There are great online dealers like Upscale Audio that have excellent customer service (and a brick and mortar store), great return policies and real live people. Shipping an integrated amp is no issue at all.
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Your budget $5k to $7k is entry level only in the world of spending. In the world of getting this is more than enough to get you crazy good quality. Like this: Raven Blackhawk $3800, https://www.ravenaudio.com/product/blackhawk-mk3/ Decware ZP3 $1400 https://www.decware.com/newsite/ZP3.htm or about $2300 if you need the SUT for MC https://www.decware.com/newsite/ZMC.html
This is seriously good stuff, good enough you may for all intents and purposes be done with these two for a good long while, if not for life. Which would work, since they come with pretty much a lifetime warranty.
"I’m in LaCrosse Wisconsin so I have close access to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Madison, Milwaukee and maybe even Chicago if it came down to it. Thoughts or suggestions appreciated!"
Do a google search and find some dealers in the area that you mention since you don’t want to have anything shipped.
5 to 7 grand for an integrated amp is far from entry level!
Ok cool I wasn't sure if I was interacting with a bunch of millionaires on here or what.
Technically I am a millionaire. Times two point something. It changes. Like it matters. A million ain’t what it used to be, let me tell you! I am tight with my audiophile dollar. Tight as I ever was 50 years ago with my newspaper route and burger-flipper money.
Truth is most things, not just audio but pretty much everything, below a certain price point is pure crap. Darn near an iron law of economics. Due to the simple fact shipping, transportation, and packaging eats up about the same total cost whether the product is $50 or $5000. There simply is not that much difference in cost between the box a $15k Rolex and $15 ear buds comes in.
Consequently, when you step up from a $500 component to a $5k component virtually all the extra you pay is actual component.
People however, the money they can afford to spend does not work quite the same way. There’s way more people with $500 to spend than $5k. And hardly anyone with $50k let alone $500k. They are out there but way less of them.
The reason I focus so much on the economics is you are talking about a preference for local retail. Which is all well and good but you should go into it with your eyes open.
The stuff Kevin Deal and all the others sell, they all have to make a profit. The manufacturers who sell to them, they all have to make a profit too. Otherwise, no more components. Typical retail markup is like 100%. Sorry, but it is.
Take your $5k integrated. Dealer cost $2500. Manufacturer had to make a profit, his cost probably $1500-2000. Your $5k buys you at best $2k worth of goodies.
Take your same integrated from say Raven, your $5k now buys you $4k worth of goodies. Manufacturer actually makes a little more profit. But there is no retailer, his profit disappears.
You start to understand why there is so much value in Tekton speakers, Raven amps.
Another reason, their business model relies much more heavily on sound quality performance. Tekton is one place. Raven is one place. Something like Prima Luna has dealers all over the place advertising, spreading the word. Tekton and Raven, they do some of that sure but nowhere near as much. This stuff all costs money. Once again your audiophile dollar buys more goodies with them. The more and the better you understand this the more clear it is they are not even close. You start to understand why the guys who have this stuff are so deliriously happy, why almost no one ever goes the other way. Not once they actually hear it.
This by the way is something I learned a very long time ago, when going into some high end shop and seeing a bunch of stuff I never heard of before. It seemed real strange then. Now it is expected. Sony and Bose succeed in the mass market. There’s a reason everyone knows them. Raven, Tekton, only serious audiophiles ever heard of this stuff. Probably a lot never heard of Raven. I hadn’t, not until a couple years ago. Decware, ditto. Same thing. Same exact thing.
This is not to say the boutique stuff is always the best. They can sometimes be a little hot-rodded. Great sound, not so great build. But the best of them, there just is no comparison. You really do tend to get what you pay for. Just be aware how much of what you are paying for is another guy in between to make a buck off of you, and how much is actually going into the component. Because believe me, there ain’t no free lunch!
If you plan on buying a lot more equipment and you can find a store that has most of the stuff you want then it is not a bad idea to establish yourself. Most stores will take care of those they know are serious buyers particularly those that have the disease and they know are going to continue upgrading. It helps to drive up in a 911.
There are many dealers in within the area mentioned. One thing I recommend is to rearrange your system into the new living environment than consider changes. Then consider the speakers that best suit that environment. Then consider new amplification.
I consider your Aric preamp and Adyssey amp to be very good. I own the Aric Special Pre. Was driving a BEL solid state amp with it.
No need to be in a hurry. Good luck in your quest.
Your question prompts a few from me:
What is it about B&M stores that seems valuable to you?
Do you want to support local businesses and the people who are nearby?
Do you value the idea of such stores being available to customers in the future (like a book shop)?
Do you have a sense that the hobby, insofar as you support the hobby, is better sustained by these stores?
These are ethical questions because they are about sustaining people or values you may care about.
Perhaps none of these matter to you, in which case your question is about the strategy which best suits your consumer choices. Those might include things like prices, selection, follow-up service, exchanges, etc. Those are questions this forum is especially well-equipped to handle.
Vinyl system is a Pioneer PLX 1000 with Ortofon Bronze. The b&m store seemed of value to me in that if I ever needed service I could take the piece to them and they can be accountable for it. Driving it in my car instead of being tossed around at UPS. I had the thought that shipping an integrated cold cause issues but as a russ assured me it's not that big of a deal. The local business support is definitely a plus buy not a driving point. It would depend on the shop and if they are, forgive me, stuffy or not if that makes sense? If it sounds selfish I'm sorry but yes one of the main reasons for asking was that if when spending that kind of coin a live a transaction is beneficial. From the replies its seems about 50/50. I'm open to any type of purchase now.
To make it easy the one main thing I am looking for is remote volume control and preferably separate remote bass volume control for the subs. I listen to a wide variety of music and George Jones might need a bass boost while George Clinton does not. I would like to be able to do this from the listening position on the fly if possible.
I love the Aric Audio pre it's top notch as mesch pointed out and Klaus at Odyssey is a legend and his work shows it! Those pieces are however very geared towards a pure analog setup and will probably end up in the bedroom again. The Odyssey amp is only 3.5 years into its TWENTY YEAR warranty!
I've considered adding all the things I'm wanting through outboard DAC's and crossovers and DSPs tacked on to the aric audio but is that kind of defeating the purpose of an all tube driven preamp? School me lol. :)
Sounds like you are heading towards ownership of 2 systems, one bedroom and one in larger living room. I don't see why the Aric/Adyssey combo couldn't work for the larger room with DAC and processing gear. With likely different speakers. The LS50s with an appropriate integrated in the bedroom. Just a thought.