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arontal
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Getting my first higher-end system

Hey all,
I'm looking to get my first nice audio system. I've been looking around a bit at stores here in NYC and I've started narrowing down the speaker choices. Right now, my list is the following:

JM Labs Cobalt 816s--floor standing speaker. I like this speaker a lot. It's a bit out of my price range and I didn't really intend to spend this much, but when I heard it, I was really impressed. Among other things, I really like that the top end is detailed, yet not overly sparkly...something that I sometimes find in B&W and in other models I'm less fond of such as Klipsch. I also really like the detail in the low end and the accuracy in I heard in reproducing upright bass tone. I'm a bass player, so the way the speakers reproduce bass tone is probably the most important factor to me. I don't need or like a lot of low end "oomph". I'd rather hear all of the detail in the tone of the instrument and not some synthetic addition of low frequencies that I often hear in lesser speakers.

The other JM Labs set was the top of the line from the Chorus series. It's a bit less than the Cobalt, but had a nice deep low end...just not as much instrument separation and detail in the mids and top end.

I also checked out two sets of B&W's that were originally on my list as the ones I was most interested in. The first were the 603's that I'm sure most people here are probably familiar with. They sounded good...a bit boxy, and the upper midrange and treble was a bit aggressive. Not a bad quality, but not as smooth as the JM Labs.
The other option that I looked at was to go for a very nice set of bookshelf B&W's. The ones that really stood out were the CM-1's. The detail was fantastic (though not as nice as the more expensive 805's that were way out of my price range). The image they projected was incredibly realistic and the bass response was good...not quite as full as a floor standing unit, but it was accurate and easy enough to discern amongst the other instruments. These were definitely the highest quality speakers I had sampled, but I still wondered if I'd be happier with the deeper sound from a floor standing set.

The room I'll be listening in is roughly 12' by 30', although the actually listening area will be in the narrow field as that's really where the sitting room is in my apartment.

That said, this system will be moving with me for many many years and this will not be the only apartment or home that they will be used in.

As far as components. Right now I'm probably going to get an ARCAM set-up. The one I really like is the "solo" unit that is an integrated amp and cd player in one unit.

Would like any and all advice, comments, etc.

Thanks in advance.

Yiangos
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Re: Getting my first higher-end system

This has almost become a cliche but listen to what everyone has to say here but in the end,trust your ears.it is you who is going to be sitting in front of that system listening to music,not any of us !! And btw,welcome to the forum

Monty
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Re: Getting my first higher-end system

If you were able to listen to the 816s with the Arcam and you liked the sound then that's all that matters. Arcam and JM Labs both make good stuff. I would only suggest looking at the impedence of the 816s to make sure that the Arcam can drive them because it doesn't like a 4 ohm load. If the 816s stay above 4 ohms or have relatively benign frequencies where they do dip down you are probably good to go.

arontal
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Re: Getting my first higher-end system


Quote:
If you were able to listen to the 816s with the Arcam and you liked the sound then that's all that matters. Arcam and JM Labs both make good stuff. I would only suggest looking at the impedence of the 816s to make sure that the Arcam can drive them because it doesn't like a 4 ohm load. If the 816s stay above 4 ohms or have relatively benign frequencies where they do dip down you are probably good to go.


Yeah. The only thing is that the JM Lab 816s are considerably more than I originally planned to spend. It makes it a very tough decision. Also, the B&W's that I checked out were not in an ideal place. There were 2 different groups of people testing them at once and it was in a fairly noisy store. It was a bit distracting to say the least. I read a review of them (603's) and they got very high marks from the reviewer...
Basically, I'm torn.

Kal Rubinson
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Re: Getting my first higher-end system


Quote:

Quote:
If you were able to listen to the 816s with the Arcam and you liked the sound then that's all that matters. Arcam and JM Labs both make good stuff. I would only suggest looking at the impedence of the 816s to make sure that the Arcam can drive them because it doesn't like a 4 ohm load. If the 816s stay above 4 ohms or have relatively benign frequencies where they do dip down you are probably good to go.


Yeah. The only thing is that the JM Lab 816s are considerably more than I originally planned to spend. It makes it a very tough decision. Also, the B&W's that I checked out were not in an ideal place. There were 2 different groups of people testing them at once and it was in a fairly noisy store. It was a bit distracting to say the least. I read a review of them (603's) and they got very high marks from the reviewer...
Basically, I'm torn.


If you are still torn, you need to audition more/again and, perhaps, in other showrooms. Don't let us or anyone sell you; sell yourself.

The Old Prof.

arontal
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Re: Getting my first higher-end system


Quote:

Quote:

Quote:
If you were able to listen to the 816s with the Arcam and you liked the sound then that's all that matters. Arcam and JM Labs both make good stuff. I would only suggest looking at the impedence of the 816s to make sure that the Arcam can drive them because it doesn't like a 4 ohm load. If the 816s stay above 4 ohms or have relatively benign frequencies where they do dip down you are probably good to go.


Yeah. The only thing is that the JM Lab 816s are considerably more than I originally planned to spend. It makes it a very tough decision. Also, the B&W's that I checked out were not in an ideal place. There were 2 different groups of people testing them at once and it was in a fairly noisy store. It was a bit distracting to say the least. I read a review of them (603's) and they got very high marks from the reviewer...
Basically, I'm torn.


If you are still torn, you need to audition more/again and, perhaps, in other showrooms. Don't let us or anyone sell you; sell yourself.

The Old Prof.


True. No one else can inhabit my ears but me (I learned something from neuroanatomy!). But, all the same, if it's a decision between JMLabs 816's and B&W 603's, I was wondering if there was anything I should be aware of in technical terms between the two sets. Ultimately it will come down to me sitting down with a few reference discs on a day off (do we get those during 3rd year? ), but until then I'm just hungry for more information to inform my decision.

Buddha
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Re: Getting my first higher-end system

Welcome!

Both speakers are nice, so this is probably a low risk gamble either way. A no lose situation!

With shopping as a new convert, I'd say that it is surely worth the extra time to really sit for a spell with each.

Some suggestions:

Things you may not listen for now could become glaring issues as your "edumacate" themselves in the realm of Hi-Fi, so listen two ways...

1) Find reference discs you at least toerate, musically, and listen to the details to see which speaker pleases you more. Check them out with with very delicate and detailed treble sounds, a recording with lots of vocal details, maybe certain bass sounds. Listen for differences or flaws, look for how much information each speaker seems to be willing to give you.

2) Play discs you like, but don't care about in terms of recording quality. can the speaker make you feel as happy as that music usually makes you feel? Can you relax and listen to the music instead of the speaker?

Part of what you want is that the speaker not only do H-Fi things, but it should also be able to get out of the way and let you enjoy the music, too.

3) Make sure you are comparing similars.

Pardon me if I'm being too remedial, but

a) Try to use the same electronics, cables, sources with each speaker. That one's obvious.

b) Less obvious...make sure both speakers have been "out and about" being played, and that one is not new out of the box and another is 4 months in. Speakers typically get a little better with playing time, and if you listen to one that has not been "broken in" compared to another, your opinion as to which you would like to live with long term could be skewed. The one you might have liked best may have never gotten the opportunity to show you what it could do!

c) Anything you hear that stands out in a glaring way that strikes you as really good should not be trusted at first. A speaker that impresses you with loads of treble detail or huge bass may actually not be well balanced, over-all, and lead to dissatisfaction over time. A speaker with such a trait may be great, but you should make that assessment over a LONG listening session. This is where getting good help from a Hi-Fi nut friend or a good salesman can come in handy. They can help you learn to listen better.

Anyway, best wishes!

Keep us posted!

mjalazard
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Re: Getting my first higher-end system

I agree with Buddha. I remember an old trick a lot of stereo shops would do during their sales-listening test: More often than not, the treble would be turned way up for the obvious effects...I would constantly make sure all settings were flat (I'm dating myself...remember the days auditioning equiptment with a huge Sansui reciever as the source?) Also, this is quite obvious: speaker sensitivity differences can make immediate A/B comparisons dramatic. Remember the days when you could push buttons on their switching consoles to compare often more that 10 pair of speakers? Try to keep the volume at similar levels you would listen to at home. I also agree with bringing two styles of music that your truely know: the high-fidelity analytical tracks and the visceral, fun, run-around the room tracks. Finally, bring a woman to your listening sessions...they have good ears!

eagle
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Re: Getting my first higher-end system


Quote:
This has almost become a cliche but listen to what everyone has to say here but in the end,trust your ears.it is you who is going to be sitting in front of that system listening to music,not any of us !! And btw,welcome to the forum

I took a girlfriend with my looking for speakers once. She was surprisingly interested and patient. We went to three store that where close to each other and even went back to one store twice.

In the end we agreed on which was the best of the bunch and I got them. They were Mission stand mounted speakers. This was in the mid 80's, I think.

A few years later I sold them and bought Baby Maggies. I still have Maggies, only larger ones.

Anywho, if you have a girlfriend take her with you.

59mga
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Re: Getting my first higher-end system

I listened to the B&W 603, 604 and 704, along with several other speakers. Both the 603s & 604s sounded great but when I upgraded the amp and CD player that I bought I decided on the B&W 704. Consider all the advice everyone else has given you and trust your ears the most.

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