I'd buy the amp that made my speakers sing with whatever it took, and buy the pre with whatever was leftover. Then, when funds allow, you could buy the pre that fits the system best. You can buy a lot of amp for much less than 10K so you should be able to take my approach and maybe even get the perfect pre as well.
There are tons of different approaches selecting an amplifier but at first it should match speakers.
There are many 'philes would say that preamp is the most important component in the system as the general rule of thumb but far far far it is not. I'd figure that in low powered system yes, preamp plays the most important role among all the components but in the high-gain high-power approach the amp is the king even over the speakers.
You should also realize that there are high-sencitivity amps and so as speakers and figure out your "nirvanic equilibrium" in that sence got it?
Spend your money on the CDP and speakers first then the amp and pre.
My money goes to the front end.
No quwstion it would be the amp.You can get a Passive preamp that would not add coloration at minimal cost.
Then again you might get away with finding an adequate amp for less than you might think and get a great Preamp which is tailored to your liking as far as the number of Inputs\Outputs and if you need a Phonoamp and if it needs to be remote controlled.
Remember that the more circuitry the more coloration of the sound will be added that is why I prefer the Passive route and adding all other siurces after that.Remote circuitry will add coloration also.
LAMM Research makes the best amps I think and their cost reflects that.The designer does not like remotes because of the reasons mentioned.
Placette makes great Passives with remotes and FT Audio makes a cost effective Preamp which they shall add an outboard remote in the future most likely.
A low cost USED tube pre-amp, an older Cary, or CJ or AR would work wonders for the harshness, retain the better points of SS and mostly eliminate the harshness.
Besides if you don't like it sell it and you won't lose but a little pocket change.
Audiogon, the source for those that just can't make up their mind. It's why I'm here.
Willems - I have to say you should find the Audiogon thread "Preamp Deal of the Century" and read it. That thread will point you to a fantastic preamp which may transform your system. The base model is the Syrah and it sells for 2.5K new. Older versions of the Syrah had a few growing pains as it evolved in regard to hum and quality control but the latest batch of Suprateks seem to be rock solid.
For 2.5K ---> 5K, you will not find a better sounding preamp.
A passive preamp is not going to help you with harshness.
With the right tubes & the Syrah, your system will sound less harsh, liquid, dynamic and much more natural. The Surpatek is not a warm sounding tube preamp so it will not impart warmth in exchange for the harshness.
Supratek's tend to sound good regardless of amp but if you must buy an amp too, then take the remaining $$ and get yourself a pair of LAMM M1.1
if the pre can't comprehend the information the amp will never see it. make certain that the pre is of the highest quality and performance and then forget about it while you find a cable amp combo that works with your speakers...
If I were starting from scratch I would buy the best and most neutral pre amp and speakers I could afford (by reputation, mostly). These would be my baseline for further changes. Then I would find an amp that matched the requirements of the speakers and that gave me a sound I felt i wanted (presumably neutral). I would further tune my system to my sound preferences by selection of cdp and cartridges for turntables (and phono stages).
Get the best pre you can get, tube would be nice with your ribbons or a top of the line passive. I would do this first. I have read that the new Ampzilla amp is one of the best with the RM-40's. As you may already know, the RM-40's are not plug and play and need to be fine tuned by hand after you get set up with new amp so you will have to start over when you change amps. I am a vmps owner for 6 years now (super tower/r's) and may go with the RM-40's soon myself.
If you have a good system and you are still feeling harsh there is a very good chance that your room is the problem. Clap your hands and if it sounds harsh or reverbs try deadening the room out before you run and spend tons of money to upgrade your system.
In my experience, matching the amp to the speakers is critical. I would think that in the $10K range, personal preference will determine how much you spend on each. I'd spend as much as it takes to get an amp that works with your speakers, then get a neutral preamp that doesn't ruin what you have.
I'm in "Bigkidz" camp, go broke on the source.
My experience is that the preamp is much more important than the amp. I did a comparison between three McIntosh preamps - the C42, C2200, and the C200, and the preamp-part of my McIntosh integrated MA 6500, on the one side, and the power amp section of the MA 6500, and a McIntosh MC352 power amp on the other side. The sound changed only a little, when I substituted the MA6500 power amp section for the MC352. But it changed dramatically when I ran the power amps with the better preamps. So I would definitely go with the preamp first. Having said that, I agree with tbrros: With your kind of already a very good system, I think your room might be the problem. I have listedned to the Wadia and to your Classé - both units already belong to the smoothest sounding on the market. So better check your room acoustics before you burn your money on new equipment, ending up with the old problems
You don't mention what cables you use. A warmer sounding cable such as Cardas,Transparent,MIT,Purist,Analysis Plus would do alot to rectify your problems. You have good speakers and CDP. Spend your money on a great amp. I believe the VMPS needs alot of current so think solid state. Some SS that tend to the warmer side are: Ayre,BAT,Blue Circle,Llano,Clayton,Pass Labs,Plinius,Jeff Roland. It's all about system synergy. Hope this helps. Enjoy listening.
First question is do you have a source other than the CDP?
If not, suggest you look into the Spectron Musician II amp
with it's digital input and remote volume control. Use your Wadia as tranport and pump 500 watt/ch into your
speakers. Cost $4000. retail.