Question Integrated Amplifier and Speaker Matching (Arcam/NAD/Wharfdale/Dali)

jarmez

Active member
Oct 13, 2023
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Hi,

Yes, this is another please help me match x amp with x speaker thread, but, in saying that . . please help me :)

I am putting together a system for my lounge space approx 4m x 10m, stud height approx 3m. Room is split into two sections with TV/living area in one half and kids play area in the other half. I am looking to add an integrated amp and floor standing speakers to the living room section. Floor standers because then I don't have to have stands which a young child will more than likely knock over. I am in New Zealand so will be including local prices.

For an amplifier I am looking at:
The new Arcam A5 integrated amp ($1695 - this really looks like it will do the job, and I have owned a previous generation Arcam amp of a similar size that I loved.
NAD C328 ($999) - this comes in quite a bit cheaper but is a similar output power, and features. Have not owned NAD before. Auditioned this locally and it was ok - would do the job but nothing amazing here.
NAD C368 ($1799) probably a step up from the other two with output power/headroom etc, and a comparable price to the Arcam. Just not sure if I need 80w or not.

For the speakers I am looking at:
Dali Oberon 5 ($1299) - have not been able to audition in person
Wharfedale Diamond 12.3 ($999) - have not been able to audition in person
PSB Alpha T20 ($1299) - these were pretty good, the only other speaker I auditioned that day were some 15yr old second hand Yamaha 3 way's. PSB sounded better but not by a huge margin.
Also tried the Fine Audio 302's these are a little out of my price range but these I really did like quite a lot.

I am very interested to see peoples opinions here. I realise the Arcam is a new amp, but already it has a great review on whathifi.

As for what I will be playing? I have a Panasonic CD player for CD's, and a Rega Planar 1 for my records. I mainly play Rock, Alternative, both modern and classic. Stuff like Radiohead, Porcupine Tree, Tool, Opted, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Kyuss, Queens of the Stoneage - quite a varied lot but generally yeah, bands. And a lot of local scene music/garage rock from NZ.
 
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matthewpianist

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Feb 18, 2022
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You might not want to hear this, but my first and strongest suggestion is to visit a dealer with a good reputation who will take the time to understand your needs and set up an audition of what they think might suit you. This may or may not include products you have on your list. Following an in-store audition I think a home audition would be an important next step. There is some sense of a scatter-gun approach in your description, and that could lead to buyer remorse.

I also suggest you think about the shape of your system as a whole, even if you have to complete it in stages. Once you've upgraded your amp and speakers, you probably need to look at your CD player and turntable to ensure they're good enough in that context.

Out of the kit you list, I have previously owned a NAD C368 and Dali Oberon 5s. Both are excellent, and pair very nicely together to my ears and in the listening space I had at that time. The NAD also offers the ability to add BluOS for streaming using an optional MDC module. This can be bought at the time of purchase or added later.

The Arcam A5 looks like a nice bit of kit and (based on experience of previous Arcam amps) should sound very nice with Dali Oberon 5s, but I've heard a variety of approaches in the sound of Arcams over the years so audition first to make sure it suits you.

Based on the kit I have enjoyed the most, I would also suggests investigating amplifiers from Rega, Cyrus and Musical Fidelity. The big Denon amps are also superb, and built like tanks.
 

landco

Well-known member
Aug 26, 2023
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For the speakers I am looking at:
Dali Oberon 5 ($1299) - have not been able to audition in person
Wharfedale Diamond 12.3 ($999) - have not been able to audition in person
PSB Alpha T20 ($1299
The speaker systems you listed have a weak bass section, consisting of 5" low-frequency drivers. Such speakers require a subwoofer (2.1 system, triphonic) if you want to listen to the full musical range.

Personally, I don't see the point in buying floorstanding speakers if they can't reproduce the full range of music. You can limit yourself to buying inexpensive bookshelf speakers + subwoofer.

Or you need to buy really large floor-standing speakers, like the JBL E100.
 

landco

Well-known member
Aug 26, 2023
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120
I mainly play Rock, Alternative, both modern and classic. Stuff like Radiohead, Porcupine Tree, Tool, Opted, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Kyuss, Queens of the Stoneage - quite a varied lot but generally yeah, bands. And a lot of local scene music/garage rock from NZ.
A good speaker system is independent of the genre of music you prefer and plays any music equally well.
 

jarmez

Active member
Oct 13, 2023
11
4
25
You might not want to hear this, but my first and strongest suggestion is to visit a dealer with a good reputation who will take the time to understand your needs and set up an audition of what they think might suit you. This may or may not include products you have on your list. Following an in-store audition I think a home audition would be an important next step. There is some sense of a scatter-gun approach in your description, and that could lead to buyer remorse.

I also suggest you think about the shape of your system as a whole, even if you have to complete it in stages. Once you've upgraded your amp and speakers, you probably need to look at your CD player and turntable to ensure they're good enough in that context.

Out of the kit you list, I have previously owned a NAD C368 and Dali Oberon 5s. Both are excellent, and pair very nicely together to my ears and in the listening space I had at that time. The NAD also offers the ability to add BluOS for streaming using an optional MDC module. This can be bought at the time of purchase or added later.

The Arcam A5 looks like a nice bit of kit and (based on experience of previous Arcam amps) should sound very nice with Dali Oberon 5s, but I've heard a variety of approaches in the sound of Arcams over the years so audition first to make sure it suits you.

Based on the kit I have enjoyed the most, I would also suggests investigating amplifiers from Rega, Cyrus and Musical Fidelity. The big Denon amps are also superb, and built like tanks.
I appreciate the advice and suggestions here, and ideally yes, I would do some inshore auditions. Unfortunately for me, living at the bottom of the South Island in New Zealand this is a little limiting and the scatter gun approach I am taking is kind of necessitated. There is a small hifi store in the city that I live in but they do have quite a limited range in what I am looking at - namely the NAD amps. The next HiFi store would be approximately a 5 hour drive away in another city. I love your idea of home auditions but I am not sure that would be an option either - not something I have been offered so far anyway. But, if I do buy something the consumer protections are pretty good here and I would probably have 30 days to return anything I don't like.

I have definitely been thinking about the system as a whole, and the CD player and turntable will be what I have for now - likely I would upgrade the CD player fairly quickly and potentially add a sub down the line if I felt I needed more bass.

I will keep an eye out for these other brands too - likely though I will only find these second hand - and older models at that. I would like to buy new mainly because you know what you are getting and the history of the equipment i.e. there won't be any :)

The Dali's are definitely the front runner for speakers at the moment - the price is really good as they have been discounted recently (so have the Wharfedales for that matter but it is not as significant a discount.)
 
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jarmez

Active member
Oct 13, 2023
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A good speaker system is independent of the genre of music you prefer and plays any music equally well.
Generally I agree, I mainly added this because I have seen people ask this question in these types of threads before.
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Generally I agree, I mainly added this because I have seen people ask this question in these types of threads before.
Quite true, and it never hurts to explain. Personally, I’d be happy with the Wharfedale or Dali models, although I’ve only heard them briefly at shows. The obvious other model I’d consider here in the UK but have no idea if you can get them is the 3050i from Q Acoustics. Should be cheaper than the Dali Oberon 5 and is quite deep. The Dalis are the prettiest, and not tall.

Now that I’ve read you have a return window, I’d have a telephone call to the dealer five hours away, to explain what you’re after, and get it delivered to try. Without a prior audition you may as well choose on features and appearance. But get the tape measure out first to be sure everything fits where you plan to place it.
 
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Juzzie Wuzzie

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Sep 18, 2007
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I really like my Oberon 5s, so would happily recommend them. As to the amplifiers, it's not my area of expertise as I run tube amplifiers (ironically purchased from Bond & Bond, Northlands Mall, Christchurch). Which leads me to ask - is there any additional auditioning you could do in Queenstown / Wanaka / Timaru without needing to go further north?
 
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As others have mentioned, a demo of some description is the only real way of knowing which combo works the best for you. All of the OPs choices should sound the bees knees matched correctly.

Not heard any of the new Arcam range but if they are like older models they tend to veer on the smoother side of neutral, pretty much the same with NAD.
 
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jarmez

Active member
Oct 13, 2023
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Quite true, and it never hurts to explain. Personally, I’d be happy with the Wharfedale or Dali models, although I’ve only heard them briefly at shows. The obvious other model I’d consider here in the UK but have no idea if you can get them is the 3050i from Q Acoustics. Should be cheaper than the Dali Oberon 5 and is quite deep. The Dalis are the prettiest, and not tall.

Now that I’ve read you have a return window, I’d have a telephone call to the dealer five hours away, to explain what you’re after, and get it delivered to try. Without a prior audition you may as well choose on features and appearance. But get the tape measure out first to be sure everything fits where you plan to place it.
The 3050i's are probably outside my price range - here they are pricier than the Dali's, but the older 3050 model can still be had for $999. Is there much between these two models?
 

jarmez

Active member
Oct 13, 2023
11
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25
I really like my Oberon 5s, so would happily recommend them. As to the amplifiers, it's not my area of expertise as I run tube amplifiers (ironically purchased from Bond & Bond, Northlands Mall, Christchurch). Which leads me to ask - is there any additional auditioning you could do in Queenstown / Wanaka / Timaru without needing to go further north?
Interesting, I hadn't actually considered Queenstown/Wanaka or Timaru. I had really just assumed that after Dunedin my next stop would be Christchurch! I'll look into it. They are all better propositions distance wise - and much more interesting drives!

Thank you to everyone for responding so far - this is actually quite helpful.
 

nopiano

Well-known member
The 3050i's are probably outside my price range - here they are pricier than the Dali's, but the older 3050 model can still be had for $999. Is there much between these two models?
Don’t bother then, as I’d prefer the Dali, especially for their appearance. Here Dali Oberon 5 are hard to find less than £800 but the QA are £469 on offer. That’s why they appeal, for around £500!
 
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rainsoothe

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Apr 30, 2012
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+1 for demoing for yourself. Personally, I prefer both the Dali and the Wharfedales over the Q Acoustics, which have a bit of a sluggish bass.

If they fit your budget where you live, or find a good deal on them, also consider Focal Chora 816 or 826.
 
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matthewpianist

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Sorry to add another option, but based on my experience with the QX1 MkII, I'd recommend trying to listen to the QX3 MkII. Integration on the little QXs I have is seamless, and tonally they are spot-on. The well constructed cabinets contribute to good control of resonances too. They're a big step up in sound over the already decent LX MkII series.
 
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jarmez

Active member
Oct 13, 2023
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Sorry to add another option, but based on my experience with the QX1 MkII, I'd recommend trying to listen to the QX3 MkII. Integration on the little QXs I have is seamless, and tonally they are spot-on. The well constructed cabinets contribute to good control of resonances too. They're a big step up in sound over the already decent LX MkII series.
I unfortunately have not been able to find any of these in the country. I probably would have had them in mind otherwise, I have previously owned a pair of their smaller bookshelf speakers (forget the model) but they were great.
 

jarmez

Active member
Oct 13, 2023
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Don’t bother then, as I’d prefer the Dali, especially for their appearance. Here Dali Oberon 5 are hard to find less than £800 but the QA are £469 on offer. That’s why they appeal, for around £500!
So I did the math for context. Foreign currency prices can sometimes be misleading without conversion. Dali Oberon 5's are currently available here for £631 which looking at the prices you mentioned seems like a bargain.
 
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Juzzie Wuzzie

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Sep 18, 2007
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So I did the math for context. Foreign currency prices can sometimes be misleading without conversion. Dali Oberon 5's are currently available here for £631 which looking at the prices you mentioned seems like a bargain.
At a guess, I expect that is stock they purchased when NZD:GBP/EUR was a lot stronger than it currently is. Would not be surprised if that price rises as and when they need to order new stock.
 
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jarmez

Active member
Oct 13, 2023
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Dali Oberon 5’s have arrived - they look great. Unfortunately the Arcam A5 will not arrive until at least December so hopefully just in time for xmas. Fingers crossed that ships are on time and can avoid spring time storms and ex cyclones!
 

Covenanter

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Jul 20, 2012
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You might not want to hear this, but my first and strongest suggestion is to visit a dealer with a good reputation who will take the time to understand your needs and set up an audition of what they think might suit you. This may or may not include products you have on your list. Following an in-store audition I think a home audition would be an important next step. There is some sense of a scatter-gun approach in your description, and that could lead to buyer remorse.

I also suggest you think about the shape of your system as a whole, even if you have to complete it in stages. Once you've upgraded your amp and speakers, you probably need to look at your CD player and turntable to ensure they're good enough in that context.

Out of the kit you list, I have previously owned a NAD C368 and Dali Oberon 5s. Both are excellent, and pair very nicely together to my ears and in the listening space I had at that time. The NAD also offers the ability to add BluOS for streaming using an optional MDC module. This can be bought at the time of purchase or added later.

The Arcam A5 looks like a nice bit of kit and (based on experience of previous Arcam amps) should sound very nice with Dali Oberon 5s, but I've heard a variety of approaches in the sound of Arcams over the years so audition first to make sure it suits you.

Based on the kit I have enjoyed the most, I would also suggests investigating amplifiers from Rega, Cyrus and Musical Fidelity. The big Denon amps are also superb, and built like tanks.
I agree. There is no substitute for auditioning and a good dealer will be more than willing to set this up for you.
 

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