Quest88 - My experience with audio equipment at the level your talking about is extrememly limited; however, the deal that I work with is a Focal dealer a I have heard the Scala a few times. I've actually listened to the Grande and Diablo models more.
What I can tell you is that when the Diablo and Grande were powered with Krell mono-blocks the sound simply blew me away. Those amps were sold and replaced with a Asthetix amps and even though they sounded good I was never blown away after the Krells left.
If it were me, I'd use Krell as the baseline and make another brand prove that they sounded better.
By the way, the Scala is a great sounding speaker. I've seen the Stella in the store, but have never been in long enough to get a listen. My favorite Utopia combo is actually the Diablo with a JL Audio subwoofer.
You may wish to add the VAC line of amps to your list for consideration. They should provide many of the qualities you seek.
I would try Gryphon, VAC and LAMM.
any of the vtl amps preamp/ amps combination is also very good with focal speakers.
i use the sigfired ampsand the 7.5 preamplifier with the g.u em.
Mceljo: Any idea what the Krell you heard was paired with in terms of cabling? Interesting choice as I've not heard the latest Evo series.
Anyway, Scala is indeed a good speaker but I now kind of feel I should have considered the Maestro.. no end to this. :)
Guys, will take Gryphon, VAC, VTL into my list for audition, thnks. LAMM was too slow for me.
Anyone have any idea on Audionet?
I don't know for sure, but I'd be surprised if it was anything other than Nordost and likely mostly Odin.
Consider the Micromega AS-400 integrated. It was used with Focal Utopias at several shows receiving high praise.
I have spent much time with the AS-400 and can tell you it is a very impressive unit.
You should try Accuphase.
I have a great experience with Accuphase and Focal Electra.
For what I know the amps in the Focal's factory listening room are Accuphase.
Thanks guys. I've booked a flight to the HK hifi show to check out more options. Hopefully will get some ideas on the way. Interestingly, think Devialet has been hooked up to Scala lately, but not too sure about class d.
Anyway, turns out the distributor of Accuphase in my country only sells Bose.. wouldn't have imagined.
Mceljo: Thanks, very useful as I'm a Nordost user and was afraid the Krell combo might be too aggressive, though Valhalla has abit of a soft edge. I don't think I can buy Odins though. :)
Went to the hifi show and came back impressed by VTL. Will try to find a way to listen to them with my Scalas.
May do a comparison to Octave. Seems like very sparse reviews on the differences between these two.
quest88, the vtl will be a good choice with the scalas. octave is very good too ,but different sound completely.
Focalfan, would you be able to elaborate on the differences of VTL with Octave, if you are aware?
I like the Octave sound from the dealer's place and they will be giving me a visit with the hp500se and re290. Have heard the V80 at home but it was not too conclusive.
Have not heard the VTL at home as yet, but felt it might have been a little similar from what I heard at the showrooms.
quest88, i think vtl is more musical sounding. octave is good ,fast and more strong hifi.
vtl makes music.both are good, but it is what you like.
Focalfan, thank you for your response. I did feel that the Octave V80 was lacking in expressions/emotion and that it was very aggressive.
However, since I listen to electronic music, was willing to give the pre/power a chance, hoping it will be better. I will go to hear VTL today. Hopefully this is my last 2 stops. :)
Hi Quest. We are a Focal Utopia dealer and the great option that we have found for the Focal Utopia speakers are Burmester electronics. I am quite surprised that this option didn't make your short list. The attack on dynamics, the tonal balance, and the airy image that the Scala/Burmester combination deliver has been second to none for us. We have the entire Focal Utopia line on display and have tested the Scalas with a variety of electronics and the Burmester amps and preamps have come out on top everytime. As a second and more advanced option, I will highly recommend the Devialet D-Premier. The Focal Scala Utopia has repeatedly been demonstrated at shows with the Devialet D-Premier and the result has been astounding. We regularly impress our clientel with the Devialet/Focal Scala package and many have opted to own this system. Of course, we would be open to hear from you and advise you further given our many years of experience with Focal Utopia. www.digitalear.com
Thanks for your response Digitalear. It's unfortunate but I think Burmester isn't represented in my country.
I also know of the Devialet and had high hopes, but wasn't impressed with what I heard during the HK show. Unfortunately it was not hooked to the Scala. This brand is also not represented in my country!
Anyway, I auditioned both the Octave and VTL and felt they have similar traits with varitants depending on the tubes used. Both are good in their own way, and I lean a bit more towards Octave from what I heard at home. But it seems that the Scalas like more power than I thought and 100w may not be enough (I did not try the black box).. going for high powered monoblocks for either brand will considerably up the cost.
I'm home trialing a full Chord setup now including 480W monoblocks as a no obligation courtesy from a friendly dealer and find it seems to finally wake this speaker up..
It seems funny to come full circle. After trying Chord's 480w monoblocks, I find power makes a big difference to the Scalas despite their 92db sensitivity.
For instance, I tried using the Mcintosh MC452 on the Scalas but they were just not enough. Strange, for a 450w. An old 500 series amp did fine though.
This required a increase in budget and revisit of many brands.
I tried Passlabs X600.5 monos with XP20 and didn't think it was for me. I then tried the Mcintosh MC601 with the accompanying C500 or C1000 pre-amp and found that good if somewhat slower than the norm. Better low-end grip than the Passlabs and a nicer tone though. This is the combo they are using in HK and it sounds nice for most music.
I've also gone back to listen to Goldmund's 600w monoblocks which were very good with Focal, though I did not quite like the sound of their pre-amp together. Too bad these monos are above my budget. :)
No opportunity (or budget) to listen to top of the line VTL which I am sure will sound fantastic.
During this time, the Chord dealer then loaned me the CPA5000 pre-amp and that was an immediate jump and resolved the aggressiveness I felt the CPA4000 and 3000 lacked. Chord is leading the pack as of this moment in terms of performance/dollar, but also partially because I was given a good deal on them.
All the above combos are very good in their own right and have slightly different character. At this price range, the equipment become increasingly transparent and the sound of your tweaks such as isolation and cables become stronger.
Hope this helps someone else on a similar hunt in the future.
As for me, the hunt for other areas such as cabling will begin shortly.. will look into echole as Focalfan has mentioned before.