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Looking for no frills amp

6and8

Well-known member
Jan 20, 2014
62
4
10,545
I listen to (mostly) vinyl, some CDs and I occasionally stream Spotify from my MacBook Pro through the DAC on my Audiolab 8200CD. All I need from the amp is to amplify. I currently use an Arcam FMJ A19 connected to a Graham Slee Reflex M phono stage. It fills the space (about 4m sq) effortlessly, I like the sound and it has a good headphone output. It does the job, but I'm wondering if trading up to a better quality amp would give me an appreciably better sound and maybe the extra power would help when I come to upgrade my speakers, some I fancy would drain the Arcam. But looking at what's on offer, so many amps now have lots of digital bells and whistles I don't need, so why pay for them? What recommendations would you guys have for a higher level amp that doesn't come with digital trimmings? I thought about the Creek Evolution 100A but haven't heard one. Some other amps looked good but would require an external headphone amp, which is OK if I have to. Any thoughts - what would you do?
 

Al ears

Moderator
I listen to (mostly) vinyl, some CDs and I occasionally stream Spotify from my MacBook Pro through the DAC on my Audiolab 8200CD. All I need from the amp is to amplify. I currently use an Arcam FMJ A19 connected to a Graham Slee Reflex M phono stage. It fills the space (about 4m sq) effortlessly, I like the sound and it has a good headphone output. It does the job, but I'm wondering if trading up to a better quality amp would give me an appreciably better sound and maybe the extra power would help when I come to upgrade my speakers, some I fancy would drain the Arcam. But looking at what's on offer, so many amps now have lots of digital bells and whistles I don't need, so why pay for them? What recommendations would you guys have for a higher level amp that doesn't come with digital trimmings? I thought about the Creek Evolution 100A but haven't heard one. Some other amps looked good but would require an external headphone amp, which is OK if I have to. Any thoughts - what would you do?
The Creek is an excellent choice, thought of Exposure but they don't seem to have a headphone section.
 

12th Monkey

Well-known member
Aug 31, 2015
562
300
11,270
I went from Arcam to Musical Fidelity, and find the latter's presentation more musically-engaging. Their amps also tend to have plenty of welly, as I believe it is known in technical circles. Again though, no headphone socket.
 

6and8

Well-known member
Jan 20, 2014
62
4
10,545
Yes, Exposure was another one on my list, but if I like the amp I can always get an external headphone amp. My budget is elastic, and as this is a possibly last go at upgrading if necessary I can go to £2500 / 3000 - does that open up the field?
 

Al ears

Moderator
Yes, Exposure was another one on my list, but if I like the amp I can always get an external headphone amp. My budget is elastic, and as this is a possibly last go at upgrading if necessary I can go to £2500 / 3000 - does that open up the field?
It certainly does, must it be new or possibly second hand?
When you're spending that sort of money it might be possible to get rid of the Graham Slee and use an amp with built-in phono stage
 

6and8

Well-known member
Jan 20, 2014
62
4
10,545
Musical Fidelity also on my list. And yes, I believe 'welly' is the technical term. Is there a MF amp that has all the, erm, welly, but without lots of extras like Bluetooth, DACs, etc?
 

6and8

Well-known member
Jan 20, 2014
62
4
10,545
This great, gents, thank you. You have basically confirmed that I've been looking in the right direction. As for onboard phono stages, do you think they can match the better outboard ones?
 

rainsoothe

Well-known member
Apr 30, 2012
330
121
19,070
Hi - with that budget, you should defo have a Naim integrated on your list. The XS3 would leave you with spare cash to put towards other upgrades, the SN3 might be all the amp you're ever gonna need. If you like your prat, that is. For what it's worth, I used to run an Arcam A19 and thought it was a killer amp at it's price. Bryston and Hegel (H190) are also well worth considering. For a more relaxing listen, Luxman, Simaudio are very nice.
 
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plastic penguin

Well-known member
Apr 28, 2008
1,614
62
19,770
Depends on your speakers. But I can vouch for the Leema Pulse MKI as I've owned it for 10 years. No frills, great built-in switchable phono stage, headphone socket and loads of inputs. Sounds fantastic with the right speakers.
 

millennia_one

Well-known member
Sep 1, 2014
336
127
11,070
I listen to (mostly) vinyl, some CDs and I occasionally stream Spotify from my MacBook Pro through the DAC on my Audiolab 8200CD. All I need from the amp is to amplify. I currently use an Arcam FMJ A19 connected to a Graham Slee Reflex M phono stage. It fills the space (about 4m sq) effortlessly, I like the sound and it has a good headphone output. It does the job, but I'm wondering if trading up to a better quality amp would give me an appreciably better sound and maybe the extra power would help when I come to upgrade my speakers, some I fancy would drain the Arcam. But looking at what's on offer, so many amps now have lots of digital bells and whistles I don't need, so why pay for them? What recommendations would you guys have for a higher level amp that doesn't come with digital trimmings? I thought about the Creek Evolution 100A but haven't heard one. Some other amps looked good but would require an external headphone amp, which is OK if I have to. Any thoughts - what would you do?
Really depends on the speakers you plan to buy next, No thrill amazing sound built like a tank id say a Sugden A21sig/A21SE Amazing class A amps that don't get mentioned much which is a great shame. Seem like a secret for peeps in the know, hand made in Yorkshire and I mean hand made they still solder their own circuit boards. They make amazing phono stages to.

With the right speakers, Klipsch heritage/Tannoy legacy range they will rock your world.

But TBH at that price point, the worlds your oyster but as I say depends on your next speaker purchase personally id buy both together
 

6and8

Well-known member
Jan 20, 2014
62
4
10,545
Thanks, some great suggestions here. Naim was on my list until someone said if I like the laid-back sound of the Arcam I may find the Naim too forward. I can't comment as I haven't yet listened to Naim. And Sugden, lovely name from the past, when I was putting my first hi fi system together - had a Rogers amp back then. The Croft sounds great but I'm looking to keep it to one box for space reasons. As for the speakers, I'm undecided but as I've mentioned before they must be able to work close to the wall in a small room - so am considering Larsen, PMC, ATC and Neat. And I'll stick with the Graham Slee phono stage for now. But I may be on the lookout for a headphone amp if the integrated amp doesn't have one.
 

12th Monkey

Well-known member
Aug 31, 2015
562
300
11,270
Musical Fidelity also on my list. And yes, I believe 'welly' is the technical term. Is there a MF amp that has all the, erm, welly, but without lots of extras like Bluetooth, DACs, etc?
You'd get an A308CR pre- and power combo from eBay for within budget - that's what I did and I have been absolutely delighted - built like tanks and sound excellent in every respect. Can't vouch for the built-in phono stage - you'd need to look for reviews - but you'd be getting £4-5k's worth of gear at rather more palatable second hand money.

No BT, no DAC - proper old skool.
 

Al ears

Moderator
Thanks, some great suggestions here. Naim was on my list until someone said if I like the laid-back sound of the Arcam I may find the Naim too forward. I can't comment as I haven't yet listened to Naim. And Sugden, lovely name from the past, when I was putting my first hi fi system together - had a Rogers amp back then. The Croft sounds great but I'm looking to keep it to one box for space reasons. As for the speakers, I'm undecided but as I've mentioned before they must be able to work close to the wall in a small room - so am considering Larsen, PMC, ATC and Neat. And I'll stick with the Graham Slee phono stage for now. But I may be on the lookout for a headphone amp if the integrated amp doesn't have one.
If it doesn't have headphone section suggest a second-hand Creek OBH-21
 

plastic penguin

Well-known member
Apr 28, 2008
1,614
62
19,770
£2500 - £3000 in your pocket, and looking at 2nd hand, one of my choices would be the Leema Tucana.
@plastic penguin - what do you think, as you've had one?
Indeed. Probably be hard pushed to find a better amp below 6k. It really is that good. However, you have to factor in a phono stage (Elements stage I used @£400) and it does need equally good sources and speakers, so I failed to exploit the full talents of the Tucana. That's why I suggested the Pulse. Out of his budget that'll allow equally talented speakers.
 

rainsoothe

Well-known member
Apr 30, 2012
330
121
19,070
Thanks, some great suggestions here. Naim was on my list until someone said if I like the laid-back sound of the Arcam I may find the Naim too forward. I can't comment as I haven't yet listened to Naim. And Sugden, lovely name from the past, when I was putting my first hi fi system together - had a Rogers amp back then. The Croft sounds great but I'm looking to keep it to one box for space reasons. As for the speakers, I'm undecided but as I've mentioned before they must be able to work close to the wall in a small room - so am considering Larsen, PMC, ATC and Neat. And I'll stick with the Graham Slee phono stage for now. But I may be on the lookout for a headphone amp if the integrated amp doesn't have one.
Arcam is not THAT laid back - at least not the A19. It does, however, have a more rounded presentation indeed. But a Naim audition won't hurt. Some years ago, I went in to audition Sugden and Simaudio, but walked away with Naim. Had the A19 because of financial issues, but when those were over, went back to Naim.
 

millennia_one

Well-known member
Sep 1, 2014
336
127
11,070
Arcam is not THAT laid back - at least not the A19. It does, however, have a more rounded presentation indeed. But a Naim audition won't hurt. Some years ago, I went in to audition Sugden and Simaudio, but walked away with Naim. Had the A19 because of financial issues, but when those were over, went back to Naim.
I agree with this rainsoothe!

A lot of these conceptions come from the past when naim was certainly a bit shrill with certain speakers and Arcam used to be a bit warmer and cuddlier. And it's a shame people don't even audition these brands because of these conceptions. Without opening a can of worms one could even argue that they have all largely ended up in roughly the same place sound-wise, a bit like have road bikes have over recent years all started looking roughly the same as they realise there's really only one ideal shape for aero benefits, but there's a little touch on each that separates them and makes them somewhat unique.

My experience of naim was certainly not a shrill listen! best words I can use to describe the brand now is smooth, with a lively drive. I'd say Arcam largely has these attributes as well with a little touch of spice in the bottom end.

Sudgen is airy not warm as some think but its biggest attribute is speed, notes start and stop with such ease that the brands above can't approach. And with the right speakers, the bass is absolutely seismic with loads of texture. Though at the lower end you trade your wattage.

It's a shame the community have these conceptions, brands over the last 20 years really have changed there sound especially naim (had a vintage unit and the newer DR range to hand) as they're starting to cater for new-gen.
 

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