You obviously like the Arcam amp,why not try to find the matching preamp?There's a lot to be said for brand name synergy.Just a thought.Good luck.
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First, what's "Arcam"?
Good question. I want to move up to higher end equipment a bit at a time. I'm hoping to find a pre that'll beat anything Rotel has to offer. They're best most recent offering is the RC-1580 at about $1300 (USD) new. I figure I could pick up something used that sold for 3k or 4k originally but for under $1500 (USD) used. I expect to move well beyond my 805's in the near future and although I said I'm not replacing the 1090, I meant not right away, but maybe eventually.
Manley Shrimp for $880.00. This will give you a good taste of tubes. Easily re-sold if you dislike it for any reason.
I will say the Rotel amp has a pretty flat sound stage. It will limit your results. Maybe consider a nice integrated as another option.
u are correct that there are so many to choose from,it does get confusing.i have a suggestion if u want to try tubes that wont cost you an arm and a leg.you can try a bottle head pre.these are sold as kits.check out the bottlehead.com website.you can find many user reviews.i have seen used pres on both agon and ebay.and i have owned two.they hold their value pretty good, are not expensive,and sound quality is way beyond what is hoped for or expected for the price.
I would research going to a tubed front end. Possibly an ARC, Cary or Modwright tubed linstage ... at least take a listen. I was running a SS setup for a while with a Rotel amp and once I tried a tube linestage I found it very much to my liking. I was ready to throw in the towel when a friend talked me into trying a tubed front end. I thought it really smoothed out the sound and made my good system sound great.
Energizer: Never occurred to me to go kit. I built quite a few Heathkits when I was a kid and loved it. But I learned quickly that the cost was actually higher that way. So much has to go into laying things out so that anyone can build them, and then all the instructions, etc. Is that not true with bottlehead? I checked out their site. Prices look good. I saw someone actually selling one on here for more than he paid. Seemed odd but maybe I'm still thinking in the Heathkit world.
If you need a subwoofer output, that will cut the list drastically, even if you just need dual sets of outputs. Do you need a mono or stereo out for the sub? Do you mind dual volume controls? Tube gear is fun but if you're not used to it, stick to newer gear to avoid problems. The PV10 is nice but probably won't fit the bill.
My Rotel RA-985BX integrated doesn't have a separate sub out. I split the output for the speakers. So I guess I could still do that if I had to. Not a big deal. My sub has left/right inputs. I assume when you say dual volume you are talking about 1 for the main and one for the sub? If that's the case, yeah, that would bother me I think.
I know it's over the price I said before but I was thinking about the Conrad-Johnson Premier 17LS line-stage preamp that's listed here. The shop where I got my Rotels and B&W's used to sell CJ and some of the guys there were of the opinion that CJ pre's worked nicely with Rotel amps. And by the way, the RB1090 is not super high end but it's rated quite a bit higher than it would seem. When I had it hooked up to my Nautilus 803's, the soundstage was quite good; not at all flat IMO. I remember people saying that the RB1090 was quite a surprise. Very high quality for $2000 (new).
Ok, I just went through the ads here. These are the 3 I would get for under $1k: VTL, BAT & Manley Shrimp. The BAT is a tank and only 1 set of outputs. That leaves the VTL and the Manley with dual sets of outputs. Now we are down to personal taste. I'd gladly take either one.
By the way, dual volume controls: I was talking about Audible illusions with a right and left volume. I hate that.
Thanks everyone for all the advice. This has definitely been helpful. I don't get into the one good shop (the one I like anyway) around here much any more. And of course when I do, as nice and helpful as they have always been, they understandably want to talk about what they sell, which doesn't cover all the options out there. I'm glad I thought to look for a forum on Audiogon.
I gotta say, Energizer, that you've intrigued me. I may end up going the Bottlehead route. I've read some other reviews and so far as I can tell, the value:cost ratio is much higher than that of the old Heathkits. And I did used to enjoy building them. Would also be cool to do a somewhat customized enclosure.
Nobody's commented on my Krell or CJ ideas. I like the styling of both but of course that's not my main criteria. Maybe they're overpriced for older equipment? Maybe they're just more name brandish and not as good as some of the more obscure names? Still wondering what anyone has to say about those.