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Starting out - KEF R3 or Integrated Amps?

majere_audio

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Nov 24, 2021
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Hello All,

First of all thank you for Amir and rest of the ASR crew and contributors on here. I have found this forum to be extremely useful as I begin the journey.

Bit of a dilemma and I wanted to seek some feedback from you.

Current Setup:
Sonos Arc and my usage is about 60:40 on music to movies.
No vinyl - mostly streaming audio.

Future Plan: my end goal is to build a solid 2.1 setup

Since I can't find all the funding needed for the whole system right now, I want to build this out within a year. And here's what I am thinking so far for this:

Option 1: Buy KEF R3 on sale now and buy the amp later. Speakers will sit in the box until I get the amp. Trying to take advantage of the sale that's going on now essentially.

Option 2: Buy amp now (Max: $1500) and a cheap Sony SSCS5 ($89 pair) and then upgrade to the KEF R3 later (if still on sale). If not, I am thinking of the KEF LS50 Meta instead.

What do you all think I should do? I am trying to stick to the budget for the entire system and distribute the expense over a year and buy quality pieces and be done with this.

Anything I am missing? Thanks all!
 
Buy the R3's right now. Get an Aiyima A07 or Topping PA3s to use as a stopgap until you can afford a nice integrated with all the features and power you want.

Right now I'm using a pair of R3s with the A07 while I'm waiting on a Buckeye NC252MP.

Don't spend that much money on an amp without some good speakers to go with unless the integrated has some sort of feature you absolutely need for your setup.
 
In my humble opinion I’d buy the KEF R3 and build the electronic’s as you can afford.
 
Buy the R3's right now. Get an Aiyima A07 or Topping PA3s to use as a stopgap until you can afford a nice integrated with all the features and power you want.

Right now I'm using a pair of R3s with the A07 while I'm waiting on a Buckeye NC252MP.

Don't spend that much money on an amp without some good speakers to go with unless the integrated has some sort of feature you absolutely need for your setup.
That's what I would do as well.
 
Always buy the transducers first, the sound quality/enjoyment factor between a good and bad amplifier with poorer speakers will virtually never be greater than having the better speakers with an inferior amplifier.

If you are intent on the KEF brand the powered LS 50 Wireless/II could also be a good choice, especially if you will EQ/integrate subs manually.

I would suggest aiming for a 2.2 setup over 2.1 every time, but buying and enjoying one sub first is always an option that will leave you satisfied.
 
Buy the R3's right now. Get an Aiyima A07 or Topping PA3s to use as a stopgap until you can afford a nice integrated with all the features and power you want.

Right now I'm using a pair of R3s with the A07 while I'm waiting on a Buckeye NC252MP.

Don't spend that much money on an amp without some good speakers to go with unless the integrated has some sort of feature you absolutely need for your setup.
Thanks @maverickronin for the feedback! I like the stopgap suggestions too! I'll definitely take a look at those!
 
$1500 amp for $2000 speakers is a terrible decision, the diminishing returns hit hard above $500 amplifiers. If you spend that money on acoustic treatment and good subwoofers you will end up with a much better system.
Thanks @alex-z! I was wondering the same but all the reviews for the KEF R3 or the LS50 Meta have been calling for more power - offerings with 80+W from brands like NAD, Yamaha, Rotel, Audiolab etc etc. all seem to be in that $1000-$1500 range or more. So I figured that's what my budget needed to be.

I'd love for a great amp suggestion in that $500 range though. Lemme know?
 
Always buy the transducers first, the sound quality/enjoyment factor between a good and bad amplifier with poorer speakers will virtually never be greater than having the better speakers with an inferior amplifier.

If you are intent on the KEF brand the powered LS 50 Wireless/II could also be a good choice, especially if you will EQ/integrate subs manually.

I would suggest aiming for a 2.2 setup over 2.1 every time, but buying and enjoying one sub first is always an option that will leave you satisfied.
Thanks, @jae! Definitely up for suggestions and advice!

Although I do think I want passive speakers in case I get the upgrade bug.
 
Thanks for the feedback everyone! I did not think it would be such a unanimous vote for the R3!
 
Thanks @alex-z! I was wondering the same but all the reviews for the KEF R3 or the LS50 Meta have been calling for more power - offerings with 80+W from brands like NAD, Yamaha, Rotel, Audiolab etc etc. all seem to be in that $1000-$1500 range or more. So I figured that's what my budget needed to be.

I'd love for a great amp suggestion in that $500 range though. Lemme know?
Yamaha AS-501
Yamaha AS-701
Denon PMA-600NE
 
Thanks @alex-z! I was wondering the same but all the reviews for the KEF R3 or the LS50 Meta have been calling for more power - offerings with 80+W from brands like NAD, Yamaha, Rotel, Audiolab etc etc. all seem to be in that $1000-$1500 range or more. So I figured that's what my budget needed to be.

I'd love for a great amp suggestion in that $500 range though. Lemme know?

The idea of expensive speakers requiring more power, or premium amps in general is a myth perpetuated by subjective reviewers, and amp manufacturers.

If you look at the impedance curve, the KEF R3 definitely presents a 4 Ohm load at low frequencies. So you need an amp rated for 4 Ohm load, which is common these days.

Next you need to determine how much power is required for your listening level. Lets say for example, you sit at 12ft. A single KEF R3 is producing 74.7dB with 1 watt, not including any room gain. Moving up to 40 watts, that is 90.8dB, already louder than most people listen. In actual usage, you can expect 6-9dB more output, because the second speaker and the room will be adding output.


Therefore something cheap like an $80 Aiyima A07 which can output ~75 watts is perfectly adequate for most people. Now, the fancier amps do provide things like subwoofer pre-out and tone controls. However, you can easily add these functions by using a miniDSP 2x4HD for your DAC. Plus the ability to change crossover slopes, and do parametric room EQ.

If you needed a lot more power, I would move up to something like a Crown XLS1502 or Buckeye NC502MP but keep the miniDSP 2x4HD, because that functionality is worth its weight in gold.
 
There also active speakers to consider, measured here, which would be cheaper and bring their own amps...
 
Thanks @alex-z! I was wondering the same but all the reviews for the KEF R3 or the LS50 Meta have been calling for more power - offerings with 80+W from brands like NAD, Yamaha, Rotel, Audiolab etc etc. all seem to be in that $1000-$1500 range or more. So I figured that's what my budget needed to be.

I'd love for a great amp suggestion in that $500 range though. Lemme know?
I'm not sure where you are located. If you are in the USA, the first amp that comes to mind is the Buckeye NC252MP: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...amplifier-builder-line-up-announcement.16835/ or the similar amp from VTV. If you are in Europe, there are multiple options using the Hypex NC252MP modules -- all are above $500 but well under $1,000. In Australia there is March Audio. I'm not sure about other parts of the world.

As these are power amps only, you will also need a DAC and preamp (although most DACs can also handle preamp duties). This combination will perform much better than the Yamaha and Denon amps mentioned above in most measurements. Whether the difference will be audible is a subject that has been debated here many times.

And yeah, I agree with all the recommendations above. Get the R3 or similar good speakers. If you can't afford the amp right now, buy an Aiyima D03, which is the cheapest DAC/preamp/amp combination I am aware of. Or, if you are using a computer for the source, and it is relatively new, or any other device which has a built-in DAC that is not just completely awful, get an Aiyima A07 with the 32v power supply. There are other good low priced amps, but these are the lowest priced ones I can think of that might at least sound half decent. Since it is going to be replaced within a year, no need to spend any more than absolutely necessary.
 
...buy an Aiyima D03, which is the cheapest DAC/preamp/amp combination I am aware of
I meant to specify "that actually performs well" but somehow failed to do so. Laserjock's suggestion is also a good one if you live in an area that has such stores. You might find a perfectly adequate temporary solution for almost nothing.
 
The path that will give you both the most bang for the buck and an easy upgrade path might look something like this:

Get a Kef R3, and if you can afford it get a Motu M4. The R3's are full range enough to use standalone. The M4 accepts USB and has a top performing 4 channel DAC, At some point you can get a very good amp. Somebody on this thread has already recommended the Hypex NC252 MP which is available from some sellers for around $500, and offer 200+WPC. Later if you like you could add DSP and a streamer such as the RPI4 with Camilla DSP (which can also be configured as a crossover) and then a powered subwoofer (s) and have two additional DAC channels on the M4 to handle that.
 
Thanks @alex-z! I was wondering the same but all the reviews for the KEF R3 or the LS50 Meta have been calling for more power - offerings with 80+W from brands like NAD, Yamaha, Rotel, Audiolab etc etc. all seem to be in that $1000-$1500 range or more. So I figured that's what my budget needed to be.

I'd love for a great amp suggestion in that $500 range though. Lemme know?

Bowers and Wilkins doesn’t make a lot of money by selling amps and sources, yet they recommend investing only one third of your total investment in speakers.


After jumping into higher end amps I have experienced what BnW say: 3k speakers with1k amps is, more often than not, missing out on what your speakers can do.

This is a reference, a starting point and probably taking it as a fixed, settled thing is wrong, but after having experienced many systems, speakers and headphones, it is my opinion that you are better off setting a budget with those ratios in mind. Buying the speakers first is the sensible thing to do as they are what let you experience music/movies/sound.

It is really interesting to get to try new amps and DACs and being able to experience your system and speakers become something noticeably different and often more enjoyable. This is especially true when you have speakers like LS50 which change from substantially to dramatically with every change in the upstream equipment (amps or DACs).

Also, I think I get a good notion of how speakers are going to be by reading about them and from seeing their graphs, especially by comparing them to others. But nothing is close to actually experiencing the speakers in your house, where you will have them. That is why I recommend that you try them, preferably with at least a second option… buying from sellers who offer home demos, basically. That prevents buyers remorse and might be good to at least delay the itch that we always get for something new/better.

Good luck!
 
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