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Pre-amplifier / DAC combo for B&W CM10 S2

NailOnHead

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I couldn’t really figure out which sub forum to put this under, since I’m neither asking about a pure DAC or a pure amplifier.

I currently have a set of B&W CM10 S2, and a Rotel RA-11 (integrated amplifier). Since my kids have been getting out of the baby phase I’m noticing that the amplifier is struggling when I turn up the volume.

I bought the RA-11 because at the time my Rotel RB-1070 gave up the ghost, and my pre-amp didn’t have any digital inputs at the time.

So now I’m back back, looking for a better setup. Total amplifier / DAC / pre-amp budget is around €1600.

For the actual power amplifiers, the options are:

Dual Mono Hypex NC400/500.. About €1250. I like that they’re measuring well, the company is based my own country (buy local :p) and repairable (I know how to solder and basic multimeter measurements). Although I read a lot about early failures.

Another option would be the Arthur 3409 / N2. At €950 for Hypex Ncore 150W 8ohm’s. More attractive pricing, less power.

Another option would be the Advance Acoustics X-A160EVO. Although Advance Acoustics / Paris does not usually measure that great, I just loooove those VU meters :oops:.
€1400 for 160watts 8ohm.

My RA-11 can function as a pre-amp, but it only has unbalanced RCA outputs, seems like a waste? Unless I can rig it internally with some DIY balanced outputs?
I would like to sell the RA-11 and buy a DAC + Pre-amp, or a 2-in-1 combo.

This would leave about €500 in the budget for the DAC/Pre-Amp if I go for the Hypex monoblocks.
Current offerings I found and like:

MiniDSP Flex: offers 1 toslink input, 2 analog inputs, balanced outputs and volume control. All I need. And I can get DSP/room correction as a bonus. Downside is that the balanced version does not have a normal RCA-in. Also, the DIRAC functionality is not inside budget right now.

That’s it really, most other options entail a separate DAC / pre-amp, or a significantly higher price.

Questions I have:
Am I focussing too much of my budget in the amplifiers?
Other options for pre-amp / dac combo?
Should I just buy a newer / better integrated? I like the idea of a long lasting amplifier and updatable pre-amp.
 
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MAX232

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Hey NailOnHead,
i do not have a solution, but i'm in such a similar situation i thought i'd give you some things i found. First, i'm also from NL, second i'm one stage ahead of you and bought 2 monoblocks hypex NC250MP. I use them in 8Ohm, on 88Db/m sensitive speakers in a room measuring 8.5x4.5m. The power is more - really - than enough, especially when used balanced.
I also loooooove VU-meters and am now in the building process of placing the NC250MP's into two new housings with VU-meters :). All wireleads to process the VU-meter signal, lighting and other stuff are almost identified and dealt with so build will start soon.
For what it's worth, indeed pursuit balanced. And if you choose to get one unit to drive the hypex(es) (i currently use a Topping D30Pro - which can handle the toslink/usb DAC for you in balanced/unbalanced output to your hypexes) a good tip is volume control. That is what i'm struggling with since the toslink afaik cannot send volume signals but the usb can. Therefor a memory per source would really be convenient. When you switch sources and do not want to blow out your windows when you forgot to dial down after a session.
Good luck!
 
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NailOnHead

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Thanks for your very complete answer :)

The B&W CM10 S2 is 8ohm and 90Db/m. My room is a lot smaller though, haha, about 3,5 x 5 meters.

I have decided I first want to pursue room correction and balanced connectors before I decide on the power amplifier I use. I think there is less to be gained with going from a 500€ power amp to a €1500 power amp, then when using room correction.

I ordered the MiniDSP Flex (with Dirac + Umik-1) as my new "pre-amp".
 

MAX232

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Ah, good stuff. I think measurements/loads and such help others to get an idea about what you can do/expect without buying one piece after another. I work with roughly the same budget.

I also progress along the same lines. I also bought the Umik-1 :) but haven't got around to use it yet. I plan to use it with this manual https://community.roonlabs.com/t/a-guide-how-to-do-room-correction-and-use-it-in-roon/23800 together with this software https://www.roomeqwizard.com. That will let me create correction files in Windows which i can load into my ROON server.

All just to have fun and understand what is happening with room modes and so on. Mostly i'm very happy with my current sound.

Enjoy!
 
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NailOnHead

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I don't know exactly what you mean by both decks, but I think you mean pre / power amp? Yeah, I'm selling my RA-11 for a power amp with balanced inputs.
As a source I'm mainly going to use Toslink and/or USB.

I'm very curious to the effect DRC is going to have on my CM10 S2's :)
 

MAX232

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Jup, pre-amp to amp. Wether the pre-amp is also a dac or not. Just be aware not all xlrs are really balanced…
 
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NailOnHead

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Jup, pre-amp to amp. Wether the pre-amp is also a dac or not. Just be aware not all xlrs are really balanced…
Ah, great, more Audio Magic. Probably no way to tell except for decent reviews, right? :facepalm:

I don't know what I'm going to do yet, I'm kinda doubting about the dual mono NC400 setup (how is the durability (SMPS PSU also), I hear some components get hot, do they last 10 years without problems?).

Other options would be either a Rotel RB-1582 (~€900 used, "what I know"), Arthur 3409/N2 NC252MP(~€900 new, auto wake), or the Advance Acoustic X-A160EVO (€1400, pretty pretty, 12v trigger).
 
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MAX232

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I am really pleased with my NC250's, i believe they are a smidge better than the NC series because of the OEM. They get luke warm but that's by design. I have mine on all day every day, no probs. I think they are 3 years old now. The hypexes with seperate powersupplies may be different though. I found the brand to be really reliable, if you see which top-brands use the stuff they have to be.
 
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NailOnHead

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I found AudioPhonics yesterday, which also offers Hypex Ncore modules, but at an even more attractive price, haha. So I'm also considering them now. The Boxem ones have nicer builds quality / design, and the auto-wake feature is very cool. The Audiophonics have 12v triggers and price advantages, haha. The LPA-S500NC (~€785 / $875) is based on a Hypex NC502 has a staggering 350W of power at 8 ohm. Will measure probably a bit less than NC400 (DIY), but hey, coming from an old Rotel... I'm tempted, haha.
 

MAX232

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Wow,

I've searched a lot on this because i am building my own amps. This by robbing my current monoblocks from their NC250 OEM boards to build into a much cooler casing with real VU-meters :). But i cannot ignore https://www.audiophonics.fr/en/powe...s-d-amplifier-2x500w-4-ohm-ncore-p-13344.html. What a find. That would mean i don't have to rob my monoblocks and can sell them on.

Thanks!!

PS: an audiophile with real indepth knowledge (electrical engineer, builds his own amps/dacs and stuff) has told me the OEM versions (also in the AudioPhonics) are better than the DIY NC modules. For what it's worth...
 

FrantzM

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Welcome @NailOnHead !

"Separates" are from another time, when it was thought (perhaps, rightfully so, another debate), that they needed separated components to improve performance... This is no longer the case, and this is provable, measurable: Past a certain degree of transparency, let's use SINAD for the sake of simplification, say 80 dB, there is no audible gains to be had, not much you, or any human can audibly discern in residential conditions. Some would say even in an anechoic room...
I would have suggested you to get the miniDSP SHD Power about $1600.oo plus shipping. It is the complete package and at 120 Watts per channel, enough for your speakers and your room...

Peace.
 

MAX232

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Found them already, bought and ready to be built into :cool:
 

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MAX232

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Welcome @NailOnHead !

"Separates" are from another time, when it was thought (perhaps, rightfully so, another debate), that they needed separated components to improve performance... This is no longer the case, and this is provable, measurable: Past a certain degree of transparency, let's use SINAD for the sake of simplification, say 80 dB, there is no audible gains to be had, not much you, or any human can audibly discern in residential conditions. Some would say even in an anechoic room...
I would have suggested you to get the miniDSP SHD Power about $1600.oo plus shipping. It is the complete package and at 120 Watts per channel, enough for your speakers and your room...

Peace.
Do you mean monoblocks vs stereo amp? If so, i agree, but monoblocks just look the bizz... nothing can beat it imo
 
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NailOnHead

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Welcome @NailOnHead !

"Separates" are from another time, when it was thought (perhaps, rightfully so, another debate), that they needed separated components to improve performance... This is no longer the case, and this is provable, measurable: Past a certain degree of transparency, let's use SINAD for the sake of simplification, say 80 dB, there is no audible gains to be had, not much you, or any human can audibly discern in residential conditions. Some would say even in an anechoic room...
I would have suggested you to get the miniDSP SHD Power about $1600.oo plus shipping. It is the complete package and at 120 Watts per channel, enough for your speakers and your room...

Peace.
Yeah, I see where you're coming from, a miniDSP SHD Power is a really nice small complete package!
I still like separates from a durability and aesthetic point of view though.

If the PSU of my power amp breaks, I still have my costly DSP intact. Or otherwise, if I want to switch to the newest / hottest HDMI 5.9.3.1, I don't need to replace my power amp.

And yeah, I just think towers look cool, hahaha.
 
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NailOnHead

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Got the AudioPhonics LPA-S500NC today, for now I connected it to my old Rotel RA-11 through the pre-out. Let's just say that either the pre-out is not what I normally hear, or the new 2x 350W @ 8Ω has a whoooole let more headroom. The basslines are considerably more pronounced, haha.

So much so that I can't wait for the DSP to arrive, haha.
 
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freemansteve

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I was going to get a couple of Nord Amps (https://www.nordacoustics.co.uk/ Cheltenham UK) which use either Hypex or Purfi modules, plus a miniDSP, and build a Pi to stream from.

Wife looked, and decided it was too "messy".

I showed her a Cambridge Audio Evo 75. "Is it any good?" she asked. "Probably not as good as I was going to put together from parts.", I said. "Here's the money right now for the EVO", she said....

We now both think it is a nice, flexible all-in-in one - sounds "good enough" no matter what we play.
 

MAX232

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For sure a nice deck, congrats :)

My monoblocks reside in my cabinet, behind closed doors - which is no issue for class-D. The cases i bought will get more exposure when done though...
 
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