Should i buy an Arcam SA30?

Hello to the community .

i am considering to purchase a SA30 and i am head to head with an Hegel H120 .
I search reviews for both Amps and 90% of the Arcam Reviews is about problems and issues.
I made a Demo with my speakers (MonitorAudio RS6) with both Amps and i found out that Arcam is more in my taste. It seems to beat the Hegel H120, more powerfull more musical even on lower volumes . On the other hand Hegel H120 more dry and more stiff and you need to power it up much more to get the same volume levels.
But with all this issues that i have read i am not quite sure that the Arcam is good choice ,
because it may sounds better in my ears but if it is struggling to play music with out issues it will frustrating.

So what is your opinion should i forget all the problems and take the risk with Arcam issues or go with the Hegel?

Everyone will probably answer in a bit different way, depending on the use case and severity of issues.
For me major issue, which is distortion, is almost non-existent. Haven’t had it for weeks now, so I could recommend SA30. But there are many people who returned the amp.
My advice: if you can wait few more weeks, do so. Wait and see if next firmware release will fix most important bugs.
If for some reason you can’t wait, audition Lyngdorf TDAI-1120.
Forget Hegel. For me they are overrated. You said yourself it sounds dry, which is I think most common description I’ve seen for Hegels. It’s features as streamer are not as good as SA30 and Lyngdorf, and most of all it lacks room correction, which both competitors have. It’s really a game changer, killer feature. Having it, I will never again buy system out device without it.

I don’t have the Lyngdorf TDAI-1120, but I do have the Lyngdorf TDAI-2170 amp which has the room correction, and like Felix says it is a great feature, and personally speaking for that reason I wouldn’t consider the Hegel.
The room correction in the Lyngdorf is so easy to set up a 5 year old could do it. Not so the Dirac with the Arcam, which I found to be labour intensive, cumbersome, and not in the same league as Lyngdorf as regards the sonic improvement it brings.

That actually is hard to say for sure. I know people who prefer DL, and others who prefer Room Perfect. It’s probably a matter of taste, but also room. Might be that those systems focus on different aspects.
Anyway agree about Hegel…

Thank you for your answers.
Lyngdorf is not available in my country yet (Greece) .
It looks very sleek amp, but as i undserstand it is more like a 2.1 amplifier to support users who needs an “small” AV receiver.

I am also considering and the Primare i15 Prisma but unfortunately i can not demo now because of the Covid situation.

i want to spend 2k+ and i am trying to find the best amp to cover my needs, because another aspect to consider is that if i purchase the Arcam SA30 and i have the option to return it (which i don’t) then i must spend another 1k total 3k+ to play with bigger amps.

if Arcam come in my house and i have minor small issues that goes away after a small restart or most of them fixed by a newer upgrade i will feel fine.
But until now i read that in most features the Arcam has issues that still exists after almost 1 year of life.

That’s really strange about Lyngdorf. Would expect it to be available in whole EU at least.
It’s really not so much different than Arcam. It’s still more of a stereo amp than AV receiver. Sub outputs are in line with company philosophy and other offerings (speakers and subs). Too bad you cannot check that.
Primare is good, but it also doesn’t have any room correction system.
As for SA30 it really seems to be kind of a lottery at the moment. For me it’s very much ok right now, except for some quirks like messed up volume control from Roon or other apps if you use “max volume” setting. Works ok in MusicLife app.
But some people have major issues with distortion on hi res music, and no one seems to know why is that, what is causing those differences.
As for firmware, Arcam been focused on fixing their AVR range, as they had worse issues than SA30, and actually they now sell more of them, than stereo devices.
Now, as AVR’s are stable and mostly fixed, they finally seems to be putting some more efforts to fixing SA30 bugs. And there’s a new JBL amp coming soon, that seems to be a copy of sa30. There’s a big chance, that Harman will push Arcam to finally solve major bugs before it’s released.
So I would say you could give SA30 a chance, and see if it works for you. If you’re a lucky one, then it might work very well for you, with no major bugs. Than you can just wait for new firmware, to make it (hopefully) perfect one day. But if you experience major bugs, as some unlucky ones, you can return it. Up to you really.
Again - if you ask me, it’s worth it. If you ask some others, it’s not :slight_smile:
And please remember, that the nature of forums like this is sharing issues and searching for help, so there will always be more people with issues here :slight_smile:

I copy this. This forum is all about reporting problems, and I’m very happy it exists and it has been very helpful.

However, for my personal situation, the SA30 has done most things absolutely fine. The amp sounds really nice and has give me some great musical moments till now. I feel absolutely no need to upgrade anything in my system, which hasn’t been the case before I’ve bought the SA30. :wink:

When I’m listening:

  • to the analogue inputs without dirac I have ZERO issues (I don’t use Dirac on analogue inputs)
  • to the digital inputs to 44,1 kHz input like CDs or AIFF form my NAS, I have zero issues with and without Dirac
  • to internet radio using the MusicLife app I also have zero issues
  • to Tidal using MusicLife it works very nice allthough I’ve experiences the distortion issues ounce
  • to TV using the optical connection, I do hear the short audio dropouts ounce in a while

So it really depends on how you gonna use the SA30 and whether you’ll have zero or some issues. Hope this helps you to make the decision but most of all follow your ears and gut-feeling.

I think Felix nails it down with the following 2 sentences:

For me the most annoying issue is ARC: audio interruptions are noticeable, ref#92. Every couple (sometimes 2-3, sometimes 10) minutes there is a very short silence. Other user do not have this issue, perhaps due to the TV set? My major use cases are listening to hires and cd quality flac files from my nas through DLNA, listening to TV though ARC and radio streams. I don’t use subscription services (e.g. roon, tidal and the like), AirPlay, Google chrome cast, dirac, digital or analogue input sources. I enjoy the music from my SA30, overall I’m happy with it.

I doubt if people are enjoying their music and setup they will post on this forum. The majority of post are about people seeking for help or trying to solve their particular issue.

Some issues are introduced after an firmware update, e.g. the earlier mentioned ARC: audio interruptions are noticeable, ref#92 is introduced with build 705, this build was released in August 2020. Prior this build this was not an issue. Other issues persist for a longer time, e.g. Volume +/- commands from the TV remote will require more presses, ref#34, this is reported in May 2020 and is still an issue. I guess it also depends on the severity of the issue and how many people are affected.

Hi there, I have had the SA30 for a few months now and I love it. Admittedly I haven’t explored Dirac too much and only use it either streaming directly (chromecast) or through my bluesound node 2i through a digital input. A minor gripe would be the remote which takes some getting your head around as its not as user friendly as other remotes. The only other issue I have had is using eARC in that I have to hard restart the amp each time I want to use eARC (reported in this forum). Those two points aside (hopefully the latter will be fixed via a firmware update) the SA30 sounds amazing. I am currently using it with a pair of ELACs and a Rel sub for 2.1 channel listening and couldnt be happier. I will be upgrading my speakers in the next few years but can see the SA30 being with me for some time. I too auditioned the Hegel but went for the SA30 and glad that I did. Hope that helps.

I think most of the people still here on this forum are here because they are experiencing glitches with the SA 30, but do not want to give it back because when its running right, its absolutely wonderful sounding. I sold a complete set of Convergent Audio Technology tube gear, the Ultimate preamp and the JL-1 amps, and my Resolution Audio Cantata DACs, and replaced it all with the SA 30. Now that’s some nice gear I let go of, and I do not think I went backwards with the SA 30. When it is hitting on all cylinders, it’s special. The Dirac with the class G amp, streaming via Roon, decent phono stage… all for $3k. It’s a good deal. I do think Arcam will get it sorted out soon. I don’t experience the distortion often, and when it does, I reboot it or switch to another input with direct mode, and back and it will be fine. I hope this helps.

Ken

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I know that forums 90% of the conversation is about issues , problems and generally bad posts according the product.
But it makes you wonder when you search for a product which is not a very popular product like car , mobile phone etc and you find all these problems.It makes you wonder if this product is a good choice to invest 2k .
Imagine for example that when you are searching for Hegel the only thing that you find is exceptional reviews about music & built quality the same also and for other rivals amps.

What i am looking for is a quality sound Amp to listen from Streaming Service (Tidal,Apple Music,Spotify)
Use my CD Player from Digital or Analog input.
And to watch TV all the family through HDMI or Optical (Netflix, TV programs , Music Shows) and that is another asset of this amp that includes ARC HDMI.
I just hope, if i finally purchase it my Sony TV to be friendly with Arcam.

As a (frustrated) SA30 user, and knowing we don’t all use the unit the same way, I would recommend only to order one if you have the possibility to return it if you are not satisfied. If you don’t face one of the various bugs, you’ll probably be very satisfied with the sound quality.

This was also the case with the SA30 prior this forum existed. At that time there were only a few reviews with exceptional results and there was some marketing information available. I was wondering why a particular Arcam SA30 feature didn’t work as expected and I couldn’t find any information on it. This was the reason I started this forum. This forum contains the hands on experience of SA30 owners, no marketing talks. Sometimes information on this forum is straight forward from the heart (it doesn’t work) without a nice wrapped sales talk.

If the information you’re looking for cannot be found on the internet then it doesn’t mean it is nonexistence. Maybe the products you’re looking for contain issues too but these aren’t listed anywhere.

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After lots of initial teething issues in the Summer I’ve found the latest firmware to be rock solid - I haven’t had any problems at all for the last couple of months. I do use Dirac and stream mostly from Tidal. The sound is fantastic through Kef R3s and I would highly recommend the SA30.

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I returned my SA30, having purchased it in November 2020, due to frequent distortion problems that featured in every listening session.

I am a long term Arcam fan and on an absolute scale (when the SA30 was working correctly), it is a very impressive piece of kit.

I looked at alternatives to the Arcam and Dirac/equivalent was essential and decided to base my next decision purely on objective measurements.

From this, I purchased the MiniDSP SHD (best objectively measured streamer/dirac/preamp on audio science review) and placed the second ranking amplifier type (Purifi based) Nad C298 power amplifier to go alongside the MiniDSP.

If you want to go the whole hog and purchase an amplifier with similar objective measurements to the MiniDSP SHD, there is only one choice - Benchmark AHB2 which has a digital ranking SINAD of 113dB @5w. Now that is one serious engineering feat and hats off to Benchmark but it comes at a cost of £3.5k, which is double my Nad C298.

So is the MiniDSP SHD/Nad C298 better than the Arcam SA30… yes, in that it always works but from an absolute sound quality perspective, the difference is small in the favour of my newer equipment and in reality, any audiophile would be happy with either. We are in the realms of diminishing returns here and also the ability to hear differences at this very high (near reference) level.

On saying this, it does depend on your speakers and if you have very difficult speakers to drive (which I don’t), the more expensive power amplifiers would come into their own.

So the answer to your question is that there are better quality solutions out there (but not many). If you can wait for the next Arcam firmware update and see if the distortion issue is fixed, then wait.

I’m not sure whether there are any issues with the Nad M33 (but I do know, it is the best objectively tested) all in one solution equivalent to the Arcam SA30.

I’m not sure whether there are any issues with the Nad M33 (but I do know, it is the best objectively tested) all in one solution equivalent to the Arcam SA30

My friend NAD M33 cost 3 times up the SA30 , it is a different level.

How about users, saying it sounds dry? :wink: It’s not all hype about Hegel, if you just look carefully.
But agree, they don’t seem to have many issues. On the other hand they have much less features, that makes software development much easier.
NAD had major issues with C658, which took roughly 2 years to get resolved. They also had some issues with M10.
So no, it’s not so that SA30 is crap, and others are faultless.

Your new gear is also 150% of SA30 price, at least in Europe, it’s not all in one, lacks HDMI and if based on Volumio, which I for example don’t like :slight_smile:

Indeed, it is more expensive and it doesn’t have HDMI (although, I’m not sure why a stereo device would need this, as it certainly isn’t supposed to be an AV receiver) and the Volumio is a non-issue.

I have tried Volumio and choose to use MConnect and BubbleUPNP apps via my phone to stream Tidal/NAS drive.

I can’t see a big issue with any at the moment but am certainly using MConnect the most and it seems to work very well.

All in all, if the SA30 worked, it would be the bargain of the century.

For me HDMI is very useful. I don’t have separate home cinema system, and my stereo is located together with TV. As TV speakers usually suck, I prefer to have it hooked up to stereo, than to get some sound bar as additional item.
And looking at more and more stereo devices with ARC, I would say I’m not the only one with such requirement :wink:
Besides @iarvanit said, that HDMI is an asset :slight_smile:
As for Volumio, BubbleUPNP and Mconnect is a matter of personal preference. I tried them, and didn’t like them. That’s it. I even prefer MusicLife than those.
SA30 will work :slight_smile:
I’m still wondering why you had such big issues with distortion, and I haven’t had any for weeks. This is really a puzzle…

My distortion usually is triggered by Roon switching MQA resolutions with Dirac.