B&W 601s -- Whats the Best Stereo Amp?


New member
Username: Ocrazor

Post Number: 2
Registered: 02-2004
I just got a pair of B&W 601 S3s to use for music. I know these are popular speakers (and one of the best mid-priced bookshelfs) So what are some of your opinions on powering these things?

This is what ive been considering:

1. Denon DRA-685: (reviews say its the best mass-market stereo receiver but I havent listened to it)
2. NAD c320bee: (I listened to this compared to and onkyo tx-8511 and it was much better)

3. NAD c740: only $100 more than the c320 and includes tuner, but would it sound worse or better than the c320bee? (Haven't listened yet)

4. Cambridge Audio A500: pretty cheap but mixed reviews. Would this sound bad with B&W? (Im going to go listen next week sometime but they only have Paradigms and Totems there)

Just curious to see what people think- any suggestions welcome.

Silver Member
Username: Hawk

Post Number: 280
Registered: 12-2003

Nice speakers--I used to own a pair of an earlier generation. Regarding your interests, I have the following observations/suggestions:

1. Denon DRA-685: Saying this is the best mass market stereo receiver is damning it with faint praise. The big audio companies have forsaken the stereo market and anything in stereo offered from Denon, Yamaha, Onkyo, Sony, et al., and even Marantz, is pretty worthless, assembled with marginal parts obtained from this week's low cost bidder. The 685 is pretty two dimensional sounding, and grainy, to boot. Your B+Ws deserve better.

2. NAD 320bee: Already a legend among real audiophiles--this little integrated amp has everything you want or need for stereo sound, except a phono input (you must buy an outboard phono pre-amp if you have vinyl). The sound is clear, detailed and even has real punch--it is an excellent choice for your speakers. When Stereophile is singing the praises of a piece of gear and it costs less than $2K, you know it is something special. This one is.

3, NAD C740: Has less power than the supremely musical "bee", but it does have a tuner. Whether you would miss the extra power from the "bee" can only be tested by you. I have not spent any real time with this unit, but it is a good one. You should check it out.

4. Cambridge A500: A nice little amp that I do recommend for some people, but it is not a good choice for your B+Ws, unless you like your music to be really laid back and boring. Has a soft focus that is much better with speakers with a little edge to them (JMlabs, Klipsch, etc.). Also not a particularly dynamic sounding amp. The B+Ws are alreaady going to put you on the 20th row in the concert hall--why move even further back? If you are interested in Cambridge, consider the new Azur line, instead, which seems much improved.

5. Rotel RX-1050: Now this is a real stereo receiver--the kind your dad used to listen to (and I mean that with all sincereity and affection). Powerful (100 wpc), clean, and detailed, this receiver can do it all (even has a built in phono pre-amp). Built like a tank (Abrams, not a T-80), it is everything a real music listener would want from a stereo receiver. Not as warm sounding as the NADs, it is quite neutral and will present a recording exactly as it was laid down (which is not always a good thing). A bit pricey, however (MSRP of $799), but not that much more than the DRA-685.

6. Arcam T65 integrated amp: Not as warm as an NADs, but has more personality and power than the Cambridge. Very clean sounding and detailed--it images beautifully and is nice to listen to. Build quality is first rate. All Arcam products are very good. ($599)

7. Outlaw RR2150: Has not been released yet, but should be coming soon. Outlaw has made quite a name for itself in audio and this receiver has been pending release since last September. If you are not in a hurry, it would be worth waiting to see if it is what you want. Check out the news about it on the Outlaw webpage (www.outlawaudio.com) where you can get the details about the product.

New member
Username: Mrnickels

Post Number: 2
Registered: 02-2004
I use a NAD 317 amplifier and the speakers sound great. Nice and full. I am looking to add a sub to the equation soon.

New member
Username: Ocrazor

Post Number: 3
Registered: 02-2004
Thanks for the advice!
I went and listened to an Arcam A65 and the new Cambridge Audio Azur 640 today. The Cambridge Audio sounded very smooth but youre right Hawk, its a bit distant sounding. It would be the ultimate amp for classical/jazz, but i dont know how hard rock or techno would sound on it. The Arcam was more detailed and clear, but the highs were very fatiguing. (This may have been because of the small, transparent Totem Mites i was using though) Although I couldnt compare directly, it seems like NAD is somewhere between these two so im leaning toward that or a Rotel if I can find a deal.

Unregistered guest
Try Musical Fidelity A3(discontinued model). At $1195, you get 85wpc and will be enough for most speakers. Or the new A3.2(100wpc) at $1495. You'll enjoy the music for quite some time.

Unregistered guest
You mentioned that the Rotel RX 1050 is an excellent Stereo Receiver. In your Opinion, will it match well with Polk speakers? I recently purchased a set of RTi 12's and had just about decided to purchase the Rotel but it would certainly help if I could have your input.

Thank you very much in advance.

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