Another noob looking for amp and speaker advice.

amplifiers, receivers and loudspeakers
Audionaut
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Another noob looking for amp and speaker advice.

Post by Audionaut » 13 Feb 2019 16:49

The weak links of my setup are doubtlessly my cart and speakers.

My setup is a new Rega RP3 using a Nagaoka MP-110, going to a Rega Fono MM Mk2 preamp then to active Audioengine A5s.

I'm enjoying it quite a lot but would like to begin planning the upgrade eventually to an amp and passive speakers. I'll drop perhaps up to a grand a speaker if they're the right speaker. I'm clueless about a good amp that I won't outgrow anytime soon.

Thanks for any help

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Re: Another noob looking for amp and speaker advice.

Post by Pauw » 13 Feb 2019 17:49

I can only add this.....don't rush into anything.....listen to as many as you can and if you can with the speakers you like the sound of. I believe the simpler signal path the better. Look to enough power to have control over the speakers and to create good dynamics. :D

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Re: Another noob looking for amp and speaker advice.

Post by raphaelmabo » 14 Feb 2019 13:20

Alchemist Axiom, a baby wonder from the 90's. Unfortunately not in production any more...
So, well. Established brands like Marantz, Pioneer, Onkyo, Yamaha - have good amps. Also Rotel, NAD... Higher up the price range there's Rega, Arcam, Creek, Exposure... We also have Micromega, Atoll, Advance Acoustics. All those makes great products.
In Germany there's Vincent and Magnat with some hybrid flair (tubes in the pre-amp section, transistors in the power amp). The Chinese brand Cayin makes very interesting tube amplifiers at low costs... A remake of an older Marantz-design from the 60's, but with fresh electronics and features... The world is flooded with nice amplifiers...

So have a listen around... :)

As for speakers... There's lots of them too. Polk, Boston, KEF, Tannoy, Mission, Quad, Triangle, Elac... Market is full of good speakers. Go to a hifi store and listen...

Audionaut
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Re: Another noob looking for amp and speaker advice.

Post by Audionaut » 14 Feb 2019 15:00

Could you do me a huge favor? Would you be willing to drop a handful of model's names from some of what you mentioned so that I can begin educating myself better. Right now I just have no clue about where to even direct myself. I'm familiar with brands and in some cases the clout those brands carry, but not models, not prices ranges, not expectations, nothing.

I wonder if I couldn't research the things you mention, and then if I have further questions I can return and make a new thread about a much more specific question.

So to sum up, could you please list some models you had in mind?

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Re: Another noob looking for amp and speaker advice.

Post by JoeE SP9 » 14 Feb 2019 20:12

Without a budget and some background information (used, new, or vintage gear, room size and furnishings, type of music mostly played and how loud) it's rather difficult to suggest anything suitable.

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Re: Another noob looking for amp and speaker advice.

Post by Audionaut » 14 Feb 2019 21:37

Budget I would like to keep within two thousand but I will certainly go higher if the quality difference warrants it, if it's a game of severe diminishing returns then two thousand roundabouts is my limit.

Used is perfectly fine. Room size for now isn't massive, a large apartment living room that flows into a "dining room" let's guess that it's in all 12' x 20', eventually the setup will be in a larger house.

Music is a wide variety, mostly an equal mix of folk, indie rock and metal, occasionally jazz.

Thank you.

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Re: Another noob looking for amp and speaker advice.

Post by vintagevinyllover » 14 Feb 2019 22:53

I'd sort out the amp first, then the speakers, and only then the cart. For the amp, decide if you prefer an integrated (1-box solution) or would like to go with a pre-power combo. Then spec your amp by deciding what features/facilities you want. You already have a good phono box, but you might want a DAC or Headphone socket included in the amp or be happy to add those later or never. More features mean more expense.

For an integrated amp, ensure it has a pre-amp output. That way you can still hook up your active Audioengine A5's and use them in the interim. In other words, you use the integrated amp in pre-amp mode, connecting amp to speakers via the RCA stereo “Y” connector to 1/8” mini plug cable which came with the A5's.

Using the same principle, you could just buy a preamp to feed the Audioengine speakers as above with a view to buying a power amp later.

If you were to go with passive speakers first, you will need an amp solution at the same time of course, much more expensive.

A More radical solution would be to stay active and not bother with an amp. It's possible, say with KEF LS50 actives, though actives are always for me a less flexible solution.

I think sorting the amp first before the speakers and before the cart is good because it allows all upgrades in considered stages, upgrading as funds allow. You will also need to budget some for interconnect cables and speaker wires. The cart is for me very much the last thing in this upgrade chain.

This isn't the only approach but it's a reasonably logical one.

In short, spec your amp requirement facilities/features first, only then look at brands that match them with great sound quality at your budget. I'd look at Rega (Brio, Elex-R), Audiolab 8300A, Musical Fidelity M2SI and also Schitt. As others have said, Creek, Exposure and Arcam may suit you. All of these will match a huge potential range of passive speakers to match up later, and partner your Rega front-end well. They are all well-built, proven reliability, enough power, good reviews and come with good guarantees (and be easily sold if you get the upgrade bug!). They are also within your budget

I'm sure there are plenty of other makes, including esoteric stuff. I could suggest vintage, I could suggest Tube amps but personally, I think those are best with more experience (others will doubtless disagree) and one thing about hi-fi is that it's a journey, so take your time and enjoy it! Do feel free to PM me if you ever want to discuss further.

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Re: Another noob looking for amp and speaker advice.

Post by raphaelmabo » 15 Feb 2019 09:54

Since you have a Rega, you could go the Rega route with a Brio or Elixir amplifier and a floor standing Rega RX-3 speakers. This fits within your budget. You'll get a rhythmic and open, smooth sound that fits a variety of music styles. Rega tend to focus more on pace, drive and rhythm than exact definition in the soundstage. And has a warm heart.
http://www.rega.co.uk

Exposure makes good alternatives to Rega amplifiers.
The Exposure 1010 is a contender to the Rega Brio and the Exposure 2010 is a contender to Rega Elixir.
Exposure also focus on musical pace, drive and rhythm as the Rega. Very musical and "toe-tapping" amplifiers. Very open sounding, clean and clear.
https://www.exposurehifi.com/products.html

We also have Cyrus, it's too fits in the "pace and drive camp" but in smaller boxes. A well balanced sound with good texture, details, soundstage. Cyrus One or the Cyrus One HD.
https://www.cyrusaudio.com/products/cyrus-one-hd/

Arcam is a different sounding alternative. They are powerful and well balanced, but needs neutral and open sounding speakers to give their best. They have really smooth sound with big scale and richness. But not the rhythm nor pace of the above mentioned.
https://www.arcam.co.uk/range/hda.htm

Then we have Marantz. Marantz has a warm heart, rich and big sounding. Closer to Arcam than Rega, Exposure, Cyrus.
The 7005 or 8006 or the compact HD series. Rich, bold and big sounding. Still very controlled sound. Feature rich with built-in D/A's. But the amps are really, really good.
https://www.us.marantz.com/us/pages/home.aspx

Micromega is a french brand of great hi-fi products. Clean, clear, open sounding. Very detailed with great presence and soundstage.
Micromega IA 60 (Rega Brio contender) or IA 100 (Rega Elixir contender)
https://micromega.com/en/products/mo-range/ia-100/

Atoll IN 100 is another great french product. Very musical, very enjoyable. Focus more on the musical whole than the details.
https://www.atoll-electronique.com/en/p ... d-in100se/

And then we look at the Germans...
Magnat MA 1000 is a valve-hybrid (tubes and transistors) with a great sound. It cost more than the above mentioned here, but has a glorius and rich sound.
https://www.magnat.de/en/electronics/ma ... 50/ma-1000

I also would like to suggest a valve-only/tube-only amplifier from the Chinese brand Cayin.
They have based their designs on Marantz classic amps from the 60's, but upgraded with modern transformers and features. The LA-34 is a great one. It's not has powerful in watt as the others mentioned above, but the sound is rich and seductive. One could also experiment with different valves/tubes to get different sonical signatures. It has two modes - ultralinear and triode. Ultralinear gives more power and a linear sound, more hi-fi if you like. Triode-mode means less watts but more expressive midband and rolled off bass and hights for late night romantics. Pricewise, it cost like a Rega Elixir, Exposure 2010 etc...
http://en.cayin.cn/products_info?itemid=98

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Re: Another noob looking for amp and speaker advice.

Post by raphaelmabo » 15 Feb 2019 10:16

As for speakers... I'll just give some examples...
Note: Allt these are floorstanders.

Polk S50e or the bigger/more expensive S60e. Big, bold, clean and rich with good rhythm and timing.
https://en.polkaudio.com/products/s60e

Klipsch RP4000 or RP6000. An easy load for the amplifier, goes load. A bit warm sounding. Live-feel, but strong on details. Klipsch speakers works well with valve/tubes.
https://www.klipsch.com/products/rp-600 ... ng-speaker

The french Triangle Elara LN05. Musical, detailed, enjoyable... Great looks, great sound, great hi-fi. High resolution.
http://www.triangle-fr.com/en/elara/ln05

KEF Q550. Big, broad soundstage thank's to unique element technology. A bit drier sounding than the above mentioned. Very controlled sound.
https://m.int.kef.com/products/q550-flo ... ng-speaker

Monitor Audio Bronze 6. Room filling sound.
https://www.monitoraudio.com/en/product ... /bronze-6/

Castle Knight 5. Classy looking. A bit more laidback in sound than the others (so work well with an agile and rhythmic amplifier for best synergy). Very well balanced. Controlled and dry bass.
http://www.castle.uk.com/knight-series/

Quad S5. High resolution. Very nice sound, accurate.
http://www.quad-hifi.co.uk/product-detail.php?pid=25

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Re: Another noob looking for amp and speaker advice.

Post by raphaelmabo » 15 Feb 2019 12:48

Also worth seeking out...

Creek Evolution 50. Follows the brit's tradition of rhythm and timing, with an expressive midrange.
https://www.creekaudio.com/integrated-a ... ution-50a/

Creek recommends Epos speakers to their amplifiers. (No wonder, Creek owns Epos :) ). Like this one. :)
https://www.epos-loudspeakers.com/produ ... eakers/k2/

Audiolab amps should also be mentioned. Their classic 8x000-range or the new 6x000's. Open, clean musical.
http://audiolab.co.uk/product.php?cid=9

Mission makes great speakers. Always been good for contemporary music. Very fun. Mission QX-4 or QX-5
http://www.mission.co.uk/qx-series/

Tannoy is a classic loudspeaker brand. They uses an element technology similar to KEF Q-series, this gives a wide and broad sound stage. Compared to KEF, the Tannoy are faster and more dynamic sounding. KEF Q are more on the warm side of things.
Tannoy Revolution XT-6F (F = Floor).
https://www.tannoy.com/Categories/Tanno ... ans(en|en)

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Re: Another noob looking for amp and speaker advice.

Post by raphaelmabo » 15 Feb 2019 12:54

All those suggestions are in the range of 600 - 1 200 euro.
I should also mention the Cambridge CX-serie, the CX-60 or CX-80. Great amplifiers at good prices. Best buy in brittish magazines. Rivals the Rega Brio, Exposure 1010 etc...
https://www.cambridgeaudio.com/en/products/cx

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Re: Another noob looking for amp and speaker advice.

Post by rewfew » 15 Feb 2019 18:01

You can get as many suggestions for what to get as their are people giving suggestions, and more. What about what you think you want to make your musical experience more satisfying. What is lacking in what you currently experience with what you have that you'd like to aspire towards. Try maybe to read up on the types of speakers there are. The varying typologies of amplification and what matches best with the type of speakers you might be interested in. There are just so many past and current products, plus the aspect of learning by doing DIY projects that would suit your needs. That just by going with a list of possible suggestions from others that don't know what music you like, what the home setting is like, or what your preferences listening wise are, that you may end up getting into a cycle of perpetual upgrading. It's as suggested, best to take your time and try to understand how all the possible choices can be tailored to what you feel would fit for you. So, being pro-active in this endeavor can increase your chances to succeed. When you have a greater knowledge base you can ask questions more specific to put you on track.

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Re: Another noob looking for amp and speaker advice.

Post by raphaelmabo » 15 Feb 2019 18:56

It's always good to know what type of music that one likes, or the sound one are seeking for. There's a broad spectrum here.
But there are many products out there that suits a wide variety of music, that are allrounders.
Myself, I listen to most types of music except hard rock and it's variations. Soul, classical, funk, reggae, singer/songwriter, electronica, 70's disco, 80's New Wage and New Romantic, drums'n bass, jazz, new age instrumental, synth (Jean Michel Jarre etc) and more...

And my own setup, my main setup, is...
Amp: Alchemist Nexus
http://www.alchemisthifi.info/ranges/ne ... lifier.htm

Speakers: Infinity Reference 50
https://audio-database.com/INFINITY/spe ... e50-e.html

This setup works with most types of music. The amplifier has a dynamic and strong, yet smooth and a bit of dry, presentation. I would say that it is closer to Arcam than Rega or Exposure. More neutral than Marantz, not as warm. Very high resolution and grand scale.

I like the speakers because they have a sealed design instead of bass reflex. Bass reflex can go deeper in the bass, but a sealed design is drier and more controlled. And I like that. It has a big woofer so it doesn't need a reflex port to give good bass. The special treble design means it is very detailed in the treble. They have an easy going character, offering a tight and controlled sound but with a nice warmth to the midbass region.

Now, building up a system is all about synergy. To combine different products. It's about match making.

If you have a forward sounding amplifier, then it might get too much with a forward sounding speaker, you may find that a warmer sounding speaker works better for you. Or vice versa.

So it's all about to go out and make a list of interesting products to audition and then listen to them, with your favourite music.
There are sellers that offers "try at home", so you could try amplifiers and speakers in your own home and then return to the shop if one is not satisfied.

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Re: Another noob looking for amp and speaker advice.

Post by andybeau » 15 Feb 2019 20:48

rewfew wrote:
15 Feb 2019 18:01
You can get as many suggestions for what to get as their are people giving suggestions, and more. What about what you think you want to make your musical experience more satisfying. What is lacking in what you currently experience with what you have that you'd like to aspire towards. Try maybe to read up on the types of speakers there are. The varying typologies of amplification and what matches best with the type of speakers you might be interested in. There are just so many past and current products, plus the aspect of learning by doing DIY projects that would suit your needs. That just by going with a list of possible suggestions from others that don't know what music you like, what the home setting is like, or what your preferences listening wise are, that you may end up getting into a cycle of perpetual upgrading. It's as suggested, best to take your time and try to understand how all the possible choices can be tailored to what you feel would fit for you. So, being pro-active in this endeavor can increase your chances to succeed. When you have a greater knowledge base you can ask questions more specific to put you on track.
What he said

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Re: Another noob looking for amp and speaker advice.

Post by Audionaut » 21 Feb 2019 00:47

Thank you everyone for the advice, and a very special thanks to RaphaelMabo for the invaluable and detailed information--exactly what I was seeking. (And, coincidentally, an unusual amount of records I listen to are from Sweden. I'm not the first to ask this nor will I be the last--what do they put in the water there?)

This is a fair bit for me to digest, I'll absolutely be back for further questions after lots of research.

Thanks again.

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