What amp? Arcam SA30 vs NAD C399 vs NAD C658 vs Minidsp

gava

Well-known Member
SINAD is the combination of Noise (which is where you might generally find hiss - but it also depends on speaker sensitivity) and Distortion. Generally a higher score is better, and generally scores have been trending upward quite significantly over the last 15 years.

Because it is the combination - they can be of different weights for the same score. Usually however the combination gives a good indication of good engineering and "clean" or "transparent" behaviour. An perfect amplifier isn't supposed to "sound like" anything, it's simply supposed to amplify the signal coming in. However ...

People sometimes like distortion and noise - e.g. in tube amps, feeling somehow that they sound warm or musical, and there is quite a lot of research about the kinds of distortion that are more or less pleasing to the ear.

Here is a list that someone maintains. Note that some reasonably well reviewed amplifiers have SINAD scores down in the 50-70 range, and the current state of the art is up around 120dB.

Hearing a difference of 5-10 dB is not easy, but differences of 30dB I think are clearly audible.


 

Helix Hifi

Well-known Member
Are you still waiting on the speakers (if it is not you) I apologize. But I seem to remember you have ordered ATC speakers.

The waiting must be agonizing. What’s the difference between the QA Concept 50?

Well you use two subwoofers? It must sound unbelievable.

To OP, sorry for I am asking about this. I know it is about if you should change the amplifier.

The treads on this forums does sometimes have life of its own.
 

gava

Well-known Member
Are you still waiting on the speakers (if it is not you) I apologize. But I seem to remember you have ordered ATC speakers.

The waiting must be agonizing.

Yes it is. Two weeks ago they were still on track for the end of June, so if I'm lucky I will have them next weekend. I won't be too surprised if it takes a bit longer however ...
 

two2midnight

Distinguished Member
You subjectively prefer the sound of the 1120. Can't argue with that. I agree that they do sound slightly different. Also I think it's not surprising, you are a Lyngdorf expert, you are used to the sound and you like it too - a mutual reinforcement.

I misunderstood when you said it "comprehensively outperforms" the C399, I thought you meant something more than it sounds better to your ears.

My subjective impressions were the reverse and turns out align with the objective measurements too. My impressions were formed before the measurements for the C399 were available.

I agree however that objective measurements don't tell the whole story, and more than that - the objective measurements of the 1120 are not horrible at all. For example on the jitter tests the 1120 average was around -135dB, the C399 was around -150dB - the threshold of audibility for experts w.r.t. jitter is -115dB. So there is no way anyone could distinguish between the two.

Room indeed for different opinions.
NAD only comes with 2 year warranty vs the 5 year of the Arcam and Lyngdorf which while not the deciding factor does go into the mix. Did you consider the Arcam SA30 when deciding on the C399?
If so, why did you discount it?

Edit: I've found the likely reason in your post at Lyngdorf TDAI 1120 or NAD C399 w mdc2 module or something else but that seems frying pan and fire with the SA30 now getting long in the tooth at 2+ years since release (and seemingly prety stable now) and the NAD a mere toddler.
 
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gava

Well-known Member
NAD only comes with 2 year warranty vs the 5 year of the Arcam and Lyngdorf which while not the deciding factor does go into the mix. Did you consider the Arcam SA30 when deciding on the C399?
If so, why did you discount it?

Edit: I've found the likely reason in your post at Lyngdorf TDAI 1120 or NAD C399 w mdc2 module or something else but that seems frying pan and fire with the SA30 now getting long in the tooth at 2+ years since release (and seemingly prety stable now) and the NAD a mere toddler.

The Arcam simply had too many reports of problems, and in particular its Dirac Live implementation seemed horrible. Entire forums spun up to share the pain.

Certainly they used to have a great reputation, and by all accounts things have settled down now, but I would rather have gone up to a MiniDSP SHD + strong power amp for not too much more money.
 

eyebee

Member
I run a pair of MA Silver 10's with the SA30 for 4 months now.

I used to have a NAD C390DD that now serves as a coffee table as it suddenly bricked on me and it's unrepairable.

I liked the sound of the C390DD very much, even though it lacked a bit of midrange 'body'. What was clearly lacking was its phono stage. I had the MDC-AP1 module, which was supposedly NAD's 'hi-end' phono option, but it always sounded lifeless and thin to me, even though it was indeed very quiet.

Anyhow, the C399 is a whole different animal, being a class D amp with a DAC and not a 'direct digital' design like the C390DD. The reason I didn't even consider it was my bad experience with the older model, reliability-wise (plus, its phono is probably still below par according to the review on this site).

The Lyngdorfs are direct digital of course. I've had the TDAI-2200 for a demo from a friend back in the day, and it was excellent. Room Perfect is a breeze to set up (and it offers even more advanced settings and control now), but I didn't like its default ("Focus") curve at all and always had its "Global" curve on, which worked great in my room.

That being said, I don't think the TDAI-1120 (with less than half the output of its older big brother) can drive the MA's. Only if used with a sub or a power amp will it be OK. Read the 1120 review on Sounstage HiFi. Their review is excellent, but they clearly state that "while some music did sound quite good, the TDAI-1120 wasn’t powerful enough to drive to consistently satisfying levels the ESL 9s’ electrostatic panels and total of four 8ʺ woofers."

On the other hand, "Moving the SA30 into my main system, it was immediately obvious that it could handle my ESL 9s, which require an amplifier with a stout output to make them really come to life. [...] [Its] ability to project such a huge soundstage in my room with absolute control was not something I expected from such a reasonably priced amp."

I auditioned the SA30 side by side with the CA EVO150. On sound quality alone, I could easily believe the Arcam was double the price of the EVO. Admittedly, it was on a pair of new JBL Classic speakers, which according to a recent John Darko review of the bigger 4349 are very fussy about class-D amps. But still.

The SA30 doesn't offer dedicated sub outs, but on the other hand it has Chromecast which the NAD doesn't have and I find indispensable (for Mixcloud and Bandcamp in particular) and a truly great phono stage. Dirac Live is more difficult to set up than Room Perfect, but its results are equally impressive.

The problems reported by Arcam users were not about its DL implementation, but its streaming interface and sound. They are now all solved, that's why the users' forum is very quiet the past few months. The only problem I've had is a minor nuissance with its Tidal/Spotify connect feature (added with the latest update) that sometimes disconnects when you disrupt playback by choosing a different song/list etc.

Final remarks

Setting aside reliability issues and after-market support which is different in different countries anyway:

  • For the best sound with the MA's alone > Arcam or NAD
  • For the best subs integration > Lyngdorf
  • For the most sophisticated streaming i/f > NAD (lacks Chromecast though)
  • If you listen to vinyl > Arcam

Hope this all helps.
 

two2midnight

Distinguished Member
I run a pair of MA Silver 10's with the SA30 for 4 months now.

I used to have a NAD C390DD that now serves as a coffee table as it suddenly bricked on me and it's unrepairable.

I liked the sound of the C390DD very much, even though it lacked a bit of midrange 'body'. What was clearly lacking was its phono stage. I had the MDC-AP1 module, which was supposedly NAD's 'hi-end' phono option, but it always sounded lifeless and thin to me, even though it was indeed very quiet.

Anyhow, the C399 is a whole different animal, being a class D amp with a DAC and not a 'direct digital' design like the C390DD. The reason I didn't even consider it was my bad experience with the older model, reliability-wise (plus, its phono is probably still below par according to the review on this site).

The Lyngdorfs are direct digital of course. I've had the TDAI-2200 for a demo from a friend back in the day, and it was excellent. Room Perfect is a breeze to set up (and it offers even more advanced settings and control now), but I didn't like its default ("Focus") curve at all and always had its "Global" curve on, which worked great in my room.

That being said, I don't think the TDAI-1120 (with less than half the output of its older big brother) can drive the MA's. Only if used with a sub or a power amp will it be OK. Read the 1120 review on Sounstage HiFi. Their review is excellent, but they clearly state that "while some music did sound quite good, the TDAI-1120 wasn’t powerful enough to drive to consistently satisfying levels the ESL 9s’ electrostatic panels and total of four 8ʺ woofers."

On the other hand, "Moving the SA30 into my main system, it was immediately obvious that it could handle my ESL 9s, which require an amplifier with a stout output to make them really come to life. [...] [Its] ability to project such a huge soundstage in my room with absolute control was not something I expected from such a reasonably priced amp."

I auditioned the SA30 side by side with the CA EVO150. On sound quality alone, I could easily believe the Arcam was double the price of the EVO. Admittedly, it was on a pair of new JBL Classic speakers, which according to a recent John Darko review of the bigger 4349 are very fussy about class-D amps. But still.

The SA30 doesn't offer dedicated sub outs, but on the other hand it has Chromecast which the NAD doesn't have and I find indispensable (for Mixcloud and Bandcamp in particular) and a truly great phono stage. Dirac Live is more difficult to set up than Room Perfect, but its results are equally impressive.

The problems reported by Arcam users were not about its DL implementation, but its streaming interface and sound. They are now all solved, that's why the users' forum is very quiet the past few months. The only problem I've had is a minor nuissance with its Tidal/Spotify connect feature (added with the latest update) that sometimes disconnects when you disrupt playback by choosing a different song/list etc.

Final remarks

Setting aside reliability issues and after-market support which is different in different countries anyway:

  • For the best sound with the MA's alone > Arcam or NAD
  • For the best subs integration > Lyngdorf
  • For the most sophisticated streaming i/f > NAD (lacks Chromecast though)
  • If you listen to vinyl > Arcam

Hope this all helps.
Thanks for your comments.
I had intended to audition a 1120 and SA30 at around the same time but after I had ordered the SA30 it became out of stock with a long lead time for delivery so I went with just the 1120.

The mere 60W of the 1120 hasn't proved to be too much of a problem with my 90db MA Silver 300s (would be an issue though with less sensitive speakers). With movies my X8500 previous -21db to -18db volume setting now needs to be more like -17db to -14.5db when using with the 1120 in home cinema mode.. Still plenty of reserve available as I rarely go up to 0db level (sometimes with movie endcredits music).

For stereo music I've tried both with and without my two SVS subs. For loud listening I'd go with the subs on and for quieter listening of say acoutic music probably with subs off. The MA 300s, on their own without sub assistance, can do decent bass down to around 30hz (bit too much in fact and needs room equalisation to tame it). 1120 volume used here from -25 to around -10 so still enough left in reserve for quieter streamed music.

I decided to stay with the 1120 and forgo trying the SA30 as it wouldn't be able to match the sub integration capabilities of the 1120. I won't be needing vinyl cartridge capabilities where the SA30 would have gained some plus points.

In addition the much larger number of 1120 voicings (curves) vs the just 3 (?) different stored DL curves available for flipping between on the SA30 was the icing on the cake. The 1120 create/edit voicings features seemed to have much more flexibility (and ease of use) than changing DL curves and putting them into play on the SA30 (I've used DL previously, albeit an earlier version on the Arcam AVR550 I'd tried and sent back due to various issues).
 

eyebee

Member
The three curves stored on my SA30 are enough for me but I agree that the Lyngdorf is much more versatile in terms of its room compensation features. RP is really great and, since you already had the two subs (and don't care for vinyl playback), the Lyngdorf was the best choice.

I wish you many years of musical enjoyment! :)
 

Peace1653

Novice Member
It's a strange thing. The headline specs don't really make it clear how much power a speaker really likes to have from an audible perspective.

My C300s on paper need less than my LS50s, but in practice they really come alive with an amplifier that has lots of extra reserves, and they just didn't sound as good with the 1120.

I have no idea about the MA-1120 combo - could easily be a match made in heaven. Fortunately the Lyndorf dealers (esp. the ones on this forum) are real gents and happy to facilitate a home trial with no pressure. The 1120 is extremely popular here and for good reason - it didn't work for me, but I am very much the minority and there is nothing to lose by trying one.
I'm using the C658 with the masters M32 and couldn't be happier. If I had not already had the M32, I definitely would have gone with the c399 and C658 since it is more cost effective than the M33. Now if I had the money I would have gotten the M33, hands down. The M32 is exceptional, the M33 is better with the newer technology. C399 is extremely powerful and matches well with the C658, pretty much giving you an M33 without the flashiness. Can't go wrong with the future proof Nad products.
 

Jester1066

Well-known Member
Thanks for your comments.
I had intended to audition a 1120 and SA30 at around the same time but after I had ordered the SA30 it became out of stock with a long lead time for delivery so I went with just the 1120.

The mere 60W of the 1120 hasn't proved to be too much of a problem with my 90db MA Silver 300s (would be an issue though with less sensitive speakers). With movies my X8500 previous -21db to -18db volume setting now needs to be more like -17db to -14.5db when using with the 1120 in home cinema mode.. Still plenty of reserve available as I rarely go up to 0db level (sometimes with movie endcredits music).

For stereo music I've tried both with and without my two SVS subs. For loud listening I'd go with the subs on and for quieter listening of say acoutic music probably with subs off. The MA 300s, on their own without sub assistance, can do decent bass down to around 30hz (bit too much in fact and needs room equalisation to tame it). 1120 volume used here from -25 to around -10 so still enough left in reserve for quieter streamed music.

I decided to stay with the 1120 and forgo trying the SA30 as it wouldn't be able to match the sub integration capabilities of the 1120. I won't be needing vinyl cartridge capabilities where the SA30 would have gained some plus points.

In addition the much larger number of 1120 voicings (curves) vs the just 3 (?) different stored DL curves available for flipping between on the SA30 was the icing on the cake. The 1120 create/edit voicings features seemed to have much more flexibility (and ease of use) than changing DL curves and putting them into play on the SA30 (I've used DL previously, albeit an earlier version on the Arcam AVR550 I'd tried and sent back due to various issues).
Thanks for this post. I too run MA Silver 300's with a Denon 4500. I've been really tempted by the 1120, so the fact you find the pairing good adds to my positive feelings. Can I ask what sub(s) you use. It's the 1120's ability to integrate subs that is a major factor in any potential purchase. I use 2x SVS SB200 Oro's, which everyone tells me will work well with the 1120.
 

two2midnight

Distinguished Member
Thanks for this post. I too run MA Silver 300's with a Denon 4500. I've been really tempted by the 1120, so the fact you find the pairing good adds to my positive feelings. Can I ask what sub(s) you use. It's the 1120's ability to integrate subs that is a major factor in any potential purchase. I use 2x SVS SB200 Oro's, which everyone tells me will work well with the 1120.
1 x SVS SB2000 pro and 1 x SVS SB1000 Pro.
The sub integration ability with flexible crossover frequencies and slopes available is a standout feature. Rather than the fixed 20hz steps of Audyssey (40, 60, 80) and then the fixed 10hz steps (90, 100, 110, 120) you can have anything you want in 1hz steps. The icing on the cake is adjustable crossover slopes for the sub by using a variety of low pass filter types.

Given the way prices of everything is going up now by 10% to 20% getting one sooner rather than later might be an idea if you want one. £1995 vs a possible £2194 to £2394 if 10-20% inflation and exchange rates kick in. Nintronics has an ex demo one at £1495.
 
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Jester1066

Well-known Member
1 x SVS SB2000 pro and 1 x SVS SB1000 Pro.
The sub integration ability with flexible crossover frequencies and slopes available is a standout feature. Rather than the fixed 20hz steps of Audyssey (40, 60, 80) and then the fixed 10hz steps (90, 100, 110, 120) you can have anything you want in 1hz steps. The icing on the cake is adjustable crossover slopes for the sub by using a variety of low pass filter types.

Given the way prices of everything is going up now by 10% to 20% getting one sooner rather than later might be an idea if you want one. £1995 vs a possible £2194 to £2394 if 10-20% inflation and exchange rates kick in. Nintronics has an ex demo one at £1495.
I find it particularly fascinating that you use 2 different model SVS's. Assuming you've gone dual, is this due to placement constraints etc. I ask as normally, when going dual it's recommended to model match. I guess the fact you have successfully integrated 2 different models shows how good RP's sub integration is.

You've sold me the on the idea. Any chance you can help do the same with my OH? 😂.....

Joking aside, Since our gear is similar, the post has convinced me to get an 1120 on demo at least. I've 2 young kids, just had knee surgery..... and it'us the summer holidays. For all these reasons, said demo will be done in September (when kids are at school and I can "Play"! 😂).

"Thanks" again for making my wallet lighter! 😂😂👍🏼
 

two2midnight

Distinguished Member
I find it particularly fascinating that you use 2 different model SVS's. Assuming you've gone dual, is this due to placement constraints etc. I ask as normally, when going dual it's recommended to model match. I guess the fact you have successfully integrated 2 different models shows how good RP's sub integration is.

You've sold me the on the idea. Any chance you can help do the same with my OH? 😂.....

Joking aside, Since our gear is similar, the post has convinced me to get an 1120 on demo at least. I've 2 young kids, just had knee surgery..... and it'us the summer holidays. For all these reasons, said demo will be done in September (when kids are at school and I can "Play"! 😂).

"Thanks" again for making my wallet lighter! 😂😂👍🏼
Money constraints....
SB1000 Pro at £550 was £450 cheaper than getting another SB2000 Pro....
Previously I'd had 2 X BK XXLS200 (one was no longer up to the job and rattling a bit). Idea was to replace both with 1 X SB2000 Pro which proved to need a 2nd sub to fill in the holes. Ran 1 X SVS and 1 X BK subs together for a while but they weren't an ideal match. So when a cheap SVS 1000 Pro came along I went for that. The subs themselves are very similar when looking at REW graphs and Audyssey did a good job of integrating the two of them.

subs.jpg


If the SB1000 Pro had been available/announced when I got my SB2000 I'd probably have gone for 2 x SB1000 Pro rather than the 1 x SB2000 Pro I first bought.
 
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Tom @ Cinehome

Well-known Member
AVForums Sponsor
Thanks for this post. I too run MA Silver 300's with a Denon 4500. I've been really tempted by the 1120, so the fact you find the pairing good adds to my positive feelings. Can I ask what sub(s) you use. It's the 1120's ability to integrate subs that is a major factor in any potential purchase. I use 2x SVS SB200 Oro's, which everyone tells me will work well with the 1120.
The 1120 and Denon combination works extremely well when set up correctly. All that's required is a suitable trigger cable and a couple of hours of set up / calibration time. Once done, it all can eb left to work as a single system.

We recently performed a home trial for a client with MA Silver 300's and a Denon with great success. It will integrate the SVS subs extremely well too.

Best, Tom
 

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