SS Int Amps: Bryston, Simaudio & Magnum-Dynalab
I am looking for an integrated amp with remote volume control for my system. I listen to many types of music including rock, big band, some non-hip-hop/non-rap pop, orchestral soundtracks, jazz and traditional classical. Macro dynamics and good mid-bass and lower mid-bass response are very important for my listening (controlled, not boomy). I sometimes listen to music loud, but not ROCK CONCERT LOUD, and usually only for short periods before I turn the volume to a more reasonable level. My system currently consists of a newly purchased Denon DVD-2900 Multidisk player (DVD-V, DVD-A, SACD, and CD) set to stereo and non-enhanced bass mode, two NHT Super One speakers on Sanus System Reference stands, and a very old 65W/channel Yamaha RX-7 stereo receiver. I plan to upgrade the speakers, but the Yamaha will only drive loads down to 6 ohms and I do not want to be restricted by this. Also the Yamaha speaker terminals are made for bare wire so I have not spent much on wiring for the system. (I did however find some Monster connectors that improved things a bit.) The system also includes video as it does not make sense to split these systems in my apartment.
My plan is to upgrade the amplifier first to improve the overall sound and dynamics of the system, allow better cabling and a broader range of choices for my speaker purchase. The Yamaha is surprisingly good for what it is and several friends have been impressed with its sound. It is much better that any current discount store receiver I have heard, but is not at the performance level that I want for the system. The new DVD player lowered the frequency response of the system so much that the room resonance problem that I have at between 40 and 50 Hz is back. From previous experimentation I know that different speaker placement will get rid of this. I live in an apartment so extensive wall modification or reinforcement is not an option. Eventually I may replace the DVD player with a newer piece a multidisk players become more common, but for now this unit is doing quite well. It is somewhat unforgiving in that it is easy to tell the difference between a good recording and a bad one, and between regular CD recording and the same recording done with DVD-A/SACD. Some well recorded CD's (like one of my favorites: Dire Straights Brothers in Arms XRCD2) sound excellent as well. The imaging from the system is quite good.
I listened to the Ayre AX-7 and found that the sound of heavy percussion on rock tunes and the bass response was too soft and not to my liking (it seemed unrealistic). The presentation of the Krell 300iL seemed stiff and seemed to lack the dynamic contrasts I enjoy. My favorite so far has been the Magnum Dynalab MD-208. The model I listened to was used so apparently it was past the break in period. This amp got the dynamics and the bass right and had enough power for any speaker I may choose to buy. The sound was warm enough for me and seemed very musical. The imaging was not as good as I am used to, but I think this was a result of the speaker placement in the store and not the fault of the system.
If I bought the Magnum-Dynalab I would by the MD-308 new to get the full 5 year warranty, and to save a few dollars since I do not need the tuner on the MD-208 and they are otherwise identical. Since I liked the Magnum-Dynalab I also looked into Simaudio. The Magnum-Dynalab is based on the Simaudio Celeste i-5080 (with some upgrades) that was recently replaced by the Simaudio Moon i-3. The Moon i-3 has exactly the same power ratings as the Magnum-Dynalab, but its maximum output current is lowered from 30 amps on the Magnum-Dynalab to 22 amps on the Simaudio. Would this make any difference at all? Also, the Simaudio Moon i-5 may be a consideration, but it is a little too expensive. I prefer to buy Simaudio new to get the 10 year warranty they are currently offering. I don't think the area I live in has a real Simaudio dealer (this may have changed - I will check with Simaudio), so I think I would have to travel to listen to these amps.
Another amp I am considering is the Bryston B-60R. The dealer that carries the Ayre and the Magnum-Dynalab is also a dealer for Bryston but did not have a Bryston B-60R available for demo. I have briefly listened to the Bryston, but that was about 8 years ago and I do not trust my acoustic memory for that long - especially after such a short listening session. I would probably try buy the Bryston used if I could find one since the 20 year warranty is transferrable.
I would prefer to spend less that $2000 on an integrated amplifier, but I may stretch a bit if I fall in love with a slightly more expensive unit. I would like comments on the following amps that are on my short list for consideration, especially the Simaudio and the Bryston since I will probably have to travel to listen to them.
Simaudio Moon i-3 $1595
Bryston B-60 $1795
Magnum-Dynalab MD-308 $2350
Simaudio Moon i-5 $2595