IMO your amp is fine. Stretch your budget a bit and pick up the Harbeth 7s up for sale at $2200. If you like acoustic music, it's very hard to top Harbeths. IMO of course.
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Why would you change if nothing is wrong?"
If only audiophiles had a good answer for that. In essence, because I know it can be better.
The Focals aren't undersized at all; they just seem a bit too dry to my ears. They have plenty of bass and projection, but they're no as warm as, say, my Triangles were.
I have Titus XS for about 15 years among other speakers (Dynaudio, OHM).
Have also owned Magnepan and B&W.
Have heard various Focals on several good dealer systems.
In order of inherent "warmness" of sound, from most to least:
Focal Triangle and Magnepan are all well towards the neutral to less warm side of things.
Have not heard Ref 3A, but I would expect similarities but a noticably different kind of sound there from Focal.
A tube amp with current Focals might be an option to get to a less "dry" sound than with a typical good SS amp with small Focal monitors.
Focal, Triangle and Magnepan all might tends towards the dry side of things running off good SS amp rather than tube amp.
Also often a good tube pre-amp matched well to SS amp can be the ticket to a less "dry" sound.
Many NAD amplifiers also tend to lean towards the warmer side of things, as SS amps go.
Great post, Mapman - thanks for the analysis. Truthfully, I guess I'm trying to recapture the sound of my original system:
Blue Circle 2.1 pre
Musical Fidelity cd
However, that was many years and a divorce ago and a financial road I'll probably never walk down again. I could go back to tubes, I guess - I parted ways with a nice little Sophia Baby Electric a few months ago that was sweet, but underpowered.
I've auditioned but never tried B&W; the Ohms look fascinating, though. Would you recommend them?
What are you using for a source? If the system is fine but you're not getting the enjoyment you want, maybe you need a higher resolution source. YMMV, but for me I got the uptick I needed by getting a turntable. This may not be your case, but in mine, the analog source had so much more musical information it became apparent that no downstream component could have fixed what I needed.
Maybe you're committed to digital but need to consider moving to a computer-based system that buffers the data stream, upconverts to 24/96 or 24/192 and outputs to an asynchronous USB DAC.
OHMs are a different breed. I always tend to levitate to
them, but Walsh drivers and omni presentation is much
Triangle + Focal have MAggie like qualities but with better
macro dynamics for music that you need to feel a bit as well
I replaced Maggies with OHMs. Had Triangles first which
convinced me that dynamic designs could be a viable
Tube amp with Focal would might be the ticket if you've been
down the tube amp path with Maggies prior and liked it.
I've heard Rogue Cronus which is very reasonable priced
sound quite nice with Magnepan.
I would say, save your money and let it grow. I agree if nothing is wrong and you really don't know what you want, integrated or speakers or new Ferragamos etc, just wait until that "Ah Ha" moment when your thoughts all congeal in your head and you figure it out after your months of research. I went through the same machinations between components etc until I decided speakers was the way for me. And then I ended up spending 3x my original budget...eeek!
My source is a Rotel 1072 - which I'm going to hang onto. It gives way more bang for the buck than it should. The YBA doesn't have a phono input, though I may get an external phono stage.
And a Rogue Cronus is also in the wings. I used to have a pair of Rogue 120 magnum monos powering the Maggies. They were pretty awesome.
I've been enjoying my Rogue Audio Cronus -- Rotel RCD-1072 combination for many years, and this set up has driven my B&W DM 601 S3, Vandersteen 1C, and my current Revel F-12 speakers to a tremendous level of musical happiness !
The Rotel deck and Rogue amp get along extremely well (I'm using an AudioQuest King Cobra interconnect between them) and this combo may take your Focal's to a whole new level ! Just my two cents ...... Happy Listening.
If you just want to warm things up, maybe you could try just sticking a tube buffer into the system and see if that does it for you. Yaqins get pretty good reviews and are under $200.
Still, your question is one that I've found myself pondering a few times and it brings to mind a review that I read about the Silverline Minuets. According to the review, or write up or whatever it was, they were demoing the Minuets by driving them with a POS integrated and a CD player bought at a garage sale. According to the publication the sound coming from the Minuets was impressive. If that article actually means anything, perhaps the answer to your question would be to upgrade the speakers.
Given your choice of music, I'd suggest that you look into something by System Audio.
If you're happy with your digital source, great. Digital and analog don't have to be mutually exclusive; I listen to both, but primarily to analog now.
Given the kinds of music you listen to at home--jazz, folk, and other nuanced music--much of this is acoustic music then. I listen to a lot of acoustic music--classical, jazz, folk, vocalists backed by live bands (e.g., Sinatra, Nat Cole, Diana Krall, Rod Stewart, etc.) In my experience, if you listen to nuanced acoustic music and you feel like something could be better, there's a good chance that what you're seeking is higher resolution to help flesh out the subtle sonic cues that make acoustic music sound real.
That's what I noticed when I added a turntable to my rig. I didn't just hear the music, I heard how the musicians were making the music, and that in turn made me feel more involved with the listening experience. There are some kinds of music that come across better in analog form. Examples include vocals and bowed strings. For example, when I put on a CD of the Bach solo cello suites, my wife found it irritating, but when I put on the LPs of it, it became her favorite recordings in the house. Having listened extensively to digital and analog playback of Sinatra, I get more of the gestalt in analog; ditto for The Beatles, solo cello, acoustic jazz, etc.
The Rogue Cronus or Cronus Magnum would seem to be good candidates. They also have a built-in MM phono stage that's probably pretty good. On my recommendation an audio buddy got a Cronus Magnum to drive his Maggies and he was also really happy with that setup. The Absolute Sound's rave review of the Cronus Magnum also paired it with Maggies.
Oh, the usual suspects--VPI Traveler, Rega RP3, SOTA Moonbeam or Comet, Clearaudio Concept, Marantz TT-15. Or if you need to keep it around $500-600, Music Hall 2.2, Pro-Ject Debut Carbon or RM-1.3, Rega RP1.
Even these entry-level turntables will make your nuanced acoustic music bloom and engage you.
For the phono stage, there are several good affordable stages from Bellari, Cambridge, Creek, Pro-Ject, Rega, Music Hall, Musical Fidelity, Vincent, Graham Slee, Lehmann, and the Clearaudio Nano. I've been partial to the Jolida JD-9, which I got for around $389. It was a killer bargain at that price but now I see that the Series II has gone up to $619. It's probably still very competitive even at that.
Given its combination of price, performance, build quality, configurability, and especially variable gain, I'd say the Clearaudio Nano really hits the sweet spot.
If you like your YBA and it works well with everything else, why not just get an outboard phono stage such as the ones I mentioned. If it has to be near-invisible, the Clearaudio Nano is about the size of a deck of cards.
In addition to the Reference 3a Capo, you may want to check out the KEF LS50, which Stereophile considers a Class A speaker within its operating range. Another candidate, with its ceramic composite woofer and ribbon tweeter, is the Monitor Audio Gold GX 100.
I've also heard consistently good things about the Nola Boxer.