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SKZA
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Auditioning Equipment

Next weekend I'm travelling to Chicago to do my first hi-fi equipment auditioning and I'm looking for some advice to make sure I end up with components that will mesh well with what I've already got. 

Right now I'm living with a setup that I bought about 9 years ago, a Denon DRA-295 receiver and Klipsch RB-3 speakers. It's served me well enough, but a few months ago I picked up a Rega RP1 and now I've got the vinyl/hi-fi bug. 

The first piece I know I want to swap out is my receiver for an integrated amp with a built-in phono stage or 2 separates ($1000 for either option is my target). I don't have much reference to work with since this is the only stereo I've had, but I think it's a safe bet that the phono stage on the Denon is a weak spot. I'm going to stick with the speakers for now and think about an upgrade in the future. 

So, some questions:

1) Without actually hauling my speakers with me, how can I reconcile the fact that they will be an extra variable when I'm testing amps? Will this be enough of a factor that I ought to consider taking my speakers? Can anyone comment on peculiarities of RB-3s that I ought to consider when listening/buying? 

2) My plan is to really hone in on the sound of 4-5 tracks on my stereo this week and take them with me to audition. Any other suggestions for how to prepare my ears for an audition? Again, since I have no frame of reference for what a hi-fi "should" sound like, my goal is to go in with as clear an idea as possible of what I've got right now. 

Any other equipment auditioning advice or resources would be gladly welcome. 

commsysman
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Auditioning in stores; very problematical

Over the years (30 or 40), I have found it increasingly problematical to audition equipment in stores. It seems there have never been many with well-set-up rooms where you can really get a good idea of sound quality, and they seem to be fewer and fewer now. Besides, even if you took your speakers, the acoustics are often lousy and surely different than your home. That makes it just about impossible to get much of an accurate impression.

A built-in phono stage is a bad idea, in my opinion. The Musical Fidelity V-LPS phono pre at $150 is excellent; far better than anything you are likely to find in any amp in your price range. It is damn close to my $2000 Audio Research PH-5!

In my experience, the Denon is indeed the weak spot; you are right there. It should go! Using 5 familiar tracks is the perfect way to audition!!

I love my Musical Fidelity M3i and recommend it highly, but it is $1500. THe NAD 356BEE is $800, and I don't like the sound of it at all; the NAD 326BEE is better-sounding for $550. I usually like NAD products but they dropped the ball somehow on the 356BEE. I guess if you have to keep it under $1000 for the whole deal, the Cambridge Audio 650A is probably the clear winner. For under $1000, it is a pretty good-sounding amplifier.

Incidentally, the 650A was going for $750, but Audio Advisor has it now for $499, which makes it even more desirable (I suppose a new model is in the works, but it is still a very good amplifier and that is an excellent price). The Creek Evolution 2 is supposed to be good, at $1100, but I personally have not heard it.

For me, I want to audition IN MY HOME for a week or so before I commit to a final decision; that's the only thing that works for me! Audio Advisor gives you 30 days to try anything out, and if you decide you don't like it you are out of pocket only for the return shipping charge. It works for me. 

Unless you come across something that really floats your boat in Chicago, I suggest that you order the Cambridge 650A from AA and try it out at home for a couple of weeks. I think I can guarantee that it will put a smile on your face and be a BIG improvement over what you have.

Have fun and please let me know how it all works out for you.

 

 

Next weekend I'm travelling to Chicago to do my first hi-fi equipment auditioning and I'm looking for some advice to make sure I end up with components that will mesh well with what I've already got. 

Right now I'm living with a setup that I bought about 9 years ago, a Denon DRA-295 receiver and Klipsch RB-3 speakers. It's served me well enough, but a few months ago I picked up a Rega RP1 and now I've got the vinyl/hi-fi bug. 

The first piece I know I want to swap out is my receiver for an integrated amp with a built-in phono stage or 2 separates ($1000 for either option is my target). I don't have much reference to work with since this is the only stereo I've had, but I think it's a safe bet that the phono stage on the Denon is a weak spot. I'm going to stick with the speakers for now and think about an upgrade in the future. 

So, some questions:

1) Without actually hauling my speakers with me, how can I reconcile the fact that they will be an extra variable when I'm testing amps? Will this be enough of a factor that I ought to consider taking my speakers? Can anyone comment on peculiarities of RB-3s that I ought to consider when listening/buying? 

2) My plan is to really hone in on the sound of 4-5 tracks on my stereo this week and take them with me to audition. Any other suggestions for how to prepare my ears for an audition? Again, since I have no frame of reference for what a hi-fi "should" sound like, my goal is to go in with as clear an idea as possible of what I've got right now. 

Any other equipment auditioning advice or resources would be gladly welcome. 

[/quote]

SKZA
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Last seen: 8 months 1 week ago
Joined: Sep 1 2011 - 1:12pm
Thanks for the response,

Thanks for the response, commsysman. What you said makes sense, and I'll definitely check for a return policy before I buy anywhere. That would certainly be a lot easier than taking my speakers, so I'm glad that wasn't your suggestion.

As for the amp itself, the Rega Brio-R is my target for an integrated with a built-in phono stage. I know the combo can seem suspect but its gotten some great reviews specifically addressing the phono stage, so I'm curious to see how it performs. I'm hoping it will be a good match for the RP1 and a solid performer in general, but then, that's why I'm going to audition. I'll be checking out some NADs, the Creek and maybe a Naim just for kicks as well. All in all, I'm just excited to finally see what true hi-fi is like and hopefully bring a little taste of it home. 

jackfish
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Joined: Dec 19 2005 - 2:42pm
You could try out the Emotiva USP-1 and a pair of

Emotiva UPA-1 monoblocks ($967 delivered during the holiday sale) for 30 days in your own home and return them for a purchase price refund if they don't work for you.

http://www.tonepublications.com/review/the-emotiva-usp-1-preamplifier-and-upa-1-amplifiers/

http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/preamplifiers/689-emotiva-usp-1-stereo-preamplifier.html

jgossman
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For the most part
SKZA wrote:

Next weekend I'm travelling to Chicago to do my first hi-fi equipment auditioning and I'm looking for some advice to make sure I end up with components that will mesh well with what I've already got. 

Right now I'm living with a setup that I bought about 9 years ago, a Denon DRA-295 receiver and Klipsch RB-3 speakers. It's served me well enough, but a few months ago I picked up a Rega RP1 and now I've got the vinyl/hi-fi bug. 

The first piece I know I want to swap out is my receiver for an integrated amp with a built-in phono stage or 2 separates ($1000 for either option is my target). I don't have much reference to work with since this is the only stereo I've had, but I think it's a safe bet that the phono stage on the Denon is a weak spot. I'm going to stick with the speakers for now and think about an upgrade in the future. 

So, some questions:

1) Without actually hauling my speakers with me, how can I reconcile the fact that they will be an extra variable when I'm testing amps? Will this be enough of a factor that I ought to consider taking my speakers? Can anyone comment on peculiarities of RB-3s that I ought to consider when listening/buying? 

2) My plan is to really hone in on the sound of 4-5 tracks on my stereo this week and take them with me to audition. Any other suggestions for how to prepare my ears for an audition? Again, since I have no frame of reference for what a hi-fi "should" sound like, my goal is to go in with as clear an idea as possible of what I've got right now. 

Any other equipment auditioning advice or resources would be gladly welcome. 

I would basically agree with commsysman, although I haven't heard the more expensive NAD.  My one disagreement would be the quality of built in phono amps.  I've had some first hand experience with some of them on my very well balanced and detailed (and cheap! :) ... ) JM Lab Chorus and generally, NAD puts a nice phono section in thier amps.  Some reviewers dislike the more laid back sound, but having owned an A85 for 4 or 5 years, I really love Arcams integrateds and they DO have a stand alone quality phono built in.  Take a look and listen to the Arcam product before you make up your mind.   Commsysman doesn't like power tubes, but you might look into a nice Jolida integrateds.  

commsysman
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Power Tubes

Actually, I really like the sound of tubes, in most instances. I had a Harmon-Kardon Citation tube power amp and preamp for years, and I would love to buy the Audio Research 110W integrated amp; it sounds wonderful. The problem is that POWER tubes are SO damn unreliable anymore, and that can be a major pain (I do have an Audio Research LS-26 tube preamp that I use and love, in my big system at my desert home, but I draw the line at power tubes).

However...

It's sort of like marrying a beautiful young wife who can't cook and won't take care of the house; there are some great features, but living with them in the long term is a real pain in the ass!

JIMV
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Built in v Outboard

I agree with the fellow who advised separate phono amp (and for that matter DAC). I have never heard a built in at that price that sounds as good as even a basic stand alone.

 

Power tube issues...I havbe to disagree with the comment on power tubes. I have been operating with tubed integrated amps for 15 years and have only had one tube fail (a KT-88) . In fact, those components are the longest survivers in my system. Modern tubed products are VERY reliable.

SKZA
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Last seen: 8 months 1 week ago
Joined: Sep 1 2011 - 1:12pm
I apprecaite all the

I apprecaite all the component suggestions, but I'm feeling pretty confident on what I'm going to listen to. I think it's safe to say I'll have some good options between Rega, Naim, NAD and Creek (sorry tube lovers, I'm going to be pretty mobile over the next couple years so it's just not for me right now).

So, back to my original question, does anyone have advice on best practices for auditioning equipment? As often you see "Never ever ever ever buy something without listening to it first!" around the forum, I figure there's got to be a wealth of advice and opinions on auditioning out there. 

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