Question Worth upgrading the amplifier in my setup?

LupoLoopy

Standard Member
Hi

I've finally got a dedicated listening space in my house following a move 1.5 years ago and I was wondering if I could benefit from upgrading my amplifier?

I appreciate context is king here. Furthermore, home trials of amps are going to be recommended. But if I'm only likely to see minimal gains, then maybe I'll park the question another year or two.

The setup as it stands...

Sources:
Cambridge Audio CD-Transport (forget the model number - it's still wrapped as it's virtually unused these days (connected via optical)
Bluesound Node 2 - Pulling Spotify @ Extreme Quality. Open to Tidal and the likes but havent felt the need to go there yet (connected via coaxial)

In the middle is my AudioLab M-DAC. Always been happy with the way this sounds in my setups.

The amplifier:
Musical Fidelity A3 Dual Mono.

Speakers - KEF LS50 Anniversary

I wont lie. Part of the reason I want to replace it is because (along with my reasonably priced CD Transport) it is the only silver bit of kit in the stack. In all it's brushed stainless steel and 'gold' glory, it looks like it has been hit with the ugly stick in my eyes, as my tastes have changed.

That said, I dont want to take a massive sonic hit in order to change it up. In a brutalist kind of way, it looks 'okay' :)

Any suggestions for what amplifiers to try? I've been toying with trying to find some Audiolab 8200MB on the cheap (need some luck for that) or more likely a used 8200P.

Thanks for ANY and all input...
 

GW43

Well-known Member
I've got a 8200P on the end of a 8200DQ, and the amp (including the pre-amp bit of the DQ) is way better than the Arcam A85 it replaced in driving my Dynaudio Focus 160.

I guess you could try and get a 2nd hand 8200P and if it doesn't work for you sell it on, but they do have a lot of grunt.
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Let's be clear, do you have the Musical Fidelity Pre-Amp/Powe-Amp or the Integreted Amp?

Unless I'm mistaken, then these were reviewed they were highly rated. The A3.2 Integerated has 115w/ch.

Welcome Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity

I would expect that to be a pretty good amp. Shame to change it just because you don't like the color.

Still ...your money... speaking of which ... how much money were you planning to spend? BUDGET?

Other than the color, how well do you like Musical Fidelity?

The Musical Fidelity M3si Integrated Amp (85w/ch) is £1100 -

Musical Fidelity M3si Amplifier with DAC - Superfi

Musical Fidelity | M3si Integrated Amplifier

AudioLab in a minimalist amp are certainly worth considering.

Audiolab 8200A, 60w/ch - £500 -

Audiolab 8200A Amplifier - Superfi

New Audiolab 8300A, 75w/ch - £900 -


Audiolab 8300A Amplifier - Superfi

If you want to go for something more high power with very high feature set then -

Rotel RA-1570, 120wc/h, DAC - £1200 -

Rotel RA1570 Amplifier With DAC - Superfi

ARCAM is certainly an option.

Arcam FMJ-A29, 80w/ch - £850 -


Arcam FMJ A29 Amplifier - Superfi

Arcam FMJ-A39, 120w/ch - £1250 -


Arcam FMJ A39 Amplfier - Superfi

If you want to kick it up a notch, then -

Musical Fidelity M5si, 150w/ch - £1700 -

Musical Fidelity M5si

Musical Fidelity | M5si Integrated Amplifier

Kicking it all the way up -

Musical Fidelity M6si, 220w/ch, USB - £2500 -

Musical Fidelity M6si

Musical Fidelity | M6si Integrated Amplifier

How far do you want to take it?

Steve/bluewizard
 

LupoLoopy

Standard Member
Sorry. I should have said a budget, I agree!

Thanks for your heavily researched post Steve! It's great to have some units to start looking at, which I shall now do :)

I'm happy to spend circa £1k, but really would like to get away with less.

The current unit a MF A3 Integrated Amplifier. I kind of agree that it's a shame to let it go just because of the colour, hence if I'm going to have to break the budget to even match the performance, I may pass. Just trying to 'set my own expectations' at a reasonable level really.
 

LupoLoopy

Standard Member
Also - used to like the Musical Fidelity sound as I like(d) the warmth it imbued into proceedings.

I now listen to more technical stuff as well as acoustic tunes, so I like a bit more neutrality so I can hear the original nuances a bit more. For instance, I preference the tonality of the Headphone out on my M-DAC to my AKG Q701's to the output of my MF into my KEFs... Hope that's some help?
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Though I'm not big on the styling, I would expect good things from the REGA. If you get a chance to hear one, I think we would all be most interested in your impressions. That would also keep you just a bit under budget. Not huge power, but still decent power.

There are only limited choices around £1000. I tend to look for warmer smoother amps, but I can appreciate the desire for crisp razor sharp detail in the sound.

My current amp, and upgrade from a Yamaha, is a Rotel RA-1570. It was a little more laid back than I had hoped for. Though not desiring to take it too far, I had hoped for a bit more of that fine detail. You'll have to make your own judgement.

Generally to jump up to amps with fine detail, you need to jump up in quality, though that typically means a jump down in power.

Creek Evolution 50A, 55w/ch - £800 -

Creek Evolution 50A Integrated Amplifier available from Hifi Gear

Primaire I21, 75w/ch - £990 -


Primare I21 integrated stereo amplifier available in a black or titanium finish, with free UK delivery from Hifi Gear

Steve/bluewizard

 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
I'd save your money. The MF is a top class, powerful amp. You'll get at best about £350 for it, less fees.

And an amp that will outperform it will cost about 2 grand plus.

Plus as the MF is more than capable of driving your speakers there seems little point. It all gets very expensive for a colour change.

If you must have a change of colour then remove the front plate and sent it off to be anodised perhaps?
 

LupoLoopy

Standard Member
@Paul - I'm chatting to another member about a pair of AudioLab 8200MBs - would that be a worthy upgrade, or a waste of time?
 

technarchy

Active Member
How about getting the front panel of the mf powder coated black! I had a mf A3 & it was amazing, regret selling it!
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
I hear from John Westlake that the 8200 MBs are average at best. And he was being polite. He was there at the design stage too so I'd tend to accept his opinion.

I don't think they'd be any better than the MF at all. It really is a good amplifier. It's built solidly, will last for ages and it'll drive your speakers as well as they can be driven.

It's just conceivable that a huge amount of cash spent on a hugely over specced amp might very, very slightly give you a tiny 'improvement' somewhere. Perhaps.

But I seriously doubt it would be anything but very barely noticeable. If at all.

If the Amp is up to the job, and the MF certainly is, it's the speakers that determine sound quality.

If you like your current speakers and what they do then spending more will not improve them except possibly at a mighty price which would be a waste of cash.

If you need to spend some money it would be better to get better speakers, or go the active route.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Ps. The only way I can see spending money on your current set up is to sell the MF and buy, s/h, a very good power amp and use the excellent M-Dac as the pre amp.

As the MF are really good amps you could try and find one of these, or even one of the NU-vista power amp legends.

MUSICAL FIDELITY A5cr Power Amplifier

But even then you'd have to get the front panel power coated or anodised.:)

The preamp in the M-Dac is excellent. I used mine for two years into my older Adam actives and it was super clean and involving.

Having said that I still think that what you have now is pretty damned good.

But if you feel you need to change then I can't recommend this one highly enough.

It's superbly detailed, discreet and a power mountain. It'll also drive any speaker you might get in the future.

AVI S21 Laboratory Lab Series integrated amplifier with MM MC Phono
 
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BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
It might be worth arranging a listen to the Musical Fidelity M3si. That is a considerably newer amp than the one you have. You never know until you listen whether it is suitable to your needs.

As to your amp being Silver, I actually prefer Silver components. Black seems to disappear into a black hole. I like to be able to see my equipment.

Now maybe this isn't really about the amp being Silver, maybe you just feel it is time for an upgrade - that's fine -, but to simply cure a Silver amp, you are planning to spend a lot of money.

Not knowing your personal taste, you could at least give the Arcam a listen. That would be a slight variation on what you have, and might provide what you are looking for.

The REGA Elex-R is close to your budget. So, again, certainly worth listening to.

I think that is somewhat the stage you are at. You need to go out and listen to a lot of amps to see if any of them are sufficiently preferred relative to what you have to justify the expense. There are plenty of other amps you can buy, but you really want one that gives you what you need. The only way to really know if there is a worthy upgrade out there is to go out and listen.

Just a thought.

Steve/bluewizard
 

LupoLoopy

Standard Member
Thanks for the feedback everyone! Especially for the feedback that the 8200MB are not a clear upgrade. I was (and perhaps still am, pending further feedback) courting a purchase.

It's testament to the value I got when I purchased the MF used years ago that despite my expectations, commodity HiFi technology hasn't moved on enough to overtake it.

Yes, I'll admit it. I'm a total tart for wanting my components to match. Everything else in the rack/chain/room is black, so the MF does stand out like a sore thumb.

That said, spending the money required (circa £1000) for same or worse performance rankles more than ignoring the MF looks!

Anodizing sounds like a solid idea. I'd almost rather try to find a failed unit to take it's faceplate though. Seems a shame to violate a working pristine example, that just doesn't happen to be to my taste.

Also, does anyone have/ could direct me to a field manual for the MF? I'd like to read it before I take out my screw drivers :)
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
...


Also, does anyone have/ could direct me to a field manual for the MF? I'd like to read it before I take out my screw drivers :)

You need to consider whether the WRITING on the front of the MF is etched or silk screened. If silk screened or printed, if you paint or similarly modify the front panel, you will lose all those labels.

I think the best thing for you to do is to get out there and listen to some Amps, and see if anything appeals to you.

Though perhaps not a prefect solution, but are you familiar with "Candy" Paint. If you have ever seen a motorcycle or car that has Metal Flake paint, the Silver (or gold) Flake is usually put on first, then it is coated with a colored but transparent paint so that the underlying flake will show through.

Though still less than ideal, you could have the front panel painted with some clear charcoal colored 'candy' paint. While they would be very dim, the control labels would probably still show through. That would not take it to totally black but it would darken it and make it blend in better.

Alternately, if you know someone who does Laser Engraving, you could have the lettering and labels cut into the finish with a laser. I think you could probably do that even if the panel was anodized.

Likely given MF's good reputation, the existing amp should be worth some money. Though not sure how much, but that could be investigated. The money returned from selling the existing amp could soften the cost of a new amp.

But the only way to know if there is a new amp out there that meets your needs is to go out there and listen until you find it ... or don't find it as the case may be. But you do need to go out and listen to a few amps before you make any decision.

Steve/bluewizard
 

dazed&confused

Well-known Member
I hear from John Westlake that the 8200 MBs are average at best. And he was being polite. He was there at the design stage too so I'd tend to accept his opinion.

I agree entirely with pretty much everything else you've written, but I think particular part of your post above warrants some clarification.

As far as I can recall, John Westlake described the acoustic quality of the 8200 MB as highly 'typical' rather than 'average at best'. He was referring to the type of design, in terms of the way the amplification is implemented, which he described as "a typical Doug Self design". John happens to find that implementation "boring", and he suggested that bi-amping with a pair of 8200P would provide a "more musical" solution.

I think it's at least partly a matter of taste, and some people would have a preference for a more "boring" sound. Furthermore, some people, some of them being quite technically proficient, think biamping is pointless.

I don't think it's very meaningful to state that John Westlake was "there at the design stage" of the 8200 MB. My understanding is that he was employed by IAG to lead the design of some digital products in the audio lab 8200 range. I thought the design of the 8200 MB was virtually identical to its predecessor, the Tag McLaren mono block, which was produced years before John came on board.

Having said all that, I auditioned the 8000 2MB for a few hours, and I find them distinctly unmusical, lacking the 'foot tapping factor' of the Cyrus amplification I was used to at the time.

Many people argue that all amps sound the same, and there's very little argument against the fact that they all measure pretty much the same. So listen before you buy, I guess is the best advice.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Indeed. It's a while since I had the M-Dac and read the epic amount of stuff he's written on another forum about it and his time at the Chinese factory.

What I do recall is that when he said 'design' it was rather tongue in cheek as it was, he considered, a more or less straight copy as you say.

But I do recall him 'not recommending' the MBs, again very politely, simply because so many people asked him as it was assumed at the time that he had a hand in designing them which he didn't.

Also, in reference to the question here, I'd be very surprised if the MBs could outperform an MF A3 series amp, even the integrated.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me to use the M-Dac as a pre and go for a mighty impressive s/h power amp.

For the money and with a little judicious searching legends from the likes off Copland, Chord, Densen... or... there's a giant class A dual mono block MF P270 on auction on eBay :clap:

I'd love to have one even though I'm an active speaker fellow through and through. I think everyone should own a class A behemoth in case they ever need to do some welding.

And it's very black.

If you have a spare grand and add the £300 or so from the sale of the MF I think you'll find an impressive pile to choose from.
 
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LupoLoopy

Standard Member
I wanted to say 'thanks' to everyone here and feed back in.

I went with a pair of used 8200MBs in the end. I was able to get them inside my budget, for a very fair price. With them being used it was a time limited opportunity really. I dont see ones inside my budget come up that often.

My logic here was that, whatever else I tried, I'd always be wondering 'what if'. Those amps for whatever, stupid monkey brain reason, have been a grail setup for me for a while, rightly or wrongly.

Also I wanted to go with something sonicly different, in so much that everyone (not necessarily here) seemed to be raving about the MF sounding 'fun' and warm and whatnot, so going for something more 'clinical' (like the MBs are reviewed to be) seemed at least like a change.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Me too. I'd be interested to hear if you can hear any improvement? Or even much of a difference?

I can't help thinking the MBs will be a little dry and that you might well wander back to the MF.

Just my notion though. :)
 

LupoLoopy

Standard Member
Really hard to call, if I'm to be honest. I'm enjoying them well enough, but without a blind A/B test, it's hard to be absolutely sure about it.

As I'd need to get a HiFi savvy friend (i.e. not my wife) to partake in a blind test, it's not going to happen.

Side note: I had some mad induction hum when they were running sans signal, but switching from my unshielded Kimber Kables RCAs to balanced XLRs sorted that out.

I'm stripping the HiFi rack down (again) today in order to enable some decorating, so I'll do an unscientific comparison this weekend for you.
 

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