I can't believe there are no hi end shops in Phoenix. I am sure some will chime in. You might consider an integrated amp with a HT pass thru if you have a HT system you want to still use. For just a two channel amp you might look at something from Anthem since they are Paradigm's sister company.
What is your budget for the amp?
Hi Dave, I've got Studio 60's and center channel as well as the ADP surrounds in my HT system with Rotel amplification. Which model do you have? It does make a difference. Most Paradigms I've heard are on the bright side, so quality power is usually called for to smooth them out. Classe is another great match as they tend to be smooth, transparent and full of current.
BTW, from one EE to another don't tell your fellow EE's that your into audio and forget most everything they told you about wire being just wire. Learn to trust your ears.
Welcome to the club!! If you want to learn more about the underground and bang for the buck gear. One word..well maybe two AudioCircle
. I've discovered more goodies in 1 year there than several on Audiogon. Which seems geared more to big name stuff. Some of the best sounds to be had..are from those small companies with the designer working his butt off in the basement.:-)
Well I have studio 60v2's and have driven them with a 15 year old NAD 7100 reciever with good results, very listenable. But have now upgraded to 200 watt aside solid state Odyssey extreme mono blocks WOW!!!! People will tell you that Paradigm speakers like power. Well they're right mine really came alive, smoothed right out and bass got really deep, much more than I ever thought possible. My suggestion is ... go find yourself a good power/pre-amp set up or integrated amp and you will be very happy guy. There are lots to choose from out there, do some reading, do some listening if you can.
I am another one of those defected EEs - I have realized that our measurment capabilites are rather poor but beyond that, I have realized that we probably aren't measuring the right things in the first place. At least when it comes to high performance audio. See hifi as a new experience and you will learn a lot.
I used to have Paradigm Ref 100.2 and loved them. Some people say they have too much treble but I think they just didn't choose the right amps, or the right speaker. A lot of all this choosing business is actually dependant on YOU. Seems obvious but most people don't realize it.
The sky is the limit - not what people think. Your only bet to get real answers is to "buy and try" as much as you can. Learn the brands and used market values and then you can experiment essentially for free. Experimenting is the only way you can get the answers you are looking for. For a first crack, read reviews but keep a grain of salt handy.
Do whatever it takes to hear other systems. I bet if you dig deep enough in your phone book, you will find a store with at least one 2-channel system for demo. You may want to post a thread asking about local shops. Sometimes they are tough to find...kind of "underground," you know. :)
Welcome Dave ...
You might as well get your wife hooked now and save yourself the rolling eyes and temper tantrums that a lot of us seem to have to deal with every time the UPS guy shows up. I had to start buying hip-hop cds but at least now I get to play.
I have had several sets of Paradigms ... I'm currently running Signature S4's through an ARC VT-60 tube amp and a Modwright SWL 90 SE linestage for two channel. I run a Denon 5803A in my HT setup with reference 100's (front) ref 20's (rear) a ref center and a Seismic 12 sub. The difference is UNBELIEVEABLE. I dont even listen to music on the HT setup anymore. I save that system for mom's hip hop.
My advice to you is to get a good used tube integrated amp if you want to save some money and upgrade when the bug hits you AND IT WILL. If you want to save yourself some time; get a good 50 watt + tube amp and a Modwright, ARC, or any one of a dozen other good quality tube linestages. The Paradigms have incredible capabilities with tubes. I ran ref 100s and ref 20 v2s through the Modwright/ARC combo and its got a really sweet sound. There are better speakers but for the money the used Paradigms are a force to be reckoned with. The Signatures are very nice but at that price point there is a lot more competition. The reference series is a great way to go to get started. If you like rock music and want to stick to solid state I agree with Rotel power. I have a friend who has a full reference setup with 40s, ADPs and the seismic sub. Its pretty incredible. Im not a bass guy much
Im more into jazz, blues and great voices now but those Paradigms with Rotel power were an excellent combination. Rotel is also available used on this site so there are some good deals to be had. A couple other things I will add:
Think about room treatments and speaker placement
Its a cheap way to really improve your sound. I can believe how much difference a little foam here and a bass trap there makes. Toe in, pull out from the wall, move right, move left, speakers have a sweet spot and finding what sounds good to YOU can involve a lot of experimentation. I think its the fun part
but it can be a pain.
They do make a difference BUT like anything else, a million dollar cable wont make a 100 dollar amp sound like a million dollar amp. I figure good cables remove a potential point of degradation. I have been buying Signal cables from Frank but there are many, many good cables out there. I have noticed subtle differences in cables and some have really helped out.
Find a local used audio shop
Here in Portland OR a lot of us go to Echo Audio. Kurt will let you demo about anything you want at your own place. I can try out new cables, ask questions and its like a mini Audiogon. I have had the opportunity to hear some really fantastic gear in my own home and its helped steer me to find equipment I really liked. He has linked me up with some local audio lovers like myself and in return I give him a lot of business. Its a win-win. Im sure there are several used shops in Phoenix.
Beer improves any system
The better quality micro brews seem to give me the best results.
Thats it from me youre on the path. Have fun, ask questions and the archives of this forum have a ton of information from some really knowledgeable people.
Thanks all for the responses. To answer a few questions... I have Studio 40s v.3 and a CC470 v.3 with dinky low-end paradigm cinema 90s for surrounds. They are all in a living room that opens up to the front door entrance area on the right with the dining room/kitchen as a decent sized open area behind the living room. So there are only walls nearby on the left and behind the TV.
I'm thinking of saving up no more than $1000 and prefereable much less to ease the wife-ranting. Anything amazing out there for $500?
Thanks for all the comments about "trusting my ears" but I really am without much direction so far. It's like telling a just recently literate person to go read books to find what they like when the only books they know of are the phonebook and "See Jane Run" (read, Denon and Paradigm for me). Some direction and suggestions help weed through the sheer volume out there. So thank you for the direction: Rotel, tube amp with linestage (going to go look up what a linestage is :s), Odyssey monoblocks. See, now I have something to actually find and listen to!
At the same time I know that many people only have experience with a couple systems they have owned and they will claim those are the "best" simply because they like them and don't know of anything better. So yes, grains of salt are handy :)
There's Esoteric audio in Scottsdale, Jerrys audio-video ( PHX ), Celestial audio/video ( PHX ) and few more check them out. About the amp for around $500 it can't go wrong with a Conrad Johnson Sonographe SA-250 very good from top to bottom freq. Cheers.
The only solid state amplifer under $500 I've heard Paradigms with that sounded nice was a Denon POA model amplifier(used $300 to $400). It will sound much better than the Denon reciever you're using now. You can use the reciever as a preamp until you decide on a seperate preamp. A tubed preamp will help. A tubed amplifier will help even more! The only one I've heard on Paradigms was a Carey v12..probably the best of all amplfiers listed here.
The Rotel amplifiers sound decent,The Odyssey Stratos and Denon were the best of the 5 solid states listed too my ears. Stay away from Adcom and Bryston unless you like hard highs, fatiguing ,dry and forward sound(just not good matches IMHO). A Class D amplifier could be another very good option for less money. Ultimately you must find out for yourself.
I had the Studio 40 v.3 series for about two years before I sold them. At first I used a NAD 7175PE receiver. It was a fairly good match. I later used a Musical Fidelity a3.2 integrated. The warmer NAD was a good match for the Paradigm, which to my ears seemed rather bright and forward. The Paradigm's are fairly efficient, the Studio 40's being 91db into 8ohm. Since you "don't have loads of money" and are looking for a "2 channel amp" I would suggest you audition a NAD c162/ c272 pre-power set up. If your room size is not too big the c352 integrated may be the answer.
As to the "feeling like Denon, Paradigm, B&W just screan 'I wish I was an audiophile'", find what is pleasing to your ear in accordance with your budget and relax and enjoy.
My Studio 100's sound great bi-wired to a pair of Dynaco Mk.IV amps fed by a VanAlstine Trancendence 8 preamp. http://www.avahifi.com/ has a new integrated amp that you may find interesting.