Amplifier upgrade

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by rosscouk, Aug 13, 2019.

  1. rosscouk

    rosscouk
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    Hi All,

    I have been working/tinkering on my system for a while and I am looking for some advice for a new amplifier for my main listening room in my lounge.

    In terms of my current system, I am a Roon subscriber and have a NUC i7 as my Core which serves music from my Synology 918+ NAS across Ethernet to three endpoints (listening rooms) which includes my lounge, office and kitchen.

    Recently I have been focusing on my lounge where I have updated my main speakers moving from Monitor Audio Bronze 5’s to some lovely PMC Twenty5 22’s after demoing quite a few other speakers (including B&W 704 s2’s, Monitor Audio Gold 200 and Kef R5’s). They are a great speaker and I have moved from floorstanders to a sealed cabinet standmounts due to tricky positioning - e.g. one speaker in front of a bay window. With rear ported speakers, even when bunged, I was getting too much bass.

    I have also measured my room, taken sound measurements using REW and used a company called Home Audio Fidelity to provide me with some digital correction filters, I load these into HQ Player (which also runs on my NUC) adjusting what is played out of the speakers. This helps massively, primarily with the room.

    I have added one of two acoustic panels to rear walls but not too many as I still need my other half to talk to me!

    So, I would like an amplifier to aim for, I am currently using a second hand Musical Fidelity M3i, which was also recommended through these forums. Its a good amp, but ultimately getting a bit long in the tooth. Feeding the amp is a Mytek Liberty DAC fed by an Allo USBridge.

    I would need any new amp to have home theatre bypass or equivalent as I also run a home theatre 5.1 set-up in the same room.

    I have really enjoyed tinkering with the house system and hope to do the same with any new amplifier. Demo'ing the speakers was great fun in Sevenoaks in Bristol, they even let me borrow the B&W's and a set of the PMCs to check I got on with them at home.

    I am quite happy to save up for a while for the amp, and I think it will be with me for a while as I don't see myself changing the speakers. So price-wise, anywhere up to and around £2000. I have never done pre and power amps but I would consider as a solution. In fact, I have wondered about adding a power amp to the current solution but not got much further than that.

    Thanks for any replies.
     
  2. Ugg10

    Ugg10
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    In your sig you do not state what your rear/centre speakers are? If you have non then the avr is redundant.

    If you like the musical fidelity sound then you could move up to the m6i. Others on this forum like the Rega Elicit R, the Yamaha as2100 is often recommended and the pmc’s are often paired with naim (172xs preamp which has a streamer built in and nap200 power amp may be in reach second hand, but do audition as the naim sound is a bit of a marmite thing).

    Best way is to find friendly dealer, take your speakers and dac down and let your ears decide. Or better still get some home demos so you can see how your room eq interacts.
     
  3. rosscouk

    rosscouk
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    Thanks for pointing that out @Ugg10, I needed to update my signature, I am still not sure I have done a good job!

    I did have a Monitor Audio 5.1 set-up in the lounge fed by the Denon. I part-exchanged the front left and right Monitors when I purchased the PMCs. I have retained the centre, surround and sub. I was worried that I might hear big tonal differences but I haven't really noticed. I might get the PMC centre at some point.

    I like the amp to a degree, or rather, I don't dislike it, but I feel I might be able to find something which might suit the PMCs better. I have wondered about the M6si, although I am not sure I need the onboard DAC, it feels like I would be paying for something I may not use, however I think it should be on the shortlist.

    Completely agree with this, however I live in the South West in Somerset and there is not that much choice. Sevenoaks in Bristol were great with the speakers. I really enjoyed doing the demo's.

    I have added the Rega Elicit R and Yamaha as2100 to the list to investigate further. In terms of the Naim's, I would probably want to add a separate streamer, as that technology continues to change so quickly and I may not wish to change the amp at the same pace.
     
  4. Khazul

    Khazul
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    I second the suggestion to look at the Yamaha A-S2100 (which is what I have) or the Rega

    Elicit R. A nice feature of the A-S2100 is that you can connect a 12V trigger from your AVR that will turn it on and select the 'Main Direct' (HT bypass) input.

    Your wife could turn on the TV via its remote, AVR detects TV switching on via HDMI-CEC, when AVR turns on it asserts the 12V trigger which in turn turns this on and selects the right input as well as switching your sub on etc if that too supports a 12V trigger.

    This is basically how I have everything setup and also use Logitech Harmony to control everything as well, including Roon (via the Deep Harmony Roon extension which I am the author of).

    Both are very good HiFi amps. Of course there is NAD, Naim, MF etc and others to look at as well, but around 1.5-2k range these two amps tend to stick out for me. There seems number of regulars on these forums who have one or the other and seems to be very happy with their choice. But as ever, there are a number of other good options in this kind of price range as well.

    When I was originally looking, The Yamaha always stuck out from an aesthetic and feature perspective and some good reviews even before I got to eventually hear it.

    BTW - Ive seen your room photo in the Roon photos thread over at the Roon forums.

    Is this to replace your main Roon output?

    If you exclusive use Roon, might not be worth investing in a high end streamer and instead some kind of Roon compatible network DAC adapter which is similar to the setup you already have. Of course this discussion then start to get a bit to one on the Roon forums then (the USB vs Ethenet one...) :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2019
  5. gibbsy

    gibbsy
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    Rega Elicit-R. No 12V trigger. No stand by mode. No headphone socket. Cannot be turned on with the remote. HT by-pass is sweet to use and can be accessed from the remote. Sounds absolutely superb. It's a pure analogue amp which has a terrific power delivery.
     
  6. rosscouk

    rosscouk
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    Thanks for the replies.

    I didn't realise that, I keep that thread bookmarked on the Roon forum, I am going to need to get a Harmony at some point, its keeps on getting bumped down the list.

    There are pro's and con's to this, all of this sounds great but it will highlight that I have bought some new kit!! Practically speaking it does sound ideal, a step on from now. The sub does support a trigger but its currently across the room, connected, but without a trigger.

    I don't think I was very clear, I basically mean, I want to keep amp, DAC, streamer etc all separate. So I can update stuff when I want to and I am not having to do all of it at once.

    I am clearly going to have to listen to both the Rega and the Yammy!

    I also keep an eye on this thread below (it was originally pointed out to me on this forum in the depths of time)

    Amplifiers with HT-bypass - update 03. September 2017

    Are there any that jump out from this list?
     
  7. gibbsy

    gibbsy
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    Some can have a very convoluted way of either setting up by-pass or even just switching to it from normal listening mode. Marantz have to have it's HT button held in for three seconds on the front facia for example. The big problem seems to be following the HT set up in some manuals. Not sure on the Yamaha but the Rega is simplicity itself.
     
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  8. Ugg10

    Ugg10
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    As a wildcard it may be worth calling in on these guys -

    https://www.nordacoustics.co.uk/contact

    Nord Pre-a and One Up pre-power combo comes in a tad over budget (or without the Up buffer well under) but you do get 400w into 8ohm of class D and a basic (function) preamp with ht bypass. Good review of the power amp on hifipig (with info on the different opamps that can be fitted) and hifiwigwam.
     
  9. Khazul

    Khazul
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    Ignoring the extra 12V trigger behavior on the Yamaha - its just a selectable input just like on the elicit-r. Directly selectable from the remote too.

    I also echo @gibbsy comments about some of the HT bypass capable amps not always being so convenient to switch over. For most of us dealing with multiple input selection is just an inconvenience, but not a source of confusion. OTOH, for our other halves, family etc, it can often be a major source of confusion that gets in the way of usability which tends to come back and bite us in the end other half not being happy she cant just press a button and have it all work etc.

    So, whatever you look at, if you have family to consider, definitely check that whatever you choose at the very least has a direct remote command to select the required inputs. Remotes with source input cycling will not be good enough - they always end up with problems once you try to integrate fully via harmony or similar.

    Well not necessarily - the more automated and therefore invisible in use, the less obvious its existence is. :)

    That is what is nice with HT bypass amps with full remote integration - just one button to switch TV on and no more effort in use to just using the TV alone - the AVR + amps all end up completely invisible in use - just great sound. My wife is about as much of a technophobe as you could imagine, so there was just no way she was ever going to be happy with a heap of remote and having to switch a bunch of stuff on/off etc. I think it took her several months to notice the Yamaha amp despite that she had been using it every day in all that time :)

    OK that makes sense - it why I prefer all analog amps. Purely analog equipment (ignoring that it may have digital control as any with a remote will), have excellent longevity independent of the fast pace of change in digital audio. Another reason I like Roon - keeps everything separate so I can upgrade little bits as and when...
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2019
  10. rosscouk

    rosscouk
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    Which Harmony remote is the best to go for then? Is it just Harmony Elite?
     
  11. Khazul

    Khazul
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    I just use the harmony hub with companion remote - its much cheaper and abuse (ie being dropped) tolerant. Its the only remote we use with all the others live in a drawer and only ever get used to get at something like AVR speaker settings or some other thing that is never used day to day. Your activity buttons to tell it what you want to do, and then according to what activity (for example watching TV, watching BD, listening to Music etc) it reconfigures all the other control buttons to direct command to the appropriate equipment. So, when watching TV - volume up/down -> AVR, navigation -> TV etc. When listening to music, navigation and playback control -> Roon, Volume -> Yamaha amp, spare button -> DAC for filter selection etc. When watching a BD, then as per TV, but playback control -> BD player.

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Logitech-Harmony-Companion-Control-Entertainment-Black/dp/B014GXQ3S4

    I keep waiting for the other one (elite + hub) to come up ultra cheap in a sale to get another (its about 170 or the moment), but am not desperate for another one. Oddly its much cheaper to get another package than just the remote.

    Apart from the touch display on the elite, the other difference is purely a Logitech being tight for no technical reason - the elite allows for more devices to be set up whereas companion version is limited to 8 I think unless you also register the elite (950) remote. Just a bit of marketing pettiness.

    There is a also the express remote, but I know nothing about it and the remote itself is rather limited so of no interest to me.

    The full hub remotes above can also control smart home devices like lighting (Philips hue for eg), smart plugs (Samsung smartthings for eg) etc and of course you get Amazon alexa integration and I think google home too. I have mine setup to control Philips hue room lighting so we can dim/change lights when watching a movie for eg.

    It isn't all perfect, sometimes some device can be a real fiddle to setup, sometimes you can end up fighting a little with HDMI-CEC commands between devices (on/off typically), but you can set command delays if necessary to work around those kind of quirks. I leave everything fully HDMI-CEC enabled (people often recommend disabling this to avoid command fighting) and once I got delays set right and order of switch on set right, then all works very reliably.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2019
  12. rosscouk

    rosscouk
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    A question I am going to need to answer by demoing the equipment, but, I will ask anyway now. Am I likely to hear much different between any of these suggested amps and my current M3i?

    Changing my speakers and then room correction have had the biggest impact so what can I expect from changing an amplifier?
     
  13. Ugg10

    Ugg10
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    In my experience the sound is affected in the following order from most to least -

    The grey squishy bit between your ears, speakers =with room, preamp, analogue source, digital source (more from analogue bits inside), power amp, cables.

    Just my 2p worth.
     
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  14. JemCollector

    JemCollector
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    Approximately a year ago I was converted to Roksan, the K3, having been truly impressed at my local hifi shop. A while after I bought the matching power amp. The amp alone is extremely capable and oozes clarity and punch. I absolutely love it. The addition of the power amp has given it a bit more ‘throw’ into the room.

    The HT bypass is easy to connect up (thanks Gibbsy and others). There isn’t a 12v trigger, it’s just a simple amp with tons of clarity and grunt. I have Kef R700’s (which dip to 3.2 ohms) and the Roksan drives them easily.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019
  15. Khazul

    Khazul
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    Mostly agree with above (Ugg10), however I have also heard massive differences in bass handling between amplifiers when driving large full range speakers.

    Room mostly determine the sound character (tonal balance + amount and type of ambience) which can be good or awful. It can also contribute to the amount of detail you perceive. Too much reflection for eg will drown out some detail. The wrong kind of reflection (windows) may make some sounds really harsh - vocal for eg, female vocal in particular. Too much absorption can make everything sound a bit lifeless.

    Above about 60-80Hz, then the differences between amp can be very subtle indeed - just little differences in clarity/detail etc. Maybe a specific amp+speaker pairing may tend to be a tiny bright brighter than another. Below about 60Hz or so, then depending on the speaker/room you may notice no difference or at the other extreme a huge difference between amps. Between different decent quality amps, you shouldn't notice that much difference across most of the audio range. I personal tend to find the most obvious between similarly good amps tend to be at the extreme high end, but don't ask me to describe it in generally meaningful way. Maybe it is personal preference thing.

    Room correction is I think a personal thing as well - yes something like dirac can make a world of difference, but personally I find all these system just bug me. Probably because of too many years of learning to be hyper attuned to phase and other very subtle mixing issues in tracks while mixing and mastering just makes these systems trigger all the same alarm bells so I can never really relax and enjoy when using them. For most people I am sure they are of great benefit.
     
  16. Paul7777x

    Paul7777x
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  17. Paul7777x

    Paul7777x
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  18. gibbsy

    gibbsy
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  19. rosscouk

    rosscouk
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    Wow - I doubt I would find this if I was looking my own! I am still saving up for the amp, after adding a new UPS (lots of power failures) and linear power supply. However a cheeky bid would have been fun!

    I am not familiar with this amp, I am going to go off and have a read, thanks for the suggestion.

    Thanks - this was on my original list, I think it needs to stay on the short list.
     

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