Amp upgrade

roym90

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I am currently using a Cambridge Audio 550A to power my Monitor Audio RS5s but find the sound quite bright and harsh sometimes. I've read that Arcam is a good match for Monitor Audio, so I thought an A18 could be an option. I was wondering if anyone has any other ideas for a more suitable amp? Some more options would be much appreciated.
 
Welcome...

Yes, Arcam is a tremendous match for MAs. In terms of options really depends, more than most, on room acoustics. The RS5s will sound impressive on the end of a Roksan Kandy amp, Creek Evo, Exposure 2010S, Cambridge 840, Leema Pulse (obviously:cheer: ) and the higher end Marantzes, like the 8003.

I would avoid brands such as Cyrus, Primare, Rotel... all wonderful makes, but unless you have very sympathetic room acoustics the top-end may sound fatiguing or shrill like the budget Cambridge.

Hope that helps.
 

roym90

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Thanks for the reply!

I'll look in to that list of other amps, should be very helpful.

And I expect room acoustics don't help here; slanted ceiling and quite afew shelves and cupboards in the room, there also seems to be noticably more bass coming from the right side. But its the top-end that really needs softening down.

Thanks for the advice!
 
roym90 said:
Thanks for the reply!

I'll look in to that list of other amps, should be very helpful.

And I expect room acoustics don't help here; slanted ceiling and quite afew shelves and cupboards in the room, there also seems to be noticably more bass coming from the right side. But its the top-end that really needs softening down.

Thanks for the advice!

If you have a reflective room: Hard flooring, little furniture... then I'd reduce my list to Arcam, Creek and Exposure.
 

roym90

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Looks like I'd go for the Arcam, I don't want to spend more than the A18 when this is my first set up! Seems to be a popular combination too.

Most of my music is 256kbps downloads from itunes which I put through the rdac, I imagine the poorer quality of the downloads might contribute to the harsh top-end too?
 

Crocodile

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Personally I found the Arcam sound a bit too far in the opposite direction with my RS6. We're all different of course as are our rooms.

If you want to try the Arcam sound then I'd suggest picking up a used A85 rather than a new A18 (if that was your plan). That way if you find it's not for you then you can always resell for little to no loss. If you buy a new A18 & don't like it you'll lose a fair chunk selling it on unless you find an accommodating local dealer who is prepared to let you exchange. Of course that also requires them to stock a reasonable range of alternatives.
 

altruistic.lemon

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You see, this is what I don't understand. The speakers are bright and harsh, ergo change the speakers.

There ain't a lot of difference in how amps sound, least not as much as speakers, so changing the amp is a bit of a band-aid rather than the solution.
 

roym90

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I did wonder if it could result in losing some detail.

And I haven't been down there yet but I think the local dealer stocks Arcam and MA, perhaps I could get an A18 to demo. Having said that going second hand would leave me with something left over to get a cd player too! Just found an A85 going for £375.
 

roym90

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It's a good point! However I expect any speakers I replaced the RS5s with would deserve a better amp than the Cambridge 550A I'm using just now.
 
roym90 said:
It's a good point! However I expect any speakers I replaced the RS5s with would deserve a better amp than the Cambridge 550A I'm using just now.

Yes, replacing the speakers is another option to a less bright presentation. Given the Cambridge can be fairly harsh I'd be looking at Epos M12is, Dynaudio 2/7 or if you must have floorstanders, the newer budget Wharfedales could be the ticket.

Although I think Mr. Citron is off kilter: Amps do make a lot of difference, various brands, when it comes to tonal balance. And it's your current issue. When it comes brightness it is purely tonal...
 

roym90

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Sounds like a second hand A85 would be the best option, that way I don't lose quite so much if I get it wrong! Could do with a cd player too now that I'm starting to buy cds rather than use the itunes store.
 

Frank Harvey

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The problem is that someone may have what they think is a great system for 90% of the time - detailed, punchy, communicative etc, but the other 5% of the time they may find it a little edgy, an unpleasant brightness. The user can change whatever they like in the system to tame that brightness, whether it's changing speakers or electronics, but if they manage to be successful, you'll usually find that the change in the system also affects the 95% that sounded great - it may now sound lacking life or a little flat because the edge that did exist has now gone. The 5% now sounds great, but the 95% no longer sounds as good as it did. Most of the time, the issue is down to a particular CD's mastering, and not the electronics or speakers.

Personally, I'd rather put up with a bit of brightness for 5% of the time in order to hear my system sound great for 95% of the time.
 
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FrankHarveyHiFi said:
The problem is that someone may have what they think is a great system for 90% of the time - detailed, punchy, communicative etc, but the other 5% of the time they may find it a little edgy, an unpleasant brightness. The user can change whatever they like in the system to tame that brightness, whether it's changing speakers or electronics, but if they manage to be successful, you'll usually find that the change in the system also affects the 95% that sounded great - it may now sound lacking life or a little flat because the edge that did exist has now gone. The 5% now sounds great, but the 95% no longer sounds as good as it did. Most of the time, the issue is down to a particular CD's mastering, and not the electronics or speakers. Personally, I'd rather put up with a bit of brightness for 5% of the time in order to hear my system sound great for 95% of the time.

Oh this sort of thing is what makes me so glad I got my speakers :) They sound great on all music, 100% of the time, and at least on a par with my previous system that cost me more than double the amount.

Just saying :)
 

roym90

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Thanks for the extra opinion David!

So, putting the idea of changing the electronics to change the sound aside, would a new and more expensive amp - like the ones mentioned before - improve the overall sound compared to the more budget end Cambridge I have just now? Or could I end up with little improvement to the sound and 95% not sounding as good as it did before, with that 5% sorted out, as you just explained.
 

altruistic.lemon

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That's a strange opinion. If 5% of the sound isn't right, as in being too bright, then the speakers quickly become fatiguing, so that 5% really represents far more on the overall speaker dissatisfaction scale. As to then knocking the 95% out to get the 5% right, surely the point is to get the whole lot right? That's what I thought dealers were meant to do, not try to convince you that the 5% of something you don't like is OK so you end up with speakers that, in the end, you can't live with.
 

Frank Harvey

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roym90 said:
Thanks for the extra opinion David!

So, putting the idea of changing the electronics to change the sound aside, would a new and more expensive amp - like the ones mentioned before - improve the overall sound compared to the more budget end Cambridge I have just now? Or could I end up with little improvement to the sound and 95% not sounding as good as it did before, with that 5% sorted out, as you just explained.

It's hard for me to say, as I've never heard the Cambridge - I can only go by what people have told me, but that'd be unfair. If it is due to the amplifier hardening up at higher volumes, then yes, a better amplifier with more headroom will help. But as I say, it all depends if the issue is with certain CD's.
 

Frank Harvey

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altruistic.lemon said:
That's a strange opinion. If 5% of the sound isn't right, as in being too bright, then the speakers quickly become fatiguing, so that 5% really represents far more on the overall speaker dissatisfaction scale. As to then knocking the 95% out to get the 5% right, surely the point is to get the whole lot right? That's what I thought dealers were meant to do, not try to convince you that the 5% of something you don't like is OK so you end up with speakers that, in the end, you can't live with.

The point is to get the whole lot right, but sometimes what is possible is limited by budgets. And as I said, sometimes when people are dissatisfied with one element of their system (like ocassional brightness), it's usually down to the mastering of CD's - speakers generally play what they're given, other than a pair of Eltax I once heard that once they got above about 10 o'clock on the volume control, they just fell apart and the bass completely disappeared. Very few established loudspeaker compaines make a speaker that bad nowadays.
 
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I think the point is that it is almost impossible to find a system within a reasonable budget that sounds amazing with all types of music and standards of recording/mastering. Any system is a compromise.

Trying to sell a system on the basis that everyithing will sound brilliant souds like a more dangerous starting point to me.
 
FrankHarveyHiFi said:
altruistic.lemon said:
That's a strange opinion. If 5% of the sound isn't right, as in being too bright, then the speakers quickly become fatiguing, so that 5% really represents far more on the overall speaker dissatisfaction scale. As to then knocking the 95% out to get the 5% right, surely the point is to get the whole lot right? That's what I thought dealers were meant to do, not try to convince you that the 5% of something you don't like is OK so you end up with speakers that, in the end, you can't live with.

The point is to get the whole lot right, but sometimes what is possible is limited by budgets. And as I said, sometimes when people are dissatisfied with one element of their system (like ocassional brightness), it's usually down to the mastering of CD's - speakers generally play what they're given, other than a pair of Eltax I once heard that once they got above about 10 o'clock on the volume control, they just fell apart and the bass completely disappeared. Very few established loudspeaker compaines make a speaker that bad nowadays.

I also believe it is impossible to have the perfect sounding system. If you tweak one part of the set-up there usually is a trade-off: The Arcam I've mentioned will smooth out any top-end nasties, but the trade-off IMO is you lose a little attack.

I've never heard any set-up that I could wholeheartedly say is ideal or perfect. All one can hope to do is achieve the very best for your budget.
 

CnoEvil

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daskeg said:
I think the point is that it is almost impossible to find a system within a reasonable budget that sounds amazing with all types of music and standards of recording/mastering. Any system is a compromise.

.....this is exactly why you need to know your personal "default setting" ie. if you have to compromise, do you do so on the warm dark side, or on the brighter detailed side.

Not understanding this, and getting it wrong, leads to dissatisfaction ie your music now sounds dull and boring (warm & dark) or gives you a headache (forward and detailed). Well chosen kit can walk a fine line between the two, but generally tiptoes into one side or the other.

The other problem is the subjectivity of it all....one person's neutral can be another's warm/bright.
 
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I personally like Monitor Audio's loudspeakers. They have many qualities undeniebly, but their sound character is a bit on the bright side. So, when choosing an amp I would avoid Cambridge Audio, Naim and Rotel amps. Instead, I would prefer neutral to warm ones like Rega, Creek and Primare.
 

Mr. Iceman

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CnoEvil said:
daskeg said:
I think the point is that it is almost impossible to find a system within a reasonable budget that sounds amazing with all types of music and standards of recording/mastering. Any system is a compromise.

.....this is exactly why you need to know your personal "default setting" ie. if you have to compromise, do you do so on the warm dark side, or on the brighter detailed side. Not understanding this, and getting it wrong, leads to dissatisfaction ie your music now sounds dull and boring (warm & dark) or gives you a headache (forward and detailed). Well chosen kit can walk a fine line between the two, but generally tiptoes into one side or the other. The other problem is the subjectivity of it all....one person's neutral can be another's warm/bright.

These two and some previous posts (David's in particular) capture perfectly the essence of the whole debate and why it is difficult to give a written advice on which component to change/choose to make one's system sound in a particular way.

Listening to a piece of kit, in own environment if at all possible, is the only true means of establishing whether something sounds 'right'. Even then the decision may be swayed by a particular mood the listener is in on the day. I usually find myself distracted by that other component on offer, if ever slightly above my pre-set budget...

I am first to admit I don't always listen to what I end up buying: while I am extremely happy with Marantz M-CR603 and Beresford Caiman, my B&W 685 are not giving me the pleasure I was hoping to get (all bought after online research, without listening).

NB I am using the above 3 in different systems.
 

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