Best (inexpensive) system for audio listening...?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Brent_H, Nov 10, 2002.

  1. Brent_H

    Brent_H Second Unit

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    I am interested in purchasing separates for an audio only system. I have my home theater setup in the family room and want an audio setup for my bedroom, a more intimate listening area. My needs are as follows, I want to hookup my turntable, cd player, and eventually hook up an SACD/DVD-A player for 2-channel use only. I also plan on using some studio monitors later on....So yeah, what should I be looking for? I don't know much about separates and have no idea what I need to look for. All I know is that I heard my friends vinyl running through separates through COMPUTER speakers and it sounded better than me running my turntable through my Sony STR-DE875 and old Pioneer 4 way floors....

    Thanks for any information!
     
  2. Mark Leitch

    Mark Leitch Stunt Coordinator

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    A very cheap system would be:

    o bottlehead foreplay preamp (only two inputs... your SACD should do CD as well)
    o radio shack little rat phono preamp
    o ASL Wave monoblocks
    o Axiom M3Ti speakers (or Klipsch Heresy's if you want to rock out)

    I have owned all of these except the foreplay.

    Mark.
     
  3. Jeff D.

    Jeff D. Supporting Actor

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    The best way to enter the high-end world without paying the high-end prices is to look at the NAD products. They still have a solid offering of 2-channel products that should get you on your way.

    The new C320BEE integrated amplifier is a killer. It is a tweaked version of their C320 integrated - by the man who designed their 3020 amp from the early 80s - it was that amp that put NAD on the map. I've heard it and it is an absolutely amazing little amp - probably better than their more expensive C350.

    If you're looking to get into 2 channel seperates on a budget, definitely audition NAD.

    /Jeff
     
  4. Scott Oliver

    Scott Oliver Screenwriter

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    What is the budget here?

    What turntable do you have and what CD player?

    What speakers will you be using or do you need some speakers as well?
     
  5. Brent_H

    Brent_H Second Unit

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    well for now i have a beltdrive zenith turntable from the late 70's to early 80's (?) and a bottom of the barrel 5-disc carousel from Sony. I am looking into speakers too, but for now was plannign on running through some Sony bookshelfs that can handle 100W. My budget is around $500 (not including a speaker upgrade).
     
  6. Brent_H

    Brent_H Second Unit

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    Jeff--whats the difference btween an integrated amp and like using a preamp setup? i am assuming the integrated just elimanated the purpose of a preamp.....I am still learning about separates so please forgive me.
     
  7. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    An integrated amp combines a preamp and power amps. If you have $500 for amplification, I would recommend getting an integrated. You'll probably cut too many corners buying separate preamps and power amps.
    If you don't mind building a kit, then the Foreplay suggestion is excellent - for $150, you get to build a tube preamp that can hold its own with products much more expensive. You can upgrade parts in it later, and at around $300 (a fully tricked out Foreplay), it can apparently compete with some products in the 4-digit price range. I've owned a Foreplay and think it is excellent value for money, plus it's a great way to learn about how audio components work.
    If you go that route, that leaves $350 for power amps - I think there are products from Adcom, Acurus, Rotel, Nad, among others, that should fit your bill (on the used market). Go to www.audiogon.com and check prices, and www.audioasylum.com and www.adioreview.com are great places to get an idea of what owners think about their gear.
    Having said that - have you experimented with speaker placement? On the Audio Asylum page, go to the FAQ and read the speaker placement links - the WASP method worked very well in my room. Proper speaker placement will usually make a much bigger difference to the sound than upgrading amps, and it's free. You may find that you don't like the sound of your speakers no matter where you plae them, and in that case you might be better off buying speakers first before buying new amps/preamps. Just an idea to consider. Again, if you can solder and assemble stuff, $500 can buy you speaker kits (with pre-built cabinets, so no woodworking needed) that will compete easily with $1-2K commercial products. If you're a decent woodworker, that number goes even higher.
     
  8. Jeff D.

    Jeff D. Supporting Actor

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    Brent:

    An integrated amp integrates the pre-amp and power amp into one chassis. A receiver is just an integrated amp with a tuner built in as well.

    There is no hard and fast rule as to whether seperates (ie. a seperate pre-amp and power amp) is better or worse than an integrated solution. Simply put, a well designed integrated solution will outperform a poorly designed separates solution.

    The nice option with the NAD integrated amps is they offer a set of 'PreOut/Main In' jacks on the back. Out of the box, this jacks are jumpered together. Basically what they do is link the preamp and power amp sections of the integrated. Why offer this? In the future, when you have the case, you can upgrade your system by moving to a seperate power amp. No need to buy a new preamp, simply remove the jumper and hook the power amp into the Pre Out jacks on the NAD. Built in upgrade path right there. The NAD will also hold its own as a preamp.

    $500 could definitely get you into one of the NAD solutions. I highly recommend it. User-friendly option that will give you stellar sound. My first real piece of hi-fi gear was an NAD 304 integrated amp. Still one of my favourite pieces of gear.

    /Jeff
     
  9. Steve T

    Steve T Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks Jeff for the info on the NAD C320BEE. I am seriously considering this amp since my old HK integrated is giving me problems, and the repair shop is having trouble fixing it. How are the NAD products for reliability?
     
  10. Brent_H

    Brent_H Second Unit

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    Saurav:

    Where can I find out more about Foreplay amps?? That sounds like fun...building it myself. I wonder how hard it is. I have a friend who could do it, nevertheless.

    Jeff:

    Thanks for the info...I will definately check into the NAD's if I decide to go the integrated way.

    ~Brent
     
  11. Jeff D.

    Jeff D. Supporting Actor

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    In our store we service everything we sell, and the only NAD problems I've seen (not including 15 year old CD players conking out) have been older receivers that used lamps to light their displays. Lamps just burnt out.

    Otherwise, I have seen no major reliability problems, nor have I heard of any.

    /Jeff
     
  12. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    Information on the Foreplay preamp: www.bottlehead.com
    There's a whole forum full of very helpful people, and archived posts to search through, so "technical support" is better than anything else you can find out there [​IMG] Searching the archives is a great way of finding answers, because it's almost a given that whatever problem you might face, someone has faced it before [​IMG]
    People with zero prior soldering experience have successfully built this preamp, so it's not very hard. The kit has every part you'll need (down to the screws), the manual has step-by-step instructions, and there's a bunch of people to help you out if you get stuck anywhere. You'll need to buy a soldering iron and solder, and a multimeter. Radio Shack has basic irons and multimeters that will work just fine, that's what I'm using.
    And I can tell you one thing, building the Foreplay was the most audio-related fun I've had in a really long time [​IMG] It got me into DIY audio in a big way, to the point where today, everything in my system is either built from a kit or has been extensively modified. Once you build your own gear and see how much sound you can get for your money, you'll never look at retail gear the same way again.
     
  13. Tom Grooms

    Tom Grooms Second Unit

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    I would look at the Adcom GFP-565 / GFA-555 MKII combo.

    The 565 is a Great pre amp with a world class Phono stage and the 555 will get you 200 WPC.

    Between $500-$600, I don't think you can do much better.

    $0.02
     
  14. mike_decock

    mike_decock Supporting Actor

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  15. Scott Oliver

    Scott Oliver Screenwriter

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    Ok here is a good one.

    Naim Nait 3 integrated (used)

    There are two for sale on Audiogon for the $500 price range.

    These would be hard to beat I imagine, I have heard the newer Nait 5 and it is quite nice.
     
  16. Greg_R

    Greg_R Screenwriter

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    I would _strongly_ suggest headphones (or 2 pairs of headphones if SO is present). The acoustics in a bedroom are not ideal and room for equipment is limited. A $400 set of headphones with a decent headphone amp will easily compete with high end speakers ($10k+). FWIW, I have a set of the Etymotic ER-4S phones and they are incredible...
     
  17. Mark Leitch

    Mark Leitch Stunt Coordinator

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    I think it is pointless to compare headphones and speakers... they are each a different experience. I have owned some nice headphones (AKG, Stax, Grado) with dedicated amps and there are many modestly priced speakers that I would take over headphones without hesitation... it is simply the experience I prefer. Thankfully I may have both ;-)

    M.
     
  18. Brent_H

    Brent_H Second Unit

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    here's what i am going to be doing.....i have a "L" kind of shaped computer desk, and i have speakers on both sides of me, pointed right at me...they are both equidistant from my ears. i plan on buying some studio monitors....either some Mackie's or some Tannoy 800's. i am not planning on playing them REAL loud when i am sitting that close. my ears already ring enough. i will buy some nice headphones eventually, but for now, studio monitors seem to suit my needs [​IMG]
    thanks for all the input guys, i will be looking into everything you have said [​IMG]
     
  19. Guy Usher

    Guy Usher Supporting Actor

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    I just posted an answer saying that I would never consider a reciever over seperates although I did say there were exceptions to every rule.
    There are countless numbers of high dollar used "Pro-Logic" recievers out there that can be had for pennies on the dollar, just use the stereo mode, otherwise Jeff is right in a word "NAD "[​IMG]
     
  20. Pete Gia

    Pete Gia Stunt Coordinator

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    The new NAD C320BEE sounds interesting. The C350 has 2 sets of pre-outs(one variable),which comes in awful handy if you ever want to add a sub,or bi-amp. I just retired an old NAD 7100X receiver that has about the same power as these units. It easily drove my relatively inefficient NHT Super Ones. At any rate either one will sound better than HK.
     

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