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Amplifier recommendations for Elac Carina bookshelf

swevictor

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Hi all,
Let me start off - what a fantastic resource this site, the reviews, and these forums are! "Long time lurker, first time poster" here!

So, after much agony, I've purchased the Elac Carina BS243.4 bookshelf (review link) speakers for a home office setup. This despite them not measuring perfectly, which may surprise some here... They do sound lovely though, especially with acoustic instruments, which impacted the decision even more than measurements.

I'm now looking to upgrade my amplifier to something that can truly get the most out of them and am looking for your advice!

Some details
  • Home office / listening room
  • Roughly 2m wide and 4m deep (6.5" x 13"), speakers playing length-wise
  • 3d sketch for the interested (link)
  • Currently run music through Qobuz (PC) and an iFi Zen DAC to a Sonos Connect AMP
  • Mostly low/medium levels, but I want to be able to go full volume as well!

I'm looking primarily for a small-ish Class D power amplifier, but have been somewhat enticed by the new integrated offerings.

index.php



Questions
  • Integrated amp/streamer or power amplifier using the existing iFi Zen DAC?
  • What power should I aim for? 50W? 100W? 200W? 400W??
  • How do I best do a 2.1 setup with PC/USB as the source? My sub only has inputs, no outputs.


Some ideas I've looked at (I'm in Europe btw):


Any thoughts or guidance would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks
/Victor
 
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7jm

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Looking at the speaker specs it looks like it will benefit from something like the audio phonics 250 at a minimum. I would imagine that if you got a wiim amp you will soon be planning to upgrade anyhow.
In which case I'd say get a wiim pro plus. Use peq for room modes and feed it to the hypex250 then get a mini dsp and sub in the mix. I suppose that is the standard asr path. 'This is the way' !
 
OP
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swevictor

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Looking at the speaker specs it looks like it will benefit from something like the audio phonics 250 at a minimum. I would imagine that if you got a wiim amp you will soon be planning to upgrade anyhow.
In which case I'd say get a wiim pro plus. Use peq for room modes and feed it to the hypex250 then get a mini dsp and sub in the mix. I suppose that is the standard asr path. 'This is the way' !
Thanks, 7jm!

Yes, that is probably a good way to go. Slightly annoying to "require" the MiniDSP. It's not a cheap extra and I can't help but think finding a more capable device (functionality-wise) could solve the subwoofer issue. But maybe not.

On a side note I do very much believe in the power of room correction after setting up a couple of surround/atmos systems over the years. So while PEQ is good, I'm hesitant to pay a lot just for that. And yes, I know the Mini DSP has a Dirac version these days, but then it's starting to get eye-wateringly expensive for just that part :)
 

7jm

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Thanks, 7jm!

Yes, that is probably a good way to go. Slightly annoying to "require" the MiniDSP. It's not a cheap extra and I can't help but think finding a more capable device (functionality-wise) could solve the subwoofer issue. But maybe not.

On a side note I do very much believe in the power of room correction after setting up a couple of surround/atmos systems over the years. So while PEQ is good, I'm hesitant to pay a lot just for that. And yes, I know the Mini DSP has a Dirac version these days, but then it's starting to get eye-wateringly expensive for just that part :)
Hi, in my case I recently got wharfedale lintons and run them off a pro plus and smsl a300. I used a umik 1 and identified the bass modes and used the 4 band peq to ameliorate them. It certainly made a big difference. I don't see myself getting a sub as I find the bass output of the lintons sufficient. A few more bands of peq would be nice to smooth things out and I believe that will be forthcoming with the wiim.
I see myself probably changing the amp to something 'better' which will probably be one of the audio phonics ncore models but tbh I really enjoy the sound at the moment.

Good luck on your journey.
 
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swevictor

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Hi, in my case I recently got wharfedale lintons and run them off a pro plus and smsl a300. I used a umik 1 and identified the bass modes and used the 4 band peq to ameliorate them. It certainly made a big difference. I don't see myself getting a sub as I find the bass output of the lintons sufficient. A few more bands of peq would be nice to smooth things out and I believe that will be forthcoming with the wiim.
I see myself probably changing the amp to something 'better' which will probably be one of the audio phonics ncore models but tbh I really enjoy the sound at the moment.

Good luck on your journey.

Thanks! Sounds like a very nice setup. I didn't know the SMSL a300 supports PEQ, so that's nice to hear!

Looking at the MiniDSP suggestion above I just realized they actually have an all-in-one unit, the MIniDSP SHD Power (link). While it's a lot more expensive than most other options it does seem to support Dirac out of the box which I see as a big plus.

/Victor
 

7jm

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Thanks! Sounds like a very nice setup. I didn't know the SMSL a300 supports PEQ, so that's nice to hear!

Looking at the MiniDSP suggestion above I just realized they actually have an all-in-one unit, the MIniDSP SHD Power (link). While it's a lot more expensive than most other options it does seem to support Dirac out of the box which I see as a big plus.

/Victor
Hi, the peq is implemented in the wiim product.
The smsl just has bass/treble adjustment.
 

JeremyFife

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Always more questions :)
Your room is 4m long, but how far away from the speakers will you be sitting (or listening)?

From the speaker review, as far as I can see, you don't want to be playing much louder than 85 dbSPL @ 1m anyway based on the distortion profile. The speakers have lowish sensitivity which means you need a bit more power to drive them but, even with that, you won't need a ton of power.

A few things to think about;
Amirm recommended a bit of EQ to temper some possible brightness.
If you can add a Sub at some point in the future and low-pass your Elacs then you will reduce the low frequency strain on your speakers and could well be able to go louder without distortion.

The WiiM Amp has enough power and gives you PEQ and some Sub management. That's quite an attractive package.
Any WiiM streamer will give you PEQ, and the Pro Plus also gives you a very good DAC (and analogue input). No low-passing though. Add one of the Audiophonics options and you have a powerful system.

With a WiiM Pro and the Audiophonics Integrated, you get PEQ, (WiiM Pro Plus if you really need analogue input) a good DAC and plenty of power.
Alternatives include WiiM Ultra (not released yet or tested, but should have that sub integration) or miniDSP Flex for full DSP and proper Sub integration.

There will be dozens of alternatives, including more 'old school' options like a Yamaha AS-501/701.
I find it hard to avoid a WiiM of some sort though for streaming if nothing else.
 
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swevictor

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Always more questions :)
Your room is 4m long, but how far away from the speakers will you be sitting (or listening)?

From the speaker review, as far as I can see, you don't want to be playing much louder than 85 dbSPL @ 1m anyway based on the distortion profile. The speakers have lowish sensitivity which means you need a bit more power to drive them but, even with that, you won't need a ton of power.

A few things to think about;
Amirm recommended a bit of EQ to temper some possible brightness.
If you can add a Sub at some point in the future and low-pass your Elacs then you will reduce the low frequency strain on your speakers and could well be able to go louder without distortion.

The WiiM Amp has enough power and gives you PEQ and some Sub management. That's quite an attractive package.
Any WiiM streamer will give you PEQ, and the Pro Plus also gives you a very good DAC (and analogue input). No low-passing though. Add one of the Audiophonics options and you have a powerful system.

With a WiiM Pro and the Audiophonics Integrated, you get PEQ, (WiiM Pro Plus if you really need analogue input) a good DAC and plenty of power.
Alternatives include WiiM Ultra (not released yet or tested, but should have that sub integration) or miniDSP Flex for full DSP and proper Sub integration.

There will be dozens of alternatives, including more 'old school' options like a Yamaha AS-501/701.
I find it hard to avoid a WiiM of some sort though for streaming if nothing else.
Thanks for your thoughts and the questions!

For the room, it looks something like the below image. The Elac bookshelves are planned to be on stands, around 80 cm height to match a sit/stand desk somewhat. Listening distance will be ~1m ("office mode") and 4-8 meters ("listening mode").

1711461344365.png



Somewhat limited sensitivity => more powerful amp: Yes, this is my thinking exactly. What I have a slightly hard time wrapping my head around is how important power is in low/medium volume playing? I'm intuitively thinking that more power should yield more "control" of the speaker, but maybe that's not true/needed for lower volumes?

WiiM: Yes, agreed, it's a very enticing package and offering and seems to measure well. Coming from several Sonos units, what I don't like with this type of solution is that it's typically not simple to switch to the right source (lack of physical buttons). It seems to be the same with WiiM, although there seems to be some auto-sensing for the optical in at least. It's also very much "all or nothing" for good and bad.

Regarding "old-school" solutions I would prefer something smaller (form factor wise), but I won't say 100% no. As an example, also some "modern" ones like the MiniDSP SHD DSP/DAC/streamer (link) are fairly large as well... This specific one is similar to WiiM in some ways, but with less general-purpose functionality (it does have Roon and Tidal though).

/VIctor
 

staticV3

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What I have a slightly hard time wrapping my head around is how important power is in low/medium volume playing? I'm intuitively thinking that more power should yield more "control" of the speaker, but maybe that's not true/needed for lower volumes?
"Power=Control" is an audiophile myth.

A more powerful amp will not sound any better than a lesser Amp, if both amps are set to the same volume and are playing within their designed output limits.

You can use this calculator to estimate the output power required for your situation:

The BS243.4 has an efficiency of about 80dB SPL (1W/1m).

So in "office mode" about 40W would drive them to an impressively loud 100dB SPL Peak:
Screenshot_20240326-154645_Chrome~2.png

Feel free to play around with the parameters to get a feel for the required output power.
 

JeremyFife

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Thanks for your thoughts and the questions!

For the room, it looks something like the below image. The Elac bookshelves are planned to be on stands, around 80 cm height to match a sit/stand desk somewhat. Listening distance will be ~1m ("office mode") and 4-8 meters ("listening mode").

View attachment 359285


Somewhat limited sensitivity => more powerful amp: Yes, this is my thinking exactly. What I have a slightly hard time wrapping my head around is how important power is in low/medium volume playing? I'm intuitively thinking that more power should yield more "control" of the speaker, but maybe that's not true/needed for lower volumes?

WiiM: Yes, agreed, it's a very enticing package and offering and seems to measure well. Coming from several Sonos units, what I don't like with this type of solution is that it's typically not simple to switch to the right source (lack of physical buttons). It seems to be the same with WiiM, although there seems to be some auto-sensing for the optical in at least. It's also very much "all or nothing" for good and bad.

Regarding "old-school" solutions I would prefer something smaller (form factor wise), but I won't say 100% no. As an example, also some "modern" ones like the MiniDSP SHD DSP/DAC/streamer (link) are fairly large as well... This specific one is similar to WiiM in some ways, but with less general-purpose functionality (it does have Roon and Tidal though).

/VIctor
A few more things to think about;
There are audio calculators that show you how much power you need to achieve a desired volume (dBSPL at a listening distance). I like this one, but there are others https://www.crownaudio.com/en/tools/calculators#amp_power_required

The 'headroom' value allows for extra power that you might need to handle dynamic peaks in you music, but 6dB is quite a lot unless you listen to loud Classical music where a full orchestra is going for it.
Your speakers, listening at 85dBSPL at 2.5m with 6dB headroom = 39W

A more powerful amp will not give you anything more (no extra control) at these levels or below ... those first Watts are identical. What it will do is let you play louder (which your speakers don't really want to do) and handle extra headroom without any risk of clipping.

Do re-think your listening position. Near-field is fine (grey chair).
Given that your speakers are less than 2m apart you don't really want your other listening position to be much more than 2.5m away otherwise you have a very acute listening angle and you may struggle to get decent imaging. It's worth experimenting with though.

Personally, I'd be tempted by either;
a) WiiM Amp to do it all, or
b) WiiM streamer and an Audiophonics Amp to have that extra (but probably unnecessary) power. Both good
The WiiM app is pretty good and you can always join the WiiM discussion forums (on their site) and ask people how they are getting on.

Remember, there are other options. This is just my opinion :)
 
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swevictor

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"Power=Control" is an audiophile myth.
...
So in "office mode" about 40W would drive them to an impressively loud 100dB SPL Peak:.
Perfect, clear and straight answer, thanks! Makes perfect sense electronically, but we all know audiophily is a dark and secret field
...
Your speakers, listening at 85dBSPL at 2.5m with 6dB headroom = 39W

Do re-think your listening position. Near-field is fine (grey chair).
Given that your speakers are less than 2m apart you don't really want your other listening position to be much more than 2.5m away otherwise you have a very acute listening angle and you may struggle to get decent imaging. It's worth experimenting with though.

Personally, I'd be tempted by either;
a) WiiM Amp to do it all, or
b) WiiM streamer and an Audiophonics Amp to have that extra (but probably unnecessary) power. Both good
The WiiM app is pretty good and you can always join the WiiM discussion forums (on their site) and ask people how they are getting on.

Remember, there are other options. This is just my opinion :)
Almost funny how close those two estimates are using similar but different methods! 39-40W it is, I'm sold! I need to start looking for quality rather than quantity simply!

Maybe it will be a WiiM Amp in the end after all despite all reading about Hypex and Purify... Using the Sonos amp for many years it's very hard to argue with it being extremely convenient. And WiiM seems to offer the same but with a lot better sounds quality.


Thanks also for the listening position suggestion, certainly something to think about as well.
 

ErLan

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Hi,
I also do have the same speakers with a similar PC (Source: Tidal, Spotify, TV/Movies) >> DSP (EqApo) >> DAC (ASUS U5) >> Amp (Behringer A800) >> 2.1 setup.
From my experience, those speakers are captive, and they turn even better post the mild tunning shown by Amir in the review
For me, Using DSP was a 'given' taken into consideration compensation for room modes (very mild) and (mainly) Lt/Rt/Sub alignment.
The Behringer was recommanded here at ASR. It serves as a good Class D Amp and drives those speakers with no stress (typically listening at 60-65dB, in some rare occasions 75-80dB @3m distance), moreover, while bass managing the Rt &Lt by directing the low end to the Sub, the VU meters on the Amp bearly moves.

Overall (as being mentioned here dozen times) a careful work on the positioning, tuning, timing, etc. Can make a fairly modest system sing!

Enjoy the journey!
 
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swevictor

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I also do have the same speakers with a similar PC (Source: Tidal, Spotify, TV/Movies) >> DSP (EqApo) >> DAC (ASUS U5) >> Amp (Behringer A800) >> 2.1 setup.
...
The Behringer was recommanded here at ASR. It serves as a good Class D Amp and drives those speakers with no stress (typically listening at 60-65dB, in some rare occasions 75-80dB @3m distance), moreover, while bass managing the Rt &Lt by directing the low end to the Sub, the VU meters on the Amp bearly moves.

Overall (as being mentioned here dozen times) a careful work on the positioning, tuning, timing, etc. Can make a fairly modest system sing!

Enjoy the journey!
Thanks!

The Behringer is quite a bit more powerful than the WiiM Amp though...

I looked at the specs (disregarding room size for a minute since I'm thinking I'd like to be able to use them in the living room as will) they are rated at max 2x100W RMS in the manual. As the max safe power that is. That's still a fair bit more than 65-110W for the WiiM. They also list 6 ohms with 4.8 as the lowest.

What bugs me most is that the WiiM Amp lacks per outs or digital out so it'll be impossible to upgrade later on...
 

Joe Smith

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For that size room, you don't really need a ton of watts. I have a similar nearfield setup and any of the current inexpensive Class D amps sound great and have all the power I need. Or my Marantz 2216 (16 wpc) or Kenwood KA-3500 (40 wpc).

I've tried to find a use case for a Hypex 252 based amp and am still seeking it...don't need unless my main living room system needs something new eventually. For smaller rooms, it's overkill...
 
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swevictor

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I've tried to find a use case for a Hypex 252 based amp and am still seeking it...

Love it! THIS is the way to think for sure! So, new game plan:
1. Get a super expensive Purify AMP
2. Get bigger speakers that are harder to drive
3. Get a bigger house to for the speakers
 

JeremyFife

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Thanks!

The Behringer is quite a bit more powerful than the WiiM Amp though...

I looked at the specs (disregarding room size for a minute since I'm thinking I'd like to be able to use them in the living room as will) they are rated at max 2x100W RMS in the manual. As the max safe power that is. That's still a fair bit more than 65-110W for the WiiM. They also list 6 ohms with 4.8 as the lowest.

What bugs me most is that the WiiM Amp lacks per outs or digital out so it'll be impossible to upgrade later on...
Can I just caution you about the 'upgrading' trap. The problem (in a good way) with the WiiM Amp is the option for subwoofer management. You won't get that without going up to something like a miniDSP Flex or an AVR (not compact, but worth a thought). A meaningful upgrade will be expensive.
An upgrade in sound quality will not involve your Amp, it will be to new speakers and possibly to Active speakers.

If it really bothers you, then the WiiM Ultra promises a lot. It's not available yet and I wouldn't fancy being an early adopter.
 
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swevictor

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Can I just caution you about the 'upgrading' trap. The problem (in a good way) with the WiiM Amp is the option for subwoofer management. You won't get that without going up to something like a miniDSP Flex or an AVR (not compact, but worth a thought). A meaningful upgrade will be expensive.
An upgrade in sound quality will not involve your Amp, it will be to new speakers and possibly to Active speakers.

If it really bothers you, then the WiiM Ultra promises a lot. It's not available yet and I wouldn't fancy being an early adopter.
Agree 100%

I really didn't think when starting to look that getting a compact 2.1 system with att the very least a crosdover would be this difficult.

I for sure have looked at the WiiM Ultra, but the Amp is a very good value proposition.

For the ultra I'm looking at maybe the Topping LA90 to get a significantly better measuring amp and get rid of the load dependent frequency response, but then we'd probably be around $1200 rather than $200. Not impossible but somewhat hard to motivate.
 
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swevictor

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Finally played around with the calculators above. dB levels and the relation to watts is for sure very interesting.

Tried the potentially conservative 80 dB SPL and 3m / 10 feet.

40W in gives you 92 dB
100W in gives 96 dB (speaker max)

And we of course want "reference level" 115 dB which requires a whopping 6000W!

The second calculator yields slightly higher watts required, 40 W gives 86 db and 100 W 90 dB. Without any amp headroom.

So, what's the takeaway?

Given the measurements the WiiM amp can probably drive around around 60-80W (4.8-6 ohm load) which should be enough. And for large rooms and really loud volumes the speakers won't cope anyway.

Adding the sub and a high pass filter to the speakers should also make it possible to run louder volumes without overloading either the speakers or the WiiM.

Probably a very good compromise, although maybe not as satisfying as a Benchmark AB amp and other fancy stuff...

Btw/Edit: Looked up the current Sonos Connect:Amp I'm running. By spec it drives 55W-110W (4/8 ohm). The volume is "reasonable" at ~80-90%. ... It sounds fairly terrible over 70-80% though ;)
 
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Roland68

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Hi all,
Let me start off - what a fantastic resource this site, the reviews, and these forums are! "Long time lurker, first time poster" here!

So, after much agony, I've purchased the Elac Carina BS243.4 bookshelf (review link) speakers for a home office setup. This despite them not measuring perfectly, which may surprise some here... They do sound lovely though, especially with acoustic instruments, which impacted the decision even more than measurements.

I'm now looking to upgrade my amplifier to something that can truly get the most out of them and am looking for your advice!

Some details
  • Home office / listening room
  • Roughly 2m wide and 4m deep (6.5" x 13"), speakers playing length-wise
  • 3d sketch for the interested (link)
  • Currently run music through Qobuz (PC) and an iFi Zen DAC to a Sonos Connect AMP
  • Mostly low/medium levels, but I want to be able to go full volume as well!

I'm looking primarily for a small-ish Class D power amplifier, but have been somewhat enticed by the new integrated offerings.

index.php



Questions
  • Integrated amp/streamer or power amplifier using the existing iFi Zen DAC?
  • What power should I aim for? 50W? 100W? 200W? 400W??
  • How do I best do a 2.1 setup with PC/USB as the source? My sub only has inputs, no outputs.


Some ideas I've looked at (I'm in Europe btw):


Any thoughts or guidance would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks
/Victor
From personal experience, I can recommend the Sabaj A30a. The sound is really good, the performance is good and the measured values should correspond to those of the VMV A2.
Also one of the few "real" digital amplifiers, so you don't have to worry about a DAC or a DAC upgrade. It has a built-in ADC for analog sources.
A friend recently brought his new WiiM amp to show me that I had spent far too much on "just" an amplifier. The next day he ordered a WiiM Pro and a Sabaj A30a. The WiiM Amp isn't bad at all, from memory I would classify it as similar to a Fosi V3, but the better is the enemy of the good.
And before anyone shouts, when making such comparisons I adjust the volume, whether headphones or speakers, to 3 decimal places with a 1 kHz signal.
 
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