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IanCD

Arcam Delta 60 amp upgrade

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Hello, new here so first post...
I've also posted this on AV Forums, but a search for more info on Arcam Delta 290 found several references here, so I'm hoping there are a few knowledgeable folk about ;-)

We've been rebuilding this house for six and a half years (!), finally got the sitting room usable last November, and got part of my stereo back together a few months ago, temporarily housing the CD player and amp on a window seat behind the speakers, while waiting for me to build some shelves... then I can get the vinyl back..!

I've had this system since Arcam brought out the Alpha 5 CD player and B&W brought out the CDM.2s... the amplifier is Arcam Delta 60.  Vinyl, when I get the shelf for it sorted, is Thorens TD160 Super + Rega RB300 + Goldring 1042.

I've always had the impression, from reviews, comments I've read, etc. that the amp is probably the weakest part of the system.  So, I'm wondering about changing it, and have read a lot of positive things about the Delta 290. I've also heard to look out for issues with the input selector switch.

I think I've found a good example without that problem.  How much, and what sort of difference, is it likely to make - e.g. clarity, detail, stereo image? 

In very good condition, how much is it worth?

I've read somewhere, possibly here, that the Delta 290 was essentially repackaged, first as the Alpha 9, then as the FMJ 32? If that's right, what were the other FMJ models - A18, A28..? I've also heard good things about those, so those are other (newer) options. Would they be better?

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All I know about the Delta range is they were first produced in the late 1980s, and was the range topper at the time.

If it was my money I would be looking at the DIVA range - much newer than the Deltas and Alphas, and IMHO (I've owned Alphas and DIVAs) the latter is more open and transparent than earlier incarnations.

The FMJ range, again very good, and the flagship of Arcam, but in terms of VFM the DIVA takes some beating - the equivalent 9or the nearest) was the A85.

I would be very careful if looking at a Delta -- make sure its been well maintained. I have a real issue with equipment over 10 years old, and some of the Deltas are 3 decades old. 

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Do you have space for bigger speakers or a subwoofer? This would be my biggest priority based on the kit you've listed as the bass extension from the CDM2s on their own is rather limited.

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Posted (edited)

Hi,
I'm not thinking of changing the speakers... no space - or dosh..! - for bigger/better ones, but I may think about the sub-woofer at some point... several of these folk agree about that: http://www.audioreview.com/product/speakers/bookshelf-speakers/b-and-w/cdm-2se.html

So, the amp is the priority... I've been questioning the wisdom of forking out for something that might be 20 or 30 years old; it really depends on condition and price. It just seems to get consistently positive reviews from most people who've owned it.  I'd really like to know how much difference changing the amp - and bi-wiring the CDM.2s - might make.  Wondering if it's just the old 'itch' having got the system up after so long without it, or is there a significant improvement in clarity, detail, stereo image to be had for a relatively low outlay..?

Edited by IanCD

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1 hour ago, IanCD said:

Hi,
I'm not thinking of changing the speakers... no space - or dosh..! - for bigger/better ones, but I may think about the sub-woofer at some point... several of these folk agree about that: http://www.audioreview.com/product/speakers/bookshelf-speakers/b-and-w/cdm-2se.html

So, the amp is the priority... I've been questioning the wisdom of forking out for something that might be 20 or 30 years old; it really depends on condition and price. It just seems to get consistently positive reviews from most people who've owned it.  I'd really like to know how much difference changing the amp - and bi-wiring the CDM.2s - might make.  Wondering if it's just the old 'itch' having got the system up after so long without it, or is there a significant improvement in clarity, detail, stereo image to be had for a relatively low outlay..?

The best way is to dem one of the new models and see if it tugs your rug.

The older Arcams tended to be warm in presentation, whereas the newer ones are more open. Technology has moved on over the last 20 years but whether the change is to your liking is another matter altogether.

The nearest in presentation IMO are the older NAD integrated amps, such as the 352, 320BEE and 370.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, IanCD said:

Hi,
I'm not thinking of changing the speakers... no space - or dosh..! - for bigger/better ones, but I may think about the sub-woofer at some point... several of these folk agree about that: http://www.audioreview.com/product/speakers/bookshelf-speakers/b-and-w/cdm-2se.html

So, the amp is the priority... I've been questioning the wisdom of forking out for something that might be 20 or 30 years old; it really depends on condition and price. It just seems to get consistently positive reviews from most people who've owned it.  I'd really like to know how much difference changing the amp - and bi-wiring the CDM.2s - might make.  Wondering if it's just the old 'itch' having got the system up after so long without it, or is there a significant improvement in clarity, detail, stereo image to be had for a relatively low outlay..?

I would still personally prioritise a subwoofer. Whatever BK Electronics sub that fits your budget would likely be the best value for money option. Any change in amp performance is likely to give a smaller/more subtle difference. A quick Google suggests your current speakers roll-off around 70 Hz (not sure if -3 or -6 dB) and there is a fair bit of audio content below this.

Note the reviews you linked to are for the SE model BTW. Not sure if that's what you have? Edit: just skimmed a few reviews and I see they're for a mix.

(I've owned an Arcam Delta DAC and transport but not had any experience with the amps to comment on.)

On the other hand, if you buy an old amp cheap enough you should be able to sell it on for little to no loss, so you should be able to try something out if you want to.

Edited by MartinC

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Hi Martin,
Yes, at some time I'll look at the sub-woofer, and I'll have to find out how to wire that.

Interesting re bi-wiring. A couple of those reviews (a fair number are for the CDM.2s not SE versions) are from 2008-11, but most are late 90s - 2003. The "must bi-wire" comments are all from that period:

  • 2003: "Mine is CDM 2. To bring out the fullest of this speaker, you must first biwired it with a reasonable speaker cable."
  • 2002: "...9 months ago, I shifted house and up-grade my amp to a pre/power (150W), got 24" speaker stand (sand-filled) and bi-wired the CDM2. It's was like the first time I heard the speakers. Fair enough, the CDM2 is not the last word in bass. But mid-bass is tight, very tight...you can feel 'balls' of bass pumping from the speakers. And the soundstaging is incredible for speakers of this size."
  • 1998: "This is lovely speaker BUT you MUST bi-wire it and put it on stand or wooden cones. For a small listening environment like mine we'll need to plug the port at the back. Then it is very lovely for classical music of all types and delicate pop songs. (If you don't biwire it, speakers of much lower prices may outperform it. Very low cost biwiring is already very good.)
  • 1999: "... I agree with the other reviews regarding bi-wiring. I was ready to change them or my amp - something wasn't quite right with the setup. Then I bi-wired them and couldn't believe the difference! Vocal,strings etc are so vivid."
  • 1998: "... I'm probably not getting the full potential out of these beauties yet. I have yet to biwire which is said to make quite a difference."

I haven't read anything about bi-wiring recently, although admittedly until the last month or so I haven't read anything about hi-fi for ten years or more..!  Has bi-wiring gone out of fashion / stopped being perceived as important..? Was it a 'fad' in hi-fi for a period, during which people became convinced (fooled into thinking) that it made a difference - something like the placebo effect in medicine - and have since realised it wasn't real?  And similarly what's the current thinking on how much difference very expensive interconnects, etc. can really make..?  Maybe I need to read more...

I guess there must be a wealth of material published on the extents to which perceived differences in sound are 'real', i.e. objective vs subjective, tangible difference 'thresholds' and agreement regarding perceptions of those differences, and methods of measurement...

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The older Arcams tended to be warm in presentation, whereas the newer ones are more open. Technology has moved on over the last 20 years but whether the change is to your liking is another matter altogether.

so true , i prefer the presentation of my old arcam amp to the blistering transparency of the  grunty sugden i have on my horns 

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I would not waste your time with a sub, just upgrade the amp 

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Posted (edited)

Haha... there're always differences of opinion to be weighed and sifted through.!

If older Arcams, including my Delta 60, are warm and newer ones more 'open' - and maybe that's what I'm looking for in pursuing 'clarity', 'detail' and more precise imaging - was that transition a gradual one?  Where did the FMJ series fit? A18.. A19... A28... A39..?
Maybe I need to sort home demos with my existing kit and a range of current amplifiers to hear what's possible, then either work backwards from there or wait..?

Edited by IanCD

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Funny i have 2 amps here , the suggy and the arcam . the former is more open, more crystalline , more grunty and just wow . but it gets a bit wearing after a while , bit relentless . popping the arcam back in [used with a jolida modwright modded dac] gives that lovely texture, warm and still open but just not such a low noise floor as the suggy . 

now someone else here might prefer the sugden . so if you want an amazing open . crystalline , detailed amp then get a sugden a21se !!! like this 

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6 hours ago, hifinutt said:

The older Arcams tended to be warm in presentation, whereas the newer ones are more open. Technology has moved on over the last 20 years but whether the change is to your liking is another matter altogether.

so true , i prefer the presentation of my old arcam amp to the blistering transparency of the  grunty sugden i have on my horns 

I wouldn't as far as saying "blistering transparency", the modern stuff still retains the Arcam DNA in that they are still fairly smooth sounding, but the presentation isn't so 'closed in' as they once were. That's why I've advised the OP to go and listen to one.

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, IanCD said:

Has bi-wiring gone out of fashion / stopped being perceived as important..? Was it a 'fad' in hi-fi for a period, during which people became convinced (fooled into thinking) that it made a difference - something like the placebo effect in medicine - and have since realised it wasn't real?  And similarly what's the current thinking on how much difference very expensive interconnects, etc. can really make..?  Maybe I need to read more...

To what extent cables may have an impact on the sound of a system is pretty universally a subject of huge contention across all hifi discussion forums. So I'm afraid you aren't going to get a simple consensus on the subject here and you'd be better off if this thread doesn't get sucked into focusing on this particular subject.

It is though not controversial to say that no cable (or amp) will make your current speakers output the lower frequency content you are currently missing out on, which is why I'd argue for the addition of a sub making the most substantial change. The only way you'll really get a feel for the difference though would be to hear it, so maybe pop into say a Richer Sounds and see if you can hear some speakers with a similar frequency range with and without a (decent) sub. 

I have by the way in the past gone from smaller standmounts that were 6 dB down at around 60 Hz to flooorstanders going down to 35 Hz and now I have a sub too. The lower frequencies really do make a significant and positive difference to the sound of a system IMHO.

Edited by MartinC

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21 minutes ago, plasticpenguin said:

I wouldn't as far as saying "blistering transparency", the modern stuff still retains the Arcam DNA in that they are still fairly smooth sounding, but the presentation isn't so 'closed in' as they once were. That's why I've advised the OP to go and listen to one.

I was looking at your lovely leema pulse on here , I would think that would have similar presentation to arcam. I had one for several years and loved it 

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