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




"Prima Luna Dialogue One amp."

Why not spare yourself the audiophool neurosis and get a used Evo series integrated or Dialogue Premium pre/amp separates?

No suggestion on speaker. Too many great choices.

Longtime PL user here.

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You are close to Minneapolis. Road trip on speakers. Worth the time. 

Some speakers you will want to hear. 

Sonus Faber for natural / musical

B&W for rock heavy bass / a bit trebly

Dyn Audio Accurate, fine details


Thanks for the info.  Traveling to Minneapolis won't work due to trouble driving long distances.

After many years I’ve settled on a combo of Primaluna and Focal Kanta loudspeakers. I also listen mostly to classical, some jazz, etc. The stand mounts (Model 1) might work for your room. The Focals are easy to drive and have a nice combination of detail and warmth.  They are great at low volumes also.  The Primaluna with EL34 tubes is a nice match to tame what to some may be a brighter speaker, as well. The Kanta’s flax drivers have been compared sounding similar to paper drivers, which always sound good in my opinion. Their speed and dynamics should be able to keep up with what you are used to from your Totems. Other loudspeakers I’d look at is Tannoy or Fyne if you want a more traditional look and want to stay with a lower powered tube amp. Klipsch fortes might be a good match for your room as well, though they sound different. So many options…. The main reason I recommend the Kantas is they go well with a lot of amplification. I’ve had them in tubes, class AB, and class D amps, sound great on all. Buying speakers and amps together without being able to audition is a gamble for many reasons, but definitely based on synergy.

I've been pondering Focal speakers as well.  When I bought the Forests the dealer brought over a pair of JM Labs speakers for comparison.  They sounded fantastic but were way out of my budget at the time.  The problem I've run into is the notion that the speaker needs to match the amp.  Seems getting recommendations for both would save a lot of headaches.

I'm no help on an integrated but hear good things about Hegel and Rogue integrated. As far as speakers go if you are into classical and tube sound get the highest level Sonus Fabers you can afford possibly used .

In our multi state Audio club the excellent Perlisten R7 is very much Nader the radar it’s thx certified ,many think for home theatre it could be but it measures incredibly well ,will play very loud without breaking up with a quality amplifier 

for $10k retail a steal and very musical in any type of music and roughly %90 db efficient. My friend got his at Perrotta Consulting  and got a very fair deal 

check out the reviews ,I am thinking about a pair myself. 

If you like tubes, try the rogue Cronus magnum with kt120 tubes. For speakers, focals have no lower bass, sound thin to me until you get into the utopia range. You can get by with thinner sounding speakers with tubes amps

Vinnie Rossi makes a nice intergraded unit.  Probably what I would buy if we did not manufacturer our own components.

Focal Kanta 2 with the right amp in that size room can be a good option. You can upgrade the amp later. 
Or upgrade the anp and keep the forests. They’re not too bad. There is a pass int60 integrated on us audio mart now. 

for low level listening i'd recommend something that is hi sensitivity and efficacy,  most tend to get up ago go at lower volumes much better and earlier.  you can also save money on the power amp section as it opens the door to lower power integrated amps. 

If you like tubes there is a whole world of lower powered amps out there that are very good for reasonable money, if you have the speakers for them, i.e. 95db-8ohm and up. Most horns fit this bill with many other type of designs avails from regular box speakers to open baffles ( OB's maybe a little unfriended to your wife). 

some Klipsch Heresy's mk4's ( maybe the Forte's)and a nice low powered SET tube amp can do some great things for a classical lover in a smaller room and lower listening levels.  there are other similar set ups out there as well. 

I’d consider the Quicksilver audio integrated built by Mike Sanders. It’s $2495 which leaves you left with a remaining budget of $7500 for speakers. 👍

Thanks for all of the advice.  I've got some speaker and amp pairings to look into.  I'm surprised nobody mentioned Raven and a good matching speaker.

Since you classical I would definitely consider Sonus Faber.  I have a pair of the Lumina Series bookshelf's.  Solid bass for their size and if you pair them with a previously owned McIntosh (space permitting) you may have enough left over for a REL sub.  McIntosh and Sonus Faber play very nice together.  If McIntosh won't work you could try Rotel.  I also have some Rotel equipment and they often have some "scratch n dent" products discounted off of their regular price.  I have some Rotel amps and also integrated.  If you go this route you could spend less than $3K on a decent integrated and have more $ for speakers and definitely room for a sub.  The only missing piece is tubes so if you decide to go solid these are some ideas for you.  

Let us know how you make out and good luck.

1. work hard to fall in love with some efficient speakers

that reduces power needs, ss and easier to try/use tubes in many ways:

less power needed; size, placement (remote control beam), weight, heat, cost, availability of options.

2. integrated with pre-in, i.e. pass thru without it's volume control, ....

I want both remote volume and remote balance (and mute). you often need to download the manual to find what hidden options are available, and which ones are accessible via the remote.

3. consider a future vintage preamp loaded with 'old world' features. budget a rehab for vintage.

4. used will definitely get you more, verify everything, patience to wait for what you want, hopefully find near enough to meet seller half-way or audition at seller's place.


If you could find a nice used pair of JM Lab/Focal Mezzo Utopia's you'd be golden. 

Many think those were one of the best speakers Focal ever produced. 

Speakers up to 8K, I highly recommend the Daedalus Muse speakers.  I haven't heard any better in that budget range.  Heirloom speakers that sing and can handle a wide range of amplifiers, including low-watt tubes. 

@jrcotner Interesting and very astute question!  Many audiophiles often ignore the very important issue of component synthesis, which often makes a world of difference.  If your intention is to drop 10K in one place, I would recommend spending a few bucks in travel expenses for some serious critical listening in one or more high-end shops.  With proper advance preparation and communication with the appropriate shops and a 10K budget you should be able to score a serious discount(s) on some very nice equipment.

That being said, based upon personal experience, I can attest to the fact that McIntosh amplifiers ... well ... McIntosh amplifiers sound stupendous with just about any appropriately matched speakers.  However, my ears particularly enjoyed Sonus Faber matching, which is probably why McIntosh Group acquired them.  After the better part of a 9-month serious seat-time speaker upgrade quest involving, as best I can recall, somewhere in the vicinity of 18 different speakers, I eventually came home with a pair of Revel that sound great with my MAC.  The MAC sounded great with a pair of Paradigm I previously owned, as well, but the Revel were/are a step above.

As for other amp/speaker marriages that I've spent serious seat-time with, in your target budget, my ears particularly enjoyed appropriately matched Luxman & Revel; Luxman & Focal and Simaudio Moon & Martin Logan.

Generally speaking, with efficient or sensitive speakers, you won't need massive amounts of amp power for a 15' X 15" sound room, especially if you listen at modest or less than live performance decibel levels.

Good luck in your quest.

Quicksilver and Rogue are great at that pricepoiny and both pair well with vandersteen speakers. You could stay under budget with a pair of newest model 2 or move up the line to the model 3. I think you’ll find the pairing sounds amazing

@jrcotner, as you live in Minnesota, I love New Ulm, you should give Bill Soderholm a call at Stereoland in Bloomington, MN. I’ve been buying audio gear from him since the 70’s since he opened his store in Minneapolis. He and his team were super helpful when I put my most recent system together in 2021 during the pandemic. If he doesn’t have what you want, he can definitely get ahold of it for you. 


I also have a Prima Luna integrated amp.  It's paired with the Focal 936's.  The pair are honey to my ears.


Alta Audio Alyssa paired with Rogue Cronus Magnum iii dark edition (upgrade) would put you right around your target number. Joseph Audio would be a great choice too except their current stand mount offering, the Pulsar 2 Graphene, is $10k. I found an old pair of the original Joseph Audio Pulsar speakers on Reverb and pair them with the Rogue Cronus Magnum iii dark edition, after being blown away by this combo at CAF 2023. I have a similar size room and our wives could be sisters. ;)

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Some Audiovector speakers would be great.


I live close by, I would be happy to take you to the Twin Cities for a day of audiophile shopping.  Glad to help out another hobbyist as we are relatively few and far between where we live. Message me separately if you want.

I would try upgrading tubes in the  PL & Jolida DAC/phono preamp before changing any gear out.



If you are good with tubes, I'd suggest a Rogue Cronus Magnum III for $3,495 or the "Dark" edition for $4,495.....I got to hear both recently and was very impressed. 100WPC, 4 ohm stable, MM & MC phono, headphone amp, and a very attractive unit. That would still leave you with $6,500 or $5,500 for speakers.....used Sonus Faber, Joseph Audio, Fyne Audio, Focal, Revel Salon 2, Yamaha NS-5000

OP,  OK I'll mention Raven.  Love mine and 20 wpc in my midsized room seems plenty.  2w stand speakers at about 87db.  Your room is15x15 and not sure of your next speaker's efficiency  it might be a tad low on power.  Raven does have 80hz hi-pass so they have more avail power and do well with subs.  Roll a pair of quality NOS in pre spots and it shines.  Used about $1800 - 2000. 

I like Sonus fabers and think the Sonetto V is a great value for speakers.

Amps there are two companies that make some excellent amps with great value Moon (SS) and Rogue (Tube)  

Good luck in your journey!

One tube amp-speaker pairing that impressed me in your price range was the PrimaLuna Evo 300 with the Dynaudio Heritage. I don't recall whether they excell at classical music specifically though. 

One reviewers favorite amp pairing with Dynaudio was a tube pre amp with SS power amp. Because you need an integrated, Macintosh also may work, but I haven't heard that pairing. 

You might want to look at KEF towers. They are fabulous with classical, jazz, blues and efficient speakers.

classdstreamer, I use Dynaudio speakers with a Rogue (Sphinx) tube/SS combo and have been pleased with the sound for years now.

Thank you for the thoughtful advice.  I have a lot of research to do, not the least of which is finding some dealers.

I would purchase the speakers 1st. Then identify the best integrated amp to drive them.  Avoid hard to drive speakers. 

Buy a pair of atc scm40a built in amplifiers for each driver has one of the best midrange drivers on the planet just add a tube pre amplifier job done and you can thank me later 

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.


I second the Sonus Faber and ARC I-50 recommendations.


Also, if you want good sounding equipment steer clear of ASR. The information there will send you in the wrong direction, it is utter nonsense. For good info, Robert Harley’s book, The Complete Guide to High End Audio and for reviews The Absolute Sound, Stereophile, and HiFi+.