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Stereo Amplifier Recommendations
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> General Gear  
Author Stereo Amplifier Recommendations
sinfunc
I recently picked up a NIBish pair of Paradigm Titan v6 monitors and am looking for a nice, clean-powered stereo amp to pair them with.

I'd prefer to buy new, but realize much better value can be had second-hand. Trying to avoid vintage and all the associated maintenance that route may require.

I'm looking at offerings from Bryston, NAD, and Adcom, but am wondering if there's anything else I should be looking at in the $400-$600 range.

I've currently got an Onkyo TX-8511 that's rated at 100w/channel (high current) and while the setup is an improvement over what I had previously, I'd like to find something a little cleaner, as the Onkyo is kinda noisy.

Also, oddly, I can't find any reliable info on how much power I need. The documentation/manual that came with these Titans does not specify!

It only provides a brief rundown on the importance of ensuring enough power to cleanly drive the monitors, but also kindly mentions that too little power is problematic as well. Can anyone provide some more specific information on how much power is appropriate for the Titan v6?

For those of us still running passive monitors in the studio, which amplifier(s) do you recommend for home studio use? Integrated or discrete? Hi-Fi or Pro Audio? New or used? etc.
sutekina bipu-on
DO NOT underestimate the recent trend of Full Digital Amplifiers. It's a recent trend that cuts out the middleman of the D/A converter and turns the digital signal directly to a powered audio signal via PWM.

I tried a couple models around the beginning of the year when i found out about them. I had a Crown D-75 in service i loved and didn't intend to get rid of, but it's giant and awkward when i dont have much else 19" gear anymore.

I bought a few full digital amps under $200~ and ended up sticking with the FX Audio D802 which is full digital and cost me about $80 from Amazon. (not the D802c which has bluetooth but only 50w). I put a nicer power supply on it and have been using it since then for both listening and monitoring.

I value transparency and uncolored sound very highly, so for me to put the D-75 away for good was pretty impressive, let alone the low cost of the amp. It has a mode with DSP (intended for hi-fi lisening) and it can be switched to bypass the DSP entirely and give you the pure signal which is definitely gives it the Crown-like sound. I usually leave it on that mode anyway because I love the sound. Most of the crazy hi-fi people on other discussion boards where i found about the D802 said they will only use it on that mode.

There are a few others that use the same chips as the D802 does but most are more expensive and not necessarily better, although i'll definitely warn you that the USB chipset in it is pretty awful and is not anything special. The optical/coaxial chipset is really high end and that's where you'll get the best sound by far. The USB isnt bad, its just not much better than whatever is built into any laptop.

The other major benefit of these newer amps over old rack sized stuff is they are vastly more power efficient, even the Crown which had a really low idle power consumption is easily beat out by the D802 as its external switching supply doesn't consume very much mains power to push out 2x 80w.

I also had a Behringer KM750 recently which was great and super clean and powerful sounding but it had an internal fan. The fan is not that loud and is completely inaudible at moderate volumes. I'd definitely recommend that, it's very well built and sounds great. I also heard good things about the inuke but the km750 was already overkill for my power needs. I used ns10m studio's on the km750, crown d75 and D802 and they all got way too loud for me to want to listen in close proximity without distorting. So i wouldn't stress too much about it, but the ns10m's are known for being able to soak up lots of power happily.

I can't really recommend anything else, unless you strictly aren't interested in any sort of digital input or converting to digital in order to use such an amp, in which case i'd say you'd probably want to look out for something like a crown or a bryston is always good. The crowns sound just about as good as the bryston 2b at a fraction of the cost. But the D802 is so cheap i'd say just get it, even if you have to use something else as an analog to digital converter.

I wouldnt worry too much about power ratings. I mean I used a 750w amp on some small 3" driver monitors that say they take 80w max. The volume attenuators will limit the amount of power going to the speakers. Just don't go below your power needs or way too high above it.

My current monitoring system of choice, after going through way too many passive and powered monitors in the last year to count, is ns10m mini's with the d802.


edit: You'll know if your power levels are too low because your signal will start distorting and clipping earlier than it should and at almost any volume.
hairbow
Hypex is a company that specializes in fast-response Class D amplifiers. They are mainly wholesale for high end mastering and reference audio speakers such as Barefoot. They also sell parts for DIY projects. This is the type of amplifier in a pair of speakers that costs $12,000-20,000

The Hypex NC400 is the most powerful amplifier block for DIY use. You would need to also buy a power supply, a case, and wire the input/output sockets to the case. No soldering though, it’s all basically legos.

https://www.diyclassd.com/product/nc400/11

If you want to buy a Hypex amp prebuilt, Nord is the easiest company. Lots of options. Unless you are running very high power units, a 400-500 watt amp is perfect to give headroom (you should always try to have your monitor’s Max RMS wattage be in the center of your amp’s rating and leave it quiet, like buying a 500w amp for 250w maximum rms wattage and play it quiet, rather than buy a 250w amp and crank it.) Nord makes a 500w amp, the NC502, which costs roughly the same you would pay to source parts for the DIY NC400 option.

https://www.nordacoustics.co.uk/product-page/nord-one-mp-nc500-stereo- power-amp-in-silver

The owner of Hypex writes academic papers on how to build clean Class D amps and they’re close to the theoretical limit on how to preserve transients and phase coherence across the audio band.

If you want to go for a Class A amp you can look for a used Bryston. They will be slower and more audiophile but also found in high end studios, albeit pricier and run hotter than something like the Hypex.

Another alternative to Hypex with similar DIY business angle is ICE amps, but I appreciate that the owner of Hypex is a researcher in the field and don’t have any complaints with my Nord
dubonaire
These are pretty good speakers for the money. When it comes to amplifiers I'd look at something that can deliver 80 - 100W easily. The power being demanded by speakers constantly changes. Generally higher powered amplifiers have more headroom and are less likely to distort, but turn them up too high and they can adversely blast your speakers. I think you can drive thee with as low as 15W but you should be able to find a higher powered amp easily.

Class D amplifiers are OK if implemented well. Class A you generally need to pay a fair bit to get decent power. Class AB are fine. I'm a massive fan of valve amps but they are probably outside your price range.

It's not clear how you intend to set this up, although am I right in thinking you want to use these as studio monitors? You don't say if you want a phono stage. There are some good compact integrated Class Ds around that have streaming capability. Just google to see what features you want. Generally in the price range you are looking for there isn't a great deal of difference from amp to amp.

Some other recommendations to consider:

Rega Brio

Rega Elex-R

Audiolab 6000A

Musical Fidelity M2si

Emotiva

Fosi Audio TDA7498E

Grace Digital GDI-BTAR512N

Pro-Ject Audio Systems Stream Box S2

PS Audio Sprout100

Outlaw Audio RR2160
sinfunc
dubonaire wrote:
It's not clear how you intend to set this up, although am I right in thinking you want to use these as studio monitors? You don't say if you want a phono stage...


Yep, stereo mix out from the desk. No phono stage required.

Also, had not considered the digital route that sutekina bipu-on suggests. For the the money, it's definitely another option, and I could always find some other use outside the studio for one at those prices. However, I'd like to stick to the analog domain, since I tend that way...

The Nord NC502 hairbow suggested has me interested as well, but may be too much at 350w/ch into 8 ohm.

With the Titans, I never have the Onkyo level past 9 o'clock and it definitely gets loud enough, so I've been mainly looking towards the 80-150w/ch into 8 ohm selection.

I'm picky, but not picky enough to say whether class A v. class AB v. well-designed class D really matters to me either.

I just want something a bit more refined than my big box store Onkyo, since I do notice it's fairly noisy even at the moderate levels I keep it at.
BenA718
I ran operations for a high end audio boutique (Sound By Singer) for two decades before the 2010 crash here in NYC.

I would look @ used power amplifiers. $4-600 can get you a lot of amplifier for your money. I would look into Rotel, B&K, Acurus, maaaaybe you can luck out and find an old Krell ST series amplifier, but unless it has local pickup probably wouldn't be worth it bc it's so heavy and bulky to ship.

If you can find a pair of Linn LK140 monoblocks, or even an older Linn Majik you will be very happy, though you will need adapters for their funky speaker connections. I would avoid other UK brands like Naim, Creek, or Adcom; they don't have enough power on reserve for the type of dynamics you will need -- you will want something with a high damping and Q factor to really take control of the voice coils or the bass will be very slow and mushy with lots of overhang.

There's a website called audiogon that's the Ebay for used high end audio, but I would also look for a local hifi shop that sells used or demo gear as well.
Technologear?
I second the advice: No need to be concerned so much about power ratings. Any of the options mentioned will get there.

I managed to score a Bryston 2b locally and it ended my amp hunting. I listen to it daily. It brought back to life speakers I had in storage that I knew could be good but I just wasn't hearing it with lower level power amps.

It is a glorious moment when you finally have an amp that feels like it's not there or doing anything, an invisible and forgettable part of the chain. You'll be able to judge your source and your speakers much better.

The contributions to this thread have been excellent. If I needed another amp I'd grab that Nord.
sutekina bipu-on
I forgot to post that i used to own a Hafler DH500 and that was the best amp i ever owned. I paid $250 for it. I only sold it because i live in an apartment and managed to get a week straight of noise complaints.
calaveras
I picked up an Adcom 535MKII off of ebay a few years ago.
I haven't looked at any other amps since then.

I'm skeptical of all but the most high quality switch mod/digital, class, D, G, H amps. I've had more than one monitor start generating funny beat frequencies.
At first I thought I'd left an effect patched. Sounding like a phaser or flanger, a periodic beating 'chirp'.

I'm sure high spec amps never develop this side effect. But it's important to remember there is no free lunch. Caveat Emptor. And there is no panacea.
sinfunc
Woah, thanks all for the great recs & info!

Definitely a lot to chew on, but so far I'm leaning towards a Linn LK140 or similarly spec'd Bryston.

However, if I decide to go for more headroom, I may go with a Nord One MP NC252.

Still, there are clearly tons of great options I was not aware of and can spend some time undertaking better-informed research now...
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