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fkrausz
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Erick's mission and Stereophile's choices

Erick Lichte's laudable new mission to do something for the 99%, as he put it, seems to me to underscore the fact that Stereophile hasn't recommended a class C or D pre-amp in years -- and currently has no recommended class-D power amps.  I know, integrated amps are the fashion for the lower-price end of things now, but for me, going to separates was a significant rite of passage into our hobby.  And the least expensive recommended preamp/power amp pair (ignoring the Lightspeed passive preamp, which is really too odd a duck for someone getting into separates for the first time) would set you back around 4 grand.

So, maybe you guys could poke around and see whether there isn't something, to put it bluntly, cheap in those categories that's worth your attention.

dbowker
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It IS weird. There used to be

It IS weird. There used to be all kinds of decent seperate power amps in the late 80s-early 90s for less than $1000.What happened to the Aragons and Haflers of the audio world?

USAudio
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Van Alstine?

When you mentioned Hafler, Van Alstine came to mind:
  http://avahifi.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=158&Item...

John Atkinson
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Class D power amplifiers?

fkrausz wrote:

Erick Lichte's laudable new mission to do something for the 99%, as he put it, seems to me to underscore the fact that Stereophile hasn't recommended a class C or D pre-amp in years -- and currently has no recommended class-D power amps.

At the low end of the market, separate power amplifiers have ben replaced by integrated and low-cost AV receivers, the latter often compromised in performance in order to offer 5 or 7 channels.

Affordable and recommendable high-performance solid-state power amplifiers from the 1980s, like the B&K ST140, Hafler DH-200, and Adcom GFA-535 and GFA-555 would probably cost around $2000 if manufactured today.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

fkrausz
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Stereophile Class D separates

Hmmm... I recently got an Audio Advisor flyer which prompted me to look at their website. They offer under-$1,000 power amps from NAD, Marantz, and Parasound, and under-$1,000 preamps from NAD, Parasound and Vincent Audio.  I have no idea if any of these things merit a recommendation, of course, nor whether they are even the best in this (arbitrary) price category.  But they do exist, and these are reputable makers.

JIMV
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Still there...Emootiva comes

Still there...Emotiva comes to mind. Just not as sexy as reviewing a device that costs more than a mercedes...

Stephen Mejias
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Separates

Having reviewed the excellent Parasound Zphono-USB, I am curious about other models from the Z Series -- a sample of the CD player is supposed to be on the way -- and I can imagine some interest in the amp and preamp. 

However, I find affordable integrateds much more interesting and attractive than separates.  I'm very much interested in the Emotiva mini-X a-100 integrated ($219), for instance, less interested in Emotiva's big XPA-2 stereo amp ($799).

fkrausz
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Separates

Stephen, I wasn't so much thinking of your column, which I believe you're aiming at music lovers who are considering getting a first good stereo system.  I'm thinking of the folks who took your advice (or similar advice) some years ago, and are at the point of upgrading their NAD or Emotiva integrateds or whatever, and getting into audio as a hobby.  And perhaps they have a budget of one to three thousand dollars for electronics. 

Now, maybe the rational thing to do is to stay away from separates until one reaches the level of $4,000 for electronics, but I'm not sure of that.  The products are out there. If Stephen and JA are very politely implying that they have listened to them and don't like them, that's fine with me, but nothing they've said here really suggests that.

BillB
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Adcom $1299 200wpc

Adcom GFA-555SE $1299

(200 watts per channel, 8 ohms  300 watts per channel, 4 ohms 600 Watts Bridged 8 ohms)

Stephen Mejias
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interesting

fkrausz wrote:

Stephen, I wasn't so much thinking of your column, which I believe you're aiming at music lovers who are considering getting a first good stereo system.  I'm thinking of the folks who took your advice (or similar advice) some years ago, and are at the point of upgrading their NAD or Emotiva integrateds or whatever, and getting into audio as a hobby.  And perhaps they have a budget of one to three thousand dollars for electronics. 

Hmm, that's interesting. I hadn't considered my column as being outside of the audio hobby. I'm not really aiming at music lovers any more than I'm aiming at hardcore audiophiles. I hope the column offers something for everyone.

fkrausz wrote:

Now, maybe the rational thing to do is to stay away from separates until one reaches the level of $4,000 for electronics, but I'm not sure of that.  The products are out there. If Stephen and JA are very politely implying that they have listened to them and don't like them, that's fine with me, but nothing they've said here really suggests that.

Nope, not implying anything. I'm just not convinced that separates necessarily represent greater quality or value. They certainly might, in some cases, but, these days, I don't think there's a hard rule that says separates are better than integrateds.  Even if I was spending $5000, I think I'd be more attracted to an integrated.

It's an interesting question, though. How would a $5000 integrated compare against a $5000 preamp/amp combo?

Is that a fair way of stating the question? 

fkrausz
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Separates

That's definitely an interesting question -- and, along that line, I always do wonder if Stereophile implies that a class A integrated is directly comparable to a reasonably-matched class A pre/power combo of similar price. 

But that's not what prompted my post.  I'm just of the opinion that one symptom of audiophilia nervosa, at least in my case, is a preference for separates over integrateds. So I imagine that lower-end separates would be of interest to early-stage audiophiles. Perhaps I'm being overly influenced by the products that were available at the time when I was at that stage.

Obviously you don't share that symptom, and that's certainly a good reason for you not to be reviewing such things.  Maybe somebody else will take them on.  I'm not of the school that apparently enjoys multiplying the number of boxes indefinitely -- a dCS stack for playing CD's, a four-box Lamm pre-amp, et cetera -- so I can sympathize with your not wanting to go in that direction.

fkrausz
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Beating a dead horse

I just stumbled over the fact  that KR reviewed a $900 Emotiva power amp -- a five-channel amp -- that was rated as class B in Recommended Components under surround-sound components.

tmsorosk
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Separates

Sounds like someone wants to get into separates just to say there an audiophile, rather than get the best bang for the buck. As an old hand at it, with a pretty respectable system, I've always felt that getting involving and enjoyable sound were the most important perimeters for sustained  happyness.

Reed
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The original post makes a valid point

After now owning the Cronos Magnum, I can say with confidence that I will not hesitate considering an integrated amp in the future.  The level of enjoyment I'm getting from it is hard to express.

However, my journey has been decades of experimentation with separates.  I think the original posting makes a valid point.  I started with an NAD 3020.  I then got curious what more power would do and purchased an Adcom GFA-555, using the 3020 preamp section.  Then, I experimented with a new preamp.  This progressed to trying various combinations of tubes, solid state, class a, class ab, line level preamps, active preamps, etc.    This process helped me gain an appreciation for the technology and gain a solid, first hand appreciation for what each flavor of component offered.  And, better yet, I could go to the audio store and form my own impressions and listen before I considered buying.

What the original posting was getting at is the fact that there used to be a host of options that allowed you to do this on a fairly conservative budget.  It's not the fact that integrated amps are necessarily compromised.  Its the simple fact that folks on a budget can't easily make that journey these days.

Man, can any of you guys remember the "Mod Squad line level preamp"?  I had one of those driving a Hafler DH500 at one point.  Those were fun times for sure.

tom collins
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integrated amps

we now have the integrated amps of my dreams from long ago.  30 years ago, i was wishing that some company would get it.  now look what we have.  if i had not just committed to a new amp, i would have gone the integrated route this past fall. we have them from $199 to $100k now.  but the last poster is right, unless you live in new york or la or chicago, you are sol for hearing them unless you are willing to make a huge commitment to travel.  this hurts the industry.  i am an impulse buyer and i buy my stereo without input from any other party.  most of these wonderful companies will never have a chance at my purchase.  with this last amp, i just took a chance and ordered, they do have a 30 day guarantee, but this is not the same as going into the store, getting excited and taking it home (also, i had to wait 4+ months for it to be built).

so, glad to have the options, too bad about the current business model.

tom

dlb
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Integrated aint so bad!

Stephen is absolutely correct in making the case for an integrated before going "all in" on the seperates bandwagon.  Two of my all time favorite amps have been integrated:  The Krell 400xi and the NAD C375BEE integrateds.  They compare favorably to my Krell 402, AR VT200 and Mcintosh 502 monoblocks.  Are they as good in absolute terms??  Nah, probably not, but also needed a preamp of commensurate quality and price.  Then you also need a great power cord for both, and two sets of IC's and more rack space and another outlet and another set of tweaks etc...  Sheez, that's alot of cash...yikes!  What you can find with a great integrated is the overall same gestalt and joy when choosing wisely on your components and extras...like interconnects, PC's and so forth.  I found out that sometimes you can raise the bar quite substantially of your "good" integrated to a place just this side of Heaven, when using what might be considered "insane" cable upgrades.  When I had my krell, and now the NAD, I used some High End cable products left over from my previous Mega-system ($80K +) and found out that sometimes there is alot more to be gained from a component than I could have ever imagined!   My PC cost me $1299.  The IC's $1499.  The speaker cables are worth $6K.  The C375BEE was $1200......yup, but holy crap, does it sound magnificent when you do things like use HiFi Tuning fuses, put high end cables in place of the ridiculously cheap jumpers, utilize a truly great/AC filtered PC and lash the rest together with superb IC's and speaker cables.  If you were to get the seperates they would demand the same quality of connections etc...anyway, right?  So skip the huge box's and hot rod an integrated into something of your dreams.  Most audiophiles could be happy with an integrated properly setup and tuned.  For the rest, let the games begin:O)  FYI, I use MIT Matrix cables and Magnum PC's.  My speakers are B&W PM1'swt stands and PVD1 Sub, and my digital player of choice is the remarkably musical Denon DCD-A100 Anniversary SACD/CD player.

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