What amp for classical?

jonny1

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First post and I know the advice will be to go audition but I don't know where to start.

My music taste is classical generally and opera/choral in particular. My source is a Rega P3 with an Origin Live mod'd RB300 arm and a Goldring 1012GX cartridge. I have an old Arcam CD player but will eventually rip all my CDs to FLAC. To play music downloaded or already ripped to my computer I'm using a SqueezeboxTouch which seems pretty good.

At the other end, my output, I have a pair of EB Acoustic EB1s which I picked up for a good price (without having to wait!). I was worried about them for a while but having read about diamond wiring them, notwithstanding I didn't think it could have any effect, the sound quality has suddenly warmed and crispenned up (if that doesn't sound too paradoxical) and sounds much much better.

In the middle is an ancient Yamaha amp (AV-M99). Having got the source sorted and happy now with the speakers it is time to dramatically up the ante and replace the amp.

It's difficult to describe how I like my music. Natural I suppose, verging on warm. But I also want a clarity and crispness.

I'm interested in amps up to about £1K and have been furiously trying to assess on paper the likes of the Cyrus 8DAC, Naim 5si, Leema Elements (amp+DAC), Roksan Kandy K2, Arcam FMJ A19. A built in DAC appeals because although perhaps not needed at the moment I may want to plug in a homebuilt music server/laptop.

Every time I read one review or opinion I read a contrary one. I know I'll have to listen myself eventually but I really could do with some opinions from which to form a shortlist based on the genre of music I want to listen to. My room is about 5m x 4m, high ceilings with an exposed suspended timber floor (though with a rug covering about 40%).

Many thanks for any help.

 

Radioham

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Hi

I think you need to visit a dealer who will let you try some amps with your own speakers. I dont know if your speakers need a lot of "Grunt" (Current) then perhaps you need to also look at Quad. I would not worry about the paper specs or the reviews to much. I wonder where you are in the UK as a local wammer maybe able to loan an amp or take your speakers to them. There is of course Scalford,Bristol and Brighton HiFi shows soon. If you live near me I can recommend 3 good dealers in Cambs, Herts and Beds who have demo facilities and are not on the high street.

Alan

 

lee1975

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Welcome to the wam Jonny.

Best thing you can do is get around other wam members houses with your speakers and listen to some gear so post your location and you will get some invites. Would you go S/H? if so there are some mighty fine amps for a grand to be had. IMHO I would not go down the amp with a built in DAC and you your choice would be limited. You would be far better off getting a integrated or pre and power and a buy a dac at a later date. I am not sure what sort of driving your speakers require but if they were easy to drive you could just about if you are lucky get a Audionote OTTO SE for a 1k. Fantastic amp for classical. If you require more grunt then look out for Audio Analogue maestro the big 52KG integrated is a great amp and built like a tank. listen to as many amps with your speakers as possible.

If you are near Nottingham you can have a listen to your speakers in my system If you like.

 
G

Guest

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welcome here, jonny :) ,

having a partially same music loving nature with regards to classical (in my case it's almost exclusively baroque), I highly recommend the ol' Naim NAC32.5 pre-amp/Avondale APX or TeddyCap power supply/NAP160 power amplifier trio - they IMHO are simply the amps for classical under 1K, and they can be got for ~700 GBP from that well-known seaside market, the bay ;-) , and from pinkfishmedia.net, too. they are very smooth and natural with an mazing trait called P(ace)R(hythm)a(nd)T(iming) materialising in a so musical flow that IME no other solid state amps can match - good luck, mate :)

 

AmDismal

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I don't buy the idea of 'amp for classical' - some people want their classical laid back, relaxing, while others like it in their face, like they're conducting. The only thing that I would say is that reproduction of any acoustic instrument needs an amp that preserves the timbre of instruments; this is less important with electronic or highly processed music. I find that valves do this better than solid state, although there are always plenty of exceptions.

So my advice is what it usually is with amps - get one that works properly with your speakers. I would also add that I would normally expect to spend at least twice as much on my speakers as my amp - I think you have it the wrong way round.

I can't give you much specific advice, as I don't know your speakers, but if they are 85dB/W then they will need a biggish amp; given my constant preference for tubes I could suggest Vanessa from the classifieds, which should drive anything within reason, but the best advice is to engage with Wammers local to you and find out what really does it for you.

 

The Strat

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Well I've heard lots of classical stuff on a Naim 5 and it'sd a peach of an amp. The si is even better. But I have no idea as to the synergy eith EB speakers so a home demo is recommended.Good luck.

 

Hornucopia

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I don't buy the idea of 'amp for classical' - some people want their classical laid back, relaxing, while others like it in their face, like they're conducting. The only thing that I would say is that reproduction of any acoustic instrument needs an amp that preserves the timbre of instruments; this is less important with electronic or highly processed music. I find that valves do this better than solid state, although there are always plenty of exceptions.So my advice is what it usually is with amps - get one that works properly with your speakers. I would also add that I would normally expect to spend at least twice as much on my speakers as my amp - I think you have it the wrong way round.

I can't give you much specific advice, as I don't know your speakers, but if they are 85dB/W then they will need a biggish amp; given my constant preference for tubes I could suggest Vanessa from the classifieds, which should drive anything within reason, but the best advice is to engage with Wammers local to you and find out what really does it for you.
I agree with Adam.

An amp is an amp. It amplifies.

'Classical' isn't a frequency. Any amp should reproduce the input.

 

Tozen

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I also agree with Adam, but I would add that if you love violin and you have sensitive hearing then listen very carefully to an amp's treble performance. There are very few amps I can live with for that reason alone. Quad and Audio Analogue are recommended because they are so civil and so will never grate on the ears but after a while you might get a bit bored (as I did with the Qaud 909) because the treble is too rolled off. The treble needs to be sweet and extended.

 

jonny1

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Jan 15, 2014
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Wow, thank you all very much for your speedy replies. Lots of ideas to think about.

 

themadlatvian

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Hi Jonny - welcome to the Wam!

I absolutely agree that a good amplifier is a good amplifier, whatever you are listening to. You will get hundreds of suggestions as answers to your question, because the plain fact of the matter is that most modern amplifiers available are at least very good, so it will come down to opinion. The advice to go to a major dealer and listen to lots of kit is a good one, or get yourself to a 'bake-off' (a meeting where people such as Wammers meet, exchange funny stories, share beer and curries, listen to their favourite music and demonstrate equipment they have recently fallen in love with). There is a complete bake-off section to this forum - keep a look out for something near you and invite yourself along. You will find yourself more than welcome.

Just to further muddy the waters, for classical (and everything else) I can heartily recommend my Musical Fidelity Nuvista M3 amplifier - you can pick them up for around £1000 second-hand - more power than you will ever need, smooth presentation, treble certainly all there but not over-harsh.

Somehow get to hear some alternatives - don't rush into making an impulse buy.

:^

 

SSM

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I agree that a well-designed ss amplifier can serve a classical music collection well, so long as it is up to the task of driving your chosen speakers. However, there are differences in presentation between different brands and if you're picky about how you want your classical music played, you'll have to chose your amp carefully.

You shortlisted Naim and Arcam. Personally I've found Naim integrateds (my dems of the SuperNait, XS and 5i, and my own NAP100) to be competent with classical material. There is an identifiable house-sound to these amps though, which may/may not please your ears. It has a 'dense' quality to the lower mids (which emphasises the body of cellos, nice), and a treble which needs more air IMO (not so good for massed violins). My Arcams A38 and A28 have much better treble detailing and air, with wider stereo staging. They don't sound so overtly punchy or weighty in those lower mids as the XS or NAP100, but to their credit that's because they adhere closer to the virtue of neutrality. I prefer a more open airy sound with classical, so it it were my money I'd take the A19 over the 5i. :) Y.M.M.V.

Quad's current dumpers are indeed good with classical music. I'm a fan of the QSP and 909. Its true that their upper registers are slightly smoothed off, but the overall effect depends on which preamp is in the chain. The 909 is enjoying an Indian summer in my main system, fed from my Ayre preamp and the upper registers are much improved thanks to the immense space and aeration offered by the Ayre. :^ The dynamic slam is stoked up too. :shock: Where power and grunt are concerned, it is not far off from the Ayre V-5xe which costs more than 4x.

For classical I would not overlook the QSP harnessed to an audiolab 8200DQ, or a non-Quad preamp.

SS

 

rabski

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As others have (rightly) said, there is no 'amp for classical'. Any system, as far as I'm concerned, should be able to play any music properly. If it doesn't, then it's lacking somewhere.

However, there are different 'presentations' from amplifiers, although the measurement brigade would have you believe otherwise. Listen to any system with a serious Naim amp and then a serious Audio Note and tell me it sounds the same. Because it doesn't.

What you need to do is take a little time, listen to people's systems, listen at dealers. Then come up with an idea of the overall presentation you like. If you can post here saying you've heard A with B and C and that was your ideal 'sound', you will get plenty of suggestions as to how to achieve it.

Might be worth adding a location to your signature, or just telling us roughly where you are. Although we enjoy ripping each other's heads off at times, we're mostly a friendly bunch and you'll get lots of invitations for a quick listen.

 

rabski

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Can I sound one note of caution though. Good though they may be, you are talking about spending £1000 on an amplifier to drive speakers that cost half that.

Personally, I would prefer to look at amplifier and speakers as a 'package'. And personally, I would also invert that ratio. Sorry.

 

SergeAuckland

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As others have (rightly) said, there is no 'amp for classical'. Any system, as far as I'm concerned, should be able to play any music properly. If it doesn't, then it's lacking somewhere.However, there are different 'presentations' from amplifiers, although the measurement brigade would have you believe otherwise. Listen to any system with a serious Naim amp and then a serious Audio Note and tell me it sounds the same. Because it doesn't.

What you need to do is take a little time, listen to people's systems, listen at dealers. Then come up with an idea of the overall presentation you like. If you can post here saying you've heard A with B and C and that was your ideal 'sound', you will get plenty of suggestions as to how to achieve it.

Might be worth adding a location to your signature, or just telling us roughly where you are. Although we enjoy ripping each other's heads off at times, we're mostly a friendly bunch and you'll get lots of invitations for a quick listen.
I agree, an amplifier's an amplifier regardless of what it's reproducing. I also agree that a Naim amplifier will sound different to an AudioNote. One is an amplifier, the other's an effects box!

Far more important for classical (or any natural acoustic music ), is low coloration loudspeakers, so I echo the view that I would spend the budget on loudspeakers, as an inexpensive amplifier will do a good job into good loudspeakers, but the reverse isn't necessarily true.

S

 

awkwardbydesign

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One is an amplifier, the other's an effects box!
Unnecessary, Serge. He's new here, so you're really just preaching to older members. If you stick to objective points (in this instance) you will be more of a help. IMO.

 

SergeAuckland

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Unnecessary, Serge. He's new here, so you're really just preaching to older members. If you stick to objective points (in this instance) you will be more of a help. IMO.
It was meant jocularly, but I omitted the smilie..... True though! :D

S

 

rabski

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We jocularly trade insults, but in this specific case, I have to say (may the lord of foo forgive me) that Serge is utterly correct.

Speakers, let's say £500 or thereabouts. Budget for amp, £1000 or thereabouts.

Anyone here care to contradict my thought that £1300 on a pair of second-hand speakers (no matter how coloured your preference) and £200 on an amp would be a better bet for overall enjoyment?

My current system is much reduced from what it once was, though hopefully my investments will pay off in the longer term and fund something even more wonderful than before. However, if I had to cut back further (and I might yet need to), the speakers and vinyl source would be the last things I'd look at losing.

 

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