The $10,000 Question

I've upgraded my upstream components, and am in the hunt for a new amp and speakers.  There is a dizzying array of choices, and one could go bankrupt with the buy-try-return method.  I'm looking for some guidance on amp-speaker combinations, either used or new, in the $10,000 range for both.  If I can narrow the search down to two or three amp/speaker choices it would make the buy-try-return plan much more reasonable.

I prefer tubes and space is limited to an integrated amp.  My room is 15'x15', and and I primarily listen to classical music at modest volumes (which would allow conversation if my wife yells at me to turn it down).  I'm replacing 20+ year old Forest Totems and a Prima Luna Dialogue One amp.  My upstream components are a Cambridge CD transport with a Jolida Glass FX III DAC, and a refurbished Sota Star with a Jolida JD-9 phone stage.

Thanks in advance for your insight and guidance.

John Cotner

New Ulm, MN




FWIW, I’ve owned many speakers in the <$6K pair price range and some above that range. Of all those speakers, the Philharmonic BMR Towers have been the best value by far, performing more like $10K/pair speakers rather than the typical $5K offerings. There’s a lot of value to be gained in speakers when the middle-man (dealer) is removed from the equation.

Consider that the typical $5K speakers are equipped with woofers worth </= $100/each. The BMR Towers have woofers that retail for $380/each. So it comes as no big surprise that the BMR Towers produce the best bass quality I’ve heard from any speaker, yup, ANY speaker, regardless of price.

Regarding amps, I’ve also owned quite a few of those over the years, both integrateds and separates. The most expensive of those was a $6800 amp and $5500 preamp.
The pieces that resulted in the best performance value are the Yamaha A-S2100
integrated, the original Parasound Halo A21 amplifier (not the A21+ which is inferior), and Benchmark LA4 preamp. For an integrated solution, the Yamaha A-S2100 is nearly impossible to beat for the asking price on the used market. Even at its original retail it qualifies as an incredible value relative to $10K worth of separates. It now anchors my system despite having owned all that pricier stuff.

Whatever route you go, don’t dismiss the importance of room treatments. Those can often times yield a greater improvement than will spending additional thousands on the gear.



Joseph Audio Pulsars used -- about $4-5k.  A truly excellent speaker, especially for its price, shocking about of bass for a stand-mounted speaker.  Amp: used Pass Labs 250.8 (about $6K used). That is a great combo for about $10K and the Pass will power any speaker that you might want in the future.  I had this set-up and it was great!  I ultimately sold the Pulsars for what I paid for them, and moved up to the Wilson Sabrina X's -- great speakers but way out of your stated range.

Thanks for the info.  I've been looking ASR lately for amp reviews, but missed the Buckeye.  Thanks for the tip. 

Thank you for all of your kind advice and information.  Through a near miraculous series of circumstances I was allowed to listen to some speakers, which included Sonus Faber, Paradigm, Van Alstine and Klipsch.  The Sonus Faber Sonetto VIIIs were far and away the best of the bunch.  They arrived last Tuesday.  And they sound just fine with my Prima Luna  Dialogue One amp despite its low power rating.  I may test drive a Rogue Cronus Magnum III or Raven Blackhawk,  But if there isn't an appreciable improvement in sound I may just keep my trusty old amp.