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jtein
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Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading

Hi, I'm relatively new to the audiophile world and therefore feel the need for some expert guidance. Currently I have a Primare I30/CD31 set-up driving the PMC FB1i's. Somehow, I don't have the "Ahhh....this is it!" feeling. I admit that my system is just one month old and is therefore still running-in but I still sense that something is missing.

No doubt the Primares are special and they sound good but I know there's just something more to be had. I'm looking for a sound that has a big open soundstage with plenty of transparency, precision, clarity, authority, crisp timing, precise imaging, neutral, natural and yet organic and fluid at the same time. Is this just an illusive dream or is it achievable?

My budget is around $7-10k for each component.

Hope the audiophile gurus can help me out. Thanks!

mrlowry
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading

What are the cables being used with the system? Are you using a power conditioner? If so, what brand? Those two seemingly small factors can stop a great system from truly shinning if they are not a good match.

clarets2
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading

What's your system history? Have you ever heard what you are looking for or read a review which struck a chord with your ideal.
For a beginner you have one serious budget!!!

jtein
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading


Quote:
What are the cables being used with the system? Are you using a power conditioner? If so, what brand? Those two seemingly small factors can stop a great system from truly shinning if they are not a good match.

Right now I'm using Chord Silver Screen Carnival speakers cables and QED Qunex Silver Spiral balanced XLR interconnects. I also use an Atlas Equator Superior RCA interconnect for comparison.

As for mains conditioner, I'm using the Tacima C929. I use Supra LoRad 2.5 each for the amp and cdp to the Tacima.

jtein
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading


Quote:
What's your system history? Have you ever heard what you are looking for or read a review which struck a chord with your ideal.
For a beginner you have one serious budget!!!

Well, I actually started from scratch. I had shortlisted a few brands after reading various reviews. Then I auditioned the Primares combo against the Naim Nait XS combo. To me, the Primares easily won out.

Then I lugged my newly bought Primares to various dealers to audition a few loudspeakers. I finally settled for the PMC FB1i by default. By default I mean I wanted to audition the ATC SCM40 but they were sold out. I auditioned the Spendor A6 but the auditioning room had horrible acoustics so I couldn't listen to them properly.

Don't get me wrong, my system sounds good. But it doesn't put a big silly grin on my face when I listen to it. Basically I'm treating my one-month old system just as a starting point.

clarets2
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading


Quote:

Well, I actually started from scratch.
Don't get me wrong, my system sounds good. But it doesn't put a big silly grin on my face when I listen to it.

Can you let us know what you were listening to music on before you started this system.
Have you experienced the "big silly grin" in your past? My first "hi-fi" system gave me what I think you are referring to. That was a Dual TT, NAD 3020 and Linn Index speakers.....many upgrades and whole system changes ago, but I think that experience still lives with me today.

jackfish
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading


Quote:
I'm looking for a sound that has a big open soundstage with plenty of transparency, precision, clarity, authority, crisp timing, precise imaging, neutral, natural and yet organic and fluid at the same time.


Sounds like you need to listen to Vandersteen 3A Signature loudspeakers with two Vandersteen 2Wq subwoofers and Bryston 7B SST monoblocks. I did and these components evoked in me your aural ideals. You could try your I30 as a preamp.

mrlowry
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading

Sonically speaking what do you feel is lacking? What thoughts does your dealer have? From those brand's reputations I can see that the system might be a bit too analytical. I know that's what I thought of my Primare D20 CD player and why I'm using it as a transport now.

I don't know anything about the power conditions that you mentioned.

Monty
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading

If I had a budget like that, I'd have a pair of Wilson speakers and know that I wouldn't be looking to upgrade that end of the chain...ever. Well, unless my budget grew even bigger and even that would be to upgrade to a larger Wilson speaker. There may be speakers that I would like better than the Wilsons, but if there is I've not heard them.

I guess what I'm saying is that rather than spend 28K on four components, I'd keep the electronics you have and spend the whole wad on a pair of Sophias...or even a little less and buy the Duette. In fact, the Duette impressed me more than the Alexandria on a cost/benefit basis.

jtein
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading


Quote:
Can you let us know what you were listening to music on before you started this system.
Have you experienced the "big silly grin" in your past? My first "hi-fi" system gave me what I think you are referring to. That was a Dual TT, NAD 3020 and Linn Index speakers.....many upgrades and whole system changes ago, but I think that experience still lives with me today.

Zilch! Just my in-car system. Well, I did have a Marantz CD63 II KI Sig cdp, Audiolab 8000A and a pair of KEF Coda which I sold off 12 years ago afterwhich I did not listen to any hifi whatsoever. So far the "big silly grin" has not materialized yet.

jtein
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading


Quote:
Sonically speaking what do you feel is lacking? What thoughts does your dealer have? From those brand's reputations I can see that the system might be a bit too analytical. I know that's what I thought of my Primare D20 CD player and why I'm using it as a transport now.

I don't know anything about the power conditions that you mentioned.

Well, I do lean towards an analytical sound. Can't really put my finger on what's missing though. I think the soundstage is not as big and open as I want it to be. I also want it to be more organic and immediate.

So an analytical sound that's organic and fluid with a big open soundstage. What a paradox. But that's what I'm looking for. Achievable?

jtein
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading


Quote:
If I had a budget like that, I'd have a pair of Wilson speakers and know that I wouldn't be looking to upgrade that end of the chain...ever. Well, unless my budget grew even bigger and even that would be to upgrade to a larger Wilson speaker. There may be speakers that I would like better than the Wilsons, but if there is I've not heard them.

I guess what I'm saying is that rather than spend 28K on four components, I'd keep the electronics you have and spend the whole wad on a pair of Sophias...or even a little less and buy the Duette. In fact, the Duette impressed me more than the Alexandria on a cost/benefit basis.

So you reckon the speakers make the most difference? Wilson is rather difficult to source in my country. I'm looking at the Sonus Faber Cremona M or Magico V2.

jtein
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading


Quote:
Sounds like you need to listen to Vandersteen 3A Signature loudspeakers with two Vandersteen 2Wq subwoofers and Bryston 7B SST monoblocks. I did and these components evoked in me your aural ideals. You could try your I30 as a preamp.

Vandersteen is not available in my country either though Bryston is. My Primare I30 is a Class B amp. Perhaps a Class A or Class AB amp driving a Sonus Faber or Magico will help? As for the source I'm looking at the Ayre C5xe.

mrlowry
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading

Wow, you are thinking about expensive solutions. Try switching the cables first, maybe something a bit warmer would compliment the electronics. Dealers should let take some home to try them in your system before you buy. Always start out with the cheapest solution first or this will end up being a really expensive hobby.

That having been said the quickest and most dramatic way to change the sound of any system is of course the loudspeakers.

Welshsox
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading

Hi

All these equipment ideas are fine and im sure somewhere you might find a solution but it will take a lot of trial and error and therefore money !!

You need to set aside all these ideas of a quick fix and find a good dealer, find one that will work with you and let you swap stuff in and out at home, if your in KL im sure there are good dealers around. Once you have settled on a basic sound that you like then you should follow mrlowry's advice of tweaking the system with cables etc. It absolutely amazing what difference a speaker cable can make and it is absolutely not cost dependent despite what the magazines want you to believe.

The biggest problem you will face is that you feel the need to try lots of stuff to ensure you have the right kit, the only way of course is to try lots of kit and again this is where a great dealer is the key.

Alan

jtein
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading

Home auditions? Fat chance! They are unheard of in Malaysia or even in KL. This is why I rely pretty much on product reviews and forums like this. It's a very unsatisfactory way of buying equipment but I'll have to live with it. As for dealers, they are "nice" only insofar as they hope to get your business.

I'm aware the cables may be the weak link in my present system and I do intend to change them to Kimber Hero i/c and 8TC speaker cables real soon. But I doubt it's going to work magic to my current set-up.

So you're correct to say it's gonna take lots of trial and error and money. So let's just hope I strike it with the next roll of the dice!

Monty
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading

Start with the Wilsons. If that doesn't put a grin on your face then you can be satisfied in knowing that your face can't make a grin. Seriously, you have a substantial budget and can afford most any speaker and that's the right place to start. Think about it; John Atkinson and Michael Fremer both have Wilsons as their reference speaker. They'be been at this for a few years and reviewed hundreds.

Do what you have to do to import them to your country and spend some time talking to the dealer so as to get a good idea of whether your room can work with them and which model. We have a local Wilson dealer here and I'll be happy to put you in touch with them if you decide you might want to pursue the idea. Their website is Ne Plus Ultra

Welshsox
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading

Which part of Malaysia are you in ?

Why not drive down to Singapore ?

I would suggest if that doesnt work that you look at buying cables used on Audiogon/ebay at least that way if you audition them at home you will get 70-80 % of their price back.

Alan

tomjtx
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading

X2 on the Wilsons and you will likely still be impressed 10 or 15 years later.

struts
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading

Hey jtein,

Welcome to the forum. Couple of datapoints you might find useful.

I helped my father choose a new system a couple of months ago and we ended up going for PMC FB1is driven by a Naim Uniti. I thought this combination sounded pretty good and almost allowed me to suspend belief on a couple of occasions. For my father's budget (

jtein
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading

Thanks Monty and struts for the posts. Though both of you provided differing opinions on the Wilsons, you both did confirm my hunch that I would need to spend more to achieve that "silly big grin" sound

jtein
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading


Quote:
Which part of Malaysia are you in ?

Why not drive down to Singapore ?

I would suggest if that doesnt work that you look at buying cables used on Audiogon/ebay at least that way if you audition them at home you will get 70-80 % of their price back.

Alan

I live 200km north of KL. So Singapore is even further for me although the thought of driving down to Singapore is pretty tempting but it'll take me 8 hours to reach. So I'm severely handicapped when it comes to auditioning equipment.

Where are you located Welsh Hifi? You seem familiar with this part of the globe.

Monty
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading

I don't think you have to spend silly money to get the grin, but if you have the means to upgrade to the extent that you mentioned, then I think the hardware is a proper place to consider changes. However, regardless of the level of equipment anyone has for their audio system, the first place to start is properly positioning the speakers within the room. Not much else matters if your speakers aren't placed at least in the ballpark of where they should be. Naturally, that goes for the listening position as well.

Even a modest system will make me grin if it's balanced to offset compromises and properly situated in my space. But, the Wilson speakers gave me a stiffy.

commsysman
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading

I notice that you are considering the Ayre C5xe.

I have had one for 3 years, and it is excellent.

On the other hand, I have had the Sony SCD-XA5400ES for about 3 months, and it is a better-sounding player for a MUCH lower price. It is the best-sounding player I have ever heard, and I have heard just about every unit that costs $9000 or less. It is quite amazing for only $1500!!! It is the ONLY player I have ever heard that puts the full dynamics and tone colors of the piano into my living room as if I were at a live recital.

I can't recommend the Sony too highly.

P.S.- If you really wanted to get the Vandersteen 3A speakers, I suspect that they could be shipped to you from a USA dealer. You might check with Randy at Optimal Enchantment in Santa Monica, CA. I have dealt with him for years, and he is an outstanding person to deal with. The phone number is 310-393-4434. I'm sure he could FedEx them to you on a credit card purchase.

I have had the Vandersteens for over 10 years, and they are incredible speakers, and definitely outstanding for their price. The subwoofers are needed for that last reach down to the lowest register of the pipe organ, but most people would be happy with the bass of the 3A speakers without the the subs; they go pretty low.

You can see below what my system is, and it is definitely one that gets that silly grin from me every time I listen to music. I have been listening to music and upgrading my system within my budget for the last 30 years, and I know of no other system that is as good for the money...or I would have it!

commsysman
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading

If you are using the Vandersteen subwoofers with the 3A speakers, as I am, the subwoofers have built-in amplifiers, and you do not need a lot of power to drive the main speakers when they are not required to handle the bass.

That is why I decided on the Bryston 3B-SST amplifier rather than the 4B-SST or 7B-SST. I think that the 3B-SST is a better-sounding amplifier than the higher-powered ones, and it has all the power I need for a very large room and very high sound levels.

jtein
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Re: Newbie in desperate need of advice for upgrading

Thanks commsysman. I read your reply to me in http://forum.stereophile.com/forum/showflat.php?Cat=0&Number=79978&Main=78494#Post79978

So I'll take it up in this thread. In other words, the Ayre C5xe tends to exaggerate certain frequencies of the music in order to have that "reach out and touch you" kind of sound?

I'm also looking at the Esoteric X-05. Any idea how that sounds compared to the Sony SCD-XA5400ES?

As for the Vandersteen, preferably I need to hear them first. Since they are not available for audition in my country, I've narrowed down my choices to Magico V2, Thiel CS3.7 and Sonus Faber Cremona M. I wonder what integrated amp will go well with them?

I feel I should upgrade the speakers first. This way I can take my existing amp and cdp to audition the different speakers.

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