It seems the magic of Shindo comes from an all Shindo system, which makes sense. In our listening circle we say it's all about the system. Way too much mix and match out there, IMHO.
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KiethR -I'd suggest trying out both paths before you decide. It may push you to find creative ways around the remote issue...
I'd been trying for years to get that classic Shindo sound for as little $$ as possible. My first Shindo piece was the Aurieges paired it with a Mark Levinson No334 SS amp. I was impressed, but I still wasn't there. I thought the next obvious step was to upgrade the SS amp to a Shindo, but it was suggested I try out a Monbrison pre instead. I was simply blown away. I'm sure Mr Shindo puts magic in all of his components, but sure did pack a lot into the Monbrison...
I spent some time with Matt at Pitchperfect audio last weekend (San Francisco Shindo dealer). His recommendation is to get the best Shindo Preamp that you could afford and then whatever amp matches up best with your speakers.
I went in looking at the Monbrison and ended up ordering the Masseto. As has been said many times before, the preamps have a similar "house sound" but as you move up the ladder there just seems to be even more emotional connection with the music.
On the amp side I listened to Montille, Montrachet, Cortese and Lafon GM70. Each has its own distinct character. I preferred the two SET systems the best. I absolutely lust after the GM70.
I have a Masseto paired with the "lowly" Montille 6v6 amp, and it is a great amp, and fully up to being fed by the Masseto. Amazing transparencey, and musicality. My dealer said it well, all the Shindo amps are great, just get the one you like. I think the Montille is a real sweet spot in the line, as did Art Dudley in his review. I see there is a Montille EL84 amp for sale here now. Jump on that.
I feel if one wants to get the Shindo sound that the preamp is definitely the place to start. I started with the Masseto which IMHO had bettered any preamp that I had owned previously. I liked it so much that I upgraded to the Vosne Romanee. I have since added the Cortese amp to my system replacing the Lamm ML2 monoblocks that I had been using. The Lamm's sounded good with the Shindo preamps but the Cortese better conveys the musicality I was looking for. The GM70's would be on my short list if I could afford to upgrade.
Thanks guys---my issue is that I can't have the Shindo preamp due to lack of remote for personal reasons. Therefore, I am in the situation of just looking at amps, or perhaps I might be just better off looking elsewhere.
Thanks for the Montille idea Dbarger (which was originally what I was going to try), but Matt at Pitch Perfect thinks I need a bit more wattage for my largish room (hence, Montrachet or Haut Brion)