Which is the better option for a two channel system with budget of $1,500-$2,000? Budget is for Amplification only, not source units or loudspeakers.
There is definitely more than one way to skin the proverbial cat here. Better for what or whom?
My first answer in this price range would be the Integrated Amp. However, I am hesitant to deal in absolutes and pick one of the above choices without qualifying my answer and ascertaining what the objective(s) is/are.
There are pros/cons of each.
Not many 2-channel models left... haven't exactly counted the offerings in the 2006 Stereophile Buyer's Guide but I don't think there's a whole lot. NAD 720BEE comes to mind... at a paltry $599. Music Hall's Maven at ~ $1400 is another.
Save $ with one less interconnect? Many really good ones at this price range, imho. Musical Fidelity, Creek, Audio Analogue, NAIM, NAD, Rotel, Cambridge Audio...
At this price range my personal preferences forces the question: Why bother? I haven't experienced many in this price range that offer that big of a jump in performance NAD has a nice sounding combination for less than $1400. Fairly powerful too. As does Rotel. Perhaps Audio Analogue?
John Marks had good remarks about a Harmon Kardon receiver for use as a possible 2nd system. They have models for under $500 with phono stages. In this price range you need to spend most on the speakers. The Creek and the Unison Unico models rate high. I would sure look at the affordable Jolida tube gear. For the money great bang for the buck and visually very cool. www.jolida.com
I voted other only because I think either an integrated or pre/amp combination is reasonable given this budget. Personally, I could easily be more than satisfied with an integrated and the choices would be almost limitless; tubes, solid state, phono section, line level and amplification up to about 80 watts.
I'm really curious about the new NuForce preamp that should be debuting any day now. I hope Stereophile will review it following the review of the amp already scheduled.
Thank You all for the excellent input. This will be for my primary music room in my den( I already have an Onkyo/Infinity surround system for the DLP in the family room which is plenty good enough for my wife's requirements). My den is about 12 by 14. My speakers are Infinity kappa 400's having sensitivity of 90 and 4-6 ohn impedance. I listen to mainly classic rock n'roll at low to moderately loud volumes. My desire is to upgrade to an amplifier that sounds significantly better than my H-K receiver at lower volumes. At loud volumes my current receiver performs adequately.
Is anyone familiar with the Adcom or Parasound brands? I have found an on-line authorized dealer with prices for separates that would fit my budget.
I have also found a Creek integrated amplifier for approximately $1,500.00. However, it appeared to be a very Spartan unit without balance or tone controls. Is this a concern or is the quality so good that tone controls are unneccesary? I don't often use the tone controls but on some recordings they seem to be helpful.
MInimal experience with Adcom and Parasound. What little I have heard of the Adcom left me with an average impression. Fairly powerful and dynamic but for the price, there are better choices in overall musicality and especially soundstaging and resolution. My impression of the Parasound was more favorable.
Personally, I would never buy hi-fi components sound unheard. Perhaps you can find a local dealer that stock these brands. A dealer's expertise can be invaluable and add more value than whatever savings can be gleaned via an online retailer. I have a feeling you might find either brand to be an improvement over the HK you currently have- especially considering your musical taste.
The only $1,500 Creek integrated amp I know of is the 5350SE (now known as the Classic 5350SE). This is one kicking integrated. It's been on Stereophile's list of Recommended Components since it's release some time ago. Personally, I would prefer this to any of the Adcom or Parasound offerings in this price range.
Tone controls are a matter of personal preference. Purists might blanch at the thought but the flexibility offered by tone controls cannot be summarily dismissed.
That said, I tend to lean a bit towards the purist camp- aside from compensating for poor recordings or perhaps a slightly less than ideal room acoustic- I find little value in tone controls. Much "hi-fi" control & amplification equipment won't have them as they are additional (and potentially polluting) circuitry in the signal path.
Good luck shopping. Cheers!
I have seen a slightly better price...if I can locate it I will send it along. The Creek is Class A Stereophile rated. With in it's power rating it ranks among the best. You could do much, much worse. Do not dismis the minimalist design of the Creek gear. It is that way for a good reason. The Parasound gear is very good as well. You will find at this price level decisions can be difficult. www.musichallaudio.com
Check the website of www.jolida.com and look at the JD 1000 EL34 tube based integrated at 100wpc. This is one manly amp with great sound. Check pricing at www.underwoodhifi.com They also have a new tube DVD player which I have not heard. This amp or the Creek would be a good jump up in quality. Since you play vinyl you would love the Jolida. Check with Underwood about a Unison Unico as it is Stereophile rated as well. www.unisonresearch.com
Plug-in phono cards are avaialble for the Creek and the Unison Unico.
I decided to go with separates. I just won the auction for a Bryston 2B LP power Amp on e-bay. The 60WPC was slightly less than I originally intended. However I do not believe I will need more than that and decided to go with the consensus that the first watt is the most important watt.
Halfway there, Pre-amp search on deck.