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From scratch $10K stereo system?


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#1 of 55 OFFLINE   John Meeks

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Posted September 12 2006 - 05:20 AM

I'd like to set up a stereo system from scratch. I already have a HT, I'd be setting this up in a different room.

My budget is $10K, and I'd like the following:

Speakers
Amp
Preamp
Cables (don't want anything fancy)
CD player
Computer hook-up
Room treatments

I play most music directly from the computer, high-bit-rate or lossless compressed. I'd like it to work with either Mac or PC.

I've noticed that even the high-end stuff uses those old RCA connectors, it'd be nice to have something a bit more modern, like BNC or XLR.

I like B&W speakers, Sunfire subs, although I haven't heard Paradigm's speakers, which are supposed to be good. I'd be willing to go to Canada to get Paradigm's cheaper.

#2 of 55 OFFLINE   Seth=L

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Posted September 12 2006 - 06:19 AM

You might not get Paradigm on the cheap if you go to Canada, the Canadian dollar is up I hear.

Speakers to consider:

Martin Logan: Normally not bright, very calm, neutral, and accurate. Their subs aren't bad either IMO, better than Sunfire, especially for music.

Paradigm Signature Series: Excellent imaging, high power handling, and also very accurate.

Bower & Wilkins: Nautilis are top notch, but you need a bigger room for the larger Nautilis, so if your room is small just rule the large ones out.

Subs:

Paradigm Servo 15, or Signature 15: very fast responce, gets low, and can knock you flat from a mile away.

I would vere away from Sunfire for music. I have one and I am dissapointed to say the least. It bottoms out on some material, which I can't stand, and lacks overall control, i.e. sloppy bass, and difficult to place. I have an M&K MX-100 that just blows the Sunfire out of the water in every department but size.

If small subs are what you are interested in, check out the Velodyne Mini-Vee, Paradigm Seismic Series, or Definitive Tech Super Cubes.

Where Sunfire hits hard is their amplifiers. I would look at the Sunfire Signature 600 II or the 300 II.

Anthem, Rotel, Parasound, Adcom these are all good places to look for your preamps and amplifiers.

What is your front end? CD player or just the computer.
From personal experiance computers don't have the best sound. It should sound good with certain Lossless files, but if you buy high end speakers and quality components they will reveal any mistakes the computer makes, and could be very frustrating.

#3 of 55 OFFLINE   Arthur S

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Posted September 12 2006 - 06:37 AM

Speakers will make by far the most difference in the sound of the system. About 60% of your budget should go to the speakers. You will have to decide if you prefer planars, which are bipolar, or direct radiators. Planars will have very different soundstaging than direct radiators. More hight and depth. Quite a few people like planars. A very good choice would be Magnepan 3.6's. Martin-Logan electrostatics are also very good, but you might get more for your money with the Maggies. B&W and Paradigm are well regarded, and at the top of your price range is Aerial.

Everything else will pale in comparison to your speaker selection. You need to spend a lot of time listening to speakers, bearing in mind that speakers will sound brighter in your home than they do in a showroom.

Hi enders seem to like vinyl. I don't, but an excellent CD player is a better source than a computer. With CD, it is all about the Digital to Analog Converters, (DACs).

Minimalist pre-amp, nearly any good amp.

Subwoofer, Velodyne DD-12.

Maggie 3.6 + Velodyne DD-12 will be about 60% of your budget.

My $.02 Posted Image

#4 of 55 OFFLINE   John Meeks

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Posted September 12 2006 - 07:11 AM

I appreciate the suggestions... Posted Image

Why would a high-quality CD player be better than a computer with a high-quality external soundcard? In either case, it should be all about the DAC.

It's like people saying that those gold-colored CD's, or the ones with a green line around the outside, or a high-end CD transport make a differance.

If a DAC gets a digital signal from different sources, as long as the signal is bit-for-bit the same, the output should be the same. For example, if I got an external DAC, and ran an optical connection from a CD player playing a CD, or a computer playing a file, it should get the identical data either way, and the output should be exactly the same.

This will hold true if I'm using lossless compression or no compression, which I plan to do.

In fact, I'd expect more reliable output from a computer, since hard disks pretty much always read the data correctly, while CD's can get damaged beyond their built-in error correction, and will silently try to fix bad data.

What is it about CD players that make them a better source of digital data than computers?

#5 of 55 OFFLINE   John Meeks

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Posted September 12 2006 - 07:17 AM

Double-post... I didn't think it worked the first time because it said "server not responding"...

#6 of 55 OFFLINE   Seth=L

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Posted September 12 2006 - 07:35 AM

Know that I mean no offense by saying this, but a quality outboard DAC for a computer really doesn't contend with a high end DAC designed specifically for a CD transport. The difference between the computer sound cards and Seperate DAC's is the components used and how they are applied. Sound cards employ surround sound decoders and lots of other things that can disrupt the signal causing slight distortions. For example a Rotel CD player vs. computer with sound blaster card, the Rotel is going to win out. I am not saying you shouldn't use the computer, just recomending that you invest in a Sub $1000 cd player, or maybe go vinyl.

#7 of 55 OFFLINE   RichardH

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Posted September 12 2006 - 09:53 AM

There are plenty of people who get great results from a losslessly encoded CD collection streamed to a squeezebox or the like (google that). I wouldn't worry too much about the difference b/w lossless music over a squeezebox vs. CD transport w/ outboard DAC. Your efforts (and dollars) will be much better spent on the speakers and acoustics part of your setup. You should audition as much as you can for speakers, as tastes can vary widely.

#8 of 55 OFFLINE   LanceJ

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Posted September 12 2006 - 10:57 AM

Quote:
What is it about CD players that make them a better source of digital data than computers?
For me anyway, from an operational point of view, using a CD player to play your music is easy: you place the CD in the tray and push play - that's it.

With a computer you have to contend with potential software issues; pulling up an oncscreen display to simply change or pause tracks (unless the keyboard can be configured for that); and what if you have an impulse to play She Blinded Me With Science Posted Image but the computer is shut down? And unless you invest in a set of wireless gear, the computer needs to be in the same room as your system.

So IMO it's easier to simply buy a good CD or dvd player in the $300 range to use as a transport for a high quality external DAC....or a very good CD player in the $1,000 range.

#9 of 55 OFFLINE   Garrett Lundy

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Posted September 12 2006 - 11:30 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Meeks
My budget is $10K, and I'd like the following:

Speakers
Amp
Preamp
Cables (don't want anything fancy)
CD player
Computer hook-up
Room treatments
I've had good experience with NAD and PSB (another Canadian company, similar to Paradigm).

PSB Platinum T8 towers - $6,999
NAD c162 pre-amp & c272 amp - @$1200
CD Player - Sony Scd2000ES SACD/CD player $400
Interconnects - RadioShack 'Gold' $9
Speaker Wire - RadioShack 14g $5
Computer hook-up - Apple Airport Express w/ AirTunes - $130

Then spend the rest on some area rugs & wall hangers.

PS: Personally I'd save money by using an integrated amp instead of seperates (I use a c370 w/ my platinums), Just letting you know you could keep some options open. Posted Image
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#10 of 55 OFFLINE   Arthur S

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Posted September 12 2006 - 02:53 PM

Garrett

Those PSB Platinum look very interesting. There is a lot I could say about them, both good and questionable, but that will have to wait till tomorrow. For now I can say that according to the spec sheet, they are 10 db down at 22 HZ. This means they need a subwoofer. Your budget doesn't leave anything for a sub. Of course, the OP could decide to up his budget by $1,500.

#11 of 55 OFFLINE   John Meeks

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Posted September 12 2006 - 03:13 PM

About using the computer:

Most of the time I listen to music is when I'm surfing the internet, and I'm often listening to online radio. The CD player is just a secondary thing in case I have a CD I want to play. I see it as more of a pain in the neck than the computer, I can't switch songs quickly, I have to mess with disks, store them somewhere, etc.

And I wouldn't use a SoundBlaster. There are plenty of pro sound cards available that sound excellent. A lot of production and editing is done on computers these days, so companies have made cards for that.

I hadn't seen the PSB speakers before, what are they like?

#12 of 55 OFFLINE   Seth=L

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Posted September 12 2006 - 03:23 PM

I guess my knowledge of computers is limited.

I have some budget PSB's that sound great, PSB Century 600i. They are kind of small.

So this setup is in a seperate room, and you listen to music while on the computer. How big is the room? Do you plan on having a sweetspot for just in the dark music listening?

#13 of 55 OFFLINE   Seth=L

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Posted September 12 2006 - 03:28 PM

It just occured to me, why not just buy some really nice powered monitors and a sub? Very simple, less wires, and common among some computer users that record there own music. They are designed to be accurate, so that could be a very good option for you if you are just using a computer, and I assume that if you decide down the road to get another source you could use the Auxilery Audio input on the audio card.

#14 of 55 OFFLINE   LanceJ

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Posted September 12 2006 - 03:47 PM

Quote:
For now I can say that according to the spec sheet, they are 10 db down at 22 HZ. This means they need a subwoofer.
Um....how come they "need" a sub? I guess if John tells us he listens to pipe organ music or electronica with loads of looooow frequency effects, he might want to invest in one, but only 10dB down at such an extremely low frequency for a music-only system tells me those PSBs will do well with the large majority of musical styles.

Those PSBs also will definitely need a well-built amp: their spec page says their nominal impedance is 4 ohms and their SPL rating is 88dB (anechoic): those are some "tough" numbers!!

John: what kind of music DO you listen to; plus, what size of room will this system be located in?

#15 of 55 OFFLINE   Seth=L

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Posted September 12 2006 - 03:56 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by LanceJ
Those PSBs also will definitely need a well-built amp: their spec page says their nominal impedance is 4 ohms and their SPL rating is 88dB (anechoic): those are some "tough" numbers!!

PSB's aren't very efficient to begin with.

#16 of 55 OFFLINE   John Garcia

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Posted September 12 2006 - 04:05 PM

I'd start with the speakers and then figure out what you will need to power them after you have decided on them. As has already been said, speakers are the most important part.

I recommend Joseph Audio.
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#17 of 55 OFFLINE   Seth=L

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Posted September 12 2006 - 04:10 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Garcia
I recommend Joseph Audio.

Those speakers look like what white van speakers try to look like. I have seen these in Stereophile before I believe.

#18 of 55 OFFLINE   LanceJ

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Posted September 12 2006 - 04:54 PM

How about these:

Anthony Gallo Acoustics' Nucleus Reference 3.1 Loudspeaker

Quality sound + would fit right in at the local modern art museum.

Lava lamp not included. Posted Image

#19 of 55 OFFLINE   Arthur S

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Posted September 12 2006 - 10:00 PM

Lance

1) The OP stated he was interested in a subwoofer.

2) "Only 10 db down at 22Hz". 10 db down is completely useless. 3db down (the half power point) is generally considered the lowest usefull frequency. The human ear is less sensitive at the lowest frequencies.

3) I know that if I were spending 10K on a stereo system it would include a really fine sub, and then I could get a smaller speaker and not have to deal with comb filter effects that come with multi woofer designs. Maybe Wilson Watts without the Puppies. Spending a fortune on a huge wood box and bunches of woofers just isn't necessary these days.

Having said all that, what I like most about the Platinum is the MTM design combined with a rear mounted 2nd tweeter. The design is somewhat similar to one of my favorite "full range" speaker designs, the Snell Type B, that avoided comb filtering by mounting one 12 inch woofer on the front of the cabinet, and one on the rear, along with a second tweet on the back. They also had felt around the entire MTM module to reduce edge diffraction. Also, had one of the most unusual cabinet shapes I've ever seen. I'll post a link later, and perhaps you will be able to see the shape of the cabinet. Not a regular box, so avoided being bipolar.

#20 of 55 OFFLINE   John Meeks

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Posted September 13 2006 - 02:18 AM

I listen to pretty much all types of music (except country). I'll get a sub if the system requires it, but I'll keep it simpler if the speakers will give me bass. I think it sounds better coming out of the speakers than a seperate sub.

My current setup is two B&W DM303's (borrowed surrounds from the HT), Pioneer SX-780, hooked up to the standard sound-output of a Mac. It's pretty good, but I'd like to get something that will blow it away. The speakers are fairly harsh hooked up to an Onkyo, but the Pioneer warms them nicely.

I think that low-frequency sounds better coming out of the speakers rather than a seperate sub, but I'd also prefer to keep the speakers small so that they can sit on a table rather than the floor.

Maybe something along the lines of the Paradigm Signature S4, and a sub that's good for music.

I hooked my SVS up to it for fun, and I personally think it's better for movies than music. I know everyone loves them, but it just sounds muddy playing music. So maybe those speakers and a Paradigm signature sub.

$10K is the most I'd spend, but if I can get what I'm looking for for less, all the better.


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