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  1. #1
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    Audition tips / power amp advice

    Hi all.

    Long time audioreview.com viewer here, brand new forum member. Got a couple questions related to power amp selection. I'll try to keep it brief.

    About 10 years ago I fell in love with the first gen Paradigm Reference Studio 100's and have been loving them ever since. Over time I added a McIntosh C-15 preamp and a Rotel RCD-1070 CD / HDCD player. I've had a McIntosh 2100 power amp on loan from dad for quite a while and would like to replace it with something permanent of my own. I've had the Studio 100's bi-amped with a pair of the 2100's and was really pleased, so I'd like to move towards another bi-amp solution. The problem is I can't afford that much McIntosh power at the moment. I've seen several posts regarding amplification of the 100's. I think my budget may be lower than others who have asked in the forums I've read. I'd like to get at least 100 wpc (x2 for bi-amp) of solid power for $700-$800 bucks. I understand that may not get me the sound quality of the 2100's but I'm ok with giving myself a modest basis from which to upgrade for now. I'm fine with looking at used gear, but I'd like something with 12v trigger input, since my preamp has the output. Emotiva seems to be gaining popularity for its value. The specs seem great for the price. I'm thinking maybe a pair of UPA-2's. Any good options from Marantz? What about those little monoblock amps? They go for pretty cheap on ebay. I'd prefer a fully analog amp, don't know if that makes it more difficult. A couple notable features of the 2100 are the 2 massive transformers and capacitors. Any newer amps with similar strategy? There don't seem to be a ton of good options under $1000. Any thoughts? I'm even open to using a good 5-channel amp, if that would make a suitable bi-amp solution.

    Let me add that I listen to a pretty wide range of music, from classic rock (Pink Floyd, Beatles, Eagles, Genesis) to modern rock (Foo Fighters, Incubus, DMB, Chili Peppers) all the way to pipe organ and classical music. I like to hear a good natural balance... clean deep bass - not too boomy, lower midrange with the ability to supply a nice tangible punch when needed, and lifelike, yet smooth vocals and highs. I want to get the impact of rock music and the "big" sound of pipe organ/classical. I believe the paradigms are capable of doing all of that quite well, so I want to give them the power they need. (they seem to like lots of it)

    Second question... anyone have any tips/advice on a good way to audition several different amps? Is it reasonable to ask a dealer to arrange a home audition, or are they only willing to do that for really big spenders? I'd prefer to test amps as a part of my current setup, but I definitely don't want to lug around my 90-lb speakers. I'd hate to invest in something I hadn't heard with my speakers.

    Wow, sorry, that wasn't brief at all... If you're still reading, I commend you for your patience... am I asking too much?

  2. #2
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    I would consider these Van Alstine used power amps. I think that they would match well with the Paradigms as they have a neutral to warmer sound. Van Alstine try's to give all his equipment a more analog sound. They are nothing special to look at but he gives a 30 day money back guarentee. Give Frank a call as he anwers his phone and will gladly offer any advice and recommendations.

    http://www.avahifi.com/root/equipment/used/used.htm

    I also like B&K amps, they have a slightly warmer and darker sound. Look at the reference 125.2.

    http://www.bkcomp.com/products/ampli...ash=5abcbb5051
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  3. #3
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pploeser
    A couple notable features of the 2100 are the 2 massive transformers and capacitors. Any newer amps with similar strategy?
    Yes and no. McIntosh remains the only manufacturer of solid state amps that uses a transformer output to the speakers. There are actually three, using one for the power supply. While the 2100s have 78,000 uF of capacitance, the rails operate at only 35 volts for just under 50 joules of energy storage. My '81 Threshold, by comparison, has only 50,000 uF of capacitance, but runs the rails at 61 volts for over 90 joules of energy storage. You can find some models today that have well over 100,000 uF and dual power transformers.

    Quote Originally Posted by pploeser
    There don't seem to be a ton of good options under $1000. Any thoughts? I'm even open to using a good 5-channel amp, if that would make a suitable bi-amp solution.
    Actually, a multi-channel amp something like a NAD T-955 would fit your power, budget, and trigger output requirements.

    rw
    Last edited by E-Stat; 02-27-2010 at 01:42 PM.

  4. #4
    dr bud
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    I think the emotiva xpa 2 would be perfect.300 watts by 2.Around $800 i believe they make a 200x2 also for less.They have deals at times or have b stock at times also.When you auditon an amp do it with music you are familiar with from your system to get an idea of how it compares.Also you can save lot of money buying used on the internet.Adiogon,vidiogon,e bay etc.Most amps are built pretty good and will last a long time.So even though you might not get a warranty with it i wouldn't be too nervous.If a dealer lets you try one at home all the better.

  5. #5
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    The Emotiva is a good option for new in your price and they allow a 30 day return which is basically the same as in home audition.

    I sold an Adcom gfa-5500 (200x2) to a guy who had Studio 100's. He used it on the bottom end and it rocked. He had two other 50 watt NAD amps bridged one on each top end. The system was really impressive for the small investment in amps. I don't think the Adcom had triggers though. Both the 5500 and 555 can be found used between $400.00 and $500.00, a great deal for what they are. I think if biamping forget the vertical thing and use a big amp on the bottom end and go with a cleaner less powerful amp on top/mid. The big Adcoms produce some current too. I think that's what the 100's like.

    If you do decide to use Emo, I hope you post back the results. I'd be interested in hearing more feedback on them.
    Mark Levinson #512
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  6. #6
    Forum Regular harley .guy07's Avatar
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    I second Mr. Peabody's thoughts and he is right Paradigm and Adcom kick A%^ together and will have more than enough power for you if you get the 555 ro 5500 or 5800. Now if you really want to have dynamics I would love to try a 555 II and 545 II on these speakers with the larger on the bass obviously and I think this could be a awesome setup and these amps can be found for less than 500 bucks each on line and I know how they sound together because I used to sell both products back when I worked in this field.

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  7. #7
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    Alright, first of all thanks for all the helpful info. Very much appreciated.

    Here is a list of favorites (the goal being to retain some of the McIntosh sound characteristics)

    used Parasound Halo A23 (one for now, x2 eventually)
    used B&K ref 125.2 (one for now, x2 eventually)
    used Adcom GFA 5400 x2 (or 5500 + 5400)
    used NAD C 275BEE (maybe x2 eventually)
    used Classe CA-100 (x2 if i could find 2... newer classe models i.e. CA-2100 seem like a good option, but are way out of my price range)
    used Parasound HCA-1000 (x2)

    Any feedback on that list?

    I had considered Rotel, Emotiva, and Outlaw, but my understanding is that these might make the Studio 100's sound a bit too bright for my liking. They are already borderline with the McIntosh. Although I think part of that may be the room they are currently in. Would Adcom, NAD, and Anthem lean more towards the bright or warm end of the spectrum? Can the Anthems supply enough current?

    Again, thanks for your feedback. I'll be sure to post my results once I've made an educated decision and tried it out!

  8. #8
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Out of all those, the B&K will be the warmest. The Classe is laid back and too laid back for some but it may be a good match for the Paradigms.

    I have a Parasound A21 and it is neutral with great slam and detail. Adcom is rather neutral (at least my Adcom AVR is neutral) as well but I think that you will get better detail and resolution from the Parasound. NAD would be last on my list.
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
    Thorens TD-145 TT, Bellari phono preamp, Nagaoka MP-200 Cartridge
    Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
    Van Alstine Ultra Plus Hybrid Tube DAC
    Martin Logan Original Dynamo Sub
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

  9. #9
    frenchmon frenchmon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pploeser
    Alright, first of all thanks for all the helpful info. Very much appreciated.

    Here is a list of favorites (the goal being to retain some of the McIntosh sound characteristics)

    used Parasound Halo A23 (one for now, x2 eventually)
    used B&K ref 125.2 (one for now, x2 eventually)
    used Adcom GFA 5400 x2 (or 5500 + 5400)
    used NAD C 275BEE (maybe x2 eventually)
    used Classe CA-100 (x2 if i could find 2... newer classe models i.e. CA-2100 seem like a good option, but are way out of my price range)
    used Parasound HCA-1000 (x2)

    Any feedback on that list?

    I had considered Rotel, Emotiva, and Outlaw, but my understanding is that these might make the Studio 100's sound a bit too bright for my liking. They are already borderline with the McIntosh. Although I think part of that may be the room they are currently in. Would Adcom, NAD, and Anthem lean more towards the bright or warm end of the spectrum? Can the Anthems supply enough current?

    Again, thanks for your feedback. I'll be sure to post my results once I've made an educated decision and tried it out!

    Just to let you know on the bright remark of the Rotel....I have both the Rotel 1080 and the Adcom GFA 5400 and the Amps are not that far apart, neither amps are bright.


    frenchmon
    Music...let it into your soul and be moved....with Canton...Pure Music


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  10. #10
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    Personally if going with Adcom I'd stay with the 555 or 5500. The 5400 is good for 125x2 but I've taken it loud enough driving Dynaudio Audience 60's to become a bit woolly. The 5500 has more output devices, noticeably more power, not just on paper and the sound is better, both smoother, darker with more bass authority.

    I doubt if you find any Classe' for $700.00. Very respectible amp but not my type of sound.

    I've only heard one Anthem/Paradigm combo. I liked the midrange presentation but there was a lack in the bottom end. Actually, I recently heard a Paradigm Signature 8 driven by a $7k Mac amp and the bass was so poor I thought the speakers might have been out of phase. To be fair the room was large and the 8's were hooked to a speaker switcher. So not the best demo to be sure.

    It's really a mystery to me why it's so hard to get bass authority from Paradigm. The only time I really heard Paradigm slam bass was when we biamped the 100's with the 5500 on the bottom. Maybe the biamping is what they need. The 5500 is good for a $1k retail but some of the other amps I heard on Paradigm should have generated some decent bass.

    You might check to see if www.spearitsound.com still has the used B&K 200 watt monoblocks they had listed. Those are what you need. Although a bit beyond your listed budget.
    Mark Levinson #512
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  11. #11
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    sheesh... just when i thought i was getting the list narrowed down.

    Just to let you know on the bright remark of the Rotel....I have both the Rotel 1080 and the Adcom GFA 5400 and the Amps are not that far apart, neither amps are bright.
    I guess what I'm getting at is that I'd like to take a bit off the edge of the Studio 100's in the vocal range. Not that either is overly bright, but I'm concerned the combo might be. That's why I'm leaning towards the B&K or Parasound for slightly more laid back midrange. Although the specs on the 1080 are quite good for the money.

    It seems like a bi-amp combo of Rotel or Adcom at the bottom, and Parasound or B&W for the highs might work nicely with the Studio 100's.

    Here's what I'm thinking... start out with a Parasound HCA-1000 since there are plenty available and can be had for $300 or less (specs slightly below the Halo A23 at about half the price). That will be an inexpensive way for me to decide if they give me the warmth I'm looking for. If I end up really liking it, I can pick up another one, and have a fairly powerful bi-amp setup for well within my budget. If I want to tighten things up, I could stick a 1080 at the bottom end. Or maybe the Adcom 5500, which might save me a few bucks over the Rotel. Good or bad theory?

    P.S. those B&K monoblocks are definitely too much for right now.

  12. #12
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    For what your looking for, the B&K or Van Alstine amps would be the best bet. They both have a less digital and less dry sound. I definitely would not call my Parasound A21 laid back in the midrange. I don't even think that you can call the midrange in the B&K laid back but it does have a warmer, darker sound that I like.
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
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    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
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    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
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  13. #13
    nightflier
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    Are tubes an option? If so, the Vincent Audio SP-331 might be a good option:



    It can be had used for around your price-range. It has dual speaker outputs so you can by-wire the speakers. If buying used, there's the possibility someone might have swapped the tubes and is including them in the deal. If buying new, Audio Advisor has a 30-day no-questions-asked return policy. Anyhow, my guess is that a tube amp could go a ways to help tame the edge on the Paradigms.

    Another choice would be the Marsh Sound Design A400s. Richard Marsh is a very well respected designer and his amplifiers have been very well reviewed. The 400s should be available for around your price range used, as well. If you're looking to buy new, I think you can buy through the website directly. He used to sell through resellers like Audio Advisor, but I think now he sells primarily direct. I'm also pretty sure he'll let you audition the amp in your home.

  14. #14
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    Maybe debated, but I wouldn't use the Rotel as a bass amp personally. I would go for clarity on the top side when biamping.
    Mark Levinson #512
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    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
    Transparent cables / Tributaries HDMI
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  15. #15
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    down to 2 (I think)

    http://dayton.craigslist.org/ele/1545327055.html

    or

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...#ht_500wt_1182

    I'm getting a little shy now about spending my original budget. Otherwise I think I'd be considering the Parasound Halo or B&K reference

  16. #16
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    I'd go for the 1500, local sale, and looks like can be bridged.
    Mark Levinson #512
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    Clearaudio Performance DC, Dynavector 10x5, AcousTech Ph-1p
    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
    Revel Performa F52 main/center & S30's
    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
    Transparent cables / Tributaries HDMI
    PS Audio Quintet

  17. #17
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    Well, thanks to everyone who posted for your advice. I picked up a B&K Reference 4420 for just under $500 from a member of the Polk forum.

    http://www.polkaudio.com/forums/show...60#post1300660

    I came really close to bidding on a Sunfire 300~two on eBay for a little over $500 but passed on it, which I might regret, but oh well. Hindsight is always 1080p... or something like that.

  18. #18
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    You shoul not have any regrets, B&K makes ome damn good equipment.
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
    Thorens TD-145 TT, Bellari phono preamp, Nagaoka MP-200 Cartridge
    Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
    Van Alstine Ultra Plus Hybrid Tube DAC
    Martin Logan Original Dynamo Sub
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

  19. #19
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    Yeah, and unless Sunfire tightened things up a bit you probably avoided a reliability headache.
    Mark Levinson #512
    Pass Labs XP-10 & X250
    Clearaudio Performance DC, Dynavector 10x5, AcousTech Ph-1p
    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
    Revel Performa F52 main/center & S30's
    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
    Transparent cables / Tributaries HDMI
    PS Audio Quintet

  20. #20
    _ Luvin Da Blues's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightflier
    Another choice would be the Marsh Sound Design A400s. Richard Marsh is a very well respected designer and his amplifiers have been very well reviewed. The 400s should be available for around your price range used, as well. If you're looking to buy new, I think you can buy through the website directly. He used to sell through resellers like Audio Advisor, but I think now he sells primarily direct. I'm also pretty sure he'll let you audition the amp in your home.
    A little late to this party but iffen anyone is interested in any Marsh gear they have all stock at 30% off.

    http://www.marshsounddesign.com/
    Back in my day, we had nine planets.

  21. #21
    Forum Regular harley .guy07's Avatar
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    My personal preference I like the 545 series II over the 5400. to me the 5400 is not as clean in its sound quality or its build quality. now when it comes to the bigger adcoms I do like the 5500 and 5800 over the 555. I have had a 545 series II for many years and have heard many speakers with this amp and I don't believe it to be bright at all. To me it just brings my speakers to life. Is it the last word in amps? no but for a lower priced alternative it seems to me like there are a lot of amps out there that cost a lot more that don't deliver the goods like my little 545. but if looking for a bigger amp then there quite a few good choices out there. And there are plenty of good people on this site to help give you pointers for you to try out and also research. good luck.

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    Yamaha NS-c444 center channel
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    Samsung 46" LED TV
    OPPO BDP-83 blue ray/multi format player
    ps-audio NuWave dac (2 channel)
    Dell I660 music server running fidelizer windows 8 audio optimizer
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