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gus6464
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Need some help on integrated amp choices

I am ordering some Totem Dreamcatchers speakers for a 100% music 2ch setup with a vintage Technics SL-B2 TT with a Grado Green cartridge. I have a couple of choices as far as the integrated amp is concerned from my dealer.

Rega Brio3 - really like it but I was told it might not be able to handle the low impedance loads of the Totems (4ohm)

Pioneer Elite A-35R - Same power ratings as the Rega but 1/3 the price.

Pioneer Elite A-A6-J - Brand new and dealer doesn't have them in but can order it.

HK3485 - Very high current integrated that I was told would match well with the Totems.

So which would you guys recommend for my system? I don't need any digital connections of any kind as I will probably be getting an sacd player later on but it will be fully analog. As far as TT goes as soon as I get some more funds I would like to upgrade to a Rega P3-24 or something similar.

dcstep
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Re: Need some help on integrated amp choices

Most solid state amps will have no trouble with 4 ohms, so buy the one that floats your boat. Tube amps will need a 4 ohm tap if you were to go that route.

Generally, budget permitting, you should look for an amp with a power rating in the upper half of you speaker's recommended range. Also note that many power ratings are quoted at 8 ohms. The 4 ohm rating can be up to twice as high. In fact, amps with roughly double the power into 4 ohms vs. 8 ohm will tend to be a good match for low resistance speakers.

Any decent integrated will have line-level inputs so that you can add digital later. (Consider the Oppo universal player).

If you go with a dedicated phono preamp, then you intergrated amp choices will blow wide open. There are lots of phono preamps in the $150 to $1000 that'll handle your Grado nicely.

Dave

gus6464
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Re: Need some help on integrated amp choices

Well I am kind of skeptical about the Rega because of the stereophile review where he stated that it would not be happy driving 4ohm or below speakers. The measured power output was actually lower than the 8ohm when driving hard loads.

I have been leaning more and more towards the HK because of it's extremely high current and it does increase it's power by over 50% when driving 4ohm loads. But now that I have seen the Pioneer Elite's I have become intrigued as I love their looks.

bobedaone
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Re: Need some help on integrated amp choices

I use a Brio with "nominal 6-ohm" Paradigms, so I'm pretty confident that it can push 4 ohms without too much difficulty. You might want to have a look at the impedance curve on the Totems, though, to make sure that they don't dip very much below that.

The salesman who sold it to me said that he had seen it drive the snot out of some fairly difficult loads, and I trust his opinion very much.

At the levels I listen to, it has never once gotten more than luke warm, and is usually cold to the touch.

If you plan on getting a P3-24 (my next purchase), I can't think of a better match, except perhaps a Mira. The phono stage is excellent, as you would expect of Rega.

If you're really concerned about current, you might see if you can get yourself an NAD C352, which should be attractively priced right now because the C355BEE has just been released. You can get yourself a separate phono preamp later, which might end up sounding better, anyway.

Just my .02

jackfish
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Re: Need some help on integrated amp choices

I'd also look into the Cambridge Audio Azur 640A v2 for $600 (120 wpc into 4 Ohms) or the Outlaw R2150 for $650 (160 wpc into 4 Ohms). Both very good sounding pieces of equipment. The Outlaw looks pretty cool too.

The Totem Dreamcatcher is a pretty transparent loudspeaker. Having ample good clean power will allow that to come through. I don't know if you will get the same experience with them and the relatively inexpensive HK3485.

dbowker
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Re: Need some help on integrated amp choices

Listen to some Creek gear if you can- some of the best integrated amps ever made for the $! NAD and Cambridge Audio coming in close behind. Skip the Pioneer IMO.

rabpaul
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Re: Need some help on integrated amp choices


Quote:
Listen to some Creek gear if you can- some of the best integrated amps ever made for the $! NAD and Cambridge Audio coming in close behind. Skip the Pioneer IMO.


Agree and also Audiolab.

59mga
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Re: Need some help on integrated amp choices

A lot of good recommendations, here. Also check out Rotel and Music Hall.

tom collins
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Re: Need some help on integrated amp choices

i am using an Arcam A80 that i like very much and it has a phono input as well (might save $ if you are thinking along that line). silent background, very fast, great remote. i was able to add some much upgraded speakers and turntable to it and am still satisfied, but will eventually want more watts.

tom

Monkey Mouse
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Re: Need some help on integrated amp choices

I picked up a Rotel integrated amp from my local dealer for $700 and have to say that it is one hell of a good sounding piece - even better considering the built in phono stage and other goodies.

linden518
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Re: Need some help on integrated amp choices

I think you should tell us what kinds of music you're into. I'm a newbie to the hi-fi, too, and have been auditioning gear, and I found that each amp has its own forte, and its weaknesses. One of the best all-arounders so far has been the Plinius 8150, which you might be able to find for $800-900 range. (It used to retail for $3000+ when it first came out.) It's got crazy juice (150w @ 8 ohms) as well as fluid musicality. This is what John Marks said about this older model Plinius, last year:

"I have rarely, only rarely, found a product that I said in print or electrons was "better" than products I was familiar with and cost more. Indeed the only instance I can remember was the original Plinius 8150 integrated amplifier, which IMHO out-performed some separates costing more, such as (IIRC) Aragon and B&K. I did not name names back then, but I was comfortable with the conclusion I was conveying."

That's a pretty strong endorsement, especially as he said that in audio asylum, & not in print. He also insinuates that he didn't find the recent models of Plinius integrateds better than the 8150. I just heard the amp two days ago, and will most likely go for it for my system in the living room.

The other good one I heard was the Primare I30. Very warm and musical. I'd say kind of like the Rega but with more power and precision. I saw one pop up in Audiogon for $1350, which seems like a bargain to me, but it was snatched up just as quickly.

But again: it all depends on the kind of music you're feeding into it... for example, I just love the Pathos Classic MK III, which is a hybrid SS-tube integrated rated at 70w @ 8 ohms, but I've also met people who could care less about its sound. It seems that how we differ in our preferences for audio gear differs as much as our musical tastes.

dcstep
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Re: Need some help on integrated amp choices

I don't know why the type of music played has anything to do with the amp choice. The amp should be able to drive the speakers to their full potential. IF the amp can do that and the speakers are full range then, generally, the combination can play any music genre equally well.

The compromise is usually made in the speakers, since not everyone has the money or space to run true full range speakers. So, if you opt for satellite speakers or mini-monitors, no amp is going to change the general behaviour of those speakers in a gross enough way that they'll suddenly be acceptable for a genre of music that they didn't work for before.

Plinius is a fine brand, but don't get hung up too much on a particular brand. Listen for yourself then research the customer support and reliability record, then buy with a clear head. Don't worry about what some reviewer says.

Dave

linden518
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Re: Need some help on integrated amp choices

"The amp should be able to drive the speakers to their full potential. IF the amp can do that and the speakers are full range then, generally, the combination can play any music genre equally well."

No disrespect, dcstep, but I couldn't disagree more. What you say above sounds good in theory, but in my own meager experience of auditioning gear, that was clearly not the case. (If it were, I'd already have my system by now, instead of this long auditioning process.) Each amp/speaker combo had distinct characteristics, some were good w/ playing a certain kind of music, and others not. For example, I tested 3 different integrateds on Devore 8s: Musical Fidelity A5, Pathos Classic MK III, and VTL IT-85. There was no doubt that these 3 amps could "drive the speakers to the full potential." Yet how they rendered music was distinctly different. Stravinsky's "Rite" (Gergiev/St. Petersburg) sounded fine enough on MF, but a couple of songs from Radiohead's "Amnesiac" were unlistenable, Thom Yorke's voice thin & grainy. Pathos did Radiohead better. On the VTL, his voice was just gorgeous, but the electronic tics & syncopations suffered in comparison to the Pathos & MF. The VTL also did the solo piano the best, Brahms Opus 118 intermezzos played by Lupu. Etc. etc... I think it's risky choosing an amp/speaker combo without considering which musical genres a particular amp/speaker combo is especially good at. I certainly wouldn't do it for myself; that'd be a waste of money if I got a set of shiny gear & they couldn't play some of my favorite music to my satisfaction. From my experience, it was rare that an amp/speaker combo was good at EVERY genre; some were better than others in orchestral music, others were better yet in solo, voice stuff, jazz, rock, etc etc. And hence inherent within my suggestion should have been the implication that there's only one way to find out: by taking a few of your favorite CDs and listening to the gear yourself, which means we agree, after all, about how to ultimately choose your system. It's good & valiant to say let's not pay attention to what a reviewer says, but let's get real: if that was the case, how were we led to the Stereophile forum in the 1st place & why do we have to assume that everything a reviewer says should be discounted? (Especially as John Marks was doing so in a public forum, not doing a review but defending the reason why more expensive gear does sound better in general; the Plinius 8150, according to him, subjectively, was the exception.) I'm not saying swallow everything whole; we're all old enough to know that what the reviewers hear & say are only a matter of subjective opinion. Just to consider everything w/ a grain of salt, and make your own choice in the end.

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