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bobedaone
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budget integrated

Hey, guys. I'm shopping for a nice entry-level amplifier to drive my Paradigm 7se's. I'm considering the NAD C325BEE, Rega Brio3 and Rotel RA-1062. I'm on a tight budget (college student). My requirements are basic. I need a MM phono stage and would prefer a headphone jack (which the Rega lacks). If I got the NAD, I'd be purchasing it along with the PP-2 phono preamp. The C325BEE, PP-2 and a decent pair of interconnects for the PP-2 would run $550 plus tax. At $645, the Rega Brio3 with integrated phono input is not much more expensive, nor is the Rotel at $700 (The Rotel also includes a phono section). I've only heard the NAD, but have been impressed, especially coming from home theater receiver purgatory. I plan to audition the Rotel and Rega. My only issue with the Rotel is it's not sold by the dealer with which I have a very good relationship, whereas the NAD and Rega both are sold by my dealer. (By the way, if you live in Southeast Michigan, I cannot speak highly enough of Overture Audio in Ann Arbor.) Does anyone have an opinion on any of these models? Also, are there any hidden gems that I'm overlooking here? $700 is my absolute ceiling (as dictated by the Rotel) and I'd love to stay down in the $500 range. I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say!

Jim Tavegia
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Re: budget integrated

Your requirements might indicate a John Marks recommended Harman Kardon Hk3480 120 watts/ch at about $250 from J and R Music World NYC .

It has a built in phono stage with adecent tuner for your college stations (support fledgling broadcasters). Also has sub out.

It would make as great 2nd system later on.

Regards,

bobedaone
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Re: budget integrated

Thanks, Jim! That HK seems like a nice rig. I already have a great tuner in the NAD 4020A, though, so I'm really looking more for an integrated than a receiver. That being said, I'll definitely keep the 3480 in mind, especially at that price.

ohfourohnine
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Re: budget integrated

As you point out, Erik, losing the support of a dealer with whom you have an established good relationship is not a trivial matter, but frankly, I think when you've had the chance to audition the Rega and the Rotel, you'll eliminate the Rotel anyway. Clearly, your ears are the final arbitrators, but,in my opinion, where entry level offerings are concerned, NAD stuff is the real thing and it leaves you with the continued support of a dealer you trust - an increasingly rare asset these days, particularly for someone who may stay hooked on hi-fi for a long time.

If not for the dealer relationship, I might suggest you give a listen to the Arcam Diva A65 which is a good contender at the $700 price point.

In any event, keep us posted and have fun making your choice.

Regards,

bobedaone
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Re: budget integrated

Actually, Cheapskate, my dealer sells Arcam as well! I'll have to check it out.

garthr2
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Outlaw's an option

Having extensively used NAD and Marantz integrated amps, as well as the top Yamaha and HK receivers, Outlaw's RR2150 was the best overall for my ears. NAD was too dull for me, Marantz and Yamaha had a harsh sound to them, and while the HK 3480 sounded good overall, the poor quality of the headphone output made it unusable. There was alot of background electrical noise , and I tried 4 of them.

It is very difficult to find an amp that you like and have a decent headphone output, and I was about to give up until I tried the 2150. It was a pleasant suprise , no background noise and it sounds great with Sennheiser 595's, which are so sensitive they pick up any background noise at all.

Of course, it all comes down to your audio preferences.... one's passion is another's poison.

CECE
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Re: budget integrated

AVA just introduced an integrated amp, based on the great ckts of his separates. http://www.avahifi.com/root/equipment/control_amplifier/index.htm

Jim Tavegia
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Re: budget integrated

Dup,

I would love for JA to get his hands on one of these with the phono stage, test it and send it on the Sam Tellig for a review. Looks very nice. I even like the industrial look of it... a serious speaker driving "machine". LOL

Geez, did I see 2 tape loops? He must have bought up all the surplus others are omitting from their gear these days.

Elk
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Re: budget integrated

Except that the AVA unit is over three times what he would like to spend. We can recommend a lot of nice integrateds at this price level.

I, too, recomend the NAD and the Arcam. Either would make a wonderful addition to your system.

CECE
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Re: budget integrated

I'd like to see JA and Stereophile do AVA too. They seem to have an aversion to the stuff. Over years and years, are they scared of it's abiltys, and low price and NOT made in CHINA, made in the frozen north, MN. As Frank mentioned once, you get free Cryo treament with MN winters. He didn't way it mattered, just that it happens, naturally, ain't that better than lab freeze? I think the possibilty it will equal or better some extremely high priced stuff they love to do writeups on in the magazine. Which really can't be justified when it comes to performance. ie. Chord amp overpriced underperfoming stuff, why meet specs, people will buy it anyway, since what's 500 watts or so missing!!!!! Now that's some logic on the part of a reviewer,. Like a lawyer, they can twist things to cover up reality. I have the opposite, an affection, after almost 15 years of use of various models, the stuff is SUPERB, priced in reality, and super RELIABLE and the SOUND is sonic bliss. With money left over. Ever think surviving in teh audio business for about 35+ years independant operation, no buyouts, no nutin' And AVA keeps making stuff that is designed to work, and be updated as needed. I'd call that a SUPERB product. Let's see some AVA reviews StereoPhile Omegastar EX Ultra series Hybrids, have an all AVA special, bring Stereophile back to reality, latley it's getting out to being ridiculous with $45K CD only players that have as much distortion as a Marshall in high sensitiy input....that's used to MAKE the sound, not REPRODUCE it. Let's see some AVA reviews, time to not worry that it'll sound and function as good as the overpriced, works of art, more than audio electronics.

59mga
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Re: budget integrated


Quote:
I'd like to see JA and Stereophile do AVA too. They seem to have an aversion to the stuff.

You make a good point, DUP. In years past, when all I could afford was "store brand" devices, Stereophile was reviewing HK, Yamaha, etc., etc. Once I was able to purchase the aformentioned they were checking out the likes of Rotel and NAD. Now that I can buy the likes of Creek and AVA Stereophile talks about the next step up (which I can't afford).
Yes, they do speak of items that the average person can afford but it seems to be a limited variety. I had spent many hours researching until I discovered equipment that was not widely known but was considered "audiophile" and I was able to afford. It would be great to read more of these lesser known items.

bc06
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Re: budget integrated

Erik_B :

Here is an option that would fit your budget..
The Jolida JD1701 "hybrid" amp [$575.00]
You get a nice tube preamp and a 50Wpch mosfet solid state amp.
It has no remote, no balance control and no phono preamp but you could consider the MM only Cambridge Audio 540P phono preamp [$90.00].

Elk
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Re: budget integrated

Stereophile reviews many budget components. In fact they have reviewed a number of less expensive integrateds in the last couple of months. There is a budget component category under "equipment reviews" on the website as well.

I can't speak for their editorial staff, but I suspect that there are no recent reviews of AVA equipment as there is relatively little interest by the readers. Most of us have not been particularly impressed. However, AVA does have a loyal cult following. Perhaps for this reason alone it might be interesting to have one of Frank's units reviewed. For the same reason I would enjoy a serious review of Bose. (no, I'm not kidding. We like to criticize Bose. So shouldn't we see how it really stacks up and measures?)

smejias
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Re: budget integrated

Hi Erik.
If I were you, I might also add the Music Hall A25.2 to my list of contenders. I don't think your dealer carries that piece, however. In any case, you've already got a tough decision between the Rega, NAD, and, as Clay suggested, the Arcam. All three can bring you a very good amount of musical satisfaction, however, so: have fun. I have a soft spot for the Rega because of its 49Wpc (I like odd numbers).

---
Guys,
Please feel free to discuss other topics, but please do so in the more appropriate forum; create a new thread, if you like. Thanks very much.

Buddha
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Re: budget integrated

Speaking of soft spots...I have one for the Marantz PM 7001.

Music Direct Catalog image and description.

It's in your budget range, and I've had loads of time playing with the Marantz integrateds.

I'd call it lovely.

If you can't audition one locally, I think they have one of those "no risk" deals at Music Direct, but I'm not positive.

Worth checking out.

59mga
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Re: budget integrated


Quote:
Hi Erik.
If I were you, I might also add the Music Hall A25.2 to my list of contenders.

Eric,

I second Stephens recommendation for the Music Hall. Last summer I purchased the 25.2 amp, CD player and tuner. The sound is marvelous.

After being critical (see previous entry), I must admit that I learned of MH via Stereophile magazine...and I'm most grateful.

bobedaone
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Re: budget integrated

Thank you for your responses! Also, thanks, Stephen, for keeping things on track. That AVA is right up my alley, but I don't have anywhere near $1500 to spend. I'll have to check out Music Hall, and I had no idea I could get into tubes at this level (with the Jolida). I've never heard a tube amplifier (or tube preamp, in this case), but the idea appeals to me because my CD collection has been sounding very harsh, especially in the treble, ever since I've been auditioning analog gear. I guess vinyl spoils!

bobedaone
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Re: budget integrated

I thought I'd resurrect this post with a listening update: The Rega Brio3 is currently the front-runner, edging out the NAD C325BEE by a thin margin. It was a close race because I really like the NAD's smooth sound. In certain passages, though, the smoothness is sometimes revealed as a general lack of precision and detail. It wins big points, though, for taking some of the harshness out of digital. I've only listened A/B to the pair with CD as the source, but that will soon change. I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of my dealer's second P2 (the first one sold immediately) so I can properly compare the talents of the phono stages. I expect the Rega to emerge victorious from that battle because, well, it's a Rega. I'll certainly let my ears decide, though.
The NAD and Rega are both sold by my preferred dealer here in town, which I'm going to stick with. Those guys are great! They have no problem with me coming in and listening for a couple hours every week, even though they know I won't be buying for awhile. They truly know audio and aren't just car salesmen with different shirts. Incidentally, I dismissed the Rotel mainly because the dealer treated me like a second-class citizen (Who cares about the broke college kid when you have Wilson and Krell to move?). I may have said it before, but if you're in Southeast Michigan, I cannot recommend Overture Audio in Ann Arbor highly enough. I've been brushed aside by a lot of retailers (including the dealer that serviced my car and the shop where I bought my bike). There's a salesman down there at Overture whom I consider a friend and likes nothing more than sharing the joy of music.
All dealer compliments aside, the Rega is a great machine that has everything it needs and nothing it doesn't. Remote? No. Tone and balance controls? Please. Rega knows how to play NAD's game and put the juicy bits inside the box. I can also appreciate that it's made in the UK, not China like the 325. It's an endearing little over-achiever that I'd love to take home for an audition.

59mga
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Re: budget integrated


Quote:

All dealer compliments aside, the Rega is a great machine that has everything it needs and nothing it doesn't. quote]

Erik,

Glad to read your opinion of Rega for I am considering the Mira 3 and Apollo, for a new system. I haven't heard them yet but plan on getting a listen this weekend.

What speakers will you be connecting to your Brio?

bobedaone
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Re: budget integrated

The Brio3 will be driving my Paradigm 7se Mk3 floorstanders. They're the grandfather of today's Monitor 7 and share the same basic driver arrangement. Their sensitivity is fairly high (92 dB in-room), so they should prove a good match for the Rega. In fairness, though, that little amp has more muscle than I'd expect it to. I've not listened to the Mira extensively, but it would be very much on my list if I were shopping in the $1000 range. Definitely don't miss the phono stage. The P2/Bias2 sounded terrific through the Brio. I love Rega products and I don't think the Mira will disappoint. If it's anything like its little brother, its sound will belie its price.

59mga
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Re: budget integrated


Quote:
Definitely don't miss the phono stage. The P2/Bias2 sounded terrific through the Brio.

Yesterday evening I went to hear the Mira 3 and Apollo...very impressive.
I have narrowed my choices down to Rega, Music Hall and Creek (see my posts on the Challenge Your Audio Might thread). All three have a great sound and what I like about the Rega and Creek is that they have a phono card in the chassis.
You mention that the Paradigms have a high sensitivity and I've noticed that all the Rega speakers have levels of 89-91 dB so I guess it would be a wise idea to chose a speaker with similar sensitivity levels.

Thanks for the feedback.

s10sondek
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Re: budget integrated

I was in a similar fork in the road a few months ago, but my budget was a bit higher. In my case, I was choosing between the Rega Mira-3 and the NAD C372. I ultimately chose the C372, mainly because I much preferred its sound. The C372 was more dynamically effortless, more neutral, more resolving (better coherence of low-level detail) and exhibited a significantly more gripping and extended bass. The top end on the Rega Mira-3 seemed rolled off compared to the C372, giving the C372 an airier and more refined sound, with better reproduction of acoustic space. The Rega seemed artificially smooth (smoothness at the expense of high frequency extension), whereas the C372 had high-frequency extension AND smoothness

bobedaone
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Re: budget integrated

Thank you so much for that thorough comparison! The choice between NAD and Rega is a very difficult one for me. I own a C525BEE CD player and a 4020A tuner, so I really am partial to their gear. I've not heard the 372 and I haven't listened critically to the Mira, so I can't say much on that end. I will say that the remote issue and headphone jack were things to which I've given much thought. I think I can live without headphones. I may wish I had gone that route, though, as I'll be living in an apartment next year. I have to tune my radio manually and records require a lot of getting up. Also, I'll be using my computer as a source and will have to get up to change tracks. So, really, a remote isn't necessary. I'll be out of my chair a lot, anyway! I will miss the convenience, though. Thanks again for your input!

bobedaone
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Re: budget integrated

I'm blowing the dust off this old thread to say that I've just plunked down a deposit on the Rega. It should arrive sometime early next week. I'm very much looking forward to hearing it at home for the first time! I also love that magical moment of unpacking. Christmas in June...

The Brio is all but mine. For those of you keeping score, that leaves only the turntable as a "wish list" item. I'll be saving that top shelf on my rack!

59mga
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Re: budget integrated

Congratulations, Eric...I know you'll be happy with the Brio. If memory serves me correctly you'll be driving a pair of Paradigms. What about a cd player? As for turntables, I've heard the P2 and it's a good choice.

Enjoy!

smejias
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Re: budget integrated

Wow, that's awesome. Congrats, Erik! Please let us know when it does arrive, let us know how it feels to unpack it and add it to your system. I love those moments.

bobedaone
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Re: budget integrated

I bought a new CD player last Christmas. I'll list all the gear:

NAD C525BEE
Paradigm 7se Mk.3
Rega Brio3
NAD 4020A
Audio Alchemy DDE 1.2/Apple Airport Express/iMac
Impact Acoustics speaker cable/CD player interconnect

I'm also constructing a rack with cherry plywood shelves and 3/4"x36" threaded steel rods for legs.

ohfourohnine
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Re: budget integrated

Good Show, Erik! Like many others, I'm happy for you and want to hear your reactions when you get everything up and running.

Elk
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Re: budget integrated

Yes!

You are going to be very pleased.

artk
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Re: budget integrated

Looks like a very nice system Erik...

bobedaone
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Re: budget integrated

Thanks!

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