Just bought B&W 685s! Help me make them sing! (Amp/setup questions) - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 03-05-2009, 07:59 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi, first post here, although I've been a member of Head-Fi and Home Theater Forum for a couple years. I just decided to make the leap into 2 chan, I already have a surround sound HT setup.

So as the title says, I bought a pair of B&W 685s. I also bought a Cambridge Audio Azur 640A (integrated amp), 540C (CD player), 640P (phono preamp, although when I opened it, the power supply was crushed and broken...). The 685s haven't come in yet, the 640P and 640A just got here tonight, and the CDP has been in use for the last week with my headphone amps (1 tube and 1 solid state.) Oh, and I will be getting a new Rega P1 or a used Rega P3 in the next month or so.

On to the questions: I know I am going to want to listen to tubes in some form on the new system. I was wondering the best way to bring them into the equation: through a tube preamp or tube power amp. The reason I am against a tube power amp is because I listen to a lot of fast rock (Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Foo Fighters, etc) and the tube headphone amp I have doesn't do very well with them, it seems too "slow?" to give good resolution (maybe the word I am looking for is decay?) So for that type of music, I think a solid state amp would be a better choice, although sometimes I do listen to them with the tube amp. If a "good" tube power amp would work with that type of music, let me know and that may be the route I go. If not, then I would need to use a tube preamp and either go to a solid state power amp, or somehow use inputs on my 640a integrated amp with a tube preamp. Or buy two power amps, a ss and a tube...

So what is the best way to get what I am looking for:
1. Tubes in some part of the equation
2. No/Minimal moving of cables/selector switches (if a switchbox is suggested)
3. Performs well with fast rock, and also with old school rock (Led Zep, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix), and actually, nearly every other type of music...

I would like suggestions for amps as well as the best way to connect this system to get my desired results.

Some suggestions for tube amps were the older Conrad-Johnson EL34 based push-pull amps, specifically the MV45, MV50, MV52, and MV55. Solid state was something by Bryston, Pass Labs and NAD, although most of those seem out of my price range.

Price range was 250-550 when I started looking at power/preamps, now I am ok with going from 500-925. If I have to buy two pieces of equipment or more (such as tube preamp and ss power amp), that is not necessarily a combined budget, I would be ok buying two $750+ pieces, but I need to able to integrate one of them into the system while I save up for the other. If there are more/better choices slightly above my price range, I wouldn't mind hearing them, I want to do this right...
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post #2 of 5 Old 03-06-2009, 08:24 PM - Thread Starter
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OK, in case anyone is ever in this situation, I found out something AWESOME (by reading the MANUAL... ...)

This amp has an input called "Tape In." It also has two "Record Out" outputs. When the "tape in" input is used, it sends a DIFFERENT source out the record out outputs. This means that I can hook up one of the record outs to the input of a tube preamp and hook the output of the tube preamp to tape in. Then I just select which source I want to use i.e. CD player, and then select the "tape in" input. Now I have the first source, the CD player, going to my record output, through the preamp, then into the tape in and out through my speakers! Simple right?
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post #3 of 5 Old 03-26-2009, 09:55 AM
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Are you unsatisfied with the performance of your Cambridge Audio integrated amp and CD player? FWIW, I have a 2-channel system with a pair of 685s driven by NAD components -- C325BEE integrated amp and C542 CD player. I auditioned similar combinations from Rotel and Cambridge Audio (including the 540 and 640 series) before buying NAD. The 685s are efficient speakers and my listening room isn't huge, so the power from the C325BEE is more than sufficient. I love my system. BTW, I also tried the C525BEE integrated amp for a little more power, but at my normal listening levels, there was no discernable difference. If your 685s aren't already singing, and if you prefer your music just a tad on the warm side of neutral, I'd suggest auditioning NAD.

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post #4 of 5 Old 03-26-2009, 09:38 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the response. I considered NAD, the 525BEE specifically. There was a great sale for the Cambridge amp, so I jumped on it. The cambridge actually sounds great! I wrote the post before I had the speakers in anticipation of wanting to bring tubes into the equation and not knowing the best way to do it. I found a way to do that, so I'm happy. Right now I have a small tube preamp in the mix, its a Millett Hybrid Maxx, a powerful tube headphone amp that can function as a preamp. I would like to put a larger tube preamp in play, but I should just be happy with the system and spend some time enjoying it before I go replacing my HT setup with all B&W as I have been considering doing.

I did an a/b comparison with my current setup, which I used for HT and music (infinity entra 3s and a Harman Kardon AVR245) and this new setup just trashes them. I was curious so I hooked up my harman kardon to the right B&W and the cambridge to the left. I heard the same things I didn't like when the infinity's were hooked up: tinny, dry, etc (I'm not great with audio terminology) So that lead me to think I should upgrade my HT amp... the dealer recommends Rotel if I plan to go with the B&W 683s eventually. Otherwise I considered an Onkyo SR806 because it was about 2k less ( ) than the Rotel I was looking at, which meant I could get the B&W 683s right away. I just don't want to get it (the Onkyo) and hear the same things I heard with the Harman. Another option is to buy a decent power amp and use the Harman as a preamp for now. Then I could upgrade to the Onkyo when I need the HD Video/Audio processing it can do. I would still probably come out ahead of buying the Rotel. For some reason, when I get "upgradeitis" I get it bad. My head is spinning with all the choices I have. Am I trying to do too much at once?

A funny thing about the 685s, when I got them there was something rattling around inside each of the speakers. I was able to get a long tweezers and get them out, it was actually the inside cone of the Nautilus tweeter! They (B&W) had a batch of speakers that had bad glue used to secure this part. So they went back and were replaced the next week. The dealer said this was the first time they had any issues with a b & w speaker in all the years they had been selling them.
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post #5 of 5 Old 03-30-2009, 05:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MMarzie View Post

the dealer recommends Rotel if I plan to go with the B&W 683s eventually. Otherwise I considered an Onkyo SR806 because it was about 2k less ( ) than the Rotel I was looking at, which meant I could get the B&W 683s right away. I just don't want to get it (the Onkyo) and hear the same things I heard with the Harman. Another option is to buy a decent power amp and use the Harman as a preamp for now.

If you're definitely going to upgrade to the 683s, then Rotel (or Cambridge or NAD) would be a great choice. FWIW, I have a pair of B&W 604 S3 (predecessor to the 683s) in another room that are powered by an Onkyo DS797 (approx. 5 yrs old, but good power at 100 watts/ch). Out of curiousity, I connected my NAD system to the 604s to see how the sound would compare -- and it was no contest. Even with the 325BEE generating only 50 watts/ch, the NAD system brought new life to the 604s. What I intended to be a brief experiment ended up being an all-night listening session. My 604s aren't going anywhere any time soon, but the Onkyo's days are officially numbered. The upgrade bug strikes again ....

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