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Need an amplifier recommendation

post #1 of 8
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I need to upgrade my amplifier. It is an old NAD 302 and the 25w is really not enough for my wharfedale diamond 10.6 floorstanders. Budget is up to the equivalent of US$800-1000. I need to stick to more well known brands as less common stuff is hard to get or overpriced here. NAD, Cambridge audio, marantz etc are all common.

I currently have an audioengine DAC1 which is good and sounds amazing with my sony mdr7506 studio headphones. Source is the pc via toslink. Music genre is varied. Anything over 45w 2 channel integrated stereo should work nicely. Is it worth getting a built in DAC some newer amps tend to have and plug the motherboard straight in? Or use a standard analog amp and use my existing DAC?
Edited by tw2 - 6/28/16 at 5:59pm
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post #2 of 8
I'd get a newer AMP and connect it out from the GPU you can use HDMI. Just make sure it has good HDMI connectors
some amps have a high failure rate
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post #3 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by tw2 View Post

I need to upgrade my amplifier. It is an old NAD 302 and the 25w is really not enough for my wharfedale diamond 10.6 floorstanders. Budget is up to the equivalent of US$800-1000. I need to stick to more well known brands as less common stuff is hard to get or overpriced here. NAD, Cambridge audio, marantz etc are all common.

I currently have an audioengine DAC1 which is good and sounds amazing with my sony mdr7506 studio headphones. Source is the pc via toslink. Music genre is varied. Anything over 45w 2 channel integrated stereo should work nicely. Is it worth getting a built in DAC some newer amps tend to have and plug the motherboard straight in? Or use a standard analog amp and use my existing DAC?

If you'll get one with a DAC the best option is a PowerDAC, a new design that in basic terms has the DAC chip feeding directly into the amplifier output stage, skipping the usual DAC analogue output stage and analogue preamp stage. The problem with this kind of attention to signal purity is that the sound only goes in one direction.

Since you already have the Audioengine D1, which has a preamp output, why not just get a new power amplifier? Just a pure power amp, no preamp stage.

Something like this: https://emotiva.com/products/amplifiers/300
post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by diggiddi View Post

I'd get a newer AMP and connect it out from the GPU you can use HDMI. Just make sure it has good HDMI connectors
some amps have a high failure rate
I didn't actually consider this as a way to get digital sound out of a computer. Unfortunately I don't want a AV receiver, this is for purely stereo audio so I think it makes more sense to stick with optical or USB.
Quote:
Originally Posted by PM323 View Post

If you'll get one with a DAC the best option is a PowerDAC, a new design that in basic terms has the DAC chip feeding directly into the amplifier output stage, skipping the usual DAC analogue output stage and analogue preamp stage. The problem with this kind of attention to signal purity is that the sound only goes in one direction.

Since you already have the Audioengine D1, which has a preamp output, why not just get a new power amplifier? Just a pure power amp, no preamp stage.

Something like this: https://emotiva.com/products/amplifiers/300
I hadn't come across the power dac before, looks interesting. From the brief reading I did it seems to only be a feature in fairly high end amplifiers. I honestly don't think I could possibly tell the difference between an external DAC and this. Emotiva looks like a very competitive offering, I haven't heard of them before. Unfortunately I don't think the exchange rate would fare to well but I will keep it in mind, it certainly doesn't get much simpler.
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post #5 of 8
Have you considered a used integrated amp?
There were some really fantastic performing amps in the "silver era" - 1978 - 1984. Levinson, Accuphase, the high end, Pioneers Sansuis. Kemwoods, and Yamahas (my personal favorite) to name a few. Many of these can be had in your price range (or less).

Back then people went to stores and actually listened to what they were going to buy, so, to make sales an amp had to actually produce good (great!) sound quality. Today, with people buying on line without ever listening, people tend to choose "features" over sound quality. Do you really need 5 channels, HDMI, Dolby, room equalization, etc.?. All that "stuff" is what manufactures stress, not so much actual sound quality.

Also, USB DACs are inherently better sounding than any other signal transfer type since they are asynchronous and produce much less jitter.
 
 
Edited by billbartuska - 6/30/16 at 6:22am
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post #6 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by tw2 View Post

I hadn't come across the power dac before, looks interesting. From the brief reading I did it seems to only be a feature in fairly high end amplifiers. I honestly don't think I could possibly tell the difference between an external DAC and this. Emotiva looks like a very competitive offering, I haven't heard of them before. Unfortunately I don't think the exchange rate would fare to well but I will keep it in mind, it certainly doesn't get much simpler.

Wadia actually had the 151, which at $700 or so (it later in its product life but just before production stopped) later would be going for $500 online. A NuForce was also available, IIRC it more around $400.
Quote:
Originally Posted by billbartuska View Post

Back then people went to stores and actually listened to what they were going to buy, so, to make sales an amp had to actually produce good (great!) sound quality. Today, with people buying on line without ever listening, people tend to choose "features" over sound quality. Do you really need 5 channels, HDMI, Dolby, room equalization, etc.?. All that "stuff" is what manufactures stress, not so much actual sound quality.

Well that depends, don't compare 2ch integrateds to 5ch amps that way though. That "feature list" marketing bit isn't new, it's been a thing with HT receivers ever since they came out, and to some extent that was hard to bypass because video playback kept getting more and more tech updates that were actually more usable than when similar updates were happening to 2ch gear which didn't really make for drastic improvements anyway. With surround receivers the main bit has always been connectivity, and shifts into 5ch SPDIF and later HDMI - the latter having several iterations - is what really drives the upgrade patterns.

If anything, I've noticed surround receivers actually getting a little bit better with the amplifier designs. Up until a few years ago it was easy to get something like a NAD304 to wipe the floor with any surround receiver until you get to the ones with dual power supplies, or in most cases, people just got the ones with preamplifier outputs and used separate amplifiers. By now the differences aren't as clear until you go fairly loud, and even then, if it's more a matter of putting a receiver in the living room and just having an acceptable sound quality when you watch a live performance, even the entry level ones aren't bad. On top of that some cheaper speakers that sound good and have decent sensitivity (unlike Wharfedales for example, which have been a mainstay for entry level speakers) don't really need to push such receivers. Note also that used to be HT receivers would lie through their teeth with something like "150w x 7channels" on the main spec list, but get to the detailed sheet and there's a "one channel driven, 1% THD" disclaimer somewhere.

Still, that's just to clarify that 5ch receivers are getting better (or again because some cheaper but good speakers with good sensitivity are easier to find nowadays), but given their size I still don't usually recommend them unless the goal is eventually to have a surround system. Even 2ch receivers nowadays while the same size at least get network digital input (plus app control), plus sub output that works the same way as in a surround receiver (DSP crossover to DAC to preamp to sub output).
post #7 of 8
USB DAC ---> Amplifier, Besides a good cable to do the connection what else could one possibly need ?
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post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by billbartuska View Post

Have you considered a used integrated amp?

Today, with people buying on line without ever listening, people tend to choose "features" over sound quality. Do you really need 5 channels, HDMI, Dolby, room equalization, etc.?. All that "stuff" is what manufactures stress, not so much actual sound quality.

Also, USB DACs are inherently better sounding than any other signal transfer type since they are asynchronous and produce much less jitter. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by billbartuska View Post

USB DAC ---> Amplifier, Besides a good cable to do the connection what else could one possibly need ?
I really appreciate these points. I guess we are so used to reading reviews and buying stuff online, computer components especially that some of the items that really should be seen/heard in person are blindly purchased. And really I don't need any features at all, just a simple stereo amplifier with some rca inputs.

I think I might stick with Marantz on this one. I am thinking of the PM7005. It has a built in DAC which I don't really need. It also has USB connectivity which I don't really need either but would be the best way to connect. It does have enough power that I will never need an upgrade again if I decide to change out the wharfedales. I can try the internal DAC vs my audioengine and decide which I like the best. The PM8005 is the next one up, a pure amp only, no extras with a bit more power again but it is outside my price range otherwise that would be the perfect choice. The Cambridge audio CXA60 or CXA80 would be excellent too but I find them quite ugly. I looked at some Yamaha ones, they appear to have more power than I could ever need but I am not convinced they are on the same level quality wise. NAD appears to be nothing special. Unfortunately with exchange rate, shipping and import tax emotiva and other offshore brands will be a bit too expensive.

Above all I will buy local despite being able to import one from the UK cheaper and I will listen to them all and let that be the overall deciding factor, ugly or not.
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