Amplifier Upgrade

HenryHonda

Active Member
Hi all, after 5 years with my Elex-R, I'm seriously thinking about what amp upgrade I can do to improve particularly bass control and definition.

My current system:

Auralic Aries G1 streaming transport
Denon DCD-2500NE SACD player
Rega Planar 3 (2016) + Hana EH MC cartridge + Moon 110LP v2 phono pre-amp
Chord Qutest DAC + SBooster BOTW MkII LPSU
Rega Elex-R integrated amp
Neat Motive SX1 floorstanders

QNAP 4-bay NAS on network - serving ripped CDs (dBpoweramp) and ripped SACDs (ISO2DSD v2)

I have been gobsmacked at the amount of detail retrieved from a CD by carefully ripping at slow speed using dBpoweramp - I have ripped all my favourite CDs, but still have 100's which I play via the Denon and Chord. I use the Auralic Lightning DS Server software and LDS app on an iPad - get's close enough for me to Roon.

(MCRU Mains DC Blocker - no more transformer hum)

The Auralic and Chord have given me the most significant improvements over the last few years, and the SBooster LPSU gave very noticeable improvements to SQ - in spite of Rob Watts (Chord) claiming that the standard wall-wart SMPS is all that is needed.

I perceive the Neat speakers as relatively neutral and revealing - with the bass response from the downward-firing bass port giving lovely extended frequency response.

However, I perceive (real or imagined) that control of the lower frequencies could be improved. The Elex-R, whilst driving and energetic, appears to not be brilliant at giving clearly defined bass notes. It doesn't appear to be controlling the bass driver as tightly as it could.

Therefore, I will be home auditioning two alternatives next week - the Hegel H190, and the Rega Aethos. I may also try the Primare i35 analogue, and the Naim Supernait 3.

Hegel make much of the high damping factor of their amps - the H190 being right up at 4,000 - giving much improved control of particularly bass drivers. However, I have also read that too high a damping factor can result in a 'dry' or 'bland' presentation.

Of course, I would also be paying for the Hegel built-in DAC facility - but I doubt if it could better the Chord...

Anyway, as always, a home audition is essential - recognising that integration with the whole system, and the listening room, can have a significant influence.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has first-hand home experience of one or more of these amps - and your thoughts...

Thanks in advance for your help :)
 
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Ugg10

Distinguished Member
An interesting demo would be your Aries+Qutest+Elex vs a Lyngdorf TDAI3400 obviously with the roomperfect system set up properly.
 

HenryHonda

Active Member
Thanks for that suggestion :) - food for thought...

However, I'm so impressed with my Auralic and Qutest - and have not had them long - that I'm not looking for an all-in-one solution. Also, they weren't exactly cheap!

I do appreciate the benefits of a room compensation system - RoomPerfect, Dirac etc - and of course have direct experience of the Audessy system in my Denon AVR, but it's not a compelling feature for me at the moment.

Then there are the advantages of keeping separates - making the upgrade path more flexible and less expensive...

Thanks for taking the time to reply
:)
 

larkone

Member
+1 for the Lyngdorf - removing the effects of the room will significantly improve the clarity of your music. The room is the biggest influencer on your sound and RP is so good I ended up buying a another Lyngdorf for my kitchen system - its ability to really get a grip on the bass control is a revelation. The dealers on here (Cinehome and Seriously Cinema) offer no strings home trials so you should give it a go - would be surprised if you send it back.
 

acgingersnaps

Well-known Member
I'll be interested to see what you go with. I'm running a SX2's off an Elex R and think it's a great combo (Not the biggest room though). I'm genuinely surprised that you don't hear more good things about the Neat/Rega combo, given that in my experience they're very well matched..
 

DT79

Well-known Member
+1 for Lyngdorf. With a system like that and the stated aim being to improve bass control and definition it’s a no brainier to at least audition one.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
An interesting demo would be your Aries+Qutest+Elex vs a Lyngdorf TDAI3400 obviously with the roomperfect system set up properly.

I agree here. A lot of bass issues are room induced. The majority in fact; even when an amp has a steel grip and the speaker positioning is optimal, the room so very, very rarely is.

It’s quite easy to get a home demo of the Lyngdorfs.

With that kind of gear, I’d be seriously tempted to hear what removing the rooms nulls and nodes can do for it.
 

HenryHonda

Active Member
Thanks for the info about the Lyngdorf amps guys - much appreciated.

As I said in my original post, I am aware of the effects of interactions with the listening room - and RoomPerfect would appear to deal with those. Also, as you say, a demo is not difficult - the dealer supplying the H190 also supplies Lyngdorf amps.

Now, the issues (real or imagined) which I have here are:
  1. The TDAI-3400, in its most basic form, costs £4,795 and has just two single-ended RCA inputs. I would need to also purchase the High End Analogue input module - at an additional £500 - giving a total of £5,295. Of course, I didn't originally mention my budget, but the £3,300 for the H190 is already pushing things.

    So, if I look at the TDAI-2170, I'm still looking at £3,495 + £400 = £3,895. The TDAI-1120 only has two single-ended RCA inputs - and no extension module.

  2. After reading-up on the Lyngdorf designs, it appears that they operate entirely in the digital domain - using AD converters for the inputs from my phono stage, SACD player (for SACDs at least), and the Chord DAC. I believe that everything is converted to 96/24 - something which, I have read could mess-up a lot of the work that the Qutest has already done with Hi-Res files.

    I'm also dubious of the use of digital amplification - at least, those designs which use off the shelf modules from e.g. Hypex, NCore. Those which use proprietry circuits, such as Primare's UFPD2, and Mola Mola's discrete design - and I assume Lyngdorf? - are possibly worth consideration. (Mola Mola is way above my pay grade! :eek:)
Your suggestions have triggered another thought though... a possible future purchase of a room correction unit - but it would be nowhere near as easy to use or slickly integrated as a Lyngdorf.

Thanks again for your suggestions :)
 

HenryHonda

Active Member
I'm genuinely surprised that you don't hear more good things about the Neat/Rega combo
As I said, I've been running the Elex-R + SX1 combination for about five years, but feel that control of the lower fequencies could be improved. As the other guys have said, and I originally acknowledged, it may be down to room effects and I may find that a simple change of amp may not cut it...

A home audition costs me nothing (except a very hefty deposit in one case :rolleyes:).

I will report back... :cool:
 

DT79

Well-known Member
Thanks for the info about the Lyngdorf amps guys - much appreciated.

As I said in my original post, I am aware of the effects of interactions with the listening room - and RoomPerfect would appear to deal with those. Also, as you say, a demo is not difficult - the dealer supplying the H190 also supplies Lyngdorf amps.

Now, the issues (real or imagined) which I have here are:
  1. The TDAI-3400, in its most basic form, costs £4,795 and has just two single-ended RCA inputs. I would need to also purchase the High End Analogue input module - at an additional £500 - giving a total of £5,295. Of course, I didn't originally mention my budget, but the £3,300 for the H190 is already pushing things.

    So, if I look at the TDAI-2170, I'm still looking at £3,495 + £400 = £3,895. The TDAI-1120 only has two single-ended RCA inputs - and no extension module.

  2. After reading-up on the Lyngdorf designs, it appears that they operate entirely in the digital domain - using AD converters for the inputs from my phono stage, SACD player (for SACDs at least), and the Chord DAC. I believe that everything is converted to 96/24 - something which, I have read could mess-up a lot of the work that the Qutest has already done with Hi-Res files.

    I'm also dubious of the use of digital amplification - at least, those designs which use off the shelf modules from e.g. Hypex, NCore. Those which use proprietry circuits, such as Primare's UFPD2, and Mola Mola's discrete design - and I assume Lyngdorf? - are possibly worth consideration. (Mola Mola is way above my pay grade! :eek:)
Your suggestions have triggered another thought though... a possible future purchase of a room correction unit - but it would be nowhere near as easy to use or slickly integrated as a Lyngdorf.

Thanks again for your suggestions :)
I’m sure you could negotiate getting the analogue module chucked in. I got my 2170 for 2895 IIRC with both hdmi and analogue modules.

I think a demo will swiftly disabuse you of any doubts about the ADC and the amp operating in the digital domain! If it enables you to get rid of the Chord DAC then it makes the financial equation look better too.
 

HeadBanger

Well-known Member
I'm also dubious of the use of digital amplification - at least, those designs which use off the shelf modules from e.g. Hypex, NCore. Those which use proprietry circuits, such as Primare's UFPD2, and Mola Mola's discrete design - and I assume Lyngdorf? - are possibly worth consideration. (Mola Mola is way above my pay grade! :eek:)
Class D is not digital. It is a common misconception due the the letter ‘D’ assigned 😀


HB
 

DT79

Well-known Member
Class D is not digital. It is a common misconception due the the letter ‘D’ assigned 😀


HB
True, but the Lyngdorfs are. Just saying, as that was where the conversation started.
 

Kapkirk

Active Member
Little surprised of your findings with the Rega, I had one on loan for a while and one thing it did very well was a good tight grip on the bass. The hegel would probably be even better due to the very high damping factor. Would be interest to know how you got on with the demo's of the H190, and the Aethos.
 

HeadBanger

Well-known Member
True, but the Lyngdorfs are. Just saying, as that was where the conversation started.
The Lyngdorfs have DACs for room correction if that’s what you mean by digital? They do not have / are not ‘digital amplifiers’; they use class D amplification.

To be fair I have seen Lyngdorf wrongly state that they use digital amplification too!!

HB
 

larkone

Member
The Lyngdorfs have DACs for room correction if that’s what you mean by digital? They do not have / are not ‘digital amplifiers’; they use class D amplification.

To be fair I have seen Lyngdorf wrongly state that they use digital amplification too!!

HB
Lyngdorfs do not have DACs for room correction, they use a processor. Lyngdorf amps use their own custom PWM design that uses 400Khz switching technology - aka equibit. Useful doc:
 

Attachments

  • Steinway Lyngdorf Fully Digital Amplifier-1.pdf
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HeadBanger

Well-known Member
Lyngdorfs do not have DACs for room correction, they use a processor. Lyngdorf amps use their own custom PWM design that uses 400Khz switching technology - aka equibit. Useful doc:

From that document:

The EQUlBlT™ Module With core technology based on the patented EQUlBlT™ processing and output modules, EQUlBlT™ is a digitally controlled Class D amplifier also known as switching amplifier technology. The unique feature of EQUlBlT™ technology is that the PCM to PWM conversion is made 100% in the digital domain with advanced algorithms ensuring absolutely linear conversion and the highest possible audio fidelity.

Full digital resolution - Power DAC The output levels are kept at 24-bit resolution when operated at most typical listening levels. Within this range, regulation is carried out purely by the DC/DC-converter by adjusting the supply voltage to the amplifier output stage. Essentially, the Fully Digital Amplifier can be regarded as a high-powered Digital-to-Analog converter. Thanks to its high-end DC/DC conversion, the Fully Digital Amplifier features volume adjustment while maintaining full digital resolution at typical listening levels. This unique and technically extremely demanding solution ensures unsurpassed control, noiseless at all sound levels.

HB
 
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DT79

Well-known Member
The Lyngdorfs have DACs for room correction if that’s what you mean by digital? They do not have / are not ‘digital amplifiers’; they use class D amplification.

To be fair I have seen Lyngdorf wrongly state that they use digital amplification too!!

HB
The amplifiers convert PCM to PWM and amplify the PWM signal by increasing its voltage. That’s amplification of the signal in the digital domain. Yes it is also a class D amplifier and correct that the ‘D’ itself does not stand for digital.
 

HeadBanger

Well-known Member
The amplifiers convert PCM to PWM and amplify the PWM signal by increasing its voltage. That’s amplification of the signal in the digital domain. Yes it is also a class D amplifier and correct that the ‘D’ itself does not stand for digital.

That's how all class D amps work - they create a modulated PWM replica of the incoming signal.

In Lyngdorf’s case they are adding a DAC in the chain but all amplification is still done by the by their class D amplification modules - they are not digitally amplifying but cleverly wording it as such. They are upsampling converted PCM to match the class D amps switching frequency (or similar). From their literature:

The 24-bit PCM digital audio signal is fed to the modulator where the audio data is up-sampled 4 times – close to 400 kHz for optimal performance in the audio band.

But I do take your point that PCM to PWM conversion is 100% in the digital domain. :thumbsup:

HB
 

larkone

Member
In Lyngdorf’s case they are adding a DAC in the chain

HB
There is no DAC in the chain because they leave the signal in the digital domain (converting analogue inputs to digital using ADC) and convert the PCM to PWM at the output.
 

DT79

Well-known Member
That's how all class D amps work - they create a modulated PWM replica of the incoming signal.

In Lyngdorf’s case they are adding a DAC in the chain but all amplification is still done by the by their class D amplification modules - they are not digitally amplifying but cleverly wording it as such. They are upsampling converted PCM to match the class D amps switching frequency (or similar). From their literature:

The 24-bit PCM digital audio signal is fed to the modulator where the audio data is up-sampled 4 times – close to 400 kHz for optimal performance in the audio band.

But I do take your point that PCM to PWM conversion is 100% in the digital domain. :thumbsup:

HB
I feel like we may be quibbling over semantics here, but, please point out where in the Lyngdorf design the signal gets converted to analogue before it’s amplified. Right, it doesn’t.
 

HeadBanger

Well-known Member
I feel like we may be quibbling over semantics here, but, please point out where in the Lyngdorf design the signal gets converted to analogue before it’s amplified. Right, it doesn’t.
Yes, I think we are. ;)

Yes, you are right. It does not convert to actual analogue until the de-modulation filter converts the PWM signal (i.e. class D) to analogue.

HB
 

HenryHonda

Active Member
Update...

So, after having a Rega Aethos, Hegel H190 and Naim Supernait 3 on home audition for a week - I have decided to go for the Supernait 3.

First to be discounted was the Rega. Although it revealed a slightly deeper soundstage than the Elex-R which I already have, it didn't broaden out much and the bass - although perhaps a tad more controlled - was still not as clearly defined as I was looking for.

Additionally (IMHO) the ergonomics are a nightmare :rolleyes:. As Ed indicated in his review, the volume control has limited useful travel - as the input sensitivity is much lower than most source components output these days. Now, this is not unusual - the Naim is the same - but, as reported by others, even a momentary touch on the remote button causes the knob and volume to jump a significant amount. I was forever leaving my seat - about 2m away - to manually turn the knob. Also, whilst acknowledging that the Solaris remote is there to control a range of Rega products, it is festooned with a huge number of buttons - few necessary for the amp. Usefully, my much simpler Elex-R remote is coded the same - so that was pressed into service. Then there are the LEDs which indicate input selection and mute... They are pathetically weak, such that they can not be seen unless you are exactly perpendicular and the room is preferably dimly lit. A dimming function and larger characters could sort this.

It was a much closer run thing between the Hegel and the Naim... It was not difficult to hear that the Hegel grabbed the bass frequencies and kept them under control - very deep bass guitar, double bass plucks and bass drum kicks being clearly defined and not 'smeared'. Usefully, the Hegel analogue input sensitivities are 2V (thanks for the info and advice from Christian at Hegel) so, depending on the source, the volume control was operating at ca. 55/100 most of the time. It was useful that the output from my Qutest can be set at 1V, 2V or 3V - so no problem setting it at 2V for the Hegel. Also, I could configure my Moon phono preamp at 60dB gain - so the 2mV from my Hana EH cartridge could be brought up to 2V also (still no perceptible noise at this gain setting) - and the output from my Denon SACD player is also 2V.

The Hegel also produced a soundstage with both very good depth and width.

So, you may be wondering, why didn't I go for the Hegel..? Hegel's declared aim is to add nothing to, nor take anything away from, the original signal. However, I can't put my finger on what was happening but the music just did not seem to 'flow' like the Naim, and it could feel 'hard' at times. Extended listening could get quite tiring (I was taking breaks regularly to avoid 'auditioning fatigue'). I wonder if some of the reports which claim that too high a damping factor can adversely affect sound quality have something in them? I really liked the Hegel remote - simple and hewn from a solid billet of alloy - but why is the battery cover secured by four screws that are not countersunk into the metal, and therefore risk scratching any surface you may put it on?

Finally, the Naim... I've never had any Naim equipment before, and had heard that past equipment had a 'Naim sound' which wasn't exactly balanced. Well, I couldn't detect any such issue with the Supernait 3. It brings well-controlled bass (probably not to the extremes of the Hegel) and a fluid delivery across the frequency scale. Very extreme treble may be very slightly rolled-off - but not to any extent that cymbals, hi-hats, triangles lose anything significant in listening. The speed and decay are all there. Now I know what the infamous PRaT sounds like...

The Naim presents good width and depth to the soundstage - probably a tad less depth - but easy to listen to for extended periods.

Regarding ergonmics, the Naim does have very sensitive line inputs (130mV) - but the volume control (using an Alps Blue Velvet potentiometer) is much better implemented. Quick blips on the remote move the knob by almost imperceptible amounts - but you can get the fine control you need even though you max out at between 10-11. Longer presses of the volume buttons give you larger movements - so you have much better control. For the Naim, I configured my Qutest to output at 1V and set the gain on the Moon phono preamp to just 40dB. The demo SN3 I have has a faint transformer hum - but only if you get very close to it - and nothing from the speakers. It can't be DC on the mains, as my brilliant MCRU DC blocker was on duty throughout.

Whilst on the subject of hum, on first introducing the Naim to my system I had significant hum through the speakers. After speaking to my dealer, it appears that it's a well-known phenomenon with Naim amplifiers. They are not earthed via their mains plug - but through other Naim source equipment. So, if you do not have other Naim kit in your system, you have to provide earthing by another means... As advised, I connected a single earthing wire to the outer connection of an RCA plug. The other end of the wire went to the earth pin on a de-fused mains plug. The RCA plug goes into an unused RCA input on the amp, and the de-fused mains plug into a spare mains socket. Bit of a faff - but inky black silence from the speakers :cool:

Warranty-wise, the Hegel comes with just a 2-year warranty (too short IMHO for equipment in this budget range). Naim give you a 5-year warranty (if registered with them), and Rega - like most of their equipment - give you a 'lifetime' warranty for issues down to manufacturing defects.

I'm looking forward to collecting my brand new SN3 on Thursday - my dealer already has one in stock - with my name on it :thumbsup:

Perhaps someone may find this rather long post useful but, as always, a home audition is absolutely essential. Also, my choice has been determined by my system, in my room with my hearing and preferences - yours may be totally different :)
 

Khankat

Well-known Member
Thank you for your review findings. Very I formative. Personally, I enjoy reading your posts. The detail is everything.
 

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