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Which power amp?

Discussion in 'AV Pre-Amp/Processors & Power Amps' started by warrj, Oct 15, 2002.

  1. warrj

    warrj
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    Hi,

    I'm after a 200wpc 5-channel power amp. Would anyone like to recommend any candidates for less (hopefully much less) than £4000?

    Cheers,

    Jules.
     
  2. Jase

    Jase
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    For that money you could pick up a Bryston 9B THX, 5 x 120 watts into 8 ohms, 200 watts into 4 ohms.

    Others to look at are Rotel 1095 5 x 200 watts (around 1900 quid), Parasound HCA2205 5 x 220 watts (around a couple of grand or so).

    Here are some links

    Parasound HCA2205

    Bryston 9B THX

    Rotel 1095

    Hope this helps.:)
     
  3. Guest

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    warrj

    I have the Parasound HCA-2205 THX 5 channel amp.

    It is 220W per channel, built like a nuclear bomb shelter and has given me constant hours of pleasure whilst watching films & listening to music.

    It doesn't run too hot either (for a power amp), and, so far, (touch wood) hasn't given me a single problem since i carved open the wallet for it in July....

    I think they are about £2500 brand new, although i believe that a newer version of it now exists.
    I got mine ex-demo for £1600.00 which was a flipping good buy, judging by the pleasure it has given me...

    The 'Sevenoaks' chain has been selling ex-demo units over the past few months.......The 2 stores i nosed around in had replaced the Parasounds with the mighty Cinepro amps..(massive), which do 600watts per ch X 6 i think.......

    The Parasound is a great performer.

    Adzman
     
  4. Lowrider

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    The 120 watts Bryston runs circles around the 200 watts Rotel...

    The Rotel would clipp at medium levels with my speakers, the Bryston doesn´t, and it sounds much better too...

    Parasound, I never tested...
     
  5. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Arcam seem to be trying quite hard with their new P7 - £2500 for 7 channels. I haven't had a chance to audition it against anything else yet.
     
  6. garmtz

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    I second the recommendations of Jase. I am using the Parasound HCA-2205AT myself and it has not been bettered yet, although I tried quiete some power amps in my system: ATI 1505, Sunfire Cinema Grand, Lexicon LX-7, KR DVD, Arcam P7... The only amp that was as good as and in some respects better (in some worse) was the Arcam P7, which I auditioned in my system for a review. It has a very detailed, open sound, but doesn't sound as dynamic and full as the HCA-2205AT.
     
  7. John Dawson

    John Dawson
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    Warrj -

    If you wish to check out an Arcam P7 I believe Sevenoaks Hi-Fi in Bedford have this on demonstration. Should not be too long a drive.

    The P7 is of course a 7 channel unit. If you have a 5 channel system and bi-wireable main L and R speakers this can be a big bonus, as it is then possible to (passively) bi-amplify the main speakers using the 2 spare channels in the P7. Our guys tried that recently in one of our dealers and told me it really brought that system to life.

    If that doesn't appeal you can always use the extra channels to drive a pair of speakers in another room :)

    Power output on the P7 is rated at 150 WPC into 8 ohms and 230 WPC into 4 ohms, all channels driven, 20 Hz - 20 kHz. Actual continuous power outputs, as recently measured independently by a reviewer, were 2 x 190W, 5 x 180W and 7 x 175W into 8 ohms, depending on how many channels were driven at once. Burst power per channel, an indication of the ultimate power of the amp on transient musical peaks, was 245W into 8 ohms, 445W into 4 ohms, 745W into 2 ohms. I trust that is seen as sufficient :)

    John Dawson (Arcam)
     
  8. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Garmtz:

    1) Where did you come up with that name? My tongue gets twisted just thinking about how to pronounce it.:devil:

    2) Did you get a chance to compare a Bryston 9B to the other items on your list?
     
  9. garmtz

    garmtz
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    Hello Nicholas,

    1) My first name is Garmt, my last name begins with a Z... Really...! :) Dutch name...

    2) I never reviewed/listened to the Bryston. A friend of mine tried a Bryston with his MartinLogan speakers and didn't like the sound. Because I tend to agree with him on almost everything (soundwise), I decided not to demo it. I might though, in the future. Especially the new SST series are supposed to be pretty good.
     
  10. Guest

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    I'd recommend listening to a Meridian 558 . I used to have a Rotel and was going to upgrade to the Bryston. In fact I had the 9B on home loan along with a Meridian 558. At reasonably high playback levels they were very similar, but at crazy volumes and, more importantly, at quieter levels the Meridian was IMHO a lot better. I picked up an A1 surplus stock model from Sevenoaks, so it turned out cheaper than the Bryston.

    Whatever you audition, definitely try and arrange a home loan of two or three shortlisted units... so much better than listening in store!
     
  11. warrj

    warrj
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    Thanks everyone for taking the time to reply.

    John Dawson - I must admit to being tempted by your new proc/power amp combo. I'd already been in contact with Sevenoaks and will undoubtedly get a demo of it (probably in November).

    Beast - I've heard good things about the Meridian 558 but have so far been unable to get a demo. Neither of the two local dealers who I tried to arrange a demo with (Technosound in MK and Listen Inn in Northampton) were interested in demoing it for me. I've also e-mailed Meridian (a week ago) asking them for the address of a dealer who could demo it but have received no reply. If that's an indication of their attitude to potential customers then it does not leave a good impression. Apologies for the preceding rantlet.

    All - Has anyone heard both the Arcam P7 and the Bryston 9BST? I'd be very interested in hearing the opinion of anyone who has. The rest of my setup is comprised of B&W 805, HTM2 and (shortly) SCM1 so the ability of the amp to control a moderately difficult load is important.

    Once again, thanks all!

    Jules.
     
  12. Guest

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    That's surprising you've had problems, although not good. To be honest I had more problems lining up the Bryston unit, but the Cornflake shop in London were very helpful. I'd give Meridian a telephone call and explain the problem you've had. (They may be interested to hear some of their dealers ar none too helpful). I would expect them to line up a unit at a dealer convenient to you... then work on borrowing it! ;) Good luck.
     
  13. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Warrj - I've listened fairly extensively to Nautilus 805 speakers and I would suggest that you may be aiming slightly too high with your driving electronics. I think you'd get a better sound by upgrading your speakers and downgrading your processor/amp to either a Denon A1SR or Pioneer AX10. Alternatively, if you've already bought the speakers, I dare say they will sound nicer with (say) an Arcam AV8/P7 combination than they will with either the Pioneer or the Denon, but whether they will sound sufficiently much nicer to justify spending an extra £2500-£3000 is (strictly in my opinion, obviously) doubtful.

    As a very rough guide one should usually aim to spend about the same on processor/power amp as one does on the front three speakers. You're proposing to hook £2250 worth of front speakers up to £5500 or more of electronics.
     
  14. Guest

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    I don't see a problem, and would suggest the 805s are perfectly suited to the bigger amps.
     
  15. Lowrider

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    The Bryston is a "mono" design, one power supply per channel, the Meridian has two transformers for all 5 channels, that might explain that you could get "louder", as most of the juice went to the front channels, (plus it is 200x5 instead of 150x5, but that wont make too much difference, as the Rotel, rated the same, clips before the Bryston)...

    Anyway, the Bryston´s design will have less crosstalk and intermodulation than the Meridian...
     
  16. warrj

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    NicolasB - I must admit that I'm slightly surprised that you think that an AV8/P7 combo would be overkill for the baby Nautilus. I understand that although they're the smallest in the Nautilus family they are still a difficult load. In fact on a per channel basis the speaker cost (including stands) would be (1400 + 480 + 850 + 1500)/5 = 846. The P7 cost per channel would be 2500/5 = 500. This doesn't seem too out of kilter to me particularly since my listening room probably couldn't accomodate speakers which were physically much bigger.

    Also, although I know it's just my personal opinion but I really think these are fantastic speakers and among the most transparent (please please don't ask me to define this term) I've yet heard. I've now had my 805s and HTM2 for a couple of years and wouldn't swap them for anything of comparable size ('cept the new Silver Signature versions mmmmm...). I have read some posts on avforums recently from people who really seem to dislike the Nautilus range. Each to his/her own. Personally, I think that they're among the finest speakers available at any price.

    Regards,

    Jules.
     
  17. Lowrider

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    I also favour monitor size speakers, with two good subwoofers, they are the best match in a living room, floorstanders will, almost for sure, interfere more with the decor, if you want them to sound good... also monitors on good stands usually image better...

    The AV/power combination affects more the sound then most people give them credit for, if you have good speakers, that is...

    Of course the new Signature B&W would be better, but you will benefit a lot from better, more expensive electronics with your 805, a fairly difficult speaker to drive...
     
  18. warrj

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    Lowrider - I agree with you on the monitor + sub point. For stereo I use the 805s with a Sonus Faber Gravis which sounds lovely. I must admit I prefer it to the sound of the 804 minus sub. Admitedly it has nothing like the scale but from a personal perspective I prefer to sacrifice that for the imaging and speed of the 805s.

    Regards,

    Jules.
     
  19. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Warrj,

    You misunderstand me - I'm not suggesting the Nautilus 805s aren't good value. I think they are, extremely good. But the fact remains that they are speakers which cost £1400 for the pair, and it would be unrealistic to expect them to sound as good, say Nautilus 803s at £3500 for the pair.

    In terms of comparing costs people usually say that for a stereo system you should aim to spend very roughly the same on the pre-amp and power-amp combined as you do on the (two) speakers. For a home cinema setup you should aim to spend about the same on the processor and power-amp combined as you do on the front three speakers - so when you factor in the surround and subwoofer channels the speakers work out a lot more expensive. Working out the price per channel is simply misleading in that particular context, doubly so if you only consider the power amp part of the equation.

    Two specific experiences that I've had:

    1) Listened to a Pioneer AX10 hooked into Sonus Faber "Home" speakers (centre channel not to my liking but the left and right fronts at £1700 the pair in a similar class to the 805s). I was able to compare this to the same speaker system hooked into a Merdian 568 plus Krell Showcase power amp a week later, listening to the same source material (same DVD player too - Meridian 596). The Meridian and Krell combination didn't sound much better despite costing £9000 rather than £2700.

    2) Listening to Arcam AV8/P7 hooked into Nautilus 805/HTM2, then switching up (after just a couple of minutes) to 803/HTM1. The improvement in quality there was truly dramatic.

    I've also listened to the 805s with a Denon A1SR, although rather longer ago.

    Put it this way: if my system consisted of either the Denon or Pioneer plus 805/HTM2/SCM1 speakers and I had the chance to upgrade either the speakers or the processor/amp but not both, then I would upgrade the speakers.

    I'm not quite sure what you mean by a "difficult" load. If you're worried about overstretching the amp in power output terms then I wouldn't be. The Denon, for example, is rated at 170W per channel into 8 ohms rising to an impressive 310W per channel into 4 ohms.

    Obviously much of what I am saying here is, by definition, subjective. To my ears the effect of the 805 speakers on the quality of the sound is marginally more irritating than the effect of the Pioneer or Denon device - to your ears the reverse may very well be true. All I'm really saying is that I think you should audition Pioener and Denon devices and see what you think. They may surprise you.
     
  20. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Oh, and I haven't actually listened to Nautilus 804s, but I have been told that they aren't actually a significant step up in quality from the 805s. The 803s, on the other hand, are a lot nicer. (Jolly well ought to be at that price, of course).
     
  21. Lowrider

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    Nicolas,

    You should listen to monitors with good subwoofers, and well setup (wich is not the case in most stores), of course without them it isn´t a fair comparison...
     
  22. Guest

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    I've upset Lowrider with my observations. Not my intention and I won't get into a contest here. They they were my fairly considered opinions. I would like to point out these two amps were the best two I had auditioned and managed to get on home loan, and you'd be absolutely chuffed with either of them. The best thing though, is get the amps home installed in your system and extensively listen over a week or two... not just an hour or two. Lowrider's completely correct about a lot of dealers not setting things up correctly.

    Maybe in a Meridian system the 558 just sounded better all round with the Meridian 568, -note- not just 'louder' with its two HUGE transformers. ;)

    Another option? - swap the very nice 805s (I like them more than the other Nautilus) for active speakers like the M&Ks...
     
  23. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    I'm afraid my only response to that is "well, DUH". :)

    It's actually true that the subwoofer on the occasion I was listening to 805s and 803s with the Arcam kit was a shade underpowered - M&K MX700, I think - but I think it was good enough that most of the audible difference between the two sets of Nautilus speakers really was due to the Nautiluses themselves.

    I don't really want to get into another Nautilus 803s vs M&K active argument, as I still have scars from the last one, but (if asked) I'd say that the M&K actives are significantly better than the 805s but not as good as the 803s, especially for music. (Very close for cinema - M&K probably more dynamic). Many people would disagree with this assessment, however, and rate the M&K actives as close to the state of the art. If you get the consumer version (S150P) then they're a bit of a rip-off. But if you get the professional version from Uncle Eric then everyone including me is in complete agreement that they're tremendously good value.
     
  24. Lowrider

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    Mark,

    Did I sound upset... :confused:

    Sorry if it came out that way, I am not upset at all, I just mentioned some technical aspects, wich, of course, don´t mean much, in the end it is the synergy between all components and one´s taste that matter...

    I read many tests and opinions that the Brystons handdle Nautilos extremely well, as most other speakers, but some may prefer a less flat response, particularly the highs... And I am not judging the Meridian, I never heard one...
     
  25. warrj

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    NicolasB - Another fascinating post! I always find it really useful to have my preconceptions challenged. I realise that we're veering OT. However...

    I have my own personal philosophy on how much to spend on differing kinds of technology. It goes something like this; different kinds of technology are at different stages of maturity the amount ones spends on a technology should reflect this. The more mature a technology becomes the more justifiable it is to spend a greater proportion of one's budget on it. Conversely, the less mature a technology is the less one can justify spending money on it. For example, CD players are what I consider to be a really mature technology. Huge improvements in sound quality from CD are probably unlikely to occur. It is therefore safe to spend reasonably serious money on a very good CD player. Such a player is likely to be the last CD only player one needs to purchase. At the other extreme I regard DVD-V, DVD-A and SACD players as a seriously immature technology. Why should I spend serious money on them when the same performance which will today cost me 1000 pounds will only cost me half that in a years time (this is leaving aside all the functionality changes which are still ongoing). Of course this entire philospohy is predicated on the assumption that an AV system is never 'finished' and one is always going to want to upgrade ().

    So, the upshot of this that I tend to allocate funds for the purchase of hi-fi components partly on the maturity of the technology involved. I regard the maturity of various hi-fi/AV component classes as being as follows:

    CD Players: Very mature
    Speakers: very mature
    Power Amps: very mature (although the AV boom is likely to result in greater economies of scale)
    Analogue Tuners: very mature
    Stereo pre-amps: Very mature
    Subwoofers: mature
    AV Processors: Immature
    DVD Players: Very immature

    This explains why I spent 1100 pounds on a CD player and 180 pounds on a DVD player. In a few years I'll buy a high resolution disc player which is also a killer CD player. At the moment what's the point of spending lots on a DVD player in order to achieve a highly transient benefit?

    Now, as regards my current situation. I have the Nautilus speakers previously described plus a Roksan Caspian DSP and 5-channel amp. This is very good for stereo but the Roksan is a bit below par for AV (IMHO). Therefore given my philosophy I find it easy to justify spending quite serious money on new power amplification. The processor is more problematic. I really don't want to spend a lot of money on one. However, I have a sneaking sense that these are starting to mature and an AV8 may still be regarded as a decent processor in, say, three years time. The problem is that processors which are good with stereo and AV are expensive. This is forcing me to consider spending more than I'd ideally like.

    I've tried my speakers on a friend's Denon A1D which I believe is an example of an AV amp which is regarded as being reasonable with music. I liked the effect of sticking more power thru the 805s but couldn't help feeling that the A1D veiled the sound to an extent. Would the AV amps which you suggest be much better?

    As regards the active M&Ks (and this is probably a direct result of my own ignorance and prejudice) I've always thought that M&Ks were only good for AV-only applications and were not a manufacturer that one should for a moment consider as a candidate for a 'proper' hi-fi. I'll have to check them out.

    Regards,

    Jules.
     
  26. CogPaul

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    I think warrj makes a very good point about maturity of technology. Recently my meridian 565/562/506 was destroyed by water damage and I am currently deciding what to do with the insurance as regards replacements. No problems with the CD as I can easily identify a good player - but do I perhaps go for a DVD/CD combined ( are they now good enough cd players?) or what about the processor ( 7.1 now but what about 10.1 if it arrives?) and do I now move from active speakers to power amps (so are power amps at the end of their production life a non-starter?). The answer to the first question is easily determined by your own ears - the second question is more complex and means that companies like Tag present a very tempting profile given their positive attitude to customer upgrades.
     
  27. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Posted in haste:

    Had a listen to some different processor/power amp pairings on Saturday. Also listened to a Tag processor hooked into 3 different power amps: Tag, Arcam and Bryston. I'm going to have to spend considerably more time and analysis on this, but if I had to make a decision based on my first impressions I'd say that the Tag power amp really isn't much cop at all, while. of the other two, I liked the Bryston very slightly better than the Arcam, but not enough to justify spending £800 more on something that has 5 channels rather than 7. (Even if you aren't thinking of a 7.1 system you can use the extra two channels either to do something in the next room or - more usefully IMO - to bi-amp the front pair of speakers for improved stereo).
     
  28. martintyler

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    Nicholas,

    Where did you get a demo of these in one place? I'd like to demo them... also the AV8 and a pioneer ax10 - but dont know anywhere that does all under one roof.
     
  29. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    This was at a shop called Cornflake in Windmill Street (off Tottenham Court Road) in London. Try their website.

    They have:

    Arcam FMJ AV8/P7
    Bryson SP1/9B
    Naim AV2/NAPV175 (and whatever the two-channel bit is)
    Tag McLaren AV32R/100x5R

    I think they also have the Tag AV30R. They actually have higher-end stuff too - processors like Proceed AVP2, Lexicon MC-12, even Mark Levinson No. 40 (which is a cool thirty grand :eek:). Don't think they have a Pioneer AX10, though. (I could be wrong, I had no reason to ask).
     

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