Suggestions for a budget amp

Well, im thinking about upgrading my system (just started out and am still in high school so my budget is a major constraint). Basically im trying to build a sterio system that will last me until im out of college and have a "real" job. My current system includes NHT-SB3 speakers, Onkyo TX-8211 sterio reciever a sony CDP-CE275 cd changer, Furmann Q-2312 EQ, and blue-jeans cabling. Its my opinion that the Onkyo is what holds the system back the most at this point so im looking to replace it and fight the upgrade bug until i can afford it. I've looked at the Rotell RA-02 and the Nad C320Bee (the Nad is my favorite so far) but need more ideas (there HAVE to be more budget amps out there, right?). I also shopped around Yamaha's and Onkyo's sites, but their higher end stuff just adds more features, not much by the way of sound quality (from what i could tell by specs... may be wrong). Im looking for something that i can upgrade in stages down the line (i.e. unplugging the power amp section of a preamp and using a beefier seperate, or bi-amping... something like that). I dont need much power since ill be in dorm rooms or crowded appartments for the near future and even in my fair sized room now i rarely turn my 40 wpc Onkyo above 9:00 and its never been over 12:00. I listen to everything from Mozart to Metallica, except rap and pop. Even put in some country every now and then (I think its a law here in Texas ;-)
Thanks for your help,
Hi Dan,

I think a used Musical Fidelity X-150 or A308 would be a good choice that would carry you for a quite a while. Good luck.
You could browse the amp ads here at Audiogon, and when you find something in your price range do some web searches for comments and reviews. Eventually you will find something that appeals to you. Take your time!
For the SB3's in a college setting you will want as much power as you can get. It only takes one evening of maxing out the amp to fry the crossover and woofer in that particular speaker. They are very inefficient speakers and will need lots of power to reach high volume levels (which will happen from time to time even if you are not arround).
The 320BEE is a fine budget integrated but I would suggest you get something like a used Parasound HCA-1000A before leaving for college.

If you have to replace the woofers on the SB3's it will set you back $100 a peice. $50 a peice for crossovers.
Get the biggest, baddest power amp you can afford.
If you were looking for a budget preamp AudioSource makes one that has much more gain than the NAD. It is not an audiophile preamp but it could do the trick with a beefy power amp.

Good luck!
What's your exact budget?
Luminous Audio-Axiom pre cost 125.00. A decent used amp can be had for 400-700. Belles 150 or Edge M-4 along with a few others all in this price range. Or you could save up for the Bryston integrated with a 20 year warranty. McIntosh MA6300 integrated will be out in May. The McIntosh would be worth thinking about-while costing more, you can will it to your grandchildren, best resale value in audio, they service everything they ever made, factor in the initial cost over a 30 year period and it will be money well spent. Best of luck!.
Bryston B60 Integrated with pre-outs. It has a 20 year warranty and will hold it's value well.
In response to Jond's question about my budget... i'd like to stay below $400 maybe up to $500, but as my total investment so far is only $900 (ish) i dont want to spend a whole lot.
Steuspeed has the right idea. Quality of watts certainly beats quantity. Also, in a college dorm you may have restrictions on how loud you can play and when you can play your equipment, so as to avoid disturbing fellow classmates. With that thought in mind you just might want to consider having at least one headphone jack and a good set of headphones.
I agree with Bignerd100 that you should be very careful with volume so the Onkyo doesn't clip badly and fry your speakers.

However, I think you should keep what you have and save your money for activities in college. College is about learning, experiencing things, meeting people and having a good time! But keep up those grades too! Audio equipment can come later. Besides, you could get a good amp and your speakers could still get damaged in a party, or the amp could get stolen, etc, etc.
The Nad C320Bee is a great integrated for the price, but you should consider an Arcam A65 as well. One of these runs $600 new and around $350 used. It is much nicer sounding than the NAD in my opinion. While only 40 watts, it is a very big 40 watts - with great current and stable into lower ohm loads. At one time I had one driving my JM Labs Electra 926's in a 450 square foot room that had a 16 foot peak in the ceiling, and that opened into a large foyer. I NEVER turned the knob passed 11 o'clock, and I am not that shy about volume.
the NAD will do just fine...and its cheap! And it sounds live a much more powerful amp than the specs would indicate...
I saw that the NAD c352 was running about $350 used, which is well within my price range. I was wondering if anybody had any thoughts on the amp, I dont think ill use the extra power (even with the clipping problem) but heck, C320Bee's are only $50 less used and I'll eventually change speakers or move into a bigger room. I just wish they weren't so darn ugly, wonder why they dont make a black version? Maybe the pictures make them look greener than they really are...
I have not heard either, but the rep of the 320BEE is that is a real giant killer for the price
The C352 is not a very large improvement over the C320BEE.
A very little bit more power.

All NAD since teh begining of time (asside from the silver series and a couple of odd silver products) has been mate black.

THere is an Arcam Delta 90.2 up for sale right now that is at a good price.

Good luck!
There are a LOT of options for pretty good bang for the buck amplification in that price range. A good amplifier will make a huge difference, you can bank on it. You may want to consider a used Odyssey Statos or Khartago. There should be plenty of listings on this web site that would fit the bill, especially if you're willing to purchase a unit second hand. Some manufacturers have transferable warranties.
C'mon man...for $350 you cant complain about the NAD cosmetics! It aint Classe...but very close...I used to own the 352...great amp...not much out there...
If one does not require a phono stage, I would strongly recommend the Jungson JA 88C. This integrated was selling last year around $400 and if it can be sourced at that price currently, it would certainly be worth looking into. At this stage it appears that North American distributors and dealers of Jungson have substantially raised retail prices-there is currently a "luxury edition" of the 88C advertised on Audiogon with a suggested retail price of $1000-$1200, a far cry from $400 which they were selling for a year ago (I picked mine up used for $325), and it appears that the retail on the 88D has been bumped up to the $2500 range.

I replaced an Audiolab 8000A with the Jungson 88C and it is in a TOTALLY different league. The Audiolab typically had a stellar reputation, and I don't think it would be unfair to say that its reputation put it in a much higher quality range than the NAD products, regardless of the praise they have garnered.

One thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is that the build quality and technical innovation built into the 88C (especially if you can still find one at $400) will put the NAD or pretty much any other similarly priced product to absolute shame. The sound quality is outstanding as well.
If you really want to get exotic, but still on the cheap, you may also want to look into Nohr amps.
That's what I love about this site...Everyone's eager to spend someone else's money without much consideration to the bigger picture. Hey, DK89, do you really trust that type of advice?

If the money is burning a hole in your pocket, I'd recommend a turntable before a new receiver. Why? Well, wherever you go to college, I'll almost guarantee there will be a very cool record shop / used book store with stuff you won't be able to find on any other format than vinyl. You'll want that stuff. I lusted over vinyl during my college years with never the coin for a table (anyone heard of Vintage Vinyl in Evanston, Illinois?).

Also, there is a very good chance that your hardware will be damaged before you graduate from college. Be it from playing really bad music way too loud, a misplaced beverage, a football thrown to someone who isn't looking, or whatever. If you have too much coin in a system while at school, you may become paranoid about anyone touchin' your stuff (and trust me, when you're not around, it will be getting used). If it's too good, you may find it missing.

Change your priorities. The next few years will be about the music, not the equipment. Build your collection and never let it go.

As I wrote to the A5, "Every time I put on a CD or record, I'm not just taking in what the artist is trying to convey, but recalling the days gone by when this music made my life just a little bit better. Memories may fade for some, but my enduring music collection keeps them alive. It is this emotional connection to the *source material* that fuels my desire for the best reproduction technology I *care* (note the choice of words) to afford. Without the passion for the music, hardware is nothing more than a depreciating asset that takes up space and pisses off my wife."

Focus on the music, my friend. Not the hardware. There is plenty of time (and money) for that in the future. If you don't focus on the music now, you won't have the need for the hardware. $500 will buy you a lot of software.

Just so you know I bought my first receiver when I was 17. It was an Onkyo TX-820. It was basically on and playing my entire senior year of high school. I used it in my dorm my freshman and sophomore year. I lent it to my best friend my junior year (while I lived in my fraternity) and got it back for my senior year. I used it for the first 5 years after college, too. It took a 2-year vacation while I upgraded, but made a strong comeback after the birth of my son when it was placed (with a new pair of B&W DM302s) in his room where it has been (literally) powered up and playing music for the past 3 1/2 years - continuously. Don’t dismiss the Onkyo so quickly. You’ll be surprised to hear how many people have a similar story to tell about their Onkyo.

Just my advice...As always, take it or leave it.
Some NAD gear is really Onkyo guts on the inside ;)

You might add Creek 4330se to your list.
carver 35 tfm 250wpc $300 ebay
rotel makes excellent equipment for the price.
Here's a completely different perspective. Everything in college is about one thing: helping you get laid. :-) So go for some tubes (Cayin, Antique Sound Lab, etc) that will give the dorm room a romantic glow to impress the ladies that you lure into your lair. In addition to good sound, the female types will decide that you're sensitive and romantical and all that kind of stuff and will therefore beat a path to your door. Have fun.
"Some NAD gear is really Onkyo guts on the inside" -Steuspeed

I have no idea in what sense this is true, and I am skeptical. Could you please be specific? Of course some parts may be identical (though I am sure the power supplies are not, not by a long shot), but the designs? I don't think so. Mind you I'm not knocking Onkyo. I also owned an Onkyo receiver when I was 17 or so, and was happy with it then. But I would not think to compare it sonically to NAD's 320 BEE.
Surprisingly the NAD sounds alot like the Creek 4330...a little dry, but decent transparency and articulate bass reproduction...both are not going to win any beauty contests..."Onkyo guts on the inside" that comment!
Try getting a vintage luxman R115 receiver on ebay from a high feedback seller. You will get 70+watts/ch into 8 ohms (stable to 4ohms or less) and can use the CD bypass switch to run your CD directly to the amp. It should cost you $100-150 with a remote and you can always resell it. At this price you really can't lose.
The ONLY budget amp you will enjoy TOTALLY ... the Almarro A205A ... for about $650 or a bit more ... you will be SHOCKED as long as your speakers are 90dB sensitivity or higher ... you will be TOTALLY PLEASED
In the 90's NAD needed AV receivers and multi-disc CD players to compete with the big boys from Japan. They sourced the base units from Onkyo and modified them to match the NAD line. Button layouts, displays and remotes are all tell tale signs. I am not sure if this is still true for current gear, but they have done business together in the past. My point is that if he owns Onkyo, NAD might be esentially the same thing with some slight modifications.

This is not an uncommon practice as Marantz gear is Pioneer ELITE with modified cosmetics and audio stages. Runco uses Pioneer and Panasonic plasma glass with their video scalers etc...