Electronics for Harbeths -- $5-10K

I've been looking for an amp/preamp or integrated to pair with my mid-sized Harbeth speakers (86dB sensitivity, minimum 6ohm impedance, ~50Hz crossover to a powered sub).

I've dug deep into Pass Labs, ARC, Levinson, HiFi Rose, PrimaLuna, Ayre, MF's Nu-Vista line, Hegel, etc. -- the usual suspects. But I haven't found a perfect fit, b/c I have a few constraining requirements:

- weight not much over 40 pounds

- an HT Bypass input and at least 2 line-level outputs (for powered sub & headphone amp); no digital inputs required

- I love well-designed tube gear, but in this case, I'm restricted to SS

In terms of sound -- the most important factor, of course -- I rarely't exceed moderate listening levels in a smallish room (10 ft to seating position).  I do, however, enjoy a large, three-dimensional presentation & uncompressed dynamics, and sonics more like the sweet, tubelike house sound of ARC & Pass than the "analytic" superdetailed sound of Luxman or Levinson (both outstanding companies, but just not the right fit in this case).  One motivator is that after recently switching to more revealing Analysis Plus Silver Apex cables, I find I can no longer stand the sound of my last-gen Class D amps.

A Pass Labs XA25 amp + SP-12 pre combo comes pretty close, but doesn't have quite enough power. MF's new NuVista 800.2 would be perfect if it didn't weigh nearly 90 pounds. 

Then there's Ayre's new VX-8 amp, or EX-8 integrated, sound great on paper, but which I know almost nothing about, aside from specs & a Stereophile review.  Anybody own one of these?

I have no opportunity to demo any of this gear live -- disabled & don't get out much -- but if anybody would like to recount their first-hand experience finding a soulmate for Harbeth speakers, I'll be listening. 



@cundare2 You're not hurting anyone's feelings. If you have already done your research and settled on Ayre then I'm sure it must be the right choice. At the end of the day, the only person you have to please is YOU. As soix mentioned, Ayre is a great company and makes really good products. Best of luck and enjoy the music!

Thanks arafiq!

You’re right -- I’ve done a huge amount of research b/c, frankly, even if this wasn’t a whale of a purchase, the uncertainty of buying sight unseen and sound unheard has me being obsessively cautious.  If I make a bad decision, it'll be burdensome to start over from scratch.

For the record, I did chase down every suggestion given to me in this discussion. Ayre & bel Canto were the only two that met my every non-sonic requirement (Hegel was pretty close, though). Having the chance to speak today with Adrien, presumably Charlie Hansens’ colleague and co-designer of the Series 8 models -- finally convinced me that I’d finally found the right fit.

I would try Sugden A21SE. My first choice would be the Luxman 590axii, although it's heavy, it's well worth it.  


You probably wouldn’t go wrong with the Ayre.

Were it me I would try the Swedish brand Moonriver, their Reference intergrated, it is an amp that was developed using BBC designed speakers and is said to be fantastic with Harbeth, Spendor and Graham Audio.

Good luck with your system matching.

I hope you have the Harbeths on Tonträger stands, because that’s the first thing to do with them.