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janeman
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another newbie story...

After listening to music for years using casual speakers, I decided it is time to give myself a treat and build up some hi-fi sound system. While working on this assigment, I have revealed how wide area I enter and at the moment I am flooded by information and try to find my way out of it. I would be very happy to hear an advice from the experienced.

I guess it could be useful, if I summarize what my expectations are:

1) I have excluded any surround system. I would not be comfortable with plenty of speakers and wires all around the room. Therefore, I have an interest in a stereo system "only".

2) I have seen there are plenty of stereo receivers, preamps, power-, and integrated amps out there. I only expect very elementary functions - to be able to switch between different sources and to prepare signal for stereo speakers. Therefore, I do not need a receiver. As a newbie, I prefer an integrated amp rather than preamp+amp combination. It seems just more comprehensive, one decision to be made less, one unit less, and less cables.

3) I have read many times "speakers first" and I have already made appointment to some listening auditions to hear different speakers. Nevertheless, I would be happy for any advice here as well. I listen to music like: Jacques Brel, Pink Floyd, Amy Winehouse, Nina Simone, Yann Tiersen, Yvonne Sanchez, Norah Jones, Seal, but often classical music, jazz as well... My room has approx. 35 m2, I would like floorstanding speakers.

4) Sources: I do not have any dedicated devices such as a separate CD, DVD, or turntable. I have a HDTV with only digital optical audio output, little media server, Apple MacBook Pro, iPhone. I have plenty of CDs and DVDs, plus music purchased on iTunes and I play all of them via the laptop. Hence all my sources are in digital form and devices I own have either optical digital output (SPDIF), USB, or analog output (relying on DAC inside the laptop or iphone). These are the sources I would like to support by the amplifier.

5) I have noticed, there are integrated amps, DACs, and integrated DAC amps. I must admit I like the integrated DAC amps category, but should there be a combination amp + DAC that would be superior to the integrated solution, why not... as long as I am able to connect SPDIF, USB, and analog.

6) My expectation is to pay max 2500-3000 EUR for the set (amp, (DAC), speakers), willing to move the limit higher in case it would be worth it. (Dangerous...)

What hangs in my head:

Before I found out, how wide the hi-fi world is, I started to look for Harman-Kardon. Somehow, this is fixed in my head as a hi-fi brand with reputation, but I do not have any justification for it. It's like if my mom says that Electrolux is a good refridgerator

I started with the receiver HK3490. The next step was the integrated amp HK980, because I do not need the added receiver functions. However, this one does not have a digital input. HK990 does and I have read many positive things about it, yet it is already quite expensive and perhaps even power overkill in my case. Nevertheless, it has also digital input.

Another option would be HK980 + DAC. I was recommended Cambridge Audio DACmagic. This is supposed to be better than DAC integrated in HK3490 and the entire combination would be still cheaper than HK990.

Then I discovered websites such as stereophile and to my surprise, there are no reviews about HK. Why is that? Nevertheless, new horizons were open to me. Neat things such as PeachTree Nova appeared. Nice stylish box combining all I need, nevertheless somewhat weak for floorstanding speakers. But there are others such as Simaudio Moon I-1 integrated amplifier, nice tube amps, many well rated DACs, etc. I just have to find time to read through it all, and additionally to google explanations for different technical terms etc.

Regarding speakers: for the kind of music I listen to, I was recommended Focal 726V. I haven't heard them yet, but I plan to do so next week. Reviews look nice, but that is theory only.

To close here, I would be really happy, if someone more experienced would be willing to give me some hints, share experience, and steer my effort the right direction.

Thank you,
Jan

Ariel Bitran
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Re: another newbie story...

Welcome to the forums!

With your budget you can definitely create an awesome hi-fi.

Any particular reason for the preference/interest in the DAC/Integrated? Maybe you could consider the new Peachtree iDecco which you can find a review for in our upcoming November issue. This integrated amp includes a multi-input DAC and iPod dock AND great sound all for under $1000 (not sure of cost across the pond).

Best of luck.

Drtrey3
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Re: another newbie story...

While I do not have enough experience with high end stuff to steer you toward anything in particular, I can welcome you to the forums! You have come to the right place, expect more advice than you can stand!

Trey

Jim Tavegia
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Re: another newbie story...

I would work from the speakers first, and then to the front end. The speakers are the weakest link and the most important. Always keep in mind that a pair of stand mounted monitors and a sub may work better than a full range speaker, but it is yours and you get to decide.

Also condsider that you could drive your system with your computer and through an outboard DAC or good sound card you can lisiten to CD/DVD media and internet streams if you choose. You may find you have interest in the Logitec Squeezebox as an adder to your system. The new Arcam R-DAC may just be the ticket for you and is very affordable.

With the holidays coming up and some bubbly of your choosing you could be in for a swell fall listening season.

I am amazed that at my work desk for school that I drive my computer/Behringer firewire 2496 sound card into an older Technics SA420 into my Large Advents how much I listen to that system and do not feel that cheated. Manu Katche' Third Round or Aquamarin sounds amazing there as well as it does in my office or on my 5.1 system.

Best of luck.

janeman
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Re: another newbie story...

Thank you all for the nice welcome and some interesting remarks. I will begin with the speakers - going to listen to some this weekend.

I also had a look on the R-DAC. Very interesting stuff. Just not sure if I get the point. Previously I read some things about DACmagic. These two differ in number of SPDIF inputs and balanced output for DACmagic. So far clear to me.

Now, DACmagic performs upsampling to 24 bit/192kHz and it has three filters. For R-DAC, no word about upsampling, instead terms "asynchronous USB", "good timing" and "jitter reduction" appear. Sounds black magic to me, especially the first one...

Does it mean that both devices are aiming at something different (appart from digital-to-analog conversion)? Do upsampling and asynchronous USB somehow overleap?

How can upsampling improve sound? Samples are added, but they are only interpolated from already existing onces, hence no new information appears, except for the fact that discrete character is partially suppressed as steps become smaller.

JIMV
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Re: another newbie story...


Quote:
3) I have read many times "speakers first" and I have already made appointment to some listening auditions to hear different speakers. Nevertheless, I would be happy for any advice here as well. I listen to music like: Jacques Brel, Pink Floyd, Amy Winehouse, Nina Simone, Yann Tiersen, Yvonne Sanchez, Norah Jones, Seal, but often classical music, jazz as well... My room has approx. 35 m2, I would like floorstanding speakers.

I did not notice a budget in your post so I will assume sufficient to buy decent stuff yet not so big as to buy stuff in the 'buying a car' category...With that in mind, and assuming you will have an amp of some decent power, how about the new Maggie 1.7's? They are getting rave reviews everywhere and are under $2K...I know they will make most of your list sound amazing.

Edit...sorry, just noticed your budget, which looks to be about $4500 USD...I stick by my speaker recommendation. You will love the sound of Maggies.

jackfish
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Re: another newbie story...


Quote:
...With that in mind, and assuming you will have an amp of some decent power, how about the new Maggie 1.7's? They are getting rave reviews everywhere and are under $2K...I know they will make most of your list sound amazing.

Edit...sorry, just noticed your budget, which looks to be about $4500 USD...I stick by my speaker recommendation. You will love the sound of Maggies.


I'd rather suggest Magnepan MMGs for $600/pair and sending them into Peter Gunn for a Magnestand conversion for $1700. Unless the listening room is huge MMGs will do. The MMGs allowed to breathe with the appropriate crossover leap to heights ten times above their price point. However, being across the pond doesn't make that easy.

I heard "Gunned" Magnepan 12s aside Vandersteen 5As and they were equally satisfying, except for the $17000 price tag of the Vandersteens.

My own MMGs will be going in to be "Gunned" next fall. I waited too long and the list filled quickly for this fall and next spring.

http://www.indiespinzone.com/magnestand.html

JIMV
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Re: another newbie story...

I use MMG's with my vinyl front end...Very nice indeed BUT, I believe the 1.7's are better...perhaps much better.

JSBach
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Re: another newbie story...


Quote:

I did not notice a budget in your post so I will assume sufficient to buy decent stuff yet not so big as to buy stuff in the 'buying a car' category...With that in mind, and assuming you will have an amp of some decent power, how about the new Maggie 1.7's? They are getting rave reviews everywhere and are under $2K...I know they will make most of your list sound amazing.

They are amazing for the price BUT they can be fussy about amplification. There's no simple formula I can give to solve that riddle so please, if you buy the Maggies first try out integrated amps on your speakers before putting your money down. That is if you can find a dealer willing to loan an integrated on trial. Some are so stupid they won't.


I've heard the 1.7's sounding fabulous with a Marantz PM-17SA .(Also a 35watt Musical Fidelity Class A amp but it cost an arm and a leg) Although the PM-17SA is specified as only putting out 60W into 8 Ohms it's claimed to be a high-current circuit and that's what Maggies appear to like. There are other more expensive Marantz integrateds you may want to audition but again, whatever you're thinking of buying, the important word is AUDITION.
Another amp I'm told the Maggies like is the Denon PMA2010AE. Haven't heard it myself but Denon hardly ever make a dud product and in my experience have excellent after sales back-up. Which reminds me, avoid Sony as their after sales support is crap.

Have a read of this too:- http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?cspkr&1276652661

OH - -and welcome to the forum

jackfish
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Re: another newbie story...


Quote:
I use MMG's with my vinyl front end...Very nice indeed BUT, I believe the 1.7's are better...perhaps much better.


I would venture a guess that "Gunned" MMGs would be better than stock 1.7s as evidenced by a review by an owner of a "Gunned" SMGa pair and 1.6QRs who stated, "They (Gunned SMGa) easily best the stock 1.6's..." Now "Gunned" 1.7s at $4,000/pair could be as good as Wilson MAXX2s at $45,000/pair.


Quote:
They are amazing for the price BUT they can be fussy about amplification.


I auditioned MMGs with an NAD C375 (150 wpc into 8 Ohms) which was plenty and sounded great. I run my MMGs with 200 watts into 8 Ohms, and 350 watts into 4 Ohms, Emotiva UPA-1 monoblocks and they definitely like it. The Magnestand conversion has been measured to change Magnepans from an 86dB/1w/1m sensitivity to 92dB/1w/1m which makes them less picky regarding power. It is also estimated the conversion lowers bass extension as much as 10 Hz across all models while improving overall the characteristics of that bass.

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