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Moving away from Naim.... I'm looking for a new amplifier and DAC for my P3ESR

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  • Moving away from Naim.... I'm looking for a new amplifier and DAC for my P3ESR

    Hello,

    I recently sold my Naim system (DAC/282/250/Hicap/Napsc) for many reasons, to summarise:

    - A huge amount of money to feed some very unfussy speakers. I can release over 8K of funds from this kit.
    - I live in a flat and have neighbours above and below, so don't need a lot of power. I play at very modest volumes.
    - Too many black boxes / powerlines / endless upgrade path.
    - The P3ESR seem to work very well with my humble Naim Nait 1 (15wpc?) with the portable Meridian Explorer DAC connected to my Mac Mini, playing lossless files. This sounds very good (actually a bit more lively than the 'super' Naim system), but I believe I could upgrade this set up to get the most from the P3ESR. I still plan to keep the Mac Mini as I only have music as digital format.

    So, I'm looking for a good quality amplifier and DAC. I'm looking at a Luxman 550 II, as it has tone controls, is highly recommended by many and is reputed to be built very well. It also looks fantastic. Would the Luxman 505ux be a better option? Does it make any difference? Class A-B instead of class A, not sure how that effects things.

    Are there any others I should look into? Croft? Accuphase? Sugden? I see these names a lot on this forum. I understand the argument to use any amp providing it has the right features / service support etc, but surely the something like the Luxman will present a better sound than, say, a Yamamha 500? Any recommendations / opinions much appreciated here. Or, just stick with the Nait 1 as it won't make a bit of difference??

    As for the DAC, I was considering the Metrum Octave II, but haven't looked into much here. Budget around 1k. Again, please recommend if you can.

    Many thanks

  • #2
    What has loks to do with sound?

    Just because an amp "looks fantastic", is large, heavy and expensive, doesn't mean it will sound any better than a humble, inexpensive black box. In fact, the opposite is often the truth.

    Comment


    • #3
      Dumping crazily expensive gear

      I recently came to the same conclusion with the P3ESR's and sold off $10k retail in gear, replacing it with $2k retail in gear. I bought a Marantz PM8004/SA8004 combo for $1900, which also came with $300 worth of power cables. I just sold the cables and have brought my total outlay to $1700. It also didn't hurt to find out that the tested output of the PM8003, the predecessor of the PM8004 was actually closer to 90 watts, rather than the 70 watts of stated output. I know people like to use their P3ESRs with lower power amplifiers, but I've found I prefer more watts than less, having used it with 110 watts A/B to great effect.

      The Metrum comes with a USB input now? It used to only have optical and coaxial inputs. In your position, only wanting a USB input, I'd stick with the Meridian. I can't see spending too much on digital, given how quickly it changes and the amazingly high quality of the lower cost options.

      I've only heard the Luxman integrateds with Vivid speakers and can't say much about them, except the combination was very nice. I would probably choose the 100 watt A/B over the 30 watt Class A.

      If you're willing to forego the tone controls, I have also used my Rega Brio R/Rega DAC with the P3ESR's and it's a great combination.

      To be honest, it sounds like you want a change more than a release of funds. The Luxman and Accuphase options are not inexpensive. Never heard the Croft but have heard good things about it. I just decided I didn't want to deal with tubes, even in a preamp. No idea about the Sugden.

      Really, if I was looking to spend that money, I'd be more inclined to look into the M30.1, get a suitably powerful, but still inexpensive amplifier with tone controls, and keep the Meridian.

      Comment


      • #4
        Naim?

        I have had some limited experience of Naim, some years ago using one to demo ML CLS Mk 2s, both belonging to a friend, and my selling the latter on his behalf.

        The Naim could not drive the 0.5 ohms for long and its temp sensors cut it out repeatedly, whereas my own ATC SIA2-150 could cope.
        This is probably not an issue with your speakers, but it does give some indication of amplifier durability.

        Naims have been described in the past as 'gritty' by many, and the Nait 1, of which I have one for headphone driving use, has also been described as the est ever Naim amplifier by some dealers.

        My friends set up was also with loads of boxes; seemed OTT to me, and there are many competent amplifiers out there very much lower in cost. Sugden? Audiolab? Quad?

        I have found increasingly, and more so as I get older, that I do not want to listen at high levels, but that I do want to hear more; clarity, low level information, and lack of 'hash', and 15 years ago I measured 113 dBA at 30 feet with my last active speakers, with the floor boards being sucked up and down, this entirely missing the point, and probably not helping my ears.

        Comment


        • #5
          Size fools

          Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post
          Just because an amp "looks fantastic", is large, heavy and expensive, doesn't mean it will sound any better than a humble, inexpensive black box. In fact, the opposite is often the truth.
          This is so very true. But alas, majority of audiofools still believe in that "looks fantastic", large, heavy & ultra expensive mantra. Sad.

          Comment


          • #6
            Why itch feet?

            Originally posted by Novak View Post

            - The P3ESR seem to work very well with my humble Naim Nait 1 (15wpc?) with the portable Meridian Explorer DAC connected to my Mac Mini, playing lossless files. This sounds very good ...
            Not to be a killjoy or anything, but have you considered just leaving things as they are for a while, enjoying the music, and getting to know your speakers better before you do anything? If you like the sound you're getting now, what exactly is motivating you to want to change?

            Comment


            • #7
              You need simple

              Originally posted by anonymous View Post
              To be honest, it sounds like you want a change more than a release of funds. The Luxman and Accuphase options are not inexpensive. Never heard the Croft but have heard good things about it. I just decided I didn't want to deal with tubes, even in a preamp. No idea about the Sugden.

              Really, if I was looking to spend that money, I'd be more inclined to look into the M30.1, get a suitably powerful, but still inexpensive amplifier with tone controls, and keep the Meridian.
              I agree, spending most of what you can afford, and that your room can accommodate, on speakers is the way to go now, given the current fully evolved state of solid state electronics for amplification. Any budget amplifier from the known brands with a power output of 60-80wpc is all that is needed to deliver all the Harbeth sound quality, from the entire range of speakers. Tone controls, if desired, may involve a search.

              Lots of snake oil in external DACs as well - many cheaper and perfectly adequate options are available to feed the music files from the Mac to the amplifier.

              Comment


              • #8
                Sound first

                Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post
                Just because an amp "looks fantastic", is large, heavy and expensive, doesn't mean it will sound any better than a humble, inexpensive black box. In fact, the opposite is often the truth.
                I never implied that there was a correlation between good looks / build quality and the sound it will give. But, as it happens, I do value good design and build in anything that I buy. That especially applies to something I use on a very regular basis.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Amp selection

                  Originally posted by Novak View Post
                  I never implied that there was a correlation between good looks / build quality and the sound it will give. But, as it happens, I do value good design and build in anything that I buy. That especially applies to something I use on a very regular basis.
                  There's nothing wrong with wanting an attractive component. And the Luxman integrated amp is very attractive and feature-filled. It even has mono, on top of the tone controls. And what I understand to be a very nice MM/MC phonostage, which you may not use immediately, but may end up trying at some point.

                  Just contact the importer or dealer to find out about post purchase service, to ensure that it's to your satisfaction. I have a Luxman dealer 5 miles from my house, and had considered it myself. But, it was not worth it to me to spend the extra $3200 on the Luxman over the Marantz just to have the option of mono and 30 extra watts (or 10 extra watts going by the Miller Audio Research tests.) I use a moving magnet cartridge, so the MC option on the phonostage isn't especially worthwhile. And I'm now one of those who thinks the money is better spent on the speakers and the room, rather than the electronics. Everyone is different.

                  BTW, there was this thread on HUG:

                  http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/s...x-with-C7-ES-3

                  Maybe contact the Luxman owners on the thread for feedback of their experience. I know some prefer Class A for the "warmth" it imparts, but I prefer more watts for improved bottom end control.

                  Since you seem to be happy with the Nait presently, you've got all the time in the world to make a decision. Best of luck!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Simplicity

                    Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post
                    Just because an amp "looks fantastic", is large, heavy and expensive, doesn't mean it will sound any better than a humble, inexpensive black box. In fact, the opposite is often the truth.
                    Dave is bang on in my opinion. I had a Luxman 550ii and changed it for a Croft 25 pre and 7 power combo and much prefer it, uses less power and doesn't get as hot as a 2 bar electric fire! I also have P3ESR's

                    Cheers, Ed

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Paying for casework

                      Value for money is something which is concerning me more and more. I know this won't be popular but...

                      Look inside many items of 'high end' kit, as I often do, or just look at internal shots in the mags. You will see items for (say) 10K but with components worth 500, to be generous. What you do get, however, is wonderful casework, switches and meters, which often account for the majority of the manufacturing cost. You also get great packaging and marketing - all of which costs. None of this guarantees good sound and it could sell for 25% of the retail price with everyone still making adequate profits.

                      Also, if you are in the EEC, most high end Japanese equipment passes through a 'worldwide distributor'. This means that it is already at Japanese consumer pricing, maybe more, when it reaches the European dealer. The result is that you/we are paying way over what the kit is really worth, so it can't be good value.

                      For me, the ugly black UK boxes are at least as good as the 'bling' gear and don't cost anywhere near the price.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Amp choices

                        Yes, stuff in Japan is very expensive. I spent a fortune on a visit there a couple of years ago. As you say, importing from there pushes the price up even further!

                        I'd like to try a few amps, in particular the Croft (apparently an integrated 25/7 coming out?) Soneteer, Sugden. I'm going to start by trying the Luxman 550 AII, which will be the first class A I have heard. Very much looking forward to it. But it's returnable, so no risk there.

                        Will post my findings.

                        If it doesn't give me much.... I could just stick with the Nait 1 as it sounds fantastic. Possibly could get it serviced, too.
                        From there, I could try the Croft at my leisure.

                        I haven't looked into DACs yet, and don't know whether the tiny Meridian with its 3.5mm output is as capable as a more expensive one. I'm not enjoying the music any less than the Naim DAC/282/250.2/Hicap/NAPSC/Hiline/Powerlines. In fact, I think I prefer it a week onwards from the change over; it's a bit more lively and entertaining. It's not as controlled in the bass, but it's barely noticeable, and has the energy elsewhere in the frequencies.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Shl5 Easy load

                          Dave is dead on regarding imported equipment. I am currently in the market for an integrated to run my SHL5. Being in the states is forcing me to go with American made products. I see that most of HUG members seem to like the Naim, Leben, and LFD brands. The cost here for those brands IMO is too high. Looks like I will be seeking out US brands. I am a bit in the dark because this is my first go around with Harbeths.
                          I threw an old integrated 25 watt 5881 tube based unit for now. Sounds a bit dark and missing some impact on the bass. The sound is still purely enjoyable! The SHL5s present a totally different presentation from my current systems. Very easy to connect with the music emotionally with very little in the way of electronic costs. I like it!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Tube integrated

                            Dave is dead on regarding imported equipment. I am currently in the market for an integrated to run my SHL5. Being in the states is forcing me to go with American made products. I see that most of HUG members seem to like the Naim, Leben, and LFD brands. The cost here for those brands IMO is too high. Looks like I will be seeking out US brands.
                            If you're auditioning American products and you like tubes (I assume you do, based on your username) look into the Rogue Cronus Magnum integrated amplifier with KT120 tubes at $2300. Great value for the money, great customer service, and their products come with a 3 year warranty.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Croft and others

                              Originally posted by Novak View Post
                              Yes, stuff in Japan is very expensive. I spent a fortune on a visit there a couple of years ago. As you say, importing from there pushes the price up even further!

                              I'd like to try a few amps, in particular the Croft (apparently an integrated 25/7 coming out?) Soneteer, Sugden. I'm going to start by trying the Luxman 550 AII, which will be the first class A I have heard. Very much looking forward to it. But it's returnable, so no risk there.

                              Will post my findings.

                              If it doesn't give me much.... I could just stick with the Nait 1 as it sounds fantastic. Possibly could get it serviced, too.
                              From there, I could try the Croft at my leisure.

                              I haven't looked into DACs yet, and don't know whether the tiny Meridian with its 3.5mm output is as capable as a more expensive one. I'm not enjoying the music any less than the Naim DAC/282/250.2/Hicap/NAPSC/Hiline/Powerlines. In fact, I think I prefer it a week onwards from the change over; it's a bit more lively and entertaining. It's not as controlled in the bass, but it's barely noticeable, and has the energy elsewhere in the frequencies.
                              Croft do an integrated and have done for some time which is basically the 25 pre and 7 power in one box with an excellent phono stage if required. I would advise that you check out the Croft and the Luxman before deciding. Mac that posts on here went from a Sugden Masterclass to Accupase and loves the results.

                              Good luck with your search. Looking forward to how you get on.

                              Comment

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