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 Post subject: Boutique Amps Under 500?
PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 7:15 pm 
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Hi All,

I've been slowly upgrading my equipment and I think an integrated amplifier might be next in line :D My equipment is as follows.... Pro Ject Debut Carbon (Acrylic platter, 2M blue stylus.... not sure if this info matters but thought I'd throw it in), NAD 314 Integrated amp, PSB Century 800i floor speakers. I obviously want to get the most out of my system and would like to try an upgrade on the amp side of things. I'm new to this hobby so I don't know much about pre-amps and power amps and how to pair them so I was thinking I'd stick to a more straight forward connection with the integrated.

I'm not looking for something vintage, 2000's and up. Brands I've been looking at include Denon, Rotel, Marantz, NAD and so on....typical brands you see often

I've also seen brands like Bryston, Audiolab, Musical Fidelity, Creek and so forth....

So I come to you folks who have a wealth of knowledge to guide me in the right direction :P

Any suggestion on what I should be looking at? Are there any boutique or small companies that make nice amplifiers in the sub 500 price range?

Cheers!!


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 9:03 pm 
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Rega Mira integrated amplifier with MM phono. Includes Solar remote. (This integrated came on line in 2000. and now discontinued)
Item #649331874 Available at Audio EdenLTD

Rega Brio R ( The one from 2011 to 2016)

If you up your budget, the new for 2017, Rega Brio

All have an MM phono board included.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 9:27 pm 
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Boutique products tend to be pricey. A company has to have a certain volume and scale before they can build something at lower price point. I would stick to more tried and true audiophile brands at this point.

A few years back I went through a number of used integrated amps in the sub $500 range, and the one that I liked the most was a Arcam Delta 290 w/ optional phono board; that model is little old now, but Arcam has may other models you might consider. I've personally always liked the idea of buying my amp from a company that focuses on electronic components rather than turntables etc. If you're after something more recent, Cambridge Audio makes some integrated that offer great value.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 10:46 pm 
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Location: pincourt, QC, CA
I have a Grant Fidelity A34 Integrated Amp which puts out 50 watts has three inputs but no phono. Yaqin made the Grant Fidelity and I believe the Yaqin model was the ML 10 or 13. I use this amp in a second system with an imac as the source, Logitech Duet, and Mission 770 speaker this combo is really impressive. The Grant Fidelity replaced a Musically Fidelity A 300 that put out 150 wpc and cost two and a half as much. The tube amp simply sounded better in every respect. I'm sure you can find a used Yaqin for around the $500. mark I think you could find a decent phono stage for under $100. Since I've been using tubes it would have to be a very special solid state amp to make me switch back. Tubes just sound so right. I might be tempted to look for an A&R Cambridge A60 simply for nostalgia as the 770 speakers were often paired with low powered British amps like A&R, Creek, Naim (Nait), many people used these amps because they were relatively inexpensive which gave a finacially challenged owner the chance to have a really decent system until they afford Quads, Naim, Croft, Meridian etc.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 2:45 am 
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My vote is for something from Rotel. I own a RA-02 and has phono inputs, lots of input and output options, and this one is pretty much their entry level. Sounded better than my NAD though the NAD had more power, it had wooly and uncontrolled bass, IMO, and did not include a phono input...


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 3:10 am 
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My experience with different brands is somewhat limited, but I find Yamaha to be good value for the dollar. I have an older A-S500 that I would consider very good for its price point, and you should easily be able to find something comparable in a newer model at your price point. It's certainly not a boutique nameplate, but it might serve your purposes well and would definitely be worth auditioning if you get the chance.

As for boutique brands, I expect the best place to look at this price point would be Class D integrated amps. There's plenty of new stuff being produced all the time and you can probably find a pretty decent Class D, though likely with fewer features, among lesser known 'Boutique' brands for $500.00.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 3:59 am 
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Philosophil wrote:
My experience with different brands is somewhat limited, but I find Yamaha to be good value for the dollar.

+1

I think you need to re-evaluate your expectations. A 'boutique' integrated under $500? Maybe achievable in 1979 but in 2017? Nope.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 4:33 am 
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Thank you all for your suggestions! I should have mentioned I'm only wanting to listen to records through my system. Should i go a slightly different route and look for a better phono stage? Continue looking for integrated amps with a phono input (Rotel, Marantz, Arcam, Cambridge Audio, etc)

All the brands you folks mentioned sound great and I'll look into all of them. The Rega Mira looks like a nice unit as well as the Grant Fidelity and Yaqin. Not sure what a "Class D" amp is?

Cheers!!


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 5:11 am 
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As I'm sure you're aware, $500 really isn't that much in the world of audio. The first thing I think I'd do is decide if I wanted an integrated amp with a built in phono stage, or a separate phono stage. In either case I'd also be tempted to put my $500 aside and continue saving, especially if I were to opt for the integrated amp with phono stage. I'm not sure $500 will get you anything that would be an obvious improvement over your NAD.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 5:11 am 
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If you're mainly focused on vinyl, then check out this Yamaha AX 900U for $350:
http://www.canuckaudiomart.com/details/649329413-yamaha-ax-900u/
(no affiliation)

Here's a review that compares it against the Denon PMA-920 (115 W) and Sony TA-F707ES (100 W). The Yamaha was the clear winner:
http://www.thorntonhifi.com/battle-of-the-integrateds-sony-ta-f707es-vs-yamaha-ax-900u-vs-denon-pma-920.html

You are getting one monster of an amp for $350. Yamaha's phono stage will outperform your NAD by a wide margin.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 5:28 am 
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Just thinking about older NAD equipment. I haven't owned any for quite some years, but as I recall some of their integrated amps have preamp "in" and can therefore function as a power amp, bypassing the preamp functions. If that's the case with the 314, another option is to get a quality preamp with a good phono stage, and use the 314 simply as a power amp. In integrated amps its usually the preamp section that is the weakest, especially the phono section. The system can often be significantly improved by pairing the amp section with a stand-alone preamp.

Something like this Lazarus might do the trick:
http://www.canuckaudiomart.com/details/ ... ono-stage/


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 6:15 am 
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Location: Guelph, ON, CA
I think you definitely want to buy used. No moving parts to break like in a CD player so shipping is usually not a problem.

As part of my mid-life crisis I've been buying 20 year old amps that I wanted, but couldn't afford at the time. Some of them are remarkably good.

I picked up an Arcam Alpha 5 for $160.00 - It sounds fantastic.

A mint Sugden Optima 140 for $600 - Looks great and sound brilliant. It replaced my Nait 5 which sells used for about the same used.

A Sugden A28 for $350 that sounds great.

I've used them with small Totems and Harbeth PS3s. All represent great value for money. Depending on room size, I think you would be satisfied with any of the above. New you would have to spend at least $1,000.00 to get similar sound.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 6:17 am 
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Deegz wrote:
Hi All,

I've been slowly upgrading my equipment and I think an integrated amplifier might be next in line :D My equipment is as follows.... Pro Ject Debut Carbon (Acrylic platter, 2M blue stylus.... not sure if this info matters but thought I'd throw it in), NAD 314 Integrated amp, PSB Century 800i floor speakers. I obviously want to get the most out of my system and would like to try an upgrade on the amp side of things. I'm new to this hobby so I don't know much about pre-amps and power amps and how to pair them so I was thinking I'd stick to a more straight forward connection with the integrated.

I'm not looking for something vintage, 2000's and up. Brands I've been looking at include Denon, Rotel, Marantz, NAD and so on....typical brands you see often

I've also seen brands like Bryston, Audiolab, Musical Fidelity, Creek and so forth....

So I come to you folks who have a wealth of knowledge to guide me in the right direction :P

Any suggestion on what I should be looking at? Are there any boutique or small companies that make nice amplifiers in the sub 500 price range?

Cheers!!

First off your speakers are wonderful.
I know i owned the Psb 800i and they put out nicely.
Your table is great as well. If anything you could up your game on a better cartridge but thats up to you.
If you think you will get a 500 dollar improvement in sound over your Nad you will not.
It would be moving sideways at best.
Save up your cash and then shop.
It will really open your eyes and ears!

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 6:47 am 
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Chipmunk1957 wrote:
First off your speakers are wonderful.
I know i owned the Psb 800i and they put out nicely.
Your table is great as well. If anything you could up your game on a better cartridge but thats up to you.
If you think you will get a 500 dollar improvement in sound over your Nad you will not.
It would be moving sideways at best.
Save up your cash and then shop.
It will really open your eyes and ears!



I would agree.......and if you (Deegz) like the NAD sound there are usually some nice pieces for sale here, perhaps even a separate pre/amp setup....


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 7:28 am 
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Chipmunk1957 wrote:
If you think you will get a 500 dollar improvement in sound over your Nad you will not.
It would be moving sideways at best.


I disagree most wholeheartedly Chip!

Let's compare the specs between his NAD and the Yamaha AX 900U I mentioned above. THD is 0.03% vs 0.005%. The only measurement in which the NAD bests the Yamaha is in the line SNR (103dB vs 100 dB), which is so small that, for all intents and purposes, they are equal. The MM SNR difference however is huge (76dB vs 92dB). The Yamaha also has MC (not that the OP uses one) but this gives the OP more options in the future.

NAD 314:

Power output: 35 watts per channel (8Ω)
Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz
Total harmonic distortion: 0.03%
Damping factor: 100
Input sensitivity: 2.5mV (MM), 170mV (line)
Signal to noise ratio: 76dB (MM), 103.5dB (line)

Yamaha AX 900U:

Power output: 130 watts per channel (8Ω)
Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz
Total harmonic distortion: 0.005%
Damping factor: 150
Input sensitivity: 0.16mV (MC), 2.5mV (MM), 150mV (line)
Signal to noise ratio: 72dB (MC), 92dB (MM), 100dB (line)
Channel separation: 70dB (MM), 65dB (line)

The Yamaha is in a different league than the NAD. Note, I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with the NAD, but the statement that you won't be able to find an improvement over it for under $500 can be easily disproved. There are other examples of units that could best the NAD as well (e.g., Luxman, Hitachi, Kenwood/Trio, etc.).

As always, YMMV. :P

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