IMHO...The Melos SHA or SHA gold editions (used) are in your price range and would be excellant choices. Happy Listening,
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I agree with Elevick. A preamp isn't going to do much without changing your amp. Nothing can tame that Adcom GFA-555. It has a lot of power, but it's like a bull in a china shop. A tube amp, on the other hand, will offer a midrange warmth that sounds more like the musicians are in your room. It will also smooth things out and make your system more listenable and less fatiguing.
Adding a tube preamp to a low end solid state amp won't achieve the same results. I've tried. Many people say it does, but it's wishful thinking -- especially with an Adcom.
Your KEF 103s are 92 dB efficient, so you don't need a lot of power. 50 watts is plenty. If I were in your shoes, I'd sell the Adcom gear and put the money toward a tube integrated. IMO, an integrated gives you a better bang for the buck in this price range. You also eliminate a set of interconnects and a power cable. Stay away from the tube hybrids. Here are some suggestions:
Primaluna Prologue One
Antique Sound Lab
Onix SP3 Melody. Beautiful integrated amplifier.
I saw at least 3 in your price range. There was also a brand new model from certify dealer for $500!!!!
Here is the link to Srajan Ebaen's review on *6moons*
Or if you want something just a bit different sonically and visually , check out Promitheus Audio TVC SE for less then your budget but it's the passive preamp only.
Here is some information:
And maybe this one too. It has headphone amp and USB for connecting your computer. It might have enough muscle to handle your speakers but read the review first.
Glow Amp One (in your budget. Integrated)
08-19-08: MrjstarkI see one in the classifieds now for dirt cheap. I'd look into it. Check out the 6Moons review. Here's the distributer's website with a tiny bit of info on the SP3: http://www.melodyhifi.com/SP3.html
As one poster mentioned, going to a tube pre will help, but the Adcom 555 needs to be cleaned up to gain some real benefit.
The 555 is fairly easy to work on. Unscrew the top cover.
You'll see teh blue power supply caps. Add some film and foil bypass caps to each of the main filter caps. Will make a large improvement in the sound quality.
then get a tube pre amp and you should have a system with will sound significantly better.
best of luck
Johnss: Your suggestion seems "sound" to me (pun intended). I hear the other commenters deride the Adcom amp, and I appreciate their suggestions (hey, I asked, didn't I), but I think the critcism is largely unwarranted. I'm not an audiophile per se, but I'm a fairly educated fellow and I've listened to A LOT of systems in my time. The set-up I have now is among the best I've heard. The combination of the Arcam HDCD (I have not played standard 14 bit CDs in it yet) and the KEF speakers create an open and distinctive soundstage. The mids are a bit bright or "harsh", but they are crystal clear, and the stereo separation and clarity is shocking. Voice reproduction from the 6-1/2" Uni-Q drivers is uncanny. The reason I went with the 200 wpc Adcom, however, is that I could get relatively little bass response from the KEFs. The Adcom took care of that. It is true that I have not listened to any quality tube gear. From the comments it seems tube gear is genuinely superior. Since I am generally happy with my equipment, though, I would like to try the tube preamp suggestion (I am also a little "cheap"). When you say "add some film and foil bypass caps" I know you are referring to capacitors, but I have no idea how to add them to the circuit board. I'm sure you solder them in somehow, but I think your suggestion may be over my head. Do you think the average tecnician from a local eletronics repair shop would likely know how to make these improvements?? Also, If I am going to try the tube preamp, is there a recommendation? Will I also need a tube tuner?? Thanks all!!
Hi, I would say that the power amp is the weak point. I am using an old Adcom GFP 1-A preamp with my custom tube power amplifiers.. Dont let the rich guys talk you down.. The Adcom is a decent preamp. I have a Conrad Johnson preamp and the Adcom is better, hands down. If you are interested in a nice stereo tube power amp let me know, I can custom build to order. It will definitely change the way you listen. What is the efficiency of you speakers?
Preamps in the sub $500 range go quickly. You have to be ready to act quickly if you want to get a good deal.
I see a Rogue Metis in the classifieds right now for $450. This is a well regarded tube preamp that includes a phono section and remote control. It will add some warmth to your SS amp and be a nice foundation to build on. If I were in your shoes I'd jump on it. Live with it for a month and do back-to-back comparisons with your Adcom GTP-500II. That should give you plenty of time to hear the difference. There's a nice review of the Metis at 10 Audio
Will I also need a tube tuner??I think you're referring to biasing, but maybe you literally mean a tuner. FWIW, tube preamps don't need to be biased, but tube amps do. Instructions are usually included with the unit.
If you like DIY kits, the Bottlehead Foreplay is unbeatable for $450. It's certainly not swanky looking, but the sound is what counts and you'll learn a lot by building it. Check out this forum:
best bang for the buck tube preamp?
If a kit isn't your idea of fun, there's a Foreplay in the classifieds right now for 450:
Another suggestion is Dynaco Pas 3. This is well-regarded classic with a huge following. I see one in the classifieds right now :