New Amp ~$1250 budget - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 02-24-2013, 01:21 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi Guys / Gals,


I am in the market for a new amp, as my 20yr old Studio Standard by Fischer is showing its age.

I am looking to spend around $1250, but that is more of a guide line, as without it I will get into trouble with the misses.

The main systems I am looking at are the Cambridge Audio Azur 651A ~$880, Rotel RA-1520 ~$1150 integrated amps, or going with a full system my Emotiva ~$870.

For Emotiva it would be the USP-1 Pre amp, and the XPA-200 Amp.

I am driving a pair of Paradigm Mini Monitors with the system, most of my music is digital and I will be purchasing a DAC a few months after the initial Amp purchase.

I have heard the Cambridge Audio 651a on my speakers last year, but it has been so long that I really can't recall just how it sounded. My only local shop can order in the Rotel / Cambridge audio, but they don't stock either of them. Which means that no matter what system I choose out of the 3 I don't have a chance to audition them prior to purchase. I will have a 1 month home audition for any of the systems, but I still wont be able to test them all and then decide.

My main questions are: What are your thoughts quality wise, experience wise, and audio wise (Sound stage, warmth, audio reproduction etc) I am well aware that everyone hears sound differently, and one system will sound better for me then you but I am just looking for a baseline between the 3 options. Also, which system will be the best option for future growth?

The Paradigms I have were what hooked me on high end audio and as such I have 0 experience with the Hi-Fi market. My current Receiver is being borrowed (have been borrowing it for over a year now, so I should return it one of these days)

Thanks,

Scott
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post #2 of 18 Old 02-24-2013, 08:22 PM
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Of all those choices I'd get the Emotiva gear and be done with it. You shouldn't expect to hear much difference between any of those amps/integrated or preamp/amp combos. You should expect to hear a lot of differences with different speakers.

The reason I suggest Emotiva is I've owned a lot of gear through the years - including lot of Emotiva gear. I still have a full home theater speaker setup. For the money there wasn't anything better around - and they sound great. I currently own a USP-1 I use in a small 2 channel vinyl setup in my back room powered by one of their mini-x100 amps. The USP-1 is as transparent as any preamp - integrated - or receiver I've ever owned. Its very good for the money. It has a few idiosyncrasies however. The display cannot be dimmed. It has home theater bypass but you can't use the full range outputs of the preamp if you want to use it in a home theater bypass setup. If you are going to use it in a stand-alone 2 channel setup this would not be a concern. The XPA-200 amp has enough power for most any speaker you'd want to drive.

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post #3 of 18 Old 03-01-2013, 10:37 AM
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i just got a 651A not to long ago and man its a nice amp, blows my old denon away for me it was either NAD, Mirantz or the cambridge. my shop no longer had NAD stuff and they were out of Mirantz intergrated amps, i had heard cambridge amps before and really liked them, so i listened to one again and took it home after asking if i could bring it back if i did not like it with my speakers and being told i could

basically i am really glad i got this amp it sounds really good and it seems to be extremely good quality, watch the video about it on their website, i was quite impressed with what they had to say about it and how its made and the features and all that

my buddy has a emotiva H/T set up and it sounds killer for movies, pretty darn good for music too so emotiva would probably not be a bad choice either. i have read lots of good reviwes on their stuff too.
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post #4 of 18 Old 03-01-2013, 05:39 PM
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$1200 to spend on an amp to drive Mini Monitors is wrong. Sell the Minis and buy a pair of Studio 20 since you like Paradigm speakers.
Don't spend more than $500 on the amp. If I were you I'd buy used.
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post #5 of 18 Old 03-01-2013, 06:10 PM
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^Agreed on all counts. Over $1k is WAY, WAY too much to be spending on an amp in that setup....

If you insist on buying an integrated amp or separates, buy used and save a ton of $$.

Better still, get an AVR and be done with it. No need for a DAC then, either.

Sound quality differences between various amp brands are way overstated on many forums. Don't waste time or $$ chasing that rainbow.

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post #6 of 18 Old 03-02-2013, 03:36 AM
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i cant comment on todays AVRs i have never really looked in to one, many years ago i think a 2 channel receiver sounded much better for music than a surround sound receiver set to 2 channel stereo, i have read several post on here recently that a AVR is great for 2 channel stereo

as far as sound quality between nice amps i will agree that you will probably get just as good sound quality with one brand Vs the next brand, how ever some brands have a better build quality than others and each brand will have a different sound. for instance Marants vs Cambridge vs NAD, they are all going to give you excellent sound quality, if you get a nice one, however one may have a warmer sound, one may have a brighter sound, one may have tighter bass, one may have more bosomy bass, ECT. you really should listen to some and figure out which one has the sound your looking for.

i think i have heard those speakers before and i remember thinking they sounded quite good, nothing wrong with getting a nice amp to run a nice small set of speakers. there is nothing like a good tower speaker but nothing wrong with a quality set of bookshelf speakers. i am so tempted to buy these mirage 0MD-15's crutchfield has for 1400.00 a pair right now. i have always been a huge fan of mirage speakers but i just got a set of definite BP8B speakers for 400 bucks on close out, usually around 1000.00 for a pair and they sound very good but not as good as the mirage speakers i used to have or have heard. i wish i was not at the point where i really should not spend any more money, i want those OMD-15's but i know i should not buy them, they will not be at that price for long so its hard not to pull the trigger on those even though it would be a bad financial decision. i need to pay off bills right now and not be buying more stuff no matter how hard it is to pass up.
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post #7 of 18 Old 03-02-2013, 06:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott J View Post


I am driving a pair of Paradigm Mini Monitors with the system, most of my music is digital.

The biggest sound quality limitation of your system is the Paradigm Mini Monitors. Not that there is anything wrong with them, but they are what they are - namely a small speaker with a great design and configuration of speaker drivers and crossover for mini-monitors, but not for the one and only pair of speakers in your system.

The best bang for the buck in your system would be a subwoofer, even a very limited one (e.g. 8"). It would offload the lower range driver in your speakers which would dramatically improve the cleanliness and balance. If you like Paradigm, buy one of theirs.

If your current receiver lacks a RCA jack for hooking up a subwoofer, get an AVR that does. Don't be afraid of buying a 5.1 AVR - they have great DACs, good bass management, and work well even in 2.0 or 2.1 systems.
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post #8 of 18 Old 03-02-2013, 08:19 AM
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they are all going to give you excellent sound quality, if you get a nice one, however one may have a warmer sound, one may have a brighter sound, one may have tighter bass, one may have more bosomy bass,

cut the crap man. Where should those presumed differences come from when you measure an amp with flat FR from 10 - 30kHz and below 0.01% THD distortion? Think ghosts in the chips?

It is the speakers and their often very idiosyncratic FR that determine sound, and from my experience I agree with arnyk to get a subwoofer and means to actively crossover.
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post #9 of 18 Old 03-02-2013, 05:16 PM
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Originally Posted by kraut View Post

cut the crap man. Where should those presumed differences come from when you measure an amp with flat FR from 10 - 30kHz and below 0.01% THD distortion? Think ghosts in the chips?

It is the speakers and their often very idiosyncratic FR that determine sound, and from my experience I agree with arnyk to get a subwoofer and means to actively crossover.

o i don't know, maybe distortion, phase shift, current capability, slew rate, the class of the amp, wattage, different transformers and all other electronic pieces that they use inside the amp when building it,

i dont know who peed in your Wheaties this morning but different integrated amps sound different, if that was not the case we would all just go out and buy the cheapest ones we could get.

my Cambridge and my Denon sound nothing alike, the Denon has a brighter more driving kind of gritty sound for rock and roll guitar, the bass is deeper and more boomy and loose,

the Cambridge has a smooth warmer more laid back sound when it comes to the guitar on rock and roll music, the bass is tighter, less boomy and a little more laid back but i find that better for music.
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post #10 of 18 Old 03-02-2013, 05:25 PM
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Hmmm....so you're saying some amps have audible distortion? Some have audible phase shifts? Current capability is an issue below clipping? Slew rate is an issue with any modern solid state amp? Different transformers lead to audible differences?

Got any links to measurements that support any of those claims?

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post #11 of 18 Old 03-02-2013, 05:35 PM
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i am not here to argue and debate or explain my self to people who have different views, i stated my views on the subject and i am not going to waist my time getting into things people who disagree on will probably always disagree on. some people say that they can hear a difference and other say they cant.

either way the OP should listen to different amps if he decides to buy one and decide which one he likes best or thinks sounds best if he can hear a difference.
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post #12 of 18 Old 03-02-2013, 05:52 PM
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^Ever done a blinded, level-matched comparison between two amps?

It's, uhm, eye-opening (haha, I made a pun!).

For every new thing I learn, I forget two things I used to know.
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post #13 of 18 Old 03-03-2013, 08:19 AM
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no, i have not done a blind test, at least not with amps.
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post #14 of 18 Old 03-03-2013, 09:17 AM
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i dont know who peed in your Wheaties this morning but different integrated amps sound different, if that was not the case we would all just go out and buy the cheapest ones we could get.

When I hear assertions unsupported by evidence I get cranky...and yes, that is what I do, get the cheapest reliable amp.
I have done unblinded comparisons between bryston amps, an old quad 405 and hypex AS 2.100. I now run the hypex because they have capability to actively cross over.

In my experience amps that measure similar (it doesn't matter if the THD is 0.001% or 0.01%) will sound similar enough to be indistinguishable from another.

You asked for advice in amps and that what was given - don't fret the amp, get speakers that will do the job or extend the range of your present speakers by adding a subwoofer.
Make sure you don't ask advice on interconnect or LS cables here.....
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post #15 of 18 Old 03-03-2013, 11:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott J View Post

Hi Guys / Gals,


I am in the market for a new amp, as my 20yr old Studio Standard by Fischer is showing its age.

I am looking to spend around $1250, but that is more of a guide line, as without it I will get into trouble with the misses.

The main systems I am looking at are the Cambridge Audio Azur 651A ~$880, Rotel RA-1520 ~$1150 integrated amps, or going with a full system my Emotiva ~$870.

For Emotiva it would be the USP-1 Pre amp, and the XPA-200 Amp.

I am driving a pair of Paradigm Mini Monitors with the system, most of my music is digital and I will be purchasing a DAC a few months after the initial Amp purchase.
Scott

For a good stereo system, you need to upgrade the speakers. Those speakers are good for what they are, but that is it.
Then after the speaker upgrade then decide on an integrated amp, receiver, or separates. Spending $1k or more for an amp for small speakers is a waste of time and money.
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post #16 of 18 Old 03-04-2013, 09:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 4DHD View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott J View Post

Hi Guys / Gals,


I am in the market for a new amp, as my 20yr old Studio Standard by Fischer is showing its age.

I am looking to spend around $1250, but that is more of a guide line, as without it I will get into trouble with the misses.

The main systems I am looking at are the Cambridge Audio Azur 651A ~$880, Rotel RA-1520 ~$1150 integrated amps, or going with a full system my Emotiva ~$870.

For Emotiva it would be the USP-1 Pre amp, and the XPA-200 Amp.

I am driving a pair of Paradigm Mini Monitors with the system, most of my music is digital and I will be purchasing a DAC a few months after the initial Amp purchase.
Scott

For a good stereo system, you need to upgrade the speakers. Those speakers are good for what they are, but that is it.
Then after the speaker upgrade then decide on an integrated amp, receiver, or separates. Spending $1k or more for an amp for small speakers is a waste of time and money.

Agreed. It reminds me of a hifi salesman who bragged to me about driving NHT SuperZeroes with multi-megabuck monoblocks. The SZs are nice little speakers, but as further discussion evolved, the amps in question were not paid for by him. Nobody in their right mind would overspend on exotic amps for tiny speakers like that. However, a newbie may not have a highly developed sense of perspective about these things.
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post #17 of 18 Old 03-05-2013, 09:22 PM
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post #18 of 18 Old 03-06-2013, 05:35 AM
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I have the emotiva usp 1 and xpa 200. It seems like overkill for my small room driving a pair of Mmg's so it is probably overkill for you.

In my opinion my emotiva setup sounds like a good receiver, at least it seems very similar in sound to my old marantz reciever I had a long time ago and to my Yamaha.

The two pieces cost around 750 which is the cost of most mid level Avr's. it's nice to have seperates though.

I would find a good condition older integrated or reciever and save the money.
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