Best mid sized streaming amp for Dali Menuet or KEF LS50 Meta

pauliG

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Dec 5, 2022
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I'm looking for speakers and a mid sized streaming amp for my lounge (6x5m with high ceiling) with a budget of up to £2000. After looking at reviews and checking out some of the relevant threads I've decided to demo the Dali Menuets (possibly also the Dali Opticon 2s for comparison) and the KEF LS50 Metas.

The demo is this week and the retailer will pair them with the Cyrus One HD - their only mid sized option within my budget. Other options I will try to test are the Bluesound Powernode and the Rega Brio.

Any advice on what to look out for? I'm reading the Cyrus is bright and so might not pair well with the bright Dalis? As I can't test them at the same time as the Cyrus, any advice on the Powernode or Brio as alternatives, and what pairs well with what? I'll be looking to arrange a home demo if I like what I hear and if I can also get a Brio or Powernode to compare. They'll need to work for TV and Spotify streaming in a large lounge.

Now, some explanation on my selection....my wife says she is not that interested and happy for me to decide but at the same time asking for a discreet speaker size!! Hence the compact Dali Menuets which review really well and look stunning. The KEFs also review well and I'm keen to compare it to the Dalis. I originally started looking at lower priced active speakers and, not being able to afford the KEF LS50 Wireless, I tested the KEF LSX against the Dali Oberon C. The Dali won hands down - clear, beautiful sound compared to a more dull, almost muffled, sound from the LSX. But I want to compare the bigger brothers for each.

The mid sized amp is needed because it has to fit inside the TV cabinet - max width 40cm.

My use will be both TV watching/listening as well as streaming from my Spotify playlists. At the moment I only have a Bose Sound bar in the lounge for both TV and streaming music to. I'm not an audiophile but I am looking for better quality sound (both TV and music) and I also want to get the best for my budget.
 
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As far as I am aware the Brio is not a streaming amp and nor is the Cyrus One HD.
Without an inbuilt streamer section the new Mission 778X might be worth a look.
The still to come new Creek 4040a looks to be mid sized but again its not a streaming amp as such.
 
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matthewpianist

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Neither the Brio or Cyrus ONE HD have in-built streaming functionality. I have both here, and they are both very capable amplifiers. The Cyrus is not bright - it's very nicely balanced and it also usefully adapts to the impedance of the speakers being used. The aptX Bluetooth is very well implemented on the Cyrus and sounds superb, so that could be an alternative to in-built streaming. There is, of course, also the option of the Cyrus ONE Chromecast. The Brio has no digital functionality whatsoever.

If you absolutely have to have streaming functionality built in to the amp I'd suggest the following for audition:

Denon PMA-900he - a new model with HEOS built-in.
Marantz PM7000N - another amp with HEOS built-in.
Yamaha N803D - stereo receiver with MusicCast built-in.

I have owned a PowerNode 2i, and found it to be far more capable than I expected, so well worthy of audition.

I would avoid anything with DTS PlayFi as its streaming solution. It can sound as good as any other, but operationally it falls short, including the lack of ability for gapless playback.

Speaker-wise, the LS50 Meta (which I've had) are very good, but they're fussy about placement and I didn't find them as 'alive' sounding as the Q series. If there's any young fingers around be aware that grilles are not available for this model or the LSX.

Spendor A1 (which I've also had) are IMO a better all-rounder and less fussy about placement due to their sealed box/infinite baffle design. They're not speakers with big personality, rather they major on even response across the frequency range, clarity and tonal accuracy.

If you want to try something less expensive, but extremely talented, I very much enjoyed the Quad S2. The ribbon tweeter brings almost holographic imaging, and it's a well balanced design all-round - much more so than the older 11L and 12L models (which were very competent).

I haven't heard the Dali Menuet so I can' comment on those.
 

robdmarsh

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Here's a slightly curve ball suggestion: get an ifi Zen One Signature DAC and put it together with the amp of your choice. The Zen One is small, discreet, has a wide range inputs and sounds superb (well, I think so at least).
The other part of the curve ball is you won't need to invest in a streamer. "What?" I hear you ask, "no streamer?" Well, that's because the SQ over bluetooth is so good that I think it's redundant. I had a Node 2021 and imho the sound of Amazon HD using LDAC is much better than this. The kicker? Notifications do come over the speakers but I can live with that. Calls interrupt the sound and you can answer them on your phone as normal but that's ok too, I don't get many. It would be unacceptable if they actually played through the speakers.
So there you have it. I'm very happy with what I've got and I've saved a lot of money with the alternative route I was about to embark on: keep the node (£550) and get a new DAC to connect to it (cost as long as piece of string).
Just a last point: inbuilt all in one solutions are nice but there will always be a compromise on absolute sound quality vs separates.
 

pauliG

Active member
Dec 5, 2022
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25
Neither the Brio or Cyrus ONE HD have in-built streaming functionality. I have both here, and they are both very capable amplifiers. The Cyrus is not bright - it's very nicely balanced and it also usefully adapts to the impedance of the speakers being used. The aptX Bluetooth is very well implemented on the Cyrus and sounds superb, so that could be an alternative to in-built streaming. There is, of course, also the option of the Cyrus ONE Chromecast. The Brio has no digital functionality whatsoever.

If you absolutely have to have streaming functionality built in to the amp I'd suggest the following for audition:

Denon PMA-900he - a new model with HEOS built-in.
Marantz PM7000N - another amp with HEOS built-in.
Yamaha N803D - stereo receiver with MusicCast built-in.

I have owned a PowerNode 2i, and found it to be far more capable than I expected, so well worthy of audition.

I would avoid anything with DTS PlayFi as its streaming solution. It can sound as good as any other, but operationally it falls short, including the lack of ability for gapless playback.

Speaker-wise, the LS50 Meta (which I've had) are very good, but they're fussy about placement and I didn't find them as 'alive' sounding as the Q series. If there's any young fingers around be aware that grilles are not available for this model or the LSX.

Spendor A1 (which I've also had) are IMO a better all-rounder and less fussy about placement due to their sealed box/infinite baffle design. They're not speakers with big personality, rather they major on even response across the frequency range, clarity and tonal accuracy.

If you want to try something less expensive, but extremely talented, I very much enjoyed the Quad S2. The ribbon tweeter brings almost holographic imaging, and it's a well balanced design all-round - much more so than the older 11L and 12L models (which were very competent).

I haven't heard the Dali Menuet so I can' comment on those.

Cheers.
Yes I believe I would need a DAC for the Rega Brio, and I've seen the Cyrus One Chromecast for a similar price as the HD so would like to try this one instead vs the Brio+DAC. Also good to hear it's not 'bright' as the Dalis themselves can be bright enough I understand. But same challenge - Unable to test the Rega and Cyrus side by side anywhere!
 

matthewpianist

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Feb 18, 2022
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Cheers.
Yes I believe I would need a DAC for the Rega Brio, and I've seen the Cyrus One Chromecast for a similar price as the HD so would like to try this one instead vs the Brio+DAC. Also good to hear it's not 'bright' as the Dalis themselves can be bright enough I understand. But same challenge - Unable to test the Rega and Cyrus side by side anywhere!
Testing side by side seems to be becoming more difficult, with many dealers streamlining the range of brands they carry to focus on what best fits their approach. It's frustrating, but I can see the business thinking behind it, and I'm seeing it happen in the musical instrument world that I work in too.
 
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RoA

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Testing side by side seems to be becoming more difficult, with many dealers streamlining the range of brands they carry to focus on what best fits their approach. It's frustrating, but I can see the business thinking behind it, and I'm seeing it happen in the musical instrument world that I work in too.
Distance selling regulations mean its easy to order a couple of amplifiers from different dealers then keeping the one you like. Bit of a faff but considering you probably going to listen to the thing for some years to come ...
 
Distance selling regulations mean its easy to order a couple of amplifiers from different dealers then keeping the one you like. Bit of a faff but considering you probably going to listen to the thing for some years to come ...
You are assuming all countries have the same regulations when it comes to distance selling...
 

RoA

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As the OP mentioned '£'s' I perhaps inaccurately assumed he was in the UK.

You are right, these regulations don't apply in every country.
 

matthewpianist

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As the OP mentioned '£'s' I perhaps inaccurately assumed he was in the UK.

You are right, these regulations don't apply in every country.
I also feel it's a bit dishonest and unfair on the dealer who ends up with an amp which they then have to sell at a discount/open box. The margins aren't very high on these things as it is.

I'd suggest visiting a couple of retailers so you can try both/all amps on the list and then request a home loan/demonstration of your favourite before you make a commitment.
 

RoA

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I am not sure about dishonest. It may be if you order one to do a vlog on it or similar with no intention to keep but there is after all a possibility the OP would retain one. - It's a service dealers offer (a service they have to offer these days). Returns are incorporated in margins as all good businesses would.

However, I like your advise to visit dealers if possible, always a better idea for many reasons and if convenient, a couple of home demoes will tell all.
 
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pauliG

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Dec 5, 2022
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Thanks @RoA @matthewpianist

I listened to the Kef LS50 but wasn’t impressed tbh. A bit dull and lifeless in comparison to the Dalis.

So I’ve now narrowed it to 3 speaker choices - Dali Menuet SE (beautiful cabinet and lovely sound but a bit constrained with some heavier rock tracks and might struggle in a big lounge), Sonus Faber Sonetto 1 (not listened to it yet but beautiful design and gets good reviews), and the Dali Rubicon 2 (more expensive but I can get a deal). I’m testing them at a local dealer paired with a Rega Brio + DAC.

Really looking forward to comparing the Sonetto 1 vs the Rubicon 2, and to see how well the Menuet stands up against these bigger speakers. I’m sure the Rega Brio will be fine but as I said I won’t be able to test anything else in that mid size price range with this dealer. Shame because I know there are more powerful mid sized amps like the Cyrus One Cast available and there will always be that nagging doubt wondering if it would be more suitable for the bigger speakers?!

At the end of the day these are first world problems and I’m prone to overthinking things! And if Santa gave me any of these combinations then I’m sure I’d be happy, but…. I just wonder which combo would be be value for money and which should I take home after the demo??
 
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Thanks @RoA @matthewpianist

I listened to the Kef LS50 but wasn’t impressed tbh. A bit dull and lifeless in comparison to the Dalis.

So I’ve now narrowed it to 3 speaker choices - Dali Menuet SE (beautiful cabinet and lovely sound but a bit constrained with some heavier rock tracks and might struggle in a big lounge), Sonus Faber Sonetto 1 (not listened to it yet but beautiful design and gets good reviews), and the Dali Rubicon 2 (more expensive but I can get a deal). I’m testing them at a local dealer paired with a Rega Brio + DAC.

Really looking forward to comparing the Sonetto 1 vs the Rubicon 2, and to see how well the Menuet stands up against these bigger speakers. I’m sure the Rega Brio will be fine but as I said I won’t be able to test anything else in that mid size price range with this dealer. Shame because I know there are more powerful mid sized amps like the Cyrus One Cast available and there will always be that nagging doubt wondering if it would be more suitable for the bigger speakers?!

At the end of the day these are first world problems and I’m prone to overthinking things! And if Santa gave me any of these combinations then I’m sure I’d be happy, but…. I just wonder which combo would be be value for money and which should I take home after the demo??
just remember you mentioned large lounge. Take this into account when auditioning at dealers and ask if you can actually audition your final choice at home before parting with cash.
 
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matthewpianist

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Thanks @RoA @matthewpianist

I listened to the Kef LS50 but wasn’t impressed tbh. A bit dull and lifeless in comparison to the Dalis.

So I’ve now narrowed it to 3 speaker choices - Dali Menuet SE (beautiful cabinet and lovely sound but a bit constrained with some heavier rock tracks and might struggle in a big lounge), Sonus Faber Sonetto 1 (not listened to it yet but beautiful design and gets good reviews), and the Dali Rubicon 2 (more expensive but I can get a deal). I’m testing them at a local dealer paired with a Rega Brio + DAC.

Really looking forward to comparing the Sonetto 1 vs the Rubicon 2, and to see how well the Menuet stands up against these bigger speakers. I’m sure the Rega Brio will be fine but as I said I won’t be able to test anything else in that mid size price range with this dealer. Shame because I know there are more powerful mid sized amps like the Cyrus One Cast available and there will always be that nagging doubt wondering if it would be more suitable for the bigger speakers?!

At the end of the day these are first world problems and I’m prone to overthinking things! And if Santa gave me any of these combinations then I’m sure I’d be happy, but…. I just wonder which combo would be be value for money and which should I take home after the demo??
We're all prone to overthinking - one of the reasons we're gathered together here.

You mention the Menuet SE being slightly constrained in some music, so I'm going to throw you a curve ball. They may prove totally wrong for you but, as long as you don't dislike the appearance, it might be fun to listen to the JBL Classic L52. They do offer a black grille finish if you don't like the orange or blue.

It's a totally different sound to the speakers on your shortlist but, if nothing else, will help you to locate exactly where you want to be on the speaker spectrum. Feel free to laugh this thought away, just felt it worth offering.
 
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pauliG

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Dec 5, 2022
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We're all prone to overthinking - one of the reasons we're gathered together here.

You mention the Menuet SE being slightly constrained in some music, so I'm going to throw you a curve ball. They may prove totally wrong for you but, as long as you don't dislike the appearance, it might be fun to listen to the JBL Classic L50. They do offer a black grille finish if you don't like the orange or blue.

It's a totally different sound to the speakers on your shortlist but, if nothing else, will help you to locate exactly where you want to be on the speaker spectrum. Feel free to laugh this thought away, just felt it worth offering.
:unsure: Hmmm, thanks for the curve ball but I think I'd get lynched by my wife if I brought these home...but then...she did say the decision is mine...:ROFLMAO:
 

pauliG

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Dec 5, 2022
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Ok, here's where I am now...

Having discounted the KEF LS50s, I demoed the Dali Menuet SEs and the Sonus Faber Sonetto 1s through a Rega Brio + Bluesound Node combination.

I really like the Sonetto 1s - clear, detailed, balanced (no overbearing bass) and bigger, airier, soundstage than the Menuets which were stunning but restricted in size!

So I'm going with the Sonetto 1s (£1450) (y)

My next challenge is trying to keep the whole combination around £2000.

I like the Rega Brio + Node combination but they will set me back around £1000.

So I'm wondering if I should just bite the bullet and just go with it (doable but hard to justify), or to buy unheard the likes of a Cyrus One Cast (£649) or Powernode (£799) or other.

Apart from keeping it around £2000 total, I'm looking for something that (1) is compact to fit inside the TV unit, (2) can connect to my TV (I guess I need HDMI?), (3) can be operated using an RF remote or can connect to my TV remote for volume control.

And lastly I don't know much about AB vs D amps but I understand the AB amps heat up so I'm wondering if the Rega Brio might not like being inside a TV cabinet (with a hole at the back for cables). Or are these amps ok inside cabinets - ie they don't overheat?

At the end of the day, I've spent so long on this (enjoyed it though!), that I'm really tempted to just go with the Rega+Node but my sensible head tells me I should look at cheaper alternatives that meet the criteria and sound as good...if they exist??
 
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matthewpianist

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You could be very surprised by how good the Powernode is, though it is a different sort of sound to the Rega so you should audition if you're seriously interested.

If you really like the Brio + Node combination either go for it with a commitment to keep your system the same for some time, or seek out a good secondhand example of the Brio and keep it within budget. The Cyrus is an excellent amp but you should really audition it with the Sonetto 1s before you jump in that direction.
 
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nopiano

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If you’re choosing £1450 Sonus faber speakers then don’t skimp on your amp, especially in your largish room. I’m surprised a Brio is enough, frankly. However, if you’re not listening at concert hall levels…

Have you tried the Lumina II at £999? They’re a bit smaller but you could get a beefier amp. That said, by the time you’ve added decent stands to your Sonettos, you could’ve bought these. Far better for a 30 sq.m room, surely?

I will think about the amp. You really need a class D streaming device, like a Cambridge Evo. But they’re a bit pricy. Perhaps the Pwernode is the only thing close to budget?
 
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@pauliG

I’ve read some of the same thread over on AVF, and I’m not going to answer it there as I want to say there’s a lot of BS being banded around by people who have no idea what they’re talking about.

KEFs lend themselves very well as a replacement for a soundbar, as the wide and evenly dispersal of the sound from the point-source UniQ driver allows a larger sweet spot. Many conventional speakers will have quite a narrow sweet spot, so when you sit in the middle, you can move your head a few inches from side to side and the whole balance falls apart. KEF speakers hold it together over a wider area, ideal for more than one listener/viewer.

With regards to the likes of LS50 Meta and R3, and partnering them with smaller amps like Sonos and Bluesound, I personally wouldn’t. It’s ok for background music, but these aren’t really background music type speakers. These speakers need plenty of power and control, and will only sound as good as the accompanying amplifier will allow them to. And don’t allow sales assistants to demonstrate speakers like this to you on the end of £2k amplifiers, where they will sound great. Listen to them on an amplifier within your budget, otherwise it’s a useless demonstration.

How big your room is isn’t so much of an issue if you’re sitting fairly close to the speakers - the most important thing is the direct sound from the speakers and how far that has to travel.

And while the Q350 isn’t as good a speaker as an R3 or LS50 Meta, it will be a better match for the Sonos and Bluesound amps you mention. Theyre an easier load for an amplifier to deal with, and the less you tax the amplifier, the better it will sound.

As far as the Sonus Fabers are concerned (as mentioned on AVF), have you listened to them with movies/TV viewing? The last set of SFs I heard were way off the mark with movies. Probably fine for music, but not movies. Not for me anyway.
 

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