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400$ amp vs 700$ amp debate, worth it? (Marantz vs Cambridge Audio)

Arsenio Erico

Active member
Jun 28, 2020
23
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Hi! Hope you're all doing great!
I'm just starting my hifi career! :cool:
I'm leaning towards a Cambridge Audio CXA80 (699$) mainly for the SubOut option. Before that I was checking the Denon PMA800NE and the Marantz PM6006 (neither have a sub out but I can use the Audio/Tape Out option, the fixed volume won't bother me cos I can control it with the sub's knob). The Denon is 460$ and the Marantz 575$ (there's also the Marantz PM8006 for 895$).
Those are all the options I have where I live.
My question is: Would there be a significant audio improvement with the CA justifying those extra 120-240$? is it worth it?

I can't A/B them now because of the covid19 thing but I've tried some few youtube videos to tell a difference between them, even though it is absurd to do that but I can get at least a slight idea better than nothing.

I would use them with Q Acoustics 3020i and a KRK Active Subwoofer, next year I will add two bigger speakers. My priority is audio quality between these options. I can't really go big on spending, but I want something better than my old cheap philips micro system (cost me 100$). I have an old Pioneer PL990 turntable, sony bluray player (optical out) for CDs (might add a proper cd player in the future). I like good soundstage, clarity, I love natural high frequencies (not exaggerated or artificial) and tight bass.

The Marantz has many positive reviews all over,I think there will be a noticeable quality difference form my old micro system, or even with the cheaper Denon PMA800NE and I might be happy with that. BUT if the CXA80 does make a good improvement over those two, I will just save a bit more and go for it.
Any ideas out there? Thank you very much!
You've all been really helpful in previous threads I've posted!
Stay safe!
 

rainsoothe

Well-known member
Apr 30, 2012
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For what it's worth, I'm not sure any of those amps necessarily do tight bass, but I don't know what your reference is, they all might be tighter than what you're used to. The Marantz is pretty balanced and forgiving, I haven't heard the Denon, and the CA is exciting, but too bright for my liking, and also a bit overpowering in the bass.

Since you're in the US, look at Akitika amplifiers (if you or a friend are any good with a soldering iron, you can build these yourself, and the kits for the pre-power are roughly 100$ cheaper each than they would be if bought built). I haven't heard them myself, but their power amp received a glowing review in Stereophile. If you can't build them yourself, it might be worth saving for one. Alternatively, I'd look at a used Rogue Audio Sphinx or, if you wanna get into tubes, I heard rave stuff about a Chinese made amp called Willsenton R8 - here's a review from a guy who's reviews of products I heard co-incide with my experiences
View: https://youtu.be/5XMpKsrFXFc
 
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Arsenio Erico

Active member
Jun 28, 2020
23
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For what it's worth, I'm not sure any of those amps necessarily do tight bass, but I don't know what your reference is, they all might be tighter than what you're used to. The Marantz is pretty balanced and forgiving, I haven't heard the Denon, and the CA is exciting, but too bright for my liking, and also a bit overpowering in the bass.

Since you're in the US, look at Akitika amplifiers (if you or a friend are any good with a soldering iron, you can build these yourself, and the kits for the pre-power are roughly 100$ cheaper each than they would be if bought built). I haven't heard them myself, but their power amp received a glowing review in Stereophile. If you can't build them yourself, it might be worth saving for one. Alternatively, I'd look at a used Rogue Audio Sphinx or, if you wanna get into tubes, I heard rave stuff about a Chinese made amp called Willsenton R8 - here's a review from a guy who's reviews of products I heard co-incide with my experiences
View: https://youtu.be/5XMpKsrFXFc
Thank you very much rainsoothe! You've been very helpful!
Marantz being forgiving could be interesting to me. I already have a pair of studio monitors which aren't the most neutral in the bunch, but they do a pretty decent job not colouring. Now my intention is to build a hifi to enjoy listening. That mention about the CA being "exciting" sounds interesting, that's what im looking for but the "overpowering bass" makes me doubt, Im not too sure I'd like that.
By "tight" I mean to just have something decent and not overwhelmingly boomy which is what I get from my cheap microsystem now.
 

identity-x

Active member
Jul 27, 2020
4
3
25
I didn't know there was a newer version! I've just tried to find it on amazon, crutch field, etc with no luck! I will definitely try to get it! Thank you very much!
It's new as of last year I think. I know I ordered through Amazon, but it's out of stock on the website - https://usa.denon.com/en-us/shop/amplifiers/pma600ne_d - and so apparently doesn't show up on the Amazon site when you search either (i had it bookmarked from when I got it earlier) - https://www.amazon.com/Denon-DCD-600NE-Vibration-Resistant-Channels-PMA-600NE/dp/B07XL4TM3M
 
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rainsoothe

Well-known member
Apr 30, 2012
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Take Mr Gutenberg's reviews with a pinch of salt, he sometimes rates some crappy stuff. Don't know if it's the case with the Denon, as I haven't heard it, but it's just an opinion anyway, so yeah, let your ears decide.
 
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Arsenio Erico

Active member
Jun 28, 2020
23
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Thank you all for your replies!
Im leaning towards the Denon pm800ne or 600ne because my budget is around 400$ now but of course I could save a bit more and get the Cambridge Audio CXA80 which costs 700$. The Denon pma600ne is not available online but I could try to find it in local stores.
I really can't audition any of them now because stores are not opened to public where I live because of the covid19 lockdown. They are only shipping now and will be like that for a couple months.
This is going to be my first approach to entry level hifi, my best experience has only been my pair of KRK studio monitors and sub.
I've recently bought the Q Acoustics 3020i and hooked them to my old cheap micro system which is very crappy and the sound improved a lot. That made me want to buy a decent entry level amp to make the sound a bit better.
The Denon PMA600NE you suggested seems to be a good option because it has a dedicated sub out. I can also get the Marantz pm6006 or 8006 but they do not have sub out.
It is a whole new WORLD i just got into HA!! It is getting overwhelming but I think Im enjoying it!
Thank you very very much for your time and feedback!
 

rainsoothe

Well-known member
Apr 30, 2012
360
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19,070
Imo, subwoofers can do more bad than good if they're not very good (like REL, SVS or other dedicated subwoofer manufacturers), but I'm not familiar with the KRK sub, maybe it's great. Also, if the 3020 will be your end speakers, probably any of the Denons or the PM6006 will do just great. However, if you have the budget for a PM 8006, that puts you in a different price category - and you can look for a second hand Rogue Audio Sphinx as well, which is a great amplifier. But a PM8006 would be waisted on those Q Acoustics, and I'd look at something like Dali Oberon 5 or 7, or even better, Revel Concerta 2 M16 instead - and you probably won't need a sub for these :p

Also, I forgot a great amp on a budget, that has everything you need and would actually be perfect for you: the IotaVX SA3. It is 1. cheap 2. equipped with a DAC and Bluetooth 3. Has a Sub out 4. Has a PRE out as well, so you can add it's matching PA3 power amplifier down the road and turn it into an awesome 2-piece amp that is at least neck-in-neck with price-matched alternatives. 5. very nice looking, imo.

Look for reviews on the Iotavx, it seems to be unbeatable for what it does, and sound signature is somewhere between the main contenders, which would make it a great middle ground.
 
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Arsenio Erico

Active member
Jun 28, 2020
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Imo, subwoofers can do more bad than good if they're not very good (like REL, SVS or other dedicated subwoofer manufacturers), but I'm not familiar with the KRK sub, maybe it's great. Also, if the 3020 will be your end speakers, probably any of the Denons or the PM6006 will do just great. However, if you have the budget for a PM 8006, that puts you in a different price category - and you can look for a second hand Rogue Audio Sphinx as well, which is a great amplifier. But a PM8006 would be waisted on those Q Acoustics, and I'd look at something like Dali Oberon 5 or 7, or even better, Revel Concerta 2 M16 instead - and you probably won't need a sub for these :p

Also, I forgot a great amp on a budget, that has everything you need and would actually be perfect for you: the IotaVX SA3. It is 1. cheap 2. equipped with a DAC and Bluetooth 3. Has a Sub out 4. Has a PRE out as well, so you can add it's matching PA3 power amplifier down the road and turn it into an awesome 2-piece amp that is at least neck-in-neck with price-matched alternatives. 5. very nice looking, imo.

Look for reviews on the Iotavx, it seems to be unbeatable for what it does, and sound signature is somewhere between the main contenders, which would make it a great middle ground.
Great piece of information! I will check on the IotaVXSA3! Sounds promising!
I know the 8006 puts me in a difference price category, just like the Cambridge Audio CXA80. I don't think Im still willing to spend 800$ and if I ever decide to invest that amount, I'd probably just go ahead and get the superb CXA81 which is 1200$.
My new 3020i will be replaced next year for bigger ones. I bought them to try out the hifi world and see if I got enthused about it without spending much, and they definitely helped. I love them.
What you said about not needing a sub with bigger speakers like the Dalis you mentioned, answers a question I've been asking myself: would I need a sub with bigger and better sounding speakers? There must be a reason why most amps don't include a sub out! Maybe they are not that necessary with proper and bigger 2 way speakers.

Long story short, I will do my research on the Iota!! thank you very much rain soothe! You've been really kind and helpful in all your replies! Cheers mate!
 
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Arsenio Erico

Active member
Jun 28, 2020
23
4
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UPDATE
So, here's a rundown about how things went down in the end.
I bought the Cambridge Audio CXA61 and paired it with Q Acoustics 3020i and a 10" sub.
Since I am a newbie in hifi ground, I was shocked when I plugged in everything and played my "speakers test playlist". The sound was incredibly cold, without dynamics, mids were horrible, bass was non existing and all I thought was: I should've bought the Denon PMA800NE for half the price.
Then I thought maybe the running in process was more drastic than I'd previously thought and decided to cool down and let it do its thing for a few days.
There were many turning points in this process. Now after a month the sound has completely changed! The whole sound range I was expecting is there. Bass was the last thing to kick in and music has never sounded better than this for me.
I don't really need the sub in most scenarios but since my room is quite large I still keep it around because the 3020i are small bookshelf speakers and sometimes they need a little help to push lower frequencies.
I wish I could have had the chance to try the Denon, too. But the store where I bought it from won't let customers audition because of the pandemic, so I had to buy it blindfolded. I don't regret a single second now but Im still curious about the cheaper Denon. I guess its like cars, one never gets tired of checking out different models despite owning one.
Anyway, hope this helps to anyone out there trying to make up their minds. If there are any questions, Im more than willing to help.
Cheers!
 
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rainsoothe

Well-known member
Apr 30, 2012
360
136
19,070
UPDATE
So, here's a rundown about how things went down in the end.
I bought the Cambridge Audio CXA61 and paired it with Q Acoustics 3020i and a 10" sub.
Since I am a newbie in hifi ground, I was shocked when I plugged in everything and played my "speakers test playlist". The sound was incredibly cold, without dynamics, mids were horrible, bass was non existing and all I thought was: I should've bought the Denon PMA800NE for half the price.
Then I thought maybe the running in process was more drastic than I'd previously thought and decided to cool down and let it do its thing for a few days.
There were many turning points in this process. Now after a month the sound has completely changed! The whole sound range I was expecting is there. Bass was the last thing to kick in and music has never sounded better than this for me.
I don't really need the sub in most scenarios but since my room is quite large I still keep it around because the 3020i are small bookshelf speakers and sometimes they need a little help to push lower frequencies.
I wish I could have had the chance to try the Denon, too. But the store where I bought it from won't let customers audition because of the pandemic, so I had to buy it blindfolded. I don't regret a single second now but Im still curious about the cheaper Denon. I guess its like cars, one never gets tired of checking out different models despite owning one.
Anyway, hope this helps to anyone out there trying to make up their minds. If there are any questions, Im more than willing to help.
Cheers!
If you like what the CA does for you, don't give it a second thought. It's most likely better than the Denon, if you like this kind of presentation.
 

nn_in

Well-known member
Feb 23, 2015
32
6
10,545
The Denon NE series are very high VFM IMO.I have owned Nad315,316bee,375bee,CA 651A ,Marantz PM6005 and CDP 5005.Also had the opportunity to listen to auditions with apertura Armonia ,jamo ,xtz with jolida,marantz pm 8005 ,EAM labs,Italy element series class A amp.Denon PMA 600NE and DNP 800NE is my current line up with Yamaha 803,Bluesoundpowernode2i being part of another system.So far my music listening sessions have increased after i changed Denon NE series
 
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