What next... I've got the HiFi bug again!

Anastie

Well-known Member
After receiving some excellent advice on my thread here Streamer amplifier that has speaker connections?

I've got the HiFi bug again! I'm really impressed with the iFi Zen Air Blue linked to my old Sony DA2400EX AV Receiver playing through my Kef Q55.2 floor standers. But I feel I want more...

What I want more of is difficult to articulate. My Sony and Kef's are between 14 and 20 years old and technical engineering will have moved on. I feel that I may not be getting the best sound I can using an AV receiver albeit indirect stereo mode? I feel that to my hearing some tracks can sound "cloudy" and not as clear. In particular, this is noticeable in rock music. Thunder's latest album for example. However, if I listen to more sedate music such as Matthew Halsall I seem to hear every instrument and vocal.

I would like to keep the iFi if possible having just bought it, but I could sell it quite easily if the amp had a built-in streamer! On my previous thread, a number of Amps were suggested and all were within budget if I only changed the Amplifier rather than the speakers too!

I suppose my question is this. Is it better to change my receiver first for a dedicated 2 channel music amplifier? Or change my speakers first?
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Stereo amp first. You don't mention which KEFs you have but none of their speakers are considered to be shabby. A stereo amp will be far better than an AV in stereo mode. Depending on your budget you could get one with HT by-pass that could potentially be used alongside an AV amp in the future.
 

Anastie

Well-known Member
Stereo amp first. You don't mention which KEFs you have but none of their speakers are considered to be shabby. A stereo amp will be far better than an AV in stereo mode. Depending on your budget you could get one with HT by-pass that could potentially be used alongside an AV amp in the future.
Thanks for the reply. The speakers are Kef Q55.2. I don't need AV as this is to be used for playing Spotify only via (at present) the iFi Zen Air Blue. Budget for Amp up to £1000 but prefer half that :)
 

reggiegasket

Standard Member
What is the budget?

The hifi world is a different place these days. You can get one-box solutions and streamers/DACs/amps/speakers split/combined in quite different ways, so the buying process has more options.

[budget now in from previous post...]
 

gibbsy

Moderator
If you're going for the iFi as your DAC then you really just need a pure analogue stereo amp. Prices are risen lately and £500-£700 would get you a really good used amp. New, with the KEFs and depending on your room size, I'll always heartily recommend the Rega Brio. Excellent phono stage if you also have a TT.

Some of the Yamaha amps are powerful for their cost and a popular amp, again good with KEF, will be the Marantz pm6007. Both Marantz and Yamaha will have their own DACs onboard.
 

Anastie

Well-known Member
Apologies I meant to add the room size. It's almost 3M square. It is a room I use as an office/playroom /man cave thing!

I don't intend to add a TT or CD player as I want to stream only.
 

reggiegasket

Standard Member
I suspect it depends on how deep you want to go down the rabbit hole...
(which has budgetary relevance obviously but also questions your hifi goals)

For streaming, I'm a big fan of BluOS so one option would be to sell the iFi and put the funds towards a Bluesound Powernode or NAD C700. That does 'one-box' the setup and future upgrades would be constrained to some extent though (although the C70 has pre outs). If you just need a decent £500 amp then I don't really have a recommendation but I've heard good things about the Rega gibbsy mentions.
 
Last edited:

dogfonos

Well-known Member
I feel that to my hearing some tracks can sound "cloudy" and not as clear.
There could be a number of reasons for this. One possible reason: the KEF's are too large for your 9 sqm room. Typically, using speakers too large for a room gives excessive bass, which you may have grown accustomed to by now and may actually enjoy? Unfortunately, such excess often muddies the midrange too. It's quite possible that a quality stereo amp will sound better than your current Sony receiver, but I have no experience of the Sony receiver so I can't say for certain.

I suppose my question is this. Is it better to change my receiver first for a dedicated 2 channel music amplifier? Or change my speakers first?

IMO, neither. I sense you are at a crossroads with your setup. I suspect either approach you suggest will give an incremental performance improvement. Personally, I'd want more than an incremental improvement. I believe the answer lies in a more radical system shake-up.

My Sony and Kef's are between 14 and 20 years old and technical engineering will have moved on.

In terms of sound quality improvements of integrated amplifiers and passive speakers, not that much, assuming you discount DSP room correction systems which are above your budget anyway. What has really changed is the improved sound quality offered by relatively cheap active speakers. Anyone who has heard a recent pair of good, budget active studio monitors (such as the JBL 306P Mk2) will testify to their amazing performance-to-price ratio, e.g:
and

And there are dozens of great value actives from around £200/pair up to your max. budget of £1000/pair. I've used many passive and a couple of active systems over the decades and, for me at least, the best audio you can buy at any given price point was achieved by an active setup. A good pair of active studio monitors (often called active nearfield monitors) has all the sound characteristics required to successfully reproduce all music types but especially fast, complex music. If the idea of active speakers is new to you, I strongly recommend you investigate further.

A list of active nearfield monitor speakers from reputable manufacturers (often priced singly):

The iFi Zen Air Blue Bluetooth streamer would feed into a pair of active speakers so it's possible to have a three box system - handy in a small man-cave I'd have thought. However, rather than control volume at source, you may wish to add a physical volume control such as these:

or
or

Several other alternatives are available.

My only concern about suggesting alternative speakers, be they active or passive, is that you've grown accustomed to listening to the large KEF speakers in your small room so will, almost certainly, have got used to a bass-heavy sound (caveat: unless you have applied extensive acoustic room treatment or use some form of electronic room correction).

I can only try to suggest speakers that should give an accurate tonal balance in your room (assuming the room has typical domestic room acoustic properties, more or less). IME, speakers the size of the aforementioned JBL 306P Mk2 may even be on the large side to give an accurate tonal balance in a 'typical' 9sqm room but could be ideal if you enjoy a warm tonal balance. For a warm tonal balance, consider the larger speaker models suggested above. For a really heavy bass balance, seek out larger 8" variants of the models suggested above. Many active monitors have some form of bass shaping control, which I think is far more useful that tone controls.
 

Anastie

Well-known Member
There could be a number of reasons for this. One possible reason: the KEF's are too large for your 9 sqm room. Typically, using speakers too large for a room gives excessive bass, which you may have grown accustomed to by now and may actually enjoy? Unfortunately, such excess often muddies the midrange too. It's quite possible that a quality stereo amp will sound better than your current Sony receiver, but I have no experience of the Sony receiver so I can't say for certain.



IMO, neither. I sense you are at a crossroads with your setup. I suspect either approach you suggest will give an incremental performance improvement. Personally, I'd want more than an incremental improvement. I believe the answer lies in a more radical system shake-up.



In terms of sound quality improvements of integrated amplifiers and passive speakers, not that much, assuming you discount DSP room correction systems which are above your budget anyway. What has really changed is the improved sound quality offered by relatively cheap active speakers. Anyone who has heard a recent pair of good, budget active studio monitors (such as the JBL 306P Mk2) will testify to their amazing performance-to-price ratio, e.g:
and

And there are dozens of great value actives from around £200/pair up to your max. budget of £1000/pair. I've used many passive and a couple of active systems over the decades and, for me at least, the best audio you can buy at any given price point was achieved by an active setup. A good pair of active studio monitors (often called active nearfield monitors) has all the sound characteristics required to successfully reproduce all music types but especially fast, complex music. If the idea of active speakers is new to you, I strongly recommend you investigate further.

A list of active nearfield monitor speakers from reputable manufacturers (often priced singly):

The iFi Zen Air Blue Bluetooth streamer would feed into a pair of active speakers so it's possible to have a three box system - handy in a small man-cave I'd have thought. However, rather than control volume at source, you may wish to add a physical volume control such as these:

or
or

Several other alternatives are available.

My only concern about suggesting alternative speakers, be they active or passive, is that you've grown accustomed to listening to the large KEF speakers in your small room so will, almost certainly, have got used to a bass-heavy sound (caveat: unless you have applied extensive acoustic room treatment or use some form of electronic room correction).

I can only try to suggest speakers that should give an accurate tonal balance in your room (assuming the room has typical domestic room acoustic properties, more or less). IME, speakers the size of the aforementioned JBL 306P Mk2 may even be on the large side to give an accurate tonal balance in a 'typical' 9sqm room but could be ideal if you enjoy a warm tonal balance. For a warm tonal balance, consider the larger speaker models suggested above. For a really heavy bass balance, seek out larger 8" variants of the models suggested above. Many active monitors have some form of bass shaping control, which I think is far more useful that tone controls.
Thank you for so many examples and a detailed reply to consider many options.

My "return to HiFi" journey was triggered last year when we purchased a pair of Kef LSX speakers for music downstairs. (I have a separate soundbar for TV). This led me to put my old Kef floorstanders and AV receiver in my mancave. Adding the iFi unit to stream.

I'm trying if I can to avoid replacing the floorstanders and my receiver if possible to keep the cost down. However, I'm a person who does enjoy the best sound quality I can within my budget (helps manage any buyer remorse!)
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Simple enough imo.

As you have the fine ifi Blue Air, then a rock solid amp that will easily stand a speaker upgrade in the future is the way forward.

And there are lots. I’d suggest a good used one too. The price increase in new hifi recently is obscene.

So, a couple of suggestions from me.

This is an veritable monster.

It will drive anything up to and past £3000, and will certainly get the very last drop of goodness from your Kefs.


A little less of a beast, but still more than enough for anything but the most difficult speakers, and newer.


And, for half your budget, leaving a bit more toward any new speakers in years to come, this already well loved MF. And probably the more realistic of the three for the Kefs. Also a good price.


A good review here.


And my personal fave of all bargain amplifiers at present is this, for a truly epic price.


And a review.


Or the newer version for a bit more. Still half price though.


And a review again.


Both of the Rotels can easily hammer out 200W a side at 4 ohms. Capable beyond anything most people will ever need. But that’s how it should be.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
There could be a number of reasons for this. One possible reason: the KEF's are too large for your 9 sqm room. Typically, using speakers too large for a room gives excessive bass, which you may have grown accustomed to by now and may actually enjoy? Unfortunately, such excess often muddies the midrange too. It's quite possible that a quality stereo amp will sound better than your current Sony receiver, but I have no experience of the Sony receiver so I can't say for certain.



IMO, neither. I sense you are at a crossroads with your setup. I suspect either approach you suggest will give an incremental performance improvement. Personally, I'd want more than an incremental improvement. I believe the answer lies in a more radical system shake-up.



In terms of sound quality improvements of integrated amplifiers and passive speakers, not that much, assuming you discount DSP room correction systems which are above your budget anyway. What has really changed is the improved sound quality offered by relatively cheap active speakers. Anyone who has heard a recent pair of good, budget active studio monitors (such as the JBL 306P Mk2) will testify to their amazing performance-to-price ratio, e.g:
and

And there are dozens of great value actives from around £200/pair up to your max. budget of £1000/pair. I've used many passive and a couple of active systems over the decades and, for me at least, the best audio you can buy at any given price point was achieved by an active setup. A good pair of active studio monitors (often called active nearfield monitors) has all the sound characteristics required to successfully reproduce all music types but especially fast, complex music. If the idea of active speakers is new to you, I strongly recommend you investigate further.

A list of active nearfield monitor speakers from reputable manufacturers (often priced singly):

The iFi Zen Air Blue Bluetooth streamer would feed into a pair of active speakers so it's possible to have a three box system - handy in a small man-cave I'd have thought. However, rather than control volume at source, you may wish to add a physical volume control such as these:

or
or

Several other alternatives are available.

My only concern about suggesting alternative speakers, be they active or passive, is that you've grown accustomed to listening to the large KEF speakers in your small room so will, almost certainly, have got used to a bass-heavy sound (caveat: unless you have applied extensive acoustic room treatment or use some form of electronic room correction).

I can only try to suggest speakers that should give an accurate tonal balance in your room (assuming the room has typical domestic room acoustic properties, more or less). IME, speakers the size of the aforementioned JBL 306P Mk2 may even be on the large side to give an accurate tonal balance in a 'typical' 9sqm room but could be ideal if you enjoy a warm tonal balance. For a warm tonal balance, consider the larger speaker models suggested above. For a really heavy bass balance, seek out larger 8" variants of the models suggested above. Many active monitors have some form of bass shaping control, which I think is far more useful that tone controls.

Excellent post. 👍
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Finally the Arcam SR250 is not only a super clean and mighty powerful amplifier it also hugely benefits form Dirac Live.

The benefits of Room Correction can’t really be overstated in my opinion.

And even more so in smaller rooms. The extra clarity, detail and swift, funky bass available with Dirac is worth the price by itself.

Add in the excellent amplifier and it’s the bargain of the last decade.

 

Anastie

Well-known Member
Thanks for all of the above info. My reading continues and I wondered how the aforementioned kit would compare to a Rega Brio or Cambridge Audio CXA61? CXA61

All help is appreciated.
 

camcroft

Well-known Member
Thanks for all of the above info. My reading continues and I wondered how the aforementioned kit would compare to a Rega Brio or Cambridge Audio CXA61? CXA61

All help is appreciated.
I have the CXA60 and it is an excellent amplifier I also have the Zen Blue connected to it.
 

muljao

Well-known Member
I think I may have mentioned this in the other post. Behringer A800 if the ifi is your only source as you'll adjust volume here. It's a win win in the sense if you buy from thomann or gear4music and it doesn't suit you have 30 days to send it back
 

Anastie

Well-known Member
Update

Again thanks for all the suggestions. I've auditioned a number of different setups trying to make use of my Q55.2 floor standing speakers to get a sound close to the Kef LSX speakers I have downstairs.

Sadly (to my ears) I felt everything I tried was a compromise unless I spent more and I was at the point of exceeding my £1000 budget twice over!

Richersounds were superb, very patient, and accomodating when it came to letting me try different combos.

In the end, I bought a second set of Kef LSX speakers and I'm happy. I paid a lot less than I did buying the first set 18 months ago. RS has them selling now for £799. However, I was able to get a little more off to make it a more sensible decision.

I sold the Q55.2 to someone who will make good use of them. It was a little painful to let them go but the right financial decision!

Thanks again AVF for all the help.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
There’s a lot to be said for self contained, properly active
speakers. Glad you got it all sorted out to your satisfaction. 👍
 

Anastie

Well-known Member
I should also acknowledge Superfi who agreed to me returning the excellent iFi zen blue air. I highly recommend that device for streaming Spotify to an older amp with phono.
 

The latest video from AVForums

Paramount + UK launch: Halo, Star Trek and Beavis, and all the latest 4K + Movie/TV News
Subscribe to our YouTube channel

Full fat HDMI teeshirts

Support AVForums with Patreon

Top Bottom