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Would I notice much improvement in upgrading the amp?

Discussion in 'audio' started by Goat, Nov 3, 2021.

  1. Goat

    Goat pfm Member

    Currently I own an Arcam SA30 amp, which has a built-in DAC and streamer. To be honest, I only really use Tidal to stream, so it has enough functionality for me.

    It sounds great, and powers my little Spendors with ease. It sounds powerful, detailed, expansive and natural. However, that little voice (upgraditis) wonders whether I’d get appreciably more out of the speakers, by upgrading to say a Rega Aethos, Supernait 3 or Hegel H190, with a separate streamer.

    Is it more likely to be a sideways move, and different sound signature, rather than any significant improvement?

    I think the main areas I would appreciate an upgrade, would be in liveliness, punch, overall detail levels and soundstaging (although the latter two in particular are already pretty superb with the Arcam). Sometimes I also wonder whether the Arcam is a little too smooth with the Spendors, but how much of that is amp or speakers, is hard to tell.

    The £spend would be considerable though! So just musing at present.
  2. chartz

    chartz If it’s broke fix it!

    If you want a great stereo image, a bright sound, dynamics, take the route of valves. You’ll enjoy the nice distortion they display and the somehow re-recreated deep and large soundstage that isn’t on the recording. That never ceases to amaze me – I love valves for what they do, even if it’s not accurate, but who cares!
    Forget about transistor and small integrated amps.
    Don’t get me wrong though, transistors can make music, but the really good ones are expensive.
    I use a huge 80’s dual mono Technics SE-A3 too and it’s the only one that can compete with my (DIY) valve setup.
  3. tuga

    tuga Legal Alien

    What would you like to improve in your particular setup?
    Moving to higher performance separate boxes (streamer, DAC and integrated) has the potential to improve the sound, but perhaps you could consider replacing the speakers instead since these are the element which has the most impact on the sonic "presentation" (speakers then amplifier then DAC then streamer). Which Spendors are you using?

    If possible take your Arcam to a dealer which sells your Spendors (or take the speakers with you), try a streamer into two different integrateds vs. the Arcam jack-of-all-trades, and also compare the Spendors to a couple of alternatives.
    hifinutt likes this.
  4. Goat

    Goat pfm Member

    Thanks @chartz, I'd imagine valves would certainly offer a different sound. The Primaluna Evo amps look great for example.

    Thanks @tuga, as above, the main attributes would be a slight uptick in liveliness but I was thinking more generally across the board. Spendor Classic 4/5. I know what you mean about trying alternative speakers, but having home demoed around 10-12 different speakers, these have been the best overall to my ears, room and domestic circumstances. It's mainly just upgraditis!

    That said, Proac remain one itch I've not explored. The D2R especially is intriguing. But the fact I found even the Ls50 Meta, Q Acoustics concept 300 and dynaudio S40 a bit overwhelming bass wise in my 4x4m bedroom, makes me suspect the D2r's would be a similar story.
  5. hifinutt

    hifinutt hifinutt

    what spendors are you using ? the sa30 is a pretty good amp . be worth spending money on upgrading speakers possibly as tuga has said
    Steve 57 likes this.
  6. Goat

    Goat pfm Member

    Classic 4/5s. But as above, they came out on top (ticked most boxes) over a fair number of alternatives in my room:

    ATC SCM11 (bit too clinical, but a close runner up)

    Kef LS50 Meta (bit lumpy in the bass and crispy in presentation)

    Spendor A4 (slightly too much bass, and audible crossover from mid to high)

    Spendor Classic 3/1 (bit syrupy and polite, plus slightly too much bass at times, still very good though)

    Q Acoustics Concept 300 (too bright and lacking toe tapping)

    Kef R3 (slightly too much bass, slight edge to highs, mids lacked warmth)

    Dynaudio Special 40 (fantastic, but quite explicit in highs, plus bass boom if not well away from walls)

    Dynaudio Evoke 10 (lacked virtues of S40s)

    PMC 21 (ragged, narrow stage, overpriced)

    Graham Audio LS6 (too much bass)

    B&W 705s2 (bit too bright)

    It's why I was wondering if tweaking what I had was a better option.

    But proac have eluded me to date, as have Dali.

    Or perhaps I should just stick. Overall the speakers and amp sound fantastic. Only sometimes I crave a bit more scale or bite.
  7. jobseeker

    jobseeker pfm Member

    Unless there’s some kind of mismatch, I think that changing speakers usually has the most potential for improving the sound.
    Goat likes this.
  8. KeithL

    KeithL pfm Member

    Scale comes with larger drivers. Try some with 12 or 15 inch drivers.
  9. RoA

    RoA pfm Member

    I would (guess) the Rega and Naim amplifiers would go some way towards what you are seeking ... whilst at the same time possibly taking away some of what you currently appreciate ...

    Only one way to find out.
    Goat likes this.
  10. Gervais Cote

    Gervais Cote Predator

    My vote would be the Supernait 3 as it does match very well (if not perfectly !) with bookshelf speakers like the ones you have. It will wake them up if I may say.
    Goat likes this.
  11. daytona600

    daytona600 Registered User

    Goat and Gervais Cote like this.
  12. Mullardman

    Mullardman Moderately extreme...

    In my experience, Arcam amps are a little 'soft' sounding. That of course may or may not work well with your speakers..... and your ears...

    So what do you actually want?

    I have to say that after half a lifetime of 'chasing the dream'.. playing with multiple boxes, etc..etc.. I came down to a decent integrated, which drives my speakers well, in my room. It took a while for that to sink in... ( I'm not too bright..) ..but when it did, I started listening to music again...
    Goat, Snufkin and RoA like this.
  13. ryder

    ryder pfm Member

    New amp or new speaker. Both are valid suggestions. In the end it will depend on what you want to achieve, or how much you love the Spendor Classic 4/5.

    I can't comment if a new amp will bring a small or significant difference since I do not have experience with the Spendor. My current speakers respond well to different amps, particularly the Marten which is capable of revealing the character of the amp more than the Harbeth. In other words, the speakers are a lot fussier when it comes to partnering equipment. They will sound underwhelming or poor if the gear are not up to it.
    Goat likes this.
  14. cj66

    cj66 pfm Member

    Very much agree with @Mullardman, I've always associated Arcam with a slightly woolly overall sound signature. It really depends on what you want to achieve.
    I too have quite a humble, simple system that I have no desire, currently :rolleyes:, to alter.
    Done the upgraditis thing many eons ago and had wonderful results but with the prices of equipment these days I do not envisage doing that again. Plus there are other boys toys that are more interesting to me.
    Goat likes this.
  15. Neil P

    Neil P pfm Member

    Does your amp have preouts? Could you connect something like a NAP200? Mine is about to be listed on the classifieds...
    Goat likes this.
  16. hifi-dog

    hifi-dog pfm Member

    as a supernait 3 and dynaidio evoke 10 user i would say its a great combo, not heard the s40's but the 10's on the end of the nait, communicate music with plenty of bass and lovely rich mids with sweet top end. Mine are 20cm from the wall.
    Gervais Cote and Goat like this.
  17. RichardAusten

    RichardAusten Active Member

    I think you have realized that no matter what you listen to perfection doesn't exist - if you buy a speaker like the Spendor that is perhaps smooth then it doesn't present the crispness as much as you may like on some of your music - if you buy the 'crispy KEFs' then that may be fine on those recordings but lack eloquence on music that calls for it. It's not an easy balancing act.

    I remember when I reviewed my speakers I noted that they were fantastically balanced - maybe an 8.5-9/10 in every audio area BUT that means they were state of the art in no one area. And for people who want the ultimate macro-dynamics or shake the roof bass - they're not going to give you that - and far less expensive speakers can do it! Albeit in my view with far more shortcomings.

    I definitely would NOT try and throw money at the problem because amplifiers are the same way - you buy that amp with the big slam and maybe you'll be happy but then two months later you are sitting there wondering that something else is "off" that you used to have with the old amplifier which is now gone - then you end up on a perpetual upgrade treadmill.

    My general advice is to try and audition higher sensitive and higher efficiency speakers - they typically have more dynamic ease and often sound lighter and airier than small box low sensitive speakers. And from your audition list - they're all cut from a similar cloth - hard to drive low-efficiency low sensitivity. The problem is that easy-to-drive speakers that sound good tend to cost some money.

    I have owned the Audio Note AX Two for ten years - it's 90dB 6 ohm and only needs 7 watts to drive - it's an ugly-looking speaker compared to your list but I think it sounds better than all of them. It was designed by Andy Whittle of Rogers for Audio Note and it's made in Denmark. Finding a second-hand pair is almost your only chance as they had a fire or something at the plant and have temporarily stopped making them. They retailed for $1k US so is less expensive than most or all on your list - I had the KEF LS-50 for 4 years but decided to keep the AX Two.

    Still, there is a reason all of these brands make dearer speakers so in the end, even the very best $1k speaker will not do it all - but the higher sensitive speakers do sound more out of the box and tend to exhibit more transient attacks and "life" while the heavily damped boxes may take some resonances away but they take the sound you want to hear away as well.

    But the AX Two looks cheap unfortunately - I remember auditioning it for people against my sexy LS-50 everyone likes the KEF - then I played music - they all wanted the former.

    This review is quite good because they take the speaker apart and go over all the parts, the crossover and the oddball design.

    Probably more able to find a cheap one used in Europe than the US, Australia or Canada. But even if you don't like them or can't find one - I'd still try for HE speakers - maybe from Omega, ZU audio (some find these really bright though) Tekton etc.
    Goat and Old Shatterhand like this.

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