Upgrade from Lo-Fi


Standard Member
For starters my system to date is.......

Cambridge Audio Topaz AM5 Amp.

Pioneer PL-300 vintage turnable ( Pioneer PL-300 Manual - Vinyl Engine ) connected via a Art DJ Pre II phono preamp ( ART Pro Audio )

Yamaha KX-493 Cassette Deck ( Yamaha KX-493 Natural Sound Stereo Cassette Deck )

JVC XLV-284 Vintage 1996 CD player ( no useful info on this)

JBL Control One Speakers.

I have recently replaced the speakers with Boston Acoustics A25 which are a massive improvement over the JBL's. However, I reckon I can get more out of them by upgrading my amplifier as there seems to be little respect for the CA Topaz range of amps. I also need to replace the CD player as it sounds incredibly harsh and the A25's only serve to make it sound worse than the JBL's for some reason. I'm happy with the turnatble and cassette deck ( for now!)

So; can somebody recommend a decent "mid-fi" amp and CD player to compliment the A25's. I have seen the following amps during my internet research which are within my price range.

Cambridge Audio Azur 351a

Pioneer A-20

Sansui SAP 201v

Yamaha A-S500

Many of these have good sale prices at the moment so now is a good time to buy.

As for CD players I wouldn't even know where to begin.

I should point out that I am an analogue enthusiast so digital capabilities aren't a neccessary requirement in an amplifier. I should also point out that I am on a budget so £1000 suggestions would be a definite no-no if I want to stay married.

Many Thanks in advance.


Distinguished Member
The Yamaha AS500 has 85w/ch to 8 ohms, that's pretty solid power and should drive just about any speaker out there. I confess a bias as I have a Yamaha 100w/ch amp. Great amp at a great price. It comes with a Phono input. It has no problem driving 4 ohms speakers. Overall, excellent value in a good quality amp.

Even the Yamaha AS300 with 60w/ch is a pretty sweet bargain at £189.

Unfortunately, there is no CDS500 CD Player, so the choice are either the CDS300 (£169) or the CDS700 (£349).

The Cambridge is a basic 45w/ch amp. That's fine. I had a 45w/ch amp for decades and it served me very well.

That particular amp I had for decades was a Pioneer. But the Pioneer A20, while high quality, is low powered at a 35 to 30w/ch to 8 ohms. Even the Pioneer A30 (£185) is only 35w/ch to 40w/ch to 8 ohms.

Sansui is generally good, but I've not seen them in the market for years, so I have no comment on that specific amp . I assume this is he amp you are speaking of -


40w/ch to 8 ohms; it does have a DAC (digital to analog converter), but it is only rated as 50w/ch to 5 ohms, that implies a weak power supply.

In term of quality, I think the Cambridge and Yamaha top the list. In terms of power, certainly the Yamaha tops the list. I would rate the Yamaha as consumer quality, but pretty much all the amp fall into the consumer quality class.

Another consideration would be the matching Denon PMA-720 (50w/ch) and the matching DCD-720, both originally about £350, now available at very attractive prices.



The Yamaha CDS300 (£169) is a good CD Player, but some have complained that the USB-media input is not reliable with USB thumb drives. Still, I've heard no complaints about its ability to play CDs.


Perhaps squeezing your budget, but the Marantz are highly regarded. The amps is rated at a modest 45w/ch, but that is plenty, and like I said, very highly regarded -



The newest Marantz PM6005 also comes with a built-in DAC with optical and coaxial inputs. That can be handy if you wan to connect the system to the TV for movie watching.

If you want to scale back, the Marantz PM5004 and the CD5004 are also highly rated, but that is about as low as I would go in terms of quality and power.

I have no problem with the Cambridge Audio 351A. The Azur series is certainly a step up in quality from the Topaz series.

Cambridge Audio AZUR 351A Black | Stereo Amplifier | Richer Sounds

Cambridge Audio AZUR 351C Black | CD Player | Richer Sounds

Though crazy over your budget, the ideal Cambridge system would be the 651A and 651C. The Amp has a USB-PC input for direct connect to your Computer and 75w/ch.

Cambridge Audio AZUR 651A Black | Stereo Amplifier | Richer Sounds

Cambridge Audio AZUR 651C Black | CD Player | Richer Sounds

Since you are looking at Cambridge, I assume you have a Richer Sounds near you. I'm pretty sure they have all the amps discussed (Cambridge, Denon, Yamaha, Pioneer, etc...)

Though it reflects my hunger for high powered amps, the Yamaha are an exceptional deal.

One assumes, despite modest power, that the suggested Retail on the Denon 720 implies that this is high quality equipment. Certainly worth considering.

Again, can't complain about the Cambridge Azur series. Good equipment, but on the higher side for price.

As to the Marantz, the quality can't be denied, but again modest in power, and priced a bit higher. Still within your budget though.

I think Yamaha, Cambridge, Denon, and Marantz reflect your best choices.

Again, if you have up to £1000 to spend on CD and speakers, consider the Cambridge 651. Also, the Yamaha AS700 and CDS700.

Though I think you will be fine at less money.



Standard Member
Many thanks for the detailed response and you have given me food for thought as I have access to an "as new" second hand Yamaha A-S500 for a little as €180 ( £150). I reckon it's between that and the Azur 351a from Richers at €249 ( £199). My only issue with Yamaha is it's large size, it's bulky for my limited space. Thanks for the spec tip on the Sansui amp as I have been tempted by this one.


Well-known Member
I also need to replace the CD player as it sounds incredibly harsh and the A25's only serve to make it sound worse than the JBL's for some reason. I'm happy with the turnatble and cassette deck ( for now!)

Although I'm not familiar with any of this kit, I'm a bit concerned that you find your CD player has a harsh sound whilst the turntable and cassette player sound good. Out of the three sources you currently have, chances are that the CD player is the most accurate/honest so replacing it with another, more modern equivalent player, may still give the sound you describe as harsh although there's always the possibility that the JVC CD player:

1 Was a particularly poor performer, even when new
2 Has a fault or
3 It's output is a bit too high for the line-level input stage of your Topaz AM5 amp - this wouldn't be that unusual and would likely result in an edgy sound rather than obvious distortion.

If it were my money, I'd assure myself that a new CD player will give the sound I want before commiting to a purchase (throwing money at a problem without really understanding the issue is probably not going to get anything sorted). In fact, I'd try to rule out point 3 first by fitting cheap attenuators in the signal line from CD player to amp - something like these but try to find cheap examples or maybe assemble your own:

IMG Stageline 21.2840 Passive Level Attenuator: Amazon.co.uk: Musical Instruments


Standard Member
That is really good advice @dogfonos. I have been Googling my particular CD player and from what I can gather they are considered to be a reliable machine with good sound quality. So I agree that a new "budget" player may not be any better. You are correct in implying that the output may be high, at 9 O'Clock the cassette deck and turntable play at conformable levels whereas the CD player is much louder ( the best description I can give ). For the money involved I might just invest in this device. I must admit I never heard of them before.


Distinguished Member
If you have a turntable and a CD Player, play something on both so you can switch between them. In my case, I had a vinyl and a CD copy of Hendrix - Valleys of Neptune.

I too found my CD Player near unbearable. Yes, I could hear the music but it just did not sound right. One day I compared the CD to the Turntable and realized that the CD was much louder. I ran some tests and discovered the CD was about 12db louder. In short, the CD Player was over driving the inputs to my amp.

I should note that it wasn't actually a CD Player, it was a Harmon DVD Universal player.

I added some in-line 12dB Attenuators, and that brought the CD level down to that of the Turntable and the CD sounded much much better. I actually enjoy listening to CD's now.

Though you may not be interested, here is a thread where I went through the process of deciding if and how much attenuation I needed -

For What It's Worth - LP vs CD SPL | AVForums

I can't say for sure that this is your problem, but it might be something to consider.



Standard Member
That's a very interesting thread. I've done a bit more digging and it seems all CD/DVD/BD and even DACs output at a massive 2.0V. I purchased the Denon PMA-720ae amplifier (for £200 and it arrives tomorrow) which has a sensitivity of 120mV according to Denon's own specs. Is that not like forcing 10 BAR pressure down a 2 BAR rated pipe if you excuse the analogy. In other words are we all overloading our amps???


Well-known Member
... are we all overloading our amps???

I think quite a few may be doing so without realising. Danger is when someone gives a subjective opinion on a piece of kit without knowing (or realising) that they're overloading an input. Input overload usually works on a sliding scale: at one end of the spectrum, slight overload tends to give an edgy sound so the overload may not be apparent whereas at the other end of the spectrum, big-time overload results in obvious audible distortion - which should give the game away.

Beware of quoted spec. figures - some may be an average input/output figure, some peak. I have used many digital sources in my system and not all had the same output level (judged subjectively). I use a passive pre-amp myself which is almost impossible to overload through any input so I don't have this potential issue (bully for me!).

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