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DAC + Amp Options for KEF Blade

srslee

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I'm considering various options to go along with a pair of KEF Blades. The features I want are DIRAC (or RP), streaming (mostly Tidal, hopefully Spotify HiFi soon..), and ARC. The options I'm considering are the NAD M33, NAD M10 v2 + McIntosh MC462, or McIntosh MA9000 integrated.

I was initially drawn by the new rave reviews of the newer Purifi amps in the NAD M33, and it has all the features I want. Having said that, NAD support claimed that since the Blades have a minimum impedance of 3.2 ohms (nominal 4 ohm), it may overheat or overextend at higher volumes. I thought this a bit strange as the Purifi 1ET400A lists specs for 2 ohms, and at any rate, it seems like my ears would give up long before the M33. Any thoughts here?

That being the case, I am also considering the NAD M10 v2 + McIntosh MC462. But I wonder if the M10 V2 use the same DAC as the M33? It says it uses ESS Sabre DAC, but can't seem to find definitive information if it's the same ES9028PRO that's in the M33. Would I be leaving something on the table DAC-wise by going with the M10 V2 + MC462 as opposed to the M33?

The third option I'm considering the MA9000 integrated with the upgraded DA2 module (for HDMI and also has the ES9028PRO DAC), but my concerns are with room correction. The MEN220 carries quite the premium for RoomPerfect, and I've considered the SHD Studio, but then I think I would have to use optical out for the TV in that case (TV / SHD Studio / MA9000). In addition, I would need to add a Bluesound Node to the mix (BluOS preferred to Volumio for family-friendly use). Also, the McIntosh DA2 module says it expertly downmixes Dolby & DTS for 2-channel audio, but would that be any different from either of the NAD integrated options downmixing to 2.0?

Lastly, I have considered an AVR, something like the NAD T 778, but I'm fairly confident that I'll be sticking with 2 channel only, so all the features (and the bit of extra noise) that comes with an AVR felt unnecessary. The only question I have here is whether having an AVR, even for a 2.0 setup, would improve my movie & TV viewing experience compared to the M10 or M33 in terms of downmixing surround content (but at what cost?)?

I'm leaning towards the first 2 options, but information on the above questions, and any suggestions/recommendations are appreciated!
 
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I do not have your speakers, but I have a little bit of experience with class D, and a lot of experience with preamplifiers.

I Run a large set of floor standing speakers, and I get the sound to them via one of several preamps that I have, going into a set of D-sonic Pascal based monoblocks. They are extremely transparent, extremely high powered and I absolutely would never take them out of my set up. Right next to them I have a set of Classe Audio hi powered monoblocks from the early 1990s, these were recently serviced and brought back to like new condition.

My point is I haven’t switched the classe A/B amps on in over a year, ever since I bought the D-Sonics.

I just bought a Freya + preamp which is basically a Freya S with an added tube stage, and I based my purchase off of the review right here on ASR. I’ll be hooking this up today, and I expect it to work perfectly and transparently just as reviewed.

I don’t know what your after as far as WPC, but it’s always good to have extra headroom.

I also have a AVR, or in my case an AV pre-pro, and I wouldn’t give that up either, even though it’s nine years old, it works perfectly.

So my answer is I use both and AV pre-pro, and a two channel preamp, I also have a couple more two channel preamps that I use on occasion. But I find their functionality and adaptability to be the main draw for me. As long as they are transparent you can’t go wrong.

Hopefully that helps a little bit.

Edit;

Dennis Deacon (D-Sonics owner) provides customer service himself, and he’s really a great person.

As far as the Freya S, or Freya + they probably have no equal for less than $1000. Maybe the new Topping preamp, but I don’t want a desktop looking preamp for my set up. Plus you have to add the additional piece to get any kind of flexibility out of it.
 

steve59

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a little time has passed, I’m using a hegel h360 and I recently added a project pre box s2 digital. I was considering upgrading the 360 to a 390 and decided to try an outboard dac instead. My room is 17x27x7’ and the integrated never gets hot and unlike some speakers with difficult loads I’m getting full range. Now the hegel h590 is being discounted and I’m probably going to bring it home to compare. ive Had great sound with the krell kav300il and other kef reference speakers.
 
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srslee

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a little time has passed, I’m using a hegel h360 and I recently added a project pre box s2 digital. I was considering upgrading the 360 to a 390 and decided to try an outboard dac instead. My room is 17x27x7’ and the integrated never gets hot and unlike some speakers with difficult loads I’m getting full range. Now the hegel h590 is being discounted and I’m probably going to bring it home to compare. ive Had great sound with the krell kav300il and other kef reference speakers.
I've heard good things about the Hegel + Blade combo, and would certainly want to compare one day as well.. I'm partial to room correction (semi-difficult room), so Hegel wasn't quite on my radar although the HT Bypass function is neat. Have you always paired the Blades with the H360, or have you tried some other pairings before? I ended up going with the M10 v2 + MC462, but will likely replace the M10 with the HTP-1 once it's available, mainly because I want DLBC for the 2 subs I'll have (even if they're not always on), and to have the option to go with a surround set-up for the occasional movie. So far so good, though.

If you go with an outboard DAC, would you have any interest in something with room correction? I've had some pretty good results with Dirac so far, although I'm still tinkering. And when you say you'll bring the H590 home to compare, how does that work? Some arrangement with your dealer?

By the way, saw your post on the Blade/Ref Meta thread..also being a completely biased non-Meta Blade owner, I agree :p. In truth, knowing the Metas were coming is what got me to pull the trigger on a decent deal - no regrets!
 

steve59

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The shop that sold me the h360 took my card# without charging it and lets me pick up a piece saturday and keep until tuesday as they're closed sun and mon. I never asked for anything new in box to 'borrow'. I've been around long enough they know if i'm asking to take something home i'm serious. Roon has digital eq, but I'm slow to accept the tech...I had the old analog 10-12 band eq's back in the day and never did anything useful with them. I have an anthem 225I sitting on the shelf that made some revel f52's sing, but then a parasound A21 and the h360 with the same power ratings just sounded so much more resolving than the a21 that I think i'm set. The blade h360 combo isn't lacking but with all the hype surrounding the 590 I want to listen to them back to back.
 

steve59

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Hegel h590 in the house. I didn't expect the extra 50 wpc to make such a difference, but the control the 590 has is impressive. Bass is even tighter than the 360, treble is more pronounced and mids are very believable. Male vocals like John Legend are remarkable as Chris Cornell and most others. Leonard Cohen though was almost to clear like some weight was missing. I've had this before with the blades and tweaking placement fixed it, but that was a phase issue this sounds like the blades are putting too much upper midrange energy into the room that I didn't notice with the h360. Curious, I'm supposed to return or purchase the unit today and I would like to try moving the speakers to the long wall before judging the system since other than the bonus 'hall effect' the sound is quite addicting.
 

steve59

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I believe this dealer is also a nad dealer and that would leave some change in my pocket. Thanks for the leads
 

steve59

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I've heard good things about the Hegel + Blade combo, and would certainly want to compare one day as well.. I'm partial to room correction (semi-difficult room), so Hegel wasn't quite on my radar although the HT Bypass function is neat. Have you always paired the Blades with the H360, or have you tried some other pairings before? I ended up going with the M10 v2 + MC462, but will likely replace the M10 with the HTP-1 once it's available, mainly because I want DLBC for the 2 subs I'll have (even if they're not always on), and to have the option to go with a surround set-up for the occasional movie. So far so good, though.

If you go with an outboard DAC, would you have any interest in something with room correction? I've had some pretty good results with Dirac so far, although I'm still tinkering. And when you say you'll bring the H590 home to compare, how does that work? Some arrangement with your dealer?

By the way, saw your post on the Blade/Ref Meta thread..also being a completely biased non-Meta Blade owner, I agree :p. In truth, knowing the Metas were coming is what got me to pull the trigger on a decent deal - no regrets
There's a couple independently owned shops in the chicago burbs that will let customers take gear home without swiping the card. Floor demos, for a few days. I tell them what I currently have and what my goal is, I'm up front about being a cheapskate, pay cash and would prefer discounted gear to nib. I've found a couple shops that enjoy working with me and like girlfriends I don't talk about one while with another one, wink;.

Other than the 27 wpc tube amp I initially heard the blades with the h360 and h590 are the only amps i've tried with these speakers. I think I had the salon 1 when I was demoing all the different brands in the 200 wpc range and through those speakers the h360 sounded the most natural, by a wide margin(I was surprised at how much I liked a couple others until I played the hegel and then their warmth sounded artificial in comparison) and I decided then the brand would be my reference for building my system. Even now going back and forth between the h360 with an mqa dac the affordable project s2 digital, and the h590 by itself the difference is in the control the 590 has more than any tone differences. The h590 at demo prices is as much as i'm comfortable spending on an integrated. Roon has dsp if I need it but i'm able to keep the speakers several feet from reflective surfaces and that seems to work. subs just distract me from the music so I don't put them in my listening room, they're great for ht tho'.

If i've learned anything it's that I don't know what I don't know and that means if I don't get a pair of blade meta's into my listening room i'll never know what i'm missing and these do a very good job of keeping me up past my bedtime night after night.
 

agiletiger

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There's a couple independently owned shops in the chicago burbs that will let customers take gear home without swiping the card. Floor demos, for a few days. I tell them what I currently have and what my goal is, I'm up front about being a cheapskate, pay cash and would prefer discounted gear to nib. I've found a couple shops that enjoy working with me and like girlfriends I don't talk about one while with another one, wink;.
Which stores are these? I’m trying to work with one in particular in the Western suburbs and haven’t had great luck in the communication front. If you want to keep the conversation private, feel free to PM me.
 

Marc v E

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I'm considering various options to go along with a pair of KEF Blades. The features I want are DIRAC (or RP), streaming (mostly Tidal, hopefully Spotify HiFi soon..), and ARC. The options I'm considering are the NAD M33, NAD M10 v2 + McIntosh MC462, or McIntosh MA9000 integrated.

I was initially drawn by the new rave reviews of the newer Purifi amps in the NAD M33, and it has all the features I want. Having said that, NAD support claimed that since the Blades have a minimum impedance of 3.2 ohms (nominal 4 ohm), it may overheat or overextend at higher volumes. I thought this a bit strange as the Purifi 1ET400A lists specs for 2 ohms, and at any rate, it seems like my ears would give up long before the M33. Any thoughts here?

That being the case, I am also considering the NAD M10 v2 + McIntosh MC462. But I wonder if the M10 V2 use the same DAC as the M33? It says it uses ESS Sabre DAC, but can't seem to find definitive information if it's the same ES9028PRO that's in the M33. Would I be leaving something on the table DAC-wise by going with the M10 V2 + MC462 as opposed to the M33?

The third option I'm considering the MA9000 integrated with the upgraded DA2 module (for HDMI and also has the ES9028PRO DAC), but my concerns are with room correction. The MEN220 carries quite the premium for RoomPerfect, and I've considered the SHD Studio, but then I think I would have to use optical out for the TV in that case (TV / SHD Studio / MA9000). In addition, I would need to add a Bluesound Node to the mix (BluOS preferred to Volumio for family-friendly use). Also, the McIntosh DA2 module says it expertly downmixes Dolby & DTS for 2-channel audio, but would that be any different from either of the NAD integrated options downmixing to 2.0?

Lastly, I have considered an AVR, something like the NAD T 778, but I'm fairly confident that I'll be sticking with 2 channel only, so all the features (and the bit of extra noise) that comes with an AVR felt unnecessary. The only question I have here is whether having an AVR, even for a 2.0 setup, would improve my movie & TV viewing experience compared to the M10 or M33 in terms of downmixing surround content (but at what cost?)?

I'm leaning towards the first 2 options, but information on the above questions, and any suggestions/recommendations are appreciated!
I think I know what your goal is as it sound similar to mine:
*A no fuss 2 channel setup with hdmi for tv and great usability.
*And great hifi sound being the priority.

I haven't heard the blades but do know a bit about integrating hdmi into a 2 channel setup. So, if you haven't decided yet, here is my experience.

I have a NAD C510, which is a dac/preamp with hdmi in and out. It is based on the M51 and for all I know exactly the same but with remote control.
What I've noticed is:
-Nad wants to be at the forefront of technology and usability.
-the end result is not as polished as I would expect based on Nad specs. This is both in sound quality as in user experience.

For example the unit takes time to lock onto the hdmi signal and sometimes (once every 4 weeks) cannot do that properly, resulting in flashing pichtures or lines through the picture. Based on specs the unit should sound transparent, but it does not compared to a better measuring and half the price Topping dx7pro, particularly in the bass region.

What I've read in the Asr forums is very positive experience with NAD's streamer and software. OTOH their streamer is known to cut off the digital signal leading to problems with some dacs.

Pros and cons taken together my impression is that as a one box solution the Nad M33 with hdmi and Dirac has no real competitors. However, better hardware and software can be had for less money if hdmi and 1 box integration is not absolutely necessary.

After some not completely satisfactory experience with hdmi in a NAD device, I would skip it and instead use spdif out from the bluray player or tv. You could also opt for a hdmi to spdif converter and hide it away.

My focus would be on Roon from what I've heard hear on ASR for playback software. This because it apparently has great usability and is perfectly transparent (they know what they're doing).It can also do room integration but not automated measurements. You would have to use a measuring mic and Rew for this. And a Roon compatible streamer.

Alternatively you could use minidsp with dirac as dac/preamp and for playback software roon or a nad streamer.
There are quite a few amplifiers based on purifi or hypex modules that should sound transparent based on measurements here. I would use one of those if you don't mind a lesser known brand. Benchmark AHB2 if you like a well measuring brand with great support. Or a Macintosh amp because you liked it so much. There's no denying the great looks and feel of such an amp and most amps perform quite well anyway where transparent audibility is concerned.

Let us know what you chose in the end. Happy listening!
 
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HarmonicTHD

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I would take two Benchmarks in Mono / Bridge mode. They have excellent and replicable measurements and plenty of power (500W). And you can adjust the gain to fit to whatever box you have it hooked up to. Plus they are future proof as on the power amp side technology does not change that much in comparison to DAC, Streamers, Room correction ie the box before the power amps.

For the box before the power amp the Denon X Series in Preamp mode or the NAD M33 (with amps off) have similar SINADS and all the convenience features built in (Hires Streaming, Room Correction, Multiple Inputs incl HDMI etc). Once technology progresses in a couple of years just switch out the relatively cheap NAD, Denon AVR and leave the power amp as is.

(Not quite on Blade level: my setup KEF Reference 3 plus 2 KF92 subs on Denon X3700 and Neurochrome 686 mono power amps. The Neurochromes measure within a few dB SINAD, DR of the Benchmarks btw but with “only” ca 360W in 4ohms ).
 

steve59

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while the power rating in 8 ohms is only 51 wpc the h590 puts +150 wpc into 4 ohms compared to the h360/390 and the control is noticeable
 
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