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Advice on integrated amp for Wharfedale Diamonds 230

Which amp for the Diamonds?

  • Yamaha R-N803D

  • Cambridge CXA61

  • Cambridge Azur 851

  • Older used amp (such as NAD C370)


Results are only viewable after voting.

brotakul

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Hi there, guys! Like they say: long-time lurker, first time poster - and very excited! :D

I'm building my first stereo system. I have virtually no way to audition gear in my country, at a reasonable distance from my home. All decisions I make are based on the more-or-less subjective arguments and opinions I find online. As you could guess from the speakers choice, I went for a more budget system, as that's what I can afford right now.

Having said that, I went for the Diamonds for the "richer", "warmer" sound, as I tend to use the system all day long so it should be relatively easy to listen to (me and my wife do a lot of home-office, especially these days...). I'm very pleased with the Diamonds. I'm currently using a Yamaha R-N301 stereo receiver, which ticks all the right boxes, as I am deep into streaming (Spotify and Apple Music).

A few considerations:
- the stereo system is used in an ~18 square meters living-room (3.5m*5m)
- I measure around 75dB loudness as "comfortable level" at listening position (~3meters away from speakers) - living in a flat, can't/won't go much louder than this.
- I love the mids on the 230, but would appreciate detailed/airy highs and a more forward presentation in the mids too. The R-N301 feels a bit laid-back.
- won't change the speakers, so please don't recommend this. Heard B&Ws, Dali's, Focal's, they are all great!, for the first hour. Anything longer than that, not for me. Plus, i'm not looking to start over with the speakers. I feel I'm comfortable with these, they just need a bit of help...

I got the Yamaha R-N301 very cheap (used), so it was a great choice to begin with, but I'm looking to upgrade it. My complaints with it are, as follows:
- it's very neutral, uninvolved, almost feels "lifeless" in presentation
- it's not really dynamic (might actually be related to first point), it's rated at 100Wpc but it sure doesn't feel so - maybe it's poor with transient sounds, bursts and impact (small capacitors??) that makes it feel "lifeless", even if it can get loud?

From what I could gather as info until now, I came up with a "short list" of amps that should not, in any way, exceed the 1000eur budget (ideally 7-800 really..):
- go for a decent "vintage" amp on used market, like the NAD C370 - should be the cheapest solution to get good amplification for a good budget. I have a Pi with a decent DAC HAT that i can connect to it and use it, at least until I can go for something like the Bluesound Node 2i.
- Yamaha R-N803D - still Yamaha, I know, but a distant audio retailer that I contacted for advice, said that it's got better power supply (along with a better DAC, needless to say...) and it should be more dynamic to the sound. I've read the review posted here by Amirm and it seems to be quite poor outside pure-direct mode (using YPAO for example, which would be one of the selling-points for this amp), plus I've also read (on the comparison thread between R-N803/A-S801/A-s701 that all these amps are really AVRs from the 90s, tech wise, with streaming function added to them - this really puts me off, since an R-N803 is still nearly 1000eur in my country and I feel it's not worth the money.
- Cambridge CXA61 - fits great within budget, can use the Pi with it, has great reviews all around, but I'm concerned about the 60Wpc power output. Will it affect the dynamics of the amp? Sure, the CXA81 will probably be better, but it's just too expensive, well above the budget. Unfortunately, the prices are really high in my country. When I look at places like UK or US... damn man, the envy.... :))
- Cambridge Azur 851 - it's on HUGE sale for quite some time here, down to around 1000eur (same as R-N803), sure it has no streaming features, but it has lots of power and it just seems so much more as a "proper" amp (big toroidal power supply, clean design inside (electronics), it "feels" well built. But.... I read a lot of complaints online on the reliability of this amp and other Cambridge gear, which again puts me off. I just don't know if it's worth it. On the other hand, from what I understand, the Cambridge sound should be more "forward" and "lively" than the Yamaha and it would probably go just great with the Diamonds! Frankly, who am i kidding here, I just don't know...

So there you have it. Honestly, I want to get what everybody wants: the best for the buck, but with a focus on quality. I have to admit that the integrated streaming features of the Yamaha sound great and it would probably be the easiest, most comfortable unit to use out of all, but the idea of being an old-design, feature-stipped frankenstein AVR for that much money... I could honestly give up on the streaming features (in the end, I could always get a cheapo wxad-10, or the better Bluesound) and in turn go for the better built integrated amp.

So, what do you think? is the Yamaha a good sounding compromise? Or should I go for a more classic amp like the Cambridge? Or maybe go used and cheap, because the choices within the given budget are simply not worth it?

Thanks for chipping in with ideas.
 

Willem

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Remote diagnostics are hard, but you certainly have a nicely balanced system and I would not change a thing. Your speakers are a great budget buy, and so is your Yamaha receiver. It is highly unlikely that another amplifier would improve the sound very much, if at all, and all the more so since your speakers are not particularly inefficient and your room is small. If you insist on more power and drive, the Yamaha AS701/801 and R-N803 are sensible alternatives. It is nonsense to say that these are just AV stuff- they are excellent classic AB designs. The R-N 803 adds room eq so has a fair bit of processing going on. That messed up the measurements but in real life will improve the sound quality (the room is the elephant in the room). My advice would be to just enjoy the system. What you are hearing may well be just what real music sounds like, rather than artificially hyped hifi sound. Or it may be a bit bass heavy with floorstanders in a small room (how far are they from the walls?). Did you use the tone controls on your Yamaha? And have you ever done in-room response measurements (with a Umik-1 and REW)?
 
OP
brotakul

brotakul

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Remote diagnostics are hard, but you certainly have a nicely balanced system and I would not change a thing. Your speakers are a great budget buy, and so is your Yamaha receiver. It is highly unlikely that another amplifier would improve the sound very much, if at all, and all the more so since your speakers are not particularly inefficient and your room is small. If you insist on more power and drive, the Yamaha AS701/801 and R-N803 are sensible alternatives. It is nonsense to say that these are just AV stuff- they are excellent classic AB designs. The R-N 803 adds room eq so has a fair bit of processing going on. That messed up the measurements but in real life will improve the sound quality (the room is the elephant in the room). My advice would be to just enjoy the system. What you are hearing may well be just what real music sounds like, rather than artificially hyped hifi sound. Or it may be a bit bass heavy with floorstanders in a small room (how far are they from the walls?). Did you use the tone controls on your Yamaha? And have you ever done in-room response measurements (with a Umik-1 and REW)?

Hey Willem, thanks for the reply, advice and thoughts.
No, I never did any measurements, as I don't have the equipment and the knowledge to do so.
The speakers are placed in the livingroom, so as you might guess, there's not much flexibility with the Mrs. :D. Anyway, they have around 25 to 30cm of clearance all around, that's what I can give and I can only hope the slot-loaded port is at help (at it seems to be, as I don't hear much boominess from the speakers. The YPAO on the R-N803 would probably improve some of the room issues, I guess/hope, that's on the Yamaha's advantages list. Ad for the tone controls, since this amp does not have any pure-direct mode, I stay away from them. And honestly, I don't feel the need to use them - I tried them, but didn't like what they yielded in sound.
 

VintageFlanker

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Cambridge Azur 851
Avoid. Warmest amp I ever owned. Turn into protection after one hour of listening at high volume. Inexistent after sale service. Not even more powerful than 803D in practice.

The Yamaha has been measured here (and many other places) to be a very decent integrated amp and streamer. It has enough clean power on tap to drive many speakers. Don't get biased by what you red before: Integrated lively musical sounding Vs probably ancient AVR design blablabla... This doesn't make any sense.

BTW, I don't know where you saw the 803D at 1000€. It is sold for 690 to 790€ in many EU countries.
 

Willem

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Ad for the tone controls, since this amp does not have any pure-direct mode, I stay away from them.
There is no need to avoid them. If you think your system misses a bit of sparkle in your perhaps over-damped room, just turn up the treble ever so slightly. Since your speakers are quite close to the wall, you may want to turn down the bass just a bit. Measuring in-room response is easy, by the way. All the hardware that you need is a cheap Umik-1 calibrated microphone. Have a look at the various Youtube videos on REW. Or to make life easier, buy the RN 803 and let YPAO do the equalization.
 

Colonel7

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If you are looking for a more forward midrange and more sparkle up high it's your speakers and not your amp. You say you want to keep your speakers though. My solution is to keep both. You say that you've already got a raspberry pi and dac hat, so the best answer is to get a MiniDSP HD 2 x 4. Your setup would go, PI DAC hat >> MiniDsp >> line-in on the RN301. I am in total agreement with Willem on getting a good measurement mic like a UMIK-1 and learn some REW. You can learn, and trust us it is worth the investment of a couple days max! And it's less than half the money you've budgeted. Once there you can use parametric EQ to get the midrange and highs you prefer. As a bonus you can use dsp to EQ out some room peaks down low, especially since your speakers are closer than Wharfedale's recommended distance to the sidewalls. Plus, I can relate to your situation as I've got Wharfedale Diamond 225s and a Yamaha RN303 receiver. After measuring and learning REW with the 225s and a pair of DIY C-notes I've discovered that I like a much closer to a flat response (more forward midrange and highs, sound familiar?) than the Harman curve that is popular. I wouldn't have known that without doing a bunch of measurements and playing with PEQ.

Edit: And welcome to ASR and the forum!
 
Last edited:
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brotakul

brotakul

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Thanks guys. I know the room plays a huge role, but I guess I always thought about it in terms of absorbers and diffuser panels.
I’ll look into the miniDSP systems then.
 
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brotakul

brotakul

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Avoid. Warmest amp I ever owned. Turn into protection after one hour of listening at high volume. Inexistent after sale service. Not even more powerful than 803D in practice.

The Yamaha has been measured here (and many other places) to be a very decent integrated amp and streamer. It has enough clean power on tap to drive many speakers. Don't get biased by what you red before: Integrated lively musical sounding Vs probably ancient AVR design blablabla... This doesn't make any sense.

BTW, I don't know where you saw the 803D at 1000€. It is sold for 690 to 790€ in many EU countries.
Yes, it’s about 915€ here.. don’t know what to tell you. I may ask for a discount :). Can’t hurt..
Apart from the measurements, it’s a highly regarded intrgrated amp, even in here, so I guess that’s why I kept it on the list. Price wise, it’s a good match for the Diamonds, it makes for a well balanced setup in my mind. I just have to get over the misconceptions really.
 

Doodski

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Yamaha R-N803D
100 W + 100 W (8 ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.019% THD)

Rotel A11 Tribute
CONTINUOUS POWER OUTPUT 50W/Ch (All channels driven, 8Ω) THD(20Hz–20kHz) <0.03%

The Yamaha is a nice design, has the ToP Art layout, more than maybe ~double the heatsink area, 4 output transistors per channel versus 2 per channel on the Rotel and the Yamaha generally will eat that Rotel for breakfast (Techy jargon). :D
 

Raindog123

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All I can say on the subject is that for the past 15 years I owned Diamonds 8.4 (which are not the same as yours but close) and a NAD C372 (which again is just one generation over a C370 in your options)… And I really like the tandem!

Despite also having a number of more modern components (and significantly more expensive… though sometimes significantly less expensive too, eg an Aiyima A07 class D amp for $70), the Wharfedales/NAD are still heavily used and loved. And, while in a slightly smaller room, they are a worthy competition to their bigger siblings - Diamonds 11.5 and NAD 375BEE - so, sometimes I even prefer (like equally?) their sound. With some Roon-assisted room EQ’ing.

NAD C372:
- 2 x 150W Minimum Continuous Power into 4/8 ohms,
- 220W, 340W, 460W IHF Dynamic Power into 8, 4 and 2ohms, respectively

[Replaced power-supply capacitors and op-amps in my C372 4-5 years ago though.]

Just my $0.02.
 
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gasolin75

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Yamaha R-N803D
100 W + 100 W (8 ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.019% THD)

Rotel A11 Tribute
CONTINUOUS POWER OUTPUT 50W/Ch (All channels driven, 8Ω) THD(20Hz–20kHz) <0.03%

The Yamaha is a nice design, has the ToP Art layout, more than maybe ~double the heatsink area, 4 output transistors per channel versus 2 per channel on the Rotel and the Yamaha generally will eat that Rotel for breakfast (Techy jargon). :D

https://www.hifinews.com/content/rotel-cd11a11-tribute-cd-playerintegrated-amplifer


2021-08-15 21_03_36-Rotel CD11_A11 Tribute CD Player_Integrated Amplifer Lab Report _ Hi-Fi Ne...png
 

gasolin75

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Yamaha R-N803D
100 W + 100 W (8 ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.019% THD)

Rotel A11 Tribute
CONTINUOUS POWER OUTPUT 50W/Ch (All channels driven, 8Ω) THD(20Hz–20kHz) <0.03%

The Yamaha is a nice design, has the ToP Art layout, more than maybe ~double the heatsink area, 4 output transistors per channel versus 2 per channel on the Rotel and the Yamaha generally will eat that Rotel for breakfast (Techy jargon). :D


 

Doodski

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The Yamaha R-N803 (not the D version) tested over specification too. Tested here at ASR. Please excuse the stated test of a R-N804 that is a typo and it's a R-N803.
803-1.png

803-2.png
 
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