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Thread: Integrated Amp for SHL5 (and amp comparisons)

  1. #1
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    Default Integrated Amp for SHL5 (and amp comparisons)

    Hi Everyone!

    This is my 1st posting in this forum.

    I am the proud owner of a brand new pair of SHL5s, together with the Auditorium 24 speaker cables (bi wirable version).

    I am trying to decide on the following integrated amps to pair the SHL5s with:

    1. Pass Labs
    2. Lavardin IT
    3. LFD

    I would really appreciate some feedback from those who have experienced the SHL5s with either of these amps. Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    Default Pass/Lavardin/LFD

    i can not you about the pass. i do have the lavardin IS. in my ears they match perfect to the SHL5. The "little" IS has enough power to make the Harbeth sing! I have heard the IT only some tracks at my dealers studio, and we both agreed that you do not win anything with the IT. In my opinion the IT is only recommended when you want to listen very loud whit bigger speakers.

    I have heard to the LFD LE MK IV and liked it a lot. It is very similar to the Lavardin, maybe little more muscles but less easiness. I you have more money to spend the IS Reference is the (little) next step.

  3. #3
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    Default Consider Sugden

    Hi aakrn,

    Amongst the 3 amps u mentioned, i'd go for either Lavardin or LFD. The design concept of the 2 amps couldn't be more different. Both use a pair of carefully matched mosfet transistors per channel & IMHO, this concept yields a very musical presentation though they are not designed to bring down the house with the likes of high powered amps. But musically & tonally, they are very hard to beat. Try to listen to the Lavardin IS Reference & or LFD LE IV. I agree with tcb1935 that the IT is not really 'better' than the smaller IS Reference. I can't say much about Passlab amps as i find myself not being able to warm up to its presentation, having heard it in action many times in super expensive setups. However, do have a listen to these as well. If you like Class A amps & have a budget to blow on a Passlab, i suggest you have a listen to Sugden A21SE as well. Goes very well with SHL-5 too.

  4. #4
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    Default Selection of amp by check list ...

    First, any properly designed amplifier working within its limitations will power Harbeths fine.

    A lot of amplifiers are overbuilt/overpriced or just plain overpriced.

    My process of elimination:
    I eliminated any manufacturer that…
    1) Made erroneous claims about their amplifiers in relation to sound quality (this does not mean they don’t mention sound quality, but that their adjectives are carefully chosen). You would be surprised at how few options were left after this. ***Integrity is important to me***
    2) Wasn’t made in Europe/North America. This is of course for personal reasons that I will not justify. I try to support the NA/European economy whenever I can, period.
    3) Was superfluous and overbuilt/exotic.
    4) Showed a lack of respect for the user/product interface.
    5) Did not have a proven track record in terms of warranty and aftercare.

    I needed something that was compact, attractive and truly well engineered and designed. I ended up with QUAD because no contemporary amplifier manufacturer really survived my process of elimination and/or made me feel good about a potential purchase. My love of QUAD gear runs deep.

    Cyrus makes well engineered and flexible amplifiers for a modest price. However, they are a lot like naim insofar that they purport sonic achievements through various "upgrade" paths that the customer can take after the purchase, which can be endless, expensive and ultimately lead to anxiety if the customer is not secure in their judgment.

  5. #5
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    Default QUAD - UK mode?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zemlya View Post
    I needed something that was compact, attractive and truly well engineered and designed. I ended up with QUAD because no contemporary amplifier manufacturer really survived my process of elimination and/or made me feel good about a potential purchase. My love of QUAD gear runs deep.
    .
    I agree with you about the Quad. My 99/909 combination has served me very well for almost a decade, and pair very well with Harbeths. Aren't they Chinese owned and made though?! Mine are, not that I care myself. Perhaps you bought your gear before the change of ownership.

  6. #6
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    Default Chinese owned ex-UK brands like QUAD

    Quad are Chinese owned and Chinese manufactured and have been for quite a few years.

    What fascinates me is why companies like Quad, Cambridge Audio, Audiolab, KEF, Celestion, Wharfedale etc, never mention they are no longer British companies. What have they to hide ?

  7. #7
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    Default Hiding the unacceptable

    Quote Originally Posted by hifi_dave View Post
    What fascinates me is why companies like Quad, Cambridge Audio, Audiolab, KEF, Celestion, Wharfedale etc, never mention they are no longer British companies. What have they to hide ?
    Precisely that!
    So that the buy British market remains captive to the extent ignorance allows it to? Also, Chinese manufacturing had connotations of cheap, poor quality - just as the Japanese had in their early days.

  8. #8
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    Default Home demo first

    Yes. Quad is owned by China now. As for me, I like my setup simple. Int amp is good and lucky enough Harbeth is perfect with Int amp too. I actually start to think why need pre power at home? It is like another marketing plan to get more money or an impressive setup to show of?

    Try to demo the amps at home before buying if possible.
    "Bath in Music"

  9. #9
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    Default Straighforward engineering

    Quote Originally Posted by aakrn View Post
    I would really appreciate some feedback from those who have experienced the SHL5s with either of these amps. Thanks in advance!
    Here is a quote of interest, from Wikipedia:

    Quad have always had a very straightforward engineering view of their products, and insisted that all amplifiers of adequate quality sounded the same when used within their capabilities, and that speaker cable had no sound at all, unless ludicrously long and thin wire is used.

    To verify or disprove that amplifiers of adequate quality sound the same, Quad commissioned James Moir to organise and conduct listening tests comparing Quad II, Quad 303 and Quad 405 amplifiers. Statistical analysis of the expert listening panel's scores showed that "the decisions of the panel were no better than might be expected from sheer chance".
    And Harbeth speakers are known to be a friendly load to amps, so that amps can remain within their capability. All I suggest you need to do is make sure the amp has the power delivery that is specified to be needed in the SHL5 specs. Perhaps increase that by 20%, if you want to play safe.

    Most well known brands of today's solid state amps - even the budget end of the model ranges - will then be all you need to have the speakers sing as designed. Also, look for a brand that is known for good build quality and long life - again, these don't cost an arm and a leg these days.

    Look to spend time/money/effort on speaker positioning and improving room acoustics to the extent possible, for best results.

    {Moderator's comments: Good to see James Moir's name again. He was first class audio engineer of the like we will never see again. Practical and pragmatic and completely trustworthy. As Alan said reading this, 'if Moir said it I'd bet $10000 on his conclusion'.}

  10. #10
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    Default Lavardin for me

    Personally, I''m having a Lavardin IS. It is a beautiful amplifier that drove my SHL5 musically since day 1. There is no reason to go for the IT. I had the IT briefly; the perception is that the model IS is almost 90% the IT. you are paying for more drive and probably certain attributes that make it finer. if you got the money, i would say go for the IT and that will probably satisfied you for many years.

    other than Lavardin, Leben, Rega were in my amplifier list. Eventually Lavardin took the pole position..

    I would love to have a LFD LE mk4 amplifier one day.. a British amp to pair with SHL5.. if budget permits, i would go straight for the NCSE.

    however, frankly speaking, I dont know how they would sound with SHL5 in my ROOM? fast,slow,full,flat,warm,neutral.. ?? and I need to buy it blindly..


    it takes some effort, time and $ to find a amplifier that suits you ergonomically and musically

    happy hunting

  11. #11
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    Default Integrated is simplicity

    Quote Originally Posted by keithwwk View Post
    Int amp is good and lucky enough Harbeth is perfect with Int amp too. I actually start to think why need pre power at home? It is like another marketing plan to get more money or an impressive setup to show of?
    I agree. If I was buying today, I would go integrated.

    I got the pre/power in my audiophile days - but this was one of the better decisions even so, and to be sure there were some pretty poor ones. The 909 is a 140wpc robust and bullet proof brick of a box, and even though it runs hot for a solid state, seems long lasting. I hope to use it for another 10 years. The 99 pre is also unique for its features. It accepts both moving coil and moving magnet phono inputs, a rare feature. It also has the Quad tone controls, at a time tone controls are out of fashion in hifi gear. This one too seems robust enough to last another decade.

    Would I buy a pair again today - no, because of the simplicity of an integrated, and because I now am content with things that are good enough. But that isn't reason enough to change amps now as long as the Quads are working fine.

  12. #12
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    Default Amps and origins

    International Audio Group (the QUAD brand) is Chinese owned. But QUAD's headquarters and service depot are still in UK.

    Again, I don't really care because I was only referring to vintage QUAD.

    Again, you guys act like one amplifier will work dramatically better than the other.

    {Moderator's comment: Noted. It doesn't matter what you, or we say about amps, the audiophile demonstrates day after day that he is completely brainwashed. Tragic. What a dictator couldn't achieve the marketing machine has.}

  13. #13
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    Default A challenge ....

    Here is a challenge then.

    If, in a controlled experiment with all variables accounted for (incl. differences in frequency reponse and within the power range appropriate to the amps) under instantaneous A-B relay switchover, driving any Harbeth speakers, if you can positively identify an amplifier by sound alone, I will give you, FOC, a pair of brand new Harbeth speakers, up to and including a pair of M40.1 in any veneer you fancy.

    I am quite confident that under controlled conditions, these fabled amplifier differences disappear and that I will never be parting with my money!

    However, I don't have the time to play around. You have to conceive of the test, design the switch over system and bring it to us here and we'll cooperate fully. There are plenty of examples of carefully constructed tests over the past 30+ years to draw on that meet my critera, and every one of them comes to the same conclusion. As far as this 'amp matching to Harbeth speakers' issue goes, it is a non-issue. As dead as the dodo. I cannot comment on the amp matching for other speaker brands. We take care to make our speaker an easy load: other speaker designers may be less consumer-focused.

    NO CORRESPONDENCE PLEASE - CALL ME WHEN YOU HAVE THE WHOLE PLAN EXECUTED!

    Amplifiers should be selected not for "sound quality" (whatever that is) but for facilities, design integrity, durability, after care and likelyhood of being able to source service parts in 5 or 10 years. Also, if you're really serious, a quick peek at the financial standing of the brand might tell you if they are likely to have the financial resources to weather the economic downturn of the next few years which is effecting the whole consumer electronics sector. Some of the most likely surviving (UK) brands rarely advertise, rarely exhibit, have relatively old-fashioned designs, use standard parts, have been around for a generation and are rock solid businesses. They deserve to be respected and supported because they will be there to look after you in 10+ years.

    There are some very difficult times ahead for the consumer industry: now is a time to be cautious.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  14. #14
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    Default Short list ....

    Thanks everyone for pitching in. Appreciate it.

    Based on the discussions above (excluding the made in China discussion), for an integrated amp, it seems a toss up between Lavardin IS, Lavardin IS Ref, Lavardin IT, LFD LE Mk4, LFD NCSE, Sugden A21SE. Has anyone had the privilege of making a comparison of these amps with the SHL5s?

    I listen to a wide range of music from vocals, to pop, R&B, soft rock and jazz.

  15. #15
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    Default My Premiere amps

    Alan,

    I was using a Primare pre power combo (120 watts rms/CH) and a matching Primare cd player to drive a pair of JM Labs floor standing speakers. It was a perfect match.

    When I "inherited" the SHL5s, i used my Primare electronics to drive them instead. Immediately there was less sparkle to the music (but for a better top end). Overall, things became dull. I have since sold off my entire Primare electronics and the JM Labs are used for Home Theatre.

    So it is quite difficult to accept that amps (or cd players for that matter) make little or no difference to the quality of music reproduction. At the very least, different brands have varying characteristics (i.e. Type of sound).

    {Moderator's comment: so you changed the speakers and didn't like the dryer sound. How can you blame the amps .... surely that's to do with the speakers ....}

  16. #16
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    Default What does the designer know? Nothing.

    Quote Originally Posted by aakrn View Post
    Thanks everyone for pitching in. Appreciate it.

    Based on the discussions above (excluding the made in China discussion), for an integrated amp, it seems a toss up between Lavardin IS, Lavardin IS Ref, Lavardin IT, LFD LE Mk4, LFD NCSE, Sugden A21SE. Has anyone had the privilege of making a comparison of these amps with the SHL5s?

    I listen to a wide range of music from vocals, to pop, R&B, soft rock and jazz.
    With all due respect, why would you completely ignore the advice given by the one person who is most intimately connected with the design of the HL5?

    Groupthink is the psychological term.

    Use a process of rational elimination. Be honest with yourself: what is important to you in an preamp/amplifier that does not pertain to "sound quality" in a transcendental sense.

    Regarding Alan's challenge. Sounds like a very cheap way to acquire a brand new pair of M40s. Even if you have to do a little leg work and pay for a $1,000 round trip ticket to England, it would still be cheaper than a pair of P3ESRs. Good luck to anybody who tries--you will desperately need it!

  17. #17
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    Default Disturbing belief...

    Quote Originally Posted by aakrn View Post
    {Moderator's comment: so you changed the speakers and didn't like the dryer sound. How can you blame the amps .... surely that's to do with the speakers ....}
    Oh no, people actually believe that the amplifier is the most critical component in the sound of their stereo system. Either that or they lack critical thinking faculties. Sorry if this sounds harsh. I'm not trying to be confrontational but it's become all too clear to me and quite frankly, it's disturbing.

  18. #18
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    Default Hifi should't sound impressive

    Hi aakrn, you are too used to your previous speaker sound. Now you suddenly into natural sound of harbeth you feel less engaging. It is like audiophile comment the sound of a live unamplified music in a decent concert hall no high and dull and his home hifi sound is much transparent and airy.

    You can contact Roland for the LFD (Sg dealer). He is using SHL5 and enjoying it very much.
    "Bath in Music"

  19. #19
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    Default Ponder winning M40.1

    @aakm:
    You have the possibility to show these different sound characteristics (of brands).
    I just made some "research" on amazon. There is a Sony amp (even a receiver) called STR-DH 100 with 2 x 90 watts for 132,- € (here in Germany).
    The engineers say (and know) that it sounds the same as any of your mentioned Lavardins or whatever.

    If you can hear the differences in a blind-test you can get a M40.1!!

    If someone who knows more about audio than (presumably) any of us that should at least make you pondering.

  20. #20
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by aakrn View Post
    Alan,

    I was using a Primare pre power combo (120 watts rms/CH) and a matching Primare cd player to drive a pair of JM Labs floor standing speakers. It was a perfect match.

    When I "inherited" the SHL5s, i used my Primare electronics to drive them instead. Immediately there was less sparkle to the music (but for a better top end). Overall, things became dull. I have since sold off my entire Primare electronics and the JM Labs are used for Home Theatre.

    So it is quite difficult to accept that amps (or cd players for that matter) make little or no difference to the quality of music reproduction. At the very least, different brands have varying characteristics (i.e. Type of sound).

    {Moderator's comment: so you changed the speakers and didn't like the dryer sound. How can you blame the amps .... surely that's to do with the speakers ....}
    Dear Moderator,

    Indeed it was the speakers that was the cause of the duller sound. But I loved the musicality and good top end of the SHL5s. They were a very easy listen

    I felt that the Primare equipment was either not a good match or insufficient to drive these speakers adequately. For example, with the SHL5s, I had to crank up the volume higher to hear what I used to be able to hear at a lower volume with the JM Labs.

    Hence my decision to sell my entire swedish electronics and to start afresh. So this is exciting times (at least for me).

    {Moderator's comment: strange. Sound like you are describing the difference between the bright 'Eurobox' speaker sound and the natural sound of music. Fear you have needlessly disposed of your electronics}

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