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Strider

Amps on test

36 posts in this topic

I've owned my Arcam Alpha8 Integrated and 8 Power amps for about six years now and during that time they have served me very well. They are punchy and have deep bass married with a detailed and extended top end. Only in the mid-range I felt they could do with a little more expression and insight.

I had the Quad 99 preamp and 909 power amp, priced £749 and £899 respectively.

While I enjoyed the quads greater detail and musicality they lacked grunt and seemed to be to polite with rock, don't get me wrong, they could rock but were just to polite and too sweet in the mid-band the stereo imaging was good but there was little depth and when things got busy the Quads seemed to take a step back. Build quality was excellent and the modular approach does appeal. The Quads are ideal with classical and jazz and a softer rock but they did not press my buttons as expected.

Next I bought home the Naim NAC122x/NAP 150x

Now this was more like it! It was more forward and had the 'rock' factor that the Quads were missing. I listened to more discs in my collection add then found the Naim's weakness, they were not even across the board with all types of music. While with rock they had the speed and attack, everything else lacked emotion and expression. and after a while I got bored with their 'all sounds the same' approach to female vocals and intricate bass rhythms. At first the Naim combo sounds brilliant but soon I discovered that they are like a party system, it sounds great after a few beers but in the cold light of day they lacked emotion and were too safe with with femalevocals and simpler music and the minus point was the lack of stereo depth or sound-stage, the picture was flat but had good left/right stereo.

Today I picked up thePrimare I30

The fist thing that shocked me is the weight and build of this beast, it is simply gorgeous! Impressions so far are very positive, beautiful mid-range without sibilance or spit, extended highs with real insight and detail, bass is titanic but with real speed and attack. The sound-stage is wide and deep and the instrument placement is spot on, so far I am impressed. I've tried rock, jazz, classical and weird pieces from my collection and so far the Primare has acted with impeccable manners and consummate grace. I never realised just how much detail I was missing with my Arcam pairing and how the Primaire has shown the short- commings of the Quad and Naim ampliiers.

I will hold on to the Primare I30 for a couple more days then it has to go back to Sevenoaks for their demo room. I will give a followup report on my final decision but from these three only one stands out from the crowd.

Watch this space........

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Others to consider of the top of my head.

The Moon i-5. I know this splits opinions quite markedly but always worth a punt.

The Naim Supernait was sounding very impressive even with Naim brand speakers at the manchester show (how much will this be, PB?).

You might be able to find an MFA5 Pre/Power ex-dem for something close to what you're looking to spend.

Something Densen!

All worth consideration. You're certainly doing the right thing getting them all in your home.

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Strider - you've just perfectly described my experiences with Naim amps.

They present rock music in a gloriously addictive fashion, however they absolutely suck all of the emotion, texture and presence out of female vocals in a most unacceptable fashion imo. Great for rock fans, not for me and my tastes.

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That's real interesting, Strider.

I've heard Arcam, Quad & Naim amps - and my opinions are really very close to yours - perhaps I found Arcam and Quad a little more boring than you seem to - looks like I should investigate Primare !

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Good choices Alex, the only problem is the dealers around here (Oxford) area little spartan when it comers to models. I am going to give Audio T a shout on the SuperNait as they also like it.

The Densen is hard to get hold of and may be a little out of my league as it the Moon i-5, beautiful as it is.....

The MF route is still a possibility as I listened to the A3.5 today with ATCSCM19? and PMC OB1, a huge contrast in presentation due to the speaker choices but for me the MF was abit mechanical sounding. But there are plenty more MF in the sea......

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Papa Lazarou wrote:

Strider - you've just perfectly described my experiences with Naim amps.

They present rock music in a gloriously addictive fashion, however they absolutely suck all of the emotion, texture and presence out of female vocals in a most unacceptable fashion imo. Great for rock fans, not for me and my tastes.

Absolutely Pappa, I was expecting more from the Naim gear, initially I waspleasantly surprised at the way they went about rock and punch material but they soon showed themselves to be more like laboratory equipment than music makers.

The Quads were nice but lacked detail and Had a 'veiled' sound to the mid and top end that robbed music of its sparkle.

JANDL100Wrote:

That's real interesting, Strider.

I've heard Arcam, Quad & Naim amps - and my opinions are really very close to yours - perhaps I found Arcam and Quad a little more boring than you seem to - looks like I should investigate Primare !

I have the Primare for a few more days and I will let you know what I think after a proper days evaluation tomorrow.

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Similar kit to what I've tried recently.

I loved the Naim stuff at what it did best, and found myself listening to a lot of uptempo stuff, but then I'd change the disc to something different and the X-factor would disappear.

I tried the Primare i30 CDP and liked it at first but found in a bit too smooth.

I think you'll prefer a middle ground between the Primare and the Naim, but I'm not sure what to suggest. I liked my NAD amp, which is tight and powerful, but never bright - it represented the perfect compromise.

Keep trying things out. I'm sure the tent will steer you in the right direction.

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Strider wrote:

Good choices Alex, the only problem is the dealers around here (Oxford) area little spartan when it comers to models. I am going to give Audio T a shout on the SuperNait as they also like it.

The Densen is hard to get hold of and may be a little out of my league as it the Moon i-5, beautiful as it is.....

The MF route is still a possibility as I listened to the A3.5 today with ATCSCM19? and PMC OB1, a huge contrast in presentation due to the speaker choices but for me the MF was abit mechanical sounding. But there are plenty more MF in the sea......

Well both those speakers are heavily pro influenced, so I wouldn't say that a 'mechanical' sound (not entirely sure what ppl mean by this) necessarily has anything to do with the amp. But the A5 pre/power is a very different beast to the A3.5 or A5. You're looking at min. £2k though.

I lived in Oxford for a couple of years, and primarily went to Oxford Audio Consultants on Park End Road near the train station. They are pretty high-end but they deal in quality brands (one of the main Absolute Sounds dealers), and in my experience have always been extremely professional, expert and helpful (whatever my budget).

Nothing Immediately stands out from their sale list, but they often have great kit on there and will be extremely helpful should you ever have any problems with it.

They also deal in Naim, Pathos, Krell, Unison Research (Unico would be a good dem), Copland, (i think) Moon and maybe still MF (although I think they had a falling out with AM a while back). Give them a call and see what they suggest. I'm sure they'd be more than willing to allow you a home dem.

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darrenmayne wrote:

Similar kit to what I've tried recently.

I loved the Naim stuff at what it did best, and found myself listening to a lot of uptempo stuff, but then I'd change the disc to something different and the X-factor would disappear.

I tried the Primare i30 CDP and liked it at first but found in a bit too smooth.

I think you'll prefer a middle ground between the Primare and the Naim, but I'm not sure what to suggest. I liked my NAD amp, which is tight and powerful, but never bright - it represented the perfect compromise.

Keep trying things out. I'm sure the tent will steer you in the right direction.

:^Thanks mate, I have all faith in the wisdom of the 'Tent'.;-)

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Alex, I know Oxford Audio Consultants really well too, that's where I got the Quads from!

They are helpful but I can't help getting the feeling they are a little up their own arses sometimes and suffer from brand loyalty. On the plus side the shop is chocked full of awesome equipment from real high-end manufacturers and the shop does have a good listening room. A lot of the gear was way out of my price range in there and you should of seen the salesman's eyes when I mentioned 'B&W'.....:geek:

One thing is they are good for TT spares.....

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Hehe yeah they do like the brands they retail. They used to retail the B&W Nautilus range, but when I mentioned it they just commented that it wasn't upto standard anymore, and B&W were never good at integrating the bass properly. Although they admitted they liked the 805s. That was before the D models came out etc. But yeah once they drop a brand, they do seem to have a very dismissive attitude towards said brand regardless of new product.

I used to love going in there. You could just spend hours oggling the treasure trove of top kit they just have lying around on the shop floor: McIntosh limited edition Monoblocks, Orbs, Krell and Naim amps galore, beautiful Itialian speakers and other shiny boxes of all origins and budgets piled up. Then you walk up the stairs and the corridor is just lined with pairs of silly money speakers: Tannoy TDs, Sonus Faber Amatis, Wilson Watt/Puppies. Two awesome dem suites.

Most enjoyable and impressive Dem I heard was there. Some weird French CD spinner, into a Krell KAV-400xi and some big Triangle speakers. All in all, probably not much different in price to what I've got now. If I had a big room, I'd be very tempted to sell up and just loon around listening to that system!

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Its probable that the veiling on the quads is the pre, rather than the power. \If you have the time and or inclination try to hear the 909 with a more open pre, maybe a croft, damm forgot the model, I'll have a search-- the closest current one seems to be the vita.

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dudywoxer wrote:

Its probable that the veiling on the quads is the pre, rather than the power. If you have the time and or inclination try to hear the 909 with a more open pre, maybe a croft, damm forgot the model, I'll have a search-- the closest current one seems to be the vita.

Yup, I agree, IME the Quad pre's have never been up to much. Quite cloudy and veiled. The power amps can be fairly punchy and lively - IMO the old 405 Mk 2 is quite fine, (the original 405 was a real dog, though :zzzz:).

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OK, today I have been listening to the Primare I30 super integrated.

Without doubt this beast has out-shone the Quad ans the Naim offerings in almost every area. The mid range is fluid and has great expression with vocals and guitars. The top end is detailed and extended, it is also neutraland has a way with cymbals and strings. The bass is much faster but has better extension than either the Arcam/Quad/Naim setups could dig up, I also like the way bass is so integrated with the rest of the frequency bands.

The soundstage has now increased by several feet both width and depth wise, I was grinning from ear to ear as I listened to a majority of my CD collection last night and today, there are albums I liked but hated the recording that now are listenable. There is also a 'blackness' behind themusic that lets detail shine out making the whole performance more 'real', I did not realise that the Arcam pair was susceptible to grain the the top end.

I have two more amps to try next week but so far I am so taken with the Primare I might save myself a few trips to my dealers to pick up the other contenders.....

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