Help choosing new amplifier and speakers

lubumbax

Member
My old amplifier blew up and now I am looking for not just a replacement but more of a "renovation".
I am looking to acquiring an amplifier and new speakers.

Until now I have been mostly listening to music from CDs with the following setup:
Honestly, the KEFs have been making me so happy all this time. I have them since I lived in a much smaller apartment for long years.
I moved to a newer house a couple of years ago, where the living room (stereo equipment is here) is bigger (details below). I can say that still, the KEFs are doing an excellent job for what they are. But I always missed a bit more of depth in the bass region. Specially now, probably due to the bigger size of the room, I have to play them at slightly higher volumes, usually adding a bit of bass from the amp. That would compromise their transparency a little bit, specially more with some music styles (details below). So I think that this is the time to think on newer speakers along with the new amplifier.

Due to budget (and in part to the fact of having a wife), my plan is doing it gradually, ie. starting with the amplifier, then the speakers.
I agree on the idea that one would better build a setup around a good pair of speakers. In my case I would like to choose an amplifier in advance of the speakers that will come soon afterwards, but using the KEF Q1s in the meantime.
I want to choose an amplifier that is purely an stereo amplifier, so no DAC, HDMI, etc.. I may be completely wrong, but I am assuming that generally, the more I get rid of those features in an amplifier, the less will "pure 2.0 audio" quality be compromised. So I want to focus on listening to CD music with the highest quality for the euro/pound.
In the future I will think on combining other sources like the TV, network streaming, .. so I will want to add an AV receiver or something like that into the scene. But that has lower priority at the moment. Just to remark that the amplifier must have some kind of "pre-amp pass-through" functionality so that I can hook a possible AV receiver and use the stereo speakers as front speakers.

I like most kinds of music, me being a flamenco guitar player and also an electric guitar player (blues, rock, metal,...).
But for some reason, when it comes to listening in my living room, I seem to enjoy more the classical music (piano, symphonic orchestra, opera, organ), electronic/ambient/acoustic/acoustic + electronic/ethnical/pop/blues/soul/what-not (eg Jean Michel Jarre, Hedningarna, Dead can Dance, Lisa Gerrard, Dire Straits, ..), etc.
I am not a fan of hard rock in my living room (which I very often enjoy listenting with my headphones while I am working..).

The dimensions of my living room (4,60 x 6,30 m => 29 m2; ceiling at 2,60 m => 75 m3):
  • 4,60 m: one side is all glass door and window; the other side is 2,60 wall and 2 fully open (the kitchen starts there).
  • 6,30 m: one side, with the 65' TV at the center flanked by the speakers (Q1's on stands); the other side supports the sofa (listening position)
The living room is a bit minimalist, but has a big carpet in the middle. You can say there is some echo though, coming mostly from the bare walls.

Now this is what I have been looking at:
  • Amplifier: Marantz PM8006 (2 x 70 W at 8 ohms)
  • Speakers: Dali Oberon 7, KEF Q950 (I read in this forum some complains about clarity?), KEF R900 (probably off the budget).
I would say that the combination of the PM8006 with the KEF R900 are the top of my budget, while going to something cheaper would certainly make my marriage safer. That's why I was thinking on saving a bit with the Dali speakers. I don't even know if the KEF Q959/R900 are that much better.
Some questions, on top of any open advise that I will appreciate:
  • Would the PM8006 not be enough power for the KEF Q950? Maybe the Dali's couple better with them?
  • Does the price difference between the Dali Oberon 7 and the KEF Q950 justify the difference in sound, if there is any?
  • Are the KEF R900 that much better over the KEF Q950?
  • What about other amplifiers, maybe cheaper, that would still be a good match for this kind of speakers? (some Denon's?)
  • Is it too bad spending the same, even more, on the amplifier than on the speakers (in the case of the Dali's)?

Thanks in advance!
 

dogfonos

Well-known Member
So I want to focus on listening to CD music with the highest quality for the euro/pound.

I doubt this was the suggestion you expected but, in terms of best sound per pound (or Euro), active speakers are the way to go. Those of us who have used both traditional passive and active speakers in our homes, usually find that actives offer the best value.

An active speaker pair coupled with a preamplifier would fit the value-for-money requirement. However, I also think that actives may not full-fill all your needs because, perhaps, they would not have the appearance either you - or the Mrs - would like (they tend to be quite utilitarian in appearance). Also, most actives are studio-based monitor speakers which are mainly standmount designs rather than floorstanders although active standmounts with 8" bass/mid drive units would likely suit the room size as actives typically play louder and cleaner than equivalent passive designs. And often pack a lot more power than traditional 'midrange' hifi amps, such as the Marantz.

Interesting point about active speakers is that you could feed the CD directly into the speakers and use the CD remote to control volume so, initially at least, no preamplifier would be required. Short signal path and a minimal number of connections has got to be a good thing, right?
Suitable active speakers:
Mackie XR824
Yamaha HS8
KRK Rokit RP8 G4
Focal Alpha 80
Tannoy Gold 8
Mackie MR824
Dynaudio Lyd-48
Dynaudio Lyd-8

There are many more options available in every price range.
 

drummerman

Banned
Whilst I personally would stay away from active 'studio' monitors I have to agree that going active can make a tempting proposition.

The Kef LS50 wireless is a mighty fine speaker and would likely be my choice around your budget. Dali and Dynaudio have some too for the home market.

I dont think you can go far wrong with Marantz for an inoffensive (good) system though.

Speakers ... as sand on a beach.

Triangle (France) make some lovely speakers and I could imagine they go well with Marantz.

DAC's have not progressed hugely over the last ten or so years. Having a system with a built-in one would'nt put me off personally. You can always add one for a few pounds if you feel the need to. Superb ones cost next to nothing these days.

I am sure Rega/Kef system will be suggested too.

Basically read an edition of Whathifi and you pretty much get a decent system put together.
 
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Ugg10

Distinguished Member
Looks like your budget is around £2500 (pm8006 at £1100, Kef q950 around £1400), noting that the Kef R900 are now discontinued and replaced by the R7 or R11 at £2500 and £4000.

Personally for a new system I would look at:

Emotiva PT100 preamp at £450


A pair of BK Doubke Gems at 2x£380


Then any one of a number of actives with 5-6” woofers

If you can stretch to it a pair of Focal Solo Be would be a good place to start. (You need two of the link below).


Alternatively in the second hand market there are a few more options -
The audiolab 8200cdq, Quad CDP and Cambridge 851c are all CD player that can also act as preamps, single box solution. These are all c.£500.

This look interesting, nad pro series preamp with two sets of outputs and xlr for the actives and sub. This looks a little pricey, cheaper one of German eBay.


If you don’t want to then use the double gems and want a single box speaker then you could add second hand at £2000.

Focal twin be, Adam A8x, Dynaudio lyd48

However, these look really interesting. Adam ART Pencil


Obviously these are U.K. prices so you will have to do a bit of searching in your own country.
 
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lubumbax

Member
I never thought on active speakers for "living room" stereo auditioning. But seems that I will have to consider it, based on the responses above :)
I guess the "psychological factor" is a thing.. we (me) somehow are used to something, and anything else will have a hard time to gain its quote of your (my) heart.

I have a pair of KRK Rockit 8 G3 myself in my hobby room. I use them mostly to play some music so that I can cover it with my guitars (and my classic Roland D-50 synth). Despite the KRK's being as loud as 100 W each, my Peavy Classic 50 tubes guitar amp will reduce them to ashes just at half its power. I am in general happy with the KRKs for my "music creation" hobby but I personally don't find them close to fit for the "music auditioning" one. Maybe the RP8 G4's are a completely new species?

Indeed, budget is up to 2500 € (~= £2122).
PM8006 can be found at 1000 € at least in The Netherlands, and the KEF Q950 at 2 x 750 €.
The Dali Oberon 7 are at 2 x 500 €. That would make a budget of roughly 2000 € (~= £1700).

Do you think that the KEF Q950 are worth the extra money in comparison to the Oberon 7?
Do you think that the PM8006 is enough power to feed the KEF Q950?

Thank you so far for all the comments. I am evaluating some of the options.
I have to say so far that the Emotiva stuff has surprised me very nicely :)
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Do you think that the KEF Q950 are worth the extra money in comparison to the Oberon 7?
Do you think that the PM8006 is enough power to feed the KEF Q950?
Enough power but unlikely to set the room alight with them. Personally even though smaller I would take a pair of new R3s over the Q950s as you are likely to get a more defined bass from the R3, if depth of bass isn't an issue. I prefer detailed bass to just a thump in the chest.
 

drummerman

Banned
I never thought on active speakers for "living room" stereo auditioning. But seems that I will have to consider it, based on the responses above :)
I guess the "psychological factor" is a thing.. we (me) somehow are used to something, and anything else will have a hard time to gain its quote of your (my) heart.

I have a pair of KRK Rockit 8 G3 myself in my hobby room. I use them mostly to play some music so that I can cover it with my guitars (and my classic Roland D-50 synth). Despite the KRK's being as loud as 100 W each, my Peavy Classic 50 tubes guitar amp will reduce them to ashes just at half its power. I am in general happy with the KRKs for my "music creation" hobby but I personally don't find them close to fit for the "music auditioning" one. Maybe the RP8 G4's are a completely new species?

Indeed, budget is up to 2500 € (~= £2122).
PM8006 can be found at 1000 € at least in The Netherlands, and the KEF Q950 at 2 x 750 €.
The Dali Oberon 7 are at 2 x 500 €. That would make a budget of roughly 2000 € (~= £1700).

Do you think that the KEF Q950 are worth the extra money in comparison to the Oberon 7?
Do you think that the PM8006 is enough power to feed the KEF Q950?

Thank you so far for all the comments. I am evaluating some of the options.
I have to say so far that the Emotiva stuff has surprised me very nicely :)

We have AbsoluteMusic, a Pro Music Retailer in town. I periodically visit but yet have to hear, never mind like the look of any Mid/Near field speaker I would consider using in a domestic environment.

They are made for different purposes. That is, imho reflected in how they sound ... unrefined & harsh at the cheap end, bright and trying to take my head off up to perhaps a grand. I haven't listened to any more expensive than that. Both Adam and Genelec are unbearingly top heavy to me and I couldn't personally listen to them.

They almost always have no remotes/grilles, pre-amps.

I Find 'Pro' speakers totally unsuitable for a living room environment but perhaps ok for a desk or similar.
 

dogfonos

Well-known Member
I guess the "psychological factor" is a thing.. we (me)
...which could be overcome with a favourable audition. Would be a shame to close your mind to an entire sector of possible options without giving them a listen.

Maybe the RP8 G4's are a completely new species?
Possibly, but more likely to be an incremental refinement.

I am in general happy with the KRKs for my "music creation" hobby but I personally don't find them close to fit for the "music auditioning" one.

Can you say why? It may help us to understand the sort of sound you're after. Have you tried the Rokit 8 in your living room? How did you find the tonal balance?

They are made for different purposes. That is, imho reflected in how they sound ... unrefined & harsh at the cheap end, bright and trying to take my head off up to perhaps a grand. I haven't listened to any more expensive than that. Both Adam and Genelec are unbearingly top heavy to me and I couldn't personally listen to them.

Fair enough - each to their own. IME, there's as much sound quality variation amongst active monitors as there is amongst traditional hifi passive speakers. To my ears, the active KRK 'in-house sound' tends to a slight dullness (with strong bass too) and maybe the AVI ADM designs do too (though I haven't heard any). Certainly, some active monitors deliberately emphasis certain parts of the frequency spectrum (I wouldn't suggest that type for listening pleasure) and no doubt some models out there are just plain bad - fortunately, I've not heard any of those.
 

drummerman

Banned
...which could be overcome with a favourable audition. Would be a shame to close your mind to an entire sector of possible options without giving them a listen.


Possibly, but more likely to be an incremental refinement.



Can you say why? It may help us to understand the sort of sound you're after. Have you tried the Rokit 8 in your living room? How did you find the tonal balance?



Fair enough - each to their own. IME, there's as much sound quality variation amongst active monitors as there is amongst traditional hifi passive speakers. To my ears, the active KRK 'in-house sound' tends to a slight dullness (with strong bass too) and maybe the AVI ADM designs do too (though I haven't heard any). Certainly, some active monitors deliberately emphasis certain parts of the frequency spectrum (I wouldn't suggest that type for listening pleasure) and no doubt some models out there are just plain bad - fortunately, I've not heard any of those.

I had the original AVI ADM9's at my place twice courtesy of an enthusiast owner not far from me and I visited Ash (AVI) at his home to listen to the successor as I was contemplating buying a pair.

There is not much that has'nt been said about them, both the speakers and AJ.

The speakers, to my ears, were crystal clear, silky, powerful and controlled if my ageing memory serves well. A window into a recording but it really needed a subwoofer to give a little low end heft and warmth to go with that clarity. AVI made a matching sub but it was more than I wanted to spend though I understand many used them without (sub).

We also compared them side by side with some Dynaudio Focus 110A's which I preferred other than a slightly harsh upper/mid lower treble. My hearing is unfortunately really sensitive in that region.

I agree with your description of KRK's and they would probably come closer to my idea of sound than many others of the ilk, especially compared to ADAM with their super revealing, fatiguing (to me) folded ribbon tweeters but I could not live with yellow coned speakers without grilles 🙃.

Pretty they ain't imho.

Back to the OP
 
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Whilst I personally would stay away from active 'studio' monitors I have to agree that going active can make a tempting proposition.

The Kef LS50 wireless is a mighty fine speaker and would likely be my choice around your budget. Dali and Dynaudio have some too for the home market.

I dont think you can go far wrong with Marantz for an inoffensive (good) system though.

Speakers ... as sand on a beach.

Triangle (France) make some lovely speakers and I could imagine they go well with Marantz.

DAC's have not progressed hugely over the last ten or so years. Having a system with a built-in one would'nt put me off personally. You can always add one for a few pounds if you feel the need to. Superb ones cost next to nothing these days.

I am sure Rega/Kef system will be suggested too.

Basically read an edition of Whathifi and you pretty much get a decent system put together.
Like most of your post! Totally disagree with your comment on the lack of progress with DACs. For me they are so much better now. Cost less, sound better, upsampling and oversampling algorithms now working really well.
 

drummerman

Banned
Like most of your post! Totally disagree with your comment on the lack of progress with DACs. For me they are so much better now. Cost less, sound better, upsampling and oversampling algorithms now working really well.


IF you are talking off the shelf DAC's there really hasn't been that much since the launch of the 9018 almost ten years ago that would audibly likely make much of a difference imho. Jitter was already way below audible levels, noise/errors next to unmeasurable and dynamic range above what most (all?) Hifi equipment was capable of.

The only major implication was the Hifi manufacturers implementation, often not utilizing the chips capabilities, sometimes deliberately so.

Oddly enough, to take one example, ESS's own 9038 was in some respects measuring worse if memory serves well, as pointed out/measured by PM of Miller Labs/HifiNews&RR years later.

I guess in some ways it's a bit like mobile phone processors. We probably reached a 'useful' plateau 3 or 4 years ago after which improvements are mostly there for advertising and tech spec purposes rather than genuine (useful) performance improvements.

Perhaps I'm just getting old ... .
 
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IF you are talking off the shelf DAC's there really hasn't been that much since the launch of the 9018 almost ten years ago that would audibly likely make much of a difference imho. Jitter was already way below audible levels, noise/errors next to unmeasurable and dynamic range above what most (all?) Hifi equipment was capable of.

The only major implication was the Hifi manufacturers implementation, often not utilizing the chips capabilities, sometimes deliberately so.

Oddly enough, to take one example, ESS's own 9038 was in some respects measuring worse if memory serves well, as pointed out/measured by PM of Miller Labs/HifiNews&RR years later.

I guess in some ways it's a bit like mobile phone processors. We probably reached a 'useful' plateau 3 or 4 years ago after which improvements are mostly there for advertising and tech spec purposes rather than genuine (useful) performance improvements.

Perhaps I'm just getting old ... .
On age, I'll see you and raise you several years?
 

lubumbax

Member
Hi guys. Sorry for the late reply. Before posting with progress on my search, I wanted to listen to some amps and speakers. I did so, but then the outbreak happened.

My story in short:
I have loved an Advance Paris PlayStream A7. Even more than an expensive Marantz PM 14S1 SE.
The Advance opened my eyes to digital files playing. I want to explore this territory, but never at the cost of quality analog chain (preamp -> amplifier stage).

Here is, with more detail, my experience since my previous post:

Regarding speakers, I listened to those (or close to those) that I mentioned in my initial post plus a few more. We tried feeding them with different amplifiers, and the results just highlighted how funny the hifi world can be.

Here are my conclusions:
  • Dali Oberon 7: I didn't like them. They are probably what they cost. But not for me. I am not sure that I can define well why, but the bass seemed a bit "out of control" to me. Probably that is what "box resonance" is? The Dali Opticon 6's though where very very nice in comparison. I would gladly pay double the price of the Oberons.
  • KEF Q950: I listened to the Q750, and I would say that I prefer my Q1's over those (maybe because I have been listening to them for like 15 years now). I was disappointed with the Q750. I didn't just hear a "flat response" but rather inexpressive.
  • KEF R700: These would be my preference over the other KEFs, at an affordable price (I know they are not being produced any more, but it is still possible to find them, as I did). The new R's are far out of my budget. The R3's .. I didn't like them (in comparison to others in the same audition) [...].
  • Audiovector QR3: Amazing! Really well balanced. There is deep enough while well under control bass. The rest of the spectrum is just there, excellent imaging in comparison to others I listened to.
  • Monitor Audio (I think they were Silver 500 but not 100% sure): More or less like the Audiovector QR3. Probably a bit less but I liked them a lot.
@drummerman suggested Triangle. I have heard indeed they are good stuff. I will try to find and listen to them once the current situation gets back to normal. For now I think I will leave the topic of speakers and focus on amplifiers.
Regarding amplifiers, here is my experience when listening some of them A/B:
  • Marantz PM8006 vs Denon PMA-1600NE. The Denon seemed to punch me directly in the nose in comparison with the much more gentle Marantz. Much more "scream-y" and at some point harsh. Almost all the power was delivered in the first quarter of the volume knob. Past half it was extra harsh for me so I asked to turn it off. The Marantz was more progressive. Even past the half I just wanted to keep cranking it up (as I said in my original post, I have had a Marantz for the last 15 years, so maybe that's something).
  • Marantz PM6006 vs a Cambridge Audio CXA61. I liked the Cambridge waaaay more. Unfortunately this was another shop but I would have liked to listen the Marantz PM6006 vs the PM8006 from the other shop. Thing is, the Cambridge was very consistent no matter what kind of speaker or music. If the speaker was good the Cambridge sounded good. If the speaker was better the Cambridge made it better. Alas the PM6006 was so irregular and unpredictable. Sometimes it was okey-ish, sometimes it was "oh please don't". With some of the speakers it was even an unpleasant experience specially when compared to the CXA61.
  • Marantz PM 14S1 SE vs an Advance Paris PlayStream A7. This was a beautiful day :) Firstly, the Marantz was a clear improvement over the lower series PM8006. Less colour to the sound, more control with any kind of music, more of everything. The shop was offering me a used one, for a bit more of what the PM8006 costs new. But then my life changed when next to it I listened to an Advance Paris PlayStream A7. Zero colouration, a bit more clear sound, I don't know how to describe it, but I loved it. Plus it costs less, new. On top of that, it adds the network features with stunning quality and a gentle HDMI/ARC input to which I could connect my TV.
After all that, and a lot of investigation from online resources, I am changing my requirements from the initial post a couple of months ago.
My search of an amplifier is reduced now to either the "Advance Paris PlayStream A7" or a "Denon DRA-800H".

They offer similar features I would say, though the Advance costs more than twice.
The decision on the Denon is mostly due to two reasons:
  1. A mate strongly advises on the Denon, despite he also liked the Advance, but he thinks the Denon is very close in sound quality at less than half the price. He has experience with Denon in general so for me he has a valid point.
  2. I can find loads of information and reviews online, download the excellent manual, etc. Unlike for the Advance, whose information seems to be hidden from this world.
In normal circumstances I would get down to the shop and ask for an audition of these two. But the current situation with the spread of the virus is not helping. So I will have to either wait or go by heart.

As always, I will appreciate any thoughts on any of the commented above.
But anyways, I am thinking on opening another thread asking for advise on the Advance vs the Denon (is it a good idea?).

Thank you very much for all the comments so far. Stay safe!
 

lubumbax

Member
Almost a year later, I have finally got to something I like.
I chose:
I got the amplifier back in May and the speakers just a couple weeks ago.
I must say I have learnt a lot during this journey, mostly from reading posts and of course attending auditions here and there (not an easy one these days).
Now I am a happy boy :)
 

IF you are talking off the shelf DAC's there really hasn't been that much since the launch of the 9018 almost ten years ago that would audibly likely make much of a difference imho. Jitter was already way below audible levels, noise/errors next to unmeasurable and dynamic range above what most (all?) Hifi equipment was capable of.

The only major implication was the Hifi manufacturers implementation, often not utilizing the chips capabilities, sometimes deliberately so.

Oddly enough, to take one example, ESS's own 9038 was in some respects measuring worse if memory serves well, as pointed out/measured by PM of Miller Labs/HifiNews&RR years later.

I guess in some ways it's a bit like mobile phone processors. We probably reached a 'useful' plateau 3 or 4 years ago after which improvements are mostly there for advertising and tech spec purposes rather than genuine (useful) performance improvements.

Perhaps I'm just getting old ... .
On jitter, reading the HiFi News ultimate HiFi 2020. The really expensive DACs have by far the worst jitter figures, in the hundreds of pico Farads.
 

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