What amp to match with Spatial Audio M3 Sapphire open back speakers


Fellow audiogoners,
If all goes well, I will shortly be the proud owner of a lightly used pair of Spatial Audio M3 Sapphire open back speakers.
The trouble is that in making this acquisition, I will have expanded most of my intended "hobbies" budget,yet still need to purchase an amplifier that will make the speakers sing.
The rest of my modest setup consists of: Bluesound Node 2i streamer, SMSL SU-8 V2 DAC, ProJect Debut Carbon Esprit TT.
The listening room is our living/dining room (400 sqft), and our music ranges from classical to world, with a good dose of classic rock and jazz of all types. We also like to turn things up from time to time...to dance!
Sound characteristics I appreciate the most are: musicality, definition but not too clinical, wide and open sound stage, tight impactful bass, and most realistic vocals. 

I am thus calling on all Spatial Audio M3 owners and others to request your advice/guidance in helping me select an integrated amplifier at a budget of around $2500.
Thanks very much for your input and experiences, have a nice weekend and please stay safe!jlr261
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I owned the M3 turbo s for about a year. My best pairing with that speaker was the Bob Latino ST-70 (tubes4hifi.com). It is a glorious sounding tube amp with more than enough grunt to power the Spatials.

Available with a volume pot, a built unit with KT-66 power tubes is below your budget at around $1400. Add some NOS Mullard drivers/ phase splitter tubes for another 300 and you’re still under budget. Its an amp worth looking into if you have a single source.

Take a look at the Digital Amp Company Maraschino (Cherry) amps. Several Spatial owners are using these and are very happy with them.  He regularly has very good demo pricing if you call or email him, well within your budget. There is a detailed YouTube review by a fellow who uses the desktop monoblocks with the X3's, just do a search.
Dear Yakbob and tms0425,
Thanks very much for your useful input, I will certainly look into your suggestions, and I really like their being below intended budget as well...

Yakbob, may I ask why you only kept your M3 Turbos for a year? Can you share a little more about your setup and circumstances? Thanks

Tms0425, I've read good things about Maraschino and shall look into it, thanks! I'd love to learn about your setup as well.

Has either of you any experience or knowledge about Black Ice Audio F11/22/35 integrated tube amps? This is apparently the new name for JOLIDA... and their Fusion 360 preamp is getting great reviews. 

Thanks again and have a great weekend!!
You'll find useful threads and recommendations over on AudioCircle.
The M3 turbo S was/is a fantastic open baffle speaker but required dual sealed subs and sub eq in my room. I was looking to simplify my system and set out in search of a speaker with more bass and tonal weight. I'm still a spatial fan, and was planning on one of the x--series models, but never got to demo them.

The Spatial M3 with its dual concentric design, employing point source directivity led me to the Tannoy Legacy Arden which also uses a dual concentric design.
Hello twoleftears,
Thanks very much, Audio Circle does have an extensive thread dealing specifically with Spatial Audio gear. I should be able to find all the information I need there.Regards, have a great weekend and do stay safe!!jlr261
I understand they pair particularly well with Linear Tube Audio. That's the speaker LTA uses in their shop.
Hi aj523,
Thanks, I did note that LTA is frequently paired with Spatial Audio speakers very favorably...

Unfortunately, I've pretty much blown the largest part of my current budget on the M3S themselves, and thus need to start with something more affordable.
Of course, I'll always keep an eye out for an eventual deal on a good condition used LTA, but isn't it also an important part of this hobby to try various options as well?

As I follow the various discussions concerning proper amplification for the M3s, it appears to me that there are quite a few different amps being used by satisfied owners out there.
So I'll proceed slowly and strive to keep an open mind, especially if I can benefit from decent at-home trials periods from selected manufacturers/dealers.
Thanks again for your input and do have a great weekend! Stay safe!!
Thanks Yakbob,
I trust you are enjoying your Tannoys. Haven't had the privilege of listening to any as of yet, but their reputation for being top notch products precedes them.Take care!
Agreed - they sound awfully grand with the Linear Tube Audio amps!
@jlr261 

I used the Kinki EX-M1 with the M3TM's for over a year and it is a great match and will give you the power you are looking for to go in your room. Price is still $2398 direct from manufacturer.

https://www.kinki-studio.com/ex-m1


I have the LTA Z10 with my Spatial M3 Triode Masters. It’s an awesome pairing and one that has me tempted to move up the LTA line to an ultra linear. Bass is awesome, and it’s so freaking crystal clear it’s nuts to hear how much my precious amp just couldn’t illustrate.

@jlr261 - I hadn’t really considered making a change right away but if you’re interested in looking at a super lightly used Z10, it might help me make a move up the line. It’s only a few months old and in perfect condition.
Thanks for your feedback bassdude and jackd,
As I wrote earlier, the LTA is out of my reach for the moment, but I'm keeping it on my list for an eventual future upgrade, especially if they offer a decent in-home trial period.
Also taking note of the Kinki EX-M1, it is in my current price range and deserves further examination. Hope they offer in-home trial. jackd, what do you use now with your M3TM's? or have you parted with them? If so, please tell me why and did you keep the amp?Thanks again to the both of you!

Hi rickallen81,Thanks for the offer but I'm afraid my budget will nevertheless still be some ways under what you'd expect for the Z10.
As I wrote somewhere at the beginning of this post, I'm limited to a $2.5k amp budget for the moment...
But hey, maybe if we give it a little time, we could perhaps work something out? 

Thanks very much and do take care! pm me if you wish to discuss this further. I gotta go now, but will tune back in in a few hours...
@jlr261 

Still have the M3TM's and they get rotated in and out of one system with a pair of Nola KO's.  Still have the original EX-M1 and it is in a second home paired with a pair of Fritz Carrera Be's.  It was replaced in the system the M3's reside in with a new 2020 EX-M1+.  Both the M1+ and the model I linked you to have better binding posts and a new volume control module with a more user friendly gain structure which would be a lot better with the efficient Spatial's than the older model. 
Hello everyone,
First of all, thanks again for all the responses I've received thus far, they are most helpful.
I'm writing again tonight in order to point out an important characteristic that I completely forgot to mention in my description of the integrated amplifier I am seeking to drive Spatial Audio M3 Sapphires that I'm hoping to acquire soon.
Indeed, I forgot to mention that my music collection, mostly digital in form, with a number of CDs and a couple hundred older vinyls, is not of the greatest quality.

So I need to stay away from amps that are picky and will highlight lesser recordings to the point of making them very hard to listen to. In short, I need a high quality yet forgiving amplifier.
Thanks very much and have a great week! Stay safe.

So I need to stay away from amps that are picky and will highlight lesser recordings to the point of making them very hard to listen to. In short, I need a high quality yet forgiving amplifier.
IOW an amp that does not editorialize when presented with a less than stellar recording! What you need is an amp that does not make much in the way of higher ordered harmonic distortion and keeps lower orders down as well. The only way I know to do this is to go with a tube amp that is fully differential and balanced from input to output and no feedback. In that way lower orders (2nd and 4th) are cancelled (leaving the 3rd, which is treated by the ear the same as the 2nd, which is to say its nearly inaudible) and the higher orders will be masked by what lower orders remain. To this end a triod amp would be a good place to start, but you need one with some power- 30-60 watts.

If you're on a budget, the suggestion of the Dyna ST-70 was a good one.
Take a look at the Marantz K1 Ruby.  This has a sonic signature that I think you'd enjoy.
Dear atmasphere and twoleftears,
Thanks very much for your suggestions, even if the high and low order harmonics part kinda went over my head...
It appears that my options are many and I really need to audition as much as possible.
Thanks again and do stay safe!
I had the M3 Turbo S for a long while and if I didn’t have to fund a purchase unrelated to audio they never would have left. Phenomenal speaker.
The integrated I drive them with was a Hegel Rost and anything, I mean ANYTHING I played sounded fantastic.
I listen to a lot of classical, jazz, EDM (specifically drum and bass/jungle), rock, flamenco, etc. They were a great pairing and one not often talked about in these forums.
Hi devilboy,Thanks for chiming in, I've read quite a few glowing reviews of the various HEGEL offerings over the past year, touting particularly how they are adept at driving very different types of speakers, bringing out the best of each ones' sound signature...So, thanks for your input...
I also now realize that really I need to try out as many amplifiers as possible as the Spatial Audio M3s seem to thrive under many different circumstances.
The plot thickens and the adventure continues...
Honestly. Until you get the speakers in your own room should you even start to consider what the best amp might be? Not a living soul could tell you that. The M3 Sapphires are very efficient so really you need 50-60 watts, even less with tubes in the transformers are well made. I use a 400 watt, McIntosh, on mine set. The speakers are very open and unboxed like in every way. Fast as stats and very clean bass, no one note booming bass. Stand up bass sounds light and fast just like the real thing does, unlike a box speakers certain bass notes don't all of a sudden become loud or boomy. Every enjoyable, once you learn the speaker and take the time to set them upright, one of the easiest as far as balance left to right, like a box speakers pulling them out from the front wall, is a good thing, no different, 36" works fine, even several inch's less may be depending on your room. Toes in starts crossing you in front of them toe them back 1/2 inch at a time till you lock the image in and balance top to bottom. 
Hello Phillyb,
You are absolutely right!
As evidenced by the very large selection of amplifiers recommended by fellow goners, these speakers will apparently thrive with a variety of quite different amps.
Clearly, as you rightly point out, the best strategy will be to wait until I have them at home and then try as many amps as reasonably possible in my specific circumstances, as well as perhaps listening to existing setups if I can find any around me, and... COVID-19 permitting...
In any case,  I have yet to secure the speakers as the owner now hesitates to sell them, but am nevertheless pursuing my education and really do appreciate your input and advice. THANK YOU!
Dear All,
Unfortunately, my intended the acquisition of Spatial Audio M3 Sapphires fell through as the seller ended up accepting a higher offer for his speakers.
So I'm back to the drawing board and somewhat disappointed as I was really excited at the prospect of owning a pair these dream speakers.
I'll be starting the quest from scratch but wanted to thank all of you for your very useful input and advice. If anything, I have learned more about this wonderful hobby of ours.

Best regards to all and happy listening! jlr261
Thanks very much for your suggestions, even if the high and low order harmonics part kinda went over my head...
One of the differences you hear in all amplifiers is how they make distortion. Solid state tends to sound bright and harsh relative to tubes because the harmonic distortion they make is mostly higher ordered harmonics. The ear converts all distortion into a tonality- hence the brightness of solid state.

Tubes tend to make a lot more distortion but it tends to be lower ordered harmonics- the 2nd, 3rd and 4th. The ear is less sensitive to these (the higher orders are used to sense sound pressure, so the ear is keenly sensitive to them, please note that the brightness of solid state is caused by a very small amount of distortion) but the ear does treat the lower orders as a sort of 'warmth' or 'bloom'; these being the most common audiophile terms to describe lower ordered harmonics.


Some solid state people object to this coloration (thinking its caused by frequency response error, which it is not) and the most 'colored' in this regard are SETs. Much of this coloration can be removed if the tube amp is simply wired fully balanced from input to output; this causes the even ordered harmonics to be cancelled. This is desirable if getting closer to the music is your goal. SETs can be really neutral too, but to take advantage of them in this regard you need a very efficient speaker, typically over 100dB.
Dear atmasphere,
Thank you very much for the clear and detailed explanation of the different harmonic distortion types.

I have definitely learned quite a bit today and shall integrate this information as I go about trying out and selecting components for my new setup.

I should have added if you have a tube amp or a McIntosh tube or solid-state amp the 2,4,8-ohm outputs, the 4-ohm outputs make the Sapphire M3's sing like no other. The 8-ohm tap sounds louder, but it throws off the wonderful balance tone of the speakers. Using the 4 Ohm tape you just have to raise your volume on the preamp a bit more, and you will also find you have more control over the volume level. With 8 ohms the M3's sound good, with 4 ohms exceptional. 
I should have added if you have a tube amp or a McIntosh tube or solid-state amp the 2,4,8-ohm outputs, the 4-ohm outputs make the Sapphire M3's sing like no other.
I suspect this is not correct. The reason is we have customers using our S-30 amp on this speaker and the S-30 has a rather high output impedance (and no 4 ohm taps as its an OTL). I've not heard this combo myself but Clayton (the designer) has- contact him to see what he thinks.

Hello again atmasphere and phillyb,
I was surprised to see additional contributions to this thread I created when I almost scored a mint pair of Spatial Audio M3 Sapphires...
As I wrote in my very last post, the sale unfortunately fell through as the seller apparently received a better offer for his speakers. Too bad for me!
In any case, regardless of whether I own these speakers or not, I'm getting a real education here, and really do appreciate your respective contributions.
Obviously, learning is a process, and I sometimes get a little confused when sorting through conflicting information. But hey, no worries, I am well aware and cognizant enough not to take everything I read here as gospel.

The proof will always be MY ears...
So the search continues, and as we prepare to finally relocate to the US this summer, I am anxious to start all over again from scratch, and will definitely be seeking fellow goners' input as I navigate through the possibilities.

Thanks again and please stay safe!