Should I Upgrade my Audiolab 8000AP?

parcelmonkey

Novice Member
Hello All,

I'm suffering, upgradeitus is making me itchy all over. :laugh: Currently I have an Audiolab 8000AP matched to a Linn 5125 5 channel amp and some Red Rose Rosebud mkii standmounts. I love the sound, very detailed and clean sounding. However, if I sell my 8000AP and put around £600 cash towards an upgrade can I get a significant sound improvement in 2 channel mode? I'm wanting to feel immersed in the music rather than just hear it, if that makes sense?

I only wish to look at s/h, initially I thought about a Linn 5103, not really worried about hdmi, I beieve optical will give me DTS surround audio but I really want more from 2.0 channel and not just detailing. Can I get this with spending this amount? I've looked at Tag AV32R 192 DP, Proceed AVP2, Parasound Halo etc, but despite reading lots I'm none the wiser.

Any one with any views or real info I'd appreciate hearing from you. I thought about putting a tube buffer in between my Linn DS and 8000AP but not sure if this is the way to go :confused:

Or should I change speakers to something more meaty instead, Linn Ninkas and go active?
Fingers crossed someone can help :lease:

Ade...
 

MI55ION

Distinguished Member
The sense of immersion and scale with stereo is directly related to bass, volume and reflections. I can't see any significant improvement in your situation from changing the processor or amps. Instead you may want to consider the addition of a sub or upgrading to large speakers along with some form of room treatment.
 
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parcelmonkey

Novice Member
The sense of immersion and scale with stereo is directly related to bass, volume and reflections.
Not sure about what you mean by this, my basic understanding of what you say is unless I increase more bass, up the volume and sort out room reflections I won't feel the music?


I can't see any significant improvement in your situation from changing the processor or amps.
But I did notice a big improvement when I swapped out my original Audiolab 8000P's for a modified Arcam 8P and then noticed a huge difference when I moved up to the Linn 5125. Surely if I invested in a pre amp with a proven sound history of being better than what I have now I will gain more musicality? I understand of course there will be a limiting factor, namely how much more the smallish drivers in my speakers can give.


Instead you may want to consider the addition of a sub or upgrading to large speakers along with some form of room treatment.
This bit I get, I'm sure there are lots that can be improved with room treatments, already I noticed huge gains in imaging and soundstage when I put more emphasis into correct speaker placement, I even posted about how much difference it made with very small changes, however I will need to look further in to this as the room can appear boomy too easily; so not sure a sub will help. Although the speakers are small standmounts they sure do kick out controlled bass notes! Otherwise I might make the leap and go for bi-amping passive then possibly active Ninkas. But surely the better the sound I get, the more I want to make improvements and not limit myself to a modest system like I have.
Or are you saying, with the budget I have at present, I won't gain significantly until I spend a lot more?

Anyone else care to offer, I won't learn much from just one posting, any help greatly appreciated... :lease:
 

Thatsnotmynaim

Distinguished Member
Why not add a hifi pre in the mix for music. If it has av mode / uniti gain then it should integrate easily. Feed the front pre outs of the 8000ap into the av input of the hifi pre, feed the pre puts of the hifi pre into your power amp as before and voila. When watching av the hifi pre is switched to av and is effectively set to 0db with no volume control so is as before. Then when listening to music feed the music source(s) directly into the hifi pre for better music. Best of both worlds, £600 should buy a pretty good hifi pre, which should easily blow away an av pre costing £1000's.
 

PhilCTTE

Well-known Member
What are your sources?

I've upgraded from Tag Av32DP £3K to Rotel 1570 £1250 and now a Marantz AV7005 £1.4K never noticed much of a difference for 2ch to be honest. All my sources are digital. Whereas for AV duties the difference was greater and this is where they excel, but are only so good for 2ch. You'll get more inputs/output options with hdmi (which you said you dont need) and various gizmos like DLNA internet streaming more codecs etc ...

Adding more devices in the audio stream between source and speaker is not always a good thing.

If you have digital sources then may I suggest a dedicated DAC/PRE such as the MDAC @ £599. Problem with the digital processing in modest priced AVP's is that its multi tasking for AV and is buried in a dearth of electronics. The signal path is not always simple to the extent that 2ch audio can suffer somewhat. This is my experience with the 3 AVP's listed.

I borrowed a 20+ year old DPA little bit DAC before the MDAC punt and even this was an improvement over the DAC in the AVP.

Currently I'm using the DAC via 7.1ch inputs thru the AV7005. I'm planning to use the DAC Pre section and bypass the AVP altogether. Which should improve the sound again. John Westlake is releasing an addon, around Christmas, which will act as an external PSU and switching unit to allow the stereo to go direct to power amp or into the AVP. It will also contain an analogue input with attenuation.

If you can, go listen to the MDAC :smashin:
 
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parcelmonkey

Novice Member
Why not add a hifi pre in the mix for music. If it has av mode / uniti gain then it should integrate easily. Feed the front pre outs of the 8000ap into the av input of the hifi pre, feed the pre puts of the hifi pre into your power amp as before and voila. When watching av the hifi pre is switched to av and is effectively set to 0db with no volume control so is as before. Then when listening to music feed the music source(s) directly into the hifi pre for better music. Best of both worlds, £600 should buy a pretty good hifi pre, which should easily blow away an av pre costing £1000's.
Or sell the audiolab 8000ap which so far i've only used the 5.1bypass mode in 2 channel, buy a cheap denon av amp and mix in a dedicated 2 channel pre? Would this work, i'd like an av amp for listening to some movies but it's music where i'm at. If this works what recommendations for dedicated pre s/h £600-£800 could you kindly suggest?
 

Thatsnotmynaim

Distinguished Member
Your 8000ap is worth circa £340-360, not sure how good a Denon you'd get for that. If you don't need the power amp, since you already have the Linn, I'd suggest you probably can't replace the 8000ap with anything much better for the money. Your options are a hifi pre and the Linn for all channels or a hifi integrated and the Linn for centre and rears, but with the chance the integrated may not match your Linn tonally. Not sure if Linn do a suitable integrated for the money you are after. One question is what is / are your source(s), is it purely digital ie streamer or do you use analogue from a cd player or record layer?
 

parcelmonkey

Novice Member
What are your sources?

I've upgraded from Tag Av32DP £3K to Rotel 1570 £1250 and now a Marantz AV7005 £1.4K never noticed much of a difference for 2ch to be honest. All my sources are digital. Whereas for AV duties the difference was greater and this is where they excel, but are only so good for 2ch. You'll get more inputs/output options with hdmi (which you said you dont need) and various gizmos like DLNA internet streaming more codecs etc ...

Adding more devices in the audio stream between source and speaker is not always a good thing.

If you have digital sources then may I suggest a dedicated DAC/PRE such as the MDAC @ £599. Problem with the digital processing in modest priced AVP's is that its multi tasking for AV and is buried in a dearth of electronics. The signal path is not always simple to the extent that 2ch audio can suffer somewhat. This is my experience with the 3 AVP's listed.

I borrowed a 20+ year old DPA little bit DAC before the MDAC punt and even this was an improvement over the DAC in the AVP.

Currently I'm using the DAC via 7.1ch inputs thru the AV7005. I'm planning to use the DAC Pre section and bypass the AVP altogether. Which should improve the sound again. John Westlake is releasing an addon, around Christmas, which will act as an external PSU and switching unit to allow the stereo to go direct to power amp or into the AVP. It will also contain an analogue input with attenuation.

If you can, go listen to the MDAC :smashin:
Interesting, I thought these expensive pre-processors were such because they did 2 channel music so well. I need to find a dealer local to me, one I know of I didn't really find that good when I was looking to start, probably because i'm always keen to search s/h ex dem and not spend on new. Bit cheeky to take all advice and spend little, however, what with the Mdac still so new, might be a justified experience. How do you find the sound, still clinical and a little uninvolving as per the Audiolab sound? I'm not 100% sure I want to stay with this sound. What with the Linn amps, I love the clear detail but want more involvement with the musicality. Say i've got £800-£1000 to spend on a dac/pre any other suggestions I should earmark?
 

parcelmonkey

Novice Member
Your 8000ap is worth circa £340-360, not sure how good a Denon you'd get for that. If you don't need the power amp, since you already have the Linn, I'd suggest you probably can't replace the 8000ap with anything much better for the money. Your options are a hifi pre and the Linn for all channels or a hifi integrated and the Linn for centre and rears, but with the chance the integrated may not match your Linn tonally. Not sure if Linn do a suitable integrated for the money you are after. One question is what is / are your source(s), is it purely digital ie streamer or do you use analogue from a cd player or record layer?

Source is purely digital, a Linn Majik DS. I thought i could compromise using the denon for purely 5 channel av stuff and put the dedicated hi-fi pre into the mix for stereo duties? Or am I mis-understanding things? If I kept the 8000ap and added a 2 channel pre wouldn't things get messy with pre on pre? :confused:
 

Thatsnotmynaim

Distinguished Member
I personally use a Naim XS integrated amp which has an AV mode matched with my 8000ap, but use a Naim NAPV175 for the centre and rears so that matches very well. Audiolab do an 8200DQ which is a pre that accepts digital and analogue, but not sure it has an AV mode, which means each time you want to watch a film and need it at 0db you'll have to manually turn it up to around 12 O'Clock. I use an M-Dac which is a great Dac with Pre, but it is digital only and again has no AV mode, which normally is only on amps with analogue inputs. Don't know what sound you prefer, but suggest you go and audition a few hifi amps with the speakers and power amp you want to use to see what sound you like. Arcam tend to be slightly soft, Naim quite punchy and Audiolab are razor sharp but can he a little tiring.
 

Thatsnotmynaim

Distinguished Member
parcelmonkey said:
Source is purely digital, a Linn Majik DS. I thought i could compromise using the denon for purely 5 channel av stuff and put the dedicated hi-fi pre into the mix for stereo duties? Or am I mis-understanding things? If I kept the 8000ap and added a 2 channel pre wouldn't things get messy with pre on pre? :confused:
Quick potential fly in ointment, have you compared the Linn DS output via digital and analogue? I've had a few Linn DS's and quite often they were better via analogue as can have great DACs inside. The M-Dac is a great Dac, would be simple to feed that into an AV setup, but it would be trickier to feed an AV setup into it due to only having digital inputs and I think no AV mode. A HiFi pre/integrated amp with an AV/Uniti gain mode would make an AV Pre and HiFi Pre work together perfectly. You need to work out though if you need just digital or dig + analogue and then also if you want a pre + 5 channel Linn or Integrated + matching 3 channel amp. You also need to work out what 2ch sound you like, sometimes the more obvious sound (ie quick A/B test) is not always the better long term smooth listener you can listen to for hours on end. If you plan to keep your 5 channel Linn then Linn may be a good starting place to look TBH.
 

PhilCTTE

Well-known Member
How do you find the sound, still clinical and a little uninvolving as per the Audiolab sound? I'm not 100% sure I want to stay with this sound. What with the Linn amps, I love the clear detail but want more involvement with the musicality. Say i've got £800-£1000 to spend on a dac/pre any other suggestions I should earmark?
Nothing like that.

It extracts all the detail with an involving soundstage and all the dynamics.
It exposes badly recorded material. It has various filters to modify the sound slightly. One of the best pieces of kit I've bought.

There's not much in the price range that competes with it.

The designer is the DAC king ! :laugh: Not previously involved in other Audiolab designs.

But he has other products in the pipe line which sound promising and in a reasonable price range. One to watch:eek:
 

PhilCTTE

Well-known Member
Source is purely digital, a Linn Majik DS. I thought i could compromise using the denon for purely 5 channel av stuff and put the dedicated hi-fi pre into the mix for stereo duties? Or am I mis-understanding things? If I kept the 8000ap and added a 2 channel pre wouldn't things get messy with pre on pre? :confused:
One thing to do if you can .. take your Linn DS along and compare the MDAC and computer via Async USB. Then sell the Linn to fund other bits :)
 

Thatsnotmynaim

Distinguished Member
A good option may be the Audiolab 8200CDQ, it'd a DAC, Pre amp with a CD player thrown in for good measure. May be a slightly odd combination, but gets rave reviews and most importantly I think has an AV/home cinema mode to integrate with the 8000ap perfectly. Take a look.
 

parcelmonkey

Novice Member
Thanks for all your replies so far everyone, personally i'm not convinced the Mdac is the way forward. And NO way am I selling my Linn DS for I love it, not convinced I want to stay in Audiolab territory either. I am a fan of my 8000ap especially as it was <£500 delivered in mint cond; maybe in the last year I have become an audio snob so like others and now see limitations to the Audiolab brand forgetting why I liked it in the first place [giving me excellent sound reproduction for cheapish money] :facepalm:
I just think there is a better way of doing things now I understand more about what I like and look for in my musical enjoyment. As I already stated I love the detailed sound I get, but I think it borders / could start to sound thin sounding. Going digital with the Mdac makes me think it will be thinner again.

Not knocking Mr Westlake, just thinking synergy and how I perceive the music playing. It might be worth asking for a home demo especially if i'm expecting to pay new price though from ssav, my local branch. Never say never. At least i'd know.

Again the Linn 5 channel amp isn't everyone's cup of tea but at the price paid again £500 in mint condition it allows for an upgrade path or a reasonably inexpensive purchase that someone will buy off me later on if I find something better?

What I think I need to look at is either an older full blown expensive av processor s/h like a naim, linn, proceed that can be bought for <£1k approx which originally cost £4.5K and upwards and now considerably cheaper as it doesn't offer all the newish surround modes, hdmi etc or a completely different sounding 2 channel pre with ht passthrough. That's where I think I am at, spend more on the 2 channel side and accept limitations on the av side or get rid of it altogether and integrate it bit by bit later on.

It's just so much harder when making decisions based on a lack of funds and s/h gear, that's why I come to these forums. Lots of people who have more experience and knowledge hopefully pointing me in a direction closer to that audio nirvana I keep hearing about. Oh and I want to feel the hairs on the back of my neck tingle, I haven't had that yet... :thumbsup:
 

parcelmonkey

Novice Member
A good option may be the Audiolab 8200CDQ, it'd a DAC, Pre amp with a CD player thrown in for good measure. May be a slightly odd combination, but gets rave reviews and most importantly I think has an AV/home cinema mode to integrate with the 8000ap perfectly. Take a look.
Thanks for that, already tried them, again very detailed sounding, great value for money but didn't move me in a way I want to...

Being human is so hard; emotions, feelings, ears, likes and dislikes as well as variables and budgetary constraints... Aaarghhh!!!! :suicide:
 

Thatsnotmynaim

Distinguished Member
Thanks for that, already tried them, again very detailed sounding, great value for money but didn't move me in a way I want to...

Being human is so hard; emotions, feelings, ears, likes and dislikes as well as variables and budgetary constraints... Aaarghhh!!!! :suicide:
No I know where you're coming from. In the scale of detailed and sharpe going to a smoother sound I find Audiolab right at the sharp end, great for AV, but not always listenable for long periods with music. Going from sharp to smooth with kits I've owned, I'd go Audiolab > Cyrus > Naim > Linn > Arcam. I have settled and love the Naim sound as love the pace and rythem over outright clarity as I find I can listen to it for hours.

If you're going to keep the Linn for ages then maybe a Linn pre (I think the pre 2010 had Unity gain), else if you're open to ideas you may find you love Naim also. Problem is Naim preamps have no internal power, so need a Naim power amp or Naim power supply to power them.

Best thing is demo a few to see what sound you like and then hunt for your bargains.
 

Thatsnotmynaim

Distinguished Member
Thanks for all your replies so far everyone, personally i'm not convinced the Mdac is the way forward. And NO way am I selling my Linn DS for I love it, not convinced I want to stay in Audiolab territory either. I am a fan of my 8000ap especially as it was <£500 delivered in mint cond; maybe in the last year I have become an audio snob so like others and now see limitations to the Audiolab brand forgetting why I liked it in the first place [giving me excellent sound reproduction for cheapish money] :facepalm:
I just think there is a better way of doing things now I understand more about what I like and look for in my musical enjoyment. As I already stated I love the detailed sound I get, but I think it borders / could start to sound thin sounding. Going digital with the Mdac makes me think it will be thinner again.

Not knocking Mr Westlake, just thinking synergy and how I perceive the music playing. It might be worth asking for a home demo especially if i'm expecting to pay new price though from ssav, my local branch. Never say never. At least i'd know.

Again the Linn 5 channel amp isn't everyone's cup of tea but at the price paid again £500 in mint condition it allows for an upgrade path or a reasonably inexpensive purchase that someone will buy off me later on if I find something better?

What I think I need to look at is either an older full blown expensive av processor s/h like a naim, linn, proceed that can be bought for <£1k approx which originally cost £4.5K and upwards and now considerably cheaper as it doesn't offer all the newish surround modes, hdmi etc or a completely different sounding 2 channel pre with ht passthrough. That's where I think I am at, spend more on the 2 channel side and accept limitations on the av side or get rid of it altogether and integrate it bit by bit later on.

It's just so much harder when making decisions based on a lack of funds and s/h gear, that's why I come to these forums. Lots of people who have more experience and knowledge hopefully pointing me in a direction closer to that audio nirvana I keep hearing about. Oh and I want to feel the hairs on the back of my neck tingle, I haven't had that yet... :thumbsup:
Having owned Naim AV2, Arcam AV9, Tag AV32R DP, Rotel RSP 1570 & Audiolab 8000ap home theater pre amps I can safely say that the quality of these pre's for music is on or around the quality of a £300-400 HiFi pre. True they have different sounds and someone may say X is better than Y, but in the end they are there to do AV first and HiFi second. If I were you I would add a HiFi amp of some sort to what you have, be that a Pre, Pre with PSU, Pre + Power or Integrated, I'm sure you will end up with a great AV and HiFi system. I currently own a Naim Nait XS and can't recommend it enough. The other option in the Naim range is a NAC122x or NAC152XS+Flatcap2?? Higher up the range is too much for you. For reference a Naim AV2 Av pre is on about a par with a Naim Nait 5 for HiFi.
 

parcelmonkey

Novice Member
No I know where you're coming from. In the scale of detailed and sharpe going to a smoother sound I find Audiolab right at the sharp end, great for AV, but not always listenable for long periods with music. Going from sharp to smooth with kits I've owned, I'd go Audiolab > Cyrus > Naim > Linn > Arcam. I have settled and love the Naim sound as love the pace and rythem over outright clarity as I find I can listen to it for hours.

If you're going to keep the Linn for ages then maybe a Linn pre (I think the pre 2010 had Unity gain), else if you're open to ideas you may find you love Naim also. Problem is Naim preamps have no internal power, so need a Naim power amp or Naim power supply to power them.

Best thing is demo a few to see what sound you like and then hunt for your bargains.
Can't remember exactly, about 10/12 years ago I really bought into Naim. I owned a 72/250 with hicap and a CD1 player running through Epos ES12's, I think a pretty bog standard decent set up for newbie Naimphiles?
When I went to demo against Linn and Naim on their streamers Uniti against comparable Linn DS I loved the sound of Linn really hated the Naim sound. Not sure why, because I used to love it, always bought into the punchy dynamic musical experience. So that's why I went Linn. Now I have some miles under my belt music listening wise I like the Linn sound but i'm concerned that it all becomes analytical and not musical the more pieces I put together and becomes fatiguing the longer you listen to it. To give you an example after the demo on Linn DS 'the sales guy wanted to spoil me' in his words, hooked me up to a massive Bryston / PMC reference system, detailed yes, I could hear all the different bits of the music, incredibly expensive yes but musical... To me no, I wouldn't have bought in to it at all even as a lottery winner, it didn't woo me :eek: [braced and ready to be flamed]

I've just recently sold a little Arcam Alpha 8P modded and upgraded by a forum member here, now apart from the fact it was a really cheap amp I liked what it did, although it had limitations. But I don't know enough about Arcam to look too much further. I wondered about the AV 8? any suggestions?
 

parcelmonkey

Novice Member
Having owned Naim AV2, Arcam AV9, Tag AV32R DP, Rotel RSP 1570 & Audiolab 8000ap home theater pre amps I can safely say that the quality of these pre's for music is on or around the quality of a £300-400 HiFi pre. True they have different sounds and someone may say X is better than Y, but in the end they are there to do AV first and HiFi second. If I were you I would add a HiFi amp of some sort to what you have, be that a Pre, Pre with PSU, Pre + Power or Integrated, I'm sure you will end up with a great AV and HiFi system. I currently own a Naim Nait XS and can't recommend it enough. The other option in the Naim range is a NAC122x or NAC152XS+Flatcap2?? Higher up the range is too much for you. For reference a Naim AV2 Av pre is on about a par with a Naim Nait 5 for HiFi.
Thanks for that, exactly what I needed to hear. Now i'm speaking to someone on my wavelength. I just won a Tag AV32Rbp192 on fleabay, to experiment with. Looks like that will be re-listed then! :blush:
I think i'll forget 5.1 for now, will certainly look in to Naim Nait XS and probably look to spend more on a 2 channel pre, possibly upgrading to larger front speakers and later on integrating something into the mix for surround. Otherwise I might not need to. At present I have a Linn Trikan in my mix, but I haven't connected it up, even listening to movies in 2 channel mode it feels like it's coming out the centre channel so that's what made me think about going 2 channel only.
Who knows, thanks again for taking the time giving your thoughts, much appreciated. Any thoughts on valve pre's, I think some of them have ht passthrough?
 

Thatsnotmynaim

Distinguished Member
If you like the smooth sound have you thought about an Arcam C30 or C31? If you want something smoother, valve stuff may be the way to go, but I have no experience in that direction
 

parcelmonkey

Novice Member
If you like the smooth sound have you thought about an Arcam C30 or C31? If you want something smoother, valve stuff may be the way to go, but I have no experience in that direction
Looking now, although it seems a rare beast. As to valves I have two dealers close to me who are v. experienced and able to do s/h, do i succumb, now that's the question... :D
 

Thatsnotmynaim

Distinguished Member
Yes they are a bit, the A38 integrated is probably easier to get hold of and so may be a lower % of RRP S/H, although you do not need the amplification it may be an option and gives you other options later, say add a 3 channel arcam power amp to do center and rears and sell the Linn?!? Options, options.. :)
 

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