• If you ever spot Spam (either in the forums, or received via forum direct message) please use the Report button at the bottom of each post to make sure a Moderator can handle it quickly. Thanks for your help in keeping things running smoothly!

Question Integrated amplifier advice please

mistercus

Active member
Jan 15, 2021
13
7
25
A very Happy New Year to you all, if I can still say that.

I'm new here and would welcome any thoughts to help me on my quest for musical loveliness.

I have been tinkering around with hifi equipment for a long time and am still searching for my ideal hifi where I put an album on and sit there smiling to the end. Then put another album, and another. No skipping songs because they sound harsh, brittle, thin, shrill, or any number of words which conjure up nasty business in my mind.

I'm looking for natural, organic, musical, fat, deep, rounded, rich sound that gets to your soul and makes you happy.

I listen to most things, although am drawn to the bands of the late 60's and early 70's, with a horn section and vast beards. I also however love jazz, folk, afrobeat, classical etc etc.

I currently have a Naim Nait XS which was until recently running a pair of Neat Motive XS2. Don't get me wrong, the sounds that came from them were incredibly lovely at times, but not free of the dreaded skipping.

I think I'm close to getting there. I have just purchased from the lovely EBay a pair of Proac Studio 130 speakers and have coming next week my all time favourites, the Spendor SP1's. Very excited.

I'm now looking for an integrated amplifier which will bring me the mythical sound I'm looking for.

I would love valves but have a one year old who would eat them, so perhaps a hybrid or with the valves hidden away could work. I can spend up to £800 at a push second hand.

I've been thinking the following as ideas although welcome others..

Unison Research Unico Primo
Sugden A21
Musical Fidelity?
Electrocompaniet ECI-2
Copland (possibly too expensive)
Audionote (possibly too expensive)
Audio Research (definitely too expensive)
Something from the 70's - Sansui?

Then I will have the super battle between the two speakers and the two amps. Only one amplifier and one pair of speakers can stay, otherwise my nice wife will beat me with my own slippers.

I mainly play HD music from Tidal/Qobuz through a Bluesound Node 2i, which I'm happy with. This replaced my old turntable and CD player.

Many thanks for your time. I look forward to hearing from you and have a lovely day.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Slow John

JohnD

Well-known member
Oct 17, 2020
26
8
45
I have the Sugden a21a and think a Sugden amp might get you to that mythical place you speak of but make sure those speakers you have ordered aren’t too heavy a load. Cheers John
 

mistercus

Active member
Jan 15, 2021
13
7
25
I have the Sugden a21a and think a Sugden amp might get you to that mythical place you speak of but make sure those speakers you have ordered aren’t too heavy a load. Cheers John
Thanks John, I'm definitely going to look out for one.
 

James83

Well-known member
Apr 2, 2015
85
12
10,545
What is musical loveliness?
What do you want the amp to do?
An amp is just there to amplify the signal.
So is the Naim doing more than it should do and actually degrading the signal? I've seen some people suggest that yes, they do.
Is your current amp perhaps a little low on power, and in need of some reserves for certain songs? I don't know, I haven't checked what power the Naim has.

Or, is it actually the speaker?
Is there such a thing as a speaker that is perfect for every type of music, yet is also within reach of the normal buyer? The fact we have so many different speakers around, suggests perhaps not.
You say that on the whole you are happy, but it is the odd song? Have I understood correctly?
To me that sounds like the Naim is doing its job correctly, but either.
a. Certain songs need a bit more oomph.
Or
b. Perhaps finding a speaker that is perfect for all types of music could be a very difficult task.

Something makes me think you may be going about this the wrong way.
Think I'd have taken my amp round Hifi stores, using it to audition different speakers. That, after asking myself what certain songs seemed to be missing.
There is a lot of buying and selling going on here, and I'm worried you may end up with exactly the same result.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Slow John

mistercus

Active member
Jan 15, 2021
13
7
25
What is musical loveliness?
What do you want the amp to do?
An amp is just there to amplify the signal.
So is the Naim doing more than it should do and actually degrading the signal? I've seen some people suggest that yes, they do.
Is your current amp perhaps a little low on power, and in need of some reserves for certain songs? I don't know, I haven't checked what power the Naim has.

Or, is it actually the speaker?
Is there such a thing as a speaker that is perfect for every type of music, yet is also within reach of the normal buyer? The fact we have so many different speakers around, suggests perhaps not.
You say that on the whole you are happy, but it is the odd song? Have I understood correctly?
To me that sounds like the Naim is doing its job correctly, but either.
a. Certain songs need a bit more oomph.
Or
b. Perhaps finding a speaker that is perfect for all types of music could be a very difficult task.

Something makes me think you may be going about this the wrong way.
Think I'd have taken my amp round Hifi stores, using it to audition different speakers. That, after asking myself what certain songs seemed to be missing.
There is a lot of buying and selling going on here, and I'm worried you may end up with exactly the same result.

Hello James, and thanks for your message.

The musical loveliness I'm looking for and what I want the amp to do is as I set out in my post.

"I'm looking for natural, organic, musical, fat, deep, rounded, rich sound that gets to your soul and makes you happy".

And not sound, "harsh, brittle, thin, shrill".

I agree with you that an amp is just there to amplify the signal. However, all hifi equipment delivers music to you slightly different. If this were not the case there would be no need for sound tests.

My previous setup, the Naim and the Neats when listening to acoustic music sounded amazing. However things could become a bit shouty when you added the rest of the band. If Jimi came in I would be reaching for the controls.

I'm not in any way saying either are bad. I'm sure the Neats in a smaller, softer room would sound fantastic. And I've had the Naim for a long time and spent many happy hours listing to it. It may be the combination of the two in my living room and my ageing ears that have been bashed by years of playing in bands that makes me more sensitive. This is why I'm looking for a new set up.

There's a high chance the Naim will stay. I've been listening to it with the Proacs now for the last few days and they sound lovely. I've been playing albums all morning and have not skipped once, so my plan has so far worked.

There are many other factors that will affect sound but for now, my post is asking for ideas of another amplifier to join the super sound battle when I also get the Spendors.

Since John pointed me in the direction of the Sugden I have been investigating further and it would seem that either a valve, valve hybrid of Class A amplifier could be the way to go. I'm therefore currently on the hunt for either of the following.

Sugden A21a
Unison Research Unico Primo
Copland CSA 28
Vincent 227 MK

Many thanks James and have a great weekend.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Slow John

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
550
331
19,270
It reads so as though you want the system to take the rough edges off your less ‘elegant’ recordings. That’s quite a common requirement as lots of modern speakers, and to a lesser extent amplifiers, will sound impressive on carefully chosen demo material but less enchanting on regular discs or older favourites.

The ProAcs I’ve heard aren’t the most subdued listen, and their roots are with studio oriented designs, where transparency is a foremost need. Your Naim has a slightly forward character which is either exciting or tiresome, depending on taste. Neat is commonly combined with Naim and I’ve heard the two sounding terrific.

I’d anticipate the Spendor SP1s may be a sweeter sound, but a lot depends on your room , listening levels and taste. A valve hybrid might be just your thing too, though I’ve never owned one so can’t be sure. Vincents strike me as great value and I believe you can get loan models from the UK Vincent shop.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Al ears

James83

Well-known member
Apr 2, 2015
85
12
10,545
It reads so as though you want the system to take the rough edges off your less ‘elegant’ recordings. That’s quite a common requirement as lots of modern speakers, and to a lesser extent amplifiers, will sound impressive on carefully chosen demo material but less enchanting on regular discs or older favourites.

The ProAcs I’ve heard aren’t the most subdued listen, and their roots are with studio oriented designs, where transparency is a foremost need. Your Naim has a slightly forward character which is either exciting or tiresome, depending on taste. Neat is commonly combined with Naim and I’ve heard the two sounding terrific.

I’d anticipate the Spendor SP1s may be a sweeter sound, but a lot depends on your room , listening levels and taste. A valve hybrid might be just your thing too, though I’ve never owned one so can’t be sure. Vincents strike me as great value and I believe you can get loan models from the UK Vincent shop.
If the Naim is doing anything to the recording, then it must be degrading the signal in some way. It certainly can't be improving it. In the words of the Rega owner- "you can't polish a turd".
I shall try and find what someone wrote about Naim amps.

From what the OP said, it seems as though either
a. The speaker is better for more acoustic type music (something also aimed at the small Harbeth.
b. The amp isn't powerful enough to control the speaker during the Jimi sections!!
Perhaps a slightly larger amp, and a larger speaker may control these sections better.

Especially as he now seems happy with his new speaker, it is, as I assumed, more a speaker issue.
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
550
331
19,270
If the Naim is doing anything to the recording, then it must be degrading the signal in some way.
Well, every amplifier does to some extent, but I think Naim are known to have a certain character that I tried to describe earlier. It’s probably more rhythmic than sweet, you might say.
 

manicm

Well-known member
May 1, 2008
818
169
19,070
It reads so as though you want the system to take the rough edges off your less ‘elegant’ recordings. That’s quite a common requirement as lots of modern speakers, and to a lesser extent amplifiers, will sound impressive on carefully chosen demo material but less enchanting on regular discs or older favourites.

The ProAcs I’ve heard aren’t the most subdued listen, and their roots are with studio oriented designs, where transparency is a foremost need. Your Naim has a slightly forward character which is either exciting or tiresome, depending on taste. Neat is commonly combined with Naim and I’ve heard the two sounding terrific.

I’d anticipate the Spendor SP1s may be a sweeter sound, but a lot depends on your room , listening levels and taste. A valve hybrid might be just your thing too, though I’ve never owned one so can’t be sure. Vincents strike me as great value and I believe you can get loan models from the UK Vincent shop.
I think the more apt description of what the OP wants is not rounded, but euphonic. He wants a sweet, non-offensive sound but not lacking in attack.

Before changing the amp, I would look at other speakers.
 

mistercus

Active member
Jan 15, 2021
13
7
25
It reads so as though you want the system to take the rough edges off your less ‘elegant’ recordings. That’s quite a common requirement as lots of modern speakers, and to a lesser extent amplifiers, will sound impressive on carefully chosen demo material but less enchanting on regular discs or older favourites.

The ProAcs I’ve heard aren’t the most subdued listen, and their roots are with studio oriented designs, where transparency is a foremost need. Your Naim has a slightly forward character which is either exciting or tiresome, depending on taste. Neat is commonly combined with Naim and I’ve heard the two sounding terrific.

I’d anticipate the Spendor SP1s may be a sweeter sound, but a lot depends on your room , listening levels and taste. A valve hybrid might be just your thing too, though I’ve never owned one so can’t be sure. Vincents strike me as great value and I believe you can get loan models from the UK Vincent shop.

Hello Nopiano,

Thanks for your message. This is exactly it. I want a hifi that sounds great all the time, not excellent some of the time.

I don't want to sound like I didn't like the Neats. In certain areas, they are better than the Proacs. They would definitely suit a smaller room.

I prefer however the Proacs. They are still playing away as I'm writing this, and still making me jig around the room smiling. They give a big, full, natural sound. Everything seems to fit together and sound right. I think the Spendors will have a good battle when they arrive!
 
  • Like
Reactions: nopiano

knaithrover

Moderator
Nov 24, 2013
193
75
18,670
Hello James, and thanks for your message.

The musical loveliness I'm looking for and what I want the amp to do is as I set out in my post.

"I'm looking for natural, organic, musical, fat, deep, rounded, rich sound that gets to your soul and makes you happy".

And not sound, "harsh, brittle, thin, shrill".

I agree with you that an amp is just there to amplify the signal. However, all hifi equipment delivers music to you slightly different. If this were not the case there would be no need for sound tests.

My previous setup, the Naim and the Neats when listening to acoustic music sounded amazing. However things could become a bit shouty when you added the rest of the band. If Jimi came in I would be reaching for the controls.

I'm not in any way saying either are bad. I'm sure the Neats in a smaller, softer room would sound fantastic. And I've had the Naim for a long time and spent many happy hours listing to it. It may be the combination of the two in my living room and my ageing ears that have been bashed by years of playing in bands that makes me more sensitive. This is why I'm looking for a new set up.

There's a high chance the Naim will stay. I've been listening to it with the Proacs now for the last few days and they sound lovely. I've been playing albums all morning and have not skipped once, so my plan has so far worked.

There are many other factors that will affect sound but for now, my post is asking for ideas of another amplifier to join the super sound battle when I also get the Spendors.

Since John pointed me in the direction of the Sugden I have been investigating further and it would seem that either a valve, valve hybrid of Class A amplifier could be the way to go. I'm therefore currently on the hunt for either of the following.

Sugden A21a
Unison Research Unico Primo
Copland CSA 28
Vincent 227 MK

Many thanks James and have a great weekend.
Look out for a Vincent SV236 second hand, amazing amp for the money
 

manicm

Well-known member
May 1, 2008
818
169
19,070
Well, every amplifier does to some extent, but I think Naim are known to have a certain character that I tried to describe earlier. It’s probably more rhythmic than sweet, you might say.
It’s the speakers more than the amp that could have a significant impact, I would look at changing the Neats, especially if he has more space for larger speakers.
 

rainsoothe

Well-known member
Apr 30, 2012
570
242
19,270
Hello Nopiano,

Thanks for your message. This is exactly it. I want a hifi that sounds great all the time, not excellent some of the time.

I don't want to sound like I didn't like the Neats. In certain areas, they are better than the Proacs. They would definitely suit a smaller room.

I prefer however the Proacs. They are still playing away as I'm writing this, and still making me jig around the room smiling. They give a big, full, natural sound. Everything seems to fit together and sound right. I think the Spendors will have a good battle when they arrive!
If you're happy with the Proacs, don't change your amp without audition, usually people miss the Naim boogie once they change. But if you're still unhappy and don't mind valves, look at Jadis stuff.
 

James83

Well-known member
Apr 2, 2015
85
12
10,545
I think the more apt description of what the OP wants is not rounded, but euphonic. He wants a sweet, non-offensive sound but not lacking in attack.

Before changing the amp, I would look at other speakers.
Exactly as I guessed, and seems as though it has worked!!
 

James83

Well-known member
Apr 2, 2015
85
12
10,545
Well, every amplifier does to some extent, but I think Naim are known to have a certain character that I tried to describe earlier. It’s probably more rhythmic than sweet, you might say.
Picked straight from another forum.
I can't comment having not delved too deeply into the Naim specs!!!

"Sonic differences only emerge when an amplifier is underpowerd and clips, when its input sensitivity is too high, for example with modern sources that adhere to the 2Volt CD Red Book standard (the Naim disease), or when its output impedance is too high/the damping factor is too low for the frequency response to remain flat under the varying impedance load of real speakers (mostly a valve amplifier problem). "
 

mistercus

Active member
Jan 15, 2021
13
7
25
I think the more apt description of what the OP wants is not rounded, but euphonic. He wants a sweet, non-offensive sound but not lacking in attack.

Before changing the amp, I would look at other speakers.
Look out for a Vincent SV236 second hand, amazing amp for the money
Morning. There's a Vincent 227 MK on EBay now. Asking a bit too much for me though. I love the look of them. Got a 70's thing going on. I'm always drawn to the big glowing vintage amps like Sansui and Marantz, although not sure if they would sound good.
 

mistercus

Active member
Jan 15, 2021
13
7
25
If you're happy with the Proacs, don't change your amp without audition, usually people miss the Naim boogie once they change. But if you're still unhappy and don't mind valves, look at Jadis stuff.
Morning. Yes I think you're right. The Naim and Proacs are sounding grand right now. Out of curiosity I'll still look out for something, but for now am happy. I've not seen Jadis before. If I can find one with the valves covered that could work.
 

mistercus

Active member
Jan 15, 2021
13
7
25
It’s the speakers more than the amp that could have a significant impact, I would look at changing the Neats, especially if he has more space for larger speakers.
Hello Manicm,

The Neats are gone and the Proac Studio 130's are here and sounding great. Coming also next week are a lovely pair of Spendor SP1's! It's going to be fun playing with them both.

Thanks
 
  • Like
Reactions: manicm

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
550
331
19,270
Picked straight from another forum.
I can't comment having not delved too deeply into the Naim specs!!!

"Sonic differences only emerge when an amplifier is underpowerd and clips, when its input sensitivity is too high, for example with modern sources that adhere to the 2Volt CD Red Book standard (the Naim disease), or when its output impedance is too high/the damping factor is too low for the frequency response to remain flat under the varying impedance load of real speakers (mostly a valve amplifier problem). "
You don’t want to believe everything on Harbeth’s forum, though it has some good stuff.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Al ears

James83

Well-known member
Apr 2, 2015
85
12
10,545
You don’t want to believe everything on Harbeth’s forum, though it has some good stuff.
Oh like everywhere, you have to take things with a pinch of salt.
In this case, I was just showing what I had seen elsewhere.
Is it untrue then?
Does a high input sensitivity not make the difference claimed?
On this occasion, I have actually seen similar said elsewhere as well. So it isn't like I'm just taking one person's word for it.

As always though. Whatever this does to the sonic signal, it will of course depend on an individual's ear as to whether it sounds good or bad with specific speakers.

In this case, it seems as though it works with the Proac for the OP.
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
550
331
19,270
Does a high input sensitivity not make the difference claimed?
On this occasion, I have actually seen similar said elsewhere as well. So it isn't like I'm just taking one person's word for it.
A needlessly sensitive input can clip on a loud signal, which is what the author of that post was getting at. Many older amps are too sensitive for CD players, and it’s a historic thing. When I was a lad, tuners and tape decks were the only source besides record players. They typically produced around 250 to 500 millivolts maximum. Then CD arrived with players required to output 2 volts at maximum volume. Four times the output meant two things:
1. The input could be overdriven - clipped.
2. CD sounded more impressive.
A consequence was that some volume controls were no longer much good, because only their lowest settings were any use. So this spawned a mini industry in attenuators, such as Rothwells.

As amplifiers were updated, their line inputs were made less sensitive. And sometimes relabelled CD instead of Aux, to show it

Back to the quote: the author implies all amps sound the same unless there’s a problem. And he used an outdated example of input clipping to demonstrate that. Frankly, it’s pretty spurious, imo. Naim amps aren’t neutral, especially not the lower priced ones. That’s all there is to it!
 
  • Like
Reactions: James83 and Al ears

ASK THE COMMUNITY

TRENDING THREADS

Latest posts