Integrated amp with HT bypass for Focal Electra 1008 Be


Hi!

This is my first post here, so,, hello everyone ! :D

I recently acquired a pair of Focal Electra 1008 be bookshelf speakers. These are going to be used as Fronts of a 5.1 surround setup. I currently have them hooked up to a NAD 326bee. NAD's power amp input is connected to Denon X3400H AVR's pre outputs. AVR is driving the center and surround channels, sub is active (Dali IKON sub MK2). This setup is not very optimal, since I cannot take AVR out of equation, and I really don't trust AVR's DAC or pre amp section very much. I want to be able to use my home theater via AVR easily, while being able to use the Focal Electras for a good stereo music experience.

I read about integrated amps or preamps with HT Bypass feature, I believe one of those would fit my requirements very well. Current models I have in mind are:

1- Hegel H360, H300 or H160
2- Parasound Halo Integrated
3- Atoll IN300 or Atoll IN200SE
4- Cambridge Audio 851A or 840A
5- Marantz PM8005 or PM14S1

Cheapest items in that list are Marantz PM8005 and Atoll IN200SE. I was wondering if one of those would just work for me, or if I should go for Hegel H360? Any opinions of these amplifiers and how they would match with Focal Electra line, especially given that it has the beryllium tweeter units, would be highly appreciated! :D

I was initially quite excited about the Atoll IN200SE, since it has a true dual mono architecture. However, then I got to know that only way to shut it down is to flip the on/off switch on it's back. Turns out when device is on stand by, it is still using around 19 watts of power.

Parasound's sub management features are quite attractive as well. I guess I can have the same with others integrated amps that have pre out (my sub has separate LFE and L/R inputs).

Any suggestions or thoughts would be highly appreciated!
denizpiri
REGA OSIRIS integrated amp ...I have it for my primary 2-channel listening; that also integrates as the LF and RF speaker amp through its direct pass-through feature for 7.1 AV purposes

highly recommended
@akg_ca Rega OSIRIS looks beautiful to me! However, that might be a little bit too much in terms of price. I would prefer spending less for amp and more for speakers overall. OSIRIS is more expensive than my speakers (OSIRIS is 11k USD here in Poland).

What speakers do you use the OSIRIS with?

Thanks a lot for the suggestion!!
My system

Base 2-channel audio

REGA OSIRIS integrated amp
REGA ISIS Valve cdp/ DAC
NORDOST FREY cable  loom: shotgunned speaker cables, matched jumpers, and matched XLR ICs
REGA R9 speakers (predecessor to the current RS10s)

for 7.1 multichannel applications: 

Add: NuForce AVP-18 digital AV 7.1 precessor / preamp 
Add: ARCAM BDP100 BluRay player
Add: 3 channel AUDIO REFINEMENT power amp driving the surrounds and CC speakers
Add: 2 channel AUDIO REFINEMENT power amp driving the rear speakers  

Add: Speakers for 7.1purposes 

- the REGA R9s become the LF and RF speakers driven by the OSIRIS on its direct pass-through feature from the 7.1 AV preamp/ processor 
- centre channel: REGA RVOX CC
- surrounds: REGA R1 bookshelves
- rears: REGA R3 floorstanders 
The new Anthem STR Integrated might be worth checking out.

2nd,


Anthem STR Integrated amp is worth checking out.

Happy Listening!

NAD M32 offers transparency that would wicked with those Be tweets. 
Rogue Pharaoh integrated has HT bypass.
Not sure the Pass integrateds have a home theatre by-pass but their class A integrateds INT 30A or 60A sound fantastic on Focals.

Chuck
Here's a list of integrated amps with HT Bypass - it was last updated Sept 2017
http://www.audiophile.no/en/articles-tests-reviews/item/426-amplifiers-with-processor-input

Scroll to the bottom for a list of preamps.
Thank you all so very much for all the suggestions ! :D

I am heavily leaning towards Hegel products right now, alternatively Marantz PM14S1. Read some good things about that two in combination with Focal speakers.

I use an ikea besta cabinet to keep all audio devices in. It is 40cm deep. I would like the device to be less than 40cm in depth, All Hegel devices I am looking at fits this requirement. Marantz PM14S1 on the other hand doesn't fit that requirement, same is true for Anthem STR (would be lovely with it's room correction feature). Then again, I can cut out the back of the besta cabinet to allow amps longer than 40cm. So, being shorther than 40cm is definitely a huge plus, but not a critical requirement.

I will try to audition hegel 360 this week, and maybe home demo it if I can. I can't easily find some of the devices mentioned here though :( I can't find Parasound Halo or Anthem STR in my city.

Another reason I am leaning towards Hegel is that, I might be changing my speakers to KEF Reference in future. I read many good things about KEF and Hegel combination.

Anyone here tried Hegel/Focal or Marantz/Focal combination before ?

@erikt Went trough that list before I posted and checked availability of the products in Poland. Some are just not available here, or maybe I can't search well :D

@akg_ca That system must be sounding sweet! :D My final system will be a lot cheaper in comparison.

@robr45 I was thinking about that actually. As far as I know that model uses Hypex NCore amps inside. As I understand they are one of the most transparent amp modules. I am also thinking of the possibility of making DIY amp by buying hypex ncore modules myself, and buying a preamp like Parasound P5. However, this might be quite time consuming and hypex ncore modules are not available for purchase right now :/
The m32 actually does not use Hypex, some of its siblings do but the m32 is a pure digital design and uses an all digital PWM gain stage. The chip was originally made by Zetex who is now part of qualcomm. It is a radical design and extremely pure. 
Just connected the speakers. They look amazing, but sound wise they don't sound that good without room correction of the AVR, too laid back. It might the amp as well, or the DAC/preamp section of the AVR, or the cables (QED silver anniversary XT). I will home demo Hegel H360 this week and try to get Kef LS50 along with it. To see how it behaves with better amplification. And will compare the sound with Kef LS50.

@jafant Since the current setup doesn't sound great without room correction, i am going to take a better look at the Anthem STR, because of it's room correction feature. It might be the Dynamic EQ feature as well. Living in an appartment, too late to test things already. I will also try it with DAC connected to my NAD 326 directly.

Also got lots of reading to do in acoustic treatment.
Hegel H360 is connected now. Been listening to it for last 4 hours. Going trough some Pink Floyd albums now. I threw many genres to it. So far only genre that doesn't sound so nice is Metal. Metal feels blurry sounding instead of sharp.

Hegel H360 made Focals sound very natural, yet they still have that sweet Berrylium highs, however now it doesn't strike out of nowhere. This is easy to hear with drums. Cymbals sound more right and lively, rather than 'cymbal slam on your face' sound. Exaggerating quite heavily of course :D

Tried Hegel's built in airplay feature for a while. It might be my wifi network, but it was cutting the sound every now and then, very disturbing. Now connected chrome cast with optical cable to Hegel's DAC, works flawlessly. Love Chromecast for it's price.

Another +1 for Hegel H360 is that it doesn't get hot by any means, barely gets warm.

So far, only thing I really dislike about Hegel is powering it on/off. It is done via a big switch under the unit. You slide your hand under it and push it upwards. Remotely turning it on/off doesn't seem to be possible. Then again, not sure if I should turn it on/off each time after use or put it to "eco" mode (didn't try it yet) after use. Oh and I wish I could dim the display permanently. Would be great.
Was going to mention a used Plinius Hiato available here now, but sounds like you might be onto something with the Hegel.

Have been trying Hegel H360 with Focals for the 2 days. Listened to many genres of music at many different volume levels.

Positives:
- So very musical sound.
- Musicalness is still there if not enhanced at lower volumes. I assume this has to do with the zero feedback designs and minimal distortion at low volumes. This is a huuuge benefit for me. I listen to music at night mostly and living in an apartment.
- Very full and rounded sound.
- More power than I will ever need.

Negatives:
- A little bit overly musical. Jazz sounds truly magical and amazing. However with electronic music, that uplifting energic feeling gets blurred out somewhat. No music gives me chills, regardless of the volume. Thinking if this might be the room or the speaker cables.
- Not the best looking device by any means.
- Terrible location of on/off button (under the device). No remote on/off possibility.

Also it might be my imagination, but amp feels like it starts to sound better after 2-3 hours of being on and working. It feels as if it starts having less crossover distortion, allowing quieter passages to come out easier. Might be purely my imagination though. :D

I wanted to try it at the dealer's demo room tomorrow (I will be returning Hegel H360 there), however they are reserved all day tomorrow :( I just wanted to check if the overly musical feel is because of the amp. I will check the possibility of home demo-ing a Class D amp.
Overly musical??? I thought that would be a good thing. IMO.
@mr_m Well, as I said, Jazz sounds truly magical. Or live orchestra recordings, pure magic.. And that pure magic is kept at low volumes as well.

But as I understand, amp doesn't attack quick enough or decay quick enough. So when the music has too much energy. Such as distorted guitar sound, it somehow sounds smooth and musical, not giving me goose bumps. Yeah that is the thing, amp never gave me a single goose bump yet, regardless of volume. Gave me many moments of "god damn that sounds delicious" though.
I am a guitar player myself, using Kemper KPA currently and used many other equipment in the past, so I know how guitar should sound like and can sound like. However, here it just doesn't sound right.

Just got a new idea, connect Kemper KPA to Hegel and play guitar trough it ! :D

Anyway, will be returning Hegel tomorrow. I will try few other amps I think before making a decision. I definitely want to try a Class D amp though, I guess I am just looking for something more analytical, a bit less musical. Will see...
Don’t know if tubes are out, but, I’ve got the Focal 1008be2’s powered by Primaluna Dialogue Premium integrated, sound phenomenal. It has a HT pass through. 
I’ve always wanted to hear a Hegel. 

Good luck
mdr
@mdelrossi1 What speaker cables are you using ? And what genre you listen to mostly with them ? The amp should be easy to turn on/off by my girlfriend as well, not sure if I can convince her for the idea of power on, wait for warm up, take it out of standby,, and same in reverse for powering it down everytime she would like to watch netflix :D

Connected Kemper KPA via spdif to Hegel H360. My guitar sounded as if there was chorus effect on it. I made sure that Kemper KPA was only running amp sim and cab sim and no reverb/delay/space sim was applied, pure digital output afterwards. Then tried to play the same thing via Kemper connected to my guitar amp, no chorus feel, everything feels sharp and not blurred and edgy..

Will be listening to some Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Guthrie Govan etc... To understand if there is something that makes distorted guitar sounds sound unnatural. Or I should say, makes it sound too natural where as it should sound unnatural :D
Found a review that somewhat verifies my thoughts of the Hegel sound. http://www.enjoythemusic.com/magazine/equipment/0915/Hegel_H160_Review.htm
It is a review of Hegel H160. But overall it mentions how hegel is soft. I guess I just don't like the fact that amp is too easy to listen to. I actually love it for jazz music etc,, but not when I want to listen to "Welcome to the Jungle".
Returned the Hegel H360 to dealer. Told him my views of it, he agrees mostly. I wanted to take Atoll IN300 for demo, he heavily recommended Audio Analogue Puccini Anniversary. Love it's looks. So, took it home. Listening to them right now.

After listening to Audio Analogue, I know for a fact that I will not be having Hegel. Not my cup of tea. I don't want any device in the chain smoothing the music out. Smooth sounds should come out smooth, but sound of glass shattering should give me goose bumps. Audio Analogue seems to be doing it so far, without sounding bright.

Also in terms of usability, it is amazing. I can remotely turn it on/off. No more having to place your hand under the device to turn it on. Visually it looks superb, never seen any better and more classy looking amp before. No crappy blue LED like in Hegel.

Anyway, I can understand that some people like Hegel. Night time jazz listening was great with it. However, definitely was blurring out every other genre of music. Just not for me.

I will keep Audio Analogue until Wednesday. Will write my views of it here.
PrimaLuna Dialogue Premium High Powered Integrated Tube Amp ....
.... would be a popular choice if you are OK with spectacular sounding and very powerful tube amps that will drive sh*t down to 2 ohms. 
Demoed Atoll IN300 and Puccini Anniversary.

Atoll IN300 just doesn't sound right. Sounded super weak. Bass is close to nonexistent basically. However, it pulls treble details that I have never heard before. Also it's midrange doesn't sound good. High pitched instruments sounds very nice though and sound stage is good. But lack of bass makes it unacceptable for me. It's capability of exposing treble details could be related to me focusing on upper sound range in lack of bass and midrange.

Puccini Anniversary so far was the best option. Highs, mids, lows, it was all there. Everything overall was great about this amp. In some regards it wasn't really perfect. It could do with tiny bit more weight in bass, tiny bit more upper range sparkle. However, I can totally live with it and be very very happy with it. Visually it looks superb. Dealer told me that if I will buy one, I will get the new updated version, which has a new firmware with HT Bypass capability and also comes with the new and super awesome (dealer showed it) machined metal remote control. https://www.hifidiprinzio.it/photos/2017/10/201710161637041/1200x900_0_0_75/audio-analogue-maestro-a...
I also love the fact that Puccini doesn't have any display (Hegel's display was insanely ugly for example).

So currently I have Puccini Anniversary on the top of my shopping list :D I will try to demo Parasound Halo Integrated this week or next week. Also I will try to arrange demo of Puccini Anniversary A/B'ed with Maestro Anniversary (twice the price of Puccini).

Started developing an interest for PrimaLuna Dialogue Premium as well. However, still don't know how or where to demo it :(
Interested in Anthem STR as well, but that won't be available to demo until mid April.
We're the largest Focal dealer on the west coast and maybe the whole country.  The DiaLogue Premium would blow your mind with the 1008Be.

I have a Hegel H360 here that was traded in on one.  The HP would be even better.  The amps are the same but the HP has four more power tubes, a second Adative AutoBias board to manage them, and a larger power transformer.  
denizpiri

you write/review well. If you dig Jazz, Rock, Hard Rock and Pop, take the Anthem STR Integrated demo in mid April. I would be interested in reading your impressions in comparison to mine.
The new B.A.T. VK-3000SE could be on my radar providing I can find a demo?

Happy Listening!
@upscaleaudio I have been watching your videos about Primaluna ! Great stuff. :D I will try to get a demo of Primaluna somehow.

I listen to a big variety of music genres. I wonder how DiaLogue Premium does with more dynamic music styles such as Metal, Dubstep, etc.. Could my girlfriend open pop songs and enjoy it?

Another thing is, how often would I need to change the tubes if we assume 6-7 hours of usage per day (will be used as a HT amp via HT bypass quite often).

One last question: I never had a good experience with motorized potentiometers. Mainly because of never being able to set the volume to the setting I want at low volume levels. How logarithmic is the pot on DiaLogue Premium.
@jafant Well, thank you :D I listen to all genres more or less, as long as it sounds good to me :D Did you write your impressions down somewhere, I tried to find, but couldn't find it among your posts. Could you provide a link?

If I would purchase something before the Anthem STR demo possibility, I would probably skip the demo. Wouldn't want to fall in love with Anthem STR after I buy something else and regret my purchase forever :D
denizpiri
I wrote a brief on the STR over on the Thiel Owners thread under Speakers.
Check it out.

Happy Listening!
another plus on the Anthem STR.

But still liking my PrimaLume Intergrated HP w/ KT150 better.  and it has the HT PassThough.
Alright, as I understand Anthem STR integrated doesn't have HT Bypass support (no mention of it in it's manual or product info page). However, Anthem STR Preamp does have that feature for the 4th input. Anthem PRE+POW combo would be way too costly, can't justify that cost :D I will be going the Dirac Live way for room correction. So, Anthem is out of audition list then.

I only have Parasound A21+P5 and Halo Integrated to audition. And I might also want to listen Marantz PM14S1.
Had a demo session today of these:
- Parasound Halo Integrated
- Parasound P5 + A23
- Parasound P5 + A21

Parasound Halo Integrated was quite nice sounding. Bass, treble everything was there. Treble and mid range was sounding quite well, until any bass sound kicked in. If there was any continuous bass sound in the background, treble sounds were instantly losing their impact. Also, sound stage was more or less between speakers. Speakers didn't exactly disappear.

Then we switched to P5 + A23. First thing that I immediately noticed was that bass disappeared. I made them double check to see if P5 had it's crossover feature turned on, it was off. But overall it felt like bass notes were very muted. Comparing P5+A23 to Halo Integrated. Integrated totally wins.

Then switched to P5 + A21. First of all, A21 is gigantic :D Didn't expect it to be that large. It is similarly sized to Maestro I guess. This combo again completely lacked deep bass sounds. However, sound had a 3D feel to it, instrument separation was much better than Halo or P23. Sound stage started to extend beyond the speakers. And even though it lacked bass, however much it had was more controlled. Amp never lost power, always had impact, very impressive to listen to overall.

I let the dealer know that P5 was somehow sucking the sub bass out comparing to Halo Integrated. He seemed surprised, he said that we should try P7 instead of P5. Tried, but again it completely lacked bass, maybe 2% better but nowhere near Halo Integrated's sub bass level.

Anyway, I think whole demo session wasn't good overall. I wish I could hear A21 with a proper pre. I thought of asking to connect Halo's pre out to A21, however we were already there for more than 1.5 hours, so decided to skip that. Also, dealer didn't seem very knowledgable.

I could home demo PSound Halo Integrated. But not sure about A21, it is too heavy and big for me to carry it home :/ I overall like PSound Halo Integrated though. Especially it might win over Puccini once PSound is connected to the sub. I was hoping to immediately hate the sound of PSound and make my decision to buy Puccini right there, but couldn't hate it :D I got some thinking to do! :D
Writing just for future reference for others.

I steered away from all my initial plans and ended up with Class D monoblocks ! Yay! :D I know, some people are very against Class D sound, however in all AV shows, I was always attracted to Class D amps. My favorite so far being Kii Threes with integrated hypex amps.

I purchased 2 monoblock amps built with Hypex NCore NC500 modules. From a nice and super helpful gentleman named Tibor from Apollon Audio. These specifically: http://www.apollonaudio.com/hypex-nc500-monoblock-amplifier-apollon-audio-nc800-slm/  I placed the order last week Wednesday, received the amps yesterday! They are looking super fine ! :D Couldn't try their sound yet, since I still don't have a preamp with XLR output. I will have Rotel RC-1590 for home demo this evening. I should be able to get some sound out of the amps :D
If they sound close to what people tell about these online, I will be a very happy listener! Another great advantage of these is that sound goes trough an opamp, which is interchangeable. I ordered it with 2 opamps already, will try both and return the ones I don't like. But later in future I can change opamps to change sound signature. Thinking of trying some Burson opamps in future.

After I try these for a while, I am thinking of ordering either one more monoblock or another stereo but use only 1 channel of it,, for driving center speaker from AVR. I am thinking of B&P IcePower 1200AS based amp, Apollon audio has these as well.

Currently trying to decide for Preamp, it will be either Rotel RC-1590 or Parasound P5 I think. I am also checking passive options, but I am leaning more towards active preamps currently, with ht bypass of course. If I will find the sound too analytical then I might think of a tube preamp to smooth things out. But I think I would be better off playing around with changing opamps on the amp.

Thank you all for your help !

Thanks! for the update - denizpiri

Happy Listening!