TheFlash

2-for-1: using an integrated also as a pre? (ref Sugden, Pass, etc)

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Super Wammer

[I accidentally use an integated amp as a pre in my main rig: my Arcam A49 did a sterling job as an integrated but when my active ATC SCM40A's arrived it was relegated to pre duties so I could continue to run my second set of kitchen speakers without a major system overhaul. I remain very happy with the sound I get using the A49 as a pre and, though I suspect it is frowned upon as a theoretical system limitation, lots of folk with good ears also enjoy the setup.]

When I auditioned recently a handful of lovely Sugden integrated amps, I really enjoyed two of them in different ways. The evergreen A21 Signature was fabulous and the IA-4 ticked every box twice... except perhaps lost a soupçon of that magical midrange tonality of the '21.

So I got to thinking, which can be a dangerous thing. What if I bought an A21 Signature and a separate power amp? I could use the A21 as an integrated for most music and most occasions but I could also plug my speakers into the connected power amp when I wanted something beefier.

Clearly, for a given budget, it would probably make more sense to find one integrated or one pre+power which did everything all the time. I know this in theory. But I'd be interested in any stories (of woe or deep joy) from fellow wammers who have tried using an integrated as a pre, whether you enjoyed it and what if anything you replaced the combination with.

Thanks in anticipation.

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Yes I used the a21se as a pre amp into some hybrid monoblocks.  Not much improvement on just using the a21se on it's own.so I abandoned the experiment 

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Super Wammer

Thanks Phil!

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I agree with Phil here Nigel,

I used to own an A21a and A21p. Using the A21a as a pre or pre power made little or no improvement on the A21a. Similarly, the pre section was no great shakes into other amps. The magic of the A21a is in the class A power section. People wiser than me have since told me that a better approach would have been to get a really good well-matched pre and use into the A21p power amp.

Back when in the 90s, I remember doing a similar experiment with an Audiolab 8000s and an 8000p power amp. The integrated was better than the other two box combos. I suspect that the pre section of many integrated amps is not where the money is spent.

As an example, i have a 90s Sugden Optima 80 that is a lovely sounding amp but the pre section consists of nothing more than some input selector switches and an Alps blue volume pot feeding the power section.

Of course, most sensibly priced integrateds with a pre out will have an active stage but their main design brief will be to feed the matching power amp in a pre-power setup rather than to act as a HQ standalone unit. All IMO of course 😊

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Flash ... time to move to the Dark Side ... time for a tube preamp! 😬

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Super Wammer
 

I agree with Phil here Nigel,

I used to own an A21a and A21p. Using the A21a as a pre or pre power made little or no improvement on the A21a. Similarly, the pre section was no great shakes into other amps. The magic of the A21a is in the class A power section. People wiser than me have since told me that a better approach would have been to get a really good well-matched pre and use into the A21p power amp.

Back when in the 90s, I remember doing a similar experiment with an Audiolab 8000s and an 8000p power amp. The integrated was better than the other two box combos. I suspect that the pre section of many integrated amps is not where the money is spent.

As an example, i have a 90s Sugden Optima 80 that is a lovely sounding amp but the pre section consists of nothing more than some input selector switches and an Alps blue volume pot feeding the power section.

Of course, most sensibly priced integrateds with a pre out will have an active stage but their main design brief will be to feed the matching power amp in a pre-power setup rather than to act as a HQ standalone unit. All IMO of course 😊

Great minds... and all that. And a great point in bold.

I realise that I'd not mentioned in my opening post my recently acquired (18m?) understanding from this hallowed forum that the pre probably shapes the sound of a pre+power more than the power... so I was hoping the same might apply with an integrated eg. the magic of the A21 lay in its pre not power section, opening up some exciting possibilities. The ability to choose between gorgeous and impactful by moving speaker cables... would have been nice.

I'd better focus on one system (integrated or pre/power) which does everything realy well then!

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Super Wammer
 

Flash ... time to move to the Dark Side ... time for a tube preamp! 😬

This is possible! If the pre is responsible than the power amp for the sonic signature of a pre/power combo then I can find myself a powerful but neutrally voiced power amp and focus my tweaking on the pre. I'm more comfortable with the idea of using valves in the context of a low stress pre than a full-on power amp. That's partyl because we're talking about my Kendal apartment here and I let friends stay there, not all of whom are audiophiles.

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This is possible! If the pre is responsible than the power amp for the sonic signature of a pre/power combo then I can find myself a powerful but neutrally voiced power amp and focus my tweaking on the pre. I'm more comfortable with the idea of using valves in the context of a low stress pre than a full-on power amp. That's partyl because we're talking about my Kendal apartment here and I let friends stay there, not all of whom are audiophiles.

The Cary Audio SLP-05 through my Audia Flight FLS10 sounds different from the FLS10’s pre. With the NOS Sylvania 6SN7GT it’s airy and holographic. Go for it!

Maybe a Schiit Freya+?

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Super Wammer
 

The Cary Audio SLP-05 through my Audia Flight FLS10 sounds different from the FLS10’s pre. With the NOS Sylvania 6SN7GT it’s airy and holographic. Go for it!

Maybe a Schiit Freya+?

I will have a poke around of course. But there's no way I'd have anything by that second brand you mention: sniggers and winces every time you say it.

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I do have a schiit freya and play with it sometimes. It is incredibly detailed in passive mode but you do have to turn the vol knob up a bit . The a21se was every bit as good on its own as an integrated amp. Two things stop me using one with the tannoys, a) the remote is not precise b)money ! 

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Super Wammer
 

I realise that I'd not mentioned in my opening post my recently acquired (18m?) understanding from this hallowed forum that the pre probably shapes the sound of a pre+power more than the power... so I was hoping the same might apply with an integrated eg. the magic of the A21 lay in its pre not power section, opening up some exciting possibilities. The ability to choose between gorgeous and impactful by moving speaker cables... would have been nice.

I would have thought the magic of the A21, lies in its Class A output stage, but I am happy to be corrected, by those that may know better :)

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I will have a poke around of course. But there's no way I'd have anything by that second brand you mention: sniggers and winces every time you say it.

😳 🙈

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Super Wammer

I have had two Bryston B60Rs now, which you can separate the pre and power sections.

This was useful for me so I could use the Pre side, into a MiniDSP for Active Crossovers and then a pair of channels back into the Bryston power amp side.

really useful design feature. I am now using it as a straight integrated amp as the DIY speakers are packed away for the Winter.

Edited by HoopsOnToast

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Super Wammer

Nigel as a cheap is no cost experiment would you like to borrow a Valve Pre ?

I have a Concordant Line pre you could borrow it was built to beat the Audio Reseach pre of the day so is sonically pretty good if not the very best. Sadly line only but it does have two outputs which might be useful . Let me know if you are interested.

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Super Wammer
 

Nigel as a cheap is no cost experiment would you like to borrow a Valve Pre ?

I have a Concordant Line pre you could borrow it was built to beat the Audio Reseach pre of the day so is sonically pretty good if not the very best. Sadly line only but it does have two outputs which might be useful . Let me know if you are interested.

Thanks, kind of you, will investigate and let you know.

I havn't ruled out an integrated entirely but am leaning towards separate power and pre. I don't want to experiment with various options for pre and power amps at the same time as the number of permutations will quickly do my head in. So I will fix one variable.

I am tempted to choose my Class A power amp first: solid state and most likely a Sugden, Pass or Pass clone I think.

And then pick a pre. This will be constrained by inputs (I need five pairs, ideally at least one of them balanced), gain (compatibility with power amp) and of course the voice/tonality I seek. Too many options in broad terms but I suspect the number of inputs will rule some otherwise attractive options out. I haven't decided between solid state and tube or between passive and active.

I'm off to explore power amps. While I'm gone you boys can do that sweetshop window daydreaming thing you do so well! ;)

Edited by TheFlash

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