Amplifier ideas with KEF Reference 1

I'm thinking about pulling the trigger on a pair of KEF reference 1's for my 10'x14' office (currently LS50's). Current electronic setup is all PS Audio (bhk monoblocks, bhk  signature preamp, directstream dac). Incredible sound, zero complaints other than the fact that the monoblocks run hot. I'm getting cooked so the whole ps audio setup is listed for sale.... Although it just may end up at home for a future 2 channel setup!

So with that background, please share ideas for a high quality system that's cool running. Budget up to $15k. I'll add that I favor the warmer side of the spectrum. I'm a bass player and like tight, fast, deep bass..... Glorious mids, and smooth highs. Current ideas to match with the  KEF Reference 1's include:

1. Bel Canto Black EX (integrated or the separates). My contact says the separates are far superior. I'm concerned this setup is too analytical. Anyone heard them?

2. Bel Canto Ref600m. Keep my directstream dac and bhk signature preamp. Probably more than good for an office!?!

3. Hegel 360 or the new forthcoming monster integrated (590)? They're not too pretty to look at but it seems like I've read about hegel and kef being matched at several audio shows. Is there a hegel house sound particularly with the KEF’s?

4. McIntosh mc611. I'll admit it.... I'm a sucker for the looks of McIntosh plus their easy listenability. I've never had ear fatigue listening to a McIntosh setup. I'd be keeping the directstream dac and bhk signature preamp for this combo. Afraid that is be giving up a lot going from the bhk monoblocks to the McIntosh with similar heat. 

5. Luxman L509x. Brand new. Supposed to be very musical and runs cool. I'd probably run with the directstream dac. 

Your thoughts / ideas are appreciated.... Especially if you've heard the recommendation with KEF reference 1's. It's all about system synergy, right!?!

thank you,

I'm a big fan of your first listed choice, the Bel Canto Black EX integrated. It's what I run in my own system. Disclosure: I'm a Canadian dealer.

The Bel Canto Black EX isn't analytical sounding at all. The signature is neutral to just slightly warm with powerful, deep and controlled bass. My ATC SCM40 speakers haven't sounded this powerful at the bottom before. Mids and upper end are very smooth. The DAC section is really the key to this piece. World-class DAC section including full MQA decoding from TIDAL. You'd have a very simple system. I feed the Ethernet input on the Bel Canto Black EX with a Melco N1A/2 via a Wireworld Platinum Ethernet cable and the combination is incredible.

Sure, the Black separates would be a step up, but at considerably more cost and you'd need a really good XLR cable between. With that said, the Black EX integrated is a very high end performer on its own and plays in an elite crowd.

The Hegel amps are known to work very well with KEF and I'm a fan of the H360. Excellent value. But, if the Bel Canto is in your budget, it definitely plays at a higher level, which it certainly should as per the price difference and fits the qualities you're looking for.
Thanks Everest. What speakers have you found pair best with the Black EX integrated?
We haven't had it for a very long period of time,so I haven't tried it with a wide variety of models. Love it with the ATC SCM40. Also tried it briefly with Dynaudio Special Forty and Alta Audio Lelantos. Performed very well with all three. 
Follow up question Everest. You mention needing a really good XLR cable for the Black EX separates. Would a WireWorld Gold Eclipse 7 (XLR) suffice?

Post removed 
Do yourself a favor and try and listen to the T+A R1000E integrated with DAC and streaming services.  It runs cool, has a very high SQ DAC and will easily drive the Kefs.  Should fit right in with your tight and fast bass with great musicality and will easily fit your budget ( around $8k).  Good Luck!
Yes, I believe the Wireworld Gold Eclipse 7 XLR would work. I'm a huge fan of the GutWire UNO-S XLR myself. The best I've used. 

In regards to the T+A R1000E, I'm sure it would work nicely, but not in the league of the Bel Canto Black EX. It is less money though, but the Bel Canto Black EX integrated still fits within the listed budget. As a side note, I used the T+A PA 2500 R with the T+A DAC 8 DSD before the Bel Canto. This is a higher end combo that the R1000E, but even then, the Bel Canto is a nice step up in my opinion. 
Ayre AX-5 Twenty.  Loved this combination when I was able to audition recently at a private home.  I am currently using an Ayre VX-5/20 to power my KEF LS50s while I am auditioning for new full range speakers and I am constantly amazed at the synergy.
@d2girs: I haven't heard the KEF Ref 1's but (1) I have enjoyed my KEF LS50's, (2) they're pretty well reviewed, and (3) I can get a killer price on a new pair. What are you thinking in that price range for bookshelf speakers? I don't want to spend more than $5000. As for Ref 3's, they won't fit in my office.

@jwpstayman: If budget would allow, I'd go for the T+A 3100HV integrated. $17K is my all in amplifier budget. I'd prefer to keep it under $10K.

@drrsutliff: I haven't listened to the Ayre equipment to any great extent. A local dealer pairs it with Magico speakers...the combination was too dry and thin for what sounds good to my ears. Not sure if that's Magico or Ayre....or both!

@keoliphant I have also invested a little bit of money into my office system. I originally had LS50’s powered by PeachTree Nova 150 integrated. I moved that system to the bedroom and now have the Audience 1+1 V2+ speakers driven by a single Benchmark AHB2 amp in the office. The Audience 1+1 speaker has a clearer sound than the LS50, though I love both speakers equally. The LS50 has a little more heft to it.

You may want to do a little bit of research on the Audience 1+1. I was going to get the KEF Ref 1 for the office but decided against it because I would eventually end up with 3 KEF based systems. I wanted a little more speaker diversity and I am so glad I got the Audience 1+1. It is a different sounding speaker from the small KEFs.

I heard the KEF Ref 1 with the latest Wired4Sound monoblocks and it was fabulous. I ended up staying and listening to that system longer than I planned. Seriously good sound and not too expensive.

The Benchmark AHB2 would also be a great amp to pair with the KEF Ref 1’s though I am not sure if it would meet your needs for a warm sound. This amp has no sound to it and maybe the quietest amp available at ANY price.. I would recommend 2 of these amps in monoblock for the Ref 1 ($6k total new). Maybe a little over the top in power but the amp is so cheap for the performance. It also has a shocking small form factor which you will appreciate for an office. Your PS Audio DAC will work well with it. I use the new Benchmark DAC3L

My final audio purchase will be KEF Blades for the living room. I am thinking about some different ideas to drive them or getting a second Benchmark AHB2 and running them in monoblock form with the Blades. There are some A’Gon users successfully using the AHB2 amps in this setup. If I get a second AHB2 and use them in the living room I am thinking of splurging for the Luxman 509x for the office. BTW - I have a budget of 30K for the living room amps so I have many choices.

I also use Audience cables and speaker wires. I will get the top of the line Audience wires for my living room system,

I have heard the Hegel 360 with the KEF Blades and that integrated would also work great with the Ref 1’s. You would not need the Hegel 590. The Hegel really makes sense from a practicality perspective and also sound wise. However, I do feel the AHB2 sounds better than the Hegel (for me). I was lucky to have an almost private 2 hour audition with the Blades and H30 | 360 | Roost amps from Hegel. The H30 and 360 sounded very good with the Blades but something tells me the AHB2 in mono maybe better.

The PeachTree Nova 300 also would work with the Ref 1’s. Maybe not as great as some of the others I have listed but you are supposed to be working in your office (correct)? This integrated should work well enough and I may also get this if I don’t do something crazy and buy the Luxman 509x for the office.

I have actually heard the Kef Ref 1 with a few more amplifiers that escape me now. I do not think this speaker is too difficult to drive but I would try to use more than 100 wattts.

I think there are a lot of really good amplification choices these days without having to break the bank. The 10K mark for office amplification is a little tough to justify but it is just money. The stuff I have listed all run cool and some are very small in form factor.
Thanks for the insight and ideas yyzsb. I'm with you, it's just money..... And considering that I spend more time at the office than home, my office setup should be killer.

I'm thinking whatever I choose needs to have the wife acceptance factor in case it comes home. My wife hated the looks of the wyred, benchmark, McIntosh, and Hegel....the bel canto black ex (integrated or separates) and the Luxman 509x were her favorites so those are my final options. 

Decisions, decisions!!!
The Hegel 590 is a killer amp, heard recently running blades! Incredible. regarding the looks, understated yes, but personally I’d rather this than the extra expense going into looks and style.

also consider the Arcam class G kit, P/A49 etc... again a very good amp, and works well with the Ref 1,3 etc...

They are fairly hard to drive as in the power region of the bass they present a load to the amp of around 3.2ohm and that's broad from 50hz to 200hz.
Look for amps that are happy seeing 3ohms all day as many tube,mosfets, and Class-d may not do the job.
I would hunt out linear amps with beefy power supplies, that use multiple BJT (bi-polar) output devices. Like John Curl designed Parsounds, Krell, D'Agostiono, Gryphon, some Classe's, Mark Levinson. ect

Cheers George
Lots of positive reviews on the Lyngdorf. If it were me, I would first replace the pre/amp and keep the LS50. You might just get enough incremental improvement from your LS50 by adding room correction that you may be satisfied with the results. Keep the rest of the budget for the next major upgrade.
@keoliphant Based on your responses I would think the Luxman 509x will be what you end up with. I never gave too much consideration on looks for audio gear but that Luxman has super model looks to it. The loudness button on the Luxman 509x would also be very useful to my office setup when I am working late at night.

I should also mention that I did hear the KEF Ref 1 sound awful once at a dealer. That was when it was played in a room about the same size as yours. The speakers were facing a wall full of glass. It was unbearably bad and I was shocked the dealer simply did not flip the room configuration around. My take away from that was that there is a lot of bass coming from the Ref 1.

I also wanted to mention that the Magico A3 speaker maybe an interesting choice for your office.

I found that when I work my long hours in my office I do not want too much bass hitting my ears. The LS50 and the Audience 1+1 are great at this for a small to medium size rooms.

We are a long time Kef Reference dealer and one of only 5 dealers in the entire country with almost every Kef product line represented, we have the Blades, Ref Ones, Ref Threes, Ref 5, R series, T series, Q Series, LS 50W, LS 50p, so we are very up on KEF.

The Ref 1 when paired with great electronics are mind blowing how real music can sound and they work well in a small room due to the bass tuning tubes and wide lateral dispersion of the Uni Q.

If you are looking for an exceptional amplifer in a small package that gives off little heat then the T+A 2500R might be your ticket.

The T+A gear is exceptional gear and their products are usually among the best sounding brands of gear out there.

 If you are not familiar with the brand T+A is the largest single high end company in Germany, with a full time staff of 110 employees and 14 full time engineers T+A has the resources to develop some really outstanding gear which is built up to German standards of superb craftsmanship and because of the companies large size they can afford economies of scale which enable them to use exceptional parts,  and still keep the pricing affordable. 

A unique aspect of the HV and R series is the High Voltage circuitry which runs solid state devices at much higher rail voltages which lowers distortion and helps create a more tube like sounding solid state product.

The larger HV 3000 a $18k integrated amplifier will most likely far outperform your PS audio gear, the PA 3000 HV was compared by Allan Tafel in the TAS to a $120k worth of CH Precision gear and he was having difficulty telling the difference.

here is the quote that got us to bring in the line:

"Similarly, the PA3000 not only competes directly with integrated amps that run all the way up to $50k, it holds its own against $120k worth of Switzerland’s best separates. This is a component that’s not to be missed.

But these HV models not only stand up to their Teutonic brethren, they sound just like them. What T+A has done is to make it possible for audiophiles of more modest (though still significant) resources to get in on the extraordinary build-quality, sonic merit and character, and sheer musical enjoyment of the Swiss School. And that is surely a promise fulfilled."

The PA 3000 runs warm not super hot, and is compact. The less expensive R series 2500 integrated at $11k offers much of the same sound but not quite as good as its bigger brother.

T+A is a bit hard to find currently we are the East Coast dealer NY/NJ but there are a handful of good dealers and more signing up.

We have run the Ref ones with the 2500R and was exceptional we have run the KEF Blades on the PA 3000 and the sound was truly magical.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
Agreed that the T+A PA 2500 R is a great sounding piece, but I personally feel the Bel Canto Black EX integrated sounds a chunk better for sure. The Bel Canto has more body and fullness with the same level of resolution and drives the bottom end with more authority, but is still very well controlled. Plus, the Bel Canto has the benefit of a superb built in DAC with PCM, DSD and MQA capability. A lot of the Bel Canto quality comes from their superb DAC in this piece and Ethernet input. Not knocking the T+A at all, it is an excellent piece, but I just find the Bel Canto exceptional. Before moving to the Bel Canto Black EX in my system with the ATC SCM40, I was using the T+A PA 2500 R with the T+A DAC 8 DSD and the GutWire UNO-S XLR interconnect between them which is an incredible cable. The T+A integrated with a very good DAC and cable will definitely cost more than the Bel Canto integrated. Of course, this can be taken with a grain of salt, as should be the opinion of anyone, but this comes from living long-term with both in the same system. With that said, I haven't heard the Bel Canto Black EX with the KEF Reference 1, but I can't imagine the combo not working well. 

Note: as much as I'm a Bel Canto dealer, I have nothing to gain by mentioning this as keoliphant has his own Bel Canto dealer. Just lending my 2 cents as someone with extensive experience with both products.
Everest I don't think you have your facts straight, when does a $25k Bel Canto integrated amp compare to a $11k T+A  one, if you factor in the cost of a Dac 8 which is $15k for the combo not $25k! Even if you figure $3k for a good interconnect I get $18k not $25k!

The T+A PA 3000 at $18k would be the comparable piece, also with the DAC 8DSD for $4k you would still be a $22k, want to do that commparison vs the Bel Canto?

If you are comparing products a $25k one should be discussed with a similar set of other components at a somewhat similar price point.

Then we will have a fair horse race. 

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ

The Bel Canto ACI600 is $25K USD, but I'm talking about the less expensive new Bel Canto Black EX at $14,990 USD. Definitely a fair comparison. 
Everest could it also be sour grapes since T plus A dropped your dealership?

And with a Dac 8 how did u feed it? The Dac 8 running Quad rate Dsd sounds unbelievable running 16/44 it is good not magical.

Is the Bel Canto better maybe it is and maybe it isnt we havent heard a digital amp that sounds better then a pure class a/b amp and until we test it we wont pass judgement. 

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ

audiotroy, no sour grapes at all. Carrying T+A as a brand didn't work out for either of us and that's fine. And, to be clear, I'm not knocking T+A at all. I highly respect T+A as a quality brand. In fact, on another forum in the past few days, when someone was looking to add a particular T+A piece to his system, I highly encouraged it as I felt that particular piece was absolutely spectacular for the money. I just call it the way I see it. Someone else may disagree and I'm okay with that. The DAC 8 was fed the exact same files via the Melco N1A/2 as the Bel Canto Black EX. Some redbook, some high-res PCM, some DSD, but not comparing MQA as the DAC 8 DSD doesn't have MQA decoding. So, no, I wasn't running something like DSD512 via HQplayer. But, still, I'm comparing $15K USD gear versus $15K gear and you don't need a high quality XLR cable with the Bel Canto or an extra power cable.

As a side note, the Bel Canto Black series is in a whole other league compared to what you may know about Bel Canto. It is definitely playing in the big leagues. You should hear it sometime.
I'm thinking it's between the Bel Canto ex black separates or the Bel Canto Black ACI6000 integrated. I don't want to worry about heat in my office again, and my wife approves of the looks (if they migrate home).

Similarly priced.... Can't seem to find anyone who's a/b'd them. Thoughts?
keoliphant, Bel Canto has told me that the Black EX separates will play to a higher level than the ACI 600 as long as you make sure you're using a very high quality XLR cable between them.
You seem to have a lot of expert advice. I have owned many Kef's and the magic mid is the take away for me.   

I'd concur that some recent integrated amps may be the ideal choice to support the great mids.   

You should also audition the Constellation Integrated 1.0 and the Moon 600Vi2.   

Interesting posts by all. Thanks for the dealer participation by @audiotroy  and @everest_audio  and their individual takes on the OP's questions/situation.

@keoliphant   Sounds like you have made a choice. I'm interested in hearing how the amp-speaker pairing work out in your office.

 All the best.
Thanks for everyone's input. I just started a new thread specifically on the aci600 vs Black EX separates..... Hoping to learn more. I'll report back once the system is in place!
If you can find a pair of Classe Delta CAM 600 monoblock amps try to have a listen to these amps in your own setup and system. These amps have been discontinued last year and few Classe dealers might still have them on display or in b stock and they can be had at discounted price today. Their original retail price was $14k/pair. You can still keep using your PS Audio BHK Sig preamp and Direct Stream DAC.

The Classe Delta CAM 600 monoblock amps are class AB design and huge and heavy but they run cool due to superb internal heat management system they have in there. Classe uses ICE Tunnel to dissipate heat which is executed outside the signal path and does not interfere with the amp's circuitry. 
These amps sound and perform phenomenal very musical very smooth refined and doesn’t get in the way of the music. The amps don’t induce its own sonic coloration like some other high end amplifiers do. Your speakers simply sound like themselves. You should read reviews on these Classe CAM 600 monoblock amps. The Classe CAM 600 monoblock amps received many outstanding reviews from several different hifi reviewers from many different hifi magazines and sites. John Atkinson of Stereophile simply said that these are the best sounding amps he's ever reviewed or the best amps ever made period. I know it was pretty bold statement he made, and one reviewer from The Absolute Sound made similar statement regarding these Classe Delta CAM 600 monoblock amps. 
In reality these Classe CAM 600 is spectacular sounding amp and run cool but big massive in size and very heavy. 
Dynamic headroom and bottom end extension and control are excellent.
The Classe CAM 600 excels in extracting musical details and nuances and information. The tonal is neutral and balanced across the entire spectrum with a touch of warmth. The noise floor is one of the quietest I’ve heard from any high end amplifiers. The amps are dead quiet and the music emerges from a dark black silent backgrounds.

These amps look very stylish too imo.
I happen to own these Classe CAM 600 monoblock amps in my dedicated home theater room driving my front speakers (B&W 800 D3). I have also tried the amps for playing music and they sounded fantastic for both stereo music and high end home theater setup.

One time I dragged these Classe CAM 600 monoblock amps to my dedicated stereo setup in a separate dedicated listening room and pair them up with my Magico M6 speakers that I have in there and sounded wonderful. I compared them with my Dan D’Agostino Momentum M400 monoblock amps (2 pairs) that I normally have in my dedicated stereo setup and while my D’Agostino Momentum M400 edges out the Classe CAM 600 but the Classe CAM 600 are bargain considering the price difference between these two amps.
My Dan D’Agostino Momentum M400 monoblock amps retail for $65k/pair and I have 2 pairs bi-amping the Magico M6 speakers. And I’m using the Audio Research Reference 10 linestage preamp and a complete full DCS Vivaldi stacks (Vivaldi master clock, Vivaldi upsampler, Vivaldi DAC, Vivaldi CD/SACD transport) as my digital front end source components. Even when I slipped the Classe CAM 600 amps in my high end reference two-channel setup the Classe simply performed wonderfully driving my $176k/pair Magico M6 speakers.

You should also consider other options such as the Audio Research Ref monoblock amps, CH Precision, Soulution, Audionet Max monoblock amps, Tidal, MBL monoblock amps, Burmeister, T&A, Gamut, Virus Audio, Constellation Audio, Halcro, higher end Naim separates eg Naim NAP 500 DR amp + Naim NAC 552 preamp + various Naim streamers + DAC separates. You will probably love how Naim gears sound. Even their lower end series or entry level series sounded very musical.

Oh finally I forgot to mention about Devialet gears. I highly recommend any Devialet. If you go this route you won’t need your PS Audio BHK Sig preamp and Direct Stream DAC. Devialet is basically all in one solution (streamer/DAC + pre + amp). Fantastic products. It starts at around $10k plus for the Expert 130 Pro to around $40k for the Expert 1000 Pro.
I happen to own the the Devialet Expert 440 Pro, which is right below the 1000 Pro for my master bedroom setup paired with the Wilson Audio Duette ll stand mount speakers.

One last thing I would like to recommend to you is the new Linn Klimax DS with Katalyst DAC architecture with its Linn Klimax Solo Chakra 500 monoblock amps. But this setup will cost you around $55k. $30k for the new Klimax DS (with Katalyst DAC architecture) and another $25k for the Klimax Chakra Solo 500 monoblock amps. With this setup you wouldn’t need the PS Audio Direct Stream DAC nor the PS Audio BHK Sig preamp.
The new Linn Klimax DS (with Katalyst DAC architecture) will blow away the PS Audio Direct Stream DAC. They are in different league. The Linn Klimax DS has built-in volume control (preamp) so the signal path is made as direct and short as possible. The new Linn Klimax DS (with Katalyst DAC architecture) is the best sounding digital streamer/DAC I’ve heard for under $50k. You will literally have to step up to MSB Select Two DAC ($150k) or DCS Vivaldi full four separate stacks ($125k) like the ones I have, or the Esoteric Grandioso full separate stacks ($100k+) in order to outperform the new Linn Klimax DS with Katalyst DAC architecture which retails for only $30k. This is a single box solution for you : digital streamer/DAC/preamp in a single chassis.

Hope this helps. Do not hesitate to ask any questions.
@caphill: thanks for the detailed thoughts. My PS Audio Directstream and BHK Signature preamp are sold...BHK monoblocks still up for sale so I'm really thinking integrated or matching pre/dac + power (like bel canto ex).

I also fear purchasing from a manufacturer that's out of business (Classe)..... Of course no guarantees that bel canto's staying around forever. 

Hadn't considered the Devaliet. Might be worth a listen. 

The Linn gear is out of my tax bracket!
Classe isn’t out of business. B&W Group, which previously owned Classe, has recently sold Classe off to Sound United Group in January 2018.
Sound United Group also owns Denon, Marantz, Definitive Technology, Polk Audio, Boston Acoustics & Heos. 
So, Classe now is owned by Sound United. The brand has been revived.

Dave Neauber, who has been with Classe and has been a president of Classe Audio since B&W Group acquired Classe in 2001, will keep leading the company under a new ownership now. They are re-opening or are already re-opened as we speak now their Montreal, Canada facility under a new ownership Sound United.
True that B&W Group shut down Classe’s headquarter facility in Montreal last Oct 2017 and all employees were laid off.
But now Dave Neaubet is gathering and re-grouping all Classe’s designers and engineers that were laid off by B&W last year for their Montreal facility. And I was told that future Classe products will be made in Sound United’s own manufacturing facility in Japan but will still be designed and engineered in Montreal, Canada.

So you won’t have to worry about Classe.
It’s been revived and is now owned by Sound United Group.

I do own multiple Classe gears in my dedicated home theater room : Classe SSP 800 AV preamp surround processor, Classe CAM 600 monoblock amps (pair) for my front B&W 800 D3 speakers, Classe CAM 300 monoblock amp (single) for my center speaker (B&W HTML1 D3), Classe CA-5300 five-channel amp for my surround speakers (B&W 804 D3 & 805 D3).

I think Devialet will be your best solution. It is all-on-one solution. The price range is between $10k+ to $40k+.
You will have to give a listen. Spectacular sounding products and worth a try.

Linn also makes lower end models and cheaper than the Klimax line. I would consider a new Linn Akurate DS (with Katalyst DAC architecture) and the Akurate stereo power amp.
I think the new Akurate DS retails for around $15k++. Not sure how much the Akurate power amp is. Or you can get the previous model Akurate DS (non Katalyst DAC architecture), which can be had at discounted nowadays for way under $10k. All Linn DS (Klimax, Akurate & Majik) come equipped with volume control (preamp). You will have to use their volume control. Linn DS are pretty much digital streamer/DAC/preamp in one single chassis. Linn does not make dedicated analog stereo linestage preamps any longer. They used to in the past.

Or since this is only for your small office environment I would just get the Naim Unity Nova ($7500). It is all-in-one solution.
It is a streamer/DAC/integrated amp all in a single chassis. Sounded very good very musical. I’ve heard it paired with Focal Sopra 2 speakers recently at my local dealer and they sounded fantastic. Very musical, refined, smooth with excellent PRAT.
Highly recommended.

Caphill, we were a Devialet dealer and the sound quality just was never there, in some ways the Devialet was extraordinary, no noise, deep bass, big soundstage, the problem was always the product never had the musicallity that drew you into the experiece, the T+A was far superior when we tried a large list of amps/preamp combos on our Polymer Loudspeakers and then the Paradigm Personas, the T+A gear sounded better than the $60K CJ Art and Gat, the Manley Labs Snappers, the Electrcompaniet AW 400, the Devialet D400 Monoblocks, the Thrax gear, and finally the Chord SPM 1400 monoblocks and CPM 5000 preamp.

Also in terms of the Bel Canto being better than the T+A 2500R Dac 8 DSD combination, Everest did not setup the Dac 8 correctly you need to be running Roon or Jriver, and converting to Double rate or Quad Rate DSD which opens up the sound considerably, which is one reason we don't carry the Melco.  PCM on the Dac 8 is good, upsampled is way better and in the case of the Dac 8 the real magic is running the higher rate DSD which really creates a spooky 3d soundstage and a very analog like presentation.

The Bel Canto maybe fantastic but you should also be aware it does have its limitiations, one of which is everything is digitized including Analog signals, and two everything is converted to PCM.

We personally find that for certain products DSD sounds much more like analog but it does depend on the product.

So we would recommend that you compare the Bel Canto vs other similar packages and let the chips fly. 

Another thing to consider is how upgradable is the Bel Canto? 

We did check out the Bel Canto Black and it does seem like a very interesting piece, with the notable limitations as noted. 

The Naim Nova is a fantastic piece for the Kef Ref ones, and the upgraded NAC 272/250Dr is really impressive if you are looking for a more minimilist two box solution of amp with dac/preamp/streamer that will outperform the Nova,  Caphill is right on the money with the Nova, it is excellent and the package is great with the Ref Ones.

Whatever you choose look for a warm fuller sounding amp for the Ref Ones have very low levels of coloration and can benefit from a warmer sounding amplifier. 

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ

keoliphant OP

These Kefs are not an easy load in the bass, hence some saying they are bright sounding, because amps can’t drive the bass hard enough.

Like I said before, and I have no skin in this like some others, before you buy the wrong amp to do the job or even spend too much.
Ask here or get someone if you don’t know what your looking at, to analyse these two graphs for impedance and phase of these Kefs you have, especially in the bass 50hz-200hz to give you an idea of what amp to buy.

Cheers George

It isn't just a matter of current, it is a matter of voicing. Most modern amplifiers will have 0 problem pushing power into most impedances.

You take a very scientific approach our approach is via actual listening and considering we sell almost every KEF including the Blade, Ref One, Ref Three, Ref Five, Q, R, Series T, Series, Wireless, we know how and what works with a Kef.

If you look at two capable amplifiers into a load unless that speaker is pushing the stuffings out of the amplifier, most amplifers will sound great the difference is how the particular pairing will sound when used together. 

We did a similar demo today on the Elac Adante monitors, first using a 60watt Nad and then a 40 Watt Naim Atom. of course the $3.5k Naim Atom killed the $1,400.00 NAD and both amplfiers produced more than enough volume the difference was  the clarity of the Naim and the Naim's much tighter fuller bass and supeior macro dynamics, there was 0 strain with either amplifier.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
You take a very scientific approach our approach is via actual listening

Sorry, but I take both. As they are equally important.
And anyone recommending any amp should do also.

Hoping to learn more.
You may get an amp that behaves like a tone control into the Kef's difficult load instead of doing what amps should do, "maintaining a flat frequency response regardless of load variations".
Like this one, the wavy top line is what it’s frequency response is like into an easy "simulated Kantor" speaker load, far from flat!, it will be even worse with the Kef’s as they are harder to drive than the Kantors, this is what behaving like a tone control is meant.

Cheers George
@keoliphant OP
Since this is for your somewhat small office (10x14) imo the Naim Unity Nova would be your best choice and it will sound good on the KEF. At $7500 it’s a steal and it is all-in-one box solution and does not run hot like your PS Audio BHK monoblock amps. The sound quality is spectacular very musical smooth and refined. Comes equipped with very good quality streamer/DAC.

Your posts speak of someone with theoritical knowledge.  Your example of a sample simulated load with Kantor's circuit is somewhat flawed as they also built in a zobel network into the load and a simlulated load may not take into accout the affects that the speaker cable would add to the load which is going to then affect those measurements as well. 

I also don't think that Stereophile uses simulated measurements any more either. 

I rember reading one of your posts on a loudspeaker that you said wouldn't sound good on anything other than a particular high powered solid state and yet we got fantastic results with a low powered tube amp.

So there is theoritical knowledge vs practical knowelege and experience which is what we do we experiment with different amplifiers on a set of speakers till we create the sound we find desirable. 

As per Caphill he is very correct the Naim Nova is fantastic it is practical, compact, warm and punchy, cool running with a fantastic app and it sounds wondeful on the Ref 1 a perfect office system, we show this very same combination in our shop the Naim's slightly warm rich presentation coupled with its punchy dynamic drive makes for a very musical engaging system. 

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ

Thanks for the naim suggestion caphill and audio doctor. Would you advise this setup over a supernait integrated?
I also don’t think that Stereophile uses simulated measurements any more either.
Really?? taken just three days ago.
Again the wavy one is into an easy simulated Kantor load.
And this is what you’ll hear, bad dips at 200hz and 5khz, and peaks at 60hz, 2khz and 10khz.
In other words this amp will sound very coloured (like it’s been EQ’d), because it’s not flat even into an easy speaker load.
Fig.1 BorderPatrol P21 EXD, 8 ohm tap, frequency response at 2.83V into: "simulated loudspeaker load" (gray, wavy trace).

keoliphant seeing your budget is up to $15k a quick search I would recommend this $12k GamuT Di150 LE integrated amplifier as it gives good current ability and remains quite flat with the simulated load and will also stay reasonably flat with the Kef’s load.

Cheers George
Here are a few integrates that have simulated easy load tests done by Stereophile most don’t become tone controls that you and others have mentioned.

Belcanto Ref600 good

Lux L509X good

BelCanto Black good (fine plot)

This T&A V10, didn’t fair too good

Ayre AX-5 good (much finer plots)

Peachtree Nova 300 was good but droops up high.

Benchmark AHB2 also good (fine graduation plots)

Cheers George
@georgehifi The Benchmark AHB2 is not an integrated. It is an amp only.  I use it in my office.

@audiotroy Is the 14 x 10 room adequate for the KEF Ref 1? The room seems a little small to me.
@georgehifi thanks for the additional suggestions... The load plotting analysis is above my pay grade! Do you know if the Gamut runs cool? That's paramount for this office setup. 
keoliphant OP28 posts06-28-2018 1:20am@georgehifi thanks for the additional suggestions... The load plotting analysis is above my pay grade! Do you know if the Gamut runs cool? That’s paramount for this office setup.

To make sure ask the retailer to have it switch on,, at idle (no music) for an hour before you get there, and feel it. In a small office this should be around the temperature in will be running at.

Looking at the size and density of the heatsinks, should be warm at idle, or low to medium levels, hotter if it’s loud for a period of time.
It say in the review it’s total bias is 14w class-A, 7w per channel this should be warm to the touch. In the bench test when it was run for 1hr with continuous sine wave (RMS) at 1/3 power it got hot, but any linear amp will do this.

Cheers George
Georgehifi I dont know what you look for you certaintly don't listen to these products.

We tested the Bel Canto Ref 600M amplfiers on a number of speakers when our neighbor Clement Perry of Stereotimes was reviewing these amps. The Ref 600 sounded like an Ice based digital amplifier, they were impressive with tight bass and great dyanmics, they sounded thin in the midrange and were not involving, a set of the Nuforce Ref 9SE V3 sounded way better to our ears.

We were a Luxman dealer and the Luxman stuff sounded excellent we were selling the Unison Research Unico 50 a $5k tube/solid state hybrid which tended to sound even warmer and more musical on most of our loudspeakers.

In fact you can see in our showroom tour all the integrated amplifiers we had on display at the time which included Hegel, Luxman, Coda, Norma, Naim, Devialet, Electrocompaniet, and a few others, they all sounded different on the same loudspeakers.

We show the Ref Ones in a 18 by 14 foot room and they sound fantastic.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
Georgehifi I dont know what you look for you certaintly don't listen to these products.
You assume a lot there sunshine, and the  Bel-Canto Ref 600M sound nothing like Icepower amps, they are one of the finest Class-D's I "have" ever heard, and they nail the Nuforce Ref 9SE V3 which I've also had for a couple of months.
  I could almost live with the Belcanto 600M's, saying that I much prefer linear amps.

Cheers George
georgehifi, I completely agree that the Bel Canto REF600M sound nothing like Icepower. By the way, I certainly don't remember seeing any review of the 600M by Clement Perry. audiotroy may be confusing with an older model. The 600M are a Ncore implementation that is customized by Bel Canto. 

And then, on top of that any of the Bel Canto Black products take it to another level and is much higher end than their series. Plus, with Bel Canto Black, such as the integrated amps, you also get a superb DAC and firmware updates too via Ethernet. Their Ethernet implementation is outstanding and makes for a simple solution for the customer that also sounds incredible. Plus, I find the Bel Canto Black EX integrated to be just slightly warm of neutral, analogue sounding, detailed, very powerful and musically involving. Nothing has driven the ATC SCM40's in my room to their level of current performance as the Bel Canto Black EX integrated. The T+A PA 2500R before that did a pretty good job, as it is a nice piece, but not in the league of the Bel Canto Black EX. Others that have heard both in this system completely agree.
Insteresting finding George, we did listen to the older Bel Cantos.
However we have listened to numerous Hypex, and Ncore amps including a well respected $11k one and so far we havent found a single one yet that we would want to listen to long term, as well as sell. If you actually listen to these amps they are all clean but dont posses any magic in the midrange.

As per Everest your findings on the T plus A are suspect when you  have to match an integrated amp with a dac and cabling and you dont even know how to run a Dac 8 when all over Audiostreams review as well as Computer Audiophiles column on that Dac have all said that the Dac 8 sounds amazing in Quad Rate Dsd which requires a fast computer running Jriver

You run your dac 8 on a Melco which does not allow you to do upconversion or cross-convertsion  that, so your findings are somewhat suspect.

The Dac 8 sounds good on 16/44 but the real magic is running Quad rate DSD and there are very few files that are actually produced at this sampling level so Jriver processing is required.

Everest we would be more than happy to run one of our setups vs one of yours anyday if the Bel Canto Black is better we would sell it the fact that it digitizes analog signals and does not support native DSD is a major turn off.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ

I wasn't talking about the DAC 8 DSD. I've also heard the T+A PA 2500 R with a different front end. A very nice sounding piece, but still, my definite preference to the bel canto black as it drives difficult speakers better, sounds great and is much quieter in operation. I'm the only one that has apparently heard both. Anyways, I'm not interested in this back and forth any more as it serves no purpose. It's just my opinion versus yours and we'll agree to disagree. It's all good. I'm bowing out now.  Cheers
I still prefer linear amps without the switching frequency noise problems that all Class-D still have, if I needed a integrated linear I like the look of that GamuT Di150 LE I told keoliphant OP to listen to, also the Pass labs Int-250 and I like the well priced John Curl designed Parasound Halo Integrated. 

I haven’t heard the Black but I have heard the 600 mono’s and they are very good, and shows it in the bench tests as well.

1st graph: As far as driving speakers go, the Belcanto 600M’s will drive harder and stay flatter into low impedance speakers than the Belcanto Black can (graphs). Also the 600’s don’t droop in the lows and highs like the Black does. (same graph)

2nd graph: And not that it means much as they are both Stereophile AP filtered, the 600 also has the cleaner 10khz square wave.

3rd graph: And to cap it off the 600’s have lower distortion <-120db than the Black’s >-110db

Belcanto 600m:

Belcanto Black:

Cheers George

@georgehifi  can you tell me how the Bel Canto ACI600 Black graph looks? It's a 25k integrated that's supposed to be very rich sounding. Wondering how the specs look when driving the reference 1's. 

Thanks George!

keoliphant OP29 posts06-29-2018 12:13pm@georgehifi  can you tell me how the Bel Canto ACI600 Black graph looks?
That's it above Ken, I just called it the Black.

Cheers George
Thought I’d add a quick update.  

I’ve decided to forget about wife acceptance factor and purchase the amp knowing that it’s staying in the office. 

The Bel Canto looks amazing. I’m fearful of betting on this technology without hearing it in person (no local dealers carry the clack or black ex lines). Thanks to yyzsantabarbara for getting me there!

Hegel is the safe route...was thinking the 360 would work nicely....1. Runs cool 2. Matches well with kef products. The downside - the amp doesn’t support mqa which I really want in my next system.  

I’ve  decided to wait for the upcoming Hegel 590 integrated. Should make the KEF Reference 1’s sing, the newest technology (just being released), should run cool, and the dac supports mqa. Preorder is underway....I’ll be sure to update once it’s received later this year!

Thanks to everybody that chimed in!