

3. Musical preferences; I like a wide variety of music, I like artists such as Jessie Cook, Gypsy Kings, or groups such as Tool. I enjoy Blues,Classical,Hard Rock, Bag Pipe Music, pretty much anything except for Rap music.

4 My budget is not set in stone but I would like to get as best sounding system as possible for around $3500 for source (CD or SACD), amplification, speakers. I expect other expenses for cables etc. I would like to spend more but I also would like to stay married!

Sorry to be so long winded but I hope this helps give some background info to respond to.
I would appreciate any input you can offer!
Todays integrateds are so good I think that is the way to go.
Something like a Creek or a Rogue.

Put your money into speakers that match your room and a good source.
Sony DVP 9000es $829 new less used or
Rotel RCD 971 $700 new $400 used with maybe a
Bel Canto Dac 1 or 1.1 used for @ $500 or
Perpetual 3A dac used for $600
Audio Refinement Complete $950 new $650 used or better
Creek 5350 SE $1495 new $950 used
Meadowlark Audio Kestrel Speakers $1395 new $850 used
with entry level DH labs or Harmonic Technology Cables $300

Total Price from $2150 to $4019

You can be very happy with any combination here for a very long time. Superb soundstage. Smooth highend with good midrange and respectable bass. ie Musical !
RE Chel's suggestions,
I second the Bel Canto DAC 1
For interconnects, speaker cables and PC I would get the Audition package from Virtual Dynamics. If you can swing it, the Rogue Magnum Tempest Integrated (which both Chel and I own) will do very well in your new system.
If I knew about Audiogon when I started this hobby I would've saved so much $$$ by asking this same question in the forums!!! Use all this information Meby, and remember: the fun of this hobby is in the chase... Buying, tweaking, listening, selling and more buying.. Good times!
I just bought a YBA Passion Integrated amp ($4,000US). A few months ago, Before buying this unit, I was looking into buying a YBA 2 AMP and preamp (around $6,000US). The integrated amp is a brand new model (it was released in December 01). Eventough the integrated is cheaper than the separates, it is BETTER sounding that the Series 2 seperates. If an integrated is well designed and well built, it can be as rewarding as separates without the extra cost. Remember that when you buy separates, you buy 2 transformers, 2 chasis... Also, you will have to buy an extra set of interconnects (beleive me it can be very costly task to find the right one). On the other hand, you have more flexibility when buying separates.

If you are on a tight budget and want the most bang for the buck and you are looking for new components, I would look into integrated. If you don't mind buying used, there are a whole lot more separates for sale on the market compared to integrated amps. The only reason why I bought a brand new unit is because the integrated I bought is a brand new model (I beleive it will take quite a while before seing this unit on the used market).

one more thing... When you buy online, you have no chance to audition the gear before you buy. If you plan on buying separates, make sure the amp/preamp are a good match. Buying without auditionning can be sometimes very deceiving. I would go around stores to listen to some gear. Make a choice on what sounds good to YOUR ears (not the salesman's ears). Once you choice is down to a few units, shop online for ONLY the units YOU auditionned. Remember, BE PATIENT when buying online. A good deal will come around sooner or later. The only way you will not be deceived is to ONLY trust your ears. Component reviews and other people's opinion are only there as guidelines. They are not to be taken as the ultimate reference.

One more thing, if you like tubes, YBA sound very close to tubes (but with solid state advantages).

Happy shopping.
As several others have pointed out, with versatility ( amp & preamp ) come options. With options you also get variables. With variables you get a lot of trial and error i.e. finding the perfect match for cables from component to component, which pre works best with which amp, etc... If you like such things, go for the separates. I personally prefer separates, but i am a "tinkerer" by nature.

All of the others have presented a very valid argument for an integrated. While they can be a step down from top notch seperates, they are more convenient, take up less space, have some of the hassles removed, etc... and can offer the vast majority of performance of separates.

Either way, do some research and listen to as much gear as you can whenever possible. This will give a good idea of what is available and let you know what you should be looking for in terms of performance and features.

As far as buying on A-gon, take a look at a seller's feedback. It should give you at least a vague idea as to what the person is like in terms of an audio transaction. I have done quite a bit of buying / selling on this and other forums and have been very happy with the results so far. Sean
I believe it is first necessary to have your final objective clearly understood. In order to obtain the quality of music your amplification is capable of reproducing, the amplification must be on the same performance level as the other equipment in the system. It is also true that the other considerations such as speaker efficiency must also be considered. I would advise you set set your performance goals and then borrow an amplifier from a local dealer. Get a first hand idea of how the new amplifier will increase your enjoyment of the music. Begin to learn what other changes may have to be made. It's about the music and that is a very personal thing.
Interesting discussion folks... Thanks. I certainly do not think there is a "best" is any part of audio. Everything is a compromise of some sort. I have listened to some integrated stuff lately that has knocked me out. The last being an Audiomat Aprege (tube EL34) at a very reasonable price (<$1,400).

There are a lot of great flavors of ice cream too. I wonder, do you guys like vanilla with your own chocolate or do you buy Rocky Road?

Sincerely, I remain
So far the advice I have received has been very helpful. I am leaning towards deciding on my speaker selection first and building my system around them. But I also believe the theory of garbage in garbage out so that makes the source the most important. Too many decisions!
I must say the most intriguing idea I have received so far is to buy a source such as a Theta Miles or Mark Levinson 39 or even an EAD (Diskmaster?), which has analog volume control and hook directly to my amp. Has anyone had success with a setup like this?
I am also starting to contemplate buying one very high level component and building my system around it, as my budget seems a little on the low side to have a truly mind blowing system.
In addition, is the Odyssey Stratos for real or is it all hype? If any of you Stratos owners out there read this, what amp would you say the Stratos' sound most resembles? I am curious since I cannot audition them and even if I home demo one I have read several places that they have a very extended break in period.
I cannot wait till Saturday; I have discovered a couple more high-end dealers in my area that I did not know existed.
Thanks again for all the advice! I will keep ya posted on my adventure into the realm of high-end audio. I told my wife she is in trouble as I think I may have been bitten by the audiophile bug.
Meby! Stay away from those HiFi shops!!! Buy everything on Audiogon. You will save at least 50% overall. And when you upgrade, you won't lose much money by selling your components. When I started, I did the same as you. I bought EVERYTING at the HIFI shop and then discovered Audiogon. Then I felt so dumb for not finding this site earlier. I figured out that I lost about 1-2 K by going the audio shop route initially. Use the info on these forums and buy from the members. Have fun and let us know what you end up doing.
This may be a little in bad form, but I am planning on going to the Audio shops just to audition equipment to see what I like and then purchase off of Audiogon. The only equipment I feel maybe a bad idea to buy off of Audiogon is speakers and CD players, but I still would purchase them as dealer demos.
Maybe my thinking is wrong here but are not speakers easily damaged in both shipping and being over driven? Also speakers are so heavy I would imagine they would be cost prohibitve to ship? I am also thinking that the drawer and laser could easily be damaged on a CD player if not shipped correctly? That is why I am am a little heasitant to purchase those components with out at least at 30 day warranty. I am just paranoid?
So Meby you got $3500 to spend. Let's see. Audio Aero Prima CDP $1600 NEW! (the soon to be released newer model price?) OR Audiomeca Keops $1600 New or Obsession like $1200 or so . Look for used on the 3 but hard to find. For amp Kora intergrated hybred(tubes+ss) 60 watts $750 NEW!! For speakers...give the VMPS RM1(ribbon hybred) $1600 NEW a consideration. So lets see 1600+750+1600= roughly $4K if used alittle less but then you got cables interconnects. For these go used Acoustic Zen lower price model say another $500 used for both. For speaker cables go to Home Depot try the thickest copper twisted wire you can find its like 90 cents ft. Good Luck
I understand the motivation to save lots of money by shopping here on Audiogon, but, if you find an Audio shop that gives you good service and has the products you want, please consider purchasing the products there. The better brick and mortar retailers need your support. I for one feel it is in bad form to use up the time and energy of a salesman or two, to just use them to find out what you like and shop elsewhere. If on the other hand you cannot find a good retailer or find one that has the products you want but does not proviode good service, then by all means purchase the products where you like.
Just my two cents.
The Audio Aero Prima you refer to at $1600 is that the new one that does not have a tubed output stage and buffer? Does that player do upsampling? I went to the VMPS web site I think, it does not appear to have any info on dealers, pricing, etc., is this a new company?
Also the Kora you mention, is that the Explorer or design 30?
Meby VMPS is in the process of upgrading web page been at it for 2 weeks now. If you email them a note you'll get photos and description of products. Like you i'm on a limited budget and my research in speakers has narrowed my choice to 2 as of yesterday, heard 1 and now its down to 1 the VMPS RM1 (if i could get a used Quad 988 , that would probably be #1 choice but they are very new and nobody selling) I talked to Ljgj he's heard the RM2 ($2500) says they very nice. I'm not sure what the components are in the Prima but i asked them how does the Prima sound compared to Capitole and they said "like a little Capitole" Heck! I'll take the "little Capitole" for (new Price ?) vs. $8K Cap.!! I think has tubes. And yes the Kora is called Explorer. Look for used Acoustic Zen Copper interconnects. Speaker wire from Home Depot(90 cents a ft.!!). Probably a tad more than $4K but lets see if any other Audiogoners who can help you in your choices. There are lots of used stuff to choose from , these are just my picks. BTW i'll second Buckingham's advice Stay away from (most) HiFi shops!!!!
Yeah I know what you mean on so called high end shops, even when I find one who carries the brand I like I do not trust the salesmen. I can not tell you how many times while auditioning speakers I have caught salesman having a sub on and not mentioning it till I call them on it. Heck the other day, one had an extra set of speakers and a second amp running. I may not be an audiophile but I am not an idiot! My other favorite is when you go in to audition their lower line equipment and they say you don't want that it's garbage and steer you straight to their most expensive stuff. My question to them is, if it is garbage why do you carry it then? I do not know what those types of salesman are thinking. Even if those dealers carry what I want, I would never give them my business. Although I have to admit I had found two good dealers in TX, unfortunately I no longer live there.
Well I am narrowing it down a bit. I started auditioning yesterday with the Rogue Tempest with Vandersteen 2CEsig and a Linn Genki player and Audioquest cable and interconnects. I was a little disappointed with this combo although the sound was not unpleasent there seemed to be no soundstage and the treble was almost none existent.
I then listened with the Vandersteen's replaced with ProAc Tablette Reference 8's and the difference was night and day. The Rogue came alive and the sound stage became almost as deep as it was wide and there was much more air surronding the instruments. I guess maybe the Vandersteen's are a bad combo with the Rogue since they both are a tad bit laid back. The ProAcs sounded even more incredible with the Rogue gear when we threw into the mix a Vandersteen 2WQ sub and rolled the ProAcs off at 80 to the sub. The sound stage became massive, and the ProAcs began to sing when that little mid driver did not have to worry about bass and the sub blended in beautifully.
Then just for the hell of it I listened to the ProAc Tablette Reference 8's being driven by an all Audio Research system composed of the AR CD3, AR LS25MKII, and the VT 200MKII Monos and I was blown away! If I had an unlimited bank roll I would have bought that combo right then and there. This was my first experience with AR since I was always told their new equipment is High Rez and I tend to shy away from that since my ears are sensitive to brightness. I never bothered to audition AR equipment and man I did not know what I was missing.
I must say since I have a real world budget (although after yesterday it has gone up) and I am contemplating an LS8MKI or MKII with a Rogue 88 power amp or even the Rogue mono 120s. Has anyone tried this combo before?
Also are there any other tube componenets that sound similar to the new AR equipment, which is tending towards being analytical and having that inner detail, without that massive price tag?
The Rogue 99 Preamp is incredible, you may want to give that a listen. The rogues really sound great. I have had a similar experience listen tto the Vandersteen 2's with any electronics, overwarm and diffuse.
Did you dealer have a Mgnum Tempest. The regular Tempest is a good deal but their Magnum is on another level altogether and an incredible bargain.
No my dealer only had the standard Tempest. He did have the Magnum version of the 66 and the Magnum version of the 88 but the standard 99 and monos. I will have to go back for another session. Is there really that big of a difference to justify the extra $500 for the Magnum upgrade? What is the greatest improvement that you hear with the Magnum version over the standard?
Also what speakers are your running with your Rogue equipment?
Hello Meby, I have been reading about your quest and it looks like you have getting some good advise. My two cents: If you can try to audition some of the Meadowlark audio spkrs. I have the Kestrals and to me one of the best bang for the buck items out there. I'm also glad you enjoyed the AR gear. I have a LS7 that I really enjoy. I believe there is a used one at Jeffs sound values. He is on Agon and great to deal with. Godd luck with your search.
How would you describe the sound of the LS7? I have read that the sound of older AR equipment is very different from that of the latest gear. I am planning on auditioning the Meadowlark speakers unfortunately I have a two hour drive for that. I have heard many people praise their build quality and sound.
Hi Meby, I cannot comment on the latest gear from AR however my LS7 replaced a Anthem pre2L I had. It a musical pre that tells me what my front end is doing. Currently using some tungsram tubes that are very good. I would like to tweak the coupling caps with some infini caps if I can find them. That drive will be well worth it because the Kestrals do sound great. Well built spkrs that love tubes. Let me know what you think.
JADIS ORCHESTRA 40 WATT INTERGRATED WITH KT90 TUBES. A amp you will be very happy with for a very long time.(ie. no upgrades necessary) BUT here's the catch you will need high quality cdp and speakers. Reason is the amp exposes all weaknesses in all other equipment. So yea total investment is more than your $4K budget. But if you could....

Since I am a newbie to the higher end of audio do you all think I should stay away from a Transport/DAC combo and go with a single box solution for my source? Am I justified in my hesistance to mess with all of that extra cabling and jitter reduction, clock locking etc. or is it worth the trouble?
I am strating to see why the source is one of the most important components! I could not believe the difference between the Linn Genki and the ARC CD3, to my ears the Linn lacked the inner detail of the ARC.
Oooh man do the Kestrels sound awesome with the Tempest. I have had Kestrels with a few amps and the Tempest was by far the best match, incredible bass with that combo.

I am now using a system with Audio Physic Virgos', I do still miss those Kestrels....

The Magnum version of the Tempest is so much better in every way. Much more refined and detailed with being very musical. Better drive and depth to the bass, the power supply is doubled and the output transformers are %50 larger this isn't just some little tweaking going on. Rogue has really upgraded the big things ! If you can swing the extra dough I can safely say that the Magnum upgrade is easily worth twice what they charge for it.

Have Fun
Hey Meby, I have a seperate transport and dac. To me the logic is that each piece is doing what it was designed for. Hence a one box player depending on price MAY not equal seperates. I always see the PD65 advertised as a great transport yet it's a one box player. Yes jitter may play a factor but with units from AA,Monarchy and others that issue can be addressed. Hope this helps Meby.
Since there are such great deals out there on the Sonic Frontiers Power 1, I am leaning towards purchasing one. Anyone who has owned or demoed one of these how do they compare sonically to the ARC VT50? I understand they are much easier to bias than the ARC amps. Also anyone who owns one what preamps are you using and are you satisfied?
meby, from what i can glean about your tastes in gear, i think you might really like tube BAT amps. try to listen to a vk-60...they can be found for under $2k used. the ARC stuff sounds great but is more expensive to retube and more difficult to bias (BAT is auto-biasing).

whatever electronics you buy, definitely buy used! however, i agree that speakers are probably best purchased new or as demos from a store, given the problems that can occur in shipping. others may disagree.