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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have all my music in digital format on a Mac mini/external hard drive and, until now have used a Naim Supernait with Hi-cap2 into a pair of Neat Mystique speakers.

After many years of using Naim gear, and feeling vaguely dissatisfied with its reproduction of orchestral pieces, I have decided to jump ship. While I have enjoyed the way this brand handles rock/electric/jazz music, I do feel that it gives an unnatural presentation of classical stringed instruments which results in a very forward, steely tone.

I am looking for an alternative which will give me a less forward presentation, an open soundstage with natural sounding tone and sweeter treble.

Currently, I am tempted by the new Hegel 160 and wonder if anyone has any experience of this amplifier. Alternatively, does anyone have any recommendations which I could follow up?

Thanks for your help

Barnaby
 

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Modern amplifiers do not have any sound. They are transparent, and amplify the signal they are given. If you are dissatisfied, you should change the speakers. Those do have personality of their own.
 

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It sounds like you have a frequency response imbalance. Not surprising, because just about every combination of speakers and room affects the sound differently. The solution is to equalize. I have a Yamaha AV receiver with a built in digital five band parametric equalizer. I've calibrated the response in my room and string tone is completely realistic and every frequency is properly balanced.

Specifically, you probably have a response spike between 2 and 4kHz. A slight dip in that neighborhood would probably tame your string harshness.
 

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Modern amplifiers do not have any sound. They are transparent, and amplify the signal they are given. If you are dissatisfied, you should change the speakers. Those do have personality of their own.
This is often true for power amplifiers, perhaps, as long as they are good match for the speakers and they aren't driven too hard. Pre-amplifiers can make substantial changes to the sound, usually by design. However there's no doubt that the speaker and room contribute far more to the sound, so get these right first.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Hi bigshot. If my playback has a spike at a certain frequency and that is the cause of my problem as you suggested earlier, and I do not have a way of equalising the output of my amplifier, the solution would surely be to change my amplifier as I have no way of doing with my current equipment.

Sadly, no amount of room treatment will address this situation.

I cannot understand the argument that amplification does not affect sound. This is completely contrary to my experience of listening to a considerable number of amplifiers over the years, and I doubt it is a commonly held view by most people who regularly listen to recorded music. I am not arguing that there are people who cannot tell the difference, but I would be surprised if they were in the majority.


EDIT:

Hah! Just had a quick look at some other threads on here and I noticed some entrenched views on the subject of music reproduction in general. That's not an argument I'm interested in having so I will just say thanks to everyone who has contributed and I will continue my search ;)
 

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As it usually happens, you already know the amp is guilty, and although you ask for opinions, you dismiss all of them, and you will try some new amps.

I keep saying to myself that I should not post any opinions anymore, but I do not seem to be able to learn! :lol:

In any case, it is either the speakers or (as Bigshot told you), an interaction between the equipment and your room that creates some sort of echo at some frequency.

If you want it easy, some AV receivers use an auto-equalization feature that helps with that. I have a Denon AVR3310 that does it. They use sound pulses in front of a supplied microphone and supposedly correct for that. There are other, more complicated ways to do that manually using software, a mic and equalization, but that requires some learning.

Now get yourself another amp!. The placebo effect dictates that the more expensive, the better will work!:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Hi fjf. I asked for some opinions on alternative amps and instead received responses saying that amps make no difference. I understand that is what some people believe but I profoundly disagree with this as is not my experience. I don't want to fall out with anyone and I appreciate we all see the world ( and hear it ) in our own way. There is no point in quarrelling about it and I won't do that.

Perhaps in theory all amplifiers should sound the same but they do not. I do not know the reason for this but I have often noted it. my own amplifier gives an noticeably emphasised upper middle bass but it is slightly woolly compared with other amplifiers from the Naim whose base is leaner but tighter. There is a world of difference between every amp that Naim make and Linn's amplifiers. As I say I do not know the reason for this but it is plain to hear with even a casual listen.

I believe there is room sound - optimising software which does a pretty similar thing to the auto-equalisation feature you mention and I don't doubt it would be beneficial. However, having heard different amps in otherwise identical systems/rooms I believe my first move will be changing the amp.

I do not agree re your notion of the placebo effect being in operation here but I sense argument is futile and anyway I am not interested in arguing the toss about it ;) (BTW I have rejected expensive upgrades to amps in the past on sonic grounds so expensive is not always best in my experience.)

I am grateful for everyone's opinions and will update you on any progress I make. Live and let live is my motto so I will go ahead with my plan. if anyone is interested I will report my findings in due course. But I'm not sure any differences I hear will be believed ;)
 

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Hi fjf. I asked for some opinions on alternative amps and instead received responses saying that amps make no difference. I understand that is what some people believe but I profoundly disagree with this as is not my experience. I don't want to fall out with anyone and I appreciate we all see the world ( and hear it ) in our own way. There is no point in quarrelling about it and I won't do that.

Perhaps in theory all amplifiers should sound the same but they do not. I do not know the reason for this but I have often noted it. my own amplifier gives an noticeably emphasised upper middle bass but it is slightly woolly compared with other amplifiers from the Naim whose base is leaner but tighter. There is a world of difference between every amp that Naim make and Linn's amplifiers. As I say I do not know the reason for this but it is plain to hear with even a casual listen.

I believe there is room sound - optimising software which does a pretty similar thing to the auto-equalisation feature you mention and I don't doubt it would be beneficial. However, having heard different amps in otherwise identical systems/rooms I believe my first move will be changing the amp.

I do not agree re your notion of the placebo effect being in operation here but I sense argument is futile and anyway I am not interested in arguing the toss about it ;) (BTW I have rejected expensive upgrades to amps in the past on sonic grounds so expensive is not always best in my experience.)

I am grateful for everyone's opinions and will update you on any progress I make. Live and let live is my motto so I will go ahead with my plan. if anyone is interested I will report my findings in due course. But I'm not sure any differences I hear will be believed ;)
I've written elsewhere about the rather idiosyncratic views of some of the TC people that post here, and I will just say that I am fully in agreement with your posts, Barnaby.
I haven't heard the Hegel Amps in question.
I agree with you that Nait is better for a Pop oriented sound.
My amp and pre amp are Parasound, the JC line, which give a great sound stage and plenty of detail. There is real space between the instruments and great Hall resonance and do not sound overly clinical.
Are you looking for just a power amp, or an integrated?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Hi triplets,

Thank you for the post. I am looking for an integrated amp as after years of having separate power supplies, pre-amplifiers, power amplifiers and all the clutter that goes with it I want to simplify things. I had hoped the Supernait would fulfil this wish, and although sweeter and less aggressive than many of Naim's offerings, it was difficult to get away from their "house sound", which, as we know is great for rock/blues styles of music but not so good for others.

I have not heard the brand you mention, although I know they are well-respected manufacturer. I'm not sure if there is a dealer near me or not but I will look into it.

Thanks again for your post and help :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Hi dogen,

It isn't cheap, certainly, but you do get a DAC included as well as the ability to use it with a variety of sources. It is less expensive than my current Naim amp (sorry about that fgf ;) ) and so if I bought it, proceeds of selling my current gear would virtually cover the cost.
 

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Hey Barnaby, I usually don't reply in HiFi thread's cuz of the "no difference" negativity lobby! Haven't heard the Mystique's either but several other Neat's and liked them quite well (but they unfortunately give to little bass for an organ aficionado like me) and my experience is that, they don't really need that much power but like an amplifier that can deliver a lot of juice (ampere's). I'm sure they would work fine with a Hegel amp, it is quite neutral (quite little character of its own in contrast to any NAIM), in any case, I would arrange for a home audition before deciding any way (Any good HiFI seller, even on-line, will allow for this!)

If You want to audition something with a little more "character" (ie. not greyishly neutral) I suggest that You take a look at the French maker YBA, they will probably be the next replacement in my system (replacing 30 year old Bryston amps that have been showing some electrical problems of late)..

/ptr
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Yes, that is another brand which I have been considering.

I take your point about the internal DAC but reviews of this amplifier are very positive, particularly the one in HiFi+ which is written by a journalist I respect. There is a list of recent reviews on this page here if you scroll down a little bit on the left

http://www.hegel.com/products/integrated/h160

I have located a dealer near to me who is familiar with both Naim and Hegel, and will pursue this with him. in the meantime I will track down both the suggestions you have made. Thank you once more for your help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
hi ptr

Yes a home edition will be essential no matter which I choose to try. Good to hear the compatibility with my current speakers would be maintained if I decided to go down there Hegel route. What sort of character does the YBA give? I am really looking for something that is neutral to be honest after the colouration inherent in Naim's electronics
 

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The YBA's are voiced to sound "slightly" like tube amps (warmer) but without their limited effect (low power), my ears feel that they are very honest, I don't experience that the slight warmth is a colouration but something that helps elevate the music! FWIW, for me the other contender when I've auditioned new amps are Ayre that was mentioned above and they are very good as well, quite close in sound character to the YBA Genesis I auditioned, but as I need 4 channels of amplification this alternative would be almost twice the money and I do not feel that they have twice as good sound...

/ptr
 

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Wow, no, fjf, that really goes against all my experience in listening to amplifiers, both of the same and different brands. The differences between many amplifiers are in no way subtle.f
Agreed. Sometimes the differences are subtle, sometimes not. There is a kind of vaguely generic amplifier, but a) some aim at a particular market: b) circuitry arrangements are different - there's still a lot of debate about what's good and not; and c) the best amplifiers don't always use the best components (unless they're fashionable, like huge capacitors that precede a regulated power supply).

Some people can't tell the difference between amplifiers of the same technology, others can. My associate (with who I design and build) can genuinely tell the difference between two of the exact same make/model of some vinyl cartridges let alone different makes (in most cases. Ironically it's the cheaper ones of the same make/model number that defeat this particular skill).

There may come a time when amplification circuitry is so modularised / built of identical (quality/value) components that sonic differences could be disregarded but that isn't the case at the moment. Class D power amps are under the spotlight at the mo. They haven't quite won me over yet....

If amplifiers were truly transparent there'd be no further need for design effort. I tend to agree with bigshot that there's an awful lot of trivia, chicanery and charlatanism about audiophilia but beyond that, some of us are still striving to achieve the transparent amp: the straight wire with gain and no resistance.

Ultimately it comes down to your personal taste and this can only be exercised by listening - and really in your own room. Again, as bigshot pointed out elsewhere, the sound of a system will depend on room-tone.

...
 
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