What integrated amplifier to choose for KEF Q550?

anche

Active member
Sep 22, 2021
3
1
25
Hello experts,

Short story:
I bought KEF Q550, and need to choose the best amp for at most 1000€ for these particular speakers to play Tidal :)

Long story:
I have a challenge of choosing an integrated amplifier suitable for a pair of KEF Q550 (already ordered). The speakers specs say:
- amp requirements 15-130W
- sensitivity 87db
- max output 110db
- nominal impedance 8 Ohm (min 3.5 Ohm)

My intention is to get a subscription for Tidal or Qobuz and listen to high res tracks.
Genre if this matters: from Led Zeppelin to Rachmaninoff.
Setup: Tidal on Macbook/iPhone -> DAC (via USB B input) -> the amp (RCA input). I'll buy an external DAC unit if I have to for the sake of better specs and MQA maybe.

The budget for the amp is ca 1000€ and my requirements are:
- enough power for KEF Q550
- right "character" (???) for KEF. I've seen posts mentioning "bright" vs "warm" sounding amps. My head is spinning a little, and I am not quite sure if KEF needs a "bright" or a "warm" (Nad?) amplifier.. I wonder which brands play nice with KEF Q series from your experience.
- I wish not to pay for features that are useless for my intentions/setup described above.
- something else I should think of?

My current experience: Spotify on iPhone -> Nad D3020 (version 1) via Bluetooth -> Monitor Audio Bronze BX5.
I've been a little proud of this "high tech" and thought that I had a decent system until.. I read a few posts on different forums. Now I think I've just been ignorant, and need help :)

My plans before I started reading the forums: Nad D3045, because its dac seems to handle everything I need and more, and 60W output. Now, I am not sure.. Maybe KEF Q550 needs more power.

What I think now:
Not to drive anybody in any particular brand's direction but..
- Nad C368 ( 900 -1000€) but I am confused with it having a dac but no USB B input. Anyway, if it is a good partner for KEF Q550 then no problem.
- Rega Brio: same price as Nad C368 but only 50W, maybe a little low for these speakers?
- Cambridge Audio CXA61 (900€) maybe?
- Yamaha A-S701 (650€) or A-S801: there I wonder why Yamaha is so much cheaper than Nad. The claim of 100W of A-S701 sounds great. The problem is that checking out Audiolab, Rega, Nad, and Cambridge Audio it seems to me that as soon you see 100W this means 2000€. Not in Yamaha case, which seems begs the question why.
- Denon PME800NE (just 550€ on Amazon) with 85W seems decent but the same question as with Yamaha: why is it much cheaper than Nad, or Rega, or Cambridge Audio?

Finally, paring KEF Q550 with
an external dac for 200€-300€ plus an amp for 1000€ WILL I clearly hear a better sound quality from Tidal compared with say Nad d3020 or Nad d3045 ? Or is this really not possible to answer given no particulars about what dac, what amp, etc? Or is this a stupid question because I am missing something also very important in this context?

Thank you patient readers, and thank you in advance for your opinions.

/Anatoly
 
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TenTonTarantula

Active member
Aug 17, 2021
12
4
25
Those speakers aren't hyper inefficient so 50w + will be fine to drive them depending on room size and distance of your seating position from the speakers (some talk about the importance of 'headroom', which is simply a watchward for audiophilic anxiety). I have to say I don't understand people who plug a laptop into a hifi system, seems very clunky. You could buy an integrated with a streamer built in, or an integrated with a reasonable DAC + plus an external streamer, for your 1k price point.

Bluesound Powernode
Audiolab 6000A Play
Any of the multiple very decent sub 1K amps plus an Arylic
 

RoA

Well-known member
Feb 11, 2021
335
179
570
Unless you listen (very) loud or/and have an exceptionally large room even 10 Watts will be more than enough. Quality over quantity.

Look for an amplifier with a decent power supply and don't worry too much about Watts.

Up to £1000 my suggestion is the Audiolab 6000A (Play ... if you get on with the app) or add a streamer of choice.

Others will have different advise.
 

anche

Active member
Sep 22, 2021
3
1
25
Those speakers aren't hyper inefficient so 50w + will be fine to drive them depending on room size and distance of your seating position from the speakers (some talk about the importance of 'headroom', which is simply a watchward for audiophilic anxiety). I have to say I don't understand people who plug a laptop into a hifi system, seems very clunky. You could buy an integrated with a streamer built in, or an integrated with a reasonable DAC + plus an external streamer, for your 1k price point.

Bluesound Powernode
Audiolab 6000A Play
Any of the multiple very decent sub 1K amps plus an Arylic
Hello TenTonTarantula, thank you for your suggestions!
Regarding using a phone or computer to run the Tidal (or whatever) client: yes, an extra device and a wire but I do no trust build in stuff to be updated for longer than 2 years or so. My Sony tv is an example. It stopped updating its firmware after two years and now the Netflix and Amazon video apps completely unusable. I am still happy with the screen but to watch Netflix or whatever I am using Netflix and Amazon clients running on laptop+cromecast.
 

anche

Active member
Sep 22, 2021
3
1
25
Unless you listen (very) loud or/and have an exceptionally large room even 10 Watts will be more than enough. Quality over quantity.

Look for an amplifier with a decent power supply and don't worry too much about Watts.

Up to £1000 my suggestion is the Audiolab 6000A (Play ... if you get on with the app) or add a streamer of choice.

Others will have different advise.
Hello RoA, thanks for commenting on my post. I did not mention Audiolab 6000A in my post but I did see good reviews for it. One put Audiolab 6000A as a direct competitor to Rega Brio both being similar in specs and similar in performance.
 

TenTonTarantula

Active member
Aug 17, 2021
12
4
25
Hello TenTonTarantula, thank you for your suggestions!
Regarding using a phone or computer to run the Tidal (or whatever) client: yes, an extra device and a wire but I do no trust build in stuff to be updated for longer than 2 years or so. My Sony tv is an example. It stopped updating its firmware after two years and now the Netflix and Amazon video apps completely unusable. I am still happy with the screen but to watch Netflix or whatever I am using Netflix and Amazon clients running on laptop+cromecast.
It's a fair point, but I think you have to question quite what sort of innovation streaming services can now come up with that would make your equipment redundant. High res is already questionable in terms of what audible benefit it brings that isn't beyond the range of human hearing, while evolutions like MQA are largely treated with skepticism. There's also little reason for services to remove backwards compatibility, and forward compatibility can sometimes be as simple as a software update. In short I don't think audio will, by its nature, be affected beyond its current status by the same R&D/redancy cycles as other media. (spatial audio perhaps, but irrelevant for HiFi).
 

Tinman1952

Well-known member
May 19, 2021
689
363
770
Yamaha is a huge company with massive technical expertise who engineer products properly. They know they will sell shedloads so can price their products accordingly. Will outlast many other brands and also they usually measure better technically. 🙂
 

RoA

Well-known member
Feb 11, 2021
335
179
570
Hello RoA, thanks for commenting on my post. I did not mention Audiolab 6000A in my post but I did see good reviews for it. One put Audiolab 6000A as a direct competitor to Rega Brio both being similar in specs and similar in performance.
The Audiolab is much better specd.

Listen to both if you can.
 
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Stuart.W.D

Well-known member
Sep 29, 2013
128
68
18,670
Have a look at the Marantz PM8006, Rega Elex-r, and the Arcam SA20. My advice is hang off until Black Friday and get a good discount. Hegel works excellent with KEF speakers as well. You would need to up the budget for the Hegel H95 though! I have tried all four brands with my KEF LS50's and Q150's. The one brand I wasn't impressed with my speakers was Roksan.
 
Have a look at the Marantz PM8006, Rega Elex-r, and the Arcam SA20. My advice is hang off until Black Friday and get a good discount. Hegel works excellent with KEF speakers as well. You would need to up the budget for the Hegel H95 though! I have tried all four brands with my KEF LS50's and Q150's. The one brand I wasn't impressed with my speakers was Roksan.
the decent stuff does not get a price reduction just because it's Black Friday. That's when they try to dump stuff they cannot shift.....
 

Stuart.W.D

Well-known member
Sep 29, 2013
128
68
18,670
the decent stuff does not get a price reduction just because it's Black Friday. That's when they try to dump stuff they cannot shift.....
I got my KEF LS50's two years ago for €599.19 from my local dealer in the January sales. My older Sennheiser HD600's I got €150 off RRP via Amazon on Black Friday . I paid £599.00 back in 2017 for my Marantz PM8005 amplifier the month before Black Friday, and I paid £649.00 for my Cambridge CXN v2 Lunar Grey in the June Bank Holiday sale last year.

I have always found great deals during the traditional sales.
 

Gray

Well-known member
I got my KEF LS50's two years ago for €599.19 from my local dealer in the January sales. My older Sennheiser HD600's I got €150 off RRP via Amazon on Black Friday . I paid £599.00 back in 2017 for my Marantz PM8005 amplifier the month before Black Friday, and I paid £649.00 for my Cambridge CXN v2 Lunar Grey in the June Bank Holiday sale last year.

I have always found great deals during the traditional sales.
Good for you, you Cheapskate (y)
Seriously, well done. You've got some good things at prices that make them sound even better.
 

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