Question KEF R11 - Power Amps/Integrated's

miloshs

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Feb 1, 2013
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Hi everyone,

Let me explain :)

I have my Living Room which is roughly 4.6m x 5.5m x 2.45m (DxWxH) and its not terrible in acoustics but its also not treated in any way.

For Home Cinema I had the following setup:
  • 120" Motorized Screen
  • Sony VPL-VW290ES
  • Denon X4700H
  • 2x Dali Oberon 7 Walnuss - Fronts
  • 2x Dali Oberon 3 Walnuss - Surround Back
  • 1x Dali Oberon Vokal Walnuss - Center
  • 4x Dali Alteco C-1 - Upward Atmos'
  • REL HT-1305
This worked pretty good in the past, but I was primarily unhappy with the Atmos part (did not dig the upwards firing) and sold those and recently upgraded the fronts to KEF R11's which I got for 50% discounted price. The idea going forward is to slowly build the new audio setup around the KEF R series (maybe mixing with some Q150/350's for surrounds and T305's series for ceiling mounted Atmos effects.

The problem is around the KEF R11's at the moment where I am not particularly happy with the quality of sound coming from the X4700H even in Pure Direct mode so am looking to upgrade to something more fitting.

So far I had the following ones for Demo:
  • HEGEL H190 - when used exclusively as the only source the sound was amazing, soundstage wide and open, bass punchy and precise, midrange clear and present. But when used with the Denon as PRE it was just not powerful enough as I had to pump the volume to 75-85% depending on content and did not like the dual volume predicament
  • Emotiva XPA 11 - power at least for the fronts was there, soundstage was wider than with the Denon, but not as wide and clear as with the HEGEL. I noticed also some additional "hissing" in the treble which I do not particularily like, almost sounded like the treble is to forward and present. Midrange was nice and neutral, while bass was big but not as precise and punchy as with the H190.
So why the whole story.... basically I am trying as said to upgrade the entire setup which was previously HT focused, but now i have around 50% pure 2Ch music listening and am torn between upgrading to:
  1. 2x Monoblocks for the fronts and leave all the other speakers up to the Denon AMPs
  2. Upgrade to 5/7 Channel Power Amp for the Bed layer and later upgrade with an additional 4 Channel Power Amp for Atmos effects.
Any thought from anyone who was ever in a similar situation on what to do?
Maybe also some thoughts from R11 (or R7 owners) on Amps/Power Amps to shortlist? Budget maybe around 4-6k Eur.

The only thing I know is I am not really happy with the sound from the Denon which to me seems also starts introducing distortion when and also have 10-ish year old KEF LS50's which I use for back surrounds at the moment since Dali's are for sale in the basement.
 

James105

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Oct 30, 2019
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Hi everyone,

Let me explain :)

I have my Living Room which is roughly 4.6m x 5.5m x 2.45m (DxWxH) and its not terrible in acoustics but its also not treated in any way.

For Home Cinema I had the following setup:
  • 120" Motorized Screen
  • Sony VPL-VW290ES
  • Denon X4700H
  • 2x Dali Oberon 7 Walnuss - Fronts
  • 2x Dali Oberon 3 Walnuss - Surround Back
  • 1x Dali Oberon Vokal Walnuss - Center
  • 4x Dali Alteco C-1 - Upward Atmos'
  • REL HT-1305
This worked pretty good in the past, but I was primarily unhappy with the Atmos part (did not dig the upwards firing) and sold those and recently upgraded the fronts to KEF R11's which I got for 50% discounted price. The idea going forward is to slowly build the new audio setup around the KEF R series (maybe mixing with some Q150/350's for surrounds and T305's series for ceiling mounted Atmos effects.

The problem is around the KEF R11's at the moment where I am not particularly happy with the quality of sound coming from the X4700H even in Pure Direct mode so am looking to upgrade to something more fitting.

So far I had the following ones for Demo:
  • HEGEL H190 - when used exclusively as the only source the sound was amazing, soundstage wide and open, bass punchy and precise, midrange clear and present. But when used with the Denon as PRE it was just not powerful enough as I had to pump the volume to 75-85% depending on content and did not like the dual volume predicament
  • Emotiva XPA 11 - power at least for the fronts was there, soundstage was wider than with the Denon, but not as wide and clear as with the HEGEL. I noticed also some additional "hissing" in the treble which I do not particularily like, almost sounded like the treble is to forward and present. Midrange was nice and neutral, while bass was big but not as precise and punchy as with the H190.
So why the whole story.... basically I am trying as said to upgrade the entire setup which was previously HT focused, but now i have around 50% pure 2Ch music listening and am torn between upgrading to:
  1. 2x Monoblocks for the fronts and leave all the other speakers up to the Denon AMPs
  2. Upgrade to 5/7 Channel Power Amp for the Bed layer and later upgrade with an additional 4 Channel Power Amp for Atmos effects.
Any thought from anyone who was ever in a similar situation on what to do?
Maybe also some thoughts from R11 (or R7 owners) on Amps/Power Amps to shortlist? Budget maybe around 4-6k Eur.

The only thing I know is I am not really happy with the sound from the Denon which to me seems also starts introducing distortion when and also have 10-ish year old KEF LS50's which I use for back surrounds at the moment since Dali's are for sale in the basement.
I hate to ask, but why change your fronts because you weren't happy with the Dali atmos speakers? (hey I have the same and I'm not overwhelmed) KEF is imo a different sound altogether to DALI.

I'd try a stereo power amp for the fronts first, KEF state their speakers dip to 3.2 ohms so not so easy to drive, I'd suggest NAD c298 or Rotel 1582 mkII, both cost about the same with the same power output the Rotel is A/B the NAD is purifi and has variable input gain ( can help with matching the volume control of the DENON).
 
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I am more comfortable with stereo amp recommendations but a few points I can make:-

1. KEF demo their speakers with Hegel amps, at least at two UK shows I’ve seen recently. A great choice as Hegel are essentially neutral, so they complement each other. I heard Blade 2 with the monster Hegel h600 - stupendous!

2. For a multi-channel power amp, Primare make a superior model the a35.8. I previously heard the original KEF Reference speakers on a Primare. Again, neutrality is a strength.


3. How you handle multi-channel as a preamp I’ve no idea, but I’m sure somebody else will, or your preferred dealer.
 
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miloshs

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Feb 1, 2013
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I hate to ask, but why change your fronts because you weren't happy with the Dali atmos speakers? (hey I have the same and I'm not overwhelmed) KEF is imo a different sound altogether to DALI.

I'd try a stereo power amp for the fronts first, KEF state their speakers dip to 3.2 ohms so not so easy to drive, I'd suggest NAD c298 or Rotel 1582 mkII, both cost about the same with the same power output the Rotel is A/B the NAD is purifi and has variable input gain ( can help with matching the volume control of the DENON).
Thanks for the reply James...

to be honest, maybe I was to excited while writing the post but just being unhappy with the Atmos part is not the only reason, but also since I bought the LS50's I wanted to have a higher tier of KEF speakers (in part due to sound i liked coming from the LS50's and in part due to the looks).

Now obviously I got a good deal on the R11's and also have a bit more disposable funds in order to fulfil a dream :D (or dreams). Hence the upgrade/s.

I was actually looking at the NAD M23 but not sure if its a worthwhile upgrade over the C298. Maybe I'll demo one of them after the obvious return of the XPA 11.
 

miloshs

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Feb 1, 2013
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I am more comfortable with stereo amp recommendations but a few points I can make:-

1. KEF demo their speakers with Hegel amps, at least at two UK shows I’ve seen recently. A great choice as Hegel are essentially neutral, so they complement each other. I heard Blade 2 with the monster Hegel h600 - stupendous!

2. For a multi-channel power amp, Primare make a superior model the a35.8. I previously heard the original KEF Reference speakers on a Primare. Again, neutrality is a strength.


3. How you handle multi-channel as a preamp I’ve no idea, but I’m sure somebody else will, or your preferred dealer.
Hi Nopiano,

Thanks for the insights, yes Hegel was the bomb even with just the H190 that I demoed in my home, but only while using it's DAC/Streamer... once I tried the X4700H as a DAC/Streamer and then RCA into H190 the quality went down (which I characterized as a superior DAC on the Hegel v Denon).

I've had some items on my shortlist (including a trip in May to Munich HighEnd fair)

2Ch Amps/Power Amps:
  • Hegel H190
  • NAD M23 (and now maybe C298) - always thought NAD was a bit bottom heavy for my taste
  • Rotel Michi X3
  • Rotel RB-1590
  • Yamaha A-S2200
  • Audiolab 8300MB Monoblocks (x2 obviously)
Multi-Ch Power Amps:
  • Marantz AMP 10
  • Rotel RMB-1587 MkII
  • Musical Fidelity M6x 250.5
  • and now Primare A35.8
If Primare is anything like Hegel in sound signature maybe this could be the solution if I decide for Multi-Ch setup.
 

miloshs

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Feb 1, 2013
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Just to add, some goal would be to ideally over time go for R11 as fronts, R3's as surround backs, R2c for Front and maybe T305's for Atmos to keep the similar tonality of KEF accross the board while understanding that good Atmos mixes are very hard to come by these days (with this in mind maybe even downgrade Surrounds to Q150/Q350 due to this)
 

James105

Well-known member
Oct 30, 2019
283
194
5,070
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Thanks for the reply James...

to be honest, maybe I was to excited while writing the post but just being unhappy with the Atmos part is not the only reason, but also since I bought the LS50's I wanted to have a higher tier of KEF speakers (in part due to sound i liked coming from the LS50's and in part due to the looks).

Now obviously I got a good deal on the R11's and also have a bit more disposable funds in order to fulfil a dream :D (or dreams). Hence the upgrade/s.

I was actually looking at the NAD M23 but not sure if its a worthwhile upgrade over the C298. Maybe I'll demo one of them after the obvious return of the XPA 11.
For music I think the M23 is worthwhile over the c298, I have M17/M23/M28. I think the M28 is on par with the c298, adding the M23 brought improvements for music .

But I think you should also check out Lyngdorf power amps.
 
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