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ctkrohn
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Joined: Nov 9 2005 - 3:54pm
Most effective budget upgrade for my system?

Hi everyone,

I'm just getting into stereo equipment, and I'm wondering what I can do to improve the sound of my current system. Here's what I have right now:

  • Onkyo TX-8011 stereo receiver
  • Sony SCD-CE595 CD/SACD changer
  • JVC AL-A155 belt drive turntable (My dad's old model; I think it's just some generic 80s consumer turntable)
  • Audio Technica 6006 cartridge (Description here .)
  • Grado SR-60 headphones (I never use speakers)
  • Some generic $25 phono preamp
  • Generic interconnects that came with my components
  • $5 surge protector powering everything

The system sounds decent (to my inexperienced ears), but I'd like to spend around $200-$300 to upgrade it. I was thinking about getting an equalizer, since I use iTunes' equalizer function all the time, and I'm always fiddling with the bass and treble knobs on my receiver. I was also considering getting a new phono preamp, since there's a very noticeable hum coming from my current one. I can hear the hum at normal listening levels, and it immediately disappears when I switch to another source. I was also considering an inexpensive power conditioner such as this, since I can hear a noticeable pop when turning my turntable and CD player on and off. Would I be able to tell a difference if I got some better interconnects?

Obviously I won't be able to get all of these, so which one would be most effective? Do you have any other ideas? Would an upgrade even be worth it, or should I just wait until I can afford to upgrade the entire system to something really nice?

Edit: I should note that I primarily use this system for playing LPs, so I'm most interested in anything that will improve the sound of my records.

Monty
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Re: Most effective budget upgrade for my system?

The first thing I would do is take my turntable and cartridge to a competent Hi-Fi shop and have them properly mount and adjust it. If you have experience doing this then obviously disregard this suggestion. It makes a big difference having a properly aligned cartridge. I think that is by far the most bang for the buck in your system.

Next, I would discuss the hum problem with the Hi-Fi shop and strongly consider an inexpensive NAD PP-2 phono stage. If you are lucky, they may even have a used one taken in as a trade-up. The PP-2 can be had for about $130.00 new and less than a $100 used. They may even suggest changing cartridges to better match your system and might work some kind of swap with you. My shop has a record cleaning machine and allows you to clean your records for a buck each...big value there.

Another option would be to try and kill two birds with one stone by seeking a used, quality integrated amp with a decent phono stage built in. The Rotel 931 immediately comes to mind at around $100.00 on the used market. Obviously you would be trading your receiver's tuner for better electronics and better sound. This just depends on how important a tuner is to you.

In any event, if you have a decent Hi-Fi shop in town don't hesitate to give them a chance to help you get the most out of what you have and help you make the proper upgrades within your budget.

ctkrohn
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Re: Most effective budget upgrade for my system?

I'll see if I can figure out how to adjust the cartridge and turntable myself... if it's not too hard, I'd much rather do it on my own (and learn) rather than pay some guy to do it. Do you know of any websites which offer good instructions? Or is this a really difficult task which is best left to the experts?

As for the hum, I think I've determined that it is a grounding problem. I realized this while moving my preamp. My finger brushed against one of the input cables, and immediately the hum stopped. If I put my finger against the exposed silver part of the interconnect cable, the hum immediately vanishes. Now I just need to find some permanent solution... I'll see if the stereo shop downtown has any suggestions.

The only stereo shop I know of is not very good... they focus on car audio and home theater, and don't have much in the way of standard 2-channel audio. I bought my phono preamp from them; it was the only model they carried and cost $30. Even so, I'll ask if they have any other suggestions.

stereophillips
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Re: Most effective budget upgrade for my system?


Quote:
As for the hum, I think I've determined that it is a grounding problem. <snip>
I'll see if the stereo shop downtown has any suggestions.

The only stereo shop I know of is not very good... they focus on car audio and home theater, and don't have much in the way of standard 2-channel audio.

That may work to your benefit. Car audio guys know a lot about hum, which can be very tricky to cure.

stealthaxe
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Re: Most effective budget upgrade for my system?


Quote:

Car audio guys know a lot about hum, which can be very tricky to cure.

why would car audio guys know a lot about hum?

Dave_c
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Re: Most effective budget upgrade for my system?

Nice suggestions there Monty! Recently a buddy of mine wanted to upgrade his receiver to something new. When he asked me for suggestions I pushed for an integrated, but -alas - to no avail! <Sigh> The "receiver mentality" of a certain generation is just too ingrained! He ended up with a very nice 2 channel Denon receiver (with phono stage), which is definately an upgrade to what he was using previously. He just refused to move in another direction. I will say however, that he is very happy and that his system sounds great; infact, it's the best I/we have heard from it and so that's cool. . .

Wes - do you mean guys who work at Hummer dealerships, in the service departments, could handle this problem?

commsysman
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Re: Most effective budget upgrade for my system?

First, you need a ground wire (#18 wire with lug) from turntable to phono stage to a screw on frame of receiver.
Second, you can probably improve the overall sound by installing Audioquest Copperhead, Viper, or Diamondback interconnect cables (Audio Advisor has Them). Sony has a very good SACD/CD 5-disc player that just came out for around $400; check their website for model number; worth considering.

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