To Hans Wetzel,
I am a novice listener and don’t have a lot of experience with audiophile and high-fidelity music. Last year I bought Bowers & Wilkins CM8 front speakers, paired with a Marantz SR7005 receiver. For some reason which I cannot thoroughly explain, I just felt that something was missing. I am in the process of replacing my current setup with either the KEF R700 or R900, a Parasound A23 amplifier and will use the Marantz as a preamp-processor. Would KEF’s R700 or R900 be a good upgrade sonically? If it is, do you have an integrated amplifier -- $5000 or less -- that will match well with either of the KEFs? I know this is a silly question since each person's hearing preferences will vary. Many thanks for your time.
Emmanuel, while your Bowers & Wilkins speakers and Marantz setup have a rich heritage and an equally rich sound, I think you’re on the right track in thinking that there might be more resolving products out there. The KEFs would be at the top of my list, and predictably so -- I made the KEF R900 my personal reference loudspeaker. A review of the R900 is forthcoming on GoodSound!, but know that KEF’s R-series models are some of the best speakers you can buy under $5000. Another reviewer here on GoodSound!, Roger Kanno, has also made a pair of R900s his own, and we’re in agreement about just how good they are. While I haven’t heard the R700s, I suspect they will sound nearly identical to the R900s, short of abbreviated bass extension, and maximum output, the latter of which is a surprisingly high 113dB. If you have space constraints, go with the R700; otherwise, I can heartily recommend the R900. There are a goodly number of very good speakers available for under $5000 that you might consider, but I really do think that the KEFs currently sit at the summit.
As for an integrated amplifier at $5000 or less . . . I have a suggestion, but it will cost you slightly more than you’re looking to spend. Hegel’s H300 is $5500, but for that money you buy a 250Wpc amplifier, one of the quietest preamplifiers I have heard at any price, and a D/A converter that can hold its own with some of the industry’s top names. Try and hear one if you can. I think it’s within a stone’s throw of the best sound available under $10,000, and it retails for barely more than half of that. I wound up purchasing one to serve as my reference for the future, and combined with the KEFs, I’m confident that I own two of the top performers available today, which combine to outperform some of their far more expensive competitors. I think you’ll be shocked by just how much more revealing a KEF R-series and Hegel tandem will prove to be over your current setup. . . . Hans Wetzel