Integrated Amplifiers...which one & how to choose

okemomagic -- Thu, 05/28/2009 - 21:33

The Soundcraftsmen Power Amplifier (MA 5002) that I have been using in my "secondary system" since the 1970's must be replaced. The preamp in this system is from the early 1980's so I plan to replace it as well. I've decided for the sake of  "simplicity"  to purchase an integrated amp. Since this is not my primary system I'd like to keep the cost to $2,000 but in any event no more than $2,500. The other  components in this system are Bang & Olufsen Beovox M-100 Loudspeakers, Rega Appollo CD Player, Panamax Max 5100 Line Conditioner, and Tara Labs Interconnects. I plan to use a Shunyata Sidewinder Power Cable. Since there are so many "rave reviews" of so many integrated amps, and since I can't audition each one in my home, how do I decide what to purchase? What would be a good match with the other components in the system? I tend to listen to music fairly loud, and I'm somewhat concerened that some of the units that I'm thinking of purchasing may not provide enouh power (especially since I do not know the sensitivity of the B & O's). I am thinking of purchasing one ofthe following four units.
1) Marantz PM-15s1G
2) Simaudio Moon i-1
3) Vincent SV-236 Mark 2
4) Naim Nait 5i
Does anyone have any thoughts on any of these units? Which one of these (or any other) will be a good match for this system? Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks...

Robert Harley -- Fri, 05/29/2009 - 10:00

All those are good candidates. The new Mk.II version of the Vincent SV-236 looks quite appealing with the upgraded parts and power increase from 100Wpc to 150Wpc with no price increase. We liked the original SV-236 quite a bit.
 
Although we haven't yet heard the Simaudio Moon i-1, their other integrated amps (and their entire product line, for that matter) are outstanding.
 
The Naim Nait 5i is a classic. It offers modest output power, but wonderful musicality. The Nait series of integrated amplifiers has won more TAS Editors' Choice, Golden Ear, and Product of the Year awards than any other product in any category.
 
I don't know anything about the B&O loudspeakers, but consider their sensitivity when choosing an amplifier. Since you say you like to listen fairly loudly, power output might be the primary consideration, particularly if your speakers of of lowish sensitivity (below 86dB).

okemomagic -- Fri, 05/29/2009 - 12:24

Robert,
Thank you for the response. I have read nice things about the Marantz. I am also told told their "reputation" has recently been enhanced since they were purchased by Philips. Any truth to this rumor? Are you familiar with the Marantz integrated amp I listed? If power output is a concern, does that disqualify the Naim and the Simaudio? Lastly, is it a concern that the Vincent is made in China (even if designed in Germany)? Thanks again.

OKEMOMAGIC

Robert Harley -- Fri, 05/29/2009 - 16:06

Marantz was at one time owned by Philips, but it has since became part of D&M Holdings, the parent company of McIntosh, Snell, Boston Acoustics, Denon, and Marantz. I'm not familiar with the Marantz integrated you mention, but the next issue of TAS includes Neil Gader's review of the PM-11S2.
 
The Vincent is designed in Germany and built in China. The Simaudio is designed and built in Canada, and the Naim is designed and built in England.
 
I wouldn't let the country of origin determine your selection.

Ulah -- Fri, 07/03/2009 - 14:14

Robert,
 
Given the state of this countries economy and our trade defecate someone had better start worrying about country of origin or the Great Depression will look like a Sunday School Picnic. Electronics of the Audio, Video and a whole lot of other thing help give a big push tom our trade deficits’.   The folks in your industry seem to be woefully ignorant of the economic precipice that we are perched on and the fact that China is not our friend. China owns more of us that we have any idea.
 
Just my 2 cents

Ulah

Donnie (not verified) -- Sun, 07/05/2009 - 01:44

 I'll second this reply. "I wouldn't let the country of origin determine your selection" Robert you should be ashamed of yourself for this comment. Especially considering your position. I know I am ashamed of you.
 

Ulah -- Sun, 07/05/2009 - 05:02

Given the state of this countries economy and our trade deficit, someone had better start worrying about country of origin or the Great Depression will look like a Sunday School Picnic.  Electronic importing for the Audio and Video industry combined with a whole lot of other thing’s have helped give a big push to our trade deficits’.   The folks in your industry seem to be woefully ignorant of the economic precipice that we are perched on and the fact that China is not our friend. China owns a larger portion of our national trade deficit/debt than the average person has any idea.
 
Please accept my apologies for the typo on line 1 of my 1st post. 16+ hours of fireworks (US neighborhood and not combat) and trying to get a Back Labrador properly medicated was a bit much yesterday.  1st bang was at 10 AM with the dog whimpering and the haze was so thick last night that you couldn’t see street lights one block over.

Ulah

okemomagic -- Sat, 05/30/2009 - 09:41

Can anyone describe the "difference in sound" between these four models? Thanks!

OKEMOMAGIC

infotrad (not verified) -- Thu, 06/04/2009 - 15:06

Go for the Naim Nait:  it is simply extraoridinary.

audiomaniac (not verified) -- Fri, 06/05/2009 - 10:47

 May I suggest you have a listen to the CREEK Destiny integrated as well. In my opinion it is better than any of the other units you have been considering (The Nait 5i being a fairly close second). I hear that the Electrocompaniet is also very nice but rather costly. The Creek offers the biggest bang for the buck.

Ulah -- Fri, 07/03/2009 - 14:15

 
I have a real problem with the importer Music Hall and his technical expertise or lack of. 
 
This comes from personal experience on one of the other Music Hall lines not with the Creek line. If you have no problems great, but the gentleman has a total lack of understanding of voltage fluctuation issues on the lines he represents.
 
Biggest bang for the buck is great until you need assistance and need an informed answer.

Ulah

Donnie (not verified) -- Sun, 07/05/2009 - 01:48

 If your open to the idea of preowned, check out the Krell KAV400i. Fast, detailed,powerful (200w per chan.) pure, and did I mention powerful?

McBrion (not verified) -- Fri, 11/06/2009 - 19:51

 I have to say, I owned the Vincent SV-236 for two years. I did like the unit, but it seemed a bit too undynamic for me. I also thought the mid-bass a bit underpowered, but I've seen reviews that say otherwise, so...
NAD's BEE series is quite, quite good. Very powerful in the mid-bass, which helps establish  a sense of the musicians "being there," besides being the foundation of the orchestra. Also, quite good on imaging and soundstaging and, for an amp of that pedigree, capable considerable delicacy and dynamic shadings. I used to listen to the Saturday afternoon at the Met performances and they kicked you-know-what!! It didn't have great mid-highs, but overall, I liked it better than the Vincent (which cost 5 times the NAD 320BEE). Of course, I did have it paired with Sound Dynamics RTS-3s, which have zero grain in them, so you hear the continuousness of a sounstage.
The Nait is also great.

Johlke (not verified) -- Mon, 06/29/2009 - 15:14

I'm running a Vincent SV-236 connected to Canton Vento 809 speakers with Kimber 8TC cabling.  The only changes I've made to the Vincent integrated amp is that I replaced the stock Chinese tubes with Telefunkens and added brass tube anchor/heat sinks from Mapleshade.  While I certainly mean no disrespect to your other choices, the Vincent sounds absolutely wonderful, warm, spacious, and clean.  If I had to do it all over again I'd stick with the Vincent.

C (not verified) -- Thu, 07/02/2009 - 11:14

I don't think you can go wrong wtih any of those models but I personally own the Marantz PM-15S1 and love it.  To the best of my knowledge, the only difference between my unit and the one you are looking at is the color of the chassis.  On a side note, I was at a HIFI show in Michigan and the Marantz rep told me about the new PM-15S2 as well the PM-KI.  I think he said they would be out in August or September. 
C
 

C (not verified) -- Thu, 07/02/2009 - 11:14

I don't think you can go wrong wtih any of those models but I personally own the Marantz PM-15S1 and love it.  To the best of my knowledge, the only difference between my unit and the one you are looking at is the color of the chassis.  On a side note, I was at a HIFI show in Michigan and the Marantz rep told me about the new PM-15S2 as well the PM-KI.  I think he said they would be out in August or September. 
C
 

paulseydor (not verified) -- Thu, 07/02/2009 - 11:24

 Depending on where the budget is, I would certainly listen long and hard to the Plinius--I forget what the model number is that Neil G has, but it's one of the best I've ever heard. Then too there are the new Luxman models; the one I reviewed for TAS is a really honey in every way, assuming its 30/channel class A is sufficient (it sounds MUCH more powerful); if it isn't, Luxman has more powerful models. Finally, I know I sound like a broken record on this, but you can get a Quad Series 99 preamp and 909 power amp for much less than the price of many integrated amplifiers. This is a combination I frequently have hooked up, not because I have to but just because I LIKE them so much. Finally, very pricey but extremely rugged and very good are the McIntosh integrateds. I think one or two of them may even have the cool blue meters.

Lungo (not verified) -- Sat, 02/27/2010 - 09:08

Agreed 100% with Quad 99/909 assessment. In my main setero rig I have Krell KRC-3 driving 2 x 909 which are bi-amping Neat Motive 1 floorstanders. Source is Mac Mini connected to the Quad CDP-2 Toslink input and then into Krell. This setup is crisp, transparent and totally digital sounding. Quad rules.

In my other TV setup in the living room I have Quad 99 driving Quad 306 and Monitor Audio Radius R90 bookshelf speakers. Another winner!

In my 3rd setup I got Audio Refinement DD/DTS processor driving Quad 12L Active speakers - amazing.

As you can see Quad rules in my house ;-)

Audionirvana (not verified) -- Thu, 07/02/2009 - 11:35

 All decent choices above!
I don't have anything against things being built overseas, the issue I am having if we keep on farming out our manufacturing to the Chinese, eventually most of the consumers in the UK and USA won't be able to even afford the the less expensive, so called audiophile pieces. Lets not mention the amount of technology the chinese are stealing from us just to make there own knock offs or there own brands that are similar. We can keep on ignoring this time and time again when people in the UK and USA are being laid off by the millions by the same companies that use to build product in those respective countries. Now I got that off my chest.. ;) I do like the following:
Plinius 9200
Musical Fidelity
Krell not the new unit because of where it is built... ;)

SimAudio
Naim gear sounds great, I just don't like the airplane black box look. 
I would add Rotel to the list as well. 1062 a classic...
I do like the new BEE units by NAD but here we go again...
I did like the Vincent Gear, but just won't buy it. 
 

Ted (not verified) -- Thu, 07/02/2009 - 14:48

 I would recommend putting the Bryston integrated amps on your list also.  Their DAC can be incorporated into the amp as well - 20 year warranty on the amp, 5 year on the DAC, designed and built in North America.  Very neutral and built like a tank.  In all honesty, in this day and age, I don't think you can go too far wrong with any of the amps you mention.  Try them all if you can under similar circumstances or get loaners if possible - all the advice won't be able to tell you what your ears can or cannot hear though.  And making the decision is half the fun of getting a new amp!  Good luck.

Biggen (not verified) -- Fri, 07/03/2009 - 02:37

Read this and be convinced:
http://www.avguide.com/review/vincent-sv-236-hybrid-integrated-amplifier

bannister_from_oz (not verified) -- Fri, 07/03/2009 - 02:56

If you're buying an integrated, there's only one I'd consider:  a Manley Stingray.  Killer valve sound, reasonable price $2250USD and bullet proof build.  I have two Manley preamps:  a Shrimp in my secondary system and a Neoclassic 300B.  I use them with conrad-johnson and Quad power amps.  Wonderful sound.  If I could bring myself to part with the c-j and Shrimp in my office, I'd replace them with a Stingray.  Absolutely wonderful products.  They just let the music come through.  All your favourite friends will sing to you in their true voices.

chris (not verified) -- Fri, 07/03/2009 - 08:05

I owned a Marantz pm 15. The problem was loss of dynamics after many hours of listening. I could sell it for a good price and bought a Primare i30 and I love it. Great dynamics compared to the Marantz. The longer it's on power the better it gets.

pablocaso (not verified) -- Mon, 07/06/2009 - 00:12

hi,
personally i would toss between the sim audio or the naim. in the end i would buy the sim audio, which i already did for myself. it retails in the US alot cheaper than overseas like europe so in a way its considered a bargain. i was seeking an amp to drive my 4ohm dynaudio 1.3se, and the rotel 1062, nor my parasound seperates could do it. the sim audio did it perfectly and effortlessly strainfree. even with a mere 50watt, its clean and clear, at low volume and high volume. no regrets, its a great amp! i think they have a recent review from sterophile.
-pablo

pmindemann -- Mon, 07/06/2009 - 10:12

OP, you mention that you'd prefer an integrated for the simplicity, but for the $2k or so budget that I'm guessing you have, you could do VERY well with pre-owned separates that are only a few years old and that would offer superior performance to just about any integrated at this level. I moved from a $1,800 integrated to pre-owned separates of the same value and found significant improvements in just about every area. Just something to consider.

naijeru -- Mon, 07/06/2009 - 10:38

 "OP, you mention that you'd prefer an integrated for the simplicity, but for the $2k or so budget that I'm guessing you have, you could do VERY well with pre-owned separates that are only a few years old and that would offer superior performance to just about any integrated at this level."
 
Right, separates offer superior performance to integrated amps except at being integrated.

pmindemann -- Mon, 07/06/2009 - 11:06

Agreed, except I don't really see the appeal...   the cost of a pair of interconnects is worth a decrease in performance? Ok, yes, they are physically two boxes and require 2 power outlets and two shelves. But other than those things, there's really not much difference except that integrateds almost never sound as good. I mean, even the operation is the same with the addition of one extra power button. I guess it comes down to whether or not you value the aesthetics of one box over two more than the improvement in sound quality. And if you're serious enough to spend at least $2k on it, I'm not sure why you'd pick the one that likely doesn't sound as good. But to each his own.

naijeru -- Mon, 07/06/2009 - 11:47

I don't see what budget has to do with seriousness, or what seriousness has to do with integrated amps or separates. Is a person who's willing to spend $500 less serious than someone willing to spend $50,000? Considering that many people see even $200 as a major outlay for audio equipment, I'd say both shoppers have entered into "serious" territory. There's even a good chance the guy spending 50 grand may give less thought to his purchase, and thus achieve an inferior result, than the guy spending $500. But like you say, to each his own. I think it's great that there are so many configurations available such that the person who wants to spend money on hi-fi can get what he wants at the price he's comfortable with paying.

pmindemann -- Mon, 07/06/2009 - 13:00

You make a good point. My thought was only that at the price level of equipment that the OP is considering and his post of the question on this forum, I thought it fair to assume that sound quality was a fairly important criteria. And if that is the case, I thought he would do better with separates for the same money.

Prince (not verified) -- Tue, 07/07/2009 - 19:12

Hi Robert!
I humbly request your help or anybody's guidance: I am not a hi-fi specialist but I love music (no home-theater) and am rather picky in terms of sound quality. I would like to purchase a 2-channel stereo integrated amplifier and am not really familiar with the market. Three important things: my budget cannot go over $500, I do need the device to include a phono input, and ideally I would prefer an amp with a dual volt option because I am relocating from NY to Europe and taking it with me. Also, I should mention that I am more into durability than sophistication...I am aware that my budget is rather limited, but what is the best possible amp I can get for that kind of money? I am kind of lost and would highly appreciate your suggestions!
Thanks!

Prince (not verified) -- Tue, 07/07/2009 - 19:44

Me again! I just want to add that I checked the Marantz PM5003; it does have a phono input but works on a 120V Outlet only. On the other hand, the Cambridge Audio Azur 540A seems to offer a Voltage Selector Switch to 230V, but doesn't have a phono input!..any similar item that would offer both a phono input and a voltage selector switch (it would be perfect if it also included A+B speakers system!)...
Thanks again.

Robert Harley -- Thu, 07/09/2009 - 10:45

The Cambridge 540A V2 is probably the best integrated amp under $500, but as Prince noted, lacks a phonostage. If you can stretch your budget, the Rega Brio has an excellent integral phonostage ($695). I don't know if it's dual voltage, but I suspect that it is given that it's made in England and sold all over the world.

uhclem -- Tue, 07/21/2009 - 21:07

Hi - I've been following this thread because I'm also looking to upgrade my integrated amp (an NAD C-370).  PS Audio offers an integrated amp, the Trio C-100 control amp.  I'm pleased with their power conditioning products (I use the in-wall Soloist Premier), their power cables and the GCPH Phono Pre-amp.  Does anyone have any thoughts about the Trio C-100?  Specifically how it measures up sonically to the other integrated amps mentioned in this thread.  I'm leaning towards the Vincent right now.  I have a pair of psb silveri speakers and a Rega P-5 turntable with the outboard control.   THANKS for any feedback.  

krellman (not verified) -- Thu, 09/10/2009 - 19:49

This is easy Krell400xi  great sound,power built like a tank in Connecticut USA

Hylas (not verified) -- Tue, 10/20/2009 - 20:17

Can anyone provide an opinion on the Marantz PM15S2 suitability for hard to drive speakers such as the Dynaudio Audience 82? Does the Marantz tend to heat up a bit? Also, has anyone had any experience with an Italian brand called Audia Flight? Cheers.

odiwan (not verified) -- Thu, 11/05/2009 - 13:41

Kylas I have a Marantz PM15S1, with a SA15S1 and Sonus Faber Cremona Auditor, hard to drive too, chord epic twin wire, and it works fine, perhaps better with more current, like a Krell, but no problems
regards
 

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