Second Hand Amp Advice

Associate
Joined
11 Nov 2015
Posts
50
Hi,

So my second hand Arcam AVR300 died last night, I was using it to power a pair of Kef reference series model one speakers and a Kef Sub. Sources are mainly either a Chromecast audio or a Sonos bridge.

I’m totally ‘out of the loop’ when it comes to Hifi in the last ten years and haven’t any idea what’s any good. I’ve always bought Arcam previously and have been very happy with it but am open to other brands.

Has anyone any recommendations for a second hand amplifier around the £500 price range? Or being a Sonos user, is their new AMP worth considering?

Thanks in advance.
 
Associate
Joined
28 Jan 2015
Posts
680
Is there a good hifi shop near where you live? If so, best thing is to go and see what they do and see if you can audition amps- most reputable shops should allow you to demo at home as well. Size of the room that you listen in will have an impact
£500 should get you quite a lot of amp depending what you listen to
p.s. there are Arcam ones on The Bay for sale if you really like them
 
Man of Honour
Joined
29 May 2010
Posts
6,351
Location
Cheshire
History has shown us that Arcam AV gear has proved to be a bit flaky. DVD era gear was okay-ish, but not up to Japanese standards of reliability (Onkyo excluded). Blu-ray-era and later hasn't been such a happy story. Software issues as well as some hardware problems have been common.

I would think very carefully whether buying something newer in an Arcam AV receiver is a wise move. Fortunately, there doesn't seem to have been the same issues with the Hi-fi gear.

What you choose from Arcam, or any other brand, is going to hinge on how well it will integrate with your existing gear. The sub is going to play the biggest part in this.

Some subs have inputs for speaker-level (high level) signals as well as the line-level (low level) input. 'Low level' is signal via a single or a stereo RCA phono cable.

Where a sub has only a low level input, then whatever amp you're looking at will need either a dedicated subwoofer output, or a stereo pre-out connection. However, if the sub has a high-level input, and presuming that you're able to- and happy to- have speaker wires hooked up for that connection, then you can choose from a much broader range of plain stereo amps as well as AV gear if you need to go in that direction.

Kef Reference Model One have a bit of a reputation for sounding smooth and big with a wonderful midrange and very wide dispersal. However, they also have a reputation for being a bugger to drive. They're a 4 Ohm load, and the speaker has an internal bass speaker coupled to its own cavity. Given lots of power then the bass from them is wonderfully tight, pretty deep, and fast. But without big slugs of current, the bass never really gets going. To get the best from these speakers you'll need something with a decent amount of current delivery and leaning toward a faster and more agile presentation.

Much depends on the budget. Big power costs big money. Where money is tight you might want to start with Rega. I don't know without researching whether they have the sub/pre-outs, or how they are with difficult loads, but Rega might be a good place to start. Perhaps a Rega Mira. Rotel is a possibility, but might sound a bit tame and not so tight with bass control. Exposure is said to be a good match. The 2010s or s2 variant could be a really nice partner.
 
Associate
OP
Joined
11 Nov 2015
Posts
50
History has shown us that Arcam AV gear has proved to be a bit flaky. DVD era gear was okay-ish, but not up to Japanese standards of reliability (Onkyo excluded). Blu-ray-era and later hasn't been such a happy story. Software issues as well as some hardware problems have been common.

I would think very carefully whether buying something newer in an Arcam AV receiver is a wise move. Fortunately, there doesn't seem to have been the same issues with the Hi-fi gear.

What you choose from Arcam, or any other brand, is going to hinge on how well it will integrate with your existing gear. The sub is going to play the biggest part in this.

Some subs have inputs for speaker-level (high level) signals as well as the line-level (low level) input. 'Low level' is signal via a single or a stereo RCA phono cable.

Where a sub has only a low level input, then whatever amp you're looking at will need either a dedicated subwoofer output, or a stereo pre-out connection. However, if the sub has a high-level input, and presuming that you're able to- and happy to- have speaker wires hooked up for that connection, then you can choose from a much broader range of plain stereo amps as well as AV gear if you need to go in that direction.

Kef Reference Model One have a bit of a reputation for sounding smooth and big with a wonderful midrange and very wide dispersal. However, they also have a reputation for being a bugger to drive. They're a 4 Ohm load, and the speaker has an internal bass speaker coupled to its own cavity. Given lots of power then the bass from them is wonderfully tight, pretty deep, and fast. But without big slugs of current, the bass never really gets going. To get the best from these speakers you'll need something with a decent amount of current delivery and leaning toward a faster and more agile presentation.

Much depends on the budget. Big power costs big money. Where money is tight you might want to start with Rega. I don't know without researching whether they have the sub/pre-outs, or how they are with difficult loads, but Rega might be a good place to start. Perhaps a Rega Mira. Rotel is a possibility, but might sound a bit tame and not so tight with bass control. Exposure is said to be a good match. The 2010s or s2 variant could be a really nice partner.


Thanks, that's really helpful.

So i'm now thinking of the Riga Brio, Cambridge Audio CXA60 or CXA80. From the reviews the Rega would seem to be the better amp, but it's features are very basic. The CXA range would seem to have more features (subwoofer output, digital inputs and eight speaker terminals). I'll organize a listen to the Rega, but nowhere near me stocks the CXA range.

Do you think that the CXA60 would be a good match for my speakers?

Thnaks
 
Man of Honour
Joined
29 May 2010
Posts
6,351
Location
Cheshire
Thanks, that's really helpful.

So i'm now thinking of the Riga Brio, Cambridge Audio CXA60 or CXA80. From the reviews the Rega would seem to be the better amp, but it's features are very basic. The CXA range would seem to have more features (subwoofer output, digital inputs and eight speaker terminals). I'll organize a listen to the Rega, but nowhere near me stocks the CXA range.

Do you think that the CXA60 would be a good match for my speakers?

Thnaks
Sonically, it's not a match for the Brio, but nor is it a million miles off the pace. They're different solutions to the question of a £600 amp.

If these were cars, then the Brio would be a 2-door sports coupe such as a BMW M3 or Mazda MX5; hugely entertaining on the back roads.

The CXA60 would be more along the lines of a big estate car. The perfect tool if you want to take the wife, three kids, the dog and all the gear on a weekend camping trip.

Both are capable of doing the daily commute. But one would put a bigger smile on your face every time you walk towards it with the keys in your hand.

If your priorities are the digital inputs and you absolutely have to have the dedicated subwoofer out then something along the lines of the Cambridge Audio is what you'll need. Given that your Chromecast and Sonos ZP80/90/Connect both have analogue outs, then digital inputs don't appear to be absolutely essential for you. The subwoofer connection I dealt with in my first post.

Dual speaker outputs..... Meh.

That doesn't make any amp intrinsically better. Amplifier power is a cake. With a single set of speaker outputs you divide that cake in half. Each speaker gets 50%. With 2 pairs of speaker outputs you divide the cake in to 4 when serving them all. Now each speaker gets 25%. The cake doesn't get bigger, you just cut it in to smaller pieces.


When you started your thread you were asking about s/hand amps up to £500. Now you're talking about new amps up to £600.

I was steering you towards amps that would have been in the £1000-£2000 price bracket when new, and so as used buys they might come in to your budget.

Have your priorities changed? Also, did you listen to the Arcam AVR300 before buying?
 
Associate
OP
Joined
11 Nov 2015
Posts
50
Full story: I had an Arcam Xeta One, back in the day, with Tannoy 611 speakers and a full surround sound setup including a Kef Subwoofer. Over the years I've moved away from full surround sound to a soundbar as it's more convenient. I now use the HiFi just for audio. The Amp eventually failed and I replaced it with an AVR300 purely due to it being a bargain and available on short notice. I later upgraded my Tannoy 611 to some second hand Kef reference ones. The AVR300 has now failed and here we are.

My revised max budget is around £700 for either a new or second hand Amp. I thinking that I need to listen to the Amps, but that's hard to do with used amps. There does seem to be a massive choice in used 'proper hifi' but i'm totally unfamiliar with how the different brands sound.

I was originally looking and second hand Arcam FMJ A32 or better but your comments about the latest generations of Arcam products have put me off.

I'm now thinking in terms of what I could audition at home.

On a side note, I'm not particulaly wedded to the idea of keeping the Sub.

Thnaks
 
Associate
Joined
28 Nov 2014
Posts
102
Location
North East
Kef Reference model one speakers are biwirable. So generally speaking, you could go for an integrated amp for the time being, and then upgrade with a power amplifier in the future. Bi amp with one unit driving low, and the other driving highs.

Plenty of options second hand in that regard from the likes of Arcam (smooth, warm and detailed), Audiolab (clean, neutral) and Cyrus (Agile, bright, detailed).

In my opinion, if the speakers are smooth and warm sounding, it would be better to look for a brighter amp. I use Kef R500s with Cyrus amps.

Also in my opinion, you shouldn't need a sub if listening to only music. Unless you have speakers that have trouble reproducing bass (such as some bookshelf), and/or using an underpowered amplifier that does not have the power to fully control the bass drivers.
 
Associate
Joined
28 Nov 2014
Posts
102
Location
North East
The arcam AVR 300 was known to be very capable as a stereo amplifier in direct mode. Bear in mind that brand new amplifiers priced around the £500 mark may not be able to compete with the old arcam.
 
Soldato
Joined
18 Oct 2002
Posts
12,491
Location
Birmingham
Wasn't the Arcam FMJ32 highly rated when it was new? I'm a sucker for Cyrus gear so I'd be looking at that, sadly the Mono X is still commanding quite a premium, but I'd love to hear what the KEF references sound like being driven by Cyrus monoblocks! I had the opportunity to buy some KEF reference speakers when I built my system ages ago... probably would have been the correct choice in hindsight!
 
Man of Honour
Joined
29 May 2010
Posts
6,351
Location
Cheshire
Full story: I had an Arcam Xeta One, back in the day, with Tannoy 611 speakers and a full surround sound setup including a Kef Subwoofer. Over the years I've moved away from full surround sound to a soundbar as it's more convenient. I now use the HiFi just for audio. The Amp eventually failed and I replaced it with an AVR300 purely due to it being a bargain and available on short notice. I later upgraded my Tannoy 611 to some second hand Kef reference ones. The AVR300 has now failed and here we are.

My revised max budget is around £700 for either a new or second hand Amp. I thinking that I need to listen to the Amps, but that's hard to do with used amps. There does seem to be a massive choice in used 'proper hifi' but i'm totally unfamiliar with how the different brands sound.

I was originally looking and second hand Arcam FMJ A32 or better but your comments about the latest generations of Arcam products have put me off.

I'm now thinking in terms of what I could audition at home.

On a side note, I'm not particulaly wedded to the idea of keeping the Sub.

Thnaks
If you have another read of my post, you'll see that I said that the reliability of Arcam's AV gear hasn't been great. In the next paragraph I went on to say that the Hi-Fi gear doesn't appear to have been affected. What this means is that if you were considering a newer generation Arcam AV receiver/AV amp to replace the AVR300 then I would advise some caution.

You were considering an ARCAM A32, and that's not an AV amp, so the problems of the AV amp range don't apply, do they.

That one doesn't have any digital inputs. It doesn't have a dedicated subwoofer output either. I have asked this question before, but so far you've not replied on the point: How were you planning to hook that up to your KEF sub? Stating the sub model at this point might be very useful (hint, hint).

Keeping the sub for music really shouldn't pose any sort of problem. Depending on its capabilities, and as long as it integrates well with the speakers, then it can be a useful tool for filling in the bottom end with music. Once you've been used to what the sub does, then I think you'll miss its contribution after it has gone, particularly if you listen at lower volumes. We lose a bit of bass as the speaker volume drops. Having the sub in the mix can help to rebalance that. The sub can always be switched off if you're having a listening session where the wick is turned up, so you have some flexibility too.

The FMJ A32 was a very well respected amp, and I think it's a formula that ARCAM has struggled to replicate with its later models. To me, it seems as if the entry-level product in each of their ranges is the more musical, but the middle and top products just sound a bit ploddy and slow.

Second-hand vs new

You're right that you can't home demo s/h gear before you buy. That's part of the trade-off with used goods. You save a huge amount compared to buying new, but have to accept that when you buy a well respected amp that was £1500, but you only spend £500, then you don't get all the benefits of a dealer relationship. Some people are okay with that. They enjoy the process of trying lots of different gear in their home system, then selling on and buying something new. I'm one of them. You'll rarely lose the same as you would buying new then selling second-hand, but there is a cost in time and effort.

At the same time though I appreciate the knowledge and expertise of a real, dedicated, 2 channel dealer who is an expert in their field. There aren't many of them in the country. There are a lot of dealers who are simply a retail outlet. They stock shiny boxes and expensive accessories, but they lack the integrity and knowledge to really help each customer get the best from their system. A good dealer is honest enough to say when the customer is making a bad choice. A poor dealer just wants your cash in their till.

FWIW, I think ARCAM is too much alike in sound to compliment the KEF Reference Model Ones, but that's only my opinion based on hearing FMJ gear from 2000 onwards. You might find it a match made in heaven.




 
Soldato
Joined
24 Feb 2003
Posts
4,207
Location
Stourport-On-Severn
I'd like to throw something else into the mix for you to think about OP. Have a look at the Naim Nait XS amp. Because the Kef's are so difficult to drive properly, you really do need an amp with a very hefty power supply and the ability to control the vast resistance differences your Kef's load the amp with.
I think the Nait XS is more than capable of handling them, plus you can always add a Flatcap XS power supply at a latter stage to give the amp even more headroom in the power dept. The Nait XS was upwards of £2,000 when new, they can be picked up around the £700 mark secondhand nowdays so fit within your budget.
 
Back
Top Bottom