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Thread: Amplifier selection for your Harbeths (general, not specific Harbeth models)

  1. #481
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    Default

    Hi Zemiya,
    Buying vintage is a good option. I recently found a Yamaha CA-810 integrated amplifier (ca. 1978-79) in excellent condition for only $125 at a used shop here in Seattle. Great sound, tone controls, phono sections for moving magnet and moving coil! And the MM section even has variable loading! Add a nice USB DAC and you're in business for streaming digital music. The incandescent meter lights burned out long ago, so I am replacing them with some snazzy new blue LEDs for just $20. One of these days, when I feel like a little project, I'll see about replacing some of the old electrolytics, which are also relatively inexpensive at any electronics supply.

    You'd be surprised at how good the amps were from that era compared to some of the modern stuff. Vintage is a great way to get great sound and save money. It is worthwhile to have the unit checked out by a competent technician before you hook it up to your Harbeths, though!

  2. #482
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    Oct 2011
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    Canada
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jplaurel View Post
    Hi Zemiya,
    Buying vintage is a good option. I recently found a Yamaha CA-810 integrated amplifier (ca. 1978-79) in excellent condition for only $125 at a used shop here in Seattle. Great sound, tone controls, phono sections for moving magnet and moving coil! And the MM section even has variable loading! Add a nice USB DAC and you're in business for streaming digital music. The incandescent meter lights burned out long ago, so I am replacing them with some snazzy new blue LEDs for just $20. One of these days, when I feel like a little project, I'll see about replacing some of the old electrolytics, which are also relatively inexpensive at any electronics supply.

    You'd be surprised at how good the amps were from that era compared to some of the modern stuff. Vintage is a great way to get great sound and save money. It is worthwhile to have the unit checked out by a competent technician before you hook it up to your Harbeths, though!
    Absolutely. However, for me it's not about saving money. It's about living with a product that stands above the trends, hype, marketing and fluff of high-end audio. Something that I feel good about owning, and doesn't make me want to own anything else--a fine product indeed.

    I personally love the look of some of those older receivers. Your CA-810 is no exception.

  3. #483
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    Default Yba?

    Hi guys, any users of YBA heritage range of amplifiers? Thinking to do a combo here with the new compact 7..... Feedback on such combi will be deeply appreciated.... Many thanks....

  4. #484
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    Aug 2013
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    Italy
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    100

    Default YBA - just works

    Quote Originally Posted by Meltan View Post
    Hi guys, any users of YBA heritage range of amplifiers? Thinking to do a combo here with the new compact 7..... Feedback on such combi will be deeply appreciated.... Many thanks....
    YBA Heritage A100 driving Harbeth P3ESR here. Plenty of power, digitally controlled volume very precise and smooth, handy remote, solid casework build. Pre output bypass, should you ever feel like adding a powered subwoofer.

    Speaking about musical performances, it doesn't add any audible distortion to my sources... what else? I don't believe in sonic signature of electronics, unless they are broken.

  5. #485
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    Default Your music?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nessuno View Post
    YBA Heritage A100 driving Harbeth P3ESR here. Plenty of power, digitally controlled volume very precise and smooth, handy remote, solid casework build. Pre output bypass, should you ever feel like adding a powered subwoofer.

    Speaking about musical performances, it doesn't add any audible distortion to my sources... what else? I don't believe in sonic signature of electronics, unless they are broken.
    Thank you ! what genre of music do you listen to may I ask?

  6. #486
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    Default Vert slow progres in amplifier features - why buy now?

    Buying or keeping vintage is not a bad idea at the moment. Modern amplifiers do not sound any better than good old ones, and vintage Japanse amplifiers and recievers were well made. On the other hand, some parts may have deteriorated and may need replacing, while cheap modern gear like the dirt cheap Pulse SRA160 that Alan recently tested can sound just as good for equally little money and no risk of urgent maintenance issues.

    My personal guess is that now is not a good moment to invest heavily in electronics, given the transition phase we are in with regard to sources. Believe it or not, most amplifiers still only have analogue inputs and lack networking abilities. Good sources on the other hand are effectively only digital, and it would be so logical to have a quality DAC built into the amplifier.

    Think of the following sources: BD player for discs, tv tuner for tv, computer for ripped and streamed recordings and a DAB+ tuner for radio (preferably built into the amplifier to save money and space). So a good amplifier now needs usb, coax and optical digital inputs (preferably two of each), but hardly any have this: instead they have lots of analogue inputs for obsolete analogue sources. Amplifiers could also do with airplay, dlna compatibility etc.

    Interestingly, many new micro systems and AV receivers have a lot of these facilities (though mostly not all of them, grrr). More powerful stereo receivers and amplifiers are still behind this trend, but I do believe that in one or two years time they will have caught up, at least the major Japanese brands.

    So what I have done is to get my Quad 33-303 refurbished and keep it up to date with an external dac (nothing fancy, because I don't believe that expensive DAC's are audibly better).

  7. #487
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    Default Mixed music

    Quote Originally Posted by Meltan View Post
    Thank you ! what genre of music do you listen to may I ask?
    You are welcome. Mainly classical, most of the time baroque and chamber music, but also pop tracks from the eighties and a little jazz, now and then.
    Never reached or even approached A100 power limits with anything, neither pipe organs or symphonic stuff: my ears always give up earlier!

  8. #488
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    Default Nad

    I use a NAD D3020 with Monitor 20 speakers.

  9. #489
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    USA
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    108

    Default Due diligence with electronics now

    Quote Originally Posted by willem View Post
    So what I have done is to get my Quad 33-303 refurbished and keep it up to date with an external dac (nothing fancy, because I don't believe that expensive DAC's are audibly better).
    willem, I have one stand alone DAC in the home, the older arcam rdac (I paid $250 as they were replaced by the irdac) when I hooked that up to my CD player just to try it (I normally run via RCA to amp) I couldn't detect any specific sonic change, it made me briefly wonder how much real change might a DAC at $2500 or $10000 make....and I had a hunch that it is probably very little. What do you personally feel is sensible money for a DAC?

    It really makes me wonder just how different a $200 and a $8000 DAC can be, HUG has given me pause for thought regarding electronics, I recently became aware that my old rega planet CDP and a cheap DVD player at 1/12 the price are indistinguishable when playing cd's, at least to my ears.

    When I read reviews of amps/DAC/CDP I skip the sound description, descriptions like 'lacks refinement' 'punchy' 'shimmery' 'gutsy' 'tuneful' 'dark' 'needs more weight' mean nothing, I will assume that it will sound pretty much like any other, for me the problem is trying to reconcile the huge price discrepancy of electronics, it does make me feel foolish (or not!) for paying 450 UK pounds for my CD player back then, at least it was not crazy money.

  10. #490
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    Aug 2014
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    Default Be aware of amplifier noise (hiss and hum)

    One thing I think users should be aware of is amp noise.

    Amps have different levels of hiss, hum, interaction with other electronics on the line, the noise can change when moving balance and volume controls.

    In auditioning an amp in future I will always get my ears to the box and the speakers and see how noisy it is. With music off I'll turn up the volume for line/phono, swing the balance left and right and see if the noise changes.

    All other things being equal, noise can be very different and distracting, something to be cautious of.

  11. #491
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    Default Jack of all trades, master on none?

    Quote Originally Posted by willem View Post
    So a good amplifier now needs usb, coax and optical digital inputs (preferably two of each), but hardly any have this: instead they have lots of analogue inputs for obsolete analogue sources. Amplifiers could also do with airplay, dlna compatibility etc.
    But, as they say... being the jack of all trades is not always a good thing: an all analogue amplifier is, functionally wise a very basical device that could last for decades if reasonably well built, while some if not all of current digital encoding and communication standards might be well surpassed in a few years.

    So the classical three-tier schema: source - amplifier - speakers, where the source is now a multimedia multistandard DSP-DAC, is always valid and in my opinion recommended.

  12. #492
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    Default Dacs in amplifiers?

    I don't think there is much point in spending zillions on a DAC. The very best pro audio DAC is the Benchmark DAC2 and it sells for $1700-2000, and it is not just a DAC but also a fully fledged pro audio pre-amplifier with a multitude of connections. Benchmark are a very serious pro audio company that do not go for snake oil nonsense.

    If it is just a usb DAC you are looking for, the Epiphany E-DAC version of the legendary ODAC, selling in the UK for just 90 pounds (there are other incarnations in different markets), is probably indistinguishable from the Benchmark.

    If you want a handful of cheap DAC's for legacy systems around the house, the Behringer UCA 202 is your best bet at some 20 pounds. It will improve on the inbuilt DACs of just about any laptop etc, but not necessarily that much on the inbuilt soundcard of the better desktop motherboards. I love the thing. See here for a review by the legendary designer of the ODAC: http://nwavguy.blogspot.nl/2011/02/b...02-review.html I recently bought a cheap FiiO Taishan coax and optical DAC to connect the digital output of my son's new flatscreen television to his legacy stereo (a Kenwood KR 3600 from the 1970's). It seems fine, but tv sound is not that good a source, of course.

    As I said, I am expecting DAC's to become an integrated part of amplifiers, and where that is already the case, they don't seem to have raised the price of those systems by much, if at all. The crucial chips all come from the same few vendors, and they don't cost a fortune. In itself that is already a warning against ultra expensive stuff. You pay more for casework or hot air, and if you are unlucky you may even pay more for a lot less (see the Nuforce experience of NWavguy), i.e. gear that measures terribly because it has been 'tuned by ear'.

  13. #493
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    Australia
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    Default DACs >$1000 may be somewhat pricey for what they offer

    Quote Originally Posted by acroyear View Post
    willem, I have one stand alone DAC in the home, the older arcam rdac (I paid $250 as they were replaced by the irdac) when I hooked that up to my CD player just to try it (I normally run via RCA to amp) I couldn't detect any specific sonic change, it made me briefly wonder how much real change might a DAC at $2500 or $10000 make....and I had a hunch that it is probably very little. What do you personally feel is sensible money for a DAC?
    That's a very open-ended question, and no doubt the answer will vary a lot. I would certainly think that a DAC priced at $10,000 is somewhat on the exorbitant side. $1000 would probably get you a well-made, reliable, and stylish DAC. Maybe even $500 would as well.

    It really makes me wonder just how different a $200 and a $8000 DAC can be, HUG has given me pause for thought regarding electronics, I recently became aware that my old rega planet CDP and a cheap DVD player at 1/12 the price are indistinguishable when playing cd's, at least to my ears.
    I am not at all surprised by that observation. I have had great difficulty in telling apart an old mid-range Sony ES CD player run through a Denon PRA-1500 preamp versus a digital signal from a WDTV Live streamer sent to a Sony 46" LCD TV, where the TV's analogue outputs are then connected to the PRA-1500.

    When I read reviews of amps/DAC/CDP I skip the sound description, descriptions like 'lacks refinement' 'punchy' 'shimmery' 'gutsy' 'tuneful' 'dark' 'needs more weight' mean nothing, I will assume that it will sound pretty much like any other, for me the problem is trying to reconcile the huge price discrepancy of electronics...
    As you've found, a huge price discrepancy between electronic components such as some amps/DAC/CDP does not mean that there is a similarly huge discrepancy in sound quality. Sure, higher cost can and usually does reflect the overall quality of the product, but when the differences get into stratospheric levels then suitable care must be exercised by the buyer. And the reviewers need to exercise their vocabulary to make up for their general lack of objective testing equipment. And how many do carefully constructed A/B comparisons of these components? Not many from what I can gather by reading various reviews. And then if you've had the opportunity to audition a set of loudspeakers that a reviewer has written about, you can often be left seriously wondering what's going on in audio review land.

    ... it does make me feel foolish (or not!) for paying 450 UK pounds for my CD player back then, at least it was not crazy money.
    I take it that your CD player is still working? It will hopefully continue to do so for a while more. And as you say, it wasn't "crazy money"!

  14. #494
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    Default The HUG antidote

    Witwald.

    Yes, thankfully the CDP is still working, since 1998.

    Audioland is a very tricky place to visit, I have always assumed until recently that higher $ electronics meant a better sound, simply on trust. I did see one blind listening test (a 'which set up do you prefer') online from a Spanish website, the speakers were the same, a competent $1500 pair of stand mounts. The electronics and cables in one were about $12,000, the other about $500 including a pro studio power amp and using the cheapo red/white rca cables that cost about $1, I think both amps were about 100W, I'm not sure about level matching etc but out of all the listeners (about 38 people) seems half could not decide, the remaining were split 50/50 on which system they preferred.

    To me the mere fact that $1 cheap RCA phono was being contrasted in part with some exotic interconnect used in the $12,000 set up really made me think hard about audio land.

    End users are not always helpful either, on audio forums the advice is a mine field of contradictions, HUG is currently an antidote and pretty much the only place where some effort is made to actually test our systems is in place (thanks Alan, the test tones for clipping for eg).

    If I complain my system is 'forward' I might be persuaded that my system has too much gain (occams razor resides in the HUG arena thankfully), elsewhere I might be told I need a new expensive CDP, or some $600 interconnect, or a 3W valve amp, or a mains conditioner, or the same 3W amp with different tubes not those cheap ones, or that my room needs bass traps on the walls!

  15. #495
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    Aug 2014
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    Default

    A potentially useful amplifier choice for the 'hugger' could be parasound 2100 pre and 2125 v2 power amp, about $1300 together.

    Seemingly full of useful features including:
    1) tone controls (a review measurements show they might be a bit less subtle than typical?).
    2) 2 choices of a high pass filter to protect loudspeakers (20Hz and 40Hz) could be good for vinyl users.
    3) Gain controls on the power amp, most sensitive is THX standard and you can rotate left to reduce.
    4) Decent power, 150W into 8.

    at least to my mind these features would be very useful, much more flexibility than just a volume and fixed gain input!

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