Amp for Harbeth Compact 7's?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by gov, Nov 4, 2017.

  1. gov

    gov Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    NYC
    Strongly considering Harbeth Compact 7's and would be upgrading my amp as well....I'm curious if anyone who has heard more than one of these in the same system can opine on differences. I've heard from some it doesn't matter what amp you pair them with but experience tells me there's more to that...

    Looking for an integrated and will buy pre-owned so I will not be listening before buying. I'm seeking/waiting out deals where I won't get bit too hard if I don't like what I buy--I've done this before to great success so expect with the brands below I can do the same here.

    I listen to mostly jazz (classic blue note/prestige and fusion) but also a fair amount of classic/indie rock, blues, reggae, and classical. Right now I listen 90% vinyl and 10% digital but I expect this could change over time. To give an indication of preferences, my cart is a soundsmith MIMC which ended the search for me--the perfect mix of detail and warmth which is how I like my music. Budget is $2000-$3500 but would like to get value here...top of budget means longer time before I address other needs.

    I'm considering:
    • LFD Mk V--have heard of good synergy of course with the Harbeth
    • LFD NCSE--is this a dramatic step up beyond the Mk V? The price is but with buying used it's more “reasonable”
    • Luxman 505u--read about this being a good mix of warmth and detail
    • Rogue Cronus Magnum---not sure I want tubes right now (small kids) but have heard good things
    • McIntosh--uncertain on models frankly but always had my eye on a MAC4100. Otherwise an integrated like a 6300/5200/something else
    Appreciate everyone's thoughts!
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2017
    thesisinbold likes this.
  2. beowulf

    beowulf Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chula Vista, CA
    The brand new McIntosh MA252 Hybrid should be on your short list. Brand new MSRP is $3500 so within your budget and it looks pretty cool IMO. See the tread I started here.
     
    snorker likes this.
  3. TeflonScoundrel

    TeflonScoundrel Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Arizona
    The I haven’t heard any of the amps you’re looking at, but I used to own C7es3’s and used them with a few different amps. An Audio Research VSi60, which is a 50 watt tube integrated amp, a Hegel H300, which is a 250 watt solid state integrated amp and a 35 watt PrimaLuna Prologue integrated.

    I would recommend staying away from amps that have Significant warmth, because the speakers will already provide that. Of the amps I tried them with the VSi60 was my favorite because it was very neutral but it still gave me a very 3 dimensional sound. My least favorite was the PrimaLuna as it made the C7s sound a bit boring since both components have a warm sound. The Hegel also worked really well and had better bass definition than either of the others.
     
    gov likes this.
  4. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    I own the Harbeth Monitor 30.1 and I’ve spent time with the Compact 7ES3, both driven by my NCSE MK II. I tried the MK V, but decided on the NCSE MK II instead. No matter which LFD integrated amp you choose, the Harbeth Compact 7 will come alive instantly. It’s a superb match, and I can’t say enough about it.

    The Naim Supernait 2 is also a superb match for the Compact 7 and the Monitor 30.1 . Same goes for the Krell S-550i, Unison Research S6, Rogue Cronus Magnum, Audio Analogue Pucinni, and a few others I’ve tried but can’t quite remember off hand (too many auditions at home and at the homes of friends). My personal opinion is that the LFD and Krell integrateds are the best match out of all the ones I’ve tried. However, the Unison Resarch S6 is right up there as well. The Naim Supernait 2 is a close second, followed by the Rogue. The Audio Analogue Pucinni was a disappointment, while its big brother, the Maestro was fantastic - as good as the LFD NCSE and the Krell. Unfortunately, at about 115 pounds and over 20” deep (with cables plugged in) it’s a monster integrated for which I just never wanted to make space.

    Never had a chance to try any of the Luxman integrateds.

    Hope this helps.
     
    gov and thesisinbold like this.
  5. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    I really like the Luxman integrated amps, and there was a beautiful L-550a mkII on audiogon for $2000 that I mentioned yesterday here, but as expected, didn't stay around long ... Looking to get an excellent, lifelong system for under $5k (thinking VPI classic, ... there are a couple of your 505u models up there now, one that isn't quite in pristine cosmetic shape via The Music Room for about $2000.

    I might think about a Conrad-Johnson CAV45 if you don't need much flexibility or modern amenities, they show up for around $2000 on the used market and are still a current model. It is tubes, and supposedly has a lot of the CJ sound that we CJ owners love, and borrows a lot from the Classic Sixty, but with a few compromises for a more reasonable price. I probably wouldn't want to make the compromises, but I'm pretty sure it still sounds really nice, if you don't need a ton of power. Also mentioned a pretty nice deal on an Ayre Acoustics AX-7e integrated in that same thread above, nice unit, just discontinued not long ago. Not on your shortlist, but maybe should be if you are looking used.
     
  6. LARGERTHAN

    LARGERTHAN Active Member

    Location:
    Eire
    Curious, has anybody enjoyed any cheaper offerings with Harbeths? I run mine with a relatively cheap Yammie (A-S701), though often ponder other options, or even the tier above price wise...

    FWIW - though I've never heard the combo - they're universally designed on a Quad 606 if I'm not mistaken.

    Edit: have read good reports of Hegels too.
     
    Robert C likes this.
  7. thesisinbold

    thesisinbold Forum Resident

    Location:
    Camarillo, Ca, USA
  8. Seafinch

    Seafinch Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Utah
    I’ve run my C7’s with the following (in order)...
    • Rogue Sphinx - Good. Nothing special.
    • Heed Obelisk iii - Did not like. No control over bass. Only amp that I’ve tried that couldn’t “wake up” the C7’s
    • Luxman 505u - Very good. When I had this I was using the very good built-in phono pre and was very happy. On a whim I borrowed a CMii from my dealer just to a/b...
    • Rogue CMii - Very different sound than the Luxman, not better, but much more to my liking. Still very detailed with lots of control, but with the added 3d nature of tubes and a little warmer overall presentation. With some tube rolling I got this to a place where I thought I’d never want to upgrade until a visit to NYC where I heard a 508ia...
    • Line Magnetic 508ia - just received this and haven’t had a chance to properly compare the CMii to it, but in the first hour I spent with it I’m pretty smitten. I had to leave on a trip and won’t get to spend more time with it for a few more days, but I’m pretty sure it’ll unseat the CMii as my favorite amp that I’ve tried with the c7’s.
     
    Bananas&blow and IanL like this.
  9. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    I've had the C7ES3 and the Rogue Cronus Magnum II for over a year and a half now, playing mostly jazz vinyl and the sound is really nice. Wall to wall, floor to ceiling sound stage. The KT120 tubes have solid state "guts" while the system is tube smooth yet detailed and dynamic. Get the tube cage and no worries about the young ones.
     
    gov and Seafinch like this.
  10. thesisinbold

    thesisinbold Forum Resident

    Location:
    Camarillo, Ca, USA
  11. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    48 watt per channel SET amp, cool, I bet that does sound good. Never heard a LM amp yet, they are persona non grata in the Chicago area for some reason- even at the APONA shows.
    I did hear the Rogue Stereo 100 in triode mode and it sounded spectacular.
     
    Seafinch likes this.
  12. Seafinch

    Seafinch Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Utah
    Yeah. It was pretty amazing in the short time I spent with the pair before I left town. Really excited to get home and spend some more time with it. I’ll definitly report back as I get to compare the two a bit more.
     
  13. jkull

    jkull Active Member

    Location:
    NJ
    The 508ia is a wonderful amp, congrats. Line magnetic gear holds some of best value for the cost in the audio world, and with tube rolling you will find that the 508ia will transform even further and greatly open up. To the OP of thos thread, for what you would spend used market on a rogue, you may be able to snag up a Line Magnetic amp which IMO would greatly better all of the amps in this thread, and due to the hefty transformers that LM use, even their lower wattage amps should have the current to drive the harbeths
     
  14. Ron Scubadiver

    Ron Scubadiver Forum Resident

    Location:
    Houston TX
    It's very much a matter of taste and how much money you are willing to spend on the project. At one end of the spectrum are inexpensive NAD and Yamaha integrated amps, or even or Crown XLS2 Pro Audio Class D. Tube gear is inherently expensive, but might be just what the doctor ordered. IMO tubes have colorations, but they are desirable colorations. They don't fit real well in my air conditioned life. There are so many class AB solid state amps out there I can't count them. Even Class D has it's variations with Ice Power and Hypex based units. You could get Boulder amps instead of a Porsche.
     
  15. gov

    gov Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    NYC
    Thanks for all the thoughts folks...might be more confused than ever though! Recognize it's challenging without listening to all of them...I have heard the Rogue, the Luxman and a few Macs. Interesting there have been no votes for the Macs.

    Don't think Gene has the NCSE used--just the Mk V--which brings me to wonder if you have heard both and if so can articulate what you found? Same to @Agitater since you both have chosen the more expensive NCSE. A dealer I spoke with told me they are essentially the same amp with better/higher testing parts and there is a noticeable difference. His description reminded me almost of how Grado markets their cartridges (my interpretation not his). Curious if the difference is just more of everything or something where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I'm also not thrilled about the lack of a remote--I use mine all the time. I recently rotated in my 2238b into my main system and it wasn't terrible without the remote but I was wishing I had one.

    I'm curious @Seafinch about the finding that the CMii was warmer than the Luxman. When I listened to a CMii I found it to be on the more dynamic/edgier (not offensively so mind you) side of tube amplification. Wondering if you think those differences manifest themselves as being better across a wider gamut of genres? Past listening to speakers amps had me really digging certain things with certain genres and not liking them with others (Dali speakers as an example).

    I heard a few LM amps at In Living Stereo recently--not driving the good stuff in the big room--dynaudios in the smaller room--was pretty nice.

    Worry about those massive tubes--can't recall seeing a cage on one but will look into it. Know the Rogue stuff offers cages as @avanti1960 noted.
     
  16. gov

    gov Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    NYC
    I should also have added and asked--I do a fair amount of low volume listening these days and my B&W's let me down in this area. I need to turn them up to get the most of out of them. Recently added in some Spendor S2's that I just got for a second room and I found them to be more "linear" (if that's the right word)--where at lower volumes they were still enjoyable and very listenable. Any of the amps above better/worse at lower levels? I feel a more powerful amp would mitigate that to some degree no?

    On the LFD's, I've read where some say the volume knob has a narrow usable window. Essentially wakes up at 8 o'clock and is too loud by 10 o'clock. Curious if the LFD crowd here has noted that.
     
  17. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    My NCSE MK II that I own and the MK V that I auditioned for five days both have perfectly well-sloped volume controls - no unusual control problems or any of the wake-up points that you described hearing about. That wake-up point sounds an awful lot like a pair of speaker drivers that don’t come alive below a certain volume - nothing to do with an amplifier.

    The LFD MK V is a stellar integrated amp.
     
  18. thesisinbold

    thesisinbold Forum Resident

    Location:
    Camarillo, Ca, USA
    Doesn't happen with mine at all.
     
  19. gov

    gov Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    NYC
    Good to hear...can you elaborate on what you heard between the Mk V and the NCSE and why you ultimately chose the NCSE? I'd be grateful to understand differences between the two.
     
  20. thesisinbold

    thesisinbold Forum Resident

    Location:
    Camarillo, Ca, USA
    Yeah, it looks like he sold the NCSE. I had the V for two days. I loved it but just decided to go BIG. I can't really explain the difference other than it sounds better (lame description I know). I don't know if there is much out there that can outdo a Mk V.
     
  21. thesisinbold

    thesisinbold Forum Resident

    Location:
    Camarillo, Ca, USA
    With an NCSE, it seems like the musicians are happy to be playing for you. You know when you're at a concert and the artist is feeling it? That's the vibe I get with the NCSE. To be fair, the Mk V also got me there, just not as much. I know that a silly description but I'm not good with audio adjectives.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2017
  22. jkull

    jkull Active Member

    Location:
    NJ
    Well that is a very important factor to your needs and I do most of my listening at night at lower levels myself. I'm going to reiterate the LM amps here lol. Nothing does low level listening like true single end triode amps. This is a major strong point in SET amplifiers, the ability to maintain dynamics at very low levels... My old 500w per channel monoblocks through my B&W towers were flat at low volumes. Now at 24 watts per channel things are just as dynamic at 55db as they are at 90db. Something to keep in mind. The 508 does not come equipped with a cage as far as I'm aware.
     
  23. Seafinch

    Seafinch Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Utah
    This is actually one of the first things I noticed. Low level listening was the best I’ve heard on my setup yet. Also, my 508 did come with a cage - not an additional purchase.
     
  24. jkull

    jkull Active Member

    Location:
    NJ
    Absolutely. SET amps do this the best. It seemed odd that it wouldn't come with a cage as all of the other models in this line do, but I've never seen a photo of a 508 with its cage on, and it being the newest amp in this line, I assumed maybe it didn't come with one. Have you made any tube changes?
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2017
    Seafinch likes this.
  25. JMAC

    JMAC Well-Known Member

    Location:
    PDX, OR, USA
    I have owned the 508ia for about 10 months now, and while I haven’t heard any of the other amps on your list, I can say it was a significant ear-opener for me from Day 1. It makes me feel like I’m sitting in the studio control room watching the musicians like no other amp I’ve heard, and was multiple orders of magnitude above my previous amp, a highly regarded boutique Decware. I know of a good price on one of these being sold second-hand; PM me if you’re interested.

    This is out of your stated budget a bit, but I’ve also only heard positive things about pairing Harbeth speakers with Leben integrateds. The CS600 (30W) might be worth some exploration. Apparently the owner/designer of Leben pairs his amps with Harbeths, and Jeff Day has written a lot about the synergy between the two.

    Lots of fun options to consider!
     

Share This Page