Need Amp Advice


Hey guys,

New member here but music lover for many years.
I am looking to upgrade my amps to get better sound quality and really need some help. I watch movies and listen to music daily. I would say in general, 70/30 (movies 70). I run a 5.1 setup and plan on upgrading to 7.1.4 in the future, but happy with 5.1 at the moment.
When I listen to music I only use the 802's (no sub and no multichannel music).

Currently, my setup is:

Speakers
Main speakers: B&W 802D (first Diamond)
Center: B&W HTM2D
Surrounds: Klipsch
Sub: Klipsch

Pre-amp
Marantz AV8802A

Amps
Emotiva XPA-1 monoblock x2 for the main speakers 
Emotiva XPA-3 Gen 3 for the center and surrounds

The sounds is good, it's actually more than good but I want it to be even better. I have been looking at many used amps (can not afford new ones) and wanted to ask for your opinion on the following that I have considered. I have not heard any of them with my speakers.

1. Classe CM-A600 monoblocks 
2. McIntosh MC501 monoblocks
3. I even looked at the Devialet 200 which was recommended by someone I know
4. Krell?

Do those amps make sense? Am I looking at a noticeable improvement over the Emotivas? I would love to hear from people who know and heard those amps, especially driving 802's.
I am of course open to any other suggestions as well.

Thank you in advance!

killergurt

I have B&W Diamond Gen 2 for left/center/right and I'm driving them with Emotiva's.  The Emotiva XPA amps are very good for the money, but they are kind of bright/harsh stock.  If you want to improve things without a lot of money, I'd say put some upgraded fuses in your Emotiva monoblocks.  Since you have a warm signature from the Marantz processor, I'd go with Furutech fuses to increase the bass punch and overall resolution.  The XPA-1 monoblocks have two 10amp 5x20 fuses (on bottom plate) and two 1amp 5x20 fuses inside under the top cover.  The Gen 3 amps uses circuit breakers, so no fuse upgrades for that (and I cannot comment on how it compares to old gen XPA-1 amps).

As far as amps go, I'm not sure I would go with McIntosh unless you want that really laid back sound (you already have a warm signature from the Marantz).

Classe is very good.  Krell can be good, but it depends.  You're looking in the right area.  Need a really strong high current amp with big power supply for the B&W speakers.  Maybe get another XPA-1 for center channel (if you think the XPA-1 are better than XPA Gen 3).

I would look for a used Modwright kwa 150se, the classe maybe,
i would'nt go for the McIntosh of any kind unless you like slow laid back,boring to me Sound.

You do need a really strong high current amp with a big pwr supply for your speakers.

All the emotiva's are just ok for the money and I don't have much experience with krell,Lot's of really good amps out there it might depend on your budget.

Best of luck to you,

Kenny.
Welcome Killergurt

Assuming that budget isn't a consideration, then a very obvious solution for 2-channel stereo would be a pair of the CA-M600s and also add a CP-800 (utilizing HT-Bypass) for all of your 2-channel music sources.

This setup is actually how the speakers are voiced and why you see so many dealer demos set up this way.

Another option would be one of the Classe Processors to replace your Marantz but Classe tends to move very slowly in keeping up with the industry in terms of video and audio formats so not an option I would pursue.

Assuming that you go with the first option, next I would look to get some B&W surrounds to replace your Klipsch and probably avoid using a sub at all for music.  If you've ever heard the kind of bass that the 802s are capable of with serious current pushing them you would likely agree.

Greg



McIntosh and B&W is known to be best match especially if you're willing to stretch at least $4k extra after you sell your Emotiva.

For theater, I value Sunfire TGA as the best performance per dollar spent.

It would be worth your while to look at these babies:
Blue Circle AG-8000 monoblocks $5,998

* Four separate chassis: 2 monaural amplifiers, each with its own separate external power supply. 
* 150 watts into 8 ohms 
* True balanced topology 
* Tube input stage (two 6922's), Blue Circle's new solid state output stage 
* Two pairs of binding posts for shot-gun bi-wiring 
* Custom Blue Circle Polypropylene cap bypass in both B+ and low voltage power supply
* Over 300,000uF power supply 
* 2500 watt power supply transformer 
* DC power connection rated up to 34 amps 
* HexFred(tm) Ultra Fast Soft recovery diode in B+ and low voltage power supply 
We've got a number of customers that use the B&W 802s with our M-60s, so apparently its a rather tube-friendly speaker. Rather than going the brute force powerhouse approach, you might consider going the finesse route instead- it sounds like that's what you want from your original post. Tubes could do that for you as they tend to be smoother and more detailed than solid state (IMO/IME) generally speaking.
Hi all,

Thank you *so* much for your responses, gives me different directions to consider.
A few things:

1. I have never owned a tube amplifier before. The way I understand tubes (I am quite ignorant on the subject, just by reading) is that they tend to run super hot, slow, require maintenance and probably not a good fit for home theater, which is what I use my system most for.

2. When I listen to music I never use my sub. I am delighted by the bass the 802's produce.

3. the Emotivas are definitely a different league, maybe can be tagged as "entry level" amps which are affordable. I think that was was said here is true: they do sound slightly too bright and "harsh". I sometimes feel like I wish I could "open up" that sound a bit more, even in movies, if it makes sense.

4. The Blue Circle AG-8000 look like a super-complex setup, something that is probably an overkill for me. Do they run very hot? Will they pair nicely with the Marantz? (I would hate to replace it, paid 4K for it quite recently). Does it make sense to use such gear for movies?

5. My budget is limited, I can spend up to 8K, given that I will be selling my 2 Emotivas to offset the price a little.

Again, thank you all very much, your insights are very helpful. I want to make a purchase that will last a few years, so want to make the right decision.
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@atmosphere

If I run B&W 802s with your M-60 reaching my normal SPL, overheat with tubes glowing bright burning red guaranteed within relatively short time with all possible aftermath on precious and pricey units.

I’m definitely not fan of using VW Rabbit 1.3L engine on Freightliners, but was able to tow several miles 25’ Bayliner Avanti cruiser with Volvo 740 wagon. Shortly after that 2.3L engine started showing thick and white/blue smoke and it figured that Bayliner was perhaps too heavy for it. Anyways 25yo Volvo 740 was not even worth fraction of Atmasphere M60 and was going to salvage yard so I did not care much...

So the finesse routine is cool small economic and fast VW Rabbit 1.3L engine and brute force powerhouse is 8.3L Cummins diesel engine... What would be better way to tow my Bayliner?

^^ :) that's pretty funny. You can't overheat the tubes in an M-60 like that!

In fact on that speaker you could run the amp all day at full clipping and not do that.

IOW your metaphor doesn't work in this case. The amp isn't towing a Bayliner or anything like it.

However, I did make a mistake here- I mistook the 802 for a different B&W model and the two are very different!

So I retract my statement about the speaker being tube-friendly; while you can drive it with tubes, you would want to use the 4 ohm tap and keep the speaker cables fairly short. The speaker is 4 ohms in the bass region and 8 ohms in the mids and highs. So a tube amp would use the 4 ohm tap (our larger amps would work with the speaker if a set of ZEROs were employed on the woofer array).

Obviously the speaker is intended for use with solid state when you see a woofer array like that. If going solid state, I recommend Pass Labs.



audition Benchmark, and when released the new Mytek

I might not be sure about M-60, but some years ago I tried to test serviced Bogen 35A on my Aerial 10T speakers and after 3 hours both channel tubes turned burning bright red color similar to the tip of steel needle above the stove gas burner.

Connected it to my lab speakers b&W c201 and played it for couple of days no issue.


Try to audition a BAT VK-255SE or Plinius SA-103. These amps will do justice to you B&Ws. Also, a Pass Labs 250.8 would be good.
Thank you all! 
Every time I read one of your replies I go out to research :-)
I have to admit that some of the replies went above my head (yup, Bob Reynolds, I was talking about you ;-)
On a separate note, do you guys have an opinion on the Devialet 200, one per speaker to be upgraded at a later stage (budget constraint) to the Devialet 400 (by adding a Slave unit to each).

Thank you.
Hey Dweller,

I found both 250.8 and 350.8 that are within my budget. 3 questions:

1. Is there an advantage to using 2 monoblocks as opposed to a stereo amp?

2. Will those 2 amps be enough in terms of power for the 802's?

3. Currently I bi-amp the speakers using the Emotivas. In the case of the Pass Labs amps I will "only" be able to bi-wire. Am I losing something significant by doing so?

thanks for your time!

Monoblocks will normally have much bigger power supplies and are usually fully balanced/differential on the amplifier output stage.  Stereo amps do not normally have balanced/differential output stages, but there are definitely exceptions.

The Pass Labs could be fully balanced/differential, even though they are stereo (I know of at least one post, possibly by Bob Reynolds, that indicates a Pass Labs stereo was differential on the output).  That being said, either the 250.8 or the 350.8 will most likely wipe the floor with the Emotiva amps, so I wouldn't worry that these are stereo or lower power rating.  Check out the following thread:

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/my-long-list-of-amplifiers-and-my-personal-review-of-each

He does a massive list of amps and descriptions of their sonic signature.  As far as the thread goes, the Pass ".8" models are near the top of the line.

I would not bi-amp the speakers using the extra "bi-amp outputs" on the 8802a.  This never works out best anyways.  The Marantz processor (and any other processor) will send higher frequencies to the upper bi-amp output by comparing the used frequencies of the main output and subtracting them from the full-range signal.  This results in lost resolution and the sound is just soft and not impactful.  Better way to bi-amp is just to use a Y-splitter cable, but then you are messing with combining two amplifier input impedances and you may lose sound quality this way.  It's better just to run an amplifier full-range to a speaker.  Bi-wire is good to reduce the speaker cable resistance.

Oh, I just figured what you mean when you say "bi-amping with the Emotivas". The XPA-1 has two sets of binding posts. This is not true bi-amping. The two binding posts are connected to the same amplifier output stage, so you are basically just bi-wiring anyways.

Also, don't forget about your center channel.  For home theater and movies, this is the absolute most important speaker.  Skimping on this will definitely affect quality of movies and dialog and action.

Thank you auxinput,

So what I am doing with my speakers now is equivalent to running one pair of cable to the speakers and use the jumpers that came with them?

As for Center, I have a 3rd Emotiva amp (XPA-3 Gen 3) that power that Center and 2 surrounds.

  

Any thoughts on you using a multi channel amp for your whole home theater system like a Bryston 9bsst2 or something similar and then an upgraded processor to match like the Bryston SP3. there are many choices out there but the whole system approach may give better synergy.

20 year warranty don't hurt either on the Bryston.

Well, not exactly.  What you are doing is, essentially, running a bi-wire speaker cable.  The two binding posts on the XPA-1 amp are wired together, so it's just an extra binding post for convenience.  A bi-wire configuration uses a single point at the amplifier, then the speaker cable is split between the mid/high speaker connection and the bass speaker connection.  I generally like doing a bi-wire configuration instead of just using the jumpers on the speakers as the sound can be degraded some when using the jumpers.  Sometimes you have good jumpers, but it's another set of wire/spades/bananas that you have to send voltage through.  I recommend just starting with a double-run of your standard 12awg stranded OFC copper speaker cable.  Combine it together at the amp side and connect them separately at the speaker binding posts.  Or look for a higher gauge 10 or 9 awg speaker cable and get a bi-wire setup on one end.  It's all about lowering the resistance of the speaker cable (larger wire is less resistance).
I second the Plinius 103 recommendation.  It has plenty of power for your speakers, and it will add a nice dose of refinement and overall improvement with its Class A sound.  What's really nice about the Plinius in particular for your situation is that it has a low/high bias switch (not available on Pass Labs as far as I know) so when doing home theater/non-critical listening you can switch to low bias so amp runs cooler and more efficiently.  The Classe amps are obviously another good choice as they have synergy with B&W, and yet another would be a McCormack DNA500 if one becomes available.  I don't think think you can go wrong and will be very happy with any of these. 

One other dark horse you might want to consider.  I had a Liberty Audio B2B-100 on demo in my system and found it to be a truly excellent amp.  Very detailed yet refined (especially in high-bias mode) with outstanding imaging and soundstaging.  Supposedly sounds even better in monobloc form and still under your budget new.  A further benefit is I think Peter (same designer as highly regarded PBN Audio amps - this is his consumer direct channel) would let you demo them, which is so critical before buying. 

The other thing I'd HIGHLY recommend looking into before doing anything else is a separate stereo preamp.  The Marantz is good for a prepro, but with your level of equipment I think you'd hear a big improvement with a dedicated high-end stereo preamp, especially after upgrading your amp.  It can easily be integrated into your current system such that the Marantz can be used for home theater and surround music duties, but it is completely removed from the signal path when doing critical 2-channel listening. 

Sorry for the long response, but hope this helps and best of luck in your search. 
Hi Soix,

Thank you for the insight. This is super interesting, pardon my ignorance, but I had no idea that you could have two pre-amps in the same system.
The idea of having a dedicated setup for critical listening really appeals to me.
what I don't get is how this is possible. How can I have two connected pre-amps to the same speakers? The main speakers need to be used for both movies and music, being connected to different pre-amps. Maybe I am getting this wrong but I am very curious about it.
OK, off to check out the Plinius amp you recommended.

Thank you very much.
Killgurt - Have a look at my prior post.  Essentially what you do is integrate a 2 channel stereo preamp that has HT (home theater) bypass functionality.  The way it works is that it would be connected directly to your amp all the time and would operate as any other 2 channel system, but when you're watching movies (5.1, etc.) then your home theater pre/pro would take over duties and pass the front left and right signal through the preamp without any processing.

Assuming you go with Classe then a CP-800 would be an ideal choice.

Greg
It's actually very easy to do.  Obviously the stereo pre would be connected directly to the amp driving the 802s, and your high-end stereo source also gets hooked into the stereo pre as well, just as if it was a normal stereo-only hookup.  The trick is then to use the front L/R preamp outs from the Marantz into the HT bypass or some other unused input (I used to use the aux input) into the stereo preamp.  If the stereo pre has an HT bypass you're pretty much done as it takes the stereo preamp's volume control completely out of the picture so it's basically a pure passthrough.  If it's a normal input I would just set the stereo preamp's volume control to the 12:00 position as an reference level and then balance the multi channel volume levels with the prepro as usual.  With this hookup, when you want to watch HT you just choose the input on the stereo pre that has the output from the front L/R of the prepro, turn the volume on the stereo pre to 12:00 so it goes to the proper preset reference volume level (unnecessary if you have an HT bypass) and you're good to go.  When listening to two channel you obviously just switch to the appropriate input on the stereo pre and you're done (just make sure you lower the volume on the stereo pre when switching back from HT to stereo or you'll have a loud volume blast if you don't have bypass).  Sounds worse than it is -- it's actually very easy to do in practice.  I did this for years until I finally got a dedicated listening room and it was a really great way to go.

I would stress to not underestimate the importance of a really good stereo preamp in a high-end system.  In my experience and opinion it is often overlooked but one of the absolute biggest contributors in the quality of sound you ultimately get (or don't get) from your system, and I think others here would back me up on that.  Again, best of luck. 

Thank you very much Soix, I'll try and build towards that. First I want to get the right amp/s and then add a stereo pre.
<<dealer disclaimer>>
Krell Foundation 4K and Krell Chorus amplifier sound AWESOME.  I'm using them on my really big demo system and they blow me away every time I play anything.  Detail, soundstage, effortlessness, it's hard to find anything they don't do with ease.  :-). Hope you find what you are looking for.
Hi,
I have a similar history.  I have a Classe SSP-800 but listen mostly to  music in 2.2 with KEF reference fronts and dual Paradigm Signature 15 subs.  I was using an Emotive XPA-2, but just upgraded to a Classe CA-2300.  Wow is all I can say.  I didn't turn my TV on for three
days, as my girlfriend and I just listened to music.  Less Harsh, bigger soundstage, way more
open, tingly and smooth.  Never wanted to turn it down.  Well, it should be a big difference given the prices.  Emotive is a solid value.  The Classe amp is simply amazing, but don't overlook the combination of Classe Pre amp as well.  Classe has revamped their lineup, so the current (or old) silver units can be had for a deal perhaps.  The new stuff is grey but similarly styled. Thanks!  Ken.
Check out the Anthem P5 Amplifier and the AVM60 Pre Pro.  Your system will come alive!
Thank you all very much for all your advice.
As it stands right now, I think that my preferred path would be to get 2 Classe CA-M600 (Or CT) and later on add a CP-800 when I can afford it. Problem is I can not find any for sale.

The second option that I am considering is to change direction and buy Devialet 400 (dual-mono). I have been reading rave reviews about those but this product seems so disruptive, that it makes me feel a bit uncertain when it comes to properly setting it up, getting support for it etc. It does, however, provide me with a Pre for stereo in addition to my Marantz, so I don't have to invest in another piece of hardware after getting it.

Would love to hear your thoughts, I am about to make a purchase and want to know everything I can beforehand.

Thank you all and have a great weekend!
I think an integrated amp is an excellent way to go since you need a preamp anyway, and you save the space and the need for another pair of interconnects.  Just make sure it has the juice to make your B&Ws sing. 

I have the Emotiva XPA-5 Gen 3 amp just like yours. I also have the Pass Labs 150 and Pass Labs 150.8 amps. I am completely reworking my AV and Stereo listening room. When the xpa, 150, and 150.8 amps arrived within a few days of each other, I compared the quality of the sound with my Martin Logan Expression ESL13A electrostatic and dynamic hybrid speakers. The source was direct mode with no processing or analogue input from the Yamaha receiver.

3 people listened to a/b comparison between the 3 amps. No one was told what amps were being used. All were above 60 yrs old and not audiophiles. All amps were reviewed with the same results. The Pass Labs were purchased used and the Emotiva was burned in for over 200 hours before tested. We compared musical CD’s only. Rock, Female vocal Jazz, Blues.

These are the differences, heard by all, between the Emotiva and Pass Labs:

Emotiva:        Sharp, clear, very slightly brittle, enjoyable bass and vocals, smaller sound-stage, source location aware.
Pass Labs:      Detailed, emotional, musical, huge sound-stage that made the source invisible. Bass that just felt good to listen to. Voices that felt that they were in the room.
   
We could not consistently and unanimously discern enough difference between the two generations of Pass Labs amps to be statistically relevant. We are not golden eared, just average listening ability for senior citizens.

We are using the Pass Labs for our main front stereo speakers and our elevated front stereo/presence speakers. The Emotiva is for our center speaker and all others.

I hope this helps.
Hey Firstinetallguy,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have not been able to compare my Emotiva to any other amp but I share your observations on the quality of its sound. I can not wait to connect my speakers to a higher quality amp and rediscover my music collection.

I have chosen to go with Devialet 400, just bought one and will get it next week after the holiday. I am expecting miracles, but maybe it's better to lower my expectations to avoid disappointment :-)

I'll keep everyone posted once I get it.

Thank you!
Congratulations.

I'm very curious to learn about your experience with the Devialet 400s. They were an option I recently considered, but I decided to go with a separate preamp and keep my current amps (at least for now).