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Speaker upgrade uncertainties (Focal Aria 936)

coconuthead

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I have a PrimaLuna EVO 300 integrated tube amp (about 4 years old) and recently upgraded from Monitor Audio Silver 6 speakers to new Focal Aria 936s (ordered online). I stream through a BluSound Node 2i and have a subscription to Qobuz and play all types of music, from Classical to Reggae to Jazz to EDM, but mainly Classical. I have mid-level Nordost cables connecting speakers and devices. The Amp is in triode mode and I’m connected to the speakers via the 8 Ohm output connector. The Amp is plugged directly into a regular home wall outlet (110V - USA).
My first question is: does the above configuration have any major flaws?
The genesis of my post is that something doesn’t sound right. I’m not sure what it is, but something is “off” and if I had to pinpoint the location, I would say it’s in the vocals/midrange. Sometimes the higher frequencies seem to break down as well, but I’m less convinced about that. It’s not catastrophic, but I’m just not sure these speakers represent an upgrade. The Focals definitely produce a bigger sound than my Silver 6s, but I’m wondering if I gave up something. It’s hard to tell because there is so much subjectivity and imprecision with comparisons based on memory.
Is my problem traceable to a mismatched Amp with these speakers? I realize tube amps are considered inherently flawed by many. If you’re in the solid state camp, what device would you recommend?
I’m not knowledgeable in the quantitative, objective methods used to assess sound that I read about in this forum and am trying learn more. Insight and suggestions appreciated.
 

Waxx

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The focal is a hard to drive speaker for a relative low power tube amp (like the PL Evo 300) due to the ragged (big variations of) impendance curve this speaker has. A more modern amp won't have issues with that, but a tube amp prefer an even impendance curve to load.

The focal needs a lot of power to conquer that, and the Prima Luna can't give that, certainly not in triode modus that only gives 24w. You better use a modern amp with 250 to 500w for this speaker due to the impendance curve. That is what Focal had in mind when designing these speaker, and preferable with a high damping factor (so class AB or D in most cases). For tube amps you need to look at the impendance graph of the speaker to see if it's fit. To low or to ragged impendance makes it difficult for a low damping factor low power amp like tube amps to drive the speaker.
 

Oski1928

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The focal is a hard to drive speaker for a relative low power tube amp (like the PL Evo 300) due to the ragged (big variations of) impendance curve this speaker has. A more modern amp won't have issues with that, but a tube amp prefer an even impendance curve to load.

The focal needs a lot of power to conquer that, and the Prima Luna can't give that, certainly not in triode modus that only gives 24w. You better use a modern amp with 250 to 500w for this speaker due to the impendance curve. That is what Focal had in mind when designing these speaker, and preferable with a high damping factor (so class AB or D in most cases). For tube amps you need to look at the impendance graph of the speaker to see if it's fit. To low or to ragged impendance makes it difficult for a low damping factor low power amp like tube amps to drive the speaker.
Yea the 936’s have a minimum impedance of 2.8 ohms.
 

Waxx

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On suggestions for a good amp for the speaker, a Purifi 1ET7040SA or Hypex NCx500 based amp of a good builder (Audiophonics, Buckeye, Nord, Apollon, ...) would be perfect. If you prefer a more mainstream model of that, look at the NAD M23 power amp and M66 preamp combo. That preamp includes a lot of other things (DSP/Room correction, BlueOS media player, DAC, ...) and all in top quality. But that is not cheap, those smaller builders can deliver you the same amplifier quality for a lot less (but no dsp or streaming build in mostly). Other options exist also, but look for a modern class AB or D design of 200w/8R power or more.
 

anotherhobby

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I have these same speakers in my living room and agree with the above posts that your tube amp isn't good for driving these. I power mine with a fairly pedestrian Denon AVR-X4300H, which handles the job fine with an 80 Hz high pass with subs (relieves deep bass duty power demans from Denon). For fun I tried a little tube amp I had around and it was awful and the Focals sounded super anemic. I also have tried some of the little class D amps I have (Topping PA5 and an AIYIMA A07), and neither had enough power for the 936's once I turned the volume up.

I agree with @Waxx above that a Purii or Hypex amp would be the way tog go.
 

Verig

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I second what have been said. Focals are great but not an easy load. 100W@8ohm true clean power rated amp is pretty much minimum. Hypex nCore works very well.
 
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coconuthead

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Thanks for the advice, especially from anotherhobby, who owns the same speakers.

I also received separately the following comment: “…those tube amps have high output impedance … mess with the frequency response of the speaker. They also have a lot of distortion which can muddy the sound. I would get a solid state amplifier.”

I called the original dealer that sold me the tube amp and got a strong opinion regarding the flaws associated with the analytical approaches used on this forum to evaluate speaker performance. I’m a neophyte regarding these methods but admire and respect the desire to remain objective.

The dealer person suggested I try the 4 Ohm output and switch to ultralinear mode. I’m going to try that and see if it makes a difference.

Based on what I’m reading on this forum I’ve decided to buy Class D amps and will compare the performance side by side in my own living room. I’ll keep whichever sounds best to me and to some of my friends. This will be a real world experiment. Now I need some solid advice on which Amp to get, up to a budget of about $1.5K
 

Waxx

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I also own a Prima Luna (an older Prologue 4) and altough it's a great amp for it's class, it's not fit for that kind of speakers and on numbers and graphs technical inferior to modern amps, but for the right speaker it is a great amp. Focal is just not a right speaker for it. This speaker is tuned for modern amps, and tube amps is old tech, tuned for older style speakers with higher and flatter impendance. Harbeth is for instance a good speakerbrand to match with this amp and many do (i use diy speakers).

But if you like clean neutral sound with modern speakers, tubes in general is certainly not for you, it does not give that. It's made for other stuff.
 

anotherhobby

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I called the original dealer that sold me the tube amp and got a strong opinion regarding the flaws associated with the analytical approaches used on this forum to evaluate speaker performance. I’m a neophyte regarding these methods but admire and respect the desire to remain objective.
Consider that nobody on this forum is trying to sell you anything for money, nor trying to get you to keep the thing we sold you. Just ideas and knowledge here (and arguing lol). Spend some time here, hang out and learn a bunch, and use your own head to see what you think. :)
 

Verig

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4Ohm ultralinear will help but I doubt it is enough juice. I had similarly designed Focal 1028Be's and the demands for amp were far greater than you'd guess from the specs. I began with 2x 100W monoblocks which were ok'ish but next step to 250W (@8R) did the trick. I know some people say you only need a few watts etc. By years of experience I do not agree. I'm more in the "make sure you have enough and then some" school. Always works. :)

But you have the tube amp so of course you try it. Comparing is pretty fun part of this hobby.
 

Head_Unit

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a strong opinion regarding the flaws associated with the analytical approaches used on this forum to evaluate speaker performance.
Never mind that. It is an absolute audio fact that tube amps' frequency response will not be flat when connected to loudspeakers. This is because their high output impedance interacts complicatedly with the speaker's complex impedance.
- Yes, try the 4 ohm tap.
- I listened to that lovely EVO with Monitor Audio Silver 300s, it could drive them really damn loud cranking Iron Maiden and Motorhead, this in a large and damped room at Upscale Audio. So I'm going to disagree there's not enough power although yes try the ultralinear mode because hey why not.
- I doubt power is your problem since (not having any measurements to hand) I cannot imagine the 936 are less sensitive than your Silver 6. I'm guessing you are not playing super loud?
- Our 936 in our room driven by at the time a Denon AVR-X3600H sounded a bit shy. I dialed in a shallow (1 dB) but wide upper midrange boost and then we were happy.
- With 948 now up front we are even happier ;)
- Try a solid state amp, the response will be different vs tube. Maybe even a used AVR or whatever, just to get an idea.
you liked your silver 6, try the Silver 300 if you can find them used, or the "7G" Silver 500 if you can afford https://www.stereophile.com/content/monitor-audio-silver-500-7g-loudspeaker
 

Verig

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Focal 936 impedance is under 4Ohm very widely from 80Hz to 500Hz, lowest point being 2.8Ohm. This is a demanding speaker for any amp and hugely demanding for a low powered tube amp. It's not (all) about sensitivity, these speakers will drain your amp for current.
 

DVDdoug

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Never mind that. It is an absolute audio fact that tube amps' frequency response will not be flat when connected to loudspeakers. This is because their high output impedance interacts complicatedly with the speaker's complex impedance.
It's possible to build a good tube amp. I'm sure a McIntosh tube amp sounds identical to any good solid state amp. I had a McIntosh tube amp once a long time ago and it sounded "fine". Somebody gave it to me and it sounded better than another tube amp they gave me at the same time. It also sounded better than the little low-power solid-state setup that I had, but the McIntosh was mono. I don't have the specs but McIntosh ALWAYS had a good reputation (low distortion, low noise, and flat frequency response).
 

Verig

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Sure. Macs come with the philosophy "only more power is real", they're all very powerful and clean. And because they have enough power they'll drive any speaker cleanly. Usually people associate tubes with something with less ummpf and more of that pixie dust.
And don't get me wrong. I do enjoy tubes, even single 300B per channel magic. Just a totally different party.
 

Head_Unit

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Focal 936 impedance is under 4Ohm very widely from 80Hz to 500Hz, lowest point being 2.8Ohm. This is a demanding speaker for any amp and hugely demanding for a low powered tube amp. It's not (all) about sensitivity, these speakers will drain your amp for current.
True true. @coconuthead's case, he is not complaining about not enough volume. So given the 936 should be at least as sensitive as his Monitor Audio Silver 6, the EVO should be able to play equally loud, hence my thoughts that his issues with the 936 are something else. (Note: I could not find an impedance curve for the Silver 6; other Monitor models appear to have impedance similarly low to the Focal.)
 

Pareto Pragmatic

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Now I need some solid advice on which Amp to get, up to a budget of about $1.5K
I do have a list, in that price range, and Buckeye is at the top. For now.

Consider a test amp. A small TPA3255 amp ( like the fosi V 3 with 48v5a power supply AND the snazzy orange knob... currently $135 on amazon, Aiyima has some options as well) might give you an idea of what such things sound like. I do think if you go this route the 48v power supply is the way to go.

You could of course sell it later, or return it. But a small amp plus some small speakers, many people can find a home for that. Bedroom, garage, basement, office.
 

Verig

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I do have a list, in that price range, and Buckeye is at the top. For now.

Consider a test amp. A small TPA3255 amp ( like the fosi V 3 with 48v5a power supply AND the snazzy orange knob... currently $135 on amazon, Aiyima has some options as well) might give you an idea of what such things sound like. I do think if you go this route the 48v power supply is the way to go.

You could of course sell it later, or return it. But a small amp plus some small speakers, many people can find a home for that. Bedroom, garage, basement, office.
I can recommend class D nCore and Purifi with Focals. The driving ability and clarity really go well with Focal tuning. Buckeye Purifi 1ET400A 2-channel should do it. 200W@8, 400@4, 400@2 stable is certainly enough. The box is not pretty though, but that's a matter of taste. Or perhaps a nice pre-amp and hide the power amp.
For a different look there's NAD Masters series for example. Over the budget but just something to consider if you trade in PrimaLuna.
 

Waxx

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If you live in Europe, Audiophonics is the best. They do sell the LPA-S600NCX, a stereo amp (2x300w in 8R) with two NCore NCx500 modules for about 1100€, that's about the best price/quality you will get in this section of the market and it would be a perfect amp for this kind of speakers.

 

Verig

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NAD because they come with Bluesound in-built with a very nice dac so that would be familiar and works very well. And you can trade in the streamer too. Dirac room correction is an added bonus of course. So the total price for everything, while not low, is actually not that bad.
 
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coconuthead

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I was away for a few days and am checking back in.
Thanks for your very helpful comments.
A quick update for now and I’ll post more updates as this project moves forward.
First, changing to the 4 ohm output and switching to ultralinear has made a HUGE difference. It is not an subtle improvement and will be the permanent settings moving forward.
I will purchase a solid state Amp and because of all the positive “buzz” I’m reading about Class D amps, will pick up one of those. When I have both Amps in hand I’ll have some fun with comparisons.
Thank you again!
 
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