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Low budget stereo preamp/integrated recommendations?

Adamant11746

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Hi, I just made an account looking for some help choosing a preamp upgrade, or possibly an integrated. My current situation is a choice of hand-me-down equipment from my father. Either a $50 Sherwood stereo receiver from Radioshack that sounds pretty bad but has most of the features that are important to me, or a vintage Perreaux SM2 hooked up to a Kicker kx150.2 car amplifier with a 13.8v power supply in place of the car electronics. The second setup is weird on paper but sounds great, however it has no possibility of a remote control which is a must for me. For speakers I have a pair of JM Labs Mezzo Utopias, also hand-me-downs (no way my dad would have bought them new, I think he got them used for a fraction of the price). I'm looking for either a preamp or integrated that measures at least competently with these features:

Must Have
  • Well designed remote
  • Enough imputs for a cd player, phono, and cellphone
  • A digital volume readout
Nice to Have
  • An onboard phono stage (I have a spare phono preamp I can use, which is why it's not required)
  • Bluetooth (I currently use a long headphone extension cable with a headphone to RCA adapter, which isn't the most convenient)
  • XLR out if I go with a preamp (for when I get the money for a Buckeye NC252mp)
Now we come to the hard part, price. My budget is only $500 - $600 as this the first piece of equipment I'm not getting as a gift, and I'm having trouble finding options at that price with what I want.
  • The obvious choice is the Emotiva Basx PT1, which is $400, but I'm not sure about build quality(its predecessor had reliability problems, and that was a much higher end product) and I've heard some complaints about the remote. It hasn't been measured here either.
  • I've been looking around for other options, and the Parasound Zpre3 is $500, has enough inputs and a good remote, but is missing the bluetooth and phono stage. It also hasn't been measured.
  • The Topping Pre90 would only work if I got the Ext90 as well, putting me way above budget at over $800, plus they cheaped out on the remote. On the bright side, it measured very well.
  • I've also looked at the Parasound Newclassic 200 pre and integrated, which are probably good choices but cost too much at $1k and $1.2k respectively. I haven't been able to find them used either. Another one that ASR hasn't measured.
 
Last edited:

JSmith

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JM Labs Mezzo Utopia
These can take a decent amount of power, yet are also quite sensitive too.

Considering budget constraints, this may fit the bill;


... only thing it may be missing is the volume readout you wanted, but should suffice for general listening conditions and has all the inputs you need.


JSmith
 
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Adamant11746

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Unfortunately the volume readout is a must for me, it just makes it so much easier to set the volume to the preferred level for each source. If anyone has experience with the Parasound Zpre3 I'd love to hear, also any other suggestions from brands I haven't looked at yet would be appreciated.
 

mattanderson

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It's too bad that the MiniDSP Flex is currently out of stock due to the shortages. It seems hard to beat for the functionality and price.
 

mattanderson

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^ same. My refurb Denon receiver is still kicking a decade later, and my refurb Kef LSX's are possibly my favorite audio purchase.
 

rwortman

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Or this https://www.accessories4less.com/ma...x-100-watts-networking-stereo-receiver/1.html

Or even cheaper, this:https://www.pioneerhomeusa.com/product/sx-10ae/. And add a cheap phono stage. When shopping at the low end, I go for mass market Japanese receivers. I have a Pioneer SX N30 and the above Yamaha in different systems in my house (not my main one) and I have no complaints. They sound like the speakers they are driving. Buy something cheap that sounds decent, works, and has a warranty and then maybe save up for something nicer. Or maybe you think it’s as good as it needs to be and you don’t need to “upgrade”.
 
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One way: Loxjie A30, use the optical input only, and get one of these: Neoteck 5 Port Digital Optical Audio Switcher with IR Remote Control). In case you ask, another member tested (subjectively) the A30 and found the optical port was better than some of the other inputs. I find this to be the case as well. Oh, and you have to add a phono stage.

Another way (which I prefer): DX3 Pro (or the + variant), and an Aiyima A07. And maybe one of the Neoteck 5 thingies. And a phono stage (the A07 has 2 analog inputs, though there are issues with it).

A even better option in my experience is one of the Yamahas that has a volume display. In my case the RX-V659. I got one used and it's some of the best $$$ I've ever spent (I paid $107 for it). It has phono built in, and even an old fashioned iPod adapter.
 

Heeves

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been a lurker for long and my first post here :) my needs are similiar, I would like some reccos for preamp to be used with Buckeye' hypex NC252MP module to power Fyne Audio F501 speakers for around $300-400, any suggestions? the preamp will taking in RCA from Pro-ject digital S2.
 
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Adamant11746

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Thanks for all the advice, I think I may just wait for the Minidsp Flex to come back in stock. It looks like it has most of what I want, and if I ever want to try room correction I can get the dirac upgrade. Only question is balanced vs unbalanced, I'm thinking unbalanced because there's a big warning about performance drops when using unbalanced to balanced input adapters.
 

Heeves

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@mattanderson will it sufficiently power? S2 even struggles to power HE-6 to decent levels.
currently the speakers are driven by Audiolab stack of 8000C+8000P which have started showing its age.
just found that NC252MP module doesn't do RCA inputs and I hate carrying converters.
 

Head_Unit

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  • Bluetooth (I currently use a long headphone extension cable with a headphone to RCA adapter, which isn't the most convenient)
  • XLR out if I go with a preamp (for when I get the money for a Buckeye NC252mp)
Um...why not an AVR for now? I'd worry about XLR when you get the Buckeye money and get a matching preamp at that point. And if your cable connections are short, XLR "shouldn't". matter
- I don't know about performance loss with adaptors. Typically XLR outputs total twice the output voltage = +6 dB, so whether connecting XLR or adaptor always check the gain of your amp and how much voltage input it needs. I wish more amps had adjustable gain, seems like a lot don't (??)
- If you're using iPhone, absolutely get something with AirPlay, it is so so SO convenient. And achievable within your budget I think even new. I'm not sure what the Android equivalent is.
- Car amp can work OK, I've done that, but unless you have a massive 13.8V supply the power will droop when cranked up.
 
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Adamant11746

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Um...why not an AVR for now? I'd worry about XLR when you get the Buckeye money and get a matching preamp at that point. And if your cable connections are short, XLR "shouldn't". matter
- I don't know about performance loss with adaptors. Typically XLR outputs total twice the output voltage = +6 dB, so whether connecting XLR or adaptor always check the gain of your amp and how much voltage input it needs. I wish more amps had adjustable gain, seems like a lot don't (??)
- If you're using iPhone, absolutely get something with AirPlay, it is so so SO convenient. And achievable within your budget I think even new. I'm not sure what the Android equivalent is.
- Car amp can work OK, I've done that, but unless you have a massive 13.8V supply the power will droop when cranked up.
I decided against an AVR because many of the ones linked in this thread couldn't drive my 4 ohm speakers, being rated for 8/6 or 8 only. I also like the way the car amp currently sounds, so I'd rather keep that for now. It certainly doesn't seem to be lacking power.

For adapters, the warning was from minidsp about using unbalanced to balanced for input, there's apparently nothing bad about using an adapter on the output. For that reason I'm leaning toward the unbalanced flex.

I use an android phone, and I think the reason you don't know the android equivalent of airplay is because it doesn't exist.

I've pretty much made up my mind on the flex based on a combination of the earlier suggestions and my own research, but thanks for taking the time to reply.
 

Head_Unit

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I decided against an AVR because many of the ones linked in this thread couldn't drive my 4 ohm speakers, being rated for 8/6 or 8 only.
Well, that's not really a problem, unless you're cranking to 11 all the time. The ratings have more to do with like heat, and Underwriter's Laboratory seals and such. We can Focal 936 /CC900/SR900, low impedance tough loads, from Denon AVR-2312Ci then AVR-X3600H, no problem. The power is mostly used for peaks anyway, unlike continuous power testing.
- Now we did put a https://www.acinfinity.com/receiver-amp-cooling-fans/ which I recommend for any warm running equipment.
- To have really more power than an AVR, you'd need like 300W at FOUR ohms. That's expensive! And most AVRs can play most speakers pretty dang loud.
 
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