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Speaker amplifier buying advice


May 18, 2020
Hey guys, first of all I hope I posted in the correct subforum.

I can’t make up my mind what gear to buy. I know in the end I have to make the decision myself, but maybe there’s some things I have not thought of, or you guys have other ideas and can enlighten me with your experience. I am setting up my living room system and need an amplifier to power my KEF LS50 Metas (got them for rather cheap). Maybe will add a sub later. I already own a Raspberry Pi with Volumio as a source and could use the Khadas Tone Board as a DAC, as I currently don’t use it. I don’t play music very loud in my small to medium sized room so I don’t think any decent amp would struggle to power my speakers. If you have any other suggestions, I am looking not to spend much more than 1.000 €.

There’s three possible setups I have already thought of but appreciate any ideas on this:

1st Setup: Raspberry Pi -> Khadas Tone Board -> directly to Power Amp without Preamp (2x Mono Audiophonics MPA-M250NC, as I live in Europe and that seems to be the only decent option for a Hypex amp). I don’t need a preamp as It would only cost money and maybe even degrade sound quality

Pro: - Best possible sound quality and SINAD in my budget, and that is probably the most important thing to me. I could use the streamer and DAC I already own, or would probably get another DAC with optical input to also hook up my TV (SMSL D-6 or DO100 it would be then).

Cons: - I read some things about not every DAC being suitable to directly drive power amps (something about matching output voltage of DAC to input sensitivity of power amp). Also I don’t have a clue how good volume attenuation would work, since I would probably blow my speakers and eardrums if the DAC is on full volume, or am I missing something? I can only imagine that I would have to keep the DAC volume very low and would therefore have a very narrow volume range I could use and would have huge volume steps. (maybe it would be better to open a new topic in the Newbie/Beginner subforum for this question)

- If I would later decide to get a subwoofer, I would have no bass management. Most active subwoofers may have a low pass filter but I would have no high pass filter for the LS50 Metas, and I would definitely want to relieve the speakers from playing the low frequencies if I’d decide to get a sub.

- looks are not that great, which unfortunately is rather important to me (wife acceptance factor), as it is basically a DAC board in a DIY case (Khadas Tone Board) and a chip power amp module in an "almost-DIY" case (although the Audiophonics case looks rather well made and built)

2nd Setup: Raspberry Pi -> Khadas Tone Board -> Yamaha R-N803

- the Yamaha is measured on ASR with a good SINAD of 92dB. May not be as transparent as the Hypex amps, but doubt I could really hear a difference

- has proper bass management if I later add a sub

- looks great and is a complete device, even with some (maybe outdated) streaming capabilities, which I don’t really need but would be a nice extra

- even has a (rather basic) room correction system

Cons: - rather outdated (5 years old), which may be not that important after all though

- maybe a bit less transparent than the above mentioned setup

3rd Setup: Bluesound Powernode

- complete package with comprehensive and state of the art streaming capabilities, which would be a very nice extra and I wouldn’t need another DAC or streamer

- looks great, even better than the Yamaha, as it is available in white and I have white furniture. Also small, light and very modern looking

Cons: - usability could be tricky (read some things about BluOS being finicky)

- no measurements by ASR, so could be audibly intransparent. on the other hand, it uses Hypes UcD modules, so will probably not be that bad after all. Of course I could just have a listen and decide if I like it

- although it will probably power my speakers with ease, it has less power than the aforementioned setups.

- no room correction system opposed to the Yamaha

At the moment I am leaning more towards the latter two setups, as the only reason to go with Audiophonics Hypes power amp would be the high SINAD score (aesthetically and functionally it is inferior to the other devices), but I have doubts that I could hear the difference between the Powernode or let alone the Yamaha with its good SINAD of 92dB. Powernode is newer and looks sleeker but lacks room correction system (which I probably would not use, I would only know after setting up my system if I need room treatment, but my guess if I would listen without any alteration).

Any comment with help is greatly appreciated. Thank you!
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