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Integrated Amp upgrade from Audiolab 6000A

Koulou

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I am currently on the lookup for a new amp for my HiFi system. Currently, I have an Audiolab 6000A driving a pair of Monitor Audio Silver 300 6g. I play a lot of LPs using my Pro-Ject 1 Xpression Carbon UKX, and I stream from Tidal and Spotify using a Chromecast Audio connected to my amp via optical. Sometimes I use my system for films too.

Although the speakers have matched great with the amp sonically, it clearly runs out of juice at higher volumes; thus, I have decided to upgrade my amp. I am looking for an all-in-one solution (integrated amp + phono stage + streamer), as having multiple boxes is not an option due to "logistics", and I would like to upgrade the Chromecast Audio, which will probably die on me sooner or later.

Recently, I found an open box - practically unused Roksan Attessa streaming amp at a great price, and I couldn't resist giving it a go in my place. My opinion on this amp was mixed. It was brilliant at low volumes, but I found it overwhelming at higher volumes, when it was a bit bright ( I wish it had tone controls) and too open and detailed, causing listening fatigue after some time. I didn't find it an excellent match for the Silver 300s. I also came across some bugs, plus I didn't particularly appreciate that it makes some noise on the right channel and a bit of hiss on the left one. This is a known issue of the amp acknowledged by Roksan, and I wouldn't say I liked their approach to it. The phono stage set at mid gain did great with my Pro-Ject 1 XPression UKX. It seems to be a well-built amp, but the remote control is not at the same level.

Then I found an ex-display NAD C388 with the bluOS module at a reasonable price (999 GBP), and I am currently demoing it. I find the NAD a bit of the opposite compared to Roksan. I love its sound at higher volumes, while it has plenty of headroom. I've gone above 50% just a few times, and that brought very clear, loud, detailed, open, and well-balanced sound. However, at lower volumes, it sounds a bit boring, mainly due to dark_ish treble. Increasing the treble by 3-4 dB from the tone controls brings the sound closer to my taste, although I sometimes find it dull. Its software feels more "mature" than Roksan's, but I am not excited about its phono stage. Even my Audiolab's phono stage sounded better to my ears. It is still OK, though.

I may keep the C388 in the end.

Another amp I would like to try is the Arcam SA30. Considering how class G amplification works, I expect it to do great at low levels (working as class A) while not doing bad at higher outputs hence its second "phase" of operation. I also find the built-in Chromecast module more than welcome, while its phono stage is very well reviewed. My only concern is still regarding some software issues it still seems to have. Surprisingly, at the shop I got the C388 from, they told me that they've stopped suggesting it, as it has plenty of issues, not only with its software but also its actual amp compartment, while its streamer is subpar. I am considering that they tried to make me avoid the Arcam to sell me the NAD C388 I am currently testing. On the other hand, I wouldn't enjoy dealing with multiple issues with my amp; thus, I am still a bit hesitant while intrigued. I prefer getting a bulletproof amp instead of opening a can of worms and dealing with various issues in the end.

Another idea is to wait for the NAD C389 with the bluOS module. From a power perspective, it should be more than enough, considering C388's headroom. It has some welcome features compared to the C388 (HDMI ARC, better streaming module, better DAC, Dirac Live -although not across the whole frequency range-, slightly better streaming module etc.). Still, I am unsure if these would be worth spending ~60% more than the ex-display C388 I am currently testing. On the other hand, this will be a brand new amp, while the C388 is an older model, plus this specific one has marks on the rear top. I am always cautious with my equipment, so the idea of keeping a marked amp is spinning in my head, while this will also affect its selling price when I go for my next upgrade. The C388 still comes with a full manufacturer warranty, though.


I also have the Marantz 40n lower on my list.

Any ideas/suggestions on the above would be highly appreciated.

Cheers
 
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killdozzer

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You've just joined so perhaps the best advice would be to look around and get a feeling of this place. Advice here is often a bit different than in other forums.

You're going on about brands and "dull" or "bright" amps, which is, to put it mildly, not the middle of the road here.

You have speakers sensitive enough, but with some dips. You get 90dB with 1 watt, which means:
2 watts - 93
4 watts - 96
8 watts - 99
16 watts - and you get ear bleeding 102dB

Which begs the question how loud do you need it and in how big of a room? Your amp measures very, very well with a load of 4 ohms so you shouldn't really have anything to complain about.

Since your speakers dip in resistance all the way to 3,5 ohms and if you have a large listening room so you really hear some problems with the sound, you could just look for a 80-100 watts per channel into 8 with all the features you require.

On a side note, you're considering some of the brands that, watt per watt and feature per feature, like to overcharge their products.

From all that you've listed, I'd give some advantage to NAD because of Hypex.
 

SIY

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Second NAD. If you can swing the bucks, the M33 is superb.
 
OP
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Koulou

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Cheers for your responses, folks.

You've just joined so perhaps the best advice would be to look around and get a feeling of this place. Advice here is often a bit different than in other forums.

You're going on about brands and "dull" or "bright" amps, which is, to put it mildly, not the middle of the road here.

You have speakers sensitive enough, but with some dips. You get 90dB with 1 watt, which means:
2 watts - 93
4 watts - 96
8 watts - 99
16 watts - and you get ear bleeding 102dB

Which begs the question how loud do you need it and in how big of a room? Your amp measures very, very well with a load of 4 ohms so you shouldn't really have anything to complain about.

Since your speakers dip in resistance all the way to 3,5 ohms and if you have a large listening room so you really hear some problems with the sound, you could just look for a 80-100 watts per channel into 8 with all the features you require.

On a side note, you're considering some of the brands that, watt per watt and feature per feature, like to overcharge their products.

From all that you've listed, I'd give some advantage to NAD because of Hypex.

I do understand your theoretical analysis. I am new to this forum, but I still have some theoretical knowledge (MSc in Electronics), and I agree with the above. I still believe that amps do not operate consistently across the audio spectrum or under different loads. In this case, we would be choosing amps based on their specs only, which is not the case in real life.

I do understand that most brands overcharge their products. Any suggestions for a better value for money?

Second NAD. If you can swing the bucks, the M33 is superb.
Unfortunately, the M33 is way beyond my budget. From the NADs, would you prefer the ex-display C388 or the new C389, considering that the later one will cost me ~60% more?
 
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