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Bookshelf Speakers Amp Recommendations?

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Mar 25, 2021
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Hi,

My setup is really simple.
  1. I use Spotify on my iPad that's connected via USB cable to
  2. SMSL Sanskrit 10th MKII DAC that also take an Optical Toslink input from my TV and pass all to
  3. 'No Name' Fosi T20 Amp found on Amazon, all of this to feed a pair of
  4. Dali Spektor 1.
It is surely all on the cheap side, I know, but it had all some thought in it, expect the Amp.
The DAC was choose based on the review here, and the Dali, I read ton of good article about them and I am quite happy for now.
The Amp was the only think I didn't look up before buying and basically choose the first one that I could find on Amazon with good review of it and now I would like to upgrade it.

I tried looking here in the Review Index but it wasn't very helpful, at least for me. A lot of stuff seems DIY ones (which I don't wanna do in this moment), brand that I cannot (easily) find here (Europe) and nothing really in between a €50 and €500 more or less.
I was interested in upgrading my Amp that costed like €65, with, I don't know, a €150/250 new one? I think it should be enough to notice some difference in the low tier stuff, usually.

Since SMLS seems a good, world-wide available brand, I looked at their site and a lot of stuff it is on Amazon too but I see no Review here.
What about stuff like DA-9, SA300, AO200 and SH-8 ? I honestly can't really make an opinion, if not based on price.
I just wrote a couple of example of SMLS, but in no way I am stuck with them, I can happily consider something else, if I will found it for purchase. For example, Topping is another brand widely available I see. I do not need anything fancy, possible just a remote, that would be nice. No need for Headphone Input, Bluetooth or other stuff.

Thanks in advance to everyone that will take their time to answer.
 

Joe Smith

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I think one of the best cheap amps out there right now is the Aiyima a07, if you can live without a remote. Clean and powerful, small form factor. The standard Aiyima 32v5a power supply would be plenty for your speakers. They make some other models with remotes, but I can't vouch for the sound, I'm sure others here will respond.

I have older SMSL units (the old SA-50, still decent) but none of their newer stuff.

It's a great time for cheaper audio...lots of options. I use a lot of vintage amps and receivers but the class D amps are coming along so nicely.
 
OP
L
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I think one of the best cheap amps out there right now is the Aiyima a07
Yeah, I saw that one, but given the price, I was wondering if it may perform similar to mine and if it was worth the "upgrade" or if I was just wasting 70 bucks on another small Amp.
 

Joe Smith

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I think you might have to save up a bit to get to that next amp level...just north of your high point. I like NAD for basic stereo with multiple inputs, and a remote, but I think they start at about $400 US.
 

tifune

Addicted to Fun and Learning
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Hi,

My setup is really simple.
  1. I use Spotify on my iPad that's connected via USB cable to
  2. SMSL Sanskrit 10th MKII DAC that also take an Optical Toslink input from my TV and pass all to
  3. 'No Name' Fosi T20 Amp found on Amazon, all of this to feed a pair of
  4. Dali Spektor 1.
It is surely all on the cheap side, I know, but it had all some thought in it, expect the Amp.
The DAC was choose based on the review here, and the Dali, I read ton of good article about them and I am quite happy for now.
The Amp was the only think I didn't look up before buying and basically choose the first one that I could find on Amazon with good review of it and now I would like to upgrade it.

I tried looking here in the Review Index but it wasn't very helpful, at least for me. A lot of stuff seems DIY ones (which I don't wanna do in this moment), brand that I cannot (easily) find here (Europe) and nothing really in between a €50 and €500 more or less.
I was interested in upgrading my Amp that costed like €65, with, I don't know, a €150/250 new one? I think it should be enough to notice some difference in the low tier stuff, usually.

Since SMLS seems a good, world-wide available brand, I looked at their site and a lot of stuff it is on Amazon too but I see no Review here.
What about stuff like DA-9, SA300, AO200 and SH-8 ? I honestly can't really make an opinion, if not based on price.
I just wrote a couple of example of SMLS, but in no way I am stuck with them, I can happily consider something else, if I will found it for purchase. For example, Topping is another brand widely available I see. I do not need anything fancy, possible just a remote, that would be nice. No need for Headphone Input, Bluetooth or other stuff.

Thanks in advance to everyone that will take their time to answer.

From what distance do you listen to these, and what are you hoping to improve? Volume, sound quality?
 
OP
L
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I think you might have to save up a bit to get to that next amp level...just north of your high point. I like NAD for basic stereo with multiple inputs, and a remote, but I think they start at about $400 US.
Wow, yeah..that's a big jump in price.
But apparently yeah...lot's of stuff I found it is around that so may be it.
 
OP
L
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From what distance do you listen to these, and what are you hoping to improve? Volume, sound quality?
  • Volume: Nope. That's just find. My current little cheap Amp seems to be more than capable of that (and my Speaker are not that hard to drive at all), I never turn the knob more than half way.
  • Sound quality: Yes, a bit. I am in no way knowledge enough in this, but I think it can be much better, sometimes the sounds seems not too clean. But not sure, hence way I would like to try to upgrade it. The fact it costed something like €65 make me thing can't be top notch eheh.
  • Extra:
    • As said, a remote. I hate stand up from the sofa to just to change volume. At the moment, I use the remote of the DAC, but I would like to keep the DAC as pass-thought only, just the end point should moderate sound IMO.
    • Also, a Subwoofer out may be nice, as I plane to stick with bookshelf speakers (regardless the price) and that seems a good (if not the best) way to mitigate bookshelf bass problem. I have connected it to the TV also, so use it for films too.
    • Absolutely not required but, given the answers that I got, if I need to step up at least to a €400, at that point having a Balanced output may be nice if I may need it in future, as I don't plan to change this stuff often.
Obviously, all the "Extra" stuff, it is not required. It is just a "If for that amount, there is another similar one that has one, or more, of these features, may suggest it to me".

Thanks.
 

TheBatsEar

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I would consider the NCore NC252MP modules in my signature, they measure beyond doubt for not that much money. They would certainly have enough power should you upgrade speakers to a more power hungry class.

Cheapest one is about 500€ in Europe and the question of amplification would be solved for a long time.

I would look for the extras in the DAC/Streamer today.
 
OP
L
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I would consider the NCore NC252MP modules in my signature, they measure beyond doubt for not that much money. They would certainly have enough power should you upgrade speakers to a more power hungry class.

Cheapest one is about 500€ in Europe and the question of amplification would be solved for a long time.
I would consider the NCore NC252MP [...] and the question of amplification would be solved for a long time.
I mean, If you would want to sell me this one, this is the right thing to say..ahah

Anyway, I briefly took a look at it at yeah, I would get it for around €500. A part from the fact that it is basically more than double that my budget now, If I look correctly, it seems to have no "Extra" features (Remote, Balance, Sub-Out, etc..).

Anyway, I will certainly consider it. Thanks.
 
F

freemansteve

Guest
First off, never believe a word written on Amazon - 80+% of reviews are clearly written by morons or are probably fake.

Secondly, most of us do know how it is to be constrained by budget at various times in our lives, but there is also truth in "buy cheap, buy twice", as you risk still not being happy with a purchase.

It is hard to find reliable reviews for relatively low-cost power amps, and I'm unable to suggest one that I know sounds good.
I think your T20 is a valve amp, and at that price level, I'd avoid valves. Actually, I'd avoid valves altogether except in my guitar amp!

I like Hypex nCores like most people, but they are not cheap. As the BatsEar almost implied, they are great bang-per-buck. The Nord amps like this are a stretch for your budget - https://www.nordacoustics.co.uk/product-page/nord-one-mp-nc250-stereo-power-amp but you'll keep it a long time and upgrade other parts around it.

Failing that I guess a Topping PA5 at £315 may be OK - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Topping-Desktop-Performance-Amplifier-Balanced-Black/dp/B09MFMJKTG/ref=sr_1_5?crid=YXRWKFWSSWNR&keywords=topping+class-d+power+amplifier&qid=1648461151&sprefix=topping+class-d+power+amplifier,aps,82&sr=8-5&th=1 - the big benefit is it is easy to return if it does not meet expectation (in 30 days)

I'd also look at a cost effective powered sub if you can, so that you can get the missing lower octave from the otherwise good speakers.
 

TheBatsEar

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I mean, If you would want to sell me this one, this is the right thing to say..ahah

Anyway, I briefly took a look at it at yeah, I would get it for around €500. A part from the fact that it is basically more than double that my budget now, If I look correctly, it seems to have no "Extra" features (Remote, Balance, Sub-Out, etc..).

Anyway, I will certainly consider it. Thanks.
That's right, you only get a power amp. I personally think it's wise to have features and basics like amplification in different devices.

There is a module with half the power per channel, measures as good and saves maybe 100€ or so, but once you update your speakers you may have to update amp again.

Anyway, i bet there are a few more devices that will get thrown into the ring for you.
 

TheBatsEar

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Failing that I guess a Topping PA5 at £315 may be OK
Had this in the back of my head but didn't remember the name. Owners are very satisfied as one can read in the ASR review thread.
 
OP
L
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First off, never believe a word written on Amazon - 80+% of reviews are clearly written by morons or are probably fake.
Never did for anything I care. Hence why know that I want to update it I am informing :)


"buy cheap, buy twice".
Agreed again. As much as my budget allow, I try to stick with this philosophy in basically everything I buy.


I think your T20 is a valve amp
Yep. Affirmative sir.
Apparently seems like an hybrid, it's a class D that make the signal goes thought valves and they seems to do something.


I'd avoid valves altogether
I have not said it but yes. I would go with a good Class D.
I honestly don't like to take care of Valves that breaks and are hard to find.
I prefer a solid piece of metal with no maintenance.


The Nord amps like this are a stretch for your budget
Yeah, I just saw it.
If I can think of saving up a bit toward the 350-400 mark, ATM, €500+ it is absolutely out of reach. Cannot justify that amount, not now at least.


Failing that I guess a Topping PA5 at £315 may be OK
This looks nice, thanks.
Any good review I can read/watch about it?


I'd also look at a cost effective powered sub if you can, so that you can get the missing lower octave from the otherwise good speakers.
Any suggestion right out of your mind?
 
OP
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Had this in the back of my head but didn't remember the name. Owners are very satisfied as one can read in the ASR review thread.
Oh that's nice to know.

It is the most affordable suggested so far. I will certainly look at it!
 
F

freemansteve

Guest
Any suggestion right out of your mind?

I will be flamed for this suggestion, but I was on the double-problem of budget and spousal aesthetic approval. "It's my lounge and the furniture stays where I want it, because you are an idiot and only like wires and big things" Etc Etc.

But I can say that whether they are rubbish or not as far as ASR would be concerned, "my wife and I" are pleased with these very compact units:


I bought two, but in a small room you only need one - my wife has no idea luckily. If you saw the room, you'd say "I get it".

OK, OK, I'd have preferred another octave lower, but on the plus side I am not divorced, so far. Music has half-decent bass guitar and drums now, and films are great.

My buddy - a lifelong HiFi guy who had his own speaker design company, listened and reckoned it was a far better compromise than a new wife. And cheaper.
 
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OP
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I will be flamed for this suggestion, but I was on the double-problem of budget and spousal aesthetic approval. "It's my lounge and the furniture stays where I want it, because you are an idiot and only like wires and big things" Etc Etc.

But I can say that whether they are rubbish or not as far as ASR would be concerned, "my wife and I" are pleased with these very compact units:


I bought two, but in a small room you only need one - my wife has no idea luckily.

OK, OK, I'd have preferred another octave lower, but on the plus side I am not divorced, so far. Music has half-decent bass guitar and drums now, and films are great.

Ahah thank you for the laughs and the suggestion :)
Appreciated your time.
 
OP
L
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Just as an update.

After your suggestions, I take a look at the:
  • Topping PA5:
    • It has an ASR Review, so, well, it starts good.
    • It measures awesome and the reviews, everywhere, seems really good too.
    • It is a bit of a stretch for my budget (Amp + Cables >€350) but eventually, I may decide to put some more cash aside in a couple of months.
    • But it is just an Amp. No Remote, no common RCA input, no sub-out, damn...it doesn't even have a light :confused:
  • SMSL DA-9:
    • Just this thread on ASR (that I found).
    • Even if no measurements, seems all the owner are pretty happy. Looks inferior to the PA5, but not by a wide margin.
    • It would be the only unit within my budget. Now on sale for €215 (from like €250).
    • It has basically anything I could ask: Remote, both RCA and Balance, Sub-out and extras like a display, integrated power and BT5 (which I do not care, but is there)
The DA-9 looks almost the perfect unit to me, in this moment.
It is affordable and gives me flexibility. If I would like to add a Subwoofer to my bookshelf speakers (which, I would like to), I would not be able to with the PA5 for example.
And looking at your proposals, to have an Amp, let's say good as the PA5, with all of these features, I would need to pay north of €500/600+, and, in no way I would be able to spend that amount of money any time soon. Not in a system with a €100 DAC and €200 Speakers. I think that with that amount of money I could make more important changes, like better speakers and a Sub, but tell me if I am wrong.

What's your take on this? Would you recommend me the DA-9?
 

TheBatsEar

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I would rather buy a used Yamaha A-S 300 or 301, if money is a question.
Much more bang for the buck.
 
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