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Power Amps

JohnNB

New member
Sep 6, 2010
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I've just had my 40 year old Thorens TD160 rebuilt with a Linn Basic tone arm and a Golding 2100 cartridge. It sounds superb and it has revitalised my passion for music. I recently added some Spendor SP1s and I want to improve the amplification as I feel the Yamaha AS500 is now a weakness. I have an old Rotel RA-01, but at 40w per channel it wouldn't drive the Spendors adequately. I have been thinking about linking a power amp with the RA-01, which has a pre-amp out facility. Rotel's RB1552 would give me 100w per channel at a cost of £750, so could it be a good potential upgrade? The alternative is to go for a better integrated amp, but I've always assumed that better sound quality is achievable with a pre/power amp combination. Does anyone have any thoughts on a Rotel pre/power combination as a better option than a similarly priced integrated amp?

JohnNB
 

matt49

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Apr 7, 2013
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I'm afraid I have no direct experience of the Rotel amps.

On the general question -- integrated or pre-power? -- some of the very best amps I've heard have been integrated (Accuphase, Pass Labs, Musical Fidelity AMS, Devialet), and so I see no reason why it shouldn't be possible to find an integrated that's as good as a pre/power combo at any price point. In fact, you could argue that integrated amps generally give better value, as you're only paying once for all the fixed costs (casework, R&D, marketing). OK, the amps I've named are big money, but the argument about the proportion of the price made up by fixed costs is stronger the smaller your budget is.

Also I'd be reluctant to go for the Rotel power because, as a general rule, I think following an upgrade path with one manufacturer is a bad idea unless that manufacturer's products really float your boat.

So if I were in your position, I'd sell the Yamaha and Rotel and spend the budget on a new or second-hand integrated. Is the figure of £750 around your upper limit? If you can be specific about a budget, I'm sure people will chip in with good recommendations.

And last but not least: for that money a good dealer should be willing to loan you an amp for a home demo. That way you can be sure the new amp really drives your Spendors to their potential. Also, by demoing at home you can find out whether the Yamaha really is the weak link.

:cheers:

Matt
 

Al ears

Moderator
I would tend to agree with matt49. Your old amp used as a pre amp is probably not the best idea if you want an upgrade. Agree it wuld give you more power utilising the power amp but would be a sideways move. Sell what you have and for that sort of money you could do so much better with a second hand hi quality integrated along the lines of Croft, Creek etc.
 

KidKomet

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Jun 5, 2013
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I'm inclined to agree with the above. Sell what you don't need and look at a higher quality integrated. Maybe a Rega Elicit R or a Creek Evolution 50a with extra phono stage. Try to demo.
 

JohnNB

New member
Sep 6, 2010
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Thanks for everyones interesting comments. I took the afternoon off and demoed a Rotel power amp with my Rotel integrated and the reults were not as impressive as I had hoped - could a factor be that the integrated pre is class A/B and the power amp class D? I also heard my integrated with a Cyrus power amp, and the results were even worse. Maybe same brand matching is best? The really helpful guy in the shop suggested I listen to the Arcam A19. It sounded better than the other set ups and I now have it at home for a few days. It sounds capable of driving my Spendors, it's more detailed and warmer than the Yamaha, so, so far so good, but I the 50w per channel worries me a bit. So your advice, and that of the dealer is steering me towards an integrated amp. The Arcam is a definite possibility if I can get over my problem with dropping to lower power. The Roksan K2 is 120w and a bit more pricey, but I'd like to hear it against the Arcam. I'm not too keen on 2nd hand having had quite high repair bills the last time I ventured into that market. (although the Quad gear looked great). Should I be considering a 50w amp with 90w, inefficient speakers - does it make sense?
 

CnoEvil

New member
Aug 21, 2009
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JohnNB said:
Thanks for everyones interesting comments. I took the afternoon off and demoed a Rotel power amp with my Rotel integrated and the reults were not as impressive as I had hoped - could a factor be that the integrated pre is class A/B and the power amp class D? I also heard my integrated with a Cyrus power amp, and the results were even worse. Maybe same brand matching is best? The really helpful guy in the shop suggested I listen to the Arcam A19. It sounded better than the other set ups and I now have it at home for a few days. It sounds capable of driving my Spendors, it's more detailed and warmer than the Yamaha, so, so far so good, but I the 50w per channel worries me a bit. So your advice, and that of the dealer is steering me towards an integrated amp. The Arcam is a definite possibility if I can get over my problem with dropping to lower power. The Roksan K2 is 120w and a bit more pricey, but I'd like to hear it against the Arcam. I'm not too keen on 2nd hand having had quite high repair bills the last time I ventured into that market. (although the Quad gear looked great). Should I be considering a 50w amp with 90w, inefficient speakers - does it make sense?
I wouldn't get hung up on the power ratings of an amp, as these can be massaged a bit. I suspect the Arcam will be fine, but trust your ears. If it sounds good it is good......though that shouldn't stop you trying a variety of amps.
 

davedotco

New member
Apr 24, 2013
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The lack of improvement achieved by adding the power amplifier does not surprise me.

If you look back at the famous 'all amplifiers sound the same' assertion you will see that it was made in an american puplication at a time when pre-power amplifiers were the hi-fi norm. Amplifier in this context meant power amplifier.

Many integrated amplifiers have the facility to 'upgrade' by adding a 'better' (usually just more powerful) power amplifier but this is because more power is an easy sale. This was a big point with the original Audiolab 8000 integrated amplifier, the add on power amplifier was considered a real 'upgrade'.

Doing the dems at the time, I could tell there was little if any improvement and it was suggested (in the press iirc) that the pre amp section of thar amplifier was the weak point and that the power amp was fine. So we tried it with a (rather expensive) stand alone pre-amp just to prove the point.

I hesitate to say the differences were 'night and day' but they were pretty obvious, both on vinyl and CD.

Conclusion. Buy a new and better integrated amplifier.
 

Daveperc

New member
Oct 20, 2013
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I recently had the A19, Croft 50A and Croft integrated demo'd back to back. I ended up with the Creek. My basic conclusions (with my very detailed speakers):

Croft was superbly clear and musical - but with my speakers was just too much

Arcam - was quite muddy by comparison

Creek - had superb clarity and smoothness without the slightly sharp edge of the Croft.

All three are good amps, and I suspect that with less detailed speakers (and possibly trying some different valves) the Croft might have edged it, but for my situation the Creek was the best fit.
 

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