In our first collaboration video with Tarun, A British Audiophile, we picked our best budget integrated amplifiers priced under $1,000.
But what if your budget can be stretched a little further?
We have listened to a wide range of amplifiers between $1,000 and $3,000 USD over the past 12 months and while a number of other integrated amplifiers in this range were very impressive including the Rotel A14MKII and Cambridge Audio CXA61 — we were quite smitten with the following.
Schiit Ragnarok 2
The Ragnarok 2 continues Schiit’s mission of offering American-made equipment that is both modular, well designed, and affordable. There are two versions of the Ragnarok 2; the first is a “Just An Amp” version with no phono preamp or DAC, and the “Fully Loaded” version which includes both.
Can you drive the Magnepan LRS with the Ragnarok 2? Indeed you can but it doesn’t really shine unless you raise the volume above conversation levels.
Does it work rather well with much easier loudspeaker loads? Beyond what one could expect for the asking price.
The switched stepped volume control makes noise. It’s a sound that you start to ignore because the sound quality is so good. It’s an amplifier that is both incisive and warm sounding and incredibly poised with all genres of music. It could use more control in the low end and the 60 watts/channel in 8 ohms (100 watts/channel into 4 ohms) doesn’t always feel as robust as it should.
The kicker is the balanced headphone amplifier that is better than anything in its price range and you have an American classic that is worth every penny.
Where to buy: $1799 at schitt.com
Tarun’s amplifier of the year for 2021. The Exposure 2510 is designed for the purist. A passive preamp and amplifier section handle the heavy lifting and the phono preamp is quite capable as well.
With a focus on dynamics, scale, and tonal accuracy, the 2510 is an excellent component to build a system around. There is a touch of warmth in the midrange but it’s a very detailed and natural sounding amplifier.
If your musical tastes lean towards jazz, classical, vocalists, and acoustic instruments — the Exposure 2510 is remarkable piece of kit that flies under the radar.
Where to buy: £1,595 (about $2,100)
For more information: exposurehifi.com or watch Tarun’s full review of the Exposure 2510
Croft Phono Integrated
Croft doesn’t have a proper distributor in America anymore but there are a few select dealers that offer the bottom end of range including the Croft Phono Integrated.
There is nothing fancy about this aluminum box; you will not find a remote and there is no DAC or streaming module. Glenn Croft has been building his range of solid state, tube, and hybrid products for over 3 decades and it’s one of those odd products that just sounds so much better than other amplifiers in the same price range.
The MM phono section is the real star of the show; Croft offers 3 phono stage models as well that are superb from the perspective of tonal balance, pacing, and presence.
The power rating is slightly deceptive because you can safely drive a pair of Quad ESLs with this amplifier but it finds its footing with speakers from Wharfedale, Spendor, Harbeth, KEF, ProAc, and Q Acoustics.
Where to buy: £1000
For more information: croftacoustics.co.uk
The Willsenton R8 Tube Amplifier is sold direct from China Hi-Fi. It’s a beast of a thing weighing almost 30 kg (66 lbs). It comes with standard tubes, but it goes to an entirely different level with upgraded PSVANE KT88 and CV181 tubes. It delivers a warm, rich presentation from only 45 watts. Tarun’s ProAc bookshelf loudspeakers are not the easiest load in the world but the R8 took charge and created a surprisingly wide and deep soundstage with excellent layers of detail.
Where to buy: $1,377 USD / £1,020 at china-hifi-audio or $1,449 at Amazon
For more information: watch Tarun’s full review of the upgraded Willsenton R8.
Table of Contents
Watch the full video on YouTube.
- Best Budget Integrated Amplifiers (Under $1000)
- Best High-end Integrated Amplifiers ($4000+)
March 9, 2022 at 9:59 pm
And no mention of Peachtree? Shameful
March 9, 2022 at 10:33 pm
It’s not shameful.
The list ONLY includes integrated amplifiers that we actually listened to over the past 12 months.
I’ve owned a few Peachtree products over the years and they were rather good. But unless it’s something we’ve tried recently, it doesn’t make the list.
March 12, 2022 at 5:53 pm
Although my hybrid Sphynx tubes in the pre is not recent, I value your opinions highly and even though I am a rookie, I would guess you would be able to opine regarding the kit especially regarding the onboard phono stage. My Rega 1 came with an Orto Red. Would the Orto Blue be a significant upgrade?
March 12, 2022 at 6:36 pm
Huge upgrade. I’m not sure if the Goldring E3 would work on that arm but worth checking out as well.
March 10, 2022 at 8:49 am
Why do many of these “premium” amps not have lfe out/bass management…? To me that’s not a fully integrated amp without that essential feature. Yes you can do with pre out but it is not as clean as separating the signals and letting you control the range sent over each channel. More and more audiophiles realize the importance of this feature and the benefit of having subwoofer(s).
March 10, 2022 at 7:14 pm
Peachtree indeed. However, given your lack of recent audition, it’s a non-issue. I might suggest you audition the Kinki Studio EX-M1+, ASAP.
March 12, 2022 at 9:39 am
I bought my first tube amp 6550 Bewitch from china hifi audio back in 2013. I paid my $800 and crossed my fingers. Lo and behold it showed up on my doorstep in Texas. The biggest problem was the input selector knob was busted and super loose. Luckily, if I pulled the knob out and turned slowly, I could change the input. But I hardly did that. It was turntable 90% of the time, cassette and CD the other 10%. Once I swapped out all the stock tubes, which caused the hum to go away, and power cable, it sang like a bird.
March 12, 2022 at 2:23 pm
Under $3K and not list Lyngdorf……Com’on Man!
March 12, 2022 at 4:18 pm
To make the list, we actually had to listen to it.
March 30, 2022 at 1:17 am
Thanks for the review. I read that you reviewed the Yamaha A S3200 and was wondering if you had a chance to listen to the smaller brother S1200? It’s in a similar price range to the four reviewed, how does it compare?
March 30, 2022 at 3:09 am
Unfortunately, I’ve not had the chance yet. But I’m very interested in reviewing it if Yamaha can send us one in May.