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Mike Rubin
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$2k integrated amps with built-in MM phono stages?

I've posted this at other forums previously, without much response, so am trying here. Please forgive me if you've seen this before.

I've decided to replace my Creek 5350SE, which includes the SE version of the MM phono card. While I think it a very musical integrated in many respects, and it has mated well with my Infinity Intermezzo monitors and sub in a difficult listening room, it sometimes seems "slow' with music with lots of rhythmic drive. I'd love to find an amp with the Creek's virtues, but a better approach to PRAT, a cost not more than two grand, and a built-in MM phono stage.

I was looking at the 5350SE's upgrade path, to the Creek Dynasty, as I understand from reviews that it is "speedier" than the 5350SE. I had a line on a used unit for about $1800, but realized that its add-on phono card will cost about $500, busting the budget. (I was surprised to learn of the Dynasty card's cost because the phono card for the 5350SE was less than $150. While I expected the Dynasty version to be somewhat more expensive, that is a pretty significant delta.)

I do not want to use an outboard phono preamp or linestage. My cabinet already is overflowing, with my DAC, wifi antennas, a power supply, and Airport Express connection all sitting exposed on top of it, which interferes mightily with the Spousal Acceptance Factor. My power conditioner also is full-up, so I don't have a spare outlet for a linestage. (And, yes, I know about battery-powered units, but no thanks.) The phono input does not have to rival state of the art, but should be adequate, and not a huge downgrade from the 5350 card's quality.

So, can anyone point me towards a decent solid state integrated with a usable phono in for MM, four other line level inputs, and a tape loop, that sells for less than two grand or so? (At this point, speaker compatibility considerations are not primary, as I've had to move the Infinity speakers to another system. I therefore can purchase speakers that complement the amp after I decide on the electronics.) Thanks for any help you can offer.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: $2k integrated amps with built-in MM phono stages?

I would recommend the Marantz refrence line of integrated amps, but I do not believe they have built in phono. Maybe Cheapskate can chime in on the sound quality as he is a proud owner.

bobedaone
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Re: $2k integrated amps with built-in MM phono stages?

The Arcam DiVa A90 offers an optional phono module. The amplifier costs $1800, but I'm not sure how much the module costs. I'm a big fan of Rega products. You might want to check out the Mira ($1095). It may seem like a step down from a 5350SE, but the PRAT is excellent and the included phono input is most decidedly not an afterthought.

ohfourohnine
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Re: $2k integrated amps with built-in MM phono stages?

I auditioned the Creek you're replacing for a couple of weeks before buying the Marantz 15PMS1. The Marantz is every bit as musical, speedier, and generally offers a more authoritative presentation. Great dynamics. On top of that, the build quality and the Marantz guarantee are in a whole different league from those of the Creek.

You mentioned that your rack is pretty crowded. Before I auditioned the Marantz I was leery of it because the owner's manual recommends 7 1/2" clearance above the amp for heat dissapation. That's bunk. Give it 2 or 3 inches, and you'll be just fine. Even after long periods of high volume orchestral stuff I can comfortably put my hand anywhere on the chassis.

The built-in phono stage is more than adequate, but I already owned a good phono pre before buying the amp, and after comparing the two set-ups for a few days I wound up leaving my phono pre in the system and going into the Marantz at line level. The difference wasn't extreme, just enough. If I hadn't already invested in the separate pre, I wouldn't have gone shopping for one.

My guess is this little Marantz may be just the ticket for what you're looking for, but your ears are the ones that matter. I'll be curious to see what you do. I'm not surprized you found the Creek wanting. I did too.

Monty
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Re: $2k integrated amps with built-in MM phono stages?

The Creek didn't float my boat either.

Mike Rubin
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Joined: May 23 2007 - 12:22pm
Re: $2k integrated amps with built-in MM phono stages?

Thanks for these tips. I haven't seen much mention of Marantz amplification for a few years, so that brand was off my radar. I will look into it.

I'd also like to audition the Arcam FMJ32 or DiVA A90, referred to above. I have not heard them, and, to be candid, they don't excite everyone who hears them, but I love that they have as many inputs as they do, and they appear to be built well from the photographs.

My local dealer pushes the Regas but even he says they are not competitive with more expensive integrateds. His recommendation for the next step up is tubes, which I won't do again, and then an Ayre, which is beyond my budget, lacks a phono stage, and only has four inputs, total. It's never easy, is it?

Jeff Wong
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Re: $2k integrated amps with built-in MM phono stages?

I'm just going to toss another option into the mix which might save you some money. I have a Creek 4240SE I did some minor mods to, and you might be able to do them as well. I replaced the sluggish, muddy sounding NE5532 op amps in the amplifier and on the phono board with Burr Brown 2132 op amps. The amp sounded cleaner and faster with these op amps. I don't know what op amps are used on the phono board of the 5350SE, but it might be worth your time to check and just replace those. The 2132 might not be available anymore, but, its lower priced sibling, the 2134 can be had for under $1.50 each.

Mike Rubin
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Re: $2k integrated amps with built-in MM phono stages?

Thanks for all the input. I was able to find a very clean, local pickup, recent Musical Fidelity A5 at a good price, so I went ahead and bought it. It has the integrated MM input (fully broken-in, since the seller was a vinyl devotee), as well as an HT pass-through which will enable me to integrate the television. I was not able to compare it to other integrated amps, so it's a bit of a leap of faith, but I figure I can sell at close to the purchase price if I am disappointed in any respect. I appreciate the recommendations here.

ohfourohnine
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Re: $2k integrated amps with built-in MM phono stages?

Sounds like you got a good deal, Mike. I think the MF build quality beats that of the Creek, and the sound is a little less "British", source notwithstanding. Let us know if you agree when you get it up and running for a while.

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