Google the reviews, and better still, actually go audition one and prepare to be impressed (amazed?)
Why with DAC & amp are you putting high emphasis on "a company that spends very little on marketing and works to move as much of the value for the money to the product itself", but you have listed some speakers that exhibit the exact opposite IMHO(i.e Wilson & Revel)? Speakers are available from a larger number of companies than other categories, with more variation in value, style, strengths & weaknesses. It's a much more personal category and requires listening more than any other category. Whatever your preferences I am guessing you can find a few from smaller companies that will give you more value.
On the amp/pre side does it have to be an integrated? I would say that a $3k Backert Labs Rhumba preamp is a tremendous value and if paired with many amps ~$5k would be a great start. It's smart to decide on the speakers you want before choosing a power amp since the speaker might affect what amp with be best choice.
If it has to be an integrated ss amp, ASR, Pass Labs come to mind as more musical than most. Cheers,
Thanks akg_ca and Spencer,
Well there is a local dealer that is willing to give me a GREAT deal on Revel and Wilson is just a brand I've been able to hear multiple times so I know how they sound. I'm pretty sold on the crescendos or the Vandersteen (leaning 60% to Crescendos, 30% to Vandy, 8% to Revel and 2% to Wilson... not to get to technical lol). But yeah you are right about the speakers and I have to do more listening before I drive the decision 100%. I love the idea of transmission line and I've had a chance to hear a couple examples and was very impressed. So anyway it's basically between the Vandy's and AZs.
A couple reasons for the integrated. They seem to be a pretty good value over separates and an integrated takes up less space. I'm sharing my 20 X 15 listening room with my office (not that big of a deal but still). I also wonder if having the wiring and circuitry closer together in an integrated actually produces a better end result as there is less distance for the signal to travel. So those are the reasons. Exceptions are absolutely possible to the integrated rule :)
One other note that shouldn't play a role but does- aesthetics are very important. If I'm spending that type of money I don't want it to look like a toaster. It's picky I know but there seem to be a lot of good options that look good.
Spencer- what is ASR? I've never heard of the brand and my google search didn't help me too much.
You should look at the modular and upgradable system from Vinnie Rossi (ex red wine engineer). you add components to suit your needs. oh did I mention its a supper Capacitor fed system so the audio chain is never connected to the line voltage. take a look I've heard the LIO set up as an integrated amp and its magical.
Formerly owned a Pass INT-150 (still have Pass). Fabulous integrated and you will spend under $4000. A brother from another mother has an ASR. A bit finicky but sounds great. It's German, and the way it works is that it runs off of battery power (of course the batteries are rechargeable). Detailed and insightful. Pass is a bit rounder. You can probably get he ASR used in your price range.
Ther are no 'miracle integrateds', but if you wish to experience the best you have to go much higher in terms of cost and much wider in terms of brands. There are a few worth trying - Ypsilon, Absolare, Gryphon, VAC and others. Of what I mentioned VAC and lesser Gryphon are the least expensive, about $10k - $12k, and Ypsilon and Absolare are the most expensive, about $25k. Best Gryphon integrated is 300wt/ch/8ohm and is about $15k, I guess, and only available from dealers outside of the US.
Pass is probably the easiest and least expensive choice, YBA is very rare, 100wt/ch and you may not like its sound. Older Rowland Concentra II is 150wt/ch and might be perfect for you but is extremely difficult to find.
I have never heard anything negative about this Rowland. Rowland Concentra I, the original Concentra, is excellent too with 100wt/ch. Rowland has a sophisticated slightly laid-back on the warm side of neutrality sound. There is a good reason why almost no-one sells them. Whether it would have enough power drive and speed for your system and taste is another question. Concentar II should probably cost about $3.5k - $4k, Concentra I about $1k less.
I owned a Rowland Concentra I for many years, and it was outstanding. Some caveats, though:
They run hot and are always on (no on/off switch).
According to some reliable sources here in Europe (where I now live), certain internal parts are sealed so that some capacitors cannot be replaced, and Rowland is unwilling to help independent technicians.
In other words, the user would be forced to send the unit to Rowland for the replacement of parts that would otherwise not be very expensive to replace. And remember, some of these amps are now drawing close to being 20 years old, and capacitors do degrade.
I have also heard other not-so-flattering things about their aftermarket support.
Again, I loved the Concentra, but given what I’ve now learned about their support, coupled with the difficulty of using other than authorized repair centers, I'm not sure that I would consider another.
Great choices. Audio buddy has moon 600i-just Fantastic integrated, very high quality equal to separates performance. I just picked up a moon 380 dac and the shop in Windsor Ontario Canada has a 600i for sale. This store is closing mid October because building is coming down and owner will then work out of home. He is offering great prices to move existing stock and you could save thousands on this new piece. If you are from US you will also benefit from exchange rate. He has been shipping quite a bit of gear to US so no problem there. I got my dac for around 2000 off. Best wishes- Audio Two, Windsor Ontario. 519-979-7101
Yes, as @zavato said, ASR is German battery powered integrated. The power supply is usually in a second full size box, so it sort of defeats your purpose in terms of taking up space. hifishark has some used ones listed, mostly in Europe. About 6-7 years ago I remember attending CES and it seemed half the rooms had their amps running.
Vinny Rossi LIO is a good idea. He is known for GREAT service and they can be configured to your needs easily. His gear represents your values; no nonsense, etc.
Regarding the suggestions that look like jewelry, well how to politely say this.........hmmm....If $X go into a fancy chassis, then how much is left for top quality parts inside. Then if I want to justify high prices, one of the best ways is to use parts/policies that will discourage outsider technicians from looking around inside my jewelry gear. Cheers,
LOL that is funny Spencer but it makes sense! I'm drawn to the cosmetics of it for sure but part of the money has to go to that. I Love the idea of the LIO- fantastic idea but is 25 wpc enough for a 6 or 8 ohm load with a 90 db effeciency speaker? I literally don't know as I've always been told two thing: 1. You only need 5 watts to really power speakers and 2. You need 100-150 wpc as it improves performance of the 5 watts being used. Lol I probably have it wrong- as everyone can tell I am no expert and am still learning but the question becomes is 25 watts enough for a speaker that claims it needs a 50 watt minimum source? My hope is yes because that opens up a lot of options...
Thanks for that input fossda I also have heard great things about the 600i, I need to audition it. It checks all the boxes for me (except I don't think I can bi-amp with it but I could be wrong). I have also read some great reviews talking about a particular topic and out of the blue they use the 600i as an example of how it is done right.
I have to chime in with the LSA Statement. It's under your $8K range but it's a hybrid with a tube pre- and a dual mono SS output. Retailed originally for $11K and incredibly reviewed. No built in DAC or any other extraneous elements. Made my Maggies, my AZ Adagios, Reference 3A's sing like no other.
I'm surprised no one has mentioned this so far, but I'd highly recommend at least nailing down if not outright purchasing your speakers first. At this level all the integrateds you'd consider will be very good. The only remaining questions are which one sounds best TO YOU and, just as importantly, which one is better capable of driving and which sounds best to you with YOUR SPEAKERS. Case in point, would one amp sound the best with both the AZs and the Vandys? Maybe, but probably not. They're very different designs and loads. Anyway, just wanted to raise this as a potential issue, and best of luck in building a great system.
i believe it is partly built in Taiwan. Build quality is outstanding. Very high level of fit and finish, and I am pretty picky about that. You could take a look at Fremer's review, as well as a long thread on Audioshark about it. It really is a great amp IMO. I have no desire to change at all (have had it over a year now).
The musical fidelity seems to be a nice amp, very nice actually!
It is not a bad idea to do the speakers first. I wanted to see how good I can get my legacy classics to sound by improving the signal upstream. Even with my current NAD integrated (I think it is the BEE 356) I feel like I'm getting pretty close to maxing out the capability of those speakers. My listening room sounds sooo good right now and that is with a less than ideal amp. I'm really leaning to the AZ's so another reason for the amp first is the money. I don't want to drop $18k this year on Hifi it is just not in the budget so I'm thinking amp first then speakers soon after.
I tried to google the LSA but couldn't find anything. Is that short for something? As long as there is enough power I'm completely open to tube and hybrid systems.
That Musical Fidelity IS an incredible amplifier.
Also, Wally at Underwoodhifi (here on Audiogon) is an LSA dealer. (LSA stands for Living Sounds Audio; it used to sound for Larry Staples Audio - the guy who designed the amp).
But since you're leaning toward the Crescendos, you might want to give Robert Lee at Acoustic Zen a call and see what he recommends for your budget.
I doubt that 25 watts will be enough. Depends on the music you listen to, volume and room size. Personally, regardless of speakers I never consider anything less than 50- 60 tube watts or 75-100 solid state watts. I can easily drive my speakers with 30 solid state watts and I used to do it with 60 solid state watts. Now I have 120 watts and it is much better, you can feel the power. My listening habits, taste of music and room remain the same. Speakers are 89db, 8 ohm, two way floorstanders with 8" woofer.
I thought about the Rangarok but there is one problem- no remote... I'm controlling the amp from my desk which is about 10 feet away so I need a remote for volume etc.
As far as going the wrong way, I've always heard if you know the end speaker, go from the top of the stream down. Right now I do think the speaker is the weakest link but if I keep trucking with the direction of the source I'm expecting the final speaker purchase will have me hearing the greatest difference... So I save the best for last That way. I think I need to audition some 25W tube amps and see how they drive harder to handle speakers. How is the bass on the LIO?
It might sound ridiculous but for around $9k would the vinnie rossie amp/pre-amp combo drive most other $9k combinations out of the water? That be more than enough power to drive anything. It does move me away from integrated but would it be worth it I wonder?
The company seems to appeal to me as I love that they spend practically nothing on marketing and reviews seem very strong. No BS, just good sounding components. I took a chance with the $2.3k Yggy and was very happy but is a $9k gamble too much? Lol the sound would definitely have to be better than the 600i for me to consider that option.
Gryphon comes to mind Automatically the Diablo one of the
first very high quality integrated amplifiers $18k
Mark Levenson just came out with s new integrated
another great one at less money maybe find used Vitus
another new comes from France Devialet very good sounding
in the $5-6k range coda makes a very respectable integrated
the Coda is not as fancy but very good sounding
and Mcintosh the most bells and whistles probably last in this group just look inside loaded with $ 5.00 wins capacitores
it is well balanced but without question not the last word in low level detail. I sold them I can say through my own personal experience.
I just discovered this thread and wanted to mention tmh audio is the new US Distributor for YBA.
All YBA products continue to be designed Yves-Bernard Andre and manufactured under his direction/management.
Lots of information on all models and reviews on our website.
As an aside, at one time we distibuted Japanese SET amps that were priced into the 6-figures. YBA is THE best sounding designs with the highest level of construction quality that have ever passed thru tmh audio. Yves-Bernard is an extraordinary designer!
People that are suggesting to start with the speakers are correct. Speakers have the most influence on the sound in a room. Besides, you'll want to decide on speakers so you know how much power (wattage & current) you'll need based on the sensitivity of the speakers. You've short listed some nice speakers with low sensitivity (86 DB) so an integrated without the muscle to drive them can leave you disappointed. 150 watts doesn't mean the same to every manufacturer.
CODA CSiB Integrated Amplifier
400 Watts per channel into 8 Ohms
800 Watts per channel into 4 Ohms
Class A operation to 5W
State-of-the-art, remote-controlled "seperates" performance with the added benefit of balanced audio inputs for even greater audio quality.
Preamplifier section derived from the Coda 05X design, utilizing the PGA2320 digitally-controlled precision analog attenuator. Component upgrades include PRP audio resistors, Black Gate and Multicap capacitors, and high speed rectifiers for the preamp power supply
Coda CSX Precison Bias Class A/AB amplifier design, with discrete JFET differential input stage, VMOSFET voltage gain DC coupled to an ultra wideband bipolar output stage.
Fully discrete amplifier FET differential input stage DC coupled to an ultra wideband bipolar output stage
No overall feedback
Separate tape monitor and processor loops
Stereo subwoofer output
Wideband, fully-regulated power supply with EMI and RFI line filtering
10 year warranty / 5 year transferable
Designed, manufactured and assembled in the USA
The Vinnie Rossi LIO is a no brainer for several reasons:
- It’s the best integrated I’ve ever heard and it doesn’t need expensive power cords as it’s "off the grid".
- It’s 25wpc aren’t your typical power rating.....it seems to be much more robust. I have a pair of ProAc D30R’s at 90db into 4ohms and the LIO doesn’t even break a sweat. (It does produce 45wpc into 4ohms.)
- You get 30 days of trying it in your home before you make a decision. If you don’t like it, you send it back. Who else will do that?
- Customer service with Vinnie is second to none.
- Modular unit. If you decide to add something or change something, you only add or change the module.
- The AZ Crescendo is very easy to drive and the LIO will handle these with ease. Also, the Crescendo likes tubes and you have the tube preamp section with the LIO.
- It doesn’t weigh a ton so you avoid getting a hernia when moving it.
- You can configure the look the way you want it.
- Made in the USA
Jeff Rowland Concentra 2 would be an excellent choice. True, service is limited to JRDG in Colorado, or a couple of repair shops in NY, but with the build quality of JR electronics, shouldn't be an issue. JR himself services the older units. Concentra 2s were built between 2001- 2004 (if you want more background info about JR products, go to HiFiadvice.com).
Some of the esoteric names recommended in this thread probably face the same issues related to limited service. Many haven't been around as long as Jeff Rowland.
You might also consider a Bryston integrated amp along with the many excellent suggestions above.
The CODA CSiB seems to meet all the criteria in your original post. Built by a company of seasoned veterans in amplifier design. They spend absolutely nothing on hype or advertising. Their products are built to last. The CSIB has more than enough power to drive any speaker you may decide on. And in my opinion Will sound as good or better than anything mentioned above in this post. I believe it is quite a bargain at $6000. An integrated amp to seriously consider!
As you look at bang for buck propositions, you've got to calculate the differential between the companies referenced that do no advertising, put all the money in the piece etc......with: what sort of following do those brands command, so what is the potential resale if you decide to move on in say 2 or 3 years.......will your added value wash away because noone wants the piece when you decide to sell it......
In that regard, another candidate you should include is the Audio Research VSI75, which lists for 8500.00
You should be able to purchase it for 7K or less if you shop several
I owned the predecessor, VSI60 and wish I had it back.....
Thanks everyone for all the feedback it has been tremendously helpful! Here is my new short list (not in order):
Perreaux E'Loquence 150i
Vinnie Rossie LIO
Modwright kwi 200
AR VSI75 might also be a consideration
Possibly Schiit's integrated if they add a remote.
also I have officially removed Wilson and Revel from my speaker list. It is between Vandersteen (40%) and AZ (60%). RMAF is in less than a week so there might be some great new options on the horizon!
I have a Musical Fidelity M6si which for me has been truly phenomenal performance wise. Given its relatively low cost it makes for an overall good value. I’d certainly plus 1 the recommendations herein for the NuVista 800 having never even heard or seen it in person. I think that can be had for less than 13K (probably closer to 10K).
One issue I do have with Musical Fidelity is with the company itself, not their products. They are "dealer only" as far as customer support and that type of thing. Personally I think they would be better served if they had their own forum and communicated directly with end customers. They don't even provide an email address to contact them if needed, only an overseas (if in U.S.) number. Essentially they ignore the end-customer. Not sure if this is a cultural thing but regardless it leaves a lot to be desired.
In keeping with the thread title, "I need a miracle every day" :)