Integrated AMP recommendations around $500 considering my set up. Thanks! - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 02-15-2013, 08:57 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello everyone and thank you in advance for taking the time to look at this.

I am at an entry level stil, but like always, once you get into this it's hard to stop. I am a grad student so my budget is limited hence the not so impressive price point smile.gif I come to you guys/girls for any suggestions on an integrated amp as I feel this would be my next logical upgrade (I feel im not close to the speakers potential) before an external DAC and dedicated digital input.

Current set up:

- NAD C 515BEE CD Player
- Harman Kardon 3390
- Martin Logan Dynamo 500 sub
- BW-CM5 Speakers

I have everything runing through an entry level panamax power conditioner and I used entry level Audioquest cables.

Size does matter a bit since I plan to take it all back with me to Colombia in a few months.

I am looking into a NAD C 326BEE Stereo Integrated Amplifier nevertheless I am here for some suggestions smile.gif
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post #2 of 15 Old 02-15-2013, 10:10 AM
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I'm going to suggest you won't hear much difference between the 3390 and whatever you might replace it with. There is little difference between an integrated amp and a receiver - a tuner. What is your current setup lacking?

When all else fails - RTFM!

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post #3 of 15 Old 02-15-2013, 10:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Knucklehead90 View Post

I'm going to suggest you won't hear much difference between the 3390 and whatever you might replace it with. There is little difference between an integrated amp and a receiver - a tuner. What is your current setup lacking?

Sounds to me like he's got some incendiary money in his pocket. ;-)
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post #4 of 15 Old 02-15-2013, 11:06 AM
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I'm in agreement with Knucklehead90. As long as your HK is working, your in good shape.

Why is there NO perfect equipment, only compromises?
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post #5 of 15 Old 02-15-2013, 11:29 AM - Thread Starter
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Well thats great to hear! My believing that this would improve the sound came after I heard a dramatic change in my first system (Energy CB-10 speakers) and going from an insignia (i know, not good) to the more expensive sony at best buy ($150) to the HK. It was quite noticeable! so now that i've had this set up for a few months I began to wonder if there is a chance im not doing justice to the speakers by not upgrading the integrated AMP. (I never use the Tuner)

So would you say my money would be well spent on a used MAC mini and a Dragonfly DAC or better a Apple TV and a Cambridge Audio DAC Magic? smile.gif
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post #6 of 15 Old 02-15-2013, 03:40 PM
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Or you could try your hand at vinyl.
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post #7 of 15 Old 02-16-2013, 05:28 AM
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I owned a NAD C326BEE amplifier, and while I have upgraded to more expensive gear, it is a very nice amplifier.

On the other hand, your Harmon-Kardon receiver is not bad at all. I don't there there is much of an upgrade to be had there. To get a noticeable improvement in that area IMO will take $1000-1500; for example an Arcam A19 integrated amplifier or Creek Evolution 2 integrated amplifier.

Where you WILL hear a big upgrade in sound quality, would be to spend $500 on an OPPO BDP-103 CD/DVD player. That will be a major improvement in sound quality IMO over the CD player you have now, plus it plays SACD, DVD and Blu-ray discs also.
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post #8 of 15 Old 02-16-2013, 08:33 AM
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So would you say my money would be well spent on a used MAC mini and a Dragonfly DAC or better a Apple TV and a Cambridge Audio DAC Magic?
Absolutely not. If there's one thing that makes less sense than upgrading to an integrated amp, it's spending hundreds of dollars on a DAC. (A Mac Mini is fine as a server, but it's already got a DAC in it. If you have noise problems, good USB DACs can run <$50.)

Since you are happy, for now at least, with your speakers, I suggest you consider a modern AV receiver. You don't need the extra channels, but it will give you bass bass management for better integration of your sub and room correction. Plus a very good DAC that you can use with a Mac Mini or just about anything else digital.
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post #9 of 15 Old 02-17-2013, 05:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

Where you WILL hear a big upgrade in sound quality, would be to spend $500 on an OPPO BDP-103 CD/DVD player. That will be a major improvement in sound quality IMO over the CD player you have now

Although I'm a big fan of Oppo as well, the $500 is better spent elsewhere.
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post #10 of 15 Old 02-17-2013, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Absolutely not. If there's one thing that makes less sense than upgrading to an integrated amp, it's spending hundreds of dollars on a DAC. (A Mac Mini is fine as a server, but it's already got a DAC in it. If you have noise problems, good USB DACs can run <$50.)

Since you are happy, for now at least, with your speakers, I suggest you consider a modern AV receiver. You don't need the extra channels, but it will give you bass bass management for better integration of your sub and room correction. Plus a very good DAC that you can use with a Mac Mini or just about anything else digital.

What do you recommend when it comes to DACS and Airport Express? I am looking to add some digital streaming to my stereo. Looking for an affordable solution. Thanks
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post #11 of 15 Old 02-18-2013, 10:58 AM
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What do you recommend when it comes to DACS and Airport Express?
If you have an AVR, use an optical connection from the AE to the AVR.

If you don't have an AVR, use an analog connection from the AE, until you get an AVR.

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post #12 of 15 Old 02-18-2013, 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

If you have an AVR, use an optical connection from the AE to the AVR.

If you don't have an AVR, use an analog connection from the AE, until you get an AVR.

What if I don't plan on getting an AVR? I'm running a rotel pre/power 2 channel.
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post #13 of 15 Old 02-18-2013, 05:05 PM
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What if I don't plan on getting an AVR?
Then just use the analog out, obviously.

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post #14 of 15 Old 02-21-2013, 08:10 AM
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http://hifiheaven.net/store/Onkyo-A-9050-Integrated-Stereo-Amplifier-demo&currency=USD

This will give you $100.00 back in your pocket for other things. What I like about this integrated amplifier is the built in DAC, and it has a headphone jack. I don't own it, but if I had your budget, this is what I would start with. Then I would drool over the step-up model, the Onkyo A-9070.
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post #15 of 15 Old 02-21-2013, 09:14 AM - Thread Starter
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Yeah I looked into that one on there (great deal), I went and auditioned some integrated AMP's through my CM-5's at my local hifi shop and sadly the one where I felt a more noticeable difference was with the Arcam A-18,out of my budget for now. So I went ahead and took advantage of some Best Buy reward cash and got an Apple TV and then found an open box Arcam RLink so I just got that and ran those two through the optical (I sent the HDMI to my AVR) and then just to test out the DAC with the original cd in it I did a comparison using the Coax out from the CD player to the RLink vs. the built in DAC in the CD player (a 24/192 Delta/Sigma) and there was a noticeable diference specially in the Bass and a little bit more open soundstage. Also to see what diferences we could notice (i drug my brother that was in town and knows nothing of audio) I did the same file through the Apple TV-AVR set up (Denon 1712- Energy CB-10 L&R, CC-5 center and Take 5 satellites, ML dynamo 500 is shared between both HT and 2CH) this was a HUGE diference, I knew it would be different but not so noticeable compared to Apple TV - Arcam RLink - 2CH set up. Then just to see how it compared I played the same file through my Logitech Wireless Speaker Adapter for Bluetooth Audio Devices streamed through my phone (nexus 4 that has the same sample rate file in the computer via airplay) to the 2CH system, this was by far the biggest diference among the three DAC's (Built in CD player, RLink, and Logitech) and by far the worst.

I went through all set ups a few times and did sequencial comparisons among all 4 combinations and I noticed a couple things just from my empirical testing.

1) WAV and MP3 (328kbps) have a difference but very slight though the same DAC richer bass and more detail on the CD, for example we could hear someone else counting before the song began through CD and RLink that Ive never heard before.

2) DAC's do matter. I still believe there has to be a point of diminishing returns to where a $2k DAC wont be justified for me but $220 is well worth the improvement and ill invite anyone over to show them that a $40 DAC and a $250 one do sound different, or at least to my ears they do. And in this circumstance I much rather Airplay than burn MP3's and that alone is worth the money I spent as well.

I hope this made some sense and was hopefully helpful to someone smile.gif
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