Time to upgrade my B&W/ Rotel combo - thoughts appreciated


I have had my current setup for around 20 years (monogomy at its finest) - B&W 601 S2 & Rotel Ra-01 amp.

I have always quite liked the sound and therefore seen no reason to change it.

Most of my music these days is streamed and I tend to use my Samsung smart TV as the receiver (would an external DAC help matters?)

But I have the means these days to upgrade and hopefully improve the aesthetics in process.

I just purchased a pair of Q Acoustics Q active 200 speakers for £1500, thinking new technology and individual amps per driver would boost my listening pleasure. In short, they didn't. They didn't sound bad per se - just no real improvement. And £1500 is a lot to pay for a fresh look.

So I have come to the conclusion that I need to go next level...

Now, I have a preference for front ported speakers, and have decided to upgrade to a pair of B&W 685 s2's which will upgrade the look and hopefully a slight improvement on sound. But I imagine they will sound broadly similar to what I have already.

But I believe that the amplifier is possibly the component needed to accomplish this?

I know Rotel & B&W are good bed fellows - so have been looking at some of the newer/ higher end amps and i'm thinking the sub £1000 versions. Something like the A14 perhaps?

But my head is being turned by the Hegel H95, or possibly the H120.

What are you opinions of the Hegel with B&W speakers - do they pair well?

And would the A14 add much more noticeable performance to the trusty (if dusty) Ra-01 workhorse that has served me well over the years and should I really be looking at a Hegel (or comparable upgrade amp) that would future proof a speaker upgrade when time comes around?

My concern is buying a Rotel amp for B&W speakers might be great when I have B&W's, but might disappoint if I change speaker manufacturers?

Finally, in terms of room size/ placements - I live in an apartment (neighbours upstairs & downstairs) in a 4.5m x 4.5m room.

So low end power is ideal as I don't want to make too many enemies in my building...

All thoughts opinions on other equipment pairings warmly received!

Thanks for reading!



Active Member
Hegel have aligned themselves with Kef. [R3]
So not too sure if B&W and Hegel would be a good match [ I remember B&W being on the forward side of things years back]
Maybe let your ears decide with a demo?
Cheers Phil! I didn't realise Hegel had aligned with Kef...

Yeah, I know a demo is the only real way to truly test things out. Just not sure what kind of difference a new Rotel amp would make to the setup as the 685's are not a huge step up in the speaker food chain from what I already have.


Well-known Member
As with many manufacters, I think you find B&W has changed the sound signature quite a bit recently, and is more neutral.

The Kevlar has gone and to me this is a good thing as the 7 series demonstate, a good step forward with their new drivers.

Further, I wounder if you would be better to look for one of the many all-in-one amp's, maybe a naim uniti atom. In think if you up for the world of stream that makes sense and Qobuz sreaming serivice


Distinguished Member
If you are connecting your tv via phono analogue out then using a dedicated dac and the optical out (assuming it has one) will help, incremental rather than exponential. There are lists of good £100-150 dacs that you could try, the smsl Sanskrit 10th mk2 (ak4493 chip) is getting good reviews at the moment for £100 from Amazon.

For low level listening it is more about speaker sensitivity, higher the better, but more power does not necessarily mean it has to be used but is there for dynamic swings where it has the reserves to apply the powered (And remove it) when needed, this is often shown in the stated damping factor (150 plus is a good place to start).

On both of these counts, optical input and large damping factor the Hegel h95 seems to fit the bill.
Interesting - and I had already considered the Uniti Atom, but it seems many reviewers were a bit lukewarm and felt it was a bit underpowerd? So my concern was investing £2k in an amp that might not future-proof a more ambitious setup? (which was thinking with the Hegel) and the one up from the atom is the Nova and thats double or quits on the price.
Ugg10 - thansk for that. I'm currently just connecting the TV via optical output to the amp - no external dac in-between, so maybe this is needed. I know the TV has an internal DAC, would a further (higher quality) DAC before it hits the amp improve things much?


Distinguished Member
No sure how you are connecting the optical out from the TV into the Rotel RA-01 Amp as the Amp does not have a built in dac or optical input -

Assume this is your amp - http://www.rotel.com/sites/default/files/product/manuals/RA-01-OM.pdf


If you use the optical out from the TV it bypasses the dac built into the TV and uses the external one - either a separate DAC box (as in SANSKRIT) or built into the amp (as in HEGEL H95 or A14).
Ah, perhaps I am using a DAC then - I just have a very small (cheap) what I thought was just a connector - but on reflection its probably a DAC. On that note, I have just purchased the Sanskrit unit anyway as its not expensive and figured it was worth a punt. Will be interesting to see how much it improves the incumbent!


Distinguished Member
Cool, do let us know how you get on. I think it will help but maybe only slightly. In my experience the following is the heirachy of effect on sound from most to least -

Speakers and room/placement/furnishings - the squidgy bit between your ears - preamp - analogue sources (turntable, especially cartridgy/stylus) - digital sources/dac - power amp - and a long way last cables either speaker or interconnector.

The source material also has a big effect whether that be digital format (64k mp3 through to 32/192 lossless) or production quality (dynamic range is a good indicator, ref the 1990’s loudness wars for radio replay, Album list - Dynamic Range Database look for tracks/albums with 12+). Typically the more revealing the system the less tolerance to bad source material.
Will do! the (nearly) new B&W's should arrive in the new year and after that I will look at upgrading the amplifier. The new DAC is on its way! Hopefully these will be enough for me to feel I have moved up a rung. Thank for all the input!


Active Member
@Goldenchris - if you decide to get rid of the Rotel Amp stick it on here and let me know. I’m thinking of building a second system and got the matching Rotel CD off one of the lads on here at the start of lockdown...

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