Need integrated amp suggestion


#1

A friend asked my advice about replacing his 20 year old integrated amplifier. He wants to stay with an integrated, not go with separates. His budget is $1000 or less. Given the speakers and room that he’s dealing with, something in the 75 to 100 W per channel range should be good. He’s not a hard-core audiophile, but he does have good ears. So we want to get something that will sound good, while staying in his budget.

I haven’t had much experience with integrateds recently, so I thought I’d ask here. I did think of the NAD C 368, which I’ve heard good things about. I’d appreciate any other suggestions. Thanks!


#2

I was using a Parasound Halo integrated before upgrading to BHK 250. It was pretty good, got great reviews but it is way over $1000. It has a good DAC built in (ESS 9018), identical to the PS Stellar Gain Cell; a decent subwoofer crossover built in as well. I still use it as a preamp before I save enough money for a Directstream DAC. Hope that helps!


#3

You might take a look at the Outlaw Audio RR2160 stereo receiver. It’s a good place to start, I think.


#4

Thanks for both suggestions! I was not familiar with Outlaw Audio. A quick look online shows that the RR2160 is worth pursuing, given my friend’s needs.


#5

Stereophile as you might know groups them in price ranges. Integra stuff is generally quality for the price, not familiar with specific pieces though.


#6

I’m a big fan of Hegel integrateds - way more than $1k new but there’s an H80 on Audiogon now for $1200.

If he wants to go the tube route, PrimaLuna integrated’s are fantastic. Cheapest one out there now is a Dialogue 2 for $1400, but I’ve seen many used Prologue integrateds for under $1k. I have a Prologue One integrated that has served me for 12 years and still sounds wonderful.

The Outlaw is a good unit - I bought one for one of my kids and it was in heavy use for years. It’s a true receiver in the classic sense, even includes a phono stage.


#7

Thank you, Michael.

I am not familiar with Hegel and will check out the H80. While I’ve never owned a PrimaLuna unit, I have read many reviews and am aware of their reputation. I didn’t pursue them because they are over my friend’s budget new, but used is certainly a possibility.


#8

Hi you didn’t say whether he needs phono and/or an onboard DAC… I own a Hegel H160, and it is a great piece, though with only 3 analog inputs I find that a little tight. I doubt you’d quite find a used H80 for $1000, but if he can stretch just a little more it might be possible. In that price range and that power range I’d definitely look at the Outlaw unit, as well as integrateds from NAD, Cambridge, Peachtree, Marantz or Yamaha. Check out spearitsound.com for good NAD prices and accessories4less.com for Yamaha. (I haven’t heard a Yamaha integrated in quite a few years, but i owned one way back and found it to be more than decent with my system at the time.)

If he can get away with 50 watts/channel then we’d be quite remiss in not mentioning the PS Audio Sprout and Rega Brio.


#9

Thanks, Bob. He needs a phono stage because he still uses his turntable. A DAC would be nice, but it’s not a dealbreaker. We are trying to get something that will last a good long time since he doesn’t like to change equipment very often. At this point the NAD C 368 is the winner in terms of features for the money and being future-proof. I just need to listen to one since I’ve never spent time with a class D amplifier and I’m not quite sure what to expect in terms of sound quality. I know that NAD has been making class D amps for 10 years or so, so they probably got it figured out.


#10

I have never heard Class D either, and remain a bit suspicious of it…let us know what you think. One piece that i did hear, and was mighty impressed by, is the Belles Aria, a very full-featured little 75-watt integrated. But it’s $1995, unfortunately.


#11

Update and questions: My friend and I are closing in on a purchase. The NAD C 368 is still an option. The NAD components that many of us owned years ago were almost bulletproof, but based on what I’ve read recently that’s no longer the case since they outsourced their manufacturing to China. Some people say they’re still OK, others report bad experiences. (Of course, people with problems are more apt to complain.) We might still get the C 368 but I decided to poke around some more.

We’re now also looking at the Marantz PM 8005. This is a little more than he originally wanted to spend (by $200, so not a huge deal). Before upgrading to the DMP, I owned a Marantz player SA8003, from the same mid-level line of Marantz products. I was quite impressed by the construction quality as well as the sound; hopefully the PM 8005 will be in the same league. It meets almost all of his needs – power capacity, built-in phono, etc.

  1. Does anyone have experience with this unit?

  2. The PM 8005 has a USB port for connecting a computer to play digital files via the DAC built into the 8005. In his house it’s not realistic to run USB cables to the equipment rack. Do they make dongles that could be plugged in to the 8005 so it could receive USB wirelessly? I have used such things on old computers that don’t have wifi built in, but they required a driver which obviously won’t work with an integrated.

Thanks!


#12

Another vote for the Outlaw Audio RR21XX model receiver. Solid build, good MM phono stage, interesting art-deco-flavored industrial design. Sort of an old-fashioned receiver, size-wise, so be aware that this is not a micro-component as with Sprout for example.


#13

In case anyone’s been following this thread:

After more research, my friend and I agreed that the Outlaw receiver looked like the final choice. Thanks to those who suggested this unit, since I had not heard of them before. This unit packs tremendous value for the money in terms of features. It ticked all the boxes we wanted, and he liked the idea of keeping the tuner as he has now in his old NAD. He may be moving to a house with a larger room, so the extra power (compared to the NAD or the Marantz) could come in handy.

The reviews have been good in terms of SQ, and they offer the 30-day return in case the sound isn’t to his taste. He’ll pick it up next week and I will get to hear it at some point.


#14

Thanks for the update. Please let us know what you think after you get to hear it in situ.


#15

Can you imagine PS Audio building the ultimate receiver?

I would LOVE owning one!


#16

Any update?


#17

I haven’t yet been able to get to my friend’s house to hear the Outlaw receiver (long distance travel is involved). However I can report that my friend continues to be happy with it. He says that it’s a definite improvement over his NAD – as it should be, given that the NAD is over 20 years old. He also enjoys all the features that the Outlaw has. Real value for the money there.