Input for Possible Amp Change/Upgrade

prepress -- Fri, 01/29/2010 - 09:31

I am contemplating a change in my amplification going forward, perhaps as a birthday or Christmas present to myself (funds permitting). I'm not really unhappy with what I have, but I've got a touch of "upgrade-itis" right now. I have assembled a tentative list of contenders, which with one exception are all monoblocks:
Odyssey Stratos
Odyssey Stratos Extreme
B&K Reference 200.1
Emotiva XPA-1
Cambridge Audio 840W (2 for bi-amping)
McIntosh MC501
In case it is useful to anyone, here is the associated system (mostly older stuff), which runs on a regular household line:
VPI HW19 MkIV turntable
Aragon 47k phono preamp
McIntosh MCD301 SACD/CD player
Pioneer DVL-91 combi-player
Denon TU-800 tuner
Pioneer Elite BDP-09FD
Audio Research LS3 preamp
B&K M-200 Sonata monos (2 pair)
Mirage M3-si speakers
Kimber Hero/Audioquest King Cobra/Black Mamba II interconnects
Kimber 8TC speaker cable
Sanus Euro racks, 8" between shelves
Of the amps, the 501s are at the extreme edge of what I might be able to spend; they're beyond my budget, actually. They also present logistical problems in that they are too big for my equipment racks, not to mention their weight. Even so, I thought to take some time to see if I can accomodate and afford them; if not, I'm prepared to move to another choice or stand pat with what I have. It's a 1-bedroom apartment, so space is at a premium. I've begun downloading and reading manuals for the amps, but if anyone owns or has experience with any of the amps on my list, input would be appreciated.

rwortman -- Sat, 01/30/2010 - 02:33

I would put the NAD C275BEE on that list too.  I just bought one and like it a lot.  The dealer I purchased it from has factory refurb units at 25% off of list too.

prepress -- Sat, 01/30/2010 - 20:51

Hello rwortman, is that NAD stereo or mono?

rwortman -- Sat, 01/30/2010 - 21:23

It is stereo and bridgeable for mono.  Your choice unless your speakers have too low an impedance for a bridged amp.

prepress -- Mon, 02/01/2010 - 13:56

 The speakers have 6 ohms nominal impedance, 4 ohms minimum. But doesn't bridging introduce some distortion?

rwortman -- Tue, 02/02/2010 - 23:49

Bridging will not necessarily introduce distortion but is probably not a good idea with your speakers. Why don't you think this amp will work in stereo? Most of the other amps you mentioned are stereo amps. NAD's amps have quite a bit of dynamic headroom. My PSB's are power hungry and this amp drives them with power to spare.

prepress -- Wed, 02/03/2010 - 06:00

Actually, of that list, only the Cambridge is a stereo amp. I've come to prefer monoblocks, for both practical and sonic reasons. My main concern isn't power per se, as any of the amps on my list will drive the Mirages, but whether I can get the same or better performance out of one pair of amps if possible (though I'm not opposed to using two pair, as I do now). Sometimes more power equals better sound/control. Still, I should check out the NAD.

rwortman -- Wed, 02/03/2010 - 08:01

The Stratos is available either as a stereo amp or as a mono amp.  I am not familiar with the B$K or the Emotiva so I just assumed.  Personally, I think the only reason to purchase mono amps is to have the shortest possible speaker wire or to get more power than is available in a stereo amp.  Anything over 40 or 50 db of stereo seperation is more than enough for imaging and any stereo amp will far exceed that.  Most phono cartridges are only around 30'ish no one says a turntable set up won't image.  I am sure any of the amps on your list will sound fine.  Unless cost isn't an object, I would look for the best bargain and my NAD as a factory refresh was around $900.  I think it is a steal at that price.

prepress -- Wed, 02/03/2010 - 16:16

 I took a look at the NAD amp, and my speakers have a 6 ohm nominal impedance, 4 ohms minimum, so it doesn't look as if bridging would be an option. Because of my setup and preferences I need monoblocks. If I had a simpler system, though, the NAD would look like a real candidate. NAD's equipment has a reputation for good sound.

prepress -- Tue, 02/09/2010 - 10:14

Update: I have pretty much eliminated the McIntosh amps due to cost and weight. The JC 1s may follow suit unless I come across a good deal. Buying either of these (the 501 in particular) would mean going into debt or my emergency fund, not a smart thing in this economy and the possibility of pay cuts looming at work.
Odyssey also has their top-of-the-line Kismet monos, which I will investigate as well. These retail for much less than the JC 1 or 501.

prepress -- Tue, 02/09/2010 - 10:19

 Update: I've all but eliminated the 501 due to cost; the latest MSRP puts it well beyond my budget. Unless I find a fantastic deal, it will stay that way. I have become aware of Odyssey's new Kismet monos, and am looking into them.

prepress -- Sat, 02/20/2010 - 06:15

Further update: The 501 and JC 1 are back on the list, and the Cambridge is gone. Solidifying my criteria, sound quality alone isn't the issue but also power consumption, maintenance needs, etc. The 501, despite is specs, will be very efficient and consumes almost 1/3 the power at idle, runs cool, and is built like a tank. It's also very heavy. The JC 1 is cheaper, not as heavy (still no lightweight) and should be good. I'd prefer black, however, and it will cost more to operate over the long haul, potentially important in my later years when money's tighter.
Two e-mails to Odyssey haven't yielded any replies. I had a nice conversation with B&K. My last e-mail to Emotiva went unanswered also. The investigation continues.

prepress -- Mon, 03/08/2010 - 12:56

There is talk of layoffs at work (due to the budget woes of NY) in a couple of months or so unless something happens, so that will put a clamp on any purchase I might make for now. I need to see what happens with that. Even if I'm not one of the casualties, the situation points to a new perspective on this process. I wasn't going to buy right away anyhow, but I would still need to question spending a great deal of money on this. The Macs are a five-figure purchase; I probably shouldn't go there. The JC1s can be had factory-refurbished for much less. Odyssey's top-of-the-line Kismet amps would be cheaper still (though there is that long break-in time).
I'm still doing research, though more casually. A lot will depend on what happens in May, when the layoffs would likely start.

prepress -- Sat, 05/01/2010 - 08:40

Still no update on the work situation, but I am moving cautiously ahead with research, though more subdued. I'm looking at the Stratos Extreme monos, while also wanting to make some quality time with my current setup.

prepress -- Sun, 08/29/2010 - 17:13

Update: two weeks ago I purchased a pair of McIntosh MC501s. They haven't been delivered yet, as I'm waiting on replacement pillars to modify my equipment racks first; the 501 is too tall for the shelves as is. I plan for this to be my last major purchase audio-wise, unless something needs replacing for whatever reason.
Meantime, I need to go into beans-and-rice mode for about three months.

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