To integrate or not...


Hi all

Many of you have far more experience of products & change of equipment than me, so... which of you have moved from seperate to an integrated & why? Are some of you having serious consideration switching to an integrated...?

I know there are reasons for not due to the inability to change amps & interconnects. Plus if there is a failure then you're without pre & power.

I'm currently inclined to move to an integrated, preferably tube. Present contenders are PrimaLuna Evo 400 & Pass INT-60.

I'm currently using Octave HP700 pre (tubes upgraded to gold pin Siemens) with phono module, Wyred 4 Sound SX-1000R monos & Audio Physic Avantera III.

The Avantera III are fairly sensitive at 89db so not such an issue for lower power integrated options. 

Thanks 
Rich
3a65b410 4972 4353 a008 5468d9dd4c69infection
Love my Luxman. :)

I kind of went all over, including monoblocks. The Luxman solved a lot of issues for me, including my love of meters, but seriously things like reduced cabling and space, but fabulous sound stage, and tonal balance and extension, plus excellent and transparent tone controls.

With reasonably efficient, and well behaved speakers, it would be hard for me to justify going back to a separate pre/amp setup.
Tube integrateds are hard to beat. Where you say you can't change interconnects, what I see instead is not having to spend a lot on a good interconnect, without which separates simply cannot compete. Oh and power cord, cones, shelf, fuse. Having to buy twice as much stuff simply makes no sense. This from a guy who had a very good McCormack DNA1 amp and went to tube integrated, and never have seen anything to compare. Not without spending a whole lot more money anyway.  


Raven is another one to look at. Similar to Prima Luna but better made, and in Texas not China, and by Texans not Swedes or whatever euro country it is designed Prima Luna. Also Raven has a switchable sub out crossover so you can run full range or choose your crossover. Being made in Texas I would definitely be giving them a call.
Thank you both for that; very helpful. 

I think I'm still a bit scared at the thought of making a mistake!

I'm in the UK & there is nowhere to hear a Raven. Interesting you should mention them as I wanted to hear their amps a couple of years ago. What did you get after the McCormack DNA1?


I have also looked at L-509x... Is the phono stage good?


I prefer separates . I have all tube gear ( Quicksilver). I have the mono amps near my speakers. I like having a separate power supply for each component. Besides the shear weight, if the same chassis was shared being that all my gear is tubes I think the heat would be too much. I just think separates are more flexible than an integrated. That’s just my take on this!!
I just like fewer boxes now....for many years I had separates because I enjoyed looking at gear I guess. I've had tube integrateds for many years and currently running a PrimaLuna Dialogue Premium. The PL is my favorite tube gear so far. Tube rolling is fun and easy but the sound quality is just terrific. Miller....my understanding is PL is a Netherlands company, designed there and built in China with Dutch supervision on site. Those who like separates enjoy the ability to "upgrade" piecemeal and tinker around ad nauseam. So now I have a three box system....server, integrated amp and streamer-dac.
   Hello Rich,
     I think a high quality integrated amp is a very good option with many advantages for some, but I'd recommend you choose one that you love the sound quality of with your current speakers and determine as best you can whether or not you think you'll change your main speakers during the expected lifespan of your integrated.  Synergy between amps and speakers are not entirely predictable and require validation through specific auditions.
     From my perspective and experience, the flexibility of separates has proven to be important even while maintaining the consistency of using similar large, somewhat inefficient Magnepan main speakers.  
     I've used an assortment of various preamps, from an Adcom 565 solid state to a VTL with NOS Mullard tubes to an Oppo 105 to a Levinson 326S solid state, and an assortment of various high powered ss amps, from class AB McCormack and Aragon stereo amps to class D monoblocks.  
     If I began with a Primaluna tube or Pass ss integrated amp, it's hard for me to imagine a path leading to my extremely pleasing and effective combination of a Levinson preamp and high powered class D monoblocks, at least not a very expensive and winding path.  
     Do you know where your path might ultimately lead?

Tim
@yogiboy  what did you have before Quicksilver? Why do you like Quicksilver?

@noble100  what was your last amp prior to your current combo?
I think I'll be keeping my Avantera III for a long time... 


Having checked out Raven I reckon the Reflection Mk2 would work very well with my speakers. 
Linear tube audio should also be in the consideration set. 
@infection
Class’e solid state separates. The sound, what else?
What did you get after the McCormack DNA1?

Aronov LS-960I integrated. Had all the bass control, midrange beauty and top end extension of the McCormack, but minus the thin sheen of mosfet mist. It really was close and taught me early on just how shamefully simplistic it is for people to say tubes are warm, SS neutral, etc. The Aronov was better, but not by much. Where it blew the McCormack away was in terms of value. The Aronov cost only about as much as the McCormack alone- and needed no interconnect, power cord, cones..... For the cost of a preamp I put the Aronov on a BDR Shelf with a killer Synergistic power cord, and still money left over. The value in a good tube integrated is just incredible. 

The Aronov threw a wonderful stage, deep and wide. But after some years it started blowing things up. Resistors, tubes, fuses. Like a fool I decided to try SS. Jungson, I think it was. This was back when I knew little about China and assumed the best, you know like the average misinformed American today. The China amp lasted hardly any time at all. No support, nothing. 

After that I thought well the safe bet is another tube amp. Searched around, found a great deal on the Melody I have now. Dozen years, no problems. Sounds about the same as the Aronov. Would have to run them side by side to be sure.

The thing about tube amps, its not so much the tubes. Its really more the transformers, circuit, and parts quality. Yes there’s differences between tube types like EL34, KT88 and 6550C but even these are relatively small compared to the differences between the various amps they are used in. Not that most guys know this. Heck a bunch are banging away right now mad as hell I’m screwed up enough to spout such sacrilege. The nerve! But they don’t know, never having swapped diodes or caps or modded anything at all- which is the only way of knowing.

With tube amps what you see is what you get. Having looked inside them, having modded and all, I know. The one thing you can’t know about is the transformers. Seemingly little things like winding patterns are the black magic going on inside the black box that explain why two otherwise near identical amps can sound so very different.

Being in the UK you will probably have better luck finding a Prima Luna to audition. But if you cannot, if it comes down to buying sight unheard, I would not hesitate to try a Raven. In fact I would encourage you to give them a call and at least talk to them about it, even if there is a Prima Luna over there.

ML585 used or demo. Extreme quality all around with great high end sound. Read some reviews. FWIW
It is hard for any amplifier to compete with the line magnetic 805 Integrated amplifier. Best of luck and happy Hunting
@4425  that was a manufacturer suggested by my dealer a couple of months ago...

@needfreestuff  never heard of them but the fact they state counterfeit models exist is worrying. 



With tube amps what you see is what you get. Having looked inside them, having modded and all, I know. The one thing you can’t know about is the transformers. Seemingly little things like winding patterns are the black magic going on inside the black box that explain why two otherwise near identical amps can sound so very different.


In your opinion which manufacturers produce the best transformers? So do Raven tick all the boxes for you?

I watched an interview with Dave Thomson...Interesting to hear about the super precise boards.
infection:
 "@noble100  what was your last amp prior to your current combo?
I think I'll be keeping my Avantera III for a long time."

Hello Rich,
     I've never listened to a pair of the Avantera III but have read very good reviews of them.  I certainly have no intentions of trying to convince you not to keep them for a long time.
     I also definitely wouldn't recommend my prior amp, an Aragon 4004 MKII ss class AB high powered 90 pound boat anchor, for your 89 dB efficient Aventera IIIs.
     I tend to agree with your inclination toward tubes but disagree with purchasing a tube or ss integrated unless you're not concerned with spending a boatload of dough along your search path toward an ultimate amp solution.  
     My main opinion and point in my last post was to imply that your most efficient and direct path or method of improving your system's overall sound quality is to try out different amps, both tube and ss, in your system to give you more information about at least which general amp type, and hopefully which specific amp, sounds best to you.  
    Of course, this was based on my assumption that you liked and enjoyed the specific audio qualities that your Octave HP-700 preamp (with gold-pin Sieman tubes and phono section) imparted on the overall current sound quality of your system. My logic being that keeping as many factors as possible as constants (such a your preamp and speakers) would enable you to more readily identify the specific qualities that various amps, inserted into your system to replace your Wired4Sound amps, imparted on the overall sound quality of your system.  
     The preamp, amp and speakers are all very important factors in determining the overall sound quality of your system.  Keeping 2 of these factors as constants (preamp and speakers) lets you much more easily identify the sonic qualities the 3rd factor (your amps) imparts on the overall sound quality of your system. 
     Which means auditioning various different amps in your system is a tremendously more efficient and effective method of achieving the overall system sound quality you prefer than keeping only 1 factor constant (your speakers) and varying the other 2 factors (preamp and amp combined in one integrated unit).
     Sorry, I thought you understood this and I didn't need to spell out the clear performance upgrade and flexibility advantages of using a separate preamp and amp as opposed to the convenience and other advantages of using a combined preamp and amp in one integrated chassis.
     It's ultimately your choice of whether you want to search for the overall system sound quality you prefer by using the more direct and focused method of searching for a single system factor contained in 1-2 chassis or the more haphazard and less focused method of searching for 2 system factors contained in a single chassis.

Tim
@noble100 Hi Tim, I think you make a good point; I do indeed love what my HP700 does, so purchasing an integrated (potentially blind) that didn’t have the elements I love about it would be tragic!

There are certainly pros & cons for integrated & seperates. I suspect I would need to be absolutely blown away with an integrated if I were to switch.
There will be some that would but I reckon they would be beyond my budget...e.g. Vitus SIA 030
Infection, I have made the switch from very high quality separates to the Octave V80se and I am very pleased with the sound. The V80se is powerful enough to drive my Q3s which are rated at 92db in a fairly large room effortlessly. Considering the fact that you have enjoyed other Octave products, it might be worth a listen. Also, the unit is amazingly flexible allowing all manner of configuration changes should you choose to upgrade at a later date. 
I downsized from an all Pass Labs Aleph system to a Pathos Classic One MKIII and I am happy with the move.
I tend to be a minimalist. CDP with volume control, amplifier, speakers.
@jerry_gt3rs  what did you have prior to the V80SE? Do you have the additional Black Box? 
I have considered the V80SE... Did you choose the phono module option?
@infection   Since you are considering tubed integrateds, take a look at Lyric out of Germany.

I've gone back and forth between integrateds and separates many times. No correct nor wrong approach. Just a choice.
I’ll second the Line Magnetic LM-805ia. 48 wpc of SET magic, amazing transformers (it weighs 90 lbs), and great looks. It’s truly in another league than the PrimaLuna Evo 400 (which is manufactured in China by a formerly related company Cayin).
infection,
   I was previously using Boulder 2000 series separates which were wonderful. I sold them and decided to simplify my system and purchased the Octave after listening to a handful of options in my dedicated room. I do not have a black box, but I suspect I will try the SBB at some point. As for phono, I have the little Nagra battery powered unit. While it does not compare to my old Boulder 2008, it is quite good and dead quiet which is very important to me. I am sure the Octave phono section is also very good, I did prefer to have the flexibility to try others in the future as most of my serious listening is vinyl sourced.
Naim Uniti series integrated amps are very nice.
we all tend to like change for something new even if it is a move in reverse. proper separates are that way for a reason.  typically a much more dynamic life like sound and a more true window into the music.  having just upgraded to sepatates the sound is so much better especially through the balanced connections.  
IMHO your weak link are your power amps.  upgrade them to something special and it will be a step forward.  
@david_ten  yes you're right...it's a very personal thing.

@avanti1960  i would not want to lose any of the elements I like about my current set-up IF I get an integrated...
I would agree about my monos.


I am now considering 2 more - Mark Levinson 585.5 & 5805. Plus I could demo these...