Using separates to build a top-tier stereo, Adcom belongs on your shopping list (Week 16, 2021)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 16, 2021

Q. I have Magnepan speakers and they are very difficult for a receiver to drive properly. Looking to take things to the next level I am moving from a receiver to separate components, specifically an Emotiva BasX A2 amplifier to power the speakers and a Cambridge Audio CXN (V2) for my network streamer. The last piece of the puzzle is the preamplifier. I have narrowed it down to the $299 Emotiva PT-100 or the $699 Adcom GFP-815. The PT-100 is not available right now and I do not know when it will be back in stock. Do you think the Adcom is worth the extra $400?

-P.N., New Hope, MN

A. I will start with a lesson on “separate components.” A receiver (or an integrated amplifier) combines an amplifier and a preamplifier on a single chassis. The amplifier powers the speakers, and the preamplifier selects what you want to listen to, changes the volume and may incorporate tone controls as well.

With separates you have two components, an amplifier and a preamplifier. Separates provide the highest possible performance and sound quality, as well as the flexibility to mix and match according to your tastes and budget. You can also upgrade easily as your needs change. For example, if someone buys new speakers with higher power requirements they can just sell their old amplifier and buy a more powerful one. The most dedicated hi-if fans (myself included) use separates and with receivers getting weaker with each generation, separates are well worth the investment.

The Emotiva PT-100 is a good preamplifier. It also incorporates an FM tuner and a digital-to-analog converter (DAC.) The FM tuner has good reception, but is notoriously difficult to operate. The DAC is good quality and with all it offers for $299, the PT-100 is a fantastic value for anyone getting started with separate audio components.

That said, I think the Adcom GFP-815 is a better choice for your system and worth the extra money. You do not need the PT-100’s DAC because your Cambridge Audio CXN(V2) is an even better one, and in general Adcom is considered higher grade than Emotiva BasX components. Top-of-the-line Emotiva gear would be more of an Adcom competitor. Besides this, for $699 there is nothing remotely comparable to the GFP-815 and you can’t buy a PT-100 right now, anyway. Everything is pointing towards buying the GFP-815.

As for the company itself, Adcom built some of the most revered electronics designs of the past 40 years, specifically their preamplifiers and the GFA-555 amplifier, which won numerous awards throughout the audio world and found its way into cost-no-object systems despite the affordable price. As the world transitioned to e-commerce Adcom’s market presence went down substantially as they traditionally depended on independent brick-and-mortar retailers to sell their wares. Despite this, the company has stayed in continuous operation amid a few ownership changes and is now solidly established in the marketplace again. Refined and updated versions of Adcom’s best designs are now being produced in quantity, offering top-shelf performance along with classic styling and a noteworthy heritage. Adcom electronics are available online from and I heartily recommend them to anyone building a top-tier system.

With the excellent Emotiva amplifier powering your Magnepans, combined with what is probably the world’s best streamer in the Cambridge Audio CXN(V2) and all controlled with the Adcom GFP-815 preamplifier, you will soon own a top-tier system. You are in for a treat, enjoy it!