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Hey All, Ive also posted this in Digital Sources forum also as it covers both ares.

Seeking advice on an up grade from my either Arcam AirDAc, OR SS amp to tube.

 

My current system is pretty good as is. It pulls me into the zoneI love it, but looking to go a bit further. 

This is the big question for me...Will a DAC upgrade be more beneficial than a amp upgrade. 

Currently considering Matrix Audio mini i 3  Pro or Element i. My other consideration is going to a tube amp.

My set up at the moment consist of Arcam AirDac, HK PM660 (very nice!), Dynaudio Focus 160 and MK Sound sub. 

Most of my listening is Tidal streaming and smattering of vinyl. My music styles vary but mainly revolve around electro-ambient/dub and old style 80's electro.

Would appreciate comments. Cheers.

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  I always fee that that an amplifier upgrade is of substantially more benefit than a Dac upgrade, by several orders of magnitude.

 

 Taking into account that you have Dynaudio speakers which (regardless of model) always give far better results with far better and more powerful (current capability) amplification, I would not necessarily agree that a new DAC will solve any problems at all.

 

Since you are only streaming and have negligible analogue input, getting a far better amplifier (should) give you the best chance of finding the "X factor" and as good as the HK may be, IMNSHO a tube amplifier won't be the answer unless your are spending $6K + on something like a Line Magnetic LM 805 or similar.

 

As usual, budgets, room dimensions and music preferences are critical in determining a satisfactory outcome in line with your references.

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23 minutes ago, pla said:

Will a DAC upgrade be more beneficial than a amp upgrade. 

 

I have read a lot of talk about how good modern DACs are.  Meaning, that the differences between them is diminishing, and even a cheaper modern DAC is VERY capable of great sound.

 

For this reason alone, I would suggest an amp upgrade.    I admit to a bias towards valve amps.  So, if it was me, yep, upgrade the amp.

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Thank you for your responses so far. 

What's a decent amp upgrade do you think? Cambridge Audio CXA81 ? Musical Fidelity pre/power?

I have a limited $ and would be happy to go good s/h, in the 1-2kish area.

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The PM660 is almost 40 years old. The Cambridge Audio CXA81 will certainly sound different, but better?

 

Only your ears can tell you that. 

 

On the plus side, the CXA81's internal DAC is a step up from your Arcam AirDac. The CXA81 has an ESS Sabre ES9016K2M DAC that can handle resolutions up to 32 bit /384 kHz PCM and DSD256, whereas the airDAC is limited to 24/192. Plus you gain Bluetooth functionality.

 

 

 

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The impedance of your speakers is stated as   .... 4 ohms ,  you are therefore likely better staying with SS type amplification.  The reasons for SS suiting low impedance <10 ohms,  and valve suiting high impedance >10 ohms is provided here.   http://education.lenardaudio.com/en/14_valve_amps_7.html

 

As for DAC's, you might be better with a DAC that enables better consideration of jitter, in most cases this involves extensive engineering, or a product that has thought all of this through.  The usual let down with any DAC is SPDIF ,   http://audioworkshop.org/downloads/AES_EBU_SPDIF_DIGITAL_INTERFACEaes93.pdf    my own attempts at this were published here: http://enjoythemusic.com/magazine/viewpoint/0401/deficienciesofspdif.htm

 

Regular readers will know my preference for amplifiers having extended bandwidth, which is exemplified here with the HKPM660, having measured response beyond 50khz    http://www.hifi-classic.net/review/harman-kardon-pm660-279.html

its no surprise - very nice ! ,  is used. 

Screenshot from 2021-02-16 11-01-32.png

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15 hours ago, pla said:

 

I have a limited $ and would be happy to go good s/h, in the 1-2kish area.

 

 

1 hour ago, stereo coffee said:

The impedance of your speakers is stated as   .... 4 ohms ,  you are therefore likely better staying with SS type amplification.  The reasons for SS suiting low impedance <10 ohms,  and valve suiting high impedance >10 ohms is provided here.   http://education.lenardaudio.com/en/14_valve_amps_7.html

 

 

Screenshot from 2021-02-16 11-01-32.png

 

As Chris posted your spkrs' nominal 4 ohm impedance rating needs a high-current ss amp to sound its best.  2nd hand ... $1k is unlikely - but $2k should do it.  The Elektra which sold recently would've been good ... and someone in a recent thread posted an ad for an Electrocompaniet amp which should also fill the bill.

 

Andy

 

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2 hours ago, stereo coffee said:

The impedance of your speakers is stated as   .... 4 ohms ,  you are therefore likely better staying with SS type amplification.  The reasons for SS suiting low impedance <10 ohms,  and valve suiting high impedance >10 ohms is provided here.   http://education.lenardaudio.com/en/14_valve_amps_7.html

 

As for DAC's, you might be better with a DAC that enables better consideration of jitter, in most cases this involves extensive engineering, or a product that has thought all of this through.  The usual let down with any DAC is SPDIF ,   http://audioworkshop.org/downloads/AES_EBU_SPDIF_DIGITAL_INTERFACEaes93.pdf    my own attempts at this were published here: http://enjoythemusic.com/magazine/viewpoint/0401/deficienciesofspdif.htm

 

Regular readers will know my preference for amplifiers having extended bandwidth, which is exemplified here with the HKPM660, having measured response beyond 50khz    http://www.hifi-classic.net/review/harman-kardon-pm660-279.html

its no surprise - very nice ! ,  is used. 

 

Quote

Thanks Chris, great information, though AES articles tend to do my head in. There is definately a synergy between the HK and the Dyns that I really love. I've been listening to HK PMs for the last 35+ years! I might be setting myself up for dissapointment changing amps, but nothing ventured, nothing gained eh!

 

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Question for those who say a 4 ohm speaker is not good with a valve amp.  Since the amp works through an output transformer, the valve sees the same load, no matter what the speaker is, provided you use the correct output tap.  So why is 16 or 8 ohm better than 4 ?

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5 hours ago, aussievintage said:

Question for those who say a 4 ohm speaker is not good with a valve amp.  Since the amp works through an output transformer, the valve sees the same load, no matter what the speaker is, provided you use the correct output tap.  So why is 16 or 8 ohm better than 4 ?

Because the valve amplifiers natural attribute,  is a high impedance circuit, hence why it is usually not directly driven & attaches to a audio coupling transformer. The 4 ohm tap is relative to other taps always a compromise. The compromise would be much less,  if the valve complement increased at the same time to deliver into the 4 ohm tap,  Economics dictate instead though using a transformer to fix all & try to couple the same AC signal voltage, which happens,  to be much more capable at higher impedance speaker loads.

 

Another way of looking at the differences is when a SS amp drives a high impedance speaker, there are some exceptions with SS amps ( Quad 306 ), but generally much less power is available, and SS is far better with lower impedance speakers, and the emphasis with SS should be ( but rarely is) more current delivery than most designs provide.  

 

Yet another,  is to look at OTL designs, here a 72 ohm speaker ! is suggested   https://www.tubecad.com/2010/12/blog0195.htm

inferring a valve amp would ideally without the transformer in the equation, perform best where the speaker impedance was in this region.

  

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Dynaudios I found need lots of grunt to really bring them alive.  My experience is Solid State is best, I do have 2 valve amps but the SS works best.  So a 2nd hand Bryston 4bsst did it for me which are a great bang for buck amps.  I upgraded to an Accuphase Power amp but budget wise they are a lot more expensive, but then upgraded the speakers recently the Bryston is happily back on the Dynaudios on another system in the house 😆  ran beautifully for 5 hours today.   My belief is that you need an amp with big power transformers and both my SS amps have huge ones  😄

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1 hour ago, stereo coffee said:

Because the valve amplifiers natural attribute,  is a high impedance circuit,

 

Yes it does, hence the use of the transformer.  That means the valve load does not change when you switch to a different impedance speaker on the appropriate tap.  You keep talking about changing loads, but it isn't as far as the valve is concerned.

1 hour ago, stereo coffee said:

The 4 ohm tap is relative to other taps always a compromise.

 

In what way?   

 

1 hour ago, stereo coffee said:

which happens,  to be much more capable at higher impedance speaker loads.

 

Why?

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21 minutes ago, aussievintage said:

 

Yes it does, hence the use of the transformer.  That means the valve load does not change when you switch to a different impedance speaker on the appropriate tap.  You keep talking about changing loads, but it isn't as far as the valve is concerned.

 

In what way?   

 

 

Why?

Because the secondary load if low caused by attaching a 4 ohm speaker ,  reflects directly back to the primary, ( to supply more ) which causes increase in current in the transformer winding's, which reduces the primary impedance that the output tube see's, which increases tube current flow. The net effect is moving away from being a high impedance circuit to a lower impedance one.... all because the user failed to understand what speaker suited. 

 

The lower impedance load can be partially offset by increasing transformer inductance, at much higher cost but higher ohm taps if available, infer the circuit is less likely to have increased current in its transformer windings, and therefore less compromised, by retaining the high impedance attribute the amplifier is fully capable of. It is of course up to the user to use common sense, with said valve amplifier, with  an appropriate >10 ohm speaker.

 

 

 

 

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I'm sure the guns of Navarone will fire upon me in sharing my thoughts below.

 

I have noticed that most new valve amps being manufactured today offer the 4 ohm tap in preference to the 16 ohm tap, which I very much dislike.

 

For the robust discussions being had above it's clear that the OPT tap should natively match the speaker's nominal load. Any changes in high/low impedance mismatch will either send into the OPT primaries more current or flyback voltages coming back in from the AC load on speakers.

 

I use Speltz zero impedance autoformers for this very reason to fool the speaker load to see 2x/3x/4x its nominal impedance to use the maximum (highest impedance) tap on my valve amps either set at 8, 16 or 32 ohms.

 

Let the guns now fire. 👍👍👍

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50 minutes ago, stereo coffee said:

Because the secondary load if low caused by attaching a 4 ohm speaker ,  reflects directly back to the primary, ( to supply more ) which causes increase in current in the transformer winding's, which reduces the primary impedance that the output tube see's, which increases tube current flow. The net effect is moving away from being a high impedance circuit to a lower impedance one.... all because the user failed to understand what speaker suited. 

 

You are still trying to change the impedance.  It will NOT change if you compare an 8 ohm speaker on an 8 ohm tap, to a 4 ohm on a 4 ohm tap.  The primary impedance and operating conditions for the valve remain the same.  This is basic tube design.

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6 minutes ago, xlr8or said:

I'm sure the guns of Navarone will fire upon me in sharing my thoughts below.

 

 Let the guns now fire. 👍👍👍

 

Not necessarily!  :)

 

6 minutes ago, xlr8or said:

I have noticed that most new valve amps being manufactured today offer the 4 ohm tap in preference to the 16 ohm tap, which I very much dislike.

 

Shirley this is due to many speakers now having impedances which drop below 4 ohms - unlike in the 50s & 60s?  The tube amp mfrs are merely making product to fit with current spkrs.

 

6 minutes ago, xlr8or said:

I use Speltz zero impedance autoformers for this very reason to fool the speaker load to see 2x/3x/4x its nominal impedance to use the maximum (highest impedance) tap on my valve amps either set at 8, 16 or 32 ohms.

 

Yes, a very good product  But they are generally only used to help tube amps drive low-impedance spkrs; unfortunately, they're not entirely a 'free lunch'.  :(

 

Maggies are basically 4 ohms ... or 3 ohms, in the case of mids ... or 2 ohms (in the case of the old true ribbons).  My first Maggies were MG-IIIas - the personal pair of the guy who was the Maggie dealer in Melbourne at that time (Mike Kontor).  He was driving them with the biggest pair of VTL tube amps at the time - I think 200w (maybe 250w)?  They sounded marvellous.  :thumb:

 

Andy

 

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22 minutes ago, xlr8or said:

For the robust discussions being had above it's clear that the OPT tap should natively match the speaker's nominal load.

 

 

Exactly.  When I choose a load line when calculating the output tube operating point (I often like to optimise for distortion vs power rather than take the commonly used load as a given), that becomes the primary impedance I need, so I buy an output transformer that reflects that same impedance when the correct impedance speaker is attached to the correct tap.

3 minutes ago, andyr said:

Shirley this is due to many speakers now having impedances which drop below 4 ohms - unlike in the 50s & 60s?  The tube amp mfrs are merely making product to fit with current spkrs.

 

Correct.  

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1 hour ago, stereo coffee said:

Because the secondary load if low caused by attaching a 4 ohm speaker ,  reflects directly back to the primary, ( to supply more ) which causes increase in current in the transformer winding's, which reduces the primary impedance that the output tube see's, which increases tube current flow. The net effect is moving away from being a high impedance circuit to a lower impedance one.... all because the user failed to understand what speaker suited. 

 

The lower impedance load can be partially offset by increasing transformer inductance, at much higher cost but higher ohm taps if available, infer the circuit is less likely to have increased current in its transformer windings, and therefore less compromised, by retaining the high impedance attribute the amplifier is fully capable of. It is of course up to the user to use common sense, with said valve amplifier, with  an appropriate >10 ohm speaker.

 

 

 

 

You are obliviously no tube tech. The load the way the valve sees it does not change if you have a 4 Ohm speaker out on your amplifier. The turns ratio of the primary to secondary winding will account for that and reflect back the proper load for the valve.

What you are stating is true however, if you hook up a 4 Ohm speaker to the 8 Ohm speaker out on the amplifier.

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9 minutes ago, aussievintage said:

 

You are still trying to change the impedance.  It will NOT change if you compare an 8 ohm speaker on an 8 ohm tap, to a 4 ohm on a 4 ohm tap.  The primary impedance and operating conditions for the valve remain the same.  This is basic tube design.

You are assuming too much, sadly many transformers being sold and used,  are not capable :    http://tubelab.com/articles/component-testing/budget-output-transformers/

 

And the available power is lessened vs a SS amp with a 4 ohm speaker, ... thankfully readers can avoid all of these issues by using a  > 10 ohm speaker, when using a valve amp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here is Exhibit A taken from my Sun Valley SV-2 2002 845 valve amp showing a Japanese OPT accommodating many different taps. This OPT is NOT made with inferior quality windings. It's very heavy for its size and it causes many amplifier chassis to sag.

 

I would not consider the 4, 6 and 8 ohm tap options here to be redundant for use in accommodating various speaker nominal loads in the under 10 ohm camp including those speakers of equal to or less than 8 ohms and equal to or greater than 4 ohms.

 

20150930_101138.jpg

Edited by xlr8or
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For the used and new budget something like a Stereo Coffee preamp $300 kit or $550 built (look around for the rave reviews) or others like Sonic Frontier, Audio Research Ls7, Cary, Conrad Johnson, Schiit Freya, many used power amp $500-1500 options to name a few Electrocompaniet, Musical Fidelity, 50w Cayin or Primaluna integrated tube, Rotel 1582 etc, Naim etc.

 

Generally see what’s on the market that looks good, check reviews and comments here.

 

Short list here https://www.stereo.net.au/forums/topic/325588-sna-amplifiers-and-preamps-audition-shortlist/

 

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9 hours ago, stereo coffee said:

You are assuming too much, sadly many transformers being sold and used,  are not capable :    http://tubelab.com/articles/component-testing/budget-output-transformers/

 

And the available power is lessened vs a SS amp with a 4 ohm speaker, ... thankfully readers can avoid all of these issues by using a  > 10 ohm speaker, when using a valve amp.

 

You clearly do not understand the basic electronics involved.  A cheap transformer is a cheap transformer and has the expected performance. It has no bearing on the fact that a 4 ohm speaker on a 4 ohm tap, presents the same load to the output valve.  The actual impedance of the speaker is NOT relevant  to the way it works.

9 hours ago, Ihearmusic said:

You are obliviously no tube tech. The load the way the valve sees it does not change if you have a 4 Ohm speaker out on your amplifier. The turns ratio of the primary to secondary winding will account for that and reflect back the proper load for the valve.

 

Exactly.  

 

8 hours ago, xlr8or said:

Here is Exhibit A taken from my Sun Valley SV-2 2002 845 valve amp showing a Japanese OPT accommodating many different taps. This OPT is NOT made with inferior quality windings. It's very heavy for its size and it causes many amplifier chassis to sag.

 

I would not consider the 4, 6 and 8 ohm tap options here to be redundant for use in accommodating various speaker nominal loads in the under 10 ohm camp including those speakers of equal to or less than 8 ohms and equal to or greater than 4 ohms.

 

The majority of transformers I see in modern valve amps appear to be , in fact, oversized.    This is in keeping with the general audiophile philosophy,  so that's fine.   That is a great set of output taps, and as you say, feel free to use the correct one :) 

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Regarding the HK, I assume that it's fully refurb'd. I would be keeping the amp unless you can throw some serious money at the "problem" and even then you might not "like it", eg, the yamaha 5000 series looks so nice but I found it ..... (not wanting to hijack), think I would prefer to listen to the HK.

Not a huge fan of valves (got cyber 800's and aikido and consonance ref 150) I miss the slam and micro detail.

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Oh I'll be keeping the 660 for sure. Just need to scratch an itch! Will be checking out a tube in a few weeks, will report back.

Got some mates coming on the weekend also with some gear to check out and compare..."playing in the sandpit"!

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I've found I prefer to go tubes in the output stage of the DAC, and go class A solid state for the power amp..... Seems to yield the best results with the best performance aspects of each. I used to prefer tube but funnily enough I'm finding superior sound stage, bass and fine detail from my little Aleph-M. Amazing insight into each recording and very musical. I imagine that could be quite different with a different DAC up from though.

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On 16/02/2021 at 7:35 PM, stereo coffee said:

The lower impedance load can be partially offset by increasing transformer inductance,

 

More than partially.  My bass channel has 8 paralleled 8r drivers a side and presents a speaker load that varies from 1.1r to 3.0r.  Could not test that speaker with any SS amp in my arsenal because the magic smoke would be released from the amplifier.  Works perfectly from the bass channel of my 9w SET amp with an output transformer spec'd exactly for that load...big core, huge inductance, -1dB at 5Hz at full power, room response flat to 18Hz at full power circa 110dB.

 

That is a custom output transformer for a custom bass speaker...not really suitable for the OP here but just to show that it can and has indeed been done.

 

To the OP, I do not have much experience with Dynaudio, but if they are power hungry as mentioned by others here I would certainly look at a more suitable amplifier be that push-pull valve or SS...probably SS and Class AB given the price limitations.  I reckon something by Anthony Holton would do the job quite nicely.

 

 

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3 hours ago, acg said:

 

More than partially.  My bass channel has 8 paralleled 8r drivers a side and presents a speaker load that varies from 1.1r to 3.0r.  Could not test that speaker with any SS amp in my arsenal because the magic smoke would be released from the amplifier.  Works perfectly from the bass channel of my 9w SET amp with an output transformer spec'd exactly for that load...big core, huge inductance, -1dB at 5Hz at full power, room response flat to 18Hz at full power circa 110dB.

 

That is a custom output transformer for a custom bass speaker...not really suitable for the OP here but just to show that it can and has indeed been done.

 

To the OP, I do not have much experience with Dynaudio, but if they are power hungry as mentioned by others here I would certainly look at a more suitable amplifier be that push-pull valve or SS...probably SS and Class AB given the price limitations.  I reckon something by Anthony Holton would do the job quite nicely.

 

 

Wow! That's a huge amount of bottom end acg. Have you ever caused yourself to suddenly rush to the toilet?

 

Could you please explain...8 paralleled 8r drivers... what is "r"?

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1 hour ago, pla said:

 

Could you please explain...8 paralleled 8r drivers... what is "r"?

 

R as in resistance...ohm.  8 nominal 8ohm woofers when wired in parallel is a 1 ohm load.... almost a short circuit. 

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The rest of the system can only reproduce what the DAC sends it.  The biggest improvement in my system was upgrading from the Arcam RDac/Rega Cursa pre amp, to the Krell Dac/processor.

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On 15/02/2021 at 9:07 PM, pla said:

Hey All, Ive also posted this in Digital Sources forum also as it covers both ares.

Seeking advice on an up grade from my either Arcam AirDAc, OR SS amp to tube.

 

My current system is pretty good as is. It pulls me into the zoneI love it, but looking to go a bit further. 

This is the big question for me...Will a DAC upgrade be more beneficial than a amp upgrade. 

Currently considering Matrix Audio mini i 3  Pro or Element i. My other consideration is going to a tube amp.

My set up at the moment consist of Arcam AirDac, HK PM660 (very nice!), Dynaudio Focus 160 and MK Sound sub. 

Most of my listening is Tidal streaming and smattering of vinyl. My music styles vary but mainly revolve around electro-ambient/dub and old style 80's electro.

Would appreciate comments. Cheers.

 I tend to agree with aussievintage.

maybe I'm just too 'old school'? I run a 'simple' 2 ch system. Full range floorstanders, tube power and pre amp, with a decent (OPPO) CD/SACD/blueray. Maybe I'm missing 'something'? Don't really know, when I listen to others system's with a DAC or streaming over CD; I can't really say that I come away thinking "damn I need!!"

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1 hour ago, Graywulf said:

 I tend to agree with aussievintage.

maybe I'm just too 'old school'? I run a 'simple' 2 ch system. Full range floorstanders, tube power and pre amp, with a decent (OPPO) CD/SACD/blueray. Maybe I'm missing 'something'? Don't really know, when I listen to others system's with a DAC or streaming over CD; I can't really say that I come away thinking "damn I need!!"

The same here. A very similar setup as you. Full range speakers, valve power and pre, OPPO 105.

I often run spotify from my phone into my pre amp and I had people here in disbelieve that it sound so good without a DAC.

 

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On 15/02/2021 at 7:07 PM, pla said:

Hey All, Ive also posted this in Digital Sources forum also as it covers both ares.

Seeking advice on an up grade from my either Arcam AirDAc, OR SS amp to tube.

 

My current system is pretty good as is. It pulls me into the zoneI love it, but looking to go a bit further. 

This is the big question for me...Will a DAC upgrade be more beneficial than a amp upgrade. 

Currently considering Matrix Audio mini i 3  Pro or Element i. My other consideration is going to a tube amp.

My set up at the moment consist of Arcam AirDac, HK PM660 (very nice!), Dynaudio Focus 160 and MK Sound sub. 

Most of my listening is Tidal streaming and smattering of vinyl. My music styles vary but mainly revolve around electro-ambient/dub and old style 80's electro.

Would appreciate comments. Cheers.

I have similar tastes in electronic music and I reserve this genre for when I’m feeling festive or want to get the blood pumping and don’t try and tick any audiophile boxes in the process because quite frankly there arnt many to be ticked.  I have dynaudio dm2/8’s and they are very thirsty. I have them paired with an emotiva power amp basx a-300  (150w8ohm and 300w4ohm)that cost well under 1k new and they boogie. Not the most accurate  system by any stretch ( I have another for that ). 
I also aspire to trying a valve amp some day but it won’t be to play electro on thirsty dynaudios but rather to listen some jazz on some Whatmough 201’s. 
I would suggest giving your speakers more juice and don’t overcapitalise if electro is always gonna be your thing. 

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