For the N804, the more power the better, even if it is over 200 watts. Don't worry about too much power. More than brand, since you are concerned about the impedence curve, choose an amp that has a power output at 4 ohms that is double the 8 ohm rating, and doubles again at 2 ohms if possible. There are many many amps that are like this. Just to name two; Aragon and Krell are popular with the Nautilus series. Amps like the Sim Moon W-5 can power cleanly down to 1 ohm. You may find one for $2500 used.
At under $1200 with DVD as an option, consider using a DVD player as a transport and getting a separate DAC for 2 channel audio. Just one example is a Dan Wright modified MSB Link DAC with the optional P1000 power base for around $600 in the Agon classifieds. You could add a Dan Wright tweeked Pioneer DVD player as the transport for the other $600. See www.modwright.com..Stan Warren does similar things.
Does your friend prefer a tube or solid state preamp? BAT offers good value in tube and solid state, and many models have a remote.
If your budget is $2500 for both the preamp and amplifier combined (not $2500 each), then look at Bryston gear. Their 4B-ST amplifier sells for under $1500 used.
If your friend is primarily interested in digital sources, here is what I'd suggest:
Get a Pioneer DVD player as a transport ($300), a Birdland Odeon-AG DAC with analog volume control ($1500 retail), and a Plinius 8200P power amp ($2000 retail).
The secret weapon here is the Birdland DAC. I have a customer who sold his $10K+ tube preamp when he tried the $970 Birdland Odeon Lite DAC with volume control, and the Odeon-AG is significantly better. The Plinius is plenty powerful but more importantly nice and warm sounding, and in a small room with a nearfield listening setup, you want to err on the side of warmth.
Best of luck to you and your friend!
I owned N804s for a while and found that the only amps/preamps that could tame down the HF shrill were McIntosh amps. They brought about an incredibly real warmness that I had never heard with my Krells. You can get a McIntosh setup within your budget used (off ebay if you ask me). With all due respect to Sugarbrie, I totally disagree with the power doubling if you halve the impedance since this boils down to marketing and not engineering. In order to really know what a certain amp can do, you need performance graphs which most makers won't readily give out (except for McIntosh, but that has been a trademark of theirs for over 40 years). Power output is somewhat indirectly related to impedance in reality due to dynamic response of the system in a closed loop (which is in turn dependant on many design factors). For the power to double with half the impedance only describes a small portion of the power curve SLOPE. This slope can be easily modified for marketing reasons by means of frequency but essentially, the dynamic headroom can be prematurely compromised if the slope is too high (called degeneration - especially pronounced in field-effect devices). Therefore, slope is only part of the story and, in a good amp design, is inconsequential provided the amp can perform dynamically (music is purely dynamic so this is obviously critical).
If he wants warmth, IMO, he should at least try McIntosh with MIT cables. I ultimately sold my beautiful N804s because even that setup was not warm enough for my taste (I like SS and not tube because all my schooling is in SS design). It is worth a try nonetheless! Paradigm Reference 100s were the key for me. Good luck
Sugarbrie, Audio Kinesis and Aball have mentioned good amps. I think Sugarbrie was probably trying to keep it simple in his explanation. Yes, a company can make up good specs to impress the public, but a serious audio company won't do that. If the amp company honestly lists the specs, and the power curve is bad, look elsewhere. Conrad Johnson makes some warm (tube like) solid state amps as well. Take a look at the MF2250 and MF2500.
I second Sugarbrie's recommendation. If possible try out some amps for comparison, the Bryston does a good job with the B & W but everyone has different tastes. I had used a pair of 3B's as mono's with my 804's and it sounded very good, now use a 4B-ST. Bryston also sends a copy of their test sheet with new amps, I think somewhat similar to McIntosh. You can't beat Bryston's 20 year warranty also if you want to resell. Thats my two cents; also feel free to e-mail me personally if you want. Best, Charlie
If he hasn't bought the 804s yet I suggest your friend tries them first in a nearfield listening situation. I could never get the drivers to gel listening in the nearfield, and this may end up being a much bigger issue than the amp, preamp, or source. Just a thought.
Thank you everyone for your thoughtfull advice. Sorry for the confusion but the $2500 mentioned was for pre and powered combined. This price point isn't carved in stone though. My friend is not interested in tube poweramps but does not care if the pre it solid or tube. He is also a devote of FM so a stand alone DAC with volume control would not work . I understand that the B&W 804 Nautilus' have two sets of binding posts. Do these speakers benefit from bi-amping and/or biwiring. As niether the CJ or Brystons offer extra post for bi-wiring. Perhaps a pair of 120 powerpacks with option of adding another two if needed might work? What preamp with dual pairs of balanced mains would work with the Bryston? Would two CJ's be over kill?
As always, thanks in advance.
If he wants a warm yet detailed sound I doubt if he can get it with the 804's. If he insists upon the 804's then I would steer him toward SimAudio or Levinson.
I think you should bi-wire, and you do not need double posts on the amp. If you get bi-wire cables, they are always combined (2 ends) on the amp end, with 4 on the speaker end. If you have two pairs of single cables with spade fork ends, you can also connect two sets of single cables to the same post on the amp.
Well I guess other nice amps in the price range of the Bryston used is the Blue Circle BC22, the mentioned Conrad Johnson MF2250 or look for the older MF2300 or MF2100. The Sim Moon W3 is similar to the W5 I mentioned, just less power (still enough).
I own a pair of Matrix 802's. When I auditioned them, they were hooked up to a Bryston amp/pre-amp. I owned Krell and Threshold, and found the sound to be far too bright for my taste. I recently purchased Cary gear, and have never heard the B&W's sound better. They are warm and smooth and a joy to listen to. In your friends price point I would recommend the Cary SLI-80 integrated, which I just saw on this site for $ 1,750. I like Kimber hero interconnects and 8TC speaker wires. I wouldn't worry about the power rating, as I am using a Rocket 88 amp rated at only 20 wpc in triode mode, and find the power to be more than adequate in my 19 x14 room. I also heard the SLI-80 driving a pair of CDM-7's and found that to be a nice combo. Give it a try, you've nothing to lose.
Thank you everyone for your thoughtful replies. Sure seems to be some very different ideas out there. It's obvious that there can be many different roads to the same destination.
I will be posting a new thread with the latest development (TacT 2.2).
Nearfield with Nautilus 805 speakers is heaven. I couldn't get 804 speakers to sound right under 8 feet from the speaker plane. Also, 805 run quite well with low wattage 20-30, and the bass that the 804 picks up is like 6 hz lower at -3db (from memory, may not be perfectly correct) for $1500 more retail. I would heartily suggest to yuor pal that for the budget, the small wierd room, and the general betterness at close distances, to go with the 805.
The Audiogon moderators have refused application of a new thread for reasons I am unaware of (perhaps continuity). As such, the quest goes on with the system at this time including the a fore mentioned B&W 804 Nautilus' and TacT 2.2. With this update are there any new thougths on transport, digital cable and amplifiers?
As always thanks in advance ( and to all those who have already responded).
The 150 wpc A300 is $1,600. If you go seprarates MF is $3,200 new. I would agree that McIntosh is warmer still. I found Krell harsh and fatiguing (over listening over time), Bryston bright, and Krell, Bryston, Sim all had mid-bass bloat that was really annoying.
Here's where I'll draw the ire of people here but for MY ears (which are exceptionally acute) I am perfectly happy with a Marantz CD burner - the DR 6050 is excellent, warm and got some great ATS I/C's from http://www.accessories4less.com for only $9.95 a set.
If you want to bi-wire the leatest take I heard is only if high/low imepdances differ greatly and speaker cables runs are long (over 12 feet?)
I really like the sound of Musical Fidelity gear with the N804s. I'm currently running a MF A3cr preamp and A300cr power amp (225 wpc). I'm expecting a Nu-Vista 3D CD player tomorrow. The N804s really do love power and bi-wiring definitely makes a positive difference with them.
Digital Source suggestion:
The Pioneer DV-47a; a non-fatiguing optical source with first rate audio and video performance
Not only does it play CD, but DVD, SACD (multi channel), DVD-Audio (multi channel), and CD-R. The DV-47a is a truly universal optical disc player that will prevent your friend from upgrading soon because of incompatibility.
Lowest Ive seen
Retial~$1,200 Online dealer new~$799 Audiogon~$699
If your friend decides to allocate funds to the digital source, then I suggest the Pioneer DV-AX 10. This is also a universal player. I have not auditioned this optical drive, however numerous favorable reviews have been written. The cons? It wont play multi channel DVD-Audio or SACD, however it has balanced outputs, unlike the DV-47a, which is advantageous in my system. Finally, it is about 2K more then the DV-47a from Audiogon.
Lowest Ive seen
Retail~$5,000 Online dealer new~ $3,300 Audiogon~$2,600
Helo, I have try a lot of amps with the 804 it is really what your friend want does he want music or hi-fi sound, music try the classe or bat, HI-FI neutral control the bass ML or Sim, conrad is very warm and sweet sounding forget about Bryston will hurt your ear. Best of luck
Ok, I have a set of N804's. Tried them with underpowered gear and they were a waste of a fine speaker. I now have a Classe CA 300 and Classe cp50 pre-amp. That really brought them to life. Dynamic range, and clarity, good sound stage and decent base, highs are good and mid's exceptional. They need plenty of power to sound their best, don't skimp on the amp.
I also second what sugarbrie said above, amp that double down is 'key' to getting the B&W 800 series to perform. I've been struggling with proper gear matching with 805N and 805S past two years. Many may call this hersey but I highly recommend the Marantz HD AMP1 + Marantz HD player. The HD AMP1 has the high currently to push even 803 D3 (see online review on Marantz's demo day in Japan), you have to listen to believe. Both are available from Amazon and you can return within 30days. Most of all Marantz has a circuit option that tames the harshness of very high resolution digital music and create warm analog like sound. I'm so happy I'm now upgrading to 805 D3. I previously tried NuPrime IDA-8, Parasound Halo Integrated, Rega Brio...etc. Lesser amps pushing B&W 800series may do ok with pop and vocal but will fail miserably in complex classical and orchestral music where there's a lot of sound variations (current hungry) and huge dynamic range (again current hungry).