Rather New to the site, however I have been doing a lot of research about putting together a system with separates. I was wondering if someone could recommend some good pre-amps/amps in the range of $500 - $2000 that I should check out as a kind of starter system. Also, I have been researching integrateds as well, which seem like you get more bang for your buck, but they are similar to receivers (ie. not separate) - thoughts on going this avenue as well would be greatly appreciated. Oh and planning on running vinyl and cds mostly.
I wanted ease of use so i went with a tube integrated that had a optional phono board (which i later sold). There are lots of really good integrated amps out there, Rogue, Manley, Cary, Cayin, Primaluna and much much more. It is just like a receiver but no tuner so if you want radio it does add an extra component.
As for vinyl don't cheap on it, look to spend at least $800 for TT, cartridge and phono amp. You may get lucky and score a good used rig ( i got a decent Pro-ject Xpressions, speed control, cart and phono amp for $300 used) since upgraded.
So look for a good used Int amp for around $1000-$1300 and spend the rest on Vinyl.
In general integrateds are built to a higher standard than receivers, which are aimed at a different market. I have both an integrated and several separates, ones from good companies can equal the performance of seperates in their price range. The Krell 300i would be at the top of your range used and is a good example. Musical Fidelity, Blue Circle, Exposure and several others would fit into your budget. Remember you save the cost and trouble of one pair of ICs with integrateds and there are no matching problems.
Start with picking out a speaker and then work your way backwards. Many threads on system building with similar thrusts. The speaker-room match and the speaker to amp match are most critical variables to get right. Frim there, working backwards to choose pre-amp and sources allows you to fine tune the basic sound dictated by how the speaker will sound in your room and within that context how the speaker will sound being driven by the amp (either separate power or integrated)that you choose. My 2 cents worth.
I agree with all of the posts above. Pick your speakers first, then worry about what will drive them best. In your price range, I think you will definitely get more bang for the buck with an integrated amp. There are some very good integrateds to be had in that range, especially on the used market, IMHO.
I have owned countless integrated over the years. Some are ''characterfull'' meaning that they bring their own sound to the party (they all do, but some more than others). There are some I would definitely avoid, some well-know amps, but I will not bash anything on this post. Let's just say that they are on my ''never again'' blacklist for a number of reasons.
The following products for me have been stellar, and I actually regret selling most of them, foolish me.
Cayin a 88-T : A great product with no real weaknesses. Incredible value.
Shanling MC-30 all-in-one receiver: Laugh all you want, this 3 watts set design is TRANSPARENT !!! and will drive 89db and up speakers to low-moderate levels with grace and refinement. Beats an ex Sonic Frontiers power 2 - Line 1 combo on sound quality, if you can beleive it.
Solid state integrated:
Musical Fidelity A5: An absolutely tremendous 250 watts per channel with an amazing phonostage included. You wont use all that power to play loud (you could though), you use it for effortless breathing space for your speakers, and great bass definition. I feel the A5 is a stepping stone for Musical fidelity, where previous MF integrateds (in this price range) just didn't do it for me. But the A5 is one stealth performer for the price. Very neutral yet sweet at the same time. A great product, hard to come by but worth tracking down. I once had a pleasurable shootout at a friend's place with a Jeff Rowland Concentra and...I'll leave it at that!
Which ones would I avoid? Sorry folks, much to say, but wrong place to do it, would hate to be censored.
Everything is VERY subjective of course, your experience is as valid as mine.
Electrocompaniet EC-3: Here's an example of a ''characterfull'' integrated I once owned. Some would say it mimicks the sounds of tubes - maybe, but very nice still. Beware of not getting one of the early production models (as I had) with a faulty (read scratchy) volume pot. Not in the same league as the MF power-wise, and limited dynamics, but a pleasant sound still.
If you stick with these companies you will have no trouble I have been ib High audio since 2000 and all my equipment has keep it value haven't found anything for the money that sounds as good. if you have limited funds stay with intergrated http://www.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/cls.pl?intatran&1268595459&/Plinius-8150-Integrated-Amp-Ex http://www.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/cls.pl?dgtlconv&1268593013&/MSB-iLink-w/-176.4k-Upsampling and their DAC Totem model one and up Analysis Plus cables
Also consider the expense of ancillary components, e.g., shelving, isolation devices, power cords and interconnects. Your budget for these can effectively double if you choose an integrated over separates.
Agree with much of what has been said above. Integrateds will provide the biggest kick per buck. Here are some of my favorites between $1-2K, (but previously offered advice on the importance of amp and speaker matching should be considered in any purchase).
Naim Nait 5i - really sounds great. Don't worry about the stated power - plenty of current
Musical Fidelity A5 (used) - good, lots of head room, agree with poster above
Exposure 2010s - great bargain - good sound
Vincent Audio SV-236 MkII - hybrid - really, really good
NAD C-375BEE - great new product - plenty of power and drive and surprising amount of finesse at this price point
Anything new or used from Sim Audio
Anything used from Blue Circle.
For tube units, I like PrimaLuna, a lot. Simple, well made, good sounding, and relatively cheap. Look at the ProLogue 2
When you find a speaker that you wish to purchase , consider the amp that was driving it also . Maybe not the exact amp but something further down the same manufacturers line . Usually manufacturers stuff have the same basic/house sound with varing degrees of presentation .
As mentioned above , the amp-speaker mating is just as important as the speaker-room mating . You may not land at the final place this way but should arrive in a pleasurable place for a nice start .
That is good in theory but not many companies make good amps AND good speakers. GamuT does and Naim also,although their speakers are somewhat idiosyncratic, but the list isn't too long and tends to be at the top of the market or the bottom of it. This is one of the main reasons why powered speakers, with all their theoretical advantages, have never been popular. Designing amps and speakers are very different jobs, someone like Peter Walker at Quad could do it but he was a rare bird.