Help: Devore O/96 Integrated Amp + DAC suggestion


Hello Devore O/96 owners.

I was very fortunate to be able to purchase a set of O/96s earlier this year, and I'm trying to build out the rest of my system to truly complement these speakers the way they deserve.  I've read many of the posts and reviews across the standard sites and forums, and, while I've found some great information, I could really use some custom opinions based on your experience.  I greatly appreciate any and all thoughts, and my apologies for the long winded setup, but I want to be as specific as possible

I'm all digital via Tidal and FLAC through Audirvana+, and my system currently consists of an Audio Note Oto SE Signature with an Arcam IRDAC and Zu Audio Mission MK1 cables throughout.  My room is approximately 14x22ft. with 12ft. ceilings.

When I'd originally heard the O's in the store, they were driven by a Nagra Classic w/ Nagra DAC.  The sound was literally the most engaging thing I've ever heard...It was electric, punch-you-in-the-gut amazing and had warmth and depth into the music.  The drum reproduction and snap alone had me, and, while I had no intention of spending that much on speakers, after hearing them, I couldn't not buy them.

Bringing them home, I'd originally paired them with a Naim Nait 5i as a holdover from my original Neat Acoustics system, and it was a poor fit.  The sound was incredibly flat...It felt as though the musicians could not have been further away from my listening room.  After reading Rafe's review in Part-Time Audiophile and his thoughts on the AN OTO SE as a match, the fates aligned and I received an incredible deal on a used Signature version.  After plugging into the system, the sound instantly became more engaging.  A richness is present in both the voices and the strings that was missing, and I would say there is definitely more in the way of dynamics.  That said, I feel like (1) I'm still missing significant drum dynamics/snap, (2) when volume increases to approx noon, the sound almost flattens (pushing a 10 w amp too far?), and (3) in complex pieces - orchestral and rock, there is a bit of muddling.

I have a $5k budget for tweaking/replacing, and I'm a huge proponent of used components.  Ideally, with consideration for both space and the budget, I'd like to stay with an integrated amp.  My targeted questions would be:

(1) Is the AN OTO SE Sig sufficient and the DAC the culprit, and, if so, which DAC makes the most sense to achieve what I'm looking for.  Would a AN 3.1, Lampizator, or Border Patrol be the "final" piece? 

(2) While I like the AN, would I be better off replacing both the amp and DAC, and what would marry well? LM 518ia or 508ia/Leben/Shindo Appetite, etc. with one of the above? (several articles on amps with O/96, but none I've seen on amp + dac synergy)

Unfortunately, while Chicago has a tremendous amount of great shops, there's nowhere to listen to any of the aforementioned brands, so I'm heavily reliant on outside opinion.

Again, thank you for taking the time to read this and for your thoughts and consideration.  


wallace79
Get another amp! 10 watts is not enough for the O/96's beyond merely polite levels. Remember that musical peaks of 10+ dB's above average levels require 10X the average watts to avoid clipping! So your OTO 10 watter can only play comfortably at 1 watt before it clips and sounds distorted! This is unacceptable!    Buy a good SS amp like a Bryston, Parasound, Pass ... and stop worrying about "tube" sound!
I heard the O/96 with a Leben CS600. I think the DAC was the Chord Hugo TT if memory recalls, it sounded wonderful.  Very engaging sound, detailed and a sweet mid range.  If I was building a tube base system and wanted a integrated tube amp, the Leben would be at the top of my list.  If a solid state amp is your thing, I would imagine a good class A amp like Luxman, Accuphase or Pass would sound great.  I seen some good prices used.  In terms of DACs, In addition to the DACs you mentioned, I would also look at the Chord, Ayre, TotalDac and Denafrips brands. They all would sound great with a good amp and your speakers.   Good luck! 
+1 on the Leben. Another suggestion is the Line Magnetic  LM-805IA INTEGRATED TUBE AMPLIFIER - SINGLE ENDED 805 - 2X48W

https://www.line-magnetic.eu/en/products-line-magnetic-en/integrated-tube-amplifier-line-magnetic-en...
Hi Wallace,
The AN OTO is a very good quality amplifier but it’s possible that the 10 watts may not be enough with this speaker for every conceivable genre and listening situation. I agree with those who suggest Leben push pull tube amplifiers. I strongly recommend that you consider the terrific Line Magnetic 508ia that uses the 805 tube in SET. It provides 48 watt of genuine class A power . This will yield beautiful and natural music reproduction in your home. If possible, compare the LM 508ia with the Parasound and determine which suits your particular preference more closely. These are two very different sounding amplifiers.

I think this amplifier with your speakers wound make an excellent sounding match. I personally don’t believe that you’ll achieve this level of sound quality with the Parasound (or similar type amplifier) suggested above. This is just my observation given your satisfaction with the OTO sound quality (although lower power).

I would also suggest that the AN 3.1 DAC, Border Patrol DAC or say the SWIX DAC will be very noticeable upgrades in sound quality vs your current DAC.
Best of luck,
Charles
Wallace,
If you go the non tube route I'd look into the Pass Labs XA 25 (Very simple high quality circuit pure class A). Very likely an exceptionally natural sounding transistor amplifier. 

The Lyngdorf mentioned above by Kenny is a one box DAC, preamplifier and amplifier and includes room correction. I've been told by 2 listeners that it was okay sounding but others have told me it's superb (I haven't heard it) but certainly worth exploring in my opinion. 
Charles 
Lemme ax yu sumtin'. How many hours do you have on the O/96's? While it is fairly obvious that you would benefit from a good tube amp with at least 30 watts, be aware that placement and break-in are vital with the O series, and we're talking 600 hours before those cones loosen up and are able to give you the sound you heard in the showroom. And again, spend plenty of time carefully moving the speakers a few inches at a time using something like the XLO test CD and then once you get them roughly in place, you need to spend another couple hours moving them a half inch at time and then a quarter inch until things snap into focus. Also, speaker cables make a huge difference with this speaker. I tried a bunch with my O/93's and settled on Cardas Clear. What speaker cables were they using at the showroom where you bought them?
@wallace79  Another way to approach this is to come at it from another angle, something along the lines of:

What two components would bring you closest to what the Nagra Classic + Nagra DAC do for / bring to a system? Irrespective of speakers and given your budget....

On a separate line of thought, do you remember which cabling / power supply etc was used with your demo O/96s? I don't know your position on cabling...but it may have been a factor in what you heard at the demo. Mentioning this in case it is relevant.

All the best!
I agree with fsonicsmith and David regarding proper speaker break-in, placement and cable comparability. I just believe that amplifier and speaker matching is both fundamental and foundational. You have to establish what type of sound you are seeking.

With this speaker you'll hear that the Bryston will differ from Pass Labs and Leben will differ from the Line Magnetic. Each and every amplifier brings along its innate sonic signature. Determine which signature you find most acceptable. They all have distinct colorations.
Charles
All,

Thank you again for taking the time to respond.  There are some excellent ideas/suggestions throughout this discussion.  My apologies for the delayed follow-up, but Saturdays have become "kid birthday party day" it appears, and there's no end in sight.

With regards to break-in, the speakers I'd purchased were the demo pair that I'd heard and fallen in love with.  I expect the sound will continue to evolve a bit, but I'm confident we're in a good place.

The cables utilized in the shop system were Argento which are truly fantastic, and I'm confident that did have an impact on dynamics.  That said, from an overall presentation standpoint, I think if I can get the amp + DAC dialed in first, I can upgrade the cables after and eek out that last piece of audio-nirvana as I reset my funds.

The room positioning piece is a wonderful point, and I'm going to grab the XLO test CD as recommended tomorrow morning and spend a couple more hours on positioning to see if I can dial in bass a bit further. It's a tough room, and I've worked through multiple positions (currently on long wall), and room limitations could be muting some of those dynamics.  

I love Charles's comment regarding the OTO being very good but not perfect for every music genre...spot on.  I really do appreciate their tone for jazz and acoustic, but there's a little punk/grunge in me that needs the Pixies and Nirvana's Scentless Apprentice to have that punch.  There is a Pass Lab distributer in the area, so I'll check out the IAs in that line to see if the sound has enough warmth/soul, and in the interim, I'll look to see if I can find a used CS600 or US version 508ia for a no-loss price should I need to re-sell.  The Lyngdorf is intriguing, and if I can get an audition, I'll definitely take advantage.

Finally, regardless on timing of the above, the DAC needs to go, so I'll look to find a reasonable price on USB versions of some of the above mentioned and get that sorted asap.  

Again, thanks to all, and I welcome any additional thoughts.  As I get everything settled, I'll report back with my findings.

Best,Wallace
Don’t count out the CS300xs.  The specs 15W per channel may not look that much different than your current amp, but it would be my first choice for the 0/96.  This little integrated absolutely kicks butt with plenty of punch.  I preferred it to the Shindo separates mainly due to its dynamic punchy character.  I have not heard the CS 600 so can’t say how that would compare. 
@wallace79  Updates?
I have been living with monkeys for almost a year. I have tried all "recommended" amps but came to my own conclusions - First off, Dartzeel LHC208 - best sound but slightly rolled off but due to my room issues. LM219ia - great spacing, organic mid but no low end. Leben CS600 - I wanted to like that amp BUT could not get it to work with 0/96s in my 13 X 15 room. Vocals were shouty and thin and not that much of a drive with rock music. I have tried all 4,8,16 Ohm transformer's tabs Also, became hard when pushed. Shindo Monbrison with Haut Brion - relaxed syrupy, dark, great sounding initially but in a long run - boring! Taking all emotions away from the music. Amp combination to fall asleep with. Rouge Audio 100 power amp with RP5 pre - most solid state sounding, tube combination - huge slam and drive comparable with dartzeel integrated. Great staging and wow factor but slightly dry and thin. Ars Sonum Filarmonia - sweet sounding class A amp with enormous sound staging and liquid presentation. Loosing some drive and dynamics compared to more powerful amplifiers. Slightly rolled off. 
All those amps were guests in my listening room for couple of weeks and were fully broken in. I have used Audience SX cables across the whole system. (will be trying Auditorium A23 soon) 
The final choice and what I use now is the new Luxman 509x. In my room, I have accomplished ultimate balance between resolution and organic sound with enormous sound staging and imaging deep in the room. I bet nobody would even think about trying that amp with 0/96...That confirms the rule that all those recommendations in magazines are really useless - all gear should be tried in your own listening space with your own music! Nothing is written in stone! All those "highly recommended Stereophile Class A" amps did not work for me when paired with 0/96s....we are all hearing differently and paying attention to different aspects of sound....I recently witnessed customer being 0/93 to be placed in 10 X 11 room.....what a waste of money but what can I say.
Wow- There you have it. That was quite a mini journey Arturgorniak. Funny, that Haut Brion  really lit up the O's to my ears. A nice bonus is you didn't even have to go class A with the new Lux. Having owned the O's for a few years, this thread makes me wish I tried more amps. 
Pass Labs Integrated plus Schiit Yggdrasil
All,

It's been quite a while since I last posted...Family/work stalled my search significantly longer than I'd intended.

I wanted to provide an update on my adventure.  I recently had the opportunity to purchase a Lampizator 4 gen 4 for a really solid price.  All I can say is WOW!  The OTO sounds like a totally different amp.  The bass is deeper/punchier, the voices are even richer, dynamics improved, and, while I can't understand it, it almost sounds like the amp is louder around 9-10 o'clock.  It provides an exceptionally emotional presentation with a beautifully transparent soundstage without rounding highs/lows (to my ears)..My wife even walked into the room and asked if I bought a bigger/better amp.  I truly can't believe what a difference a decent DAC makes in the chain.  

Eventually, I can see myself moving to a larger amp to further build out volume and dynamics, but I can truly be opportunistic now as I'm pretty happy with this setup.  I'm actually so blown away by Lampizator that I'm dying to hear what the Atlantic SE sounds like. (Can it add that much more sonic goodness for an additional $2+K used over the Lampi 4?)

Thanks again to all for making this a very helpful thread for a newbie, and I'm looking forward to trying out more of your suggestions in the coming year.

Happy listening, and happy holidays!
Hello Wallace,
Thanks for taking the time to post an update on your outcome. I’m happy for your very successful results. So it wasn’t the 10 watt amplifier as the limiting factor, good news. I strongly suspect that the Lampizator DAC has a much more stout power supply and higher quality analogue output stage than the Arcam unit. Also the Lampizator may have a higher output voltage as well. I had hoped you could keep the + attributes of the OTO.  Well you certainly did and then some😊.

I’ve learned through direct experience that the quality of a component’s power supply is critical for better sound quality (better capacitors, improved filtration, bigger/better power transformer etc.). Your outcome is quite significant and I’m convinced that the power supply of the Lampy DAC played a crucial role. I know that you were happy with the 10 watt OTO for the most part. Now you’ve added the missing dynamic snap and punch.
Again I’m very happy for you and congratulations.
Charles
I've had really good success using the ARC Ref75SE which seems to tame the long-throw woofs well on my Gibbon Xs.

I use a Music First TVC passive, so costs about same as a top flight integrated amplifier.

Wallace,
From all indications that I’m aware of the Lampizator Atlantic SE  is a definite step up from your well regarded Lampy 4 GEN 4 model.Given your current satisfaction (amplifier and speakers) I believe the Atlantic SE would be a very reasonable and wise upgrade with excellent bang for the buck if obtained used.
Lampy 4 Gen4 + ARC REF 75 SE
Or
Atlantic SE+Audio Note OTO amp.
Two very good choices 😊. Based on your update comments I'd probably choose the latter.
Good luck, 
Charles 
+1 charles1dad

The Lampizator Atlantic SE is hands down the best DAC I have ever owned, a significant improvement over the Lampi Big Six, which is also excellent.

@wallace79 -- There is an Atlantic SE currently for sale, at a screaming good deal. I sent you some background information on it via private message.
Hi Walter,
The significant aspect regarding the Atlantic is it utilizes some key  features of the esteemed Golden Gate DAC (such as directly heated tubes and copper foil capacitors) and also used the power supply of the Lite 7 DAC. The Atlantic was a major shift upwards from the very good Lampizator 4,5 and 6 series. The Atlantic resides in a higher tier.

In terms of amplifiers certainly increased power has some advantages depending on the specific circumstances. The AN OTOSignature in terms of sound quality won’t be easy to exceed. It’s a time honored design pure class A  and utilizes the excellent AN double C core output transformers. I understand why Wallace is so impressed with its sound. 
Charles