Have your say & ask the experts!

Amp for b&w cm8's for 80% tv / 20% music ?

12 replies [Last post]
Simonad's picture
Offline
Joined: 18 Oct 2011
Posts: 9

After several years with a lower end Sony home theatre system, I decided to go for a higher quality stereo system instead. After lots of research and some listening, I decided on two B&W CM8 speakers and am very happy with them.

However I'm still using them with the old 5.1 Sony amp - using optical input from sky hd and ps3 set to stereo. I'm not planning to go back to a 5.1 (or 7.1) setup, but when I do listen to music the amp doesn't really do the CM8's justice. So I'm looking to get a new amp but am struggling to choose between the Yamaha AS500 and the Rotel RA1520. The Rotel is going to be better for music, but is supposedly not the best amp for detail, and it will be mostly used for HD TV/ films. The Yamaha is much cheaper and apparently good with detail, but will I be wasting my CM8's potential ?

One other question, if I'm using 2 channels, should I just use phono stereo outputs on sky hd/ps3, or is there any advantage in using the 5.1 signal via DAC's ?

Joined: 27 Jun 2008
Posts: 11083
RE: Amp for b&w cm8's for 80% tv / 20% music ?

As far as the CM8's are concerned, the 1520 is going to get more out of them than the AS500 will, and will be streets ahead of your Sony AV receiver.

A DAC will give you much better sound quality from Sky than just using the analogue outputs from the Sky box, but I wouldn't go mad on a DAC as sound quality won't be amazing as it's a lower bit rate version of the Dolby Digital soundtracks you get on DVD's. Something like the Arcam rDAC that's around the £300 mark, or even a Musical Fidelity vDAC for about £170.

If you want to be a little ambitious, you could look at the Audiolab mDAC at £599, which is a DAC and pre-amp in one box, and you can then add a dedicated power amplifier to get more out of the CM8's than an integrated amplifier will. You can pick up something like the 100wpc Audiolab 8200P which will get those CM8's singing, or even pick something used from Rotel or Arcam (Alpha 9p or Alpha 10p) if you need to keep the cost down.

__________________

David @Frank Harvey Hi-Fi, Coventry

Official Record Store Day participants!

Simonad's picture
Offline
Joined: 18 Oct 2011
Posts: 9
RE: Amp for b&w cm8's for 80% tv / 20% music ?

Thats very useful thanks.

 

With regards using the vDAC and rDAC, I guess i would have to manualy switch the source when I change from say, blue ray/cd on PS3 to Sky HD ?  I have a Logitech Harmony 1 control which keeps the peace with the girlfriend as she can push one button and all the sources are set automatically, TV muted etc. I really need a solution I can program into this control - simplicity being a premium. I guess it would be really expensive to get a decent amp that  can convert the signal itself ?

Simonad's picture
Offline
Joined: 18 Oct 2011
Posts: 9
RE: Amp for b&w cm8's for 80% tv / 20% music ?

Would the Harman Kardon HK990 do the job ?

Or the Peachtree Idecco ? 

Simonad's picture
Offline
Joined: 18 Oct 2011
Posts: 9
RE: Amp for b&w cm8's for 80% tv / 20% music ?

After much research, there appears to be a massive gap in the market. My requirements match loads of people out there who are not complete audiophiles but want a compact solution that the missus can operate.

These are;

- Drives two good speakers

- Takes digital input from at least two sources (eg. PS3 and Sky, or Blue Ray player and Tivo)

- Able to recieve input from iPhone wirelesly

- Can all be controlled by a single remote

- Price not too far above £1k

 

There are the options I was kindly given above, and there is a wireless Audiolab mDAC I could combine with the Rotel 1520 that would do most of it for £1.4k, but thats getting out of my price range and I'm not sure how easy it would be to use with the iphone. The Peachtree Inova is tempting if supplemented with an Airport express. And there is the Marantz M-CR603 which seems nearly there but only has one digital input. 

I really don't see why wireless recievers need to have the ability to receive internet radio stations when this is more than catered for on sender devices at the same quality. 

The Peachtree Inova seems to be the neatest solution, but lacks wifi and is not the best amp. What I really want is the Rotel 1520 with a device that;

- takes 2+ digital inputs

- supports airplay or some easy way to play music wirelesly from iphone in situations when less fussy about audiophile quality

- doesn't concentrate on all kinds of content services already provided by other devices

 

Does anyone have any suggestions I've missed ? Is it worth waiting to see if this gap is filled by anyone ?

 

 

 


Joined: 20 Sep 2011
Posts: 454
RE: Amp for b&w cm8's for 80% tv / 20% music ?

There is definitely a gap in the market. The aforementioned HK fits the bill, or the Peachtree, but although you plan not to go 5.1, why not take a look at the AV receivers in your budget. You get a whole lot more for your money with AV gear, and even if you don't go 5.1, I would personally recommend getting a centre speaker if there are more than just yourself watching. Plus the ability to properly add a subwoofer at a later stage,especially as you say 80% watching...there really is no substitute for a subwoofer short of huge main speakers.

The music abilities of modern AV amps are  very good, and in some ways better due to to the extra power generally on tap.

Look at auditioning Arcam, Yamaha, Denon, Onkyo, Marantz...

I replaced an Arcam diva stereo amp in my TV setup with a budget Yamaha RXV 667 and it doesn't lose out much if anything in the music department, but with £1000+ to spend you're laughing.

__________________

"In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher." - Dalai Lama

Simonad's picture
Offline
Joined: 18 Oct 2011
Posts: 9
RE: Amp for b&w cm8's for 80% tv / 20% music ?

Thanks snivilisationism.  Do all AV amps have the ability to output a full 2 channel signal ?  If they just use the two front speaker signals you often loose the voice etc ?

Simonad's picture
Offline
Joined: 18 Oct 2011
Posts: 9
RE: Amp for b&w cm8's for 80% tv / 20% music ?

Great advice actualy ... the Pioneer VSX-LX55 looks like its fits the bill perfectly.  Now I just need to hear what it sounds like...

Joined: 20 Sep 2011
Posts: 454
RE: Amp for b&w cm8's for 80% tv / 20% music ?

AFAIK, they all allow stereo mode. Mine has 2 ch stereo as an option, as well as "pure direct".

 

 

__________________

"In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher." - Dalai Lama

TheStorm's picture
Offline
Joined: 21 Oct 2011
Posts: 3
RE: Amp for b&w cm8's for 80% tv / 20% music ?

Simon,

Have you managed to demo the LX-55 yet?

Im curious to know what system you go for in the end.

Simonad's picture
Offline
Joined: 18 Oct 2011
Posts: 9
RE: Amp for b&w cm8's for 80% tv / 20% music ?

I did get the LX55.  Overall I'm very happy with it. Once you've got it all setup it does a superb job of everything its supposed to do. Sound quality is great - even playing standard (not lossless) files wirelessly from the iphone sounds surprisingly good. In fact the integration with iphone/ipad is excellent - with the likes of a control app thats far more intuitive than the remote. The HMG function is somethin I still need to explore but it feels like my investment is future proof for several years.

The remote control is not intuitive at all. They've designed it to do everything and for my purposes I only want the remote to configure the amp. I guess for some people it would be useful to have a remote that does everything but I doubt any women were consulted on its 'friendliness', and the sheer size of the amp itself is not popular with the missus.

But you can't please everyone and I'm very happy with it. I use a harmony 1 remote so once you disable the HDMI control, tie the sky hd optical signal into the appropriate input (and set the signal input to digital), it works brilliantly. Sound quality is as close to perfect as I would want, and functionally it does everything I want.

The purists may prefer their seperates, but I'm very appreciative of the advice above that sent me to the all in one AV amp.

 

 

Simonad's picture
Offline
Joined: 18 Oct 2011
Posts: 9
RE: Amp for b&w cm8's for 80% tv / 20% music ?

I should add that I have no idea how good the LX55 would sound without the B&W CM8 speakers. 

I'm still of the opinion that speakers are what makes a great system. Get the speakers right and 70% of the job is done. With the LX55 the other 30% is "in the bag".

Joined: 20 Sep 2011
Posts: 454
RE: Amp for b&w cm8's for 80% tv / 20% music ?

Nice to hear. I would rate the speakers 90% or more

 

(on the proviso that you have sufficient, clean power to drive them properly, which any decent AV amp should have).

__________________

"In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher." - Dalai Lama