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Amp Buying Advice Needed (£300 max)

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by CarbonToe, Jun 15, 2005.

  1. CarbonToe

    CarbonToe
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    I need help choosing a Hi-Fi Amp.

    I have the following criteria

    1. Must have Digital Optical or Coax input to connect my Roku M1000.
    2. Be able to connect two lots of speakers (a pair of B&W DM601 for inside and B&W WM4 for outside). If I could choose from A, B and A+B all the better!
    3. Cost no more than £300. If a decent cheaper amp is available – great!!

    It would also be nice if it was a small form factor as the Roku is only 12 inches wide and will sit on the top.

    Thanks :)
     
  2. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    Carbon you dont get Hifi amp with digital inputs, you get AV amp or AV processors or Digital Preamps with DACs.

    You would be better off buying a £200 Hifi amp and a £100 DAC for all your digital inputs. Do some searching on the forum, start with the sticky FAW at the top of the forum.
     
  3. CarbonToe

    CarbonToe
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    Sorry, for that, I have got my terminology mixed up.

    I currently have an aging Kenwood Pro-Logic amp, a DAC Magic 2 Mk2, a Cambridge Audio CD6 and a Roku M1000 media server. This lot takes up far too much room hence the DAC and CD6 being for sale on eBay at the moment!! The Amp will follow soon as I have a replacement.

    What I need then is an AV Amp!!! Unless there is such a thing as a small form factor Amp with DAC?
     
  4. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    Carbon AV amps below £1000 are generally pants at stereo, ie with CD.

    Id be aiming for say a Rotel RA-02 for £200 + a £100 second hand or DIY NOS DAC.
     
  5. jon_mendel

    jon_mendel
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    Carbon, it's your system of course so go for what pleases you, but I've had a Dacmagic 2 Mk 2 in my system and it's a decent stereo DAC - imho you'll have a hell of a time finding an AV amp with a built-in DAC that works that well for stereo...let alone a £300 amp... Are you sure you want to sell it? - I don't expect you'll get a fortune for it, and you could always sell the CD6 and run the DACMAGIC from your DVD player to get much better sound than you would expect from the DAC in a budget AV amp. This would also let you add a decicated stereo amp at a later date, should you decide you want better stereo sound ;)

    FWIW, I had to give up my Cambridge DACMAGIC as it broke :( I Listen to music now using a decent budget CD player and a fairly good DVD player - but it doesn't sound as good without the stereo DAC :(

    Jon
     
  6. CarbonToe

    CarbonToe
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    I didnt want to sell it and to be honest I didnt get much (£120 for both the DAC and the CD6).

    The problem is with the system we had in the spare room was that it was far too big (a medium sized Ampo plus two slices) hence the plan to WMA (Lossless) all our CDs (about 500), put a ROKU M1000 in the room with a small Amp streaming wirelessly from a PC in out loft.

    We are justifying the cost because by wireing in a set of outside speakers into the second set of outputs we can entertain or just enjoy outselves in the garden and use the system that way.

    Guys please help, I'm drawing up far too many blanks!

    Thanks
     
  7. jon_mendel

    jon_mendel
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    Sorry Carbon - just to clarify, do you have a surround sound set-up or are you just wanting to listen in stereo? In terms of running 2 pairs of speakers off one amp, you can get both AV and stereo amps that have a second set of speaker outputs; even if the amp doesn't have a second set of outputs, that's no great problem as somewhere like richer sounds or maplin will do you a speaker switch for £10-15 to let you listen to more than one set of speakers (I use run 3 pairs of speakers off an amp with only 1 set of outputs).

    If you're buying an amp with built-in dac purely to use with your roko, I'd suggest demoing some stereo amps without built-in dacs off the roko's phono outputs (IIRC, it does have those?) as well as AV amps off its digital out - you may find the former sound better, or there's not enough difference to justify the higher cost of an AV amp. You do get some smaller DACs, if that helps - some of the NOS DACs CJRoss suggested can be quite small IIRC correctly, and there's plenty of DACs smaller than the Cambridge... As AV amps are often bigger than stereo ones, you might even find that a small stereo amp and small seperate DAC wouldn't take up any more space than a larger AV amp ;)

    Anyway, talking of garden's, will go take advantage of the sun :)

    Jon
     
  8. CarbonToe

    CarbonToe
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    I'm running the ROKU from the Phono outputs at the moment, I just assumed that the digital outputs would sound better as I was streaming digital files?

    My output in plain vanilla stereo. The only reason I mentioned Home Cinema Amps is beacuse they have DACs built in.

    What are the Denon RCD-M35DAB or DRA-F101 like or is there a better value small Amp out there?

    Thanks for your help Jon
     
  9. jon_mendel

    jon_mendel
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    Carbon,

    Before you can listen to the digital signal streamed via the roko it does need to go through a DAC - the roko has a built in one, but if you use the digital outputs you will bypass its internal DAC and use an external DAC instead; this may sound better (or worse) than the roko through its phono outputs, depending on how good the external DAC is. If you only need a stereo DAC and stereo amp, you'd expect to get a lot less for your money if you buy an AV amp - these have lots of feature that are irrelevent for stereo use.

    I haven't heard that small amp (or many small amps). Lots of people like the musical fidelity x80, which you sometimes see new for £250 and which (IIRC, though check dimensions before you buy!) is small-ish. THe musical fidelity won't include a tuner, but if you want digital radio as well, one way to save on boxes might be to listen through a freeview box or stream digital radio from your PC - running this through an external DAC, if you get one...

    Jon
     
  10. CarbonToe

    CarbonToe
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    Jon

    Ta, the Roku really is the Dogs Danglies, it does stream Radio as well as media files and looks far better than the competition.

    So with my entire CD collection encoded in WMA lossless I can store my CD's into the Loft and stream radio/music to any Roku attached Amp in the house. It's the way forward; knock up a quick playlist from a iPac, Roku, PC or webbrowser and voila it plays. No trips to the CD rack!

    And as I've said parring down and minialising clutter is what I'm trying to achieve. The Roku does all once Amped, so I don't need Radio, CD, etc etc, just Amplification.

    I'll look into the X80, That Amp has been recommended by a few people but I assumed that it was a monster as I've only seen it in piccies. Any advice on where to buy (or is that a new posting?!!)

    I'll ask the guys at Roku about the quality of the DAC in their product.

    Again, Jon and CJ, thanks for your help.
     
  11. CarbonToe

    CarbonToe
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    Damn, just downloaded the pdf for the X-80, it only supports one set of speakers.
     
  12. jon_mendel

    jon_mendel
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    You're welcome carbon. re. size of the x80 - IIRC it's smaller than some amps, but I didn't look too closely as it was out my budget :( so you'd best check if you look at it further...

    As I said, it's easy enough to buy a speaker switch so you can run 2 pairs of speaker (or 4) off one set of speaker outputs from the amp - btech and QED, for example, do pretty solid ones. That would be another box, but only a relatively small and cheap one ;) so could be worth looking at.

    In terms of DACs, you may well find that the roku would benefit from an external stereo DAC (the similar, though cheaper, hauppage kit I've heard didn't seem to have a DAC as good as, say, your Cambridge DAC would have been); tbh though I'd be surprised if you get much benefit from using the DAC in a budget AV amp as they're often not great for stereo. If you've still got an amp, have a listen to the roko off its phono outs and see what you think :D If you do buy a stereo amp, one way to do things would be to buy the amp first then add an external DAC if you wanted to upgrade :)

    Jon
     
  13. CarbonToe

    CarbonToe
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    I'll go with an X80 (assuming I can pick one up from Dorset when I'm down there in a couple of weeks and then fit a Serial Speaker Switch.

    Thanks
     

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