Which Pre Amp Amp for New User? Opinions Please

I want to build a new 5.1 or 7.1 system and have a maximum budget of $20,000. This may be used equipment, however, I prefer solid, reliable gear that hopefully will not require time in the repair room. I have looked at McIntosh, Krell, Classe (I know, too much for my budget) but Audiogon has plenty of used choices, most of which are rated as "mint" or near mint. I am not looking for tubes. I don't expect to get a super deal. I want to step up from my current system. I need to find new speakers. The choices are phenomenal and I have spent hours and hours reading through the Audiogon forum. My impression is there is incredible knowledge here and I am looking for some friendly advice and direction.
Any suggestions about the above amps or something I haven't brought up which would be worth considering would be most appreciated.
Hi...wow...talk about an open-ended question! First things first...a great budget and hopefully a lot of fun for you to go shopping. Some basic advice:

1. Those 3 brands are good for reliability imho. For older Krell, which used to be pure Class A, you will need to be mindful of long-term repairs (replacing capacitors). Class A is wonderful (i have owned it for years myself) but it burns super hot and eventually causes wear and tear over a 10-15 year period.
2. Not being a super-big surround sound guy, i would put most of my speaker money into the 2 main speakers...thus i max out on my 2-channel music enjoyment
3. Get a good sub if you are going to play music...a bad sub can really mess things up. alternatively, i suppose, you could shut it off during 2-channel...but that seems a shame when a good sub can be GREAT for music when dialed-in properly
4. Depending on your tastes (pure tonality, warm...newer CJ, Vitus, Gryphon), perfectly neutral (Boulder, Soulution)...you will end up with different systems.

If you have preferences...please share them, because that will help get you better, more targeted suggestions from people.

5. Sonus Faber speakers are one of my favorites and rarely hear bad comments about them...have owned 2 myself...the Guarneris and then the Strads. SF makes great 2-channel speakers and also does surrounds and subs which are convenient to place. I would be surprised if you were disappointed with the 2-channel that came from them, or the 5-7 channnel.
6. I suppose if you wanted to 'skimp' (not that you need to with your budget) you could start with a top of the line Oppo blu-ray player and see how much you like the sound from there...probably could get a DAC if you wanted to 'upgrade' your music listening and have 1 great universal transport/player that plays literally all formats.
7. Take time with cables...you can get great deals on older Transp Ref cables which are probably my favorite, particularly second-hand for the price.

That's all for now...feel free to ask if curious. Just one man's opinion. Good luck and have fun!
I wouldn't start buying equipment on Audiogon without first listening to some different systems at dealers/friends houses to get an idea of the sound you like. Otherwise you may find yourself on the audio equipment merry go round. In my experience, Krell amplification sounds different from McIntosh sounds different from Classe, and you may prefer one over the other. Speakers also vary greatly in their voicing from brand to brand. Once you identify brands, and perhaps specific models you like, you can decide if you'd like to purchase them new or used. Just my 2 cents...
One thought for you to chew on:

The technology in multi-channel pre-amps (pre-pros) may be the main area in home audio (source players, i.e. disc formats, etc. would be another) in which obsolescence is an on-going risk. In recent years critical features in a pre-pro (HDMI connectivity, DSP solutions, etc.) have changed pretty dramatically and I'd expect to see those changes and improvements continue, so...

1) You may want to re-think a used purchase. In this particular game, newer usually means better (in feature sets, at least).


2) I'd be inclined to back off the $ on the pre-pro and focus on the amps, speakers, etc. Even if you find the perfect pre-pro, you may need to replace it <5 years. You can find really good pre-pros in the $2K range (Onkyo/Integra was my choice - there are others, too) and I suspect that these might be a better resource allocation.

The other half of the equation to keep in mind is that (unlike most 2 channel systems) the performance of the firmware in a 5.x or 7.x system is critically important to the final result. Unless you intend to bypass the subs for music, it's that firmware which will provide the x-over function and (usually) room correction. IME (and I auditioned a sh*tload of stuff over the 18 months I researched this purchase), the Audyssey 32xt firmware in my Onkyo will stack up against the solution in any megabux unit.

One proviso: the ARC firmware in the Anthem gear is, in some ways, more flexible than XT32 and Meridian's "bass-centric" solution may be more appealing to some who prioritize minimal DSP. However, I thought xt32 sounded as good/better than anything else that I auditioned.

BTW, my system is 2.2 ch audio only, so there may be video processing benefits in the higher priced units that aren't relevant to me or the point I'm making here.

As always, YMMV.

Thank you for your thoughts. Valuable information and definitely appreciated.

Please comment on this set up: Marantz AV 2005 pre pro with Accurus A2007 amp, Kef R700 or R900 speakers, Velodyne DD10 sub. Kef or B&W center?

How do Sonus Faber, B&W compare to the Kef series or others (there are a bewildering number of choices)? I want a clear, warm full range sound from the speakers. The room is lacking in sonic conditioning. Stone floor, lots of glass, no carpet (25 feel long x 14 feet wide). This will be another factor in speaker selection unless I add wall coverings, throw rugs etc.

What would be the best full range speaker of those mentioned for less than about $6,000 new/used?

In regards to amp/pre amps, I believe the McIntosh/Krell/Classe are a bit out side of my financial comfort zone for now (Mercedes on Toyota budget).

Is there a significant quality/reliability/state of the art difference between the new Marantz, Onkyo, Integra or other pre pros in the under $3,000 range?

Is a quality "used" amp in "excellent" condition on Audiogon (or elsewhere) a smarter decision than a "new" (financially and practically) because "not much changes" in amps over the years?

Again, sincere thanks for your personal opinions!
Hi Dr. Linn,

Personally, i have not explored KEF in a long time, but if you look in Audiogon - Sonus Faber, for 6K you can get the Cremonas, for 9K the Extremas. For another 6-9K you can get Krell FPB600 or FPB350mcx monos...a stunning combination with either of the above speakers...comfortably in the realm of state of the art. for another 2-3K you can get a Krell amp to run the other 3 channels. Add a sub plus 3 other speakers for another 3K and you are just about at your 20K budget.

As for used amps, the benefit is not so much that technological improvement have not moved on...it is that the rate of depreciation is far faster than the rate of advancement of nearly any piece of audio equipment. Not too different from a car.

The key to watch for is that used/demo items work. What i have done is agree with the Seller they ship it back to the original manufacturer or distributor in my country. I pay for that shipping so they know i am serious. If the manufacturer/distributor confirms good working condition, i pay in full and have the distributor ship it to me. If not, then the Seller and I renegotiate repairs, or he can pay for shipping to take it back.

Good luck. Hope that is helpful. In terms of a system on that budget i would be serious about, that would be the one for me. The older generation SF and Krell imho are a magical combination, with the warmth and liquid beauty of voices for which SF are famous, but with the power and dynamics from a Krell (in particular these older generation Krell).

In terms of subs, i have owned Velodynes for 12 years or more. I now use the DD18, you can prob get a second hand one for 2.5K. Depending on size of your room, the DD18 and the DD10 are both excellent, but the DD18 adds an effortless majesty that is tough to match. I think there is a lot of 'bang for your buck' in going the extra 1.5K to get the bigger boy.
Some amazing responses here. My 2 cents for speakers are Vandersteens. Richard V. just developed a new speaker for about $6k. I have 3A Signatures and they sound beautiful. The Sonus Faber cabinets are stunning but Vandy's sound every bit as good at a lower price. You have plenty of budget for everything, have fun.
I decided on the Parasound Halo A51 and an Integra DTC 80.3. I just bought a used Velodyne DD10 sub and am continuing to investigate front speakers and a center. I appreciate your recommendations and although I gave a $20,000 budget, I am now more realistic and it is between 12 and 14,000. Economic issues. Hope someone can give their 2cents opinion about a center and will it matter if it is a different manufacturer? My fireplace mantle is only 10" deep so that is another limiting factor. Thanks again!!
Congrats...you should have good quality power from Parasound though i am not familiar with that one. Velodyne DD10 should be great and straightforward to set up...even though the final 10% of finetuning takes some getting used to. Cannot help on Centers...i still like Sonus Faber for your speakers if you're willing to go second hand. just my 2 cents. enjoy!
IMHO, your going about this backwards. Choose your speakers first!