Hello again. Thank you bigkidz for clarifying your previous suggestion. In terms of source inputs, I primarily use an iPod directly plugged in with RCA to an an available AUX port. I will sometimes stream music via a WiFi connection. I will also occasionally use a conventional CD player and of course I will use the turntable. So.... Basically everything except DAC and tape. I had no real complaints about the use of my Mac other than the lack of power and I felt I was lacking sine midrange. I have the biwire connections on my speakers jumped. I do not have a preference with the remote as I have never felt the need to have one. I'm quite grateful for your feedback.
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I think for your use, the Emotiva PT-100 is a perfect choice, and at $329, leaves money in your pocket. It checks all of your boxes (phono stage, tone controls, price) plus a few others that I think will benefit you down the road (tuner, onboard dac, remote). I don’t think you are going to hear any worthwhile sound quality increases by spending more on a pre-amp.
My thinking follows from the fact that your Snell’s are a very musical and bit warm speakers that are not as sensitive to the front end as other speakers may be. This is not a bad thing and I tend to lean towards speakers that have that voicing (and have a soft spot for older Snells). They make most music sound great, including less than optimal recordings, which frankly is most.
Instead of spending more on a pre-amp that won’t give you any real benefit, I suggest you consider the following, both short term and long term:
1) A surge suppressor and power conditioner- It sounds like you live in an area where lightning or other power surges can damage your equipment. For less than $100 you can get a high quality surge protector with some power conditioning from Furman.
2) The Nakamichi you purchased is a really great amp. That said, it will at some point need to the power supply caps. I will quote Nelson Pass (the designer/engineer of your amplifier) directly here as he responded in a thread about PA-5 upgrades on DIY Audio:
"If it’s older than 15 years replace the power supply caps with ones
comparable to the originals. Panasonic or Nichicon is plenty good enough.
Arrange to get the amplifier some serious ventilation and then raise the
bias until the heat sinks run at 50 deg C after an hour of operation.
Serious ventilation is what you think it is - a fan is not out of the question."
I would expect it would cost from $150 up to have a qualified technician do just the power supply caps. There are also people who do entire upgrades.
3) Please spend $10 or so and get a toslink or digital RCA cable to hook up your CD to the Emotiva, which undoubtedly has a nicer DAC (assuming your CD player has a digital out).
4) Consider getting a music streamer and streaming service with the money you saved. Never in a million years would I have thought I would recommend something from this company, but the Bose Soundtouch Wireless Link Adaptor a great entry point at $150. It has a digital out, is fully controllable from a smart phone, easy to configure and use, and compatible with spotify, deezer, amazon music, and itunes among others. I would suggest the Yamaha MusicCast WXAD-10 for $160, but it seems impossible to get. Others may be able to suggest alternative streamers.
I delayed using streaming services for a long time, until I finally dove in last year with Deezer. I have to tell you, it has been the best audio decision I have made. I have found more new music I like in the past year than the prior 20. For $20 a month (Deezer is CD quality at that price, Amazon has a good amount of music in its free service for prime members, abet at a slightly lower quality, and slightly lower quality 256-320kbps mp3 streams, are $10 a month from most services) you get access to over 45 million different tracks.
So in sum, here is how I would spend your budget:
$329- Emotiva PT-100
$91- Furman M-8x2
$150 Bose Soundtouch Streamer
$10 Toslink of coax digital cable for CD to preamp (amazon or monoprice).
$580 and you get not only a great preamp, but an entirely new world of music, which is why are here in the first place. I hope this helps.
Thank you mcreyn. Your feedback has been incredibly useful in my decision making process. I am ready to pull the trigger on the Emotiva unit you suggested. Just before I do I got contacted by a friend yesterday who is selling his Parasound 2100 preamp. It looks interesting. It has a front facing MP3 jack with gain and also a frequency adjustable out for a sub in the back. I have the option of using a powered Pinnacle sub in my system at home. Also has a remote, phono section and meets the rest of my needs. Not sure of your thoughts on that... I would have mentioned it prior but I didn't hear this until last night. He's asking $450 and it has had minimal use. Also, does Furman make an equivalent power strip to the one you recommend? I don't have my setup in a rack. Any ideas about a specific fan to cool the Naka? Gratefully - Greg
Also, your advice on bringing the Naka in for tech service is a great thought. Just before I purchased it the seller had brought it in to a tech in Watertown MA who has 40+ years of experience at Audio Proz. He went through it thoroughly and bench tested it and said it is very close to new in condition and functioning like a new amp.
The Parasound 2100 is a great unit and will work well for your application. Here are my reservations:
1) I think the asking price is a bit high. A quick search of Ebay shows the last two units sold for $329 and $400. The $329 one was missing the remote, the $400 one was listed as one week old, used once. I would say a fair price would be $350-375.
2) The Parasound doesn’t have a DAC built in. I suspect the DAC in the Emotiva is better than the one in your CD Player, as well as any entry level streamer you may buy in the future. That said, you could easily add an outboard DAC in the future, a Schiit Modi 3 is $100 and an upgrade from most entry level CD and streamer DACs.
I do like the Parasound has the built in crossover, so you can high pass your Snell’s if you run a subwoofer.
At the end of the day, I think you will be happy with either the Emotiva or the Parasound. Buy the one that speaks to you and makes you warm and fuzzy.
In regard to the Furman power conditioner, you could use the SS-6B for $40, or SS-6B Pro for $60. You give up the power conditioning, but keep the good surge protection, which is what I am mostly concerned with. I would hope using one would avoid any future potential equipment damage.
For cooling the Nakamichi, the biggest thing is make sure it has plenty of room around it. Elevating it an inch or two can help considerably with passive cooling. A fan is probably not necessary if the bias has not been increased from factory (which it appears Nelson Pass was discussing). But for a fan, any little fan you can find, preferably plugged into a different circuit to help eliminate a potential source of electrical noise. Something like this would work well:
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