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cjkocher's picture
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Feb 17 2009 - 9:21am
how to upgrade from an integrated to separates?

I'm contemplating an upgrade to my system, and I'm curious about moving from my Musical Fidelity A3.2 integrated to separates. The catch is, I can't afford to buy both a good new pre amp and power amp at the same time. My MF has a pre-out, so that would mean I could use it just as a pre amp and buy a new power amp, correct? It also has an AUX 2 input which is described in the manual as "1 pair direct power amplifier input RCA connectors." It says it is "for home theater use. When selected, they are routed inside the A3.2 directly to the power amplifier circuit, which is not controlled by the volume adjustment." Does this mean that I could buy a new pre amp and use only the power amp part of my integrated?

If I am able to do either of these routes to upgrading, what would you recommend--buying a new pre and continuing to use my MF as a power amp, or buying a new power amp and using my MF only as a pre amp.

At this time, I think I could afford around $1,500-2,000 for a new pre or power. Do you think that would be a significant upgrade to what I have now? In pre amps, I'm very curious about the Conrad-Johnson Classic. Not sure what I'd consider in the power amp category in that price range.

Or maybe it would be wiser to update my source first? You can check out my system at .


commsysman's picture
Last seen: 2 days 11 hours ago
Joined: Apr 4 2006 - 11:33am
Re: how to upgrade from an integrated to separates?

The problem is that most really good preamps are $3000 and up.

The PS Audio TRIO P-200, however, would sound lots better than what you have and is only $1200 or so; you could use that with the power amp section of your MF until you can afford a really good power amp to go with it. The P-200 offers fabulous sound for the money; the trade-off is that it is minimalist in some ways; no tone controls, no balance control, and only 3 inputs. If you can live with that, however, it is a bargain.

The next step up would be something like an Audio Research LS-17 or the BAT VK-31x; either of those would be very very nice-sounding indeed! I would go to one of them if you are OK with the $3000 range for a preamp.

Bryston is the way to go for a new power amp eventually, I think, unless you are a big fan of tubes (which I am not...too many reliability troubles with the tubes, plus limited bass...). I just bought the Bryston 3B-SST2, and it is to die for; amazingly transparent and quiet, with bass so realistic it puts most others on the back burner.

mrlowry's picture
Last seen: 5 months 4 weeks ago
Joined: May 30 2006 - 1:37pm
Re: how to upgrade from an integrated to separates?

The most traditional upgrade path has always been to us an integrated as a preamp and add an external amp, but that was mostly because very few integrated amps had a unitary gain input. One way to think of it would be that if you use it as a preamp the power amp section will still be active and creating electrical noise thus reducing resolution. One the other hand I've always thought that all things being equal (and they rarely are in audio) having more power is always a good thing. But the speakers that you are using are supposed to be pretty efficient. I'm sure that it would really boil down to which was the relative weak link in the Musical Fidelity, the preamp section or the amp section. A good course of action would be to take the MF into a local dealer and try it both ways to see which gives the best return on "investment." If you don't have a local dealer pick a path and go with it realizing that neither is ideal and is a temporary situation on the path to separates.

greenelec's picture
Last seen: 3 years 5 months ago
Joined: Feb 10 2006 - 12:37am
Re: how to upgrade from an integrated to separates?

What is it you find lacking in your present setup? Detail, volume, warmth, balance (tone wise)? Detail, tone, are generally preamp issues. Volume, warmth, usually are amp issues.
If you can define what you want, it can help you make your decision. I have bought new gear for no other reason other than I wanted to.
Go to a good dealer and listen to lots of gear, although sadly, this is hard to do nowdays.

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