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paulbasel
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I Need Your Help - Arcam and B&W

Back in the Fifties (yeah, I'm an old guy) I built my own amps (tubes of course) preamps and had big Klipschhorn corner floor standers, but since then have been out of the audio world for a long time. I did have a fling in the 80s with a Linn system (yes, turntables, etc.), but gave that to my kids a long time ago.

Here's the point, I've been away so long and the audio world has changed to the point I don't even recognize it, and I need your help. Be honest, but please be kind, I'm a sensitive guy. :-)

I don't want to spend a fortune, about $5000, and don't want a lot of gear - my wife hates audio component boxes and would like a minimalist approach to all the technical stuff as she calls it. Typical woman, eh? So with her requirements in mind and yet wanting to satisfy my urge to have a "good" system, here is one scenario I have come up with so far.

Arcam Solo
a pair of B & W DM603 S3
a B & W ASW 300 subwoofer

Stereophile mag has given these components a test and the reviews were not bad. Now, I know some of you purists are already saying to yourself, "an integrated amp, preamp, tuner, and CD in one box, ugggh". But, the Solo has gotten some decent reviews.

Anyhow, tear into my proposed system, tell me what you like, what you don't like, and most importantly, give me some alternatives, keeping in mind my wife's dislike of boxes. One other thing, I want new stuff, so no eBay suggestions please.

Paul

Monty
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Re: I Need Your Help - Arcam and B&W

If simplicity is a big deal to you and your wife, I can't find much to be critical about in your selections. I would however, consider the subwoofer a matter of taste and try to get it on loan to see how you like it after becoming familiar with the Arcam/B&W alone.

I don't think you need to spend anything close to 5K to get a superb sounding, simple to operate and small foot-print type of system. The only problem with components that do many things is that it makes upgrading and expanding things a little more difficult should you decide to go in that direction.

On the other hand, sometimes simplicity might keep you listening to the music and not listening to the gear. The latter being an all too common affliction.

millenium
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Re: I Need Your Help - Arcam and B&W

paul,

look on the audiogon website. the money you want to spend on a system you can have twice the system for the same amount of money or less. its a reputable site as i am a member and have never had a issue with any transactions. it will also give you and idea whats out there and what things are selling for compared to new. its a well organized site with plenty of pictures to look at as well as other peoples systems. there are also alot of factory direct dealer sites to look at as well. if you want new speakers check out tyler acoustic speaker. at the 05 ces show robert e green of the absolute sound gave this company's speakers the vote for best up and coming speaker company. they have many speakers to choose from depending on the size of your room and all their speakers can be driven with tubes or solid state. i own 2 pairs of their brand and have had b&w 's and there is no comparison in sound. thought i would give you something to look into before you make a decision.
good luck

bill

paulbasel
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Re: I Need Your Help - Arcam and B&W

Thanks for the reply Monty. I agree that there is indeed a tradeoff between single box of components and upgradeability, but I think that's one that I'm willing to make to keep my better half happy.

I am curious why you suggest that I delay purchasing the subwoofer. Do you feel that it might not add that much to the listening experience or is there another reason. It's not easy here in Switzerland to find a dealer of higher end gear that is large enough to obtain a loaner. But, I think I will give it a go and see if one is willing to special order one for me for a try before one buys basis.

Thanks again for your comments.

Paul

paulbasel
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Re: I Need Your Help - Arcam and B&W

Bill

Many thanks for the reply and suggestions. The Audiogon website indeed looks like it is populated with serious folks with some good gear to sell. The primary issue I have is that I live in Switzerland and getting stuff from the U.S. to here is a real pain. In addition to the stiff shipping costs, I would have to pay customs duty plus VAT and that is a small fortune here. So, I'm afraid I'll have to pass on that option.

Tyler Acoustics speakers look like they are of very high quality and probably are better than the B&W's I want to buy, but again I have the problem that if I buy direct from the factory, I have the import and shipping costs. I'm not sure if I can find a Tyler distributor here, but I'll try.

Thanks again for your input, it's much appreciated.

Paul

Monty
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Re: I Need Your Help - Arcam and B&W

Hey Paul, the only reason I suggested you listen to the speakers and the player by themselves first is because the B&Ws can go down pretty low by themselves. In general, I tend to prefer a speaker that can dig 44hz without any problems over adding a sub to the mix. However, this is arguably a matter of personl preference and is subjective given the type of music I prefer.

If you were considering monitor type speakers that needed the low frequency extension I would think it a no-brainer.

You can always add the sub to the mix later if the speakers just don't quite grab that organ, but I think you may not find yourself wanting for deeper bass...not to mention, your wife won't make you run 50ft of cable through the attic to hide the sub behind the sofa')

k512
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Re: I Need Your Help - Arcam and B&W

Don't forget the old adage about not putting all of your eggs in one basket. Indeed, one concern I would have about the Arcam Solo (or any other "one box" home entertainment system) is that should any one of its many audio subsections ever fail and require repair, you'll be without anything to listen to until the unit is returned in good working order (or until you find loaner gear to fill that void). In addition, if you buy a "one-box" system, you're obviously locked into living with all of its audio subsections whether you like 'em all, or not. In other words, you'll have little if any flexibility to change or upgrade your electronics over time.

Issue #156 of The Absolute Sound includes a review of the Arcam Solo, written by Chris Martens. In my opinion, the overall tone of his review is rather uninspiring, in light of comments such as "...The Solo has its drawbacks, though none are particularly egregious. It does not have the last word in transparency and focus, nor does it offer the sort of ultra-quiet noise floor that can help make dynamics and inner details 'pop'..." Martens also seemed a bit uninspired by its 50-watt rating, and he also wished that it had two sets of speaker binding posts for biwiring.

By contrast (and assuming you might be able to renegotiate what your wife will accept and tolerate...) you could instead opt for any of a wide number of excellent, slim-lined and compact integrated amplifiers, CD players, and FM or FM/satellite radio tuners.

If I may be so bold, I would urge your wife to cut you some slack here(!) by allowing you to carefully plan and implement a more flexible and sonically better sounding audio system than what a "one-box" affair would likely offer, while also selecting components that are compact, attractive, affordable, and easily operated.

Among integrated amps, you might consider the Simaudio Moon i-3. Also, have a look at the integrated amps and CD players from companies such as Cambridge Audio, Creek Audio, Music Hall, Musical Fidelity, and NAD, to name but a few.

Lastly, I would urge you to also begin looking into a good quality power-conditioning/surge-protection unit. Good luck, and keep us posted!

paulbasel
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Re: I Need Your Help - Arcam and B&W

Hi again Monty

Thanks for the explanation about your philosophy on subs. I understand your point and indeed I have always been a two speaker system person with all the setups I've had over the years. My taste in music focuses mainly on progressive jazz and classical and I've never seen the need for big booming bass for these music genre.

However, what I failed to mention earlier is that we are adding a wall hung digital TV to the new sound system plus a DVD player. With some movies I thought it would be a bit more exciting to have some earth moving sound to stir the soul a bit. But we are not big movie fans (have rarely rented one) and so this part of the system is of secondary importance to us.

We are currently involved in a major renovation of our home and so I have the opportunity to string cable through the walls for both power and audio cables. The gear will be in a sideboard (see attached picture) that is attached to one wall and will have all cables coming in the back of it so not a single plug will be visible. This work is already in progress and the electrician has already strung the "tube" under the floor of the living room to an area where I plan to place the sub, that is, if I buy one. The only location for this potential sub however, is behind the listening area. I've read that this is not a good idea. Any thoughts on this placement?

I have only one shot at running tubes for the electrics since all of interior and exterior walls are concrete and steel. This is Switzerland where homes are expected to last for 300 years. :-)

Paul

paulbasel
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Re: I Need Your Help - Arcam and B&W

Hi Kurt

Thanks for the reply and your detailed comments, most appreciated.

I agree with you about putting all my eggs in one basket, it has concerned me a lot and that is why I am asking all of you for help. I am exaggerating a bit about my wife's dislike of gear, but I am striving to strike a balance here with her wants and my desires. If you look at my last post to Monty, there is an attachment which shows that the sideboard we have planned is large enough to hold more equipment. However, in that same post I mentioned that we are planning a wall mounted digital TV as well as a DVD player so that's two more pieces of gear to contend with.

Having said that, the design of the sideboard will allow for all of the gear to be hidden behind doors. The only problem with that is that if I want to use the FM/CD remote, the door must be open. And yes, I am making sure that there is enough ventilation in the closed sideboard to let the gear breathe. I'll also make sure that there is a good surge protector installed. Thanks for reminding me.

Regarding the review of the Solo by Martens; I understand his point about the 50 watt rating, but if I buy the DM603 S3s, I think that the power should be sufficient to drive these speakers. Regarding his comment about biwiring, I believe, unless I am misreading the specs, that the Solo does allow for biwiring. Here is the company's quote: "You can use just the SP1 set or just the SP2 set and double up the speaker cables on these terminals. However, it may be easier to use both the SP1 and SP2 sets of terminals. Either way is acceptable and there should be no difference in sound quality between the two methods. You must ensure that the appropriate SP1 or SP2 front panel switches are pushed in order to hear the full frequency range of sound from your speakers."

However, I will look at some of the options you have suggested. Maybe an integrated amp and a separate CD player is the way to go. I'll do some more research and definitely let you know what I finally decide on. Thanks again for the valuable comments and suggestions.

Paul

Monty
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Re: I Need Your Help - Arcam and B&W

Since you have the electricians available and the work on the house is going on now, I would consider going ahead and having them run you 2 homeruns on separate 30 amp circuits to the wall around your A/V center. If you have the room in your circuit box, this shouldn't be expensive.

paulbasel
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Re: I Need Your Help - Arcam and B&W

Monty

I'm not sure I know what a "home run" is in this context. The electricians already have power outlets (4 plugs)in the wall behind the sideboard, but I'm not sure that is what you are referring to. My knowledge of house electrics is practically nil. Also, would the 30 amp lines you are suggesting be the same designation here in Switzerland?

Here's all I know about our electric system: 220v 50hz and the following which I copied from the official guide, "This connector system is rated for use in applications up to 10 amps. Above 10 amps, equipment must be either wired permanently to the electrical supply system with appropriate branch circuit protection or connected to the mains with an appropriate high power industrial connector."

Also, why is it important to have 30 amp lines? Sorry for my ignorance.

Paul

k512
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Re: I Need Your Help - Arcam and B&W

Paul: In my humble opinion, two 20-amp outlets should be more than adequate. You might ask your electrician to see about rearranging the circuits at your home's loadcenter so that all (or most) noisy appliances (ie, those with electric motors) are located on one leg, while the "audio" circuits are located on the other leg. In addition, you might look into having a Transient Voltage Surge Suppressor (TVSS) installed at your home's loadcenter, as this will help to protect your entire home from surges. Of course, it's still advisable to employ some type of power conditioning/surge suppression device(s) for the audio gear. (FWIW, I don't think you can go wrong with Shunyata Hydra's and PowerSnakes .)

Monty
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Re: I Need Your Help - Arcam and B&W

Hey Paul, since the electricians have already run your wire, I wouldn't give it another thought. It's really not that big a deal and could possibly be absolutely no deal.

A homerun is simply a direct run from the circuit box to an outlet without using the outlet to chain several outlets onto the circuit breaker. For example, when you throw a breaker to your living room, you will probably lose numerous outlets that are connected to that breaker. A homerun would be dedicated to one outlet.

My thinking on this is simply to isolate your video gear from your audio gear and both from any other device and allow for any potential step up in amplification or change of plans down the road. It would be easy and cheap while electricians are on site as opposed to a service call later on.

In the USA, most circuits in homes are going to be a standard 20 amp circuit and I mention 30 amp only because there is virtually no difference in price and if you ever have reason to step up with some serious amps, you'll already have the circuit set-up.

paulbasel
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Re: I Need Your Help - Arcam and B&W

Monty and Kurt

Since your last two posts were on the same subject, I'll respond to both with one message.

I will definitely talk with the electrician about running wires directly from the circuit box to the audio/video gear, and if possible to isolate the video from the audio. I'll also ask about 20 amp vs. 30 amp. service to this outlets. Funny, I never worried about this issue before, but now that I think about it, it makes a lot of sense.

From the wiring diagrams I've seen so far, it appears that the kitchen and basement (where the heating system is located) circuits are separate from the living room, but I'll double check to see if it is possible to isolate the audio circuits from the ones that run motors. I'm sure that this guy knows what he is doing, but if you want to see some of the tubes that are being run throughout the house, check out the attached picture.

Kurt, I'll look into TVSS, but the gear looks expensive to me and I'm wondering if it isn't a bit of overkill. Not that I don't appreciate the recommendation because it does make sense, but I'll have to weigh the cost/benefit of using such a device for the system that I'm thinking of installing. I will of course add a surge suppression device for the audio gear even if I don't install the TVSS.

I'm looking at some integrated amps that you recommended, and so far, am impressed with some of the Creek amps and the reviews of them. However, if I go that route, I will still have 4 boxes (integrated amp, fm tuner, cd player, and a DVD player/recorder). Of course, I could integrate further by adding the tuner to the amp and that would leave 3 pieces of gear, but I'm wondering if that is much different that just buying the Solo. Hmmmm, I'll have to mull that over some more.

You guys have been great hanging in there with me on my naive questions and giving me some sound (no pun intended) advice. I wonder if you have time for one more.

Switzerland is a small country and doesn't have a lot of authorized dealers for higher end audio equipment manufacturers. Krell has one, couldn't find one for Creek, B&W has two, you understand my point; it's not as easy as it is in the States. But, we do have online "discounters" that sell some of this gear. I say discounters even though their prices turn out to be about list price, whereas a high-end shop would charge maybe 20-30% above list. What can I say, it's an expensive country. Now the question. B&W states that their warranty is only valid if purchased from an authorized dealer or distributor. I asked one of these online "discount" shops whether they honor the warranty of any manufacturer they sell, and of course, they assured me that they do. I'm still not convinced. Is this type of online store considered a legitimate distributor? Or do you think I risk the chance of it being grey market stuff? What's your experience in the States? I would prefer to buy my equipment from a dealer in Basel but that is not possible if they don't carry the lines that I am interested in. Any guidance?

Thanks again for all your help

Paul

k512
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Re: I Need Your Help - Arcam and B&W

Paul, I had an Eaton/Cutler-Hammer TVSS installed, and the total cost was ~$300.00, which included labor. My electrician advised me that one can spend a lot more money on TVSS units, but that the modest unit he recommended and installed will work quite well.

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