New amplifier wanted-your advice please

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by karkus30, Mar 13, 2006.

  1. karkus30

    karkus30
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    Now, its not like me to ask, but Im considering a change and I really dont know what I want, although I do know what I am trying to achieve.

    At the moment I have a Naim NAC72 with a custom power supply feeding a pair of NAP 135 power amps. These big Naims are suffering from clicks and pops from the house electrics and its beginning to get on my nerves. Also, the last gig I went to at the Sage in Gateshead, taught me a bit of a lesson. The sound was big and open with a solid driving bass, the kick drum could be felt rather than heard. The Naims give a great interpretation of the music, but I now feel there is something missing, its as though the sound is thinner and more compressed than the live sound and the bass, although very precise, does not have the sense of power that I would like.

    It seems to me that the way forward is something like a s/h Audio Research tube amp or maybe one of the big Brystons. Something powerful and smooth, with great bass control and slam, but excels with detail and retains a high dergee of agility.

    Obviously you can spend a lot of money to get this level, but I am looking for a step up or sidewards from the Naims. Trading in the 135s the 72 and a 140 power amp I have stashed away should net me around £2K and I am prepared to add anothe £1K or so to that. So budget would ultimately be £3000-£3500 for a s/h or ex demo pre power or integrated if needs be.

    Its rare you get the chance to home demo this sort of gear and I am certainly not trying to carry my NEAT Ultimatum 7s to a nearby store as it takes two people to pick one of them up. So I am trying to build a short list of possibles, nothing with poor reliability or bad spares back up and no What HiFi best buys, Im looking for people who have real experience with equipment and buy on what they hear.

    Thanks.
     
  2. CJROSS

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    Karkus, sounds like you need an input of valves or pure Class ‘A’.

    Thus I would point you at the following marques that are in your price bracket :

    Copland
    BAT
    Sugden Masterclass
    PrimaLuna
    Unico DM series

    Good luck. Any of the above would be my next port of call after the A30.1 after hearing them. Mixing tubed Pre & SS PAs is worth a blast too.
     
  3. jon_mendel

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    Not to put a downer on things, but a big part of why gigs tend to sound so good at the Sage is the great acoustics there've got there... If you're wanting to get closer to that at home, it may also be worth looking at room treatment (assuming you haven't already) but there's very likely to be limits on what you can get at home as compared to in a concert hall :( Not that that's a reason not to upgrade your amps etc., but if you manage to get something sounding that good in your home I want to know how :D

    Jon
     
  4. Londondecca

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    As you like the Naim sound, have you considered Avondale Audio to tweak your system.

    Also I would tend to agree with Jon_mendel, comparing live sounds to HiFi is fraught with danger but I would encourage anyone to consider room acoustics before spending upwards of £3500
     
  5. karkus30

    karkus30
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    Pure Class A and SE valves are all very well, but I dont think they have the necessary power for huge dynamic swings for anything but the most sensitive speakers (a part of my system that I will not be changing). I would point out that my musical tastes are very broad. This means listening to everything from Thrash metal to female vocals. Most of my listening is at the heavy end of the spectrum which feature bands like Machine Head, Killing Joke, Metallica, Slayer etc. Then a fair amount of badly recorded punk/grunge from bands like Mudhoney, Nirvana, Melvins, Meat Puppets. Then theres Buddy Rich, Count Basie, Miles Davis.

    Im not relly sure about Avondale mods. I have heard a fully modded set of Naims at NEAT and I compared them to an LFD pre Power which sounded better in many ways, but was more like a more detailed Naim amp.

    I remember listening to an Acoustic Research 150 a few years ago, it was a cursory listen through a big set of KEF speakers. But the sound was so massive that it left an impression that has stayed with me. Maybe thats a bit rose tinted, maybe it was just a big bloated, overly warm valve sound, but at the time it sounded incredible.

    Room Acoustics - I am a bit limited, I already use my own sound diffraction on one of the side walls. I have bookshelves, carpet, heavy furnishings, thick curtains and even a wall hanging behind my listening position.

    As I said previously, the Naims are far too sensitive to mains noise, so this is what has started the ball rolling.
     
  6. alexs2

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    Having owned a number of valve amps,and used PP and SE amps,I would tend to agree with karkus's assessment of things in the last post....SETs just dont have the grunt although they do have incredible subtlety and finesse.

    A good PP tubed amp such as those from Audio Research and Manley,if power is what you're after,will meet those requirements,but for overall control,dynamics and power,a really good SS amp is hard to beat....for the sort of budget you have,there is a wide choice,and you can obviously look at Bryston,which are excellent for the price,as well as in any terms,but your budget will also encompass some of the older Krell and Levinson amps,which tend to have a darker overall presentation,with superb bass power,and dynamics.....both can sound a bit restrained until you turn them up,and the older Class A models will sound poor until thoroughly warmed through,but are worth a listen.

    My own personal feeling is that in the new amp field,Bryston represent the best value,and if you like the sound(which some don't) then used Krells and Levinsons are well worth looking out....AR represent some of the best in terms of higher powered tube amps,but Manley,if you can find them used,are also worth a look.
     
  7. Knightshade

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    Densen beat 350 mono's would be worth a listen. As would Macintosh, Audia and Bryston. You may also find the Higher end Linn amps to be well worth a listen. The difference between the Chakra range and the Klimax range is quite staggering. Klimax Twins come up for about £2000 - £2500 and an AV5103 would be a good pre. If you ever find a Linn system that someones taken the trouble to set up correctly they sound good. Certainly capable of driving pretty much any good speaker.
     
  8. Thekop

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    Hi.

    I'm more inclined to blame your heavily furnished room in sapping the life out of your system than anything else. Although whether you can do anything about that is a moot point.. I'd be tempted to take your carpets up and go for solid wooden floors, but that probably isn't practical for you. It is a consideration to ponder over with though..

    I must admit that the Naim sound is an aquired taste for some, but not my cup of tea. That's just my opinion so no offense given. Horses for courses at the end of the day..

    I've always found Naim systems ( Well the systems i've heard ) a little bit lacking in both treble and lower bass detail with a slightly pinched and claustophobic midrange, though musically toe tapping and rhythmically secure. But to get that big, realistic, hugely dynamic sound you're after won't come cheap, as you probably know.

    I'm in a similar situation to you in upgrading my system, so i know the dilemmas in spending that much money on upgrades.

    I know Linn/Naim owners are hard to please, but like these guys i would certainly look into the Bryston, Audio Research and Krell range. Like i am funnily enough. It'll be interesting to see how you get on though. :smashin:

    I wish you the best of luck in what ever you choose.

    Cheers :)
     
  9. hifix

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    Aren't we forgetting one thing here which no-one has asked? What's the rest of the system? It's all very well putting forward possibilities, but the speaker/amp match at this level is crucial.

    I also am not convinced that the Naim's are at fault here. Their presentation is one of the closest i've heard to a live performance. Most other hifi is a little too polite to sound convincing for my ears.

    Maybe, as stated by others, there is a problem with room acoustics. It would be worthwhile looking into mains solutions rather than getting rid of a nice pre/power combination.
     
  10. Ed Selley

    Ed Selley
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    You could compromise and look at a valve pre (S/H Conrad Johnson or similar) and a solid state power amp. This might be the best of both worlds. Or a dogs breakfast.
     
  11. karkus30

    karkus30
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    Speakers are NEAT Ultimatum 7s wired with NAIM Cable. I run a highly modified Marantz CD80 and a Marantz CD17 (The CD80 is now firmly embedded in the system and makes the poor old 17 sound inadequate) I also have a Roksan Xexes with Origin Live encounter tone arm and Ortofon Jubilee cart. Both the Turntable and CD player are on wall mounts. The mains is on a 32A dedicated ring circuit and each piece of equipment has its own individual socket.

    I should point out that the system does not lack life, I just feel the presentation is not as..........difficult to describe really, but I suppose full and holographic might be the words Im looking for, perhaps fluid. The bass is strong and extended with loads of punch so its not lacking compared to many systems, but it does not deliver a punch in the gut feel of a live performance (oh I know your going to say thats impossible to achieve and the neighbours would object etc, etc but thats what I want. My sub on the cinema system can manage it so it must be possible).

    I am using a custom power supply for the NAC72, which is really a HiCap clone, but with two toroidal amplifiers instead of one. I use custom cabling to connect the pre amp to the 135s, this is teflon coated, cryo treated, single crystal cable.

    I do have a problem with mains interference and I am aware of mains filters, these do have a detrimental effects on Naim amplifiers which is why I have never gone down that route. Naim tried to convince me that the problem was due to me using a custom PSU and not a high cap, but I have used the psu with the NAP 140 without any problems and Naim have checked over the 135s and found no faults, so I presume its just down to poor signal rejection on the 135s, although no one else seems to come across it. I dont think it has a detrimental effect on the sound and I have heard plenty of Naim set ups, but you never know.

    The room is pretty awful from an acoustic point of view. Large and square 17' x 17' with high ceilings and a suspended wooden floor. The speakers have been set up using the golden triangle and have had several tweaks to get them just right. Perfect ? I doubt it, but short of building another room I have to live with what I have.

    http://www.bluebirdmusic.com/CES2005.htm these are the big brother of the sevens. The sevens have only two drive units on the front incase you dont know what Im on about with speakers.
     
  12. Nimby

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    Forget about live versus your sound at home. They have thousands of watts and more speakers than you can put on one articulated lorry.

    You haven't mentioned your speakers yet.

    You have an enviable system by "olive" standards.

    The 72 is probably the weak point now. Secondhand 82 or 52? Or the new stuff?

    Add a used Supercap? Suits you sir?

    Air your thoughts on the Naim forum for a long list of "essential" upgrades and just as many different opinions as you'll get here. ;)

    Your 'fridge may simply need a condenser to stop the noise on the mains at source. I never get any noise. You'll get advice on this on the Naim forum too.
     
  13. karkus30

    karkus30
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    Yes, I have mentioned them twice already :) but for a third time NEAT Ultimatum 7s.

    Im not sure about the 72 being a weak point, have you had a look inside an 82 and 52 :eek: suprising how similar it is to the 72. The 52 has seperate power supply rails, the 82 is basically the same as the 72.

    Fridge, dishwasher, central heating, washing machine and virtually every light in the house would need a capacitor to damp the clicks. I have considered a Supercap, it does make a difference, but it would probably not eliminate the clicks and pops.

    The system I heard at the Sage was relatively modest by PA standards, very compact and the backline was also pretty diminutive. This is in a hall which is enormous compared to my listening room, so I dont believe you cant get that sound, Im just not sure anyone has considered it. HiFi was always about instrumental timbre and placement and always seemed aimed at the classical/Jazz end of the market which is not suprising as most rock concerts are poor by comparison with the intimate sound of an Orchestra or Jazz combo. However, my trip to the sage indicates that it doesnt need to be like that. The sound was clear and distortion free, no echoes, no bass bloom, just very crispand powerful. Maybe I should just buy their PA.:thumbsup:
     
  14. karkus30

    karkus30
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    Im happy with the NACA5. I have used other cables in the past such as Nordost Blue Heaven and Chord Flatline Gold, but Naims are horribly unstable and benefit from having simple cable runs, so I wont be changing these.

    I have considered filters, but I am not really sure where the clicks and pops are getting into the system. Most people dont put their big power amps onto a filter due to the inrush currents associated with amplifiers. It might be getting in via the pre amp power supply, but, if I swap to my 140 amp there are no problems. Apparently Naim transformers can act as aerials and pull the signal straight from the air, I certainly suffered from illegal Taxi radios at one time.
     
  15. Thekop

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    Hi.

    I don't think you would be happy with anything other than a Naim system, as you're to quick to defend it... Maybe the RF interference is the root to the problem and also your room acoustics.. Maybe massive PA speakers or Cerwin Vegas could be the key :D
     
  16. gad

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    Hi,

    I eliminated this problem by running a dedicated spur from the fusebox removing the system from the ring.
     
  17. Londondecca

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    Naim has a very strong 'house' presentation of music and therefore if this style suits you it might be easier to stay within this product range. Have you tried asking on Pink Fish.

    An alternative might be the LFD range, these also appear on Exdem.com and Ebay if you want to save some money
     
  18. Nimby

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    What about "horror of horrors" a decent subwoofer to liven things up? :) Perhaps not, in your symetrical room.

    Have you actually tried an alternative PS just to eliminate your "foreigner" as the source of the rice crispies?

    Your use of non-standard cables really ought to be looked at as part of the elimination process too. Do you still have the original Naim cables to do a quick swap? Did you use exactly the same cables on the 140? Perhaps that's not possible. I'm not familiar with 135 cabling.

    Is the problem at all source dependant? Is the '72 volume control in good condition? '72 boards properly inserted ? You must have gone through this process already of course...
     
  19. karkus30

    karkus30
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    I have already done that, the system is on a completely seperate ring from the rest of the house. It suprised me that it made no difference. I did take the system around to a friends house some time ago and the same problem occured there. Swap back to the 140 and no problems. Go back to Naim and they point out Im using a none standard power supply and cabling (although they are happy to say that they dont think this is the cause, but they cant say it isnt) and have checked out the amps. Weird. The only way I can truly scotch that one is to borrow a Hi Cap and some cabling.
     
  20. karkus30

    karkus30
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    Im severly tempted by the LFDs. I had a pre/power on dem for a couple of weeks. It certainly did not suffer from any clicks or pops. Presentation was different from the Naims, it did'nt seem to have the bass slam, but the vocals were a revelation. Trading one for another ? I can get probably get a deal on the LFD range.

    I will try asking on Pinkfish, never used the forum before.
     
  21. karkus30

    karkus30
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    I think a sub would be the straw that broke the camels back. I had enough trouble tuning the SVS sub using the BFD to get a clean bass sound in the living room (its all upstairs now in a purpose built room and I cant be bothered to re do the settings, but it sounds fine).

    No, the cables are different on the 140, I cant use them with the 135s a vice verca. I have not had the pre amp opened for a while (not since I swapped out to a MC cart a few years ago, cant imagine it being a problem, but I do remember there being someone advocating regular plugging and unplugging so I shall at least give it a go). The volume control is smooth and there are no crackles turning it up and down so I think that is fine.

    Of course you mention the PSU and I cant help but think theres something there. But the 140 does not give any problems and the PSU does not feed anything but the pre amp, but maybe the 135s load the back end of the pre amp differently or something ? Its hard to believe that it could cause an issue as its such a simple piece of equipment. The only alternative is to borrow a hicap and cabling.
     
  22. karkus30

    karkus30
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    Thanks Chris,

    I have a laymans understanding of electronics and amplifier design, but from the manufacturer, the postings on various forums and talking to other amplifier designers. I was under the impression that Naim omits an inductor/resistor network on the output of its power amplifiers and this is why they recommend a specific length of NACA5 cable (3.5m minimum) as this replaces the network ?

    I had run the system on Chord Flatine Gold (very low R, C and L values) and ran my 140 with it in place for years. Several people I spoke to reckoned that the mains noise on my 135s was caused because I was using none standard cabling so that is how I ended up with NACA5 in the first place. I did notice a difference between the two cables, one, was better low frequencies with NAC and less detail and air, but TBH the difference was quite marginal.

    The mains filter is very appealing if it would prevent the problem, I just dont want to go blowing money on something that might work. I was just reading about the Isotek ? filters, they did no recommend large power amps being fed from their filters, but maybe Olsen is less problematic ?
     
  23. karkus30

    karkus30
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    Chris,

    I managed to procure a heavyweight James Audio power conditioner.

    Interesting results, if I plug the pre and power into it then there is still the same problem of clicks and pops. Plug everything into it and as if by magic, abracadabra, silence.

    Now here's the weird bit and its difficult to explain it, but it appears that I now need to up the volume control to get the same levels as BMC (Before Mains Conditioner). But, then again I think the noise floor has dropped away. Played several discs, Miles Davies was effin amazing, now that ride cymbal sounds truly in the room, I can here the decay and the hollow sound of the brass bell. Tool, Lateralus and now I can hear things going on in the mix that definitely have not been there before. Im not sure if some of the excitement has slipped away, but been replaced by a smoother sound, maybe the pace has slipped a bit I dont know. It seems less wearing somehow, maybe less mains hash that was contibuting to the overall sound level.

    I dont know if Im pleased or not, but its staying for a couple of weeks.
     
  24. Jimholt

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    Take a look ar Jolida amps they get some good reviews. The people on AudioReview.com seem to like them. One person had all Naim gear and bought a Jolida hybrid and wants to sell all is Naim now. Jim.
     
  25. alexs2

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    I dont think that's a surprise...all the intereference and background noise does add a layer of background to everything you previously listened to,and will be apparent,if only by its sudden absence.

    Adding an amplifier to a system that was plagued by background noise etc can often lead to a system then appearing quieter by comparison,and another aspect is that of a very powerful amplifier being used,with speakers of suitable power handling and dynamic range,where the result is that the level being used is often set substantially higher than with a lesser system.

    In any case,as long as this solution works,it may save you a lot of money,and enable you to keep a sound that suits you well.
     
  26. karkus30

    karkus30
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    Im not sure about the money saving.........the conditioner is the thick end of £1200.........It saves me part exing the amps though :)
     
  27. CJROSS

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    Karkus a pair of these would be landable for under £1500, oooooooohhhh 120 W Monoblocs.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Smoothe, very powerful. Lovely amplification every time I have heard it. I cant say the same for Naim PAs, hit or miss for me. If your keeping them have you considered a valve pre ?
     
  28. Thekop

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    I'm surprised you're not looking around for some Naim SBL's or Linn Isobariks, or indeed a Naim CD front end ?
     
  29. Knightshade

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    With regards to the mains conditioner, try out the Nordost Thor. But leave your credit card at home.
     
  30. karkus30

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    Naim SBLs / Linn Isobariks dont think so, I have heard them working pretty well in some systems, but not my cup of char. The Ultimatum 7s are far and away a better speaker.

    Naim CD front end - very nice, most are based around the TDA1541 single crown DAC chipset. Its the same chipset found in Arcams Alpha 5 (of which Avondale speak so highly) and in a few other high level machines of the past, including tatata the Marantz CD80 which also comes with one of the finest CD mechs that Philips have ever made...........a few snips and tucks and you have something amazing :clap:
     

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