Help me decide on an amp for KEF LS50 meta

surr3a1

Standard Member
Hi all,
I now own a Bluesound Powernode which powers the KEFs. I like the sound of this combo but I know that it can be better if I get a just a Node and add a separate Amp.

I had auditioned the KEFs with Arcam SA20(or 30 not sure) before I got them and the sound was a little better with more details in the vocals. This is how I know it can be better.

Additionally I know that the Audiolab 6000a sounds better than the Powernode but because of the 50W I'm inclined towards the 8300a.

I am a BluOS fan and don't want to change that for sure.

What amp/dac combo should I choose:

  • Arcam SA20 - probably the best price. Only one I've actually heard and I liked it
  • Audiolab 8300a (I need a DAC(Ares II) here and that makes it by far the most expensive setup... worth?)
  • Cambridge CXA81 - 3 years WhatHiFi favorite but is that objective?

All-in-one solution:
Roksan Attessa Streaming Amp - very beautiful and everything in one device. Price is just a little over the other amps+Node combos. It is too new though and reviews are lacking.

Any advice is welcomed.

Thanks!

P.S.

The Powernode has both low/high pass filter applied to the speakers/sub. Without this the bass from the speakers is not good. Too boomy and unclear as they are around 20-30cm from the front wall. I really want these to be high filtered and somehow I think that nothing without this will sound good at all. I've yet to find anything on the market that would do this... The hogh pass filter on the speakers adds more clarity and detail and clearly audible by anyone - this is needed!
 
Last edited:

Call me Candy

Well-known Member
My little lady has the LS50 & the new Bluesound Node 2i powered by a Cambridge int amp & I was surprised how decent the DAC on the new Node 2i sounds.
 
Upvote 0

surr3a1

Standard Member
So, I went today and spent around 3h in the shop with the Arcam SA20. Did bring my Powernode and compared a lot paired with KEF R3/Q750 speakers.

There is difference obviously in favor of the Arcam.

I spoke with the guy for a long long time, he is a professional and an owner of the shop. He convinced me to get the Arcam SA20.

At the very end just before I leave, Arcam's streaming app came into the conversation and we went to test it with the ST60 streamer. It turned out that the app is not that bad as I was made to believe based on various mentions here and there.

This meant that I can use the Arcam SA30 with this app alone and don't need a Node because on contrary of all info I've ever found - it supports native Deezer/Tidal/Qobuz etc.. The SA30 has the Dirac which is something that I would really like to have if possible.

Long story short - I just ordered the SA30 with a huge discount because I found one with an opened box.

Why:
  • 120w power if I ever need that much
  • All I will ever listen on based on my volume level of listening will be Class A amp
  • ESS9038Q2M DAC - their best (not pro). Nothing else I've ever looked at has it
  • DIRAC (full it seems!)- no need to explain. Capital letters because it is so damn useful
  • MQA - controversial but still there if I want it
  • Streamer inside with (as it turned out) a pretty good app for iOS. No need of a Node
  • All-in-one solution
  • Gapeles Playback
  • eARC

Will post another comment after it arrives and I have some 1st hand experience.

Thanks all!
 
Last edited:
Upvote 0

surr3a1

Standard Member
Please tell me you ordered from the shop owner who gave over his time and facilities for a 3 hour demo!
Unfortunately nope because he didn't have it and said that I'll have to wait till after Christmas because of shipment problems... :(. I'll buy new cables from him though to compensate for his lost time.
 
Upvote 0

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
Unfortunately nope because he didn't have it and said that I'll have to wait till after Christmas because of shipment problems... :(. I'll buy new cables from him though to compensate for his lost time.

I would not buy cables from a dealer, all you need is 2.5sqmm crosssection OFC cable from Amazon (Kabeldirekt or Van Damme Blue) for speakers and either Amazon basics or if you want to splash out Fisual for inter connectors. It’s all the same copper just in different pretty frocks. Spend your hard earned cash on more music, wine or a good night out rather than line dealers pockets for fancy cables. Just my opinion, your may be different.

Personally I have no issue buying on line if the dealer does not have stuff in stock, get it in a reasonable time frame or most importantly can’t match the price you can buy it for elsewhere, that’s market economics and your prerogative. No need to feel sorry for the dealer.
 
Upvote 0

surr3a1

Standard Member
Well there was a guy there who actually came to buy the Q750 and I was listening to his speakers before he took them home so not actually all this time spent for me.

Anyhow, the guy bought together with his new speakers Van Den Hul D-352 Hybrid speaker cables which came at around 25Eur/m (discounted from 32Eur/m as a package deal).

I was thinking of maybe getting something like that. I am using AudioQuest FLX14(5m ea) wires atm but obviously can't comment on sound as there is nothing to compare them with.

The discount I got for the opened box was around 800Eur so I couldn't pass on that.
 
Last edited:
Upvote 0

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
I would stick with the Audioquest if you already have it. Copper wire at 14AWG (2.08sqmm cross section) which is fine for runs up to around 7.5m conservatively. No reason to spend any more on new cable IMO. Connect it up and enjoy the music.

Decent saving and as you say, too good to miss out on.
 
Upvote 0

surr3a1

Standard Member
Well the Arcam is here now but I haven't tested its performance just yet as the family is here and I don't really have time for it.

What I can definitely say is that MusicLife app is a piece of garbage and is good for nothing! I'll either sell this amp and go for something else that supports BluOS or I'll have to buy a separate Node just to be able to use it in a proper way...
 
Upvote 0

HiFiRuss71

Active Member
All of Bluesounds analogue outputs are poor and the aging TI DAC has a maximum SINAD of 94dB - Basically only just capable of 16 bits of dynamic range, regardless of what you are streaming.

Fortunately, it is a very capable digital source with front end to die for and fed into something like a Topping D30Pro DAC becomes an almost reference class front end - Staggeringly low noise floor, HUGE dynamic range and vanishingly low jitter as a combination.

Take the balanced outputs out of that into a Topping PA5 for 2x125W (and I still can't believe the measurements this thing is throwing up) and it's game over. There isn't a single integrated streaming/DAC/Amp solution mentioned above that will come close on the fundamental basics, plus you still get the superb Bluesound front end to navigate with.

Sitting here as I am looking at a pair of 25kg valve monoblocks, I still struggle to get my head round the fact that a couple of boxes little larger than a pair of cigarette packets can in every measurable way, match the power and surpass the accuracy of the mainstream boxes of any size. With the LS50s, you could almost take it on holiday with you!

My kit list is going to look a lot different in the new year....
 
Upvote 0

gava

Active Member
The PA5 is an astonishing achievement. Hopefully a 200+w/c version is close behind.
 
Upvote 0

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
@gava and @HiFiRuss71 it is worth noting that at the more commonly quoted power figure for amplifiers i.e. into 8 ohm load at TND 1% the PA5 is only rated at 65W per channel. The 125W headline figure is for a 4ohm load at 1% THD. Have a look at the graph on the spec sheet (link below) into an 8ohm load the THD rises very quickly after about 53W output.

That said it does measure very well, close to the Benchmark amp and Purifi modules upt to 50W which is probably fine for most small/medium rooms with relatively sensitive speakers. ASR seems to like it a lot and at £350 it is almost worth buying 2 and biamping if you need that bit of extra power. Andfinally, as said, one with the same perfromace but double the power at £500 would be pretty nice, ad a nice valve preamp and get the best of both worlds maybe.

 
Upvote 0

gava

Active Member
It's marketed as a desktop amp to go in the stack with the E50, etc.

I have a set of LS50s on my desktop and I could easily see getting the PA5 to power them.

Very good for that role I think, the point is not that this amp itself is a giantkiller, but more that it is a demonstration of intent and technical ability.

On the other hand it's also worth noting that there are a LOT of hifi amps that are much less powerful than the PA5.
 
Upvote 0

surr3a1

Standard Member
All of Bluesounds analogue outputs are poor and the aging TI DAC has a maximum SINAD of 94dB - Basically only just capable of 16 bits of dynamic range, regardless of what you are streaming.

Fortunately, it is a very capable digital source with front end to die for and fed into something like a Topping D30Pro DAC becomes an almost reference class front end - Staggeringly low noise floor, HUGE dynamic range and vanishingly low jitter as a combination.

Take the balanced outputs out of that into a Topping PA5 for 2x125W (and I still can't believe the measurements this thing is throwing up) and it's game over. There isn't a single integrated streaming/DAC/Amp solution mentioned above that will come close on the fundamental basics, plus you still get the superb Bluesound front end to navigate with.

Sitting here as I am looking at a pair of 25kg valve monoblocks, I still struggle to get my head round the fact that a couple of boxes little larger than a pair of cigarette packets can in every measurable way, match the power and surpass the accuracy of the mainstream boxes of any size. With the LS50s, you could almost take it on holiday with you!

My kit list is going to look a lot different in the new year....
I am actually starting to get used to the Arcam. Streaming through Chromecast is a bit tricky but once it starts working, it is nice and streaming Soundcloud is absolutely perfect. Tidal is a no go if you want MQA(I know it is crap but still some songs are Ok).

Anyhow, the sound is so much better than the Powernode and having played with the Dirac for a couple of days now, I can say that it is really nice but not beginner friendly in any imaginable way.
Another week or two and by the New Year I believe I won't be missing the BluOS that much.

If I get the Node, I'll be using the Coax out bypassing its DAC and using the one from the Arcam, which is supposed to be quite adequate from what I've read.
 
Upvote 0

gava

Active Member
If I get the Node, I'll be using the Coax out bypassing its DAC and using the one from the Arcam, which is supposed to be quite adequate from what I've read.

You might want to rethink that decision.

Coax is poor and optical/toslink out on the Node 2i is a total horror show.

 
Upvote 0

TB Rich

Active Member
You might want to rethink that decision.

Coax is poor and optical/toslink out on the Node 2i is a total horror show.


Sorry but this is just plain wrong.

It was actually the Optical input that was potentially broken, and for what it’s worth never confirmed if it was the cable or not.

However with respect to testing then after establishing that the Toslink input was potentially duff, testing was then done with the streaming to the Node, and measured using its internal DAC - the Coax and Toslink outputs were not initially tested.

If you however look on to the second pages of the review, Amir then tests streaming to the Node with Coax output to a topping D30, result was 104dB SINAD.

The Topping D30 alone scored, yep that’s right, 104dB SINAD when hooked up direct to the the APx Anayser. - The Node 2i proving to be transparent with it’s digital outputs as you would expect.

Obviously there remains a potential issue on the Toslink input, but it’s factually incorrect to say what you have.
 
Upvote 0

gava

Active Member
Sorry but this is just plain wrong.

It was actually the Optical input that was potentially broken, and for what it’s worth never confirmed if it was the cable or not.

However with respect to testing then after establishing that the Toslink input was potentially duff, testing was then done with the streaming to the Node, and measured using its internal DAC - the Coax and Toslink outputs were not initially tested.

If you however look on to the second pages of the review, Amir then tests streaming to the Node with Coax output to a topping D30, result was 104dB SINAD.

The Topping D30 alone scored, yep that’s right, 104dB SINAD when hooked up direct to the the APx Anayser. - The Node 2i proving to be transparent with it’s digital outputs as you would expect.

Obviously there remains a potential issue on the Toslink input, but it’s factually incorrect to say what you have.

I stand corrected. Great news actually. Means it's a very good streamer, with a high quality (though not state-of-the-art) DAC.

:thumbsup::thumbsup:
 
Upvote 0

HiFiRuss71

Active Member
@gava and @HiFiRuss71 it is worth noting that at the more commonly quoted power figure for amplifiers i.e. into 8 ohm load at TND 1% the PA5 is only rated at 65W per channel. The 125W headline figure is for a 4ohm load at 1% THD. Have a look at the graph on the spec sheet (link below) into an 8ohm load the THD rises very quickly after about 53W output.

That said it does measure very well, close to the Benchmark amp and Purifi modules upt to 50W which is probably fine for most small/medium rooms with relatively sensitive speakers. ASR seems to like it a lot and at £350 it is almost worth buying 2 and biamping if you need that bit of extra power. Andfinally, as said, one with the same perfromace but double the power at £500 would be pretty nice, ad a nice valve preamp and get the best of both worlds maybe.

All true, but in real terms, it's more than enough. The 'optimistic' power outputs quoted by amp manufacturers rank second only to the flights of fancy that is speaker specs (KEF actually broadly correlate with Stereophile for a change) and yet, whilst experiencing a far lower reality than promised, people remain satisfied.

The LS50 (all versions) is very much a 4 Ohm speaker - Stereophile. Virtually all stand mount dog whistlers are. The scary thing is, if it were 8 Ohm it would be 3dB/W less sensitive.

According to KEFs own figures at a sensitivity of 85dB (2.83V/1m), THD is <0.1% 300Hz-10kHz @ 90dB measured at 1m. So basically at distance akin to wearing headphones and without reproducing any bass whatsoever, the LS50 is already producing 0.1% distortion at 4W. Double that distance, add in frequencies down to 80Hz and distortion figures will get into the whole % at very moderate listening levels. You'd be a long way up the Topping power/distortion curve before it became the dominant issue.

I'm toying with the idea of one to handle the bass drivers of my Fortes. At an actual 96dB/W sensitivity they would do off 1W what the KEFs would do off more like 16W, so a clean 85W of 80-650Hz (and the Topping is very clean low down) is relatively speaking a stratospheric amount of power. I just can't get my head around 2x25kg of 120W valve monoblocks doing what would be <5W mid and treble whilst something the size of a fag packet does the heavy lifting. It just feels wrong!

Russ
 
Upvote 0

TB Rich

Active Member
I stand corrected. Great news actually. Means it's a very good streamer, with a high quality (though not state-of-the-art) DAC.

:thumbsup::thumbsup:
Yes it's a shame how ASR are at times, economical with the truth shall we say.
They should have tested another cable, frankly another Node too, in the pursuit of 'audio science' after all.
And of course the Coax output test on page 2 should be at the very least included on page 1 results also....

I also wouldn't hold too much stock in it's conclusions either, with respect to what it defines as reference or otherwise.
The 'low' performing and therefore by assertion 'poor sounding' internal DAC of the Node 2i (88dB), Vs. the then almost class leader Schiit Modius (114dB) and by assertion 'reference sounding'.... - Have for all intents and purposes zero difference when it comes to listening.
A/B testing provided little to no discernible effect, maybe a bit smoother in favour of the Modius - but we have to also allow for some listening and purchase bias here, and I categorically would not pass a blind test with them.

So if you have 2 DAC's at roughly the 2 ends of the SINAD spectrum, but yet with an indistinguishable sound, it makes either:
A) a mockery of their beloved SINAD score, or
B) there's additional measurements and tests that aren't performed and they need to be. Either we don't know how to, or the human auditory response is simply too complicated to ever likely be able to be quantified on a chart.

I bought the Modius purely off the back of ASR results as a previous devout follower, so I was somewhat disheartened to find the result that I did. As a polar extreme to this I thought I would try a 'poorer' measuring DAC in the multibit Bifrost 2. Although the Bifrost 2 hasn't been measured, the Yggy has at 86dB.
Hand on heart without a shadow of a doubt, the Bifrost 2 is better than the Node and the Modius in every single way. It's not your typical hyperbolic hifi 'night and day', but it's there and can be heard on A/B switching, with a clear advantage to the Bifrost 2.
Take the above in anyway necessary - metrics only guys won't change their minds and will continue to assert measurements are everything. I've been down that path and found it a misleading one.
 
Upvote 0

gava

Active Member
I have a pair of LS50s on my desk - probably about 1m away from my chair and I can say without doubt that:
  1. They are really nice nearfield
  2. You certainly don't need a sub nearfield
  3. A 60W amplifier has way way more power than you could think of using when sitting so close to them.
The PA5 seems on the face of it to be such an achievement and such a good price that it's almost worth buying just for fun!

That's actually how I felt about my Behringer A800 - which of course doesn't measure nearly so well, but it does provide a ton of reasonably clean power at hardly any cost.
 
Upvote 0

gava

Active Member
Yes it's a shame how ASR are at times, economical with the truth shall we say.
They should have tested another cable, frankly another Node too, in the pursuit of 'audio science' after all.
And of course the Coax output test on page 2 should be at the very least included on page 1 results also....

I also wouldn't hold too much stock in it's conclusions either, with respect to what it defines as reference or otherwise.
The 'low' performing and therefore by assertion 'poor sounding' internal DAC of the Node 2i (88dB), Vs. the then almost class leader Schiit Modius (114dB) and by assertion 'reference sounding'.... - Have for all intents and purposes zero difference when it comes to listening.
A/B testing provided little to no discernible effect, maybe a bit smoother in favour of the Modius - but we have to also allow for some listening and purchase bias here, and I categorically would not pass a blind test with them.

So if you have 2 DAC's at roughly the 2 ends of the SINAD spectrum, but yet with an indistinguishable sound, it makes either:
A) a mockery of their beloved SINAD score, or
B) there's additional measurements and tests that aren't performed and they need to be. Either we don't know how to, or the human auditory response is simply too complicated to ever likely be able to be quantified on a chart.

I bought the Modius purely off the back of ASR results as a previous devout follower, so I was somewhat disheartened to find the result that I did. As a polar extreme to this I thought I would try a 'poorer' measuring DAC in the multibit Bifrost 2. Although the Bifrost 2 hasn't been measured, the Yggy has at 86dB.
Hand on heart without a shadow of a doubt, the Bifrost 2 is better than the Node and the Modius in every single way. It's not your typical hyperbolic hifi 'night and day', but it's there and can be heard on A/B switching, with a clear advantage to the Bifrost 2.
Take the above in anyway necessary - metrics only guys won't change their minds and will continue to assert measurements are everything. I've been down that path and found it a misleading one.

I can't hear a difference between my Marantz and my Allo Boss 2 DACs, even though the Boss measures probably 30dB better. I think that's because they are both far better than normal people can distinguish between.

Under controlled A/B conditions with specific test tracks I expect trained listeners could distinguish. At any rate most DACs now are good enough.

I don't think ASR suffers from anything other than a bit of arrogance. I'm very glad they exist, but they should certainly not be considered as final arbiter of anything. He does sometimes make mistakes, but he does seem to be improving his review process over time.

Also it's unquestionably the case that we are able to hear things that we don't presently have good ways of measuring. It is quite likely the case that as long as SINAD is greater than X, then a different factor that we are not generally measuring will provide a better listening experience even at the cost of a poorer SINAD - and in fact possibly even as a trade-off for a poorer SINAD.
 
Last edited:
Upvote 0

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Yes it's a shame how ASR are at times, economical with the truth shall we say.
They should have tested another cable, frankly another Node too, in the pursuit of 'audio science' after all.
And of course the Coax output test on page 2 should be at the very least included on page 1 results also....

I also wouldn't hold too much stock in it's conclusions either, with respect to what it defines as reference or otherwise.
The 'low' performing and therefore by assertion 'poor sounding' internal DAC of the Node 2i (88dB), Vs. the then almost class leader Schiit Modius (114dB) and by assertion 'reference sounding'.... - Have for all intents and purposes zero difference when it comes to listening.
A/B testing provided little to no discernible effect, maybe a bit smoother in favour of the Modius - but we have to also allow for some listening and purchase bias here, and I categorically would not pass a blind test with them.

So if you have 2 DAC's at roughly the 2 ends of the SINAD spectrum, but yet with an indistinguishable sound, it makes either:
A) a mockery of their beloved SINAD score, or
B) there's additional measurements and tests that aren't performed and they need to be. Either we don't know how to, or the human auditory response is simply too complicated to ever likely be able to be quantified on a chart.

I bought the Modius purely off the back of ASR results as a previous devout follower, so I was somewhat disheartened to find the result that I did. As a polar extreme to this I thought I would try a 'poorer' measuring DAC in the multibit Bifrost 2. Although the Bifrost 2 hasn't been measured, the Yggy has at 86dB.
Hand on heart without a shadow of a doubt, the Bifrost 2 is better than the Node and the Modius in every single way. It's not your typical hyperbolic hifi 'night and day', but it's there and can be heard on A/B switching, with a clear advantage to the Bifrost 2.
Take the above in anyway necessary - metrics only guys won't change their minds and will continue to assert measurements are everything. I've been down that path and found it a misleading one.

I could hardly agree more. I’m a verified fact kind of fellow, but there are limits to what is either necessary or sane.

I find ASR to be far too concerned with numbers that don’t mean anything.

The SINAD thing for instance. There is a limit beyond which it simply doesn’t matter (except as a technical exercise).

Once you’ve passed the point (comfortably) that even the best and youngest ear can physically differentiate then further refinement may well be impressive, and even technically superb.

But there’s no good reason for it to be a part of the selection process.
 
Upvote 0

[email protected]

Active Member
I went Attessa after much deliberation i was originally going Marantz 7000a but Bluesound sealed it for me, the 6000a is ok but not for me, and ive just watched Darkos review and no Gapless playback would kill it for me... thats until DTS Play patch it. Imagine Darkside of the moon with Gaps .... arrgh...

The NADs of course i did look at them but another price bracket again once you either plug in the node or grab the Lovely M10 ( maybe for me in the future or Naim )

With this many options i would drive you towards listening to them, with Speakers, i never did this originally, but this time i did i rang Sevenoaks told them my list and went to Listen if i had blind bought it i would have been so off my mark it was scary. And to Top it all off once id paid he showed be a Valve amp and the Lintons... Man that was lush :) but 2.8k amp :)

I tested 3 Amps and 7 Speakers before finally buying....
 
Upvote 0

Mad Monk

Active Member
I'm a former owner of the LS50 actives and now own the newer passive Meta's.

I've run them with the PA5 and yes they do sound great but in order to reach their true potential more power is needed, a couple hundred watts is the bare minimum I'd consider. In order to make my Meta's sound like the original actives I had to temporarily use my Behringer EP4000 IB amplifier.
 
Upvote 0

surr3a1

Standard Member
I'm a former owner of the LS50 actives and now own the newer passive Meta's.

I've run them with the PA5 and yes they do sound great but in order to reach their true potential more power is needed, a couple hundred watts is the bare minimum I'd consider. In order to make my Meta's sound like the original actives I had to temporarily use my Behringer EP4000 IB amplifier.
I guess that you are listening quite loud or quite far from the speakers(or you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about). I don't think that I am using even 20w of power at any given moment with very very very rare use of ~30w(I am counting 10db headroom).

The ARCAM has absolutely no issues driving the Metas but maybe I'll sell it at some point and go the separates route as it's DAC is not comparing even to a $300 Chinese external DAC. You are paying for it and it is not good as any integrated DAC in any amp.

I had a friend who's profession is as an acoustic designer visit me today to hear how everything sounded and his opinion was that I don't have any need of the Dirac as well(we were using the internal DAC because the external belongs to another friend who came to test).

What this all means is that I am paying for a Dirac+DAC that I don't really need and I could get something like Rega Aethos which should be quite a lot better than this one for not so much more money(2nd hand).
 
Last edited:
Upvote 0

Joe C

Distinguished Member
I guess that you are listening quite loud or quite far from the speakers(or you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about).
No need for that at all!
 
Upvote 0

The latest video from AVForums

Sony Bravia XR A80J OLED TV Review
Subscribe to our YouTube channel

Latest News

NAD launches M23 hybrid stereo power amplifier
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Microsoft to acquire Activision Blizzard for $70 billion
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Cyrus Audio joins BluOS Audio Ecosystem
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Audio Pro expands C10 MkII speaker range with new colours
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
BBC licence fee to be scrapped in 2027
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published

Full fat HDMI teeshirts

Support AVForums with Patreon

Top Bottom