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robertpower
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Advice for a newbie!

Hi everyone! I'm kinda newbie in this wonderful world of high-end audio. I would appreciate some advice on how to set up a good high-end audio system, something not too expensive yet of high quality. Some questions: is it better to have an integrated amplifier or to have a power amplifier and a pre-amplifier? Tube vacuum or solid-state? Are valve equalizers available today and are they advisable or necessary? What speakers should I use? What turntables do you recommend? Is there a guide on the web so I can consult? Thanks in advance for your attention!

Monty
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Re: Advice for a newbie!

I would start by making a list of what I needed in a system. This would be a simple list of what I was going to hook-up. Turntable, CD player, ipod, DVD player, surround sound, tape player...and so on.

After you determine what you are going to be running in a system, the next step would be to evaluate your space requirements and room dimensions. Draw a sketch with measurements and dimensions between doors, windows, traffic flow and all that. Start mentally placing the gear and determine how it will effect the use of the room. I would also be honest with myself about how loud I was going to be able to crank it up. If you live in an apartment your system requirements will be different than if you live in a house with room and space to fill with sound.

The next step would be to check out your local audio dealers. Bring along your list and room measurements. They should be able to help you get what you want within a reasonable budget and discuss why they recommend what they suggest.

If you have several dealers to choose from, visit all of them or enough of them to get comfortable with their attitude about assisting you. If you find one that you like, give them your business and don't choke on the fact that they will be making a reasonable profit for what they provide. You may be able to get the products a little cheaper, but a dealer's experience, especially in helping assembe a first system, is money well spent and can actually save you money in the long run if they help you get it right the first time.

bobedaone
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Re: Advice for a newbie!

I agree with Monty 100%.

As for your specific questions, you will find that most people here have different opinions as to what sounds best. I'll answer them to the best of my ability.

1.) integrated vs. pre/power

Superiority here is mainly a function of how you will use your equipment. Integrated amplifiers today are (on the whole) very carefully designed. Some would argue that, up to a certain price point, separates offer no significant sonic advantage.

Integrated amplifiers save space, cables, and money (versus the like-branded separates from which they were conceived) versus a preamp/power amp combination. They also eliminate one system matching hurdle.

Separates allow for more upgrade flexibility later on. Are you in love with your preamplifier, but find the power amp lacking? Just upgrade the one that needs it, instead of starting from scratch. Also, if you want a lot of power, separates may be the better choice. The high-current power supplies in he-man amplifiers are more difficult to install/isolate in a single chassis with the preamplifier, and you may have more luck if you buy two boxes instead of one.

2.) tubes vs. solid state

Oh, boy, here we go again. This is one of those classic debates with no clear winner. Again, ask yourself how you will listen to and live with your system.

Tubes are wonderful and I could be very happy with a tube amp. However, I'm a college student and had practical considerations to contend with when I was in the market. An amplifier was a big investment for me, and something I knew I would have for many years before I could pull off an upgrade. I needed something with zero operating costs (other than power consumption). Tubes were already out at that point because they have a finite lifetime and must be replaced periodically, just like light bulbs. I listen a lot, and also prefer leaving the amplifier on most of the time. I like knowing that my little black box will be there for me, day in and day out, for years (with no additional expenditure).

Tubes and solid state each have their stereotyped sonic qualities, tubes tending towards "warmth" and a sweet midrange, and solid state offering (usually) superior bass authority and speed. I wouldn't know from experience, but it's been indicated that the differences become much more subtle as you climb the price ladder.

I'd love to mess around with vacuum tubes someday, but I'll stick with my bullet proof solid state companion for now.

3.) equalizers

I'm not sure of a situation when an equalizer would be necessary, so I won't advise it.

4.) speakers

This is a difficult question with a short answer: It depends on the other components in your system. Are you set on tubes? Better make sure your loudspeakers are efficient enough to be driven properly by the (probably) less powerful amplifier you chose. It's also important to match the speakers to the rest of your system, so that the end result will be synergistic, not apocalyptic. Your dealer will know which speakers sound best with which amplifiers and sources, and will help you put together a system that can really sing.

Choose speakers that sound good to you. Good ones are accurate and detailed, but get out of the way and let you listen. Your ears will tell you which loudspeakers they prefer.

5.) turntable

There are many variables to consider here, including where it will be placed and how much flexibility of 'table adjustment and cartridge choice you want. I'm rather fond of Regas because they are affordable, simple, and have a good reliability record. They also sound excellent.

The decision you make will have a lot to do with what you listen to and (I know, again) your associated equipment. Price could also be a concern, since the prices of some turntables will make your eyes water and your wallet take cover.

Good luck getting started and welcome to the forum!

LocoMoco
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Re: Advice for a newbie!

Pardon me for jumping in as I'm also a newbie and share the same question. As I was looking for an integrated amp, at which price point does it may sense to upgrade to a pre/amp setup. For example, I was looking at the Rega Mira. As I started liking the Arcam A90 or mention the Plinius 9100 or NAD M3, the vendor said you might look into separates. Which separates would be in the price range of the NAD M3 and sound better?

Please excuse my ignorance. What is the deal with McIntosh? When anyone mentions McIntosh, it seems to be the pinnacle of stereo equipment. Also, if anyone is purchasing the NAD M3, why not consider the McIntosh MA6500?

zx6rpete
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Re: Advice for a newbie!

I was looking at the M3 also but ended up purchasing a PS Audio GCC-250. The GCC-100 got a good review on this site so you might want to include this model on your list.

robertpower
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Re: Advice for a newbie!

Thank you guys for your advice! Very helpful! I'll keep on looking and searching on the forum and on the web for info.

Thanks again!

bobedaone
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Re: Advice for a newbie!

The cut-off is going to differ depending on whom you ask. If I were in the market for more expensive gear, I would probably draw the line at about $4-5000. I can't think of any separates off-hand that would best the M3 for the same money, but at that level, it's worth looking into.

The deal with McIntosh is that it's one of the few companies from back in the day that is still around. Any Baby Boomers in this hobby probably grew up coveting Mac amplifiers. Some time ago, they were the pinnacle. Even more remarkable, McIntosh gear continues to be very highly regarded today, and rightly so. So, the likelihood of a hi-fi enthusiast having a high opinion of McIntosh Labs is very strong.

If I were considering the NAD M3, the McIntosh MA6500 would certainly be on my list as well.

robertpower
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Re: Advice for a newbie!

And what do you guys think about chinese tube amps like Meixing Ming-Da, Shanling, Yaqin or Meng? Are the good? What about occidental world brands like JoLida?

Thanks!

Elk
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Re: Advice for a newbie!

Jolida amps are good, I understand that Shanling are good also although I have no personal experience with them.

bobedaone
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Re: Advice for a newbie!

I know very little of the all-Chinese brands. As for JoLida, an online friend whose opinion I trust was very pleased with his. He recently upgraded to another type of tube amp, but I don't recall the brand.

In principle, I try to avoid Chinese-manufactured goods whenever possible, although not for reasons of perceived quality. For instance, my decision concerning which amplifier to buy (Rega Brio3 vs. NAD C325BEE) was made slightly easier with the knowledge that the Rega is made in Great Britain and the NAD is made in China.

LocoMoco
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Re: Advice for a newbie!

Appreciate your reply. Mahalo!

LocoMoco
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Re: Advice for a newbie!


Quote:
I was looking at the M3 also but ended up purchasing a PS Audio GCC-250. The GCC-100 got a good review on this site so you might want to include this model on your list.


Yes, I forgot to mention the GCC-100 as another product I have on my short list. How has the GCC-250 worked out for you? Will this be a keeper?

jackfish
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Re: Advice for a newbie!

The Cambridge Audio Azur 840A is a good value at $1400.

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