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RicochetShaw
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Need help with choosing a couple of components for my first system

Hello all. I've read these forums for a little while. For the past couple of weeks I've been doing some research on what components to get to build my first hifi system. When I was a kid, I always loved listening to my grandparents' records. I've had a vast digital collection for a while now, but I've decided to get a decent system so I can enjoy vinyl again. In my research, I came across these forums a lot, and found a lot of these threads very useful; but ultimately, I realized that for my questions to be answered, I had to ask them myself, so here I am.

Turntable

As for the turntable, I've all but decided on the Pro-Ject Debut III (unless anyone has a cogen argument to sway me elsewhere). It's the other components that are really stumping me. 

Receiver

For the receiver, the Onkyo TK-8050, the Harman Kardon HK 3490, and the Marantz PM5004 seem to be the front runners, from what I've read. The Marantz name, when it comes to analog, seems to be a premier. But, it appears to be lacking in features in comparison to the other two, and when I've seen it compared with the HK 3490, audiophiles seem to have preferred the latter. The Marantz is a little bit more money, but I'm not really concerned about that. I've budgeted for this for a while, and don't mind spending an extra $100 if the overall quality is superior. Are there any benefits to the Marantz? and if not, why is the HK better?

Then there's the Onkyo TK-8050. The obvious advantage to this one is that it'll allow me to easily play music from my digital library - which is nice. But, I value quality analog sound far above this convenience, and, as embarrassing as this is to admit, I'm very much a layman when it comes to audio, and I worry that such a digital machination will mean some sort of sacrifice when it comes to analog sound . Am I just being superstitious here? Is there anything at all to be concered about when it comes to this? I've also heard that Onkyo components in general have a hollower, less preferrable sound, but I'm kind of suspicious of that - can anyone attest to that, either in the positive or negative? 

I want to make it clear that I have not limited myself to these receivers - I just keep seeing the Marantz and the HK mentioned most frequently, and the features of the Onkyo caught my eye. If there's some other great receiver under $600 that you think would be a better choice, please enlighten me.

Speakers:

Then there's speakers, which I haven't researched near as much. I'm hoping for more direct guidance on this one. My budget is around $300, but I could make a leap if there's a huge jump in quality to $400 or $500 sets. As for aesthetics, I'd like to get floor-standing speakers, so please keep that in mind (unless, of course, there's some reason I should go for bookshelf or other type of speakers allow for superior sound quality for some reason. I wouldn't imagine that makes any difference really, but I don't want to exclude any possibilities here).

 

Etc.

If there's any other components or devices that you think would make for a good addition to my system, please share. I was just planning on a turntable, a receiver, and speakers, but let me know if there's anything else I need to get or should get. 

Thanks so much for even reading this. I'm not sure if it's clear from my post, but I'm rather obsessive about making bigger purchases, and I like to be very knowledgeable about what to get, and why. Any and all input will be greatly appreciated and weighted heavily in my deliberation.

jackfish
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I could live with an entry level system like you

are describing, with the following considerations:

The Pro-Ject Debut III in basic black for $369 is a solid entry level choice which allows for some significant upgrades in the future. A Pro-Ject Acryl-It platter ($129), Pro-Ject Speed Box II ($159) , and an LP Gear replacement stylus for the Ortofon OM30 ($129) will all make serious improvements to the sound quality of that unit. Add them when you can starting with the replacement stylus.

I actually think the Harman Kardon HK3490 is one of the better values in entry level HiFi today. It has more clean power than the Marantz, its phono section is adequate, has a good AM/FM tuner, and has good connectivity if you use a subwoofer, digital source or an iPod. It has digital inputs and a fairly good AKM AK-4384 DAC, which offers 24 bit 192Khz processing, as well as Cirrus Logic CS 48560 DSP. I've heard nothing but nightmarish problems with the Onkyo trying to get digital streaming to work properly. You would be better off using the iPod dock or digital input capabilities of the HK or get a separate DAC. If your digital library is mP3s you will likely be disappointed in how they sound through a fairly highly resolving system as you propose. Go lossless from now on.

Speakers should be auditioned. You ears and preferences are your own and few others could ever possibly tell you what will sound good to you. Get ideas for possibilities from online resources, including forums like this, and then listen to as many as possible. Floorstanders have a better chance of meeting expectations for low end frequency response, but really good bookshelves with a good subwoofer can sound good as well. All that said, I can suggest getting Magnepan MMGs ($600) for their 60 day trial and you likely will not be sending them back for a refund.

Good Luck!

zachisawesome
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I cannot vouch for the other

I cannot vouch for the other equipment, but I have a Rega RP1 turntable, which is pretty killer, and Rega makes an upgrade kit for increased performance down the road, and it makes a big difference.  I'm not sure how it compares to the Project series, but from the reviews I read when making the choice, it seemed like the better choice.  It pairs beautifully with the marantz pm5004 which I bought to go along with it.  I've been stressing over which speakers to get though for the past year since I was borrowing a pair of wonderful vintage Advents from my father.  I was originally leaning towards the Wharfdale Diamond 10.1's which would be in your price range now I might be able to spring for something nicer which opens up the maddening research again.  The complete system would be around 1250 then.

Overall I love my system, its detailed, clear and loud. I try to use the source direct option on the pm5004 but if i need an extra boost in the low end you can turn it off and adjust the eq, but I find myself not needing that with the advents.  Right now I just don't know what speakers to choose, but I think the Wharfdales would make an excellent choice for this system (based only on reviews since there is no dealer near me). I'm sure there are many other worthy options.  

I'm also a beginner, but I love listening to music on this setup. 

JoeE SP9
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Speakers

IMO: Never, never, never buy any speaker without an audition. Someone else's opinion means nothing. Only your own ears matter.

Buy speakers without auditioning them and you have no one to blame but yourself when they are not to your liking.

You can "research" speakers on the INTERNET but that has nothing to do with how they sound. The only way to "choose" speakers is to audition them. If it means a bit of travel or some planning the results make the effort worth it.

Include me on the Magnepan wagon. Order them direct from Magnepan. If you don't like them return them.

commsysman
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Speaker Choice

The cheapest floor-standing speakers I would recommend to anyone are the Monitor Audio M4 and M6. You can check those out at Audio Advisor.

I strongly recommend the Musical Fidelity V-LPS phono preamp, which is $99 at Amazon, and is better than many costing $300-600. It is a steal. Any phono stage built into any receiver or amplfier for less than $3000 will not be very likely to sound very good.

Do you really want a receiver, or just an amplifier? There is no need to get a receiver unless you want off-the-air FM or are thinking multi-channel home theater in the future.

I suggest the Cambridge Audio amplifiers, like the CA350 or CA550. They are also available at Audio Advisor and other retailers.

 

 

 

 

quote=RicochetShaw]

Hello all. I've read these forums for a little while. For the past couple of weeks I've been doing some research on what components to get to build my first hifi system. When I was a kid, I always loved listening to my grandparents' records. I've had a vast digital collection for a while now, but I've decided to get a decent system so I can enjoy vinyl again. In my research, I came across these forums a lot, and found a lot of these threads very useful; but ultimately, I realized that for my questions to be answered, I had to ask them myself, so here I am.

Turntable

As for the turntable, I've all but decided on the Pro-Ject Debut III (unless anyone has a cogen argument to sway me elsewhere). It's the other components that are really stumping me. 

Receiver

For the receiver, the Onkyo TK-8050, the Harman Kardon HK 3490, and the Marantz PM5004 seem to be the front runners, from what I've read. The Marantz name, when it comes to analog, seems to be a premier. But, it appears to be lacking in features in comparison to the other two, and when I've seen it compared with the HK 3490, audiophiles seem to have preferred the latter. The Marantz is a little bit more money, but I'm not really concerned about that. I've budgeted for this for a while, and don't mind spending an extra $100 if the overall quality is superior. Are there any benefits to the Marantz? and if not, why is the HK better?

Then there's the Onkyo TK-8050. The obvious advantage to this one is that it'll allow me to easily play music from my digital library - which is nice. But, I value quality analog sound far above this convenience, and, as embarrassing as this is to admit, I'm very much a layman when it comes to audio, and I worry that such a digital machination will mean some sort of sacrifice when it comes to analog sound . Am I just being superstitious here? Is there anything at all to be concered about when it comes to this? I've also heard that Onkyo components in general have a hollower, less preferrable sound, but I'm kind of suspicious of that - can anyone attest to that, either in the positive or negative? 

I want to make it clear that I have not limited myself to these receivers - I just keep seeing the Marantz and the HK mentioned most frequently, and the features of the Onkyo caught my eye. If there's some other great receiver under $600 that you think would be a better choice, please enlighten me.

Speakers:

Then there's speakers, which I haven't researched near as much. I'm hoping for more direct guidance on this one. My budget is around $300, but I could make a leap if there's a huge jump in quality to $400 or $500 sets. As for aesthetics, I'd like to get floor-standing speakers, so please keep that in mind (unless, of course, there's some reason I should go for bookshelf or other type of speakers allow for superior sound quality for some reason. I wouldn't imagine that makes any difference really, but I don't want to exclude any possibilities here).

 

Etc.

If there's any other components or devices that you think would make for a good addition to my system, please share. I was just planning on a turntable, a receiver, and speakers, but let me know if there's anything else I need to get or should get. 

Thanks so much for even reading this. I'm not sure if it's clear from my post, but I'm rather obsessive about making bigger purchases, and I like to be very knowledgeable about what to get, and why. Any and all input will be greatly appreciated and weighted heavily in my deliberation.

[/quote]

RicochetShaw
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  commsysman wrote:I

 

commsysman wrote:

I strongly recommend the Musical Fidelity V-LPS phono preamp, which is $99 at Amazon, and is better than many costing $300-600. It is a steal. Any phono stage built into any receiver or amplfier for less than $3000 will not be very likely to sound very good.n amplifier? There is no need to get a receiver unless you want off-the-air FM or are thinking multi-channel home theater in the future.

I suggest the Cambridge Audio amplifiers, like the CA350 or CA550. They are also available at Audio Advisor and other retailers.

 

 

 

Thanks for the phono preamp suggestion. I looked it up and it does seem to be a good value. I want to address the necessity of a receiver - is it true I don't need one at all? I realize this shows just how green I am, but if I don't need one, I won't get it. From my understanding of your post, then... all the components I need are the turntable, speakers, and the pre-amp? If this is true, that'll certainly give me a little more cash to spend on the other two things. Also, I don't intend on using this for home theatre use whatsoever. Music only (and probably about 80% vinyl). Thanks for your help.

RicochetShaw
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    JoeE SP9

 

 

JoeE SP9 wrote:

IMO: Never, never, never buy any speaker without an audition. Someone else's opinion means nothing. Only your own ears matter.

Buy speakers without auditioning them and you have no one to blame but yourself when they are not to your liking.

You can "research" speakers on the INTERNET but that has nothing to do with how they sound. The only way to "choose" speakers is to audition them. If it means a bit of travel or some planning the results make the effort worth it.

Include me on the Magnepan wagon. Order them direct from Magnepan. If you don't like them return them.

 

 

I fully intend on giving any prospective speakers a listen before I buy, but I need help on what to audition in the first place. I found a retailer in the Dallas area that carries Magenapn, so I'm heading there Saturday - any other makes/models you recommend that I give a listen?

 

RicochetShaw
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    jackfish

 

 

jackfish wrote:

are describing, with the following considerations:

The Pro-Ject Debut III in basic black for $369 is a solid entry level choice which allows for some significant upgrades in the future. A Pro-Ject Acryl-It platter ($129), Pro-Ject Speed Box II ($159) , and an LP Gear replacement stylus for the Ortofon OM30 ($129) will all make serious improvements to the sound quality of that unit. Add them when you can starting with the replacement stylus.

Thanks so much for the upgrade ideas. The upgrade-ability of this turntable was definitely one of the more attractive things about it, so I appreciate these suggestions. I think I will get one now, and the others down the road (especially since it seems as if I only need a pre-amp as opposed to shelling out 300-400 on a full receiver - see my next quote of you below for more). Just to make sure, is this the stylus upgrade you're talking about? My search returned a few different results: http://www.lpgear.com/product/ORS030LP.html . And if a stylus is $130, would it be worth it to get a whole new cartridge altogether? And if so, are there any you'd recommend?

 

jackfish wrote:

 I actually think the Harman Kardon HK3490 is one of the better values in entry level HiFi today. It has more clean power than the Marantz, its phono section is adequate, has a good AM/FM tuner, and has good connectivity if you use a subwoofer, digital source or an iPod. It has digital inputs and a fairly good AKM AK-4384 DAC, which offers 24 bit 192Khz processing, as well as Cirrus Logic CS 48560 DSP. I've heard nothing but nightmarish problems with the Onkyo trying to get digital streaming to work properly. You would be better off using the iPod dock or digital input capabilities of the HK or get a separate DAC. If your digital library is mP3s you will likely be disappointed in how they sound through a fairly highly resolving system as you propose. Go lossless from now on.

 

With commsysman's ditione advice, I'm considering just getting a pre-amp, now, and not getting a receiver. Do you think getting a receiver is worth it? As I told commsysman, I won't be using this system for anything other than music. 

 

 

jackfish wrote:

 

Speakers should be auditioned. You ears and preferences are your own and few others could ever possibly tell you what will sound good to you. Get ideas for possibilities from online resources, including forums like this, and then listen to as many as possible. Floorstanders have a better chance of meeting expectations for low end frequency response, but really good bookshelves with a good subwoofer can sound good as well. All that said, I can suggest getting Magnepan MMGs ($600) for their 60 day trial and you likely will not be sending them back for a refund.

 

Thanks for the speaker suggestion - I'll be checking them out this weekend. Any others you recommend for $500 or less? I'd just want a budget set or two to compare and see if it's worth the extra cash (well, I'm sure it's worth it... I just want to see if I'll be convinced to spend it). 

jackfish
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Well, a couple of things...

The Pro-Ject Debut III already has an Ortofon OM body and it is the stylus assembly which really makes a cartridge as the motor is similar between all the units up the model line. Hence, getting an LP Gear replacement stylus for the OM30 will be like upgrading your cartridge to a $285 cartridge.

I think you misunderstood commsysman's response. You will need equipment beyond a phono preamp like the Musical Fidelity V-LPS. A phono stage only prepares the signal from a turntable for line level input into a control or pre amplifier, an integrated amplifier or a receiver. You would only need a phono stage if the preamplifier, integrated amp or receiver did not have one. So, you do need more than a phono preamp for your system. For an entry level system the phono stages in most preamps, integrated amps and receivers are adequate. Would an outboard phono stage be an improvement? Most likely.

For two-channel music I would not consider any AV or home theater multi-channel receiver. Two channel receivers like the Outlaw RR2150 and Harman Kardon HK3490 are worth considering. The only difference between a stereo receiver and a stereo integrated amplifier is the receiver has an AM/FM tuner, which is kinda nice if you have any good stations around. We have a couple of low-power FM stations that are very good which I can get in. Sometimes its nice to just listen to the radio without the involvement of changing records every 23 minutes.

So to play your vinyl you will need:

1. Turntable

2. A preamp/power amp combo, OR, an integrated amp, OR a receiver

3. If the above in 2. does not have a phono input, a phono preamp would be necessary

4. Loudspeakers

Some big box stores in your area might have the Infinity P363 or P362 to listen to. If you like the sound, the P362 is in closeout right now at Crutchfield for $400 a pair. Here is a review of its predecessor: http://www.stereophile.com/floorloudspeakers/605infinity/

JIMV
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A ditto on the maggies but do

A ditto on the maggies but do not write off used. You can get used MMG's for around $300 and they will play like speakers costing several times more...

JoeE SP9
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speakers

Well RShaw what did you think of the Magnepan's or any other speakers you auditioned over the weekend?

Yay Giants! Even though I'm an Eagles fan.

RicochetShaw
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change in TT

Alright, after doing a bit more research, I've changed my turntable choice. I'm now set on either the Pro-Ject Xpression III, the Pro-Ject RM5.1SE, or the Music Hall MMF-5.1. Is the RM worth the extra $300 over the Xpression III? And I'd had blinders on to Pro-Ject turntables, but after calling the needledoctor, they recommended the Music Hall MMF-5.1 for the sub-$1000 range. Any thoughts on this one? Is there a clear winner among the 3? 

jackfish
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The Music Hall is very nice.

The RM5.1SE has a better tonearm and cartridge than the xPression III. The Music Hall MMF-5.1 uses the same tonearm as the RM and has a more substantial plinth. Don't know much about the Magic 3 cartridge, but Needle Doc will exchange it out for any appropriate carrtidge you might like. At $875 the Music Hall is a much better value than the xPression III at $700 and probably a better value than the RM at a grand. I also really like the Sota Moonbeam II with a good $150-$250 cartridge. I think a Nagaoka MP-150 will work with that Sota arm.

RicochetShaw
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Thanks, Jackfish. After

Thanks, Jackfish. After reading about the upgrades I'd be making to the Debut, I decided what the  hell, an Xpression would be about the cost of upgrades. Plus, I didn't like the idea of the connection cables being permanent with the debut. I guess it's down between the Music Hall and the RM5.1SE now. I don't like the fact that the RM5.1SE doesn't have a dust cover, and throwing something over my TT everytime I finish using it doesn't sound appealing, but I guess that's what you get with the minimalist design. I decided to get the Mag speakers, either of these two TTs, and the HK for my receiver.... for now. Looking to upgrade that over the next few months (I've been reading the "help me blow my money" thread and have looked into those Emotiva components), but I think the HK will be fine for a little bit. Now I guess I just have to rack my brain over the Music Hall vs the RM5.1SE.... jack, I know it's my decision, but which of the two would you go for, if your TT were to break?

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