Working backwards...

After six months of research, auditions, saving, and negotiating with the wife, I have acquired speakers that I’ll be keeping for several years - a pair of Spendor 1/2Es.

Over the next couple years I want to work backwards from these speakers and replace upstream components as funds become available. This is what I’m running right now:

Rotel RCD-1070 CDP
Rotel RA-1070 integrated amp
Proton 420 tuner (don’t laugh, it works just fine)
Spendor 1/2Es w/stands
Tara Labs Phase II speaker cable
Tara Labs RSC Air3 IC
Tara Labs Prism 55i IC
Ernie’s PCK12 power cord

My next acquisition will be to step up to separates. I can spend around $2K on a power amp and I’ve drawn up a list that I am actually looking to pare down to three candidates. I’m especially interested in hearing from anyone here who has run Spendor 1/2Es with any of these SS amps. The candidates are:

Conrad Johnson MF-2250A
Bryston 4BSST
Classe CA200
Krell KSA150
Plinius SA100 MkIII
McCormack DNA225
Mark Levinson 331

While I love the Spendor sound, I do miss some of the bass that I lost trading away my JBLs (maybe there’s a REL in my future), so I probably wouldn’t mind an amp that’s a little aggressive with reasonable slam. I'm assuming that I don't necessarily need a warm sounding amp to go with my Spendors. In addition, I’ll also need a basic (read: inexpensive) preamp to start with and I would appreciate any suggestions (Adcom, Rotel, NAD, or ???).

My living room/listening room is about 18x20’ and carpeted. While I still listen to a lot of classic rock, most of the new CDs I am buying are R&B and jazz.

Sorry for the long post – I would appreciate any educated opinions – Thanks!
You have listed some interesting choices. Of the amps listed, I have heard SP1/2s driven with the Classe, which (I thought) sounded pretty darn good. I've also heard Spendor SP-100s driven with a Bryston 4BST, which (as I recall) I liked much better, but that system also had a much more expensive CDP and cables.

In my opinion, you probably wouldn't be able to take full advantage of new amplification with your current speaker cables. Think about bi-wiring those Spendors - it does make a SUBSTANTIAL difference.

Good luck!
I recommend upgrading to the Tara Air 2 (or 3). They are a significant improvement over the Phase II and 55i and can be found at half list (or less) right here. IMO a very cost effective upgrade which should allow you to select the correct amp for your Spendors.
Here's a thought for you -- continue to use your integrated (via pre-out) as your pre-amp for the time being. That will allow you to wait and save and put the money toward a nicer preamp. The preamps you listed just won't get you that much more than your current integrated, nor realise the potential of the fine amps you are considering.

BTW, I have and like the Classe CA-200. If you go that route, get the newer version with the heatsinks on the side, rather than the older model with the heatsinks on back (this is per Classe, I haven't heard the older model myself).

- Eric
Hey people, thanks.

I would like to upgrade my speaker cables, but at the moment my equipment is far away from my speakers, necessitating a 25' cable run. If I upgrade now I'll have to buy (gulp) new. Hopefully, I can wear down the wife's resistance and get my equipment closer to my speakers so I won't need as much cable - maybe then I could look at used stuff and get a better upgrade.

Eric - I did consider using my integrated as a preamp, but in some other threads it seems that that practice is typically frowned upon. Maybe it's not such a bad idea after all. I am toying with the idea of a tube preamp, but I'm not ready to make the commitment to fussing with tubes just yet.

Has anybody else out there run 'British box' speakers with a SS amp? What did you learn/what do you recommend? I would appreciate your comments.
You can get very close to a Krell FPB 200 for that price which will be an improvement over the KSA 150.
Good luck.

I'm running B&W 604S2 with German Symphonic Line RG4-3 mono blocks.
What I learnt w/ these speakers (don't know if this is extrapolated to other Brit speakers) is
* B&W need lots of clean power - "lots" => high current source/sink capacity at lower volume level to flesh out details & "clean" => refined, not grainy in the mids. This, of course, means MONEY! Unfortunate but true!
* placement is paramount - B&W floor standing units are quite self contained => do not need walls to reinforce bass.
* room treatment is needed if the cabinets are cheap as they are in the DM series! Bloated bass needs help & really makes the acoustics so much better. A friend said "more listenable"
* biwiring helped a lot. There's a very good reason to do it from an electrical point of view. Some speakers do not benefit despite this reason Physics gives us => these speakers are better engineered in the 1st place. B&W cut some corners w/ the DM series so biwiring helped.
* The 4th order x-over used prolifically in the B&W line-up makes the impedance & phase shift curves look like the Swiss Alps! Also, a "brute" amp is required 'cuz the imp. can go down to 3-3.5 Ohms in the mid-bass region. Actually this point is the reason for #1 above.

Overall I like their sound but you have to be careful w/ what you drive these speakers
Hi Ekistler,

I think the reason that using pre-out is discouraged here is that the preamp sections people want to use this way aren't that great compared to good dedicated preamps. So I agree that it's a good idea to move to a dedicated pre-amp.

But Rome wasn't built in a day. I think what you are doing with the amp is smart -- stretch to get the best you can. You will hear a difference. Do the same with the preamp in a year or two when you can afford it.

The difference between a used $300 (new $600) and a used $600-$800 (new $1500) preamp is dramatic.

The best test, of course, is to try the pre-outs with a new amp and see how it sounds.

BTW, I have Celestion 300s (older British speakers) and really like the sound with good SS gear (Classe). I tend to like "detail" and bass articulation and the affordable tube gear I've heard doesn't give that. This is of course a matter of huge debate here as you know!

- Eric
Unlike B&W's, Spendors aren't exactly current hungry. The 1/2s are a nominal 89 or 90db and present a very stable 8ohms to the amp, meaning you don't exactly need a lot of power. I used to run a McCormack 0.5 dlx on my Spendor 2/3s and liked it well enough until I decided to give this "tube" thing a try. Haven't looked back since, with only 30W available from my Rogue 88 running in triode mode.
Sure, bass is lacking but I don't miss it. Can always put in a sub if I ever feel the need and no way I'm trading the midrange magic for overripe bass.

I biwire my 2/3s and it wasn't a huge leap but an improvement nonetheless.

If you want to stay with SS amp, I'd suggest going with something like an Aleph 3 or the Volksamps Aleph 30 on closeout (the link: and save some money and spend what you saved on a pre-amp. Upgrading from a Sonic Frontiers Signature 1s to BAT VK-30 made a huge difference in sound quality for my system.

Anyways, hope this helps.
4bsst, hands down
Naim's NAP200 ($2550 retail & includes 1 DIN interconnect) will tighten up the bass on your 1/2Es and it has pace and rhythm to die for. Just add the following:

Naim CDX2 $4950 includes 1 DIN interconnect (HDCD player)
Naim NAC202 w/PSU & HicapII $4775 (Pre-amp with 2 PSU)
Naim NACA5 speaker cable 15' $200

I had system above and believe me it is AWSOME. It will seem as if the band stop by your house. Then you can forget about your equipment and live happily ever after.
I had some little British box speakers: ProAc Tablettes. I ran them with a Classe CA200, and the pairing was good. The Tablettes didn't need anywhere near that much power. I find each to be slightly on the bright side (the Tablettes more so than the CA-200), and that was the only real issue with the pairing. Bass extension of the Tablettes is impressive for a speaker with a 4.5" woofer, but not extended on an absolute basis (duh!). The CA200 is VERY extended in the bass and delivers tight, controlled bass with ML Odysseys (my current speakers).

I like your idea of using the integrated's pre stage until you can get a better one. Sure it's a compromise, but it's temporary, and you'll end up with a better system this way.
Concerning the distance between your speaker and equipment: Now that you're moving to seperates, you have the option of placing your amp near the speakers and running a long interconnect from your preamp to your amp. I believe the accepted wisdom around here is that it's better to have a longer interconnect than speaker cable. Cheaper too!
Well, a little cheaper. Not much, though.

You may eventually have the option of running the pre->power interconnect in balanced mode, which will help reject some of the noise that comes from having long cable runs. You can't do this with speaker cable.

Of course, this is not an option with your current integrated amp. It may also not be an option for some of those power amps. (I'm pretty sure the Conrad Johnson units don't offer balanced connections, for example.)
Yeah, I suppose that long ICs might be preferable if they would cut my speaker cable length in half. One of my concerns there is that I'll have to factor in the cost of a quality amp stand, which would seem like a waste of $$$ as I currently have a decent Billy Bags rack (with a couple of empty shelves).

In any case, I still have to stash a little more coin toward this amp...