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DAC+Amp / AVR for Focal Aria 926

Guenselmann

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Nov 23, 2020
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Hi all,

just got a good deal on a pair of Focal Aria 926 speakers for my living room, and now I am looking into how to actually feed the things. I have almost no experience with home cinema, having spent most of my time in front of a PC with headphones before I finally moved into a bigger appartment.

I do not plan to expand to a multi-channel setup anytime soon. I think a dedicated subwoofer might get me in trouble with the neighbours, and I do not really have the space for surround speakers.

For pricing and availability: I live in Germany.

To get to the point, my sources are:
Movies/Shows: Panasonic TX40FSW504 Smart TV with awfully laggy UI. Probably going to be replaced eventually as it is also too small. My viewing distance is ~4m. I use only video streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube.
Music: Deezer Hifi via the TV app (terrible!). I am open to changing to another streaming service.

I have basically nothing else in terms of hardware. After a lot of searching on these forums I think I have two options now:

1.
Get an AVR, probably Denon AVC-X3700H, and call it a day. I think this would give me a very comfortable solution with decent performance and in-built room EQ. Power should be sufficient as I can't push very high volumes (again, neighbours). However, the Denon is very hard to get at the moment and the price has increased to 1100€ or higher. Isn't that quite expensive considering the speakers were 1600€ for the pair? Alternatively, I could go with a lower-priced AVR, but would probably lose room EQ, if not more (fidelity, power).

2.
Power amp such as this one: https://www.audiophonics.fr/en/powe...reo-amplifier-ncore-2x250w-4-ohm-p-14185.html
Plus a DAC, e.g. Gustard X16, SMSL SU-9 or Topping D30 Pro.
This setup would have more power and higher (measured) fidelity, but pretty much no other features and less convenience. Combined price ~969€, so almost the same as the AVR. Could be brought down a fair bit by going unbalanced. No room EQ is a miss. Of course it could be added, but then the cost is probably higher than the AVR route.
One thing I am worried about here is volume control. As I understand the SU-9 and D30 Pro have pre-amp mode and a remote. Is this safe to rely on? What if the unit changes back to DAC mode for some reason (e.g. less tech savvy visitor)? Is that a realistic scenario or am I too paranoid? I read that an anlog pre-amp could be added for attenuation to set a "maximum level". How much would that cost and does it degrade performance?

Overall, option 1 seems to be the better choice for me, even though I really like playing around with hardware and software. I am sure going with dedicated components is the way to go for a high-end setup, but I feel that is not what I have. What do you think?

Thanks for any input!


PS: Wasn't sure where to post this thread because it covers at least two different forum categories.
 
I'm a beginner myself, and in a similar situation to you. Personally I plan to go down the route of separate components. Mostly because it seems more fun. So please buy the amp and post here about your experience with it ;)

If you have found good options that have similar spec but unbalanced I would think its worth going for. Seems that balanced isn't really that big a deal unless you start running extremely long cables.

My idea at the moment is either the amp you posted or a DIY kit based on the NC400 together with the SMSL M500. But actually now your post made me think about getting an AVR after all. Dammit...
 
Unless there is a specific reason to buy such an expensive DAC I would suggest that you go for a cheaper one. Dacs below 250 euro are completely transparent today so personally I wouldn't see the reason to spend more on it. A Topping e30 is already perfect and also provides volume control plus a remote.

Like this your second option can become much cheaper. Still the feature set will be less than the AVR though.
From my experience with a Denon (had the 2500 for some time with only audyssey xt and not xt32) the room EQ and dynamic EQ really make a difference. Room EQ makes a much larger difference than 3db of SINAD that nobody can hear
 
Unless there is a specific reason to buy such an expensive DAC I would suggest that you go for a cheaper one. Dacs below 250 euro are completely transparent today so personally I wouldn't see the reason to spend more on it. A Topping e30 is already perfect and also provides volume control plus a remote.

Like this your second option can become much cheaper. Still the feature set will be less than the AVR though.
From my experience with a Denon (had the 2500 for some time with only audyssey xt and not xt32) the room EQ and dynamic EQ really make a difference. Room EQ makes a much larger difference than 3db of SINAD that nobody can hear

Thanks.

Is there any reasonably beginner friendly way to add room EQ without catching up to the AVR solution price wise? I'm thinking it needs to work for all sources. I kind of want it to make sense to get separates, but starting to think that OP is on to something...
 
Although you could drive 926 with 100 Wpc , to get most out of them, you would need 200 W 8ohm, 350 W 4ohm.
Congratulations for purchase, enjoy them!
 
I agree going unbalanced would be a good way of pushing the price down a bit. I have a Topping E30 for Desktop use. Changing between DAC and pre-amp mode requires long press of the power button on the device while it is off, so accidentally changing and going full volume into the speakers will be unlikely unless the E30 somehow forgets the setting.

Then it would be total 609€ for AMP and DAC:
https://www.audiophonics.fr/en/powe...reo-amplifier-ncore-2x250w-4-ohm-p-14278.html - 469€
Topping E30 - 140€

Adding room EQ is a problem though with this setup. I was thinking about getting a miniDSP UMIK-1 and using a small PC as the source because smart TV UIs seem universally crappy, i.e. sluggish, coming from a high-end PC. Doing the EQ with REW would not be that beginner friendly, but I will manage. Of course this will all add to the cost and only work with sources connected to the PC, but seems to be fine for a simple stereo setup.
 
Although you could drive 926 with 100 Wpc , to get most out of them, you would need 200 W 8ohm, 350 W 4ohm.
Congratulations for purchase, enjoy them!

Thanks!
I read that for usual listening levels only a few Watts of power are actually needed, so I thought even 100 W per channel would be plenty as I want to be considerate of my neighbours downstairs.
And if I ever move into my own house or something like that I understand from Amir's review that I could still add a power amp and bypass the AVR amps.
 
The Aria 926 handle up to 250W, however their sensitivity is not too bad at 91.5dB, the 3700X puts out 138Wpc (with two channels driven). The 926 are rated at 8 ohms, but the impedance dips down to 2.9 ohms, I'm not sure how well the AVR is gonna like that.
The audiophonics amp is not actually much more powerful than the AVR, but it is rated for 2 ohm loads and would give you a lower noise floor (though that probably doesn't matter).
I think modern smart TVs are fine (exept Philips) for watching Netflix and such, but but not great for anything beyond that. You could go with a Raspberry Pi 4 or something like that for the Room EQ and further capabilities. It will be more work though and you will need to buy a measurement microphone seperately.
As far as your potential concerns about the Topping E30; mine has never forgotten the volume settings, not even after having it unplugged in a cupbord for a couple days (just tried it, still set to -12dB upon plugging it in).
 
From this Stereophile measurements of the (probably very similar) 936 impedance has a pretty broad dip below 4 Ohms and confirms the 2.9 Minimum (+-0.1 dB).
Denon writes on this site that the minimum Impedance should not be below 3.2 Ohms, but I'm not sure if that article is up-to-date and applies to all of their devices: link
Can you help me out with this? Do I absolutely have to get the better amp?
 
I would invest more in amplifier, so that you can enjoy your equipment longer, without need for upgrade.
 
I think you guys have a point. Just like PC power supplies, speaker amplification is probably not the place to skimp on. Maybe I order the Audiophonics amp and steal the E30 from my PC (on-board DAC is not that bad anyway) for a while to see how I like the setup. Then I can still decide later what to do about room EQ and content sources.
 
I think you guys have a point. Just like PC power supplies, speaker amplification is probably not the place to skimp on. Maybe I order the Audiophonics amp and steal the E30 from my PC (on-board DAC is not that bad anyway) for a while to see how I like the setup. Then I can still decide later what to do about room EQ and content sources.

Please post here when you have the amp and had a chance to test it. I'm probably getting the Focal Chora 826 which I believe are the low budget version of your speakers; and am also strongly considering the Audiophonics amp. So I am really interested in how you like it.

(Also interested in other ideas for amps for the Chora 826 within a similar price range.)
 
Those are great speakers ! I really enjoyed them with Atoll in100se ( if You considering used market, that amp costs ~500 EUR ) Perfectly functional and attractive DAC - Topping D50s can be bought from Amazon.de.
 
Got the Audiophonics amp today and listened to the Arias for a while. Really nice even with my quick-and-dirty placement.

Setup: Deezer app on Panasonic TV -> Topping E30 (pre-amp mode, TOSLINK) -> AUDIOPHONICS MPA-S250NC RCA -> Focal Aria 926

The Deezer app on my TV is almost unusably laggy, but I knew that already going in. It's a temporary solution.

I'm not convinced of using E30 as pre-amp. It creates pops when changing between input sources and pops and crackles on power-on/off. I made sure that the firmware is up-to-date. I then added my L30 to the chain with its pot around 12:00, while increasing the gain on the E30. That seems to attenuate the annoying noises enough and also feels safer. The L30 is kind of overkill with its headphone amp for this purpose though. Maybe there is a simpler, also transparent, solution with an analog pot.

The Audiophonics amp is superb from what I can tell, but I didn't push it to high volumes today. Nice build quality, no audible noise whatsoever.

I will think over the next weeks how I want to set up my sources, room EQ etc. I still think a Denon AVC-X3700H is hard to beat even in pre-amp mode with a dedicated amp.

Sadly, I will have to send the Arias back because the store accidentally sent me their demo units instead of the returned units I purchased. :facepalm:
 
Sadly, I will have to send the Arias back because the store accidentally sent me their demo units instead of the returned units I purchased.

Doh, hope it gets sorted quickly and without to much pain.

Glad to hear you enjoy the amp though, seems likely I will order one myself within the next month or two :)
 
Thought I'd share mine as I have the Denon AVR 3700h and also Aria 926. I'm loving it with RME ADI-2FS Pro!!! I had the Lyngdorf tdai-3400 for few months, this lyngdorf doesn't improve anything so I sold it.

I'm itching for upgrades so was looking at Kanta 2 (room is small don't want Sopra) but then every time i turn it on, it sounds so good so I'm hesitant a bit lol Currently looking at a few int amp with higher output and might pull the trigger...Looking at Musical Fidelity 8xi, Hegel 390 so far. I need int amp as needing HT by-pass.
 
Got the Audiophonics amp today and listened to the Arias for a while. Really nice even with my quick-and-dirty placement.

Setup: Deezer app on Panasonic TV -> Topping E30 (pre-amp mode, TOSLINK) -> AUDIOPHONICS MPA-S250NC RCA -> Focal Aria 926

Any chance can give some longer term feedback on the set-up, I'm looking at something basically identical. How finding Toping DAC as pre (I'm thinking using the E50).
 
I got a Denon AVR-X3700H a few months ago because I wanted to have room EQ. Definitely a nice improvement in my suboptimal room. The E30 was working okay-ish, just the popping noises I mentioned were annoying. I am still using the Audiophonics amp with the Denon as pre-amp now. Keeps the Denon cooler.
 
I got a Denon AVR-X3700H a few months ago because I wanted to have room EQ. Definitely a nice improvement in my suboptimal room. The E30 was working okay-ish, just the popping noises I mentioned were annoying. I am still using the Audiophonics amp with the Denon as pre-amp now. Keeps the Denon cooler.
Great thanks - and just out of curiosity I assume the Hypex was massively overpowering speakers, any chance tried the 926s from the Denon and appreciate if any difference?
 
Yeah, the Arias get louder than I would ever need with either the Hypex or Denon. I don't think there is an audible sonic difference either, but my testing was limited and I am happy to admit that I'm not a trained listener. If I didn't already have the Hypex I would probably just use the Denon, even though it's nice that the AVR stays a bit cooler.
 
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