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roadster
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new system recomendations

Good morning,

Well, it has been nearly 3 decades since I last purchased any audio gear...that's why I came to the Entry Level forum, for advice.

I am hoping to purchase some "entry level" audiophile equipment (integrated amp, cd player & speakers). My musical tastes are jazz, big band/swing, vocals, rhythm and some rock. I listen at moderate levels so there is no need for excessive power or enormous speakers (small to moderate sized floor standers is what I had in mind).

A budget of $3,ooo - 3,500 is what I planned on and the brands that the two local audio shops carry, that I can afford, are: Rotel, NAD, Cambridge, Music Hall, B&W, Vandersteen, Quad, Epos, Usher and Spendor. My main concern is the choice of speakers...I prefer a full range floorstander. The only ones that are availble for demo are the B&Ws, Vandees and Quads. I have read favorable reviews of the Epos, Spendor and Usher but am leary of purchasing unheard. Does anyone have personal experience with these brands.

As for the electronics I am leaning toward a Rotel 1062 int. amp and 1072 cd player but will consider a lesser expensive Cambridge or NAD if I need to spend more on speakers.

Any insight/suggestions from those who are familiar with the "latest and greatest" would be most appreciated.

Thanks.

Mike

jackfish
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Re: new system recomendations

Here are my recommendations with the price you shouldn't have to exceed to get them.
Cambridge Audio Azur 640C v2 $600
Cambridge Audio Azur 640A v2 $600 OR Jolida JD 1501A $675
Vandersteen 2Ce Signature IIs $2200 with stands.

Listen to the Cambridge Audio stuff with the Vandersteens, I think you will like it. With the Jolida amp it would be even better.

bifcake
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Re: new system recomendations

Here are my recommendations:

Integrated:

Creek 5350SE
Musical Fidelity A308
Rega Mira

CD players:

Rega Apollo
Rega Planet 2000
Musical Fidelity A3.2
Arcam FMJ 23 (I think that's the model number)

Speakers:

NHT 2.9
Paradigm Studio 100 v2, v3 or v4
Magnepan 1.6QR

I haven't heard Vandersteens, although everyone raves about them across the board. I find Rotel components too bright for my tastes as I do the Musical Fidelity X series. NAD components are beefy sounding. Full, rich and warm at the expense of detail. My recommendations are what I deem as the best sound for the money. I also recommend buying used as this will allow your budget to go much further.

linden518
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Re: new system recomendations

All great recommendations here. Can't go wrong with Cambridge Audio or Rega electronics. Vandersteen 2CeII Sigs definitely are better speakers than their price. Maggie 1.6 would require a lot of space... I don't know how big your listening room is. You might be surprised by the smaller Maggie MMG, which sells now for $599, comes with money back guarantee & the assurance that you can apply its full cost toward purchasing bigger Maggies should you choose to do so. That way, you can put your money toward better electronics now.

You should also consider Naim Nait 5i, especially if you decide on Vandersteens. I know several people who have Naim + Vandersteen systems, and they're all very very happy. I also like integrated amps from a French company, Atoll. I think Atoll IN100 is within your budget for sure.

CDP-wise, you can also go with Naim 5i, if you go with Naim amp. Cambridge Audio & Rega players are always a safe bet. I've heard that Marantz 5001 is a giant killer, at less than $300, but haven't heard it myself. As for me, all my CD listening is done with my Playstation 1 (SCPH-1001 model), which I picked up for $25. It's getting a bit trickier finding an excellent, mint-y unit, but if you find one, you might be surprised what it can do. I was close to committing to Cambridge Audio 840C, which sells for around $1500, but found out very quickly & easily that I preferred the Playstation 1. I still prefer its sound to most of the CDPs that cost in the $1000-$2000 range. Very warm & analog sounding, but also ballsy. If you're not the type to be perturbed about putting a $25 CDP in front of a $10K system (or whatever), it's a great option.

But if you must have a proper CDP (build quality-wise, the Playstation is rather flimsy, obviously): if you get the Maggie MMG & have some extra money to spend on the CDP, I'd also recommend Primare CD31, which you can find on Audiogon for ~$1500. Just a classy player, very dynamic, warm & musical. Also consider Opera Consonance CD120, which you can purchase for less than $1K, and for ~$500 used. It's a non-upsampling player, which some people either love or hate... but it's a really great-sounding player, too. I definitely prefer it to the Cambridge Audio CDP I had at home for a while. It won a lot of awards & editor's choice in publications, both in the UK & the US.

roadster
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Re: new system recomendations

Thank you, all, for the many suggestions. There is so much new equipment/technology out there that making a choice is more complicated than it was years back. Being from the old school, and use to having tone controls, I'm somewhat edgy about some of the gear that only has a volume control...but that's my psych issue to deal with

jackfish: I was able to hear the Cambridge gear you mentioned driving the Magnepans that AlexO mentioned as well as several Usher models. All sounded great and the Maggies were most impressive but a bit on the large side.
I also listened to a pair of the Vandee Sig II, also very nice but they needed more space than I have to sound right. (I am seriously considering eliminating furniture, etc. to fit either the Mags or Vans in the room...just give me a chair to sit in.)

AlexO: I have given thought to the Creek or Rega equipment but neither dealer has them available for demo. Cost was also an issue but if I go with the Maggies (that selfdivider recommends) it is certainly possible.

selfdivider: I like your suggestion of the MMG. As much as I enjoyed the Vandees I found that I had to drive them at a volume higher than I like to get their full capalities - but not so with the Maggies. And at that price I can afford more expensive electronics along with a sub.

A Playstation over a Cambridge 840? After hearing this I wonder if I should even bother buying new gear at all. Seriuosly though, I appreciate the suggestion but I'm at that age where I want to make a worthwhile purchase and be done with it - I do my piddling with old tube gear. Audiogon is a certainly worth a look - I've been there checking out what new equipment dealers are wanting to clear out. A lot of possibilities.

Thanks, again, folks for all the recommendations. I'll keep you posted as to what I decide.

Mike

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Re: new system recomendations

I've heard the Cambridge Audio 840A & 840C combo and was not impressed at all. I would much rather have a Naim or Creek integrated amp & a NAD CD player. You could even go with a NAD C355bee amp & put the extra $900 into your speakers.

roadster
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Re: new system recomendations


Quote:
I've heard the Cambridge Audio 840A & 840C combo and was not impressed at all.

The local Cmabridge dealer was of the same opinion. He recommended the 740 or 640 series.


Quote:
I would much rather have a Naim or Creek integrated amp & a NAD CD player. You could even go with a NAD C355bee amp & put the extra $900 into your speakers.

One frustrating aspect of auditioning "audiophile" electronics has been the unavailability of the items. The local Creek and Rega dealers don't have any of the gear available for demo. One of the dealers also carries Vincent but only had the higher priced hybrid systems to hear. I have read reviews on the Creek Evo series as well as the Rega Brio 3 and was wondering if anyone has personnel experience with either of these?

Speakers, however, are plentyful and this past weekend I was able to hear a selection of Magnepans (including the 1.6QR that AlexO recommended - very room filling, loved these guys!) Floor space is an issue and the dealer suggested wall mounting the planars. I questioned how that would affect the sound and he claimed it would make no difference. Does anyone have experience doing such a thing? (I was under the assumption that space was needed behind these speakers.)

Thanks for any suggestions/opinions.

Mike

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Re: new system recomendations

Wall mounting Magnepan 1.6Qr would have a dramatic NEGATIVE effect on sound. They were never meant do be wall mounted. They are a Dipolar speaker (sound comes out the front and 180 degrees out of phase out of the back) Putting them too close to a wall kills the wonderful sense of space, especially soundstaging depth that they have. The bigger the Maggy the further it should be from the wall, 1.6 should be at least 1.5 feet off of the wall preferably more. I can't believe that any knowledgeable dealer would dream of suggesting this course of action. Either there was a miss-communication or he is trying to talk dollars out of you pocket by telling you what you want to hear. I'd ask him to clarify so you can figure out which it is for certain.

If you are looking for a wall mount Magnepan the MGMC1 will do that. You'll have to pair them with a really fast and accurate sub (Think REL which will cost at least as much as the speakers, maybe more.) and the image size, sound staging width and sound staging depth won't be anywhere NEAR as big as the 1.6s. Also keep in mind that Magnepans LOVE power. The more power you give them the more open they will become. DON'T SKIMP ON THE AMP.

The 1.6QR are BY FAR the best speaker I've ever heard under $2000, but they MUST be happy to get there. Give them room behind the speaker and a capable amp any you won't regret your purchase.

roadster
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Re: new system recomendations


Quote:
Wall mounting Magnepan 1.6Qr would have a dramatic NEGATIVE effect on sound. They were never meant do be wall mounted. They are a Dipolar speaker (sound comes out the front and 180 degrees out of phase out of the back) Putting them too close to a wall kills the wonderful sense of space, especially soundstaging depth that they have.

My thoughts exactly...but I figured this guy knew better than I. So last night I did a web search on the MMG (the model I'm considering). In the December 1, 2002 issue of GoodSound; "If your living room or listening space is more constricted, you might consider hanging these attractive, flat speakers on a wall." The writer went on to say that audiophiles would find such a suggestion disgusting but to, "Ignore 'em." Maybe the dealer read this same article.
He did point out, as did you, the MGMC1 and made the same suggestion, for a sub.

The need for power was also pointed out so I am ready to make that needed change to a Rotel pre and 150 watt power amp...along with a sub.


Quote:
The bigger the Maggy the further it should be from the wall...

In my reading last night I learned this, also. More good advice, thanks.


Quote:
I can't believe that any knowledgeable dealer would dream of suggesting this course of action. Either there was a miss-communication...

I do suspect this to be the case. After all, my ears were paying more attention to the music.


Quote:
The 1.6QR are BY FAR the best speaker I've ever heard under $2000, but they MUST be happy to get there. Give them room behind the speaker and a capable amp any you won't regret your purchase.

I didn't have a chance to hear the MG12 but will be going back for a listen. I'm curious as to how low it goes or if a sub will be needed.

Thanks for the advice.

linden518
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Re: new system recomendations

Yeah, the Maggies fire backwards, w/o the traditional damping speaker box, as well as forwards. They have to come away from the back walls, but the distance to side walls are not as critical. Glad you liked them, though... I think I might get a pair of MMGs when I move next month, too.

mrlowry
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Re: new system recomendations

roadster-

Glad to hear that my advise was of assistance. Rotel's amps work well with Magnepans without breaking the bank. You're probably looking at the RA1070 which is nice with the 1.6QRs, the RA1080 is even better. The tonality of the amps are nearly identical, but the 1080 is more dynamic and has more authority in the bass.

roadster
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Re: new system recomendations

WOW! This certainly has been a learning experience...especially since I haven't purchased any audio gear in nearly 30 years. And planar speakers have made such a tremendous jump in sound,and price, over that time.

All of you have given me such worthwhile info it has made life much easier.

I went back to the dealer last night and gave a listen to the Magnepan MG12s...couldn't hear too much of a difference from the MMGs. After much listening and switching of equipment I came up with a combination that sounded great (to me) and was affordable. As great as the 1.6Qrs sounded there just isn't the space, or budget, for them. I did go with your suggestion, mrlowry, of the Rotel 1070 pre and 1080 amp along with their 1072 cdp. As for speakers I chose the MMGs, that seldivider recommended, and added the REL T3 sub. (I demoed the T1 but since my room is smaller the T3 will work fine.) Thanks, again, mrlowry for the suggestion...the dealer had other brand subs but they just didn't sound as good.

All this within my budget.

I cleared out my listening room and will be able to arrange the speakers properly and place my listening chair in the exact sweet spot. Ain't life grand!

Thanks once more to everyone for your suggestions for it certainly made decision making simpler.

Mike

brock_boogie
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Re: new system recomendations

Congrats on the new system, roadster!

I'm curious about the REL T3 myself & haven't had the time to audition, yet (was thinking of using the REL with Epos M12i speakers).

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the REL. How big is your room? I'm hoping to fill quite a large room: 28' x 17' (10 foot ceilings).

Cheers!

mrlowry
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Re: new system recomendations

Mike-

That's a great system. You have chosen well. The amp even gives you some breathing room in case you choose to upgrade speakers later.

Glad to hear that our advice was helpful. Make sure to set up the REL exactly as the manual suggests. If you do so it will perform like virtually no other subwoofer in the world. Subwoofers should completely disappear. They are there to augment the left and right speaker , calling zero attention to themselves.

roadster
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Re: new system recomendations

whosgotsoul,

Due to your room size you may want to consider the T1, or another REL sub (check out their site www.rel.net). There's a lot to choose from. The dealer had a T1 in his demo room which measured 15' x 25'.

My room is only 10'x 15' - Using these dimensions we figured the T3 would work well in my space.

The T series has twin drivers...one active and one passive. Several of the other subs I auditioned used class D amps but the RELs use a class A/B amp and sounded much, much better. Sharp, clear sound, not fuzzy like the (even more expensive) class D subs.

Good luck and let us know what you decide.

Mike

roadster
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Re: new system recomendations


Quote:
Subwoofers should completely disappear.

And this is what the RELs did. The dealer had the sub placed on the wall opposite the Maggies, which I wouldn't be able to do, so he moved the sub around the room to find different spots where it would work, in my set-up. Fortunately there were a couple placements that would work for me and, like you said, the REL just disappeared.

A great recommendation. Thanks! Once I get the equipment and have it all set-up in my room I'll let you know how it all turned out.

Mike

roadster
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Re: new system recomendations

Well folks, I got the system this past weekend and have spent the last couple days just listening.

I purchased the Magnepan MMGs that selfdivider recommended, the Rotel 1072 cdp, 1070 pre and the 1080 amp as mrlowry suggested. Along wth the REL T3 sub. (I followed the manufacturer's direction just like mrlowry advised and the sound is amazing.) Surprizingly - or maybe it shouldn't be -
but the system sunds better at home than it did at the dealers'. Once all the gear has had time to burn in it will sound even better!!

whosgotsoul: Have you had a chance to hear the REL sub? Be sure you do.

Thanks to everyone for your input...I couldn't have gotten such a great sounding system without your advise.

Gratefully.

Mike

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