Bellari PA555 vacuum tube preamplifier a bargain at $275, and your key to better sound (Week 8, 2020)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 8, 2020

Q. After reading your recent article about the Polk Audio LSiM series speakers I decided to buy a pair of the top-of-the-line LSiM707 towers. I currently have a Sony STR-DE845 receiver. Will it be enough for these speakers? If not, what receiver or amplifier do you recommend between $500 and $1,000?

-W.J., Lodi, CA

A. While your Sony may be able to make the speakers produce sound, it is not a good match. The power specifications are not impressive and it is considered an entry-level model, and out of its league working with a pair of LSiM707s that originally sold for $4,000. You need to upgrade to do the speakers justice.

My usual recommendations, the Outlaw Audio RR2160 receiver ($899) and Cambridge Audio CXA61 integrated amplifier ($999) would both work well.

I have a new recommendation that will sound incredible and add some exotic flair to your system. First I will explain the difference between an integrated amplifier, a receiver and separate components.

An integrated amplifier combines a preamplifier (selects sources and adjust volume) with a power amplifier (powers the speakers) in a single chassis. A receiver combines an integrated amplifier with a tuner for listening to the radio, again on a single chassis. These are the most popular hi-fi amplification products due to the convenience of a single chassis and lower cost compared to separate components.

With “separates” you use two components, a basic amplifier combined with a preamplifier. The amplifier powers the speakers and the preamplifier changes the volume and selects between different sources. Separates provide the very highest performance and flexibility, and once you have experienced the difference it is unlikely you will ever go back. They can be very expensive, but I recently came across a magical combo that is affordable and has sound quality that is out of this world.

The $399 Emotiva BasX A-300 basic amplifier produces a very potent 150 watts per channel. The sound is clean, effortless and musical and it would match well with even some of the most expensive and power-hungry speakers on the market. I used an A-300 to drive the exotic Magnepan LRS speakers, and it did so quite easily despite the demanding power requirements. The A-300 is also a great match for Emotiva’s T-Zero tower speakers.

The preamplifier is something very special. The Bellari PA555 vacuum tube preamplifier is built on a small chassis and uses a single vacuum tube combined with high quality, yet simple circuitry of impeccable technical specifications. Despite the small size and low price, the PA555 has the warm, clean, detailed and natural sound quality associated with expensive tube components. The PA555 is $275, which is a bargain price for any preamplifier, let alone a vacuum tube model as they usually start over $1,000.

The PA555 has four inputs, three in the back and one miniplug input on the front. Connect a turntable with a phono preamplifier, a disc player and a Bluetooth receiver to the PA555, then connect the PA555 to the inputs on the A-300 amplifier. Use speaker wire to connect the A-300 to your speakers and you have a full-featured system with tons of power and vacuum tube magic. The PA555/A-300 combo comes to $674, and I don’t think the performance or sound can be beat without spending much more.

By the way, for those of you with powered speakers the PA555 is a great way to add additional inputs while improving the sound quality. See the Bellari PA555 at