Amp to bring Naim and B&W together

mlilliman

Novice Member
Hello,

I'm looking to upgrade my system in the New Year and hope to get a bit of advice on how best to make my next purchase. As you might guess from the title of this post, I've pre-empted that my amp maybe the one to make way but am reluctant to make changes for change sake.

My hifi comprises a Naim CD5i, Arcam A80 and pair of B&W CM1s. I've not skimped on ICs, speaker cable or stands, and am using Chord Chrysalis (DIN to 2RCA), QED SA bi-wire, and B&W's FS700 stands.

Having owned an all-Arcam setup driving a modest pair of KEF Q3s and later the B&W's, I realise I like a more livelier, slightly forward presentation. I auditioned the Naim CD5i alongside the Arcam CD192 and Rega Apollo, and for me it delivered a better all round sound with an extra touch of emotion to voices - this was partnered with the Arcam A80 amp.

I'd say the CM1s are slightly laidback with an enthusiastic bass presentation and sweet top end, but perhaps the Arcam is weighing things down a little causing an over emphasis on the bass for my liking. I've a real soft spot for the A80 and perhaps it's not a good match for the B&Ws.

If I was to upgrade the amp, apart from the obvious Nait 5i (which seems to divide opinion on the realism front), what other amps should I audition? Would bi-amping with a P80 tighten up the low end and deliver more grunt, or is that upgrade more worthwhile with a trickier speaker load? My budget is around £600.

Happy to answer any questions that may help direct the advice.

Mark
 

Cable Monkey

Novice Member
Can I make a slightly different suggestion? Experiment with something other than the silver anniversary cable first. I would suggest a decent quality copper cable and would advise you not to spend too much initially. Other than that, CM1's are quite a complex load. If you do go for a change of amplification then you will not go far wrong with an amp with good power delivery such as Rotel.
 

Mr_Sukebe

Member
Interesting question. Have to say that B&Ws are definitely not my cup of tea. I personally find their bass somewhat bloated and poorly controlled, almost regardless of what's driving them, though I do understand that some people love this style of delivery.
Naim are notorious for having better control in the lower regions that most kit, certainly anything that comes to mind. I'd definitely recommend that you give one a listen, preferably a home dem.
I agree with your comments ref the Arcam, and don't think that adding a power amp really will help much, as you'll still have the slightly veiled and laid back pre-amp to work with.
I don't see anything in your price bracket that would do the job as you need something with good damping control. Some of the newer class D amps do that very well, but they're out of your price range.

If you find the Naim doesn't resolve your ills, I'd suggest you look at a new pair of speakers. I recently heard some JM Focal labs and came away rather impressed. They might work well with your Arcam amp, and might be a better way to spend your dosh.
 

mlilliman

Novice Member
Can I make a slightly different suggestion? Experiment with something other than the silver anniversary cable first. I would suggest a decent quality copper cable and would advise you not to spend too much initially.
I thought about changing the speaker cable, but having read that the QED silver anniversary has a tendancy for brightness, thought this was working in my favour. Certainly, the Monitor Audio fans out there seem to avoid QED SA like the plague!

I'll certainly give a different speaker cable a try as I noticed a difference between the Chord and a previous Van den Hull III interconnect. It was small and perhaps only discernable in a direct A-B comparison, but the Chord gave a deeper soundstage while the Van den Hul made the top end more noticeable (splashy, I would say) at the expense of authority in the bass. Not sure which is the most honest, but I prefer the Chord.

Mr_Sukebe, I haven't heard the full B&W range, only the 600 and CM series. I'm in the 'B&W bass is great' camp but with the CM1s they have certainly outdone themselves and I'm using the supplied (hollow!) foam bungs which work to nice effect.

Given that the CM1s retail within most people's hifi budget, surely B&W had a couple of integrated amplifiers in mind that people would use with them?! I know Rotel is a favourite, but I'm not sure their RA range measure up to the performance of my Arcam. Would Primare (I21) or any second hand kit around the £600-650 price be up to the job?
 

karkus30

Banned
I thought about changing the speaker cable, but having read that the QED silver anniversary has a tendancy for brightness, thought this was working in my favour. Certainly, the Monitor Audio fans out there seem to avoid QED SA like the plague!

I'll certainly give a different speaker cable a try as I noticed a difference between the Chord and a previous Van den Hull III interconnect. It was small and perhaps only discernable in a direct A-B comparison, but the Chord gave a deeper soundstage while the Van den Hul made the top end more noticeable (splashy, I would say) at the expense of authority in the bass. Not sure which is the most honest, but I prefer the Chord.

Mr_Sukebe, I haven't heard the full B&W range, only the 600 and CM series. I'm in the 'B&W bass is great' camp but with the CM1s they have certainly outdone themselves and I'm using the supplied (hollow!) foam bungs which work to nice effect.

Given that the CM1s retail within most people's hifi budget, surely B&W had a couple of integrated amplifiers in mind that people would use with them?! I know Rotel is a favourite, but I'm not sure their RA range measure up to the performance of my Arcam. Would Primare (I21) or any second hand kit around the £600-650 price be up to the job?
NAC72/NAP140 would have better bass control, but TBH you will not change the overall character of your speakers by changing the amplifier (unless the amp was struggling to drive the speakers). Speaker cable will have even less effect, it tends to add a bit of seasoning if your already pretty close to your ideal, stands have a similar effect as speaker cable although tend to operate at more precise frequencies. So, if you want to get rid of some bass overhang, then change to spiked speaker stands with materials like slate, heavy well damped stands and blutac can emphasise the bass more at the expense of imaging.

Oh yes and I do happen to have a spare mint NAP140 in a box under the stairs.
 

Noopz

Standard Member
I would definately take a listen to the Nait 5i...it will more than likely give you more of the 'Naim sound'. If you do this I would also think about changing your speaker wire to NACA5. I think Naim kit definately works better if it's paired with other naim kit.

To be honest I don't really like B&Ws speaker offerings, they always seem to be detailed, but to my ears sound flat and boring. I haven't heard the 8xx series, but I hear they thrive on a meaty power amp.
 

mlilliman

Novice Member
Thanks for the input guys. :thumbsup:

I am fairly happy with the all-round talents of my system, and perhaps the improvement I'm looking for is on the next rung of the hifi ladder and can't be bought for peanuts. I haven't listened to an all Naim system driving the CM1s so will try a Nait 5i in the coming weeks. Audio T have a sale on now so that might just be the temptation I need!

I agree wholeheartedly regarding the 'seasoning' affect that cables and stands have on a system. While integrated amplifiers should aim to be essentially neutral sounding, I'm sure a few have qualities (flaws?) that best suit certain speakers.

I'm reluctant to replace the B&Ws but may have to accept that with a budget of £600, there may be a better choice of speaker out there to suit the Arcam. PMC's DB1+ looks a strong candidate...

I'll report back once I've auditioned a speaker cable change, the Nait 5i, and a different choice of speaker.
 

Mr_Sukebe

Member
I've heard the PMCs, thought they were truly yawn inducing.
Having said that, on the same dem, had a listen to a pair of the new Acoustic Energy AE1s (the new classic version). Awesome little speaker. Easily outperformed the PMCs and made the huge Proac floorstanders that were available come across as terribly coloured and slow, IMO.

The AE1s might well be worth your while checking out. Pretty good price nowadays too. If I were looking at standmounts, I'd be dem'd those against some JM Labs gear.
 

OneDesi

Well-known Member
I agree with Cable Monkey in the first instance - swap the QED speaker cable for some Van Damme pro stuff (basic good copper, I moved to this fro QED XT-400 and havne't looked back) - I think you will be pleasantly surprised for next to no money.

I think the Arcam house sound lends itself to being neutral so if you want a bit more life then maybe try musical fidelity? Other than that I think the matching Naim amp will work well.

As for speakers you could try my proacs tablettes for sale in the classifieds (I know it is a shanmeless plug - sorry) but (and I'm a fan of the CM1's) the proacs beat PMC and B&W for a natural good sound
 

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