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Should I upgrade my Arcam Alpha 10 AMP or just buy the Alpha 10 Power AMP ?

cristopher

Standard Member
Hi,

I am in a bit of pickle as to what to do regarding my hi fi system. I have a limited budget and want to upgrade my system to boost the quality. My system is currently comprised of the following:

Arcam Alpha 7SE CD
Arcam Alpha 10 Integrated AMP
KEF Q55 Speakers
Audio Quest Ruby Interconnects

I have already ordered a pair of Chord Company Chameleon Silver Plus Interconnects, but do not know where to go next.

I have been looking at the Arcam Diva A85 and also the Arcam FMJ A28 as there are some good deals out there. But I also thought about buying the Arcam Alpha 10 Power AMP with a view to bi-amping my speakers to give that little extra "oomph".

I know the CD Player is probably the weakest component but I am waiting for a good deal on an Arcam CD192 or even an FMJ CD17.

Any helpful idea's would be most welcome. I know there are some good alternatives out there, but I have been a fan of the Arcam / Kef combination for a long time, and love the sound. I will eventually upgrade the KEFs when budget becomes available.
 

coruja

Novice Member
Could you tell us your budget?

You have some nice high quality power there: Stereophile: Arcam Alpha 10 integrated amplifier & Alpha 10P power amplifier

Adding the poweramp would be icing on the cake! However, do you really want a more powerful version of the same kit or are you itching for some brand new kit?

You have to be honest with yourself, even if you get the Alpha 10 power amp, how long before you start itching again?
 

cristopher

Standard Member
If I really wanted to I could spend about £1,000 over a few months. Even though I am getting "the itch" as you quite rightly put it, I still want value for money. So if I upgraded to something like the FMJ A28 AMP (and maybe later the P38 Power AMP and FMJ CD17) would I really see that much of an improvement over the Alpha 10 combo ?

I have read that the FMJ range really is something else, I appreciate that only a demo could really satisfy my curiosity, but I simply do not have the time at the moment to investigate, so I really do need some helpful suggestions :rolleyes:

I recon I can get hold of a second hand Alpha 10P Power AMP for between £100 - £200, so this may be might short term answer...
 

cristopher

Standard Member
Scratch that, it looks like the company who have the 10P want £275 for it, which seems a bit steep considering that you can get a single FMJ A28 Integrated on ebay for about that much.

Decisions, decisions....
 

magnumwhite1

Standard Member
If your happy with the overall sonic signature of the Arcam sound, which I presume you are and can wait for an Alpha 10 power amp to come along at a reasonable price( a price at which you can easily sell on for around the same if not happy, the beauty of the second hand market and patience,;)) and you like listening at volume, then you should definatley consider getting one, I've had a few different Arcam power amp and intergrated combo's and there is a definate improvement at higher volumes, the sound is more effortless and retains its smoothness, Ive alway's noticed this with a power amp because I can really crank it up further than I could without one, without the sound becoming shouty or strained and therefore becoming fatigueing and preventing me from pushing it any further, when adding a power amp and the extra headroom it brings, it can really be decieving because you dont realize how loud it actually is because its so much more smoother when pushed unlike before, that is until you leave the room and go upstair's or whatever and think " oh **** the neighbour's!" :D.



By the way I'm aware that bi-amping isn't always very cost effective and plenty of people will tell you that, and I realize buying an intergrated with more power would have pretty much the same effect as above and that it's nothing like true active bi-amplification with active crossovers, but in this case considering you have an older but still high quality amp no doubt and you seem keen on sticking with Arcam I think it's a sensible option for you to try, I'm not convinced the newer Arcam models you mention are going to totally outclass your Alpha, and give you the improvement you crave, although they will certainley look alot better, to be fair the alpha series are looking a bit dated which may be an issue for you, but you've not implied that looks are an issue so Ile assume there not because if they were Ide have different opinions.



I think getting an intergrated clearly above the class of your Alpha 10 could be potentionally quite costly, so your really going to have to ideally audition and find one that has a sound you prefer as opposed to buying blind on the basis of cost/reviews. Upgrading budget low end amps and sources to mid range is pretty easy in my opinion, you can just go off reviews and forum's like this if needs be and even if the sonic character isn't quite to your ideal personal taste, (maybe a bit darker, brighter than you would prefer or whatever) I still feel the extra fidelity in sound from the budget to mid price bracket (resolution, sound separation, detail, ect) is quite obvious and will in most cases I feel leave you satisfied regardless, or at least not leaving you feeling like complete a mug:rolleyes:.

I'm not at all implying you should'nt demo budget or mid price stuff by the way if you can, because that is alway's the key obviousley to getting the best system to suit you, It's just that alot of the time it's awqward or pretty much impossibe to demo gear. I'm just trying to point out that the lower end of the market is fairly forgiving if your sensible in term's of attempting to upgrade your kit, once you get to a certain level though it gets tricky to upgrade and be satisfied.



Your looking to upgrade a well regarded amp which originally cost around £800 I believe, so auditioning equipment is an absolute must, I feel it's much more about personal taste when trying to improve on kit in that price bracket unless your fortunate enough to have daft amounts to spend.

As for your suggestion of the newer FMJ amp your considering, again I dont really see why this should be an obvious improvement over your Alpha soundwise even if it is a much more recent model. There still roughly in the same price and power bracket even if there is a good few years between them and I'm not aware of any break through technologies in amplifier design between that gap, apart from maybe digital amp's hitting the general consumer market maybe but as far as I'm aware there still outperformed by there analogue counterparts(digital sources on the other hand have certainley matured over the past decade, buying a dac and combining with several budget components is the sensible option these days I feel) it might well sound a bit different and Im pretty sure the build quality would be better and it's certainley more attractive and fancy but a safe bet at clearly improving on the Alpha purely soundwise? I would'nt be so sure.

Ive compared loads of amps over the year's, even budgetish late 80's early 90's jap model's from the likes of technic's against an Arcam A85, even then were not exactley talking massive night and day difference's (even though I wished there was), was the arcam better? well yes it was, (Thank God!:D) quite clearly after a bit of a listening session and "critical evaluation" ( but should I really have had to even concentrate when comparing these two models? should of been obvious surley? well if the general hifi press are to be believed it should:rolleyes:), micro detail/dynamic's and control when pushed stood out as far as i remember, amongst other things, only thing was though the A85 cost £600 on discount a while back, were as the technic's was £8 in a local car boot. I know that seems totally irrelivent and comparing old car boot bought amp's to new one's from a shop isn't fair, but I'm just trying to point out my skeptisism of the possible difference's between your alpha and a newer diva or fmj and dont think you should take it for granted that they will be better.

I know you know all this but I know what it's like when you feel the urge to upgrade and common sense can go out the window and you tend to convince yourself the attainable difference's are bigger than what they are, and ridiculously anal reviews and hifi propaganda creep in. I feel upgrading from your Alpha and being totally satisfied which of course is the key aim, could be a bit tricky, and to be quite frank feel there's alot of b*****'s spouted about hi-fi in general and dont want another enthusiast/addict:D like myself to be dissapointed.

Another option you could possibley consider and one I will alway's recommend although it's a complete u-turn altogether is active studio monitor's, technically even budget M-Audio model's give level's of resolution, clarity and insight that conventional hi-fi for even twice the price or more could'nt hope to match, heard various low to mid end models and "technically" there miles better than my hi-fi kit costing alot more which is annoying, BUT! I personally couldn't put up with the shrill brightness and forwardness of them for long period's, there really impressive when you first hear them, they seem to have alot of what you crave for in conventional hifi but then the fatigue kick's in quite quick and you realize they wouldn't really be suitable for long term listening sessions. However that's my opinion but have quite a few friend's who live happily with studio monitor's as normal speakers and like the sound, so I think you should alway's consider going down that route and see whether you like the sound, you could save yourself a fortune if you do.

If you would be interested in going active but want some of the benifit's of conventional hifi, then I would suggest auditioning some AVI ADM 9.1's, Ive always been really interested in these due to the all too obvious benifit's of active over passive design but unfortunatley have never had that sort of cash spare. If theyv'e managed to utililze the gains of an active design but tone down the shrillness and make them more listenable like conventionable equipment then I think they could be an absolute winner and considering your getting your speakers, amps and a decent quality dac combined, at £1200 I think this could potentionally be a bit of a bargain and miles better than a conventional alternative, and is probabley the future (I know Meridian and Linn have been doing active design's for ages but this is the first active design from a uk based respected hi-fi manufacturar ive seen at a realistic price for your average hi-fi fan) .

Although they could of course be just as shrill and sharp as there pro-audio counterparts and although initially hugely impressive, deemed unsuitable by the majority for prolonged use.If I had the fund's though and was changing all my kit, I would certainley look into it just to make sure I wasnt missing out.

Anyway have fun trying new kit, kind regard's.
 

cristopher

Standard Member
Hi - and many thanks for your detailed response! :hiya:

After much deliberation I decided to hold out for a power amp on ebay. I saw a few Alpha 8Ps and 9Ps going for about £200 and was almost resigned to the fact that a 10P would never surface, they seemed to be gold dust. And then out of the blue an Alpha 10 Integrated / Power combo came along.

I bidded and had to go as high as £255 to get the lead and thought I had it in the bag, but no, on the last day a bidding war broke out and it went as high as £355! This was just for the power AMP mind you.

Just when I thought it was over, I stumbled across the BADA market place (http://www.bada.co.uk/index.html), which is a group of companies in the UK that advertise hifi equipment (new and used) and low and behold a company in London had 2 going! I bought a mint condition 10P for £195 which is an absolute bargain, no scratches or marks.

I also decided to invest in the following :
  • new bi-wire speaker cables - QED Silver Anniversary XT with airloc plugs
  • new chord company chameleon silver plus interconnects for the CD to AMP and AMP to Power AMP
  • A new Icon Aero hi fi stand which looks the business
  • Granite plinths for my speakers from RSAcoustics (also look the business)
  • And finally, a QED Qonduit MDH6 power surge socket with power leads
I can honestly say I am extremely pleased with the result. The Alpha 10 Integrated is powering the HF and the Power amp the LF. The bass is more controlled, though this is due in part to the granite plinths, but the sound at higher volumes is simply staggering, cystal clear.

I think the weakest components in my system are now the speakers (KEF Q55s first version) or the Arcam 7SE CD Player. I have my eye on the newer kef XQ30s which are getting rave reviews, but I also have a desire to get the CD37 both will set me back about £1,000 so back to decisions again! :)
 
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eaglemmoomin

Novice Member
The CD17 is a nice CD player but imho its not worth the asking price (bearing in mind, thats in the context of my system). I tried one with my 8000S and Quads (which together have a fairly neutral sound with a soupcon of sweetness) and its powerful but a bit lean imho. I found it good for rock (Green Day), drum and bass electronica (Pendulum, which suprised me a lot). Cuban stuff sounded pretty good and almost toe tapping (still not quite right, though) BUT it made Nina Simone sound errr a little bland.
 

cristopher

Standard Member
I have seen the CD17 go for about £350 on ebay, and the CD33 (previous FMJ range topper prior to CD37) go for the same. Brand new these CD players are definately over priced, but the second hand market really comes into its own.
 
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