Recommended Integrated and Bookshelf Combo for Secondary System

My primary system has a large tube preamp and large tube amp, and I am looking to incorporate a small solid state system (integrated + bookshelf) into the same large cabinet for leave-on-all-the-time casual listening.  I have a simple digitial front end that will serve both systems (All digital, will use the same Roon core, balanced outputs from DAC running to the main system, and the single ended outputs available for the secondary system).  My overriding goal is sound quality, with an emphasis on musical, "wet" presentation of finer sounds like female vocals (not worried about ultra resolution, bass punch etc.)

There are SO MANY nice used integrateds on the market and SO MANY nice used bookshelf speakers on the market!!! This is a green fields project, and my only requirements/parameters are that the bookshelf speakers are on the smallish (12" high) side (this rule could bend, if I get stands) and that the integrated is solid state (can be rather low powered).  I guess I am open to new fangled ideas like wireless powered speakers (educate me if that is the right path!), but I have a bias to get a traditional integrated and passive speakers (and use my own extra cables!). I'd love to wrap this up under $2500 but let's call budget $5k for kicks. So....

Are their known magical PAIRINGS of integrateds and small bookshelves?

If not, I assume speakers come first, so what would be your top choices? 

And then sweet matched integrated - I am assuming I would get best value in an older, higher-end model, but I don't know to what extent claimed advances in technology are real. Thanks!








Try checking out a pair of active speakers like these JBL’s. It is a preamp, power amp, speaker with Dirac room correction. There are many other brands to choose from (Dynaudio, KEF, SVS. Klipsch, etc):


"Are their known magical PAIRINGS of integrateds and small bookshelves?"

I think there are known magical pairings of ears + speakers + amps + music + room + time of day. 

Sorry if it was a bit "vague" :)

Parasound and KEF is the pairing Richard Schram of Parasound recommended to me when I asked him that question.

If you go with an active speaker the "magic" is done by the speaker designer where he matches the amps with the actual drivers.



  1. REGA.  . Just add or substitute a REGA APOLLO cdp, and I’d look fir a preowned  REGA DAC too.








Just reporting out that I ended up going with Elac Navis ARB51 powered bookshelves and a Topping Pre90 preamp.  (A single DAC can feed both systems so I think of the "secondary system" as being everything after the DAC). For around $2500, I am happy with this combination, which is very small footprint, simple, and is fine for most casual listening. I don't really have a refined sound quality analysis to provide here, other than that the combination generally sounds pretty good, considering the small size and budget (not tremendous bass or sound stage).  I am running the speakers with RCA cables in (not wireless) consistent with at least one review article that said SQ suffers over wireless.  

Great job OP! Andrew Jones demoed Navis speakers compared to the passive versions with $4500 of electronics. So many advantages to active.