3 amplifiers

RoA

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Having moved on my active systems I currently have 3 amplifiers here for evaluation; Audiolab 6000A, Arcam SA20 and a Hegel H95

These are are on three different price levels, £600, £1000 and £1600.

If anyone would like to know more, I'd be happy to answer.

Pictures to follow.
 
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RoA

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I’d like to know why you’d bother to plug in the other two when you have a Hegel there. Not that the others are no good, but I’d be pretty sure which I’d have, given the choice.
The absolute star of the trio is the Audiolab. - The most surprising (in a very good way) is the Arcam. The Hegel is a known quantity to me and as good as ever.

It's not straight forward and I think a fair few would be surprised in a listening session.

Only winners for me here and I am pleasantly surprised by all of them.
 

nopiano

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Well, I’m pretty sure it was that Audiolab* that was powering the Dali Oberon 5 I heard when they were launched at a Bristol Show a few years ago. That was one of the best systems at the show, and one of the least costly.

* or was it Arcam? I often get them muddled!
 
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Oxfordian

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Hegel won the day for me, drove my ATC 7’s very very well, something the Audiolab couldn’t do to the same level.

Not heard the Arcam but if it’s anything like my old one, it will be good.
 
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RoA

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No. I bought the Hegel and Arcam. The Audiolab is a dealer display loan with a new one waiting if I want it.

To clarify, because I sold both of my active systems I am building two replacement systems, so I need/want to try some amplifiers.

I will try and get my hands on an Exposure 3010S2 and MF6Si.

The thing is, they have to sound good at low'ish volume, my preferred way of listening. Huge power is not required, quality is.

All the ones I have here fulfill that brief but its fun trying a few options.
 
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Gray

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No. I bought the Hegel and Arcam. The Audiolab is a dealer display loan with a new one waiting if I want it.
All the more interesting that you describe Audiolab as the star of the trio.
You probably mean in terms of value, but even so, that says a lot for it.
 

RoA

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For me, it would need to sound more energetic than the A85 that was was part of my own 3-way amp trial.
(It was up against Cyrus and Roksan though).
I've owned a full Cyrus system for a long time and always preferred it to Arcam. Having said that, the last Arcams I tried was years ago and pre Class G.

These new ones are terrific. Class A for a few Watts then Class G. - My guess is that you would have to spend a lot to match this with Cyrus!
 
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robdmarsh

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Can't agree with you on the Audiolab. Had it for about a month, gave it about 50 hours of playing time. Did not sound as musical as my Marantz m-cr603 all in one. When I say musical, it sounded clinical and lifeless compared to the Marantz. And no the Marantz does not sound warm and woolly, criticism leveled at low powered Marantz gear. Detail is definitely there and it draws you into the music. I realize I'm used to the sound of the Marantz but I would defy anyone who heard the same set-up not to prefer it to the Audiolab. Speakers were Elac debut 5 (original edition).
 
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RoA

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Can't agree with you on the Audiolab. Had it for about a month, gave it about 50 hours of playing time. Did not sound as musical as my Marantz m-cr603 all in one. When I say musical, it sounded clinical and lifeless compared to the Marantz. And no the Marantz does not sound warm and woolly, criticism leveled at low powered Marantz gear. Detail is definitely there and it draws you into the music. I realize I'm used to the sound of the Marantz but I would defy anyone who heard the same set-up not to prefer it to the Audiolab. Speakers were Elac debut 5 (original edition).
It's all about matching components (and personal preference).

Decades ago, I had one of the first Audiolab 8000S. That was one of the worst amplifiers I had and I sold it after 3 months at loss. I just couldn't get on with it and eventually ended up with an AudioInnovation Silver Anniversary Valve amplifier which I kept for some years. It put me off the brand (Audiolab) until recently.

This, the 6000A is completely different imho. It's a taster of the High End, in a good way.

It's a precise and clear sounding amplifier (with the right speakers) with warmth where there is some but not permanently colouring the sound as some do. - Clinical ... I personally certainly don't think so but I can imagine it is quite a different sound from your Marantz CR603 (which has plenty of good reviews). Harshness is non-existing at any frequency and dynamics are fantastic within its power rating. It has a very low noise floor which helps.

It also does not change character at different volume levels and seems pretty much true to source. Germans call it 'pegelfest'.

A solid power supply (for the cost) including a decent toroidal and 60'000 mf of capacitance (some 3 times of what is common at the price) help.

It is 'musically' more coherent and involving than the Active Kef's I have sold recently.

Ultimately it's limited in absolute power, control and authority compared to significantly more expensive products but what Audiolab has achieved for what is an entry level price is (imho) astonishing.

Build quality too gives nothing away to either the Arcam SA20 or Hegel I also have here. It's beautifully made and solid. The rastered volume, source and mode knobs, in aluminium are a delight to use and feel as good as the Hegels. Cambridge Audio take note ...

Add a superb DAC with Audiolab's expertise in implementing it and I think its a little amplifier that will keep many happy for years to come.

Others will, of course, feel different.

I have now given the Shop Demonstrator back and received a new unit. To be added to the the other two , for the moment.

If I have a criticism (and it's a small one) ... the remote doesn't feature direct source selection. One has to toggle through the inputs to get to the one wanted. - Other than that the unit is nice and metal topped (the rest is good quality plastic). A back-light as in the one for the Arcam would have been nice but the Hegel's doesn't have that either.
 
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RoA

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Sitting at work and thought I'd give a little more info on how I feel about the Arcam SA20.

It's a sleek amplifier with a small'ish footprint for a full sized unit. It's less deep than either the Hegel or the Audiolab but build quality is rock solid. The amplifier weighs around 11kg and feels like a brick. The rounded feet look great and the volume knob is of good quality with a nice tactile feel. No wobble or egging.

Does it look £1000? No idea but it feels it and I love the understated looks (as I do with the other two amplifiers). The front display is a little old school but shows all important info. It's not quite as legible as the ones on the other two amplifiers, especially the Hegel's but it does the job and is sure better than having no display!

Digital inputs are slightly limited compared to both the Hegel and Audiolab but likely enough for most.

The remote is good and back lit. Others take note.

This is a 'Class G' topology amplifier. It's said to run the first few watts in pure Class A then switching to a second rail for more power. I can not confirm this run's in pure Class A but it sure dispels a considerable amount of heat at the volumes I normally listen to (even 1 watt can get considerably loud in to most loudspeakers). Put your hand above the heat sink and you can feel it even without touching it.

Sound … lovely, powerful, refined with substance. It doesn't draw a soundstage like the Audiolab nor has it's pin point accuracy or micro dynamics but has a tad more low end weight (more info below). - It doesn't quite have the image solidity or refinement of the Hegel but it is nevertheless dynamic and exciting without inducing fatigue. It is rated at around 90 to 100 watts into 8 ohms, depending on which distortion figures you prefer and around 150 watts/4ohm. It sounds it. It has a lovely 'bounce' to music making.

Bad points? The power LED is too bright, on or off. A little bit of dark film fixes this.

Bass, whilst fantastically full and bouncy may be a little too much for under damped floor standers. Both Hegel and Audiolab will do better there but it could be the ticket for Standmounts which may sound a little anemic.

It may not be quite the bargain the Audiolab is (though I don't think at all it is expensive for what you get) but I can see this amplifier pleasing many, many folks with it's facilities and sound which is engaging and without any obvious fails. - Like most Arcam's it'll likely last decades.

It has no annoying sound traits. Pair with (good quality) standmounts and off you are. If you have Floor standers I'd advise an audition to see whether bass works in your room.

The last time I've used an Arcam, I still had dark hair. It was a somewhat underwhelming experience.

This is different.
 
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RoA

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To the Hegel. As mentioned at the beginning of the thread, I owned both it's predecessor, the H90 and the model above the H95, the 120.

I guess I am biased because of it but hey, we all like certain things.

I keep this short; I love the sleek/low looks (more so than the bigger Hegel amplifiers) and the OLED display is simply great and looks smart and the front controls have a lovely feel to them.

Build quality is ok for the money, its relatively heavy and most of that comes from the substantial Transformer/Power Supply.

Substance, dynamics, refinement … all there and enough for me. I just listen to it and forget about the technicalities. Not something I could have said about the KEF Meta Wireless and B&W Formation Duo's.

Are there 'better' amplifiers for £1600? No idea but its plenty good enough for me. - It does 90% of the H120 and most of the 10% are ultimate loudness, which I never used.

Bad points; Not really a fair 'minus' but speaker damping is relatively high. If you have over damped speakers it may come over as slightly reticent in the lowest octaves (though they are there). It doesn't quite have the 'slam' of the above Arcam but it goes deeper cleaner and it's in slightly better proportion to the rest of the frequency range. It will control 'loose' speakers better too.

60 watts doesn't seem like a lot for this money but it sounds like more than this and most of us use single digit watts most of the time. Think about it. The power supply is also over engineered for the power stated.

You can buy far more watts for the money but will it sound as good?

It may be slightly better than the H90 (but there are not many second hand H95's about) and it's a fair chunk of money. However, I believe you get what you pay for and the price is absolutely fair in the greater scheme of things. If this is too much and if you can land an H90 at around £1k you will also get a very, very good amplifier and a bargain imho.
 
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