user poll on seperates vs integrated

Hey guys, I wanted to try and crowd-source some (likely very opinionated, unscientific) knowledge.  I've read about the benefits of separates (have only ever used integrated myself), and I'm wondering how those benefits compare to the benefits of higher end parts/assembly, when controlled for cost.


To put it more plainly, would you likely get better overall results from a $5000 preamp and $5000 amp, or from a $10,000 integrated, given the likely quality/components used in equipment in those price ranges.


If you're experienced both separates, and integrated amps that cost the equivalent of those separate parts added together, can you speak to which you preferred?


Thanks for weighing in.


If you have a very good system separates are the way to go. Mono-blocks being the best. However a good integrated can also be good or good enough. Mostly depends on your loudspeaker choice.


Over the last almost ten years you have barely posted. What’s up? Are you thinking of upgrading your system? Where are we going with this thread?  Answers to such a non specific question are questionably useful.  Comparing specific equipment might be of more use, should you actually have a purpose to this thread.

I've owned integrateds and separates and prefer separates for the flexibility of  changing the pre or the amp.


russ69: thanks for the reply, wondering what specifically about speaker choice would make you lean towards either separates or integrated?  for reference, i use focal kanta 3 speakers.

Flexibility is the key value of separates.

Judging by $$$ alone is a poor way of going about it since $$$ is itself a really poor indicator of quality or performance.

Consider a favorite recipe for many is a colorful tube pre with a solid state amp.  Pick the tube pre based on sound qualities you want to have and a solid state amp for the ability to drive difficult loads.

Having said that, I prefer to go with solid state integrateds and easy to drive speakers.


vonhelmholtz: i post here when i have a question about something, not sure why not posting all the time is an issue for you.

i asked the question because i'm curious to know if there's a prevailing opinion on whether, when cost is equalized, people think you get better results for the money out of less expensive separates or more expensive integrated because it might influence what direction i go in the future.  i'm not on the verge or a purchase, but down the line, as i look at future upgrades, this is the sort of fork in the road that determines the future of a system.  it's also just interesting to me.

I was told that under 10K: integrated is the way to go, overt that: monoblocks and preamp

grislybutter: that's an interesting sort of rule of thumb, do you recall who gave you the advice?

my budget would probably walk that line, so i guess that doesn't help that much.

the obvious future plan i guess would be to build off of what i have, for example, i have a parasound phono amp, i could eventually save up and get the matching pre and power amp or something like that, but as i was reading reviews, looking at my options, just generally getting a lay of the land as far as options in that price range, it occurred to me that for the same price as the couple of separates, i could get an integrated from somebody perhaps a little more exotic that i wouldn't otherwise have had on my list of options, and it got me curious as to whether people thought one option was definitively superior to the other or if it was more contentious.


i appreciate everyone weighing in with any personal experience they might have had.

If $10K is your budget, try and audition the Technics SU-R1000 integrated. I have its little brother, the SU-G700M2 and would only consider moving up to that if budget allowed. Integrateds have come so far these days.

Another county heard from.

All the best,

@chrisryanhorner I remember who gave that advice but it shouldn't sway you, it was a "big spender", I think if you buy used, you can get good monoblocks for less than that.

If my budget was 10K I would definitely try Parasound. And since I am not too sophisticated, I would explore integrated for sure. 


nonoise: that technics unit you mentioned is beautiful, i'd definitely take a look at that one.


yeah echoing your statement, i hear a lot lately about how far integrated amps have come.  the thing is that the audio press essentially only print positive reviews, so it's hard to ever tell what is or isn't the way to go. 

when i was purely considering separates, i was looking at parasound, bel canto, primaluna, rogue, as those had separates in my budget that were pretty well-reviewed, but those are all kind of mid-budget mainstays and i was curious what else was out there.  for the same money if i was looking at integrated units, particularly if i start looking at open box deals, dealer trade-ins etc, i could be looking at things like esoteric, or BAT, whose separates are way out of my budget so i hadn't otherwise considered them.


my dream list with pros and cons mainly being the looks, the price and that most of them I never heard

Hegel H120

Parasound Halo HINT 6

Primare I35 Prisma

Simaudio Moon 600i v2

Moonriver 404 REFERENCE


I’ve read about the benefits of integrateds (have only used separates since my first integrated, which is still in use.)

Came back from monoblocks for convenience. Of most importance beyond usefulness to me is the feature set - RC everything (balance, mono, tape loop, etc.), processor loop(s), balanced in/out, at least 5 inputs, etc.

If I must have tube sound a myriad of buffers get me close enough, love my FOZ SSX. Much better Fosgate sound than the cheap SS unit that it replaced.

I do enjoy two tube headphone amps, both have SS output stages.

Most of the time I listen to ESLs through RC DACs feeding Class D SS power.

I can play HiFi

music 24/7 @ under 20 watts out of the wall.



Ok .. A year plus ago my budget was 15-16K. I purchased a McIntosh MA-12000, but suffered with room placement in that the equipment rack is between speakers, whereas a preamplifier and separate power amps would have allowed for the equipment rack along a side wall and balanced interconnects to the power amplifiers. Separates with added interconnects would have been of higher cost, but the dealer suggested that performance was also improved.  I’m happy with what I have,  but should have considered separates.

At that price many good sounding options either way.

Depends on what you value. Convenience/space savings versus flexibility.

Also what features you need or value

With integrated devices the professionals have integrated things for you. If you do it, that job is yours. Results can vary from top notch to not so great depending on how well you do the needed integration. That requires some technical knowledge to get it done right. Trial and error can be a long road that can  lead anywhere.

I've had both integrated and separate and both have their positives and negatives. Integrated amps can be very high quality and sound very good depending on what you get. Advantages are saving space and not having to buy an interconnect to connect the separates. If you normally upgrade your power cords, then you will also have that savings. Also integrated amps are built with synergy in mind so no worries about matching a preamp to an amplifier.

Separate amps and preamps have their own dedicated power supplies and chassis and have less likelihood of interfering with each other. Also, like others have said you have the added flexibility of only replacing one of them for an upgrade. Separates often sound better but this is highly depended on the comparison made and equipment. 


willywonka: thanks for the reply.

regarding synergy vs flexibility, do you think there are real benefits of using an entire system from a single company, since the units were likely all designed with each other in mind, as opposed to picking and choosing a preamp from one place, a power amp from another, etc? 

i ask because i know that nordost, for example, explicitly states that their products positive qualities are enhanced by being used as a complete set, sort of a "more than the sum of its parts" thing, which i think they refer to as a "loom"? 

I don't know how much of that is marketing to get you to buy their gear vs verifiably accurate, and if the same goes for other components.

With integrated a lot depends on the manufacture. Some manufactures make great amps paired with so  so pre amps integrated together. I have found this true in many cases by using an external pre amp and bypassing the integrated pre amp, case in point are Line Magnetic integrated's.

With separates you can taylor the sound that you are after. What might seem like a mismatch might put you in audio heaven.

I’ve also pretty much always used separates and tubed ones at that. That said there are some fantastic integrateds out there these days. My dealer carries some from Synthesis in Italy that sound great and are solid values as well. If you do go the integrated route try to get a unit that has pre-outs that way you can always try a separate power amp down the road.

....wondering what specifically about speaker choice would make you lean towards either separates or integrated?  for reference, i use focal kanta 3 speakers.

The Kanta 3 in a proper room certainly deserves the best. What specifically about speaker choice? Your commitment to getting the best out of what you have without compromise. I would feed those with what I used. Cary SLP98 and a Parasound A21+. Next step after that would be tube mono-blocks.

russ69: thanks, i'll certainly look into Cary.  at the moment i'm running the Parasound phono into the Rogue Cronus Magum 3 integrated.  i wouldn't necessarily say i have complaints, but down the road if i'm looking to step up, i was just curious what direction made the most sense.  I got a terrific deal on the kantas and am gradually upgrading the rest of the system to catch up with them.

Integrated amps have changed a lot in the last ten years, they have gotten a lot better. The $10K range is the real sweet spot in them. I have recently auditioned the Pass Int-60 (?), Luxman 509, and Audio Research I-50. $10K, $10K, $6K. They all sound quite good for their price. 

To me… if you are building an audiophile system (which means you can never afford to buy what you want.. then they are not an option. You want to be able to upgrade a single component at a time… and an integrated is not going be as good as separates… OK, maybe not never because a two chassis solution will sound better because of greater isolation, but will cost more because of redundant parts. So, it can be real difficult theoretical trade off. 

So, taken together, this all says, it depends. What is the house sound you like? You would choose the Luxman, Pass, or Audio Research based on their sound. The Audio Research just took me away, into the music, the Pass made my foot tap and really get into the music… the Luxman left me appreciate looking at the pretty knobs but not listening to the sound. 

For the money, integrates can sound great, but not a good choice if you plan a better system. 

It comes down to the design and parts quality not the price. You can get close with a very good integrated unit but it is difficult to design something with having the chassis limit your overall design. It can be done but then you might as well go the separate route at that point. If you are looking for a SS unit the Mark Levinson recent integrated unit can be purchased for under $6K for a B-stock.  IMO it is the one to purchase versus everything mentioned above.

Happy Listening.

Maybe stating the obvious here, but the answer is …. It depends. A very good Integrated is better than more inferior separates. I have had both separates and integrated over the past many years. I currently have an Integrated, the T+A PA 3100 HV, and before that the PA 3000 HV. I will not change it, unless it breaks down, or I somehow become extremely rich, which is almost certain will never happen

IMO separates are the only way to go! Never a good idea having a box containing parts sharing responsibility’s , one size fits all or a tailored suit ? Lol 


I started with a Primaluna PL2 w/photo stage.  I added a CDP, a TT, and a Tuner.

took the Photo stage out, sold it and bought a series of 4 tube Photo Stages settling on a Hagerman Cornet II.  Big sound difference.  Got Hooked.  Bought a used Decware Mini Torii( dual mono int)  Added a DAC and Mac for Streaming.


I like that I can change anything in the system, I can even add a pre to the mini torii.


Your body is going to change rendering that tailored suit unwearable whereas that one size fits all will keep on keeping on. That's why you keep on going to the tailors. You're in the diminishing returns zone at around the $10K mark. 

All the best,

Separates! Variety is the spice of Life! Darwin had something to say about this if I recall?

seems like for the most part, people feel that while integrated amps have improved considerably in recent years, separates remain the better overall solution for reasons like being able to upgrade single elements in the future without having to swap out the whole thing, but at the cost of more cabling to purchase and more space needed for all the boxes.


i didn't really come in thinking there was a definite answer, i just wanted gauge if there was a general feeling one way or the other and seems that "it depends" is the answer, due to too many variable to rule out.  the truth is i'm sure i'll enjoy whatever i end up doing down the line, as any sort of upgrade will still sound like an upgrade, and i'll never know what i'm missing in the gear i didn't go with.  i appreciate everyone weighing in with their thoughts and experience though.  and obviosly with specifics they've tried and did or did not care for.  there are so many options it would be impossible to try all or even very many of them.


when i was shopping for speakers a few years back i had to just read and read and read and narrow it down to 4 or 5 options that i could check out locally, and rule out anything that wasn't available locally, so i'll never know if i might have liked one of those better that didn't have a local dealer, and not knowing is probably for the best, since i love what i ended up with.  i just prefer to come to a place like this to solicit info vs a shop who is trying to sell me on what they carry, or a magazine that just loves everything they write about.

I have both a tube integrated amp and a SS integrated amp. I also have a tube preamp paired with a SS amp. I would say I  like both integrated units.... more than the separates. I think they sound better and offer better performance.

There's always a compromise and I currently use an amplifier and a source that includes preamp, streamer/dac and phono stage (Moon 390).  There are several manufacturers with similar products (Moon 390 with 330 is about $11k)

Keeping the amplification in a separate case from the the other electronics provides flexibility in upgrading. 

A bank robber will always rob. One job can net him all the money he'd ever need in life but the money is not the goal. He'll find some reason to blow it all so he can get back to robbing. 

It's the same "for the most part" with some here in this hobby. The sound they get can be fantastic and satisfying, but that's not why they're in this hobby anymore.

All the best,

My very first HiFi was a Marantz 1060 and Large Advents, a Philips 212 and B&O SP-12 cart. Since then I've had a bunch of separates, 150W/ch HK Citation 16, 40W/ch MC240. This time around I went with a Marantz PM7000N Integrated driving LS50s , now  MA Silver 300-7 and a VPI Prime w/Hana SH..

If I were to upgrade, My next move would be a McIntosh MA-252 Hybrid Tube, above that, a Levinson 5802 or 5805 with a possibility of a Luxman 509. And I still haven't touched $1OK, and I haven't blown a European vacation on interconnects. 

So if none of the above float your boat, and you gotta have separates, I'd start with Parasound, maybe NAD, and from there it's a 3-Way between your discretionary income, marital considerations, and how much fiddling around you want to do with components and cables. 

For me, there's just too much value in integrated amps, and at the end of the day, I just want to listen to some music, maybe spin some vinyl.

A voice here in favor of integrated amps. Fewer boxes, less cabling, space efficient and as a sound quality matter…the difference is negligible at best. There are so many external variables (room, power, cables, source, etc) that I believe it’s a decision of convenience over SQ.

And if you later feel the need to spend money, with the flip of a switch you can separate power from preamp and experiment to your hearts content.

I recently moved from separates to an integrated amp (all in 1 actually) and this was a nice step forward.   More detail and better dynamics.  Awesome.  For  less than half the cost. 

ha, i stepped away for an hour and the tide of opinion has turned completely the other direction in favor of integrated amps!  i love it.  honestly i know there's no right answer, its nice to hear what everyone's personal experience has been though.

the only thing i currently have that is separate from the amp is the parasound jc3+ phono which i picked up recently as a dealer open box deal.  i can say that there has been an immediate and distinct improvement vs simply using the onboard phono, much more detailed and more of a feeling of 3-dimentionality, players occupying distinct locations vs the music all sort of compressed together if that makes sense. 

it was the experience of adding this separate component to the system that got me thinking about this question in the first place, wondering if i wouldn't find a similar improvement in splitting up the pre and power amp the way i did with adding the external phono.

Absolutely love the idea of integrateds but even the more expensive ones seem to have been handily outperformed by even modest separates (in my system ). I wish it were not so. Some of the integrateds that people rave about are beyond my reach financially.


This is even before discussing the typical quality of their integrated phono amps…if they even have them.

The first BAT 300 (with 6922s) was the best I’ve ever heard.  If I’m not mistaken, it’s current equivalent is about 12k…you can buy some nice separates with that!

Bottom Line: I vote Separates!


another +vote for the Integrated Amp. Over the last 10 years, the technological advances have finally reached this product niche'.  Test drive your fave Brand sometime.


Happy Listening!

Separates provide more opportunity for introducing noise due to the more connections and runs of various wires.. They will also cost more in interconnects as well as take up more room. If you want to swap out pre-amps as some have mentioned, many integrated amps have the option of using an outboard pre-amp

@chrisryanhorner I like the way you asked the question about separates vs. integrated. I checked out your top-of-the-line Focal Kanta No. 3 on Crutchfield’s. As Bill Clinton would say, ‘I feel your pain.’ I just got some new speakers myself, and everything is up in the air until I get them installed and tune the room. Proceeding logically, do you think the Kanta 3’s are right for your room? If so, then the next question is what kind of amplification do they need -in your room-? I notice that the power spec is 40 to 400 Watts with a 91 dB sensitivity into 8 Ohm nominal impedance. With those specs, I wouldn’t think it would be hard to drive, which opens the door to integrated amps. So, again, I think you phrased your question well.

Two thoughts: (1) separates give you more ways to get the sound you want, but they’re high maintenance. Not only do you have to build the system yourself, but there are so many variables, from gain matching preamp to amp, interconnect cabling, tubes in pre? Tubes in DAC? Tubes, period? And interconnects . . . don’t get me started. Thing is, if you don’t like what you’re hearing, you can do something about it. (2) The term ‘Integrated’ has been tossed around on this thread without much definition. Decware sells an ‘integrated’ that seems pretty bare-bones to me. You really have to look closely under the hood (or pony up that $10,000 you reference. Back in the day (60’s & ‘70’s) HiFi was all about receivers which included a radio, tone controls, tape monitor circuits, and power up up to 150 Watts. Radio isn’t so big these days, but streaming is. Some people like to play vinyl. Do you want to ‘integrate’ digital I/O, or use a separate DAC? 

From what I can glean from your conversation thus far, I would say you would be happier with an appropriate integrated, that has the features you need, and with the flexibility to augment its offering. That is, can you use you new phono amp with it? Will it accept digital inputs, or is it all analog (my choice). Does it have tone controls? Does it stream? Does it have preamp outs? Does it have Home Theater pass-through? It seems to me that, while I’m committed to separates presently, the RIGHT integrated can offer both flexibility and ease of use. (And you may be able to control everything with one remote.)

One final thought on integrated amplifiers, as with multi-function printers, an integrated’s ability is usually tilted in favor of the manufacturer’s strengths. A company renowned for it’s power amps may not have the most detailed preamp, a headphone amp company may have a hard time scaling up to power hungry speaker amps, etc. when you get into integrated amps, I would stick with major manufacturers known for producing units with consistent sound, performance, and reliability; with separates, you can experiment as suits your fancy. 

Good Luck. 

I would argue that unless you need huge reservoirs of power delivered via monoblocs, then integrated is the way.  I did have separates but found no SQ compromise moving to integrated (albeit with different brands).   Having done a lot of research and listening in dealers’ demo rooms and at home I have ended up driving all my systems with integrated amps.  The best I heard are from a company who built its reputation on its integrated amps: Vitus in particular. I have the SIA-30 which is an incredible amp. The Trilogy 925 integrated is also a phenomenal integrated with its valve pre-amp section.  

Integrated amps also offer so much better value - good amps usually have expensive casing in their build costs which can contribute a significant proportion of the cost of an amp. Added on to this is the fact that there is no need for interconnects and only one power cable is necessary, it means integrated amps not not only sound as good (from my experience) but are significantly better value, and of course they take up less space and need one fewer shelf on the rack. 

Response 1.   Three boxes cost more to make than one.  At a total spend of $10k too much in hard dollars is being spent on boxes (and leads between them).  At a bigger total spend, boxes and leads are a smaller proportion of the whole.


Response 2.   Theoretically exactly the same amp(s) with the same power supply(ies) could be put in one box or in three.  The three box version would cost more.  But would it sound better?  The only difference would be the greater physical separation of the active circuitry and components.  How much sound quality can this add?

I would vote for separates, but having in mind that one will ususally spend more and it will take more time to get everything ’right’ You will need more cables, including power cables as well and more time to make ’right’ choices, between components and cables.

Even the higher class integrated amps are often not a match for a separates that might cost the same, or worse, there are very few integrated amps at all, that can match the 10k separates bought in Sh, for example. That amount of money, in sh, can get you far, meaning it will give you more than almost any integrated amp, without the cost of cables.


You can't be prescriptive as in my experience what it all boils down to is having a listen to the options you have narrowed it down to, which may include include integrated and separates and choose the one that floats your boat.

I love separates @chrisryanhorner ​​​​​​ and they've been truly the way to go for me throughout my experience with hi-fi. Starting out as with anything, or as you advance along the way and upgrade your system and or try new products with a different sound. You always have that option of keeping things you like and changing out parts you don't. Also you never know what's coming down the pipe you may very well find something that you enjoy better down the road and don't have to sacrifice the entirety of your system to get it.

I have a few systems all based around different amplification (and DAC's). And each one offers something different.


Happy hunting and good luck.

I am very happy with my MOON Simaudio 700i integrated (current retail £15.5k or $16k). If I have one very, very minor grumble I would like a second balanced input.

I prefer using separates because I like using more than one power amp I started out with my tube amp and my tube pre amp and just recently bought Magnepan speakers l bought a D class amp with lots of watts/ccurrent for the Maggie’s So I like the ability to swap out my amps depending on the type of music I might be listening to I run RCA from one amp and XRL to the other the other to my tube pre amp l also use a high quality speaker switch

Separates,  easier to change out if you ever want to upgrade it's cheaper. And I think amps should be separated. 

You really want hi end sound.....Tube pre with a good Class D amp...The Audio-GD HE-1 XLR @ 4k is the best sounding pre that the Part Time Audiophile has Ever heard. the 10 tubes may be part of the reason. Also has its own regenerative power supply built in...I combined that with the ever popular GaN 400 watt Peachtree Amp and it’s perfect synergy. And synergy is what its all about, good luck. If you can afford an Aavik integ. class D amp. go for it. Awsome sound.