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From scratch $10K stereo system?

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by John Meeks, Sep 12, 2006.

  1. John Meeks

    John Meeks Agent

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    I still think my favorite so far is the NuForce amps, especially after reading the reviews...

    They also make a preamp that matches, and connecting brackets that would let me stack them neatly.

    You can get the two amps and preamp for $3K, if I got the DAC it'd be about 4K (probly a bit more with the connectors and stuff). I'd have a cute little tower, with extra inputs if I wanted them.

    That would leave maybe $5500 for speakers, I wouldn't need a sub if I got something with woofers. For example, Paradigm S8's.

    A lot of the reviews said that the NuForce amps are pretty "cold" sounding, and I'm wondering if I'd want to use some kind of vacuum tube preamp or DAC to warm it up a bit. Especially if it had pretty glowing tubes sticking out the top. [​IMG]
     
  2. Arthur S

    Arthur S Screenwriter

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    You seem to be "reading" your auditions. This really doesn't work. For example, you like the NuForce amps based on reading, but they might be cold based on reading.

    With all due respect, you need to spend your time listening to speakers and then deal with the electronics. The speakers will make 1000X difference than any choice of electronics.

    Please correct me if you have actually listened to the NuForce amps.
     
  3. John Meeks

    John Meeks Agent

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    There's a pretty good-sized McIntosh dealer near me, I should check them out...
     
  4. Arthur S

    Arthur S Screenwriter

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    Very good John. And then go listen to the Paradigm S8, and then go listen to...as many speakers as you can. My friend, when you are talking about spending $10,000 you really owe it to yourself to listen to a lot of speakers, without regard to design.

    Not bragging however, in my 40 years of audio experience, I have probably auditioned about 120 speaker models, and owned about 15 different speakers. When you have checked out a couple dozen different speakers you will get a strong feeling about what you like. In my experience, no one speaker excels in every area. Some speakers stand out in my memory. Including some that are rare if not even made anymore. One of my all-time favorites were Apogee ribbons. They are planar. Like I mentioned before, if at all possible, audition some planars. Please take a peek at this thread:

    http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htf/...d.php?t=207137

    With 44 pages, 1300 posts, and 65,000 views, maybe there is something to it?

    And please remember, speakers will almost always sound brighter at home than they do in a showroom.
     
  5. Lindahl

    Lindahl Extra

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    Here's my suggestion:

    Source ~$2000 (~$1200):
    Sonos Controller + ZP80 - $750
    Western Digital Netcenter 250GB - 150$
    Zhoalu DAC - $300-$500

    As long as you aren't scared to rip your CDs to raw WAVs (to FLAC using EAC if your collection is unwieldy), going with Sonos will allow you to enjoy your music so much more than you would with any other transport, and you don't even need a computer! You'll have instant access to all your bit-perfect CD music through a beautiful ipod-like interface from the comfort of your sweet spot. Just set the volume level to fixed to avoid bit truncation. I wouldn't trade this kind of access for any CD player even in a 100k rig. I listen to much more music now, just because of the convenience. You can try out a demo of their controller interface on their website (left-hand side from the homepage). Keep in mind that there are services out there that will rip your CDs for you (relatively cheap too!). The bonus is you get free audio distribution if you decide to expand and want music elsewhere. In addition, Sonos also allows you to explore new music effortlessly through Rhapsody and internet radio stations. Yes, the quality of Rhapsody and internet radio stations isn't anything to write home about, but you spend your CD money better by effortlessly pre-listening (I've saved many a $12-15). The Zhaolu DAC is a very interesting DAC that offers incredible bang for your buck even if it hasn't been modded by one of the distributors, Eddie. Check out Head-fi.org to get lots more information about it and other DACs. Just keep in mind that they exaggerate a lot about the differences between DACs. DACs don't contribute much to the sound once you get a decent one. If you want to play it mainstream, you can go with the well-reviewed Benchmark DAC-1 for about twice the price.

    Room Treatment ~$1500 ($500):
    RPG Panels (expensive)
    OC703 / Linacoustic / Acoustic Cotton etc.

    Spend some money to get proper room treatments (and research how best to apply them). The biggest bang for your buck can be found in room treatments once you get beyond the $1000 per pair speaker boundary. Either buy pre-made panels from places like RPG or Ethan Winer (sp?), or go the DIY route ($500) and buy quality materials from a place like sensiblesoundsolutions.com. Luckily, you don't have to spend much here to max out your improvement.

    Bass-correction $600 ($100):
    Velodyne SMS-1 Room Correction
    Feedback Destroyer 1124DSP

    Considering this is done in the digital realm, it would be used only if you choose to go the subwoofer route or can bi-amp via an external crossover, sending the low end through the correction device before going to the amplifier. Bass room correction is helpful in giving you the cleanest and tightest bass (reducing cross-wave interference - peaks and nulls). You can either go with the more expensive SMS system, which is relatively easy to set up, or the more flexible, but difficult to work with Behringer system (there's a really good manual floating on the web somewhere, check AVS forums).

    Cables
    Cheap

    As many can attest, it's generally pretty cheap and easy to manufacture good quality cable. Everything else is markup. For speaker wire, you can use anything, as long as it's thick enough for the length of the run. 14 gauge will be plenty safe for any sane speaker wire run. Don't spend more than $100 here. And, even then, you're edging into audio voodoo land.

    Pre-amp/Amp ~$2000 (~$1000):
    Many choices

    As long as you pick one of the well-known hi-fi manufacturers, you'll be fine. Amps and pre-amps are a bit like DACs, you really can't buy much sound quality here. In general, power is power, as long as it's stable, clean and can drive your speakers. Consider tubes if you like the warmer sound and have effecient speakers (generally more expensive, though). I've heard good things about AV123's Onix tube amplifier. Consider trying out pro-amps. They're super cheap (comparatively) and offer really clean and balanced (solid) power from the few that I've heard. They drive Maggies very well. If you don't like them, you just pay the return shipping (see partsexpress.com). As long as you have a decent amp, there's no reason to dump a lot of money here. A good 150-250 wpc is plenty for most speakers. With planars and other ineffecient speakers, 250-400 wpc is plenty.

    Speakers $4000 ($~7000):
    Many choices

    Speaker design is almost an art. You can pay a lot for sound quality with speakers (unlike the other components), your budget now should depend on how frugal you were earlier. Consider going with bookshelves and a subwoofer. If well integrated, there's potential for more detailed sound (soundstage may be smaller, however). A seperate setup allows you to place the subwoofer where it should go (reduced crosswave interference), and the speakers where they should go (best imaging and soundstage) because this is RARELY in the same spot. Not many have experience with bookshelves in this price range so you'll probably have to do a lot of legwork here. Some manufacturers in this arena are B&W, Sonus Faber, Revel, Aerial, Focal, DynAudio, and Totem. To play it safe, you can go with floorstanders instead. As others have mentioned, speakers are all about preference, so be sure to audition a wide variety. Listen to a least one pair of planars and if you like planar sound, listen to the various models out there (Maggies, Martin Logans, etc.). Planars are truely impressive with jazz, vocals and classical and tend to have a massive soundstage that feels like the walls are alive. Another different type of sound that you should look into, would be Mirage's new OMD series (use less room treatment with these speakers). Manufacturers I really suggest you check out are RBH, Devore Fidelity and Tyler Acoustics. Although Paradigm Sigs have been mentioned, you can do much better for your money (the Studios are a bargain, though).

    Whew... that was one long post. To sum up... I'm jealous [​IMG]
     
  6. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    Hope this won't overload JM with choices but here goes anyway! [​IMG]

    Don't be deceived by their looks - these speakers have a great reputation:

    Klipsch Cornwall III

    IIRC they go for about $3,500 per pair.

    These audio classics were just reintroduced this year with some slight updates. If you aren't sure about owning such a highly detailed speaker, many people use tubed electronics to help tame them, but which still allows them to retain (most) of their lifelike & very dynamic character. And their crazy efficiency - 102 db@1watt/1meter! - means they don't need a large amp to reach concert hall levels, another reason people use tube power amps with them.
     
  7. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    You really need to stop, and spend some time auditioning speakers.

    For a 2-channel system in this budget range, there are a TON of excellent speakers out there. Some I would recommend strongly adding to your audition list, among many others might be:

    Dynaudio Contour
    Onix Ref 3 (Seriously, these keep pace with Revel Salons)
    B&W
    Paradigm Signature
     
  8. Lindahl

    Lindahl Extra

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  9. Lee-c

    Lee-c Second Unit

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    For speakers, I would highly recommend looking at VMPS. Many people who own or have heard expensive high-end brands of speakers prefer VMPS's when they hear them. There was a guy that had Wilson Watt Puppies (7's, I think) and when he heard a VMPS speaker, he sold the Watt Puppies right away, bought the VMPS speakers because they sounded so much better to him, and actually made money on the deal. [​IMG] VMPS is basically high-end quality speakers without having to pay a ton of money, and the speaker designer is the same guy that builds you your speakers, and there are several upgrade options you can get on the speakers. I'd recommend getting the RM2's, superb sound quality and bass output that is just incredible (get the "megawoofer" upgrade option [​IMG] ) Check out the links below for more info.

    http://www.vmpsaudio.com/

    http://www.audiocircle.com/circles/index.php?board=39
     
  10. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    The price for a pair of these must have dropped a good amount by now - why not search around for some? So what if they're a bit on the large side. [​IMG]

    Infinity Reference Standard

    to see the rest of that excellent website (the link above is to just one frame) go to www.infinity-classics.de
     
  11. Seth=L

    Seth=L Screenwriter

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    Weren't those your first speakers?
     
  12. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    I wish!

    No, the Reference Standard II was the first near-hi-end speaker I had listened to (a lot actually). At Pacific Stereo in 1983, driven by a fat SAE solid-state power amp. Most large Infinity's back then had very low impedances and were very inefficient but when given enough power had frightening bass (music bass - the HT world was years away; though the Pioneer SX-6 receiver* I bought there that year has an input and corresponding front panel light labeled "video").

    btw: if you look carefully at the woofers, you can see their dust covers are one of those bullet-shaped designs so popular now. And I also liked the pseudo flat-panel looks of the RS III series, though the II's are still the winner of my personal classy-and-exotic-but-not-weird styling contest.

    now back to JM's questions......

    * I still own it and its 10ft from me, powering my "subwoofer", an @30 year old Realistic Nova 8 with an 11" (yes, eleven) woofer w/cast aluminum frame in a sealed enclosure. Amazingly enough, it works 100% perfectly: its cloth surround is impregnated with a thick/shiny/gooey black substance so no foam rot problems. I estimate this sub system sounds about like a $250 store-bought sub. That $5 it cost me at a resale shop has really paid off well!
     
  13. Lee-c

    Lee-c Second Unit

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    Those Infinity IRS V's rock. [​IMG] Probably the only speakers that I might consider taking over a VMPS Super Tower III. [​IMG]
     
  14. Patrick D

    Patrick D Stunt Coordinator

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    Why pay 500% markup for retail speakers? I prefer that 80% of my cost goes to actually buying components, not subsidizing advertising, management, and yacht trips. The Seas excel drivers put everything to shame for detail and accuracy, IMO. If I had that much coin to drop on stereo, I'd be looking hard at:

    http://www.salksound.com/

    and

    http://www.selahaudio.com/

    (I'm going back to listening to streamed mp3's on my $12,000 system. [​IMG])
     
  15. Lee-c

    Lee-c Second Unit

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    Patrick D: The trick is to not buy the brands with huge markups on the cost (unless you have money to burn), but instead buy the brands where most of the price you pay goes toward the quality of the design, components and construction. The only thing you have to figure out then is which brands fit in that category. And HTF is a good place to ask advice on such matters. [​IMG]
     

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