I've owned my Arcam Alpha8 Integrated and 8 Power amps for about six years now and during that time they have served me very well. They are punchy and have deep bass married with a detailed and extended top end. Only in the mid-range I felt they could do with a little more expression and insight.
I had the Quad 99 preamp and 909 power amp, priced £749 and £899 respectively.
While I enjoyed the quads greater detail and musicality they lacked grunt and seemed to be to polite with rock, don't get me wrong, they could rock but were just to polite and too sweet in the mid-band the stereo imaging was good but there was little depth and when things got busy the Quads seemed to take a step back. Build quality was excellent and the modular approach does appeal. The Quads are ideal with classical and jazz and a softer rock but they did not press my buttons as expected.
Next I bought home the Naim NAC122x/NAP 150x
Now this was more like it! It was more forward and had the 'rock' factor that the Quads were missing. I listened to more discs in my collection add then found the Naim's weakness, they were not even across the board with all types of music. While with rock they had the speed and attack, everything else lacked emotion and expression. and after a while I got bored with their 'all sounds the same' approach to female vocals and intricate bass rhythms. At first the Naim combo sounds brilliant but soon I discovered that they are like a party system, it sounds great after a few beers but in the cold light of day they lacked emotion and were too safe with with femalevocals and simpler music and the minus point was the lack of stereo depth or sound-stage, the picture was flat but had good left/right stereo.
Today I picked up thePrimare I30
The fist thing that shocked me is the weight and build of this beast, it is simply gorgeous! Impressions so far are very positive, beautiful mid-range without sibilance or spit, extended highs with real insight and detail, bass is titanic but with real speed and attack. The sound-stage is wide and deep and the instrument placement is spot on, so far I am impressed. I've tried rock, jazz, classical and weird pieces from my collection and so far the Primare has acted with impeccable manners and consummate grace. I never realised just how much detail I was missing with my Arcam pairing and how the Primaire has shown the short- commings of the Quad and Naim ampliiers.
I will hold on to the Primare I30 for a couple more days then it has to go back to Sevenoaks for their demo room. I will give a followup report on my final decision but from these three only one stands out from the crowd.
Watch this space........