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Best Amp/Pre-Amp for Wilson Duette speakers

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
Hi there.

I recently ordered a pair of Wilson Duette speakers and am looking for an amp, pre-amp and dac to pair with them.

My dealer is recommending a Naim system. Either Naim SuperNait (which is an 80Wpc integrated amplifier with a DAC) or separate components (Naim NAP 250 amp, also 80wpc and NAC 282 pre-amp) that are roughly double the price of the integrated solution.

The cost comparison is roughly double when comparing the integrated solution (SuperNait $5k) and separates (NAP 250, NAC 252 $12k).

Here's my question.

How does an 80Wpc amp like Naim compare to something like the Bel Canto REF1000 at 500Wpc coupled with the Bel Canto DAC3? The full system price points are comparable so I'm wondering what is the value difference between the two systems.

How does Naim stack up against comparably priced components that offer 150wpc or even 200wpc?

I realize it's down to my ear but it's difficult to hear all combinations of components with the Wilsons because that ultimately depends on what the Wilson dealers actually sell.

Any advice appreciated as well as helping me understand how much wpc matters in terms of evaluating amplifiers.
post #2 of 23
How high is your budget right now?

I would reconsider speakers to start with...

- Steve O.
post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 
Why would you reconsider the speakers? Have you heard bad things about the Wilson Duettes?

They sound phenomenal. They were hooked up to a Naim NAP 500 when I heard them (this is a 25k power amp). Bookshelf (or small speakers) are a better fit for the room in question.

I could go up to 15k for the amp/pre-amp/dac, but only want to do so if there is real value. Would prefer to stay under 10k if possible.

Any thoughts on how Naim products (SuperNait, NAP250/NAC282) would stack up against Bel Canto REF1000/DAC3? Naim products seem to have an upgrade path that allows you to replace the power supply with a stand-alone component.
post #4 of 23
There is nothing wrong with the Wilson speakers, but you should have auditioned them with the amp combination that you propose to run them at home. The 25K Naim will make most any speaker sound good. You may check also in the $20K forum section for suggestions on pairing the Duettes...
post #5 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluecrow View Post

There is nothing wrong with the Wilson speakers, but you should have auditioned them with the amp combination that you propose to run them at home. The 25K Naim will make most any speaker sound good. You may check also in the $20K forum section for suggestions on pairing the Duettes...

An awfully lot of the price of Wilsons goes into things like multiple layers of hand-rubbed lacquer, which look great but don't directly improve the sound.
post #6 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by PULLIAMM View Post

An awfully lot of the price of Wilsons goes into things like multiple layers of hand-rubbed lacquer, which look great but don't directly improve the sound.

How do you know that that's where a lot of the price goes? That doesn't cost THAT much. I'm actually surprised that you didn't say that a lot of the price goes into the nameplate that says "Wilson".
post #7 of 23
I've heard a lot of great things about the Nait5i and the SuperNait is the new version with 30w more power. What are the specs on the Duettes (sensitivity)? You may want more power depending on how much headroom you need. 15dB is generally good enough, but what's your reference decibel level? What's your seating distance? Is an integrated really what you're after?

You may also want to consider the Krell 400xi and Musical Fidelity A5, but if you're good with spending $10k go higher, like the Musical Fidelity kw 550.

Here's a list of solid state folks:

Balanced Audio Technology (BAT)
Bolder
Butler Audio
Cary Audio
Mark Levinson
Primare
Simaudio
Vinci Labs (I think they make Lexicon HT stuff)
Wadia
Hovland
post #8 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmichaelf View Post

I've heard a lot of great things about the Nait5i and the SuperNait is the new version with 30w more power. What are the specs on the Duettes (sensitivity)? You may want more power depending on how much headroom you need. 15dB is generally good enough, but what's your reference decibel level? What's your seating distance? Is an integrated really what you're after?

You may also want to consider the Krell 400xi and Musical Fidelity A5, but if you're good with spending $10k go higher, like the Musical Fidelity kw 550.

Here's a list of solid state folks:

Balanced Audio Technology (BAT)
Bolder
Butler Audio
Cary Audio
Mark Levinson
Primare
Simaudio
Vinci Labs (I think they make Lexicon HT stuff)
Wadia
Hovland

Here are the specs from the Wilson web-site:

Nominal Impedance: 4 ohms, 3 ohms minimum
Woofer: One 8 inch (19.63 cm)
Tweeter: One 1 inch (2.54 cm)
Sensitivity: 89dB @ 1 watt (2.83V at 1 meter)
Minimum Amplifier Power: 7 WPC
Frequency Response: +0, -3dB 36 Hz - 32.5 kHz (with port contribution)

My seating distance would be about 10-12'; the room is roughly 12'x13'.

Thanks for the suggestions on solid state equipment. I have access to demo the Krell and BAT in my area, although not directly paired with the Duettes.
post #9 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by sivadselim View Post

I'm actually surprised that you didn't say that a lot of the price goes into the nameplate that says "Wilson".

Good point, and probably true.
post #10 of 23
I'd go back to the dealer and ask them for a demo of both their recommended solutions. Pick which ever suits you best. Ask them for a discount since you are buying both speakers and amp from them. It can't hurt to ask. If they can not provide a demo, then you have to wonder how they can make the recommendation.

WPC only really matters if you want to play loud. 80 is probably plenty for most people.
Also all WPC are not created equal. If the speaker impedance changes a lot with frequency (I don't know the Wilson specs) then you want amp that will double (or nearly double) its output power as the speaker load decreases by half.
i.e. an amp that gives 80 watts with an 8 ohm load, 160 with 4 ohm, and 320 with 2 ohm
is likely to sound better and be just as loud as an amp that outputs 150 watts into 8 ohms, 200 into 4 and is not rated for 2 ohm. And WPC RMS is useful only as a measure of average volume, a good amp can deliver much more than its rated capacity during the short musical peaks.

jmichaelf's suggestions seem like good ones. I think McIntosh might also make a nice integrated in your price range.
post #11 of 23
89dB is decently sensitive and you should be fine with a Nait5i or Supernait, especially into a 4ohm load. Naim doesn't rate their equipment to 4ohms, but I'd suspect at least a 50% increase in power output from it. Consider your distance and at what volume you listen. There are a bunch of calculators out there to help a brother out.
post #12 of 23
I hear great thing about Ayre electronics. If your into tubes then Audio Research or VTL are great choices. I prefer to buy used quality gear.
post #13 of 23
Im running a Supernait powering a pair of Wilson Sophia 2s and it sounds great.
post #14 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by PULLIAMM View Post

An awfully lot of the price of Wilsons goes into things like multiple layers of hand-rubbed lacquer, which look great but don't directly improve the sound.

That's also where much of the appeal lies as well. The guy with the custom $90k Harley cares about things other than top speed.
post #15 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bw31 View Post

Im running a Supernait powering a pair of Wilson Sophia 2s and it sounds great.

That's good to hear. Do you have an extra power supply (e.g. HiCap) in the mix or just the SuperNait?

Did you compare the SuperNait with any other components before deciding?

What's the size of the room? I'm looking at one that 12'x13' with about a 10' distance between and the speakers.
post #16 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by xyclo View Post

That's good to hear. Do you have an extra power supply (e.g. HiCap) in the mix or just the SuperNait?

Did you compare the SuperNait with any other components before deciding?

What's the size of the room? I'm looking at one that 12'x13' with about a 10' distance between and the speakers.

Im just using the SN. My room is about 12'x 20' with about 8' between the speakers.

I looked at some MF gear, an A5 integrated or A5 pre/power combo, the NAD M3, and honestly, I didnt hear a huge difference between the different electronic combinations.

What did it for me with the SN was the onboard DAC, which lets me use my DVD player as a transport, and takes the digital out from my TIVO (letting me take advantage of all the music channels on my digital cable).

The Muscial Fidelity A1008 is very similar to the SN, but has significantly more power. It also has an outboard power supply, and it costs the same as the SN. I decided against it because I want fewer boxes, not more.
post #17 of 23
I was at my Dealer last week (Overture, Wilmington, De) and they were running in a new "275" Mac on a pair. With about fifty hours on the Mac the Wilson's sounded very nice !!
post #18 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by twitch54 View Post

I was at my Dealer last week (Overture, Wilmington, De) and they were running in a new "275" Mac on a pair. With about fifty hours on the Mac the Wilson's sounded very nice !!

You high-end guys are always good for a laugh. Do you seriously expect us to believe that having been on the Mac for 50 hours had anything whatsoever to do with the sound?
post #19 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by PULLIAMM View Post

You high-end guys are always good for a laugh. Do you seriously expect us to believe that having been on the Mac for 50 hours had anything whatsoever to do with the sound?

Considering the 275 are tubes, I would say so. Regardless of your feelings on break-in, tubes do warm up.
post #20 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Iostream View Post

tubes do warm up.

Of course they do. After a few minutes.
post #21 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by PULLIAMM View Post

You high-end guys are always good for a laugh. Do you seriously expect us to believe that having been on the Mac for 50 hours had anything whatsoever to do with the sound?


Man-O-Man, take a pill son !! Thanks for giving me the "High End" status, something I never claimed BTW. Regardless, all I was trying to do was "add" to XYCLO's post regarding amp selections for his Wilson's.

FWIW, I was just pointing out that the "Mac" was a new piece that they were putting through it's paces, that's all !!
post #22 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bw31 View Post

Im just using the SN. My room is about 12'x 20' with about 8' between the speakers.

I looked at some MF gear, an A5 integrated or A5 pre/power combo, the NAD M3, and honestly, I didnt hear a huge difference between the different electronic combinations.

What did it for me with the SN was the onboard DAC, which lets me use my DVD player as a transport, and takes the digital out from my TIVO (letting me take advantage of all the music channels on my digital cable).

The Muscial Fidelity A1008 is very similar to the SN, but has significantly more power. It also has an outboard power supply, and it costs the same as the SN. I decided against it because I want fewer boxes, not more.

Interesting point about the Musical Fidelity A1008 vs Naim SuperNait. They are quite comparable components at similar price points. Both are integrated amps with onboard DACs

How much does the extra power matter? I'm trying to understand where that would make a difference in a reasonably efficient speaker such as the Wilson Duettes.

What about the outboard power supply? Do you see that as a distinct advantage over the SuperNait?
post #23 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by xyclo View Post

Interesting point about the Musical Fidelity A1008 vs Naim SuperNait. They are quite comparable components at similar price points. Both are integrated amps with onboard DACs

How much does the extra power matter? I'm trying to understand where that would make a difference in a reasonably efficient speaker such as the Wilson Duettes.

What about the outboard power supply? Do you see that as a distinct advantage over the SuperNait?

More power theoretically means more control. On paper, there isnt any doubt the A1008 is superior to the SN: you get an outboard power supply (which you can do with the SN, but it costs extra) and significantly more output power.

Ive listened to both and honestly, I dont really see a huge difference between the two.

What did it for me on the SN was: 1) its just 1 box, which I like and 2) it has more digital inputs (the SN has 2 coax and 2 toslink, the A1008 has 1 of each). The A1008 does have a USB input, which the SN does not. So if you have a HTPC or something, that would be a plus for the A1008.
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