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Best Amp for SMSL M400 - do I need preamp?

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#1
Hi all, I have read so many threads here and googled for days and I'm now dizzy!

I've learnt a fair bit but not quite enough to make a final decision on what I need to buy.

I originally mistakenly thought the M400 DAC would power my two bookshelf speakers but now know it isnt an amp!

Questions

1) would a power amp or integrated amp be best considering I already have a DAC?

2) is the preamp on the M400 satisfactory for volume control?

3) I've read the M400 has an oddly high output impedance, im not sure what this means for my amp choice

My budget is around 1000-1500, recommendations really welcome at this point!
 

BDWoody

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#2
Hi all, I have read so many threads here and googled for days and I'm now dizzy!

I've learnt a fair bit but not quite enough to make a final decision on what I need to buy.

I originally mistakenly thought the M400 DAC would power my two bookshelf speakers but now know it isnt an amp!

Questions

1) would a power amp or integrated amp be best considering I already have a DAC?

2) is the preamp on the M400 satisfactory for volume control?

3) I've read the M400 has an oddly high output impedance, im not sure what this means for my amp choice

My budget is around 1000-1500, recommendations really welcome at this point!
Welcome!

What kind of speakers do you have, and how big is your room? Are these speakers you are planning on keeping?

It isn't really going to matter if you go integrated vs standard... Whatever gives you the most flexibility.
 
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Thread Starter #3
Welcome!

What kind of speakers do you have, and how big is your room? Are these speakers you are planning on keeping?

It isn't really going to matter if you go integrated vs standard... Whatever gives you the most flexibility.
Hey!

So currently I just have some QAcoustics 3010i, I would like some flexibility to upgrade in the future if needed.

The room is small, it's an office setup so I'm quite close to the front, they are mounted on the side walls directed at my seating position about 1.5m away each.

I was looking at something like the Cambridge audio CXA81 for integrated but it has so many features that I'm then paying for like bluetooth, DAC and such, which I've already paid for in the M400. My thought is that I would get a better quality product for the same money because I wouldn't be paying for things I didn't need?
 

Vini darko

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#4

BDWoody

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#5
Hey!

So currently I just have some QAcoustics 3010i, I would like some flexibility to upgrade in the future if needed.

The room is small, it's an office setup so I'm quite close to the front, they are mounted on the side walls directed at my seating position about 1.5m away each.

I was looking at something like the Cambridge audio CXA81 for integrated but it has so many features that I'm then paying for like bluetooth, DAC and such, which I've already paid for in the M400. My thought is that I would get a better quality product for the same money because I wouldn't be paying for things I didn't need?
As an option while you figure out what you want to do regarding future speakers, amps, etc., picking up a cheap used receiver from goodwill or Craigslist would give you something in the mean time.

That would also let you explore powered monitors, should you go that route. You can get a pretty nice pair for that price range... JBL has periodic sales and a pair of 705P's is $1000...

Just more to consider, as if you don't already have enough!

Do you like your speakers? They look like they have gotten a lot of positive reviews.
 

Willem

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#6
You do not need a separate preamp because your DAC is already an excellent preamp as well (but without analogue inputs, but I prefer digital anyway). Since you have balanced outputs, you might as well look for a power amp with balanced inputs. For measured quality matching your DAC I would look for one based on Hypex modules. Don't skimp on power output.
You speakers will be the by far weakest link in this system, of course, and upgrading them will cost more than most electronics. If you are budget constrained you should look into pro audio amplifiers (with variable speed fans). A few years ago I bought a now discontinued 2x250 watt Yamaha P2500s for only 3000 euro. It is perfect.
 
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Thread Starter #7
This nad power amp tested here https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/nad-c268-power-amplifier-review.14287/ will provide low noise linear preformance with plenty of power for desktop use.
Your m400 will make a great preamp for it. And you'll be able to use the xlr outputs to further reduce noise.
This pairing will be able to handle future speaker upgrades too.
Thanks for the option, not one I've heard of before but can get stock in the UK which is good!

You do not need a separate preamp because your DAC is already an excellent preamp as well (but without analogue inputs, but I prefer digital anyway). Since you have balanced outputs, you might as well look for a power amp with balanced inputs. For measured quality matching your DAC I would look for one based on Hypex modules. Don't skimp on power output.
You speakers will be the by far weakest link in this system, of course, and upgrading them will cost more than most electronics. If you are budget constrained you should look into pro audio amplifiers (with variable speed fans). A few years ago I bought a now discontinued 2x250 watt Yamaha P2500s for only 3000 euro. It is perfect.
Yes I'm happy to upgrade them, budget isn't an issue at all, at least in terms of the room they are in and how close I sit to them.

Vini recommended an amp that is built on "Hypex UcD Class D amplifier modules", do you have any other recommendations?
 

Willem

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#8
Hypex NCore will be more modern and measure a bit better. There are more and more manufacturers building amplifiers based on these modules. I will name a few available in Europe/UK: Audiophonics, March, Boxem, Nord, Apollon, but I may have forgotten one or more.
 
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Thread Starter #9
What about the Nord One SE MP NC252 or NC502?

Or would you spend more for the Purifi models?
 

Harmonie

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#10
Don't know if you already own the M400, but considering the price and setup of your speakers; I wonder if you couldn't make it with a Dac/preamp that is much cheaper (about half) with very good rating.
 
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Thread Starter #11
Don't know if you already own the M400, but considering the price and setup of your speakers; I wonder if you couldn't make it with a Dac/preamp that is much cheaper (about half) with very good rating.
Yes I bought one, happy to upgrade speakers not an issue at all.
 

VintageFlanker

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#13
The room is small, it's an office setup so I'm quite close to the front, they are mounted on the side walls directed at my seating position about 1.5m away each
That says a lot. I won't invest much in power amps and passive speakers in that room. Plus, if I may: you won't get any soundstage and accurate image by such positioning. ;) (Assuming I got your placement correctly).

I second @Harmonie :
The way I see it, I would use the M400 as DAC/Preamp (nothing to upgrade there) directly to active monitors designed for nearflied/midfield. Genelec 8030 or 8040 and many would worth serious considering.
 
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Thread Starter #14
That says a lot. I won't invest much in power amps and passive speakers in that room. Plus, if I may: you won't get any soundstage and accurate image by such positioning. ;) (Assuming I got your placement correctly).

I second @Harmonie :
The way I see it, I would use the M400 as DAC/Preamp (nothing to upgrade there) directly to active monitors designed for nearflied/midfield. Genelec 8030 or 8040 and many would worth serious considering.
I will image my office tomorrow but the point is still that i cant connect this preamp to 2 speakers as there arent the outputs?
 
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Thread Starter #19
That says a lot. I won't invest much in power amps and passive speakers in that room. Plus, if I may: you won't get any soundstage and accurate image by such positioning. ;) (Assuming I got your placement correctly).

I second @Harmonie :
The way I see it, I would use the M400 as DAC/Preamp (nothing to upgrade there) directly to active monitors designed for nearflied/midfield. Genelec 8030 or 8040 and many would worth serious considering.
I dont understand the suggestion of these speakers or many active ones as they dont support the maximum high res that comes out of the M400, so whats the point? Am I missing yet something else? :)
 

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#20
If you are budget constrained you should look into pro audio amplifiers (with variable speed fans). A few years ago I bought a now discontinued 2x250 watt Yamaha P2500s for only 3000 euro. It is perfect
I couldn't agree more with this.

In fact, I just picked up a $3,500, 4x250W Lab Gruppen amp (D10:4L) with 4 Lake controller channels and Dante capability for $350.

https://www.labgruppen.com/product.html?modelCode=P0CP6

My plan is to use it with 4 passive Subs, and use the Lake software for the EQ. Live real time network control and monitoring, and whatever else comes with a decent piece of pro gear.

Never hurts to cruise Craigslist... You never know what you'll find.
 

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