Amp upgrade for Revel M20 speakers

For the past several months, I've been slowly upgrading my two channel system. Prior to that, I hadn't touched it in over 20 years. For all those years, it was: Denon DCD1520 CD player, Nak SR4A receiver, Spica TC-50 speakers. Today, with latest upgrade of speakers to Revel M20s, the system comprises: Arcam DV-137 (transport for CD, SACD playback), PS Audio Digital Link 3 DAC, Audible Illusions L1 pre, B&K Ref 2220 amp driving the M20s.

I'm pretty happy with everything at this point. At least I think I can finally stop the hunt for the right speakers - at least for a while. BUT....I can't help but think I can do better with my amplification than the B&K. The B&K is very nice but I think the M20s deserve just a little bit better.

There are two aspects of the current system's performance that I am looking to improve with a change in amplification: 1) wider, deeper soundstage and 2) more dynamic transients (I believe the B&K is a bit sluggish though not bad at all)

I have two options that I'm considering and am looking for input from people having experience with the M20s (or very similar). The two options are: 1) change out the B&K for another power amp (budget would be about $800 for used amp), 2) swap out the AI pre and B&K amp for a high quality integrated (budget would be about $1,200 for used integrated).

As far as amps to replace the B&K only, I really am looking for suggestions for something that would mate well with both the AI pre and the M20s and provide a significant improvement in performance.

Integrateds that I've looked into include: Creek Destiny, Nait Naim 5i-2, and Simaudio i-1. Any opinions on these or others in my price range that would give me the performance enhancements I'm looking for would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

I have the Revel M20s and have also used them with the Creek Destiny and Sim audio i5.3. Both are great. I was using the M20s in a medium sized bedroom. The Destiny I think produced the sound I like the best just got it right no real fireworks to speak of just good music and got the foot tapping so to speak. The Simaudio i5.3 seemed to be more lively and transparent with a tighter snappier bass, seems better but for whatever reason my mind seemed to stray from the music a bit more with this amp. It seemed more powerful with the M20s even though it had a lower power rating. I managed a few times to shut down the Creek Destiny when playing the M20s fairly loud (it has a thermal protection circuit) I can imagine it might be a problem in a larger room. I really love the Destiny it's great amp and just gets it right. The M20s are super speakers especially on the used market. What you get for their price is a lot of speaker at such a low price. I wonder myself what a higher powered amp like a Krell or Musical Fidelity integrated might sound like with the M20s. I've always wondered about the Naim Nait 5i also could be a risk worth taking as well. Integrated amps are the way to go in this price range, you are thinking along the right lines.
The Revels are medium-low efficiency (87 db) speakers with a 6 ohm nominal impedance that drops to 4 ohms at some frequencies. They would most likely perform best with a 100+ watts/channel amp and would really shine with 200-250 watts/ch.

Emotiva make some well-respected amps in that category - the XPA-2 and the XPA-1L come to mind. The XPA-2 is currently on sale for $799 and a pair of XPA-1L monoblocks are also on sale for $1198.

Both come with a 30 day in-home trial and a 5 years warranty:


PS: I have and Emotiva XPA-5 amp and it really does sound quite good in my system - it sounds quite clean and fast and has a very good bottom-end. All in all the Emo amps are a very good value...
Thanks for the replies.

I hadn't thought of the Emo amps but I'll look into them now. Do you have any idea how the Emo amps would compare to the B&K I'm currently using? The Revels may actually be even lower efficiency than their stated 87dB. Sterophile measured it at 84dB I believe. Either way, they do need a lot of power which is why I wanted to understand how they behave with integrated amps that aren't rated for as much power as my B&K or other power amps in the $800 price range.

Thanks for the info on the Destiny and the Simaudio i5. My system is in a medium sized bedroom and I don't typically play at ear-splitting levels. Do you have any idea how loud you had to drive the M20s to get the Destiny to cut off? You said that the Simaudio gave you a tighter, snappier bass through the M20s, how was the bass with the Destiny?
jblack, you are correct that the revels are very inefficient and sound better with more juice, esp. at lower volumes. i just saw a harman hk990 on ebay for 999--it's a vg high current integrated and should match well with the revels.
I had the Naim. I know some people like it, but I thought it was an overrated pile of junk. The Creek would be my first choice. I had a 5350 and I heard the Destiny at length driving a pair of Magnepan 12's. It was able to drive those, so the Revel's shouldn't be a problem. The Sim should be OK as well, but I would go with the Creek.

As far as amps go, that may make sense if you can find the right one. You have a pretty good preamp, so I would definately consider it.
I drive my M106 Revels with a McCormack DNA 125... they can be found relatively cheap and it's been a great amp. I should note that I recently upgraded my pre, DAC, and speakers. The McCormack is the only component left from my upgrade five years ago. It's a great amp and I think I would have to spend considerably more to better it. I was going to replace it but I bought a NAD M51 DAC which was well worth it and a huge step up in terms of my source component.
The destiny had great bass with the M20s just a little looser than the sim. I would have to play it loud I mean not ear splitting but loud anything louder and you'd have to shout to hear someone talking over the music. The destiny is a very magical amp that I think flies under the radar of hifi it sounds very good with most any speaker I've tried it with including dynaudio and Von schweikert. I've seem them sell as low as 1000 here on audiogon. That is a very big slice of hifi for that price and it gets you into the realm of what the expensive gear does. The sim is great too but costs a lot more and to my ear misses just a bit of the daily magic you get with the destiny. Side by side the sim is a little more spectacular but for long term enjoyment and value I think the destiny wins. I still have the destiny and have since sold the sim.
Thanks again for the replies.

If I went with either the Creek Destiny integrated or the McCormack DNA 125 (with the AI L1 pre), is it fair to say that I would likely experience a noticeable step up in performance as compared to my current setup (AI L1 pre into B&K Ref 2220)?
"If I went with either the Creek Destiny integrated or the McCormack DNA 125 (with the AI L1 pre), is it fair to say that I would likely experience a noticeable step up in performance as compared to my current setup (AI L1 pre into B&K Ref 2220)?"

Keep in mind that your opinion is the only one that really matters here, but I would guess that you would notice a big difference either way. The only thing I would caution you on is the DNA-125. I had one myself. I found the highs to be a bit on the bright/harsh side of things. It wasn't terrible, or anything, just something to consider since your speakers have a metal tweeter. To be fair, I'm very picky in that area. Also, my system is more revealing and that plays a part, as well. The midrange, though is excellent. Its an excellent example of what a well designed, bipolar amp should sound like.
Be careful, RLwainwright recommends Emotiva for every loudspeaker(lol)? At $800 for a power amp and $1200 for an int. amp makes things tough. I would consider a Primare I31 or an Atoll In200. Both units are true dual mono(2-transformers) designs and are more powerful then the 120w/ch/8ohms would imply. I have heard the earlier I30 Primare and was impressed. Never heard the Atoll but have read rave reviews by owners/reviewers when considering cost. With a power amp consider either a Proceed BPA-2 or Yamaha MX-1. IMO these are 2 of the best sounding high powered amps under $1k.
Thanks for the heads up on the DNA-125 - I'm very sensitive to any brightness in the upper range and realize that the M20s already tend that way. I believe the M20 with the B&K 2220 is a good match as far as taming any brightness in the highs.

Thanks for the tip and the suggestions - I'll be researching those over the weekend.
Does anyone have any thoughts on the Plinius 8100 or 9100 integrateds as compared to the Creek Destiny for pairing with M20s?
I ended up getting an Odyssey Stratos (standard model, not dual mono, no cap upgrades) to replace the B&K 2220. Overall, the change gave me a significant improvement in soundstage width and depth, imaging precision, and dynamic slam. The system sounds good (maybe even very good) but I wouldn't say it is the most "musical" sounding system - very clear and punchy but somewhat on the analytical side. So, I'm on the upgrade path again and am thinking about either another power amp change or an integrated (again).

The one integrated that I wanted to get some input on was the Anthem Integrated 225. Does anyone have experience with both the Odyssey Stratos and the Anthem Integrated 225 that could weigh in on whether or not the Anthem could be an improvement (i.e. more "musical", less analytical) over the Odyssey when paired with Revel M20 speakers?

Also, if anyone has suggestions on another integrated ($1,500 used max) or power amp ($1,000 used max) that would give me a more musical sounding result, I'd appreciate hearing them.

Any other suggestions are welcome as well.

System comprises:
- PC running Foobar for FLAC playback
- Bel Canto mLink - USB to SPIDF converter
- PS Audio Digital Link III DAC (stock)
- Audible Illusions L1 Preamp with Tungsram 6922
- Odyssey Stratos amp
- Revel M20 speakers

Jblack16, I think you give a perfect description of the Odyssey Statos, I switched from one a little over a year ago to a
Van Alstine Synergy 450 which is much better and very musical.
But it was 2K new.
If you think 40 tube watts are enough for the Revels I'd go for the Eastern Electric integrated on here now for you money.
EE is musical and very well built.
Of course with tube gear you always have the expense of "NOS"
tubes, but the EE furnished ones sound pretty good after a couple of hundred hours.
Schubert, thanks for the input. I've been pondering tube amplification as a possible next step. I'll take a look at the EE integrated and see if that might work for me.
I have an 8 watt EE Mini-max integrated driving a pr of Silverline Preludes in my bedroom, sounds sweet.
As I said, EE build quality is second to none, real pride of ownership.
My local dealer years ago ran Revel with VTL amps...great clarity with the realism tube amps are known for.
The EE M88 looks really interesting but I have no idea if 40W of tube amplication will be enough for the Revel M20s. They are rated at 87dB efficiency and I listen up to levels of 100dB peak at about 10 feet from the speakers. Does anyone out there have experience with either the M20s or similar moderate efficiency speakers with medium power tube amplifiers?

Jblack16, take a look here at the Stereophile Measurements for the M20. I think they indicate that the speaker is not best suited for a tube amp, especially one that is 40 watt. Also, their estimated sensitivity is lower than what is specified for the speaker.

This link contains a calculator that will allow you to plug in a SPL level, speaker sensitivity, and distance, then give you the required power for those parameters.

Hope this helps.