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sbkrige
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Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my first system

Greetings.
A recent convert to this weird and wonderful world of high end audio, I'm looking to make the plunge into assembling my first system. As I'm inexperienced in this vast hobby I have a few questions and queries I'd greatly appreciate being answered.
This is a fairly long post as I'm also sharing some of my own initial ideas, just to warm the faint of heart, although I'd really be indebted if you could bare with me and offered advice.

Okay. So I'm thinking I'd rather save up a bit and invest in something rather decent, wait a bit before I get it, so I have a system that satisfies me for longer and sounds better. As opposed to getting something cheaper that I want to upgrade and replace quicker (which overall will probably cost more).
Is this a good mindset to have?
I'm also less hesitant about spending money coming into this as my passion for music isn't going to fade at all like a school yard fad, so it'll always be used and appreciated even if my enthusiasm for buying hi-fi equipment fades. I also gather from my initial voyage, equipment doesn't rapidly date as say computers do, correct?

Now onto the more question side of my post.
I've read you should get/decide on the speakers first. But my current plan differs from this slightly, as if I bought the speakers first, I'd have to buy the other components too, for me to be able to listen to music. This would mean I'd probably send a long time saving, as I wouldn't mind spending the maximum I could on speakers, considering they are the item actually producing sound.
So, I'm thinking if I buy the other components (record player, cd plater, amp(s)) first I can listen to the system on some good headphones in the mean time (i.e. Sennheiser HD650, AGK 702's, etc) which I'm planning to buy anyway. This means I'll be able to listen to music and use the equipment while saving up for speakers.
Question. Is this a good idea at all? If not what do you suggest?

Sorry if this post is a bit long. If you're still reading, thank-you.
Any advice, even slightly off tract to my queries is welcome.

p.s. As I'm well aware the what constitutes as an invest varies greatly for different people, I'm willing to spend up to around 7 thousand (preferably around 5 thousand) excluding the speakers, if that helps

JIMV
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Re: Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my f

You have not specified a final budget. There is a lot of good gear available for less than mega bucks. You can get pretty great sound from a set of Maggie MMG's which cost new about $600 and a lot less used.

If I was starting again I'd set a budget of around $3K, buy those MMg's, a $1200-$1500 used integrated amp, and a $600 CD unit like a Rotel 1072. I'd devote perhaps $2-300 on cables. That leaves you around %4K for improvements over time. The Rotel CD is pretty current on technology. If you want vinyl, a lot of folk offer turntables with cartridges for under $1000 and you can get a phono amp for a couple of hundred. I guess I am saying that starting modest ad figuring what you like makes more sense than spending a lot up front and being unhappy with a selection. If you like the Maggies, the next step up n their line is amazing.

Perhaps a Creek, PrimaLuna or Jolida used amp would suit. You would get pretty good sound, better than the vast majority of folk.

I guess I would say I'd want a decent sounding system actually playing music to determine my own individual likes and dislikes and then save for upgrades.

judicata
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Re: Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my f

I sort of agree with JIMV.

Because it is your initial system, your tastes may not have taken shape yet (although they'll always develop somewhat). I would support the idea of getting everything you can afford IF you have sufficient time to audition a bunch of equipment adequately. Is that the case? If so, take a lot of time and listen to a variety of speakers, amps, sources, etc. (but especially speakers), and when you're comfortable that you've found what you like, get it.

If you don't have tons of time to audition, OR if you find that you just aren't getting enough information from auditions, then I'd start smaller and upgrade. This is how it worked for me. When I auditioned, I could tell the difference between, say, $200 speakers and $1,500 speakers, but I couldn't tell which speakers in the $800-$2000 I preferred. The same applies for the sources.

Since then, I started out with a $2000 system (speakers and all), and have upgraded as I've gone along. Now I can appreciate the upgrades because I know what they are improving. If I had started off with this gear, I wouldn't have such an appreciation. My upgrades are also focused - I think "it should sound more like this" or "I shouldn't be hearing this surface noise" etc.

On the other hand, it is really a matter of degree. You have to start somewhere, and I'm sure you'll grow to appreciate whatever you have eventually, and the difference between that and other systems. I think an initial setup budget of $3000-$3500 is probably a good place to start in an all-at-once purchase. It is very likely you'll spend the $10,000 (or so, whatever your budget with speakers is) within months after your initial purchases.

Starting out with a headphone setup isn't a bad idea. You want to get the speakers before you get the amplifier for them, though. If you want to go that route, I'd start with (1) a source or two (CDP/turntable) (2) headphones (3) a headphone amp.

The headphones you listed are nice. You might be able to find a great deal on AKG K701 headphones right now - the 702s, although I haven't compared them, apparently don't sound different, they just have a few added features (e.g. easily upgradable cable).

For a headphone amp, there are a lot of options. You can surf around for them. A popular amp for the AKGs is a WooAudio WA6 (or WA6SE). I recently ordered a Woo Audio WA2 for mine. The WA2 is an option if you'd like to use the headphone amplifier as a preamp later. In addition, it has source selection, so you can have your CD Player, turntable, and iPod hooked up at the same time. If you prefer solid state, there are several good options out there. You can also check out the headphone amps at headroom (website).

A good place to start on Turntables is the TTs under $1000 thread - it lists some over $1000 as well.

You can hold off on getting a power amp/preamp if you don't get the speakers right now. Pick the power amp (or integrated amp) after you get the speakers.

By the way, headphones just sound better with a headphone amp, so you won't be throwing that away when you purchase your speakers and amp. If you do a lot of headphone listening, you'll want to get one either way.

Monty
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Re: Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my f

My advice would be not to spend a dime until you know what you want. I think it's
wiser to know where you are going before you start walking.

The problem facing people new to the hobby is that they don't know what it is that
they don't know. Spending money on gear is an expensive way to find out what it was
that you didn't know.

There's another very good reason to learn and map out your system before hand. Speakers
and amplifiers need to be complimentary and work with each other. Some speakers simply
won't work with some amplifiers and you can avoid the 99% chance of buying the wrong
amplifier to go with the speakers you will ultimately fall in love with and have to have.

I would also caution you against trying to find perfection from the outset. That will
keep you from buying and enjoying anything as you will be paralyzed with the thought
that there might be something out there even better if you keep looking.

Having the luxury of experience, paved by numerous foolish mistakes, (me) do enough auditioning
to know what you want before you start spending.

Maybe a good course of action is to whittle things down from a sea of choices. First start
with tubes vs solid state and find which you prefer. Once you know that, things get more
focused. That's where a friendly and helpful dealer can demonstrate their worth.

sbkrige
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Re: Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my f

I definately won't acutally buy anything until I've research and learnt as much as I can.
I think I'll go the route of using headphones with a headphone amp initally. That way I can focus on those parts, and learn about them, buy something, and I can actually listen to music that sounds good, while I take my time learning about amps and speakers.
I'm also thinking now I'll start basic, and just spend what I'm comfortable with, although things in Australia are generally more expensive (as far an electronics go).
I have a question about matching amps to the speakers.
I gather you need to match your amp with the speakers, but do you also need to match the pre-amp to speakers, or just the power amp (that is if you get a non-integrated amp)?

mrlowry
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Re: Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my f


Quote:
My advice would be not to spend a dime until you know what you want. I think it's
wiser to know where you are going before you start walking.

The problem facing people new to the hobby is that they don't know what it is that
they don't know. Spending money on gear is an expensive way to find out what it was
that you didn't know.

There's another very good reason to learn and map out your system before hand. Speakers
and amplifiers need to be complimentary and work with each other. Some speakers simply
won't work with some amplifiers and you can avoid the 99% chance of buying the wrong
amplifier to go with the speakers you will ultimately fall in love with and have to have.

I would also caution you against trying to find perfection from the outset. That will
keep you from buying and enjoying anything as you will be paralyzed with the thought
that there might be something out there even better if you keep looking.

Having the luxury of experience, paved by numerous foolish mistakes, (me) do enough auditioning
to know what you want before you start spending.

Maybe a good course of action is to whittle things down from a sea of choices. First start
with tubes vs solid state and find which you prefer. Once you know that, things get more
focused. That's where a friendly and helpful dealer can demonstrate their worth.

Best advice yet. The only the only thing that I would add is that a great dealer (and they are out there) is an invaluable resource and can SAVE far more money in the long run than their services cost, especially for those new to the hobby. Monty's advice that you don't know is spot on.

JIMV
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Re: Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my f

I do not have any serious experience with headphone listening BUT, I can say that headphones sound much different than speakers. If you develop preferences for the sound of your gear through headphones, you will not have a good idea of how the system will sound through any set of speakers. I still recommend you buy a quality set of inexpensive speakers and use those to determine your preferences unless you intend to do the majority of your eventual listening on headphones.

sbkrige
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Re: Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my f

I did a look for some dealers, I definitely feel more comfortable using a dealer. I found some in Melbourne (closest place to me) that dealt with good gear. I haven't come across one in Adelaide yet though, I may not as Adelaide if fairly small, but I'll keep looking.

Buddha
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Re: Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my f

Aloha to Adelaide! And, welcome!

I'm a firm believer in "buy once," when possible. Aiming your budget at some pieces that are timeless, and tossing some money away on pieces that will be readily improved upon as technology moves forward.

As such, I'd say, spend under 400 bucks for a digital fron end. The American economy is such that cool CD/SACD players are easily had for that amount. One trip to Music Driect Dot Com may amaze you.

As for the rest...

Is your room a long term place, or fleeting? Picking speakers to fit the room would be another good starting point.

Your budget is fabulous.

I tend to agree with lovers of planar speakers, so the Magnepan recommendation is great.

But...you should be busy listening to whatever you can, and looking for local audio-nuts or clubs to help expand you horizons.

It

sbkrige
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Re: Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my f

Thanks for all the help.
In regards to me room, I'll probably be here another year at least. Being young I'm not going to be defininately tied down in one spot for 10 years or anything, but I don't want hypotheticals of the future to impose on my music listening desires. It's a pretty standard sized space I'm filling, one I image is in most modest houses.
As far as the driving distance to sydney it's a little longer than 20 minutes, it's about a 16 hours drive. Australia has long distances. Melbourne will have everything Sydney has and is about a 9 hour drive. You can get cheap return flights sometimes for around 100 to 150 dollars (Probably cheaper than driving actually) and I can go over for other reasons too.
Adelaide might have a store with expertise though, it has a 1 million or so people, I just didn't find as store on my initial brief search.

What can anyone recommend as far as learning what all the figures, etc mean exactly, and what brands are good and not (a lot I've never heard of until I started sniffing around this audiophile neighborhood). I don't really want to be bothering the forum with hundreds of tiny questions, nor do I think you want me to be. Especially if I can easily solve it myself with the right means.

tomjtx
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Re: Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my f

try also looking on audiocircle.com

There are a few Ausralian manufacturers that have circles or at least post there.
There is an amp manufacturer and I think a speaker maker.
They sell direct. They might offer in home trials.
You might save a lot buying home grown products.

audioasylum.com is another site that has a lot of ausies posting so I would do a query there about gear and dealers at both sites.

JIMV
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Re: Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my f


Quote:
What can anyone recommend as far as learning what all the figures, etc mean exactly, and what brands are good and not (a lot I've never heard of until I started sniffing around this audiophile neighborhood). I don't really want to be bothering the forum with hundreds of tiny questions, nor do I think you want me to be. Especially if I can easily solve it myself with the right means.

Try the trade magazines like "the absolute sound" and "stereophile" and forums like this.

judicata
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Re: Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my f

You can ask tiny questions if you need to.

I actually do think headphones can give you an idea of your tastes in various respects, but JIMV is correct that it won't help you as much with speaker selection. That's why I recommend getting a headphone amp + headphones, and then spend your time listening to music and auditioning speakers until you're comfortable you found something you like.

By the way, for headphone amps, you may not be able to find a dealer. And if you do, they'll probably leave out some popular brands. I cautiously recommend head-fi dot org. They are insane over there, but there is loads of information.

JIMV
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Re: Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my f

I have always found headphones to sound completely different on my systems than the music through any speaker I have owned.

That said, I have never had a good, or even an expensive (not the same thing at all) headphone rig so I must defer to folk with more experience on the issue.

judicata
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Re: Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my f

JIMV - I don't entirely disagree. You're not going to figure out what speaker you like by listening to headphones. That's for sure. You may begin to develop your tastes somewhat in certain aspects, but they aren't going to tell you much, if anything, about soundstage, room acoustics (obviously they tell you nothing here), and other aspects. They might be able to teach you a little about what to listen for regarding brightness/warmth, detail, etc.

But my main point was that someone can spend time enjoying a headphone setup while auditioning and looking for the right speakers/amp. I say this because the OP seemed interested in a headphone setup anyway, so it's not like it hurts anything, including budget, to get a decent headphone rig.

ncdrawl
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Re: Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my f


Quote:
I say this because the OP seemed interested in a headphone setup anyway, so it's not like it hurts anything, including budget, to get a decent headphone rig.

totally agree. I would get a screaming headphone setup(like AKG 701s with woo audio or ray samuels emmeline amps(many more options)... you can get an amazing sounding headphone setup for a relatively low price.. with that you can let your tastes develop, your palette strengthen, as it were...

learn on this "junior" system, and jump into the deep end later....

bifcake
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Re: Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my f

I think starting with a headphone rig can be beneficial and money saving if done right. Otherwise, it may lead to duplicate systems, infinite upgrades and lack of ultimate satisfaction.

I started from more or less the same approach as you and I have found a system that works pretty well for me.

I have a Rega Planet 2000 CD player feeding into Cary SLP-88 preamp which serves as my headphone amp and Sennheiser HD 580 phones. I find that the Cary preamp is a terrific headphone amp and a very good preamp for speaker listening. This core allows me to consolidate my headphone listening and my speaker listening while being pretty cost effective and a very satisfying and musical solution.

The Rega Planet 2000 is about $450 USD used
Cary SLP-88 about $800-$1100 USD used
You can get the HD650 phones and that will leave you under $2k for a setup that sounds VERY good and allows you to get amp and speakers later on.

mrlowry
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Re: Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my f

Robert Harley's book "Complete Guide to High End" is a really good read for someone just getting into the hobby too. It's written in such a way that goes form basic topics and builds to progressively more complex subjects with each cheaper dealing with a particular topic/component.

sbkrige
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Re: Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my f


Quote:
I cautiously recommend head-fi dot org. They are insane over there, but there is loads of information.

Insane how? Should I take their information/advice with a grain of salt? I've sniffed around there a few times.

judicata
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Re: Please help answer a few initial questions about buying my f


Quote:

Quote:
I cautiously recommend head-fi dot org. They are insane over there, but there is loads of information.

Insane how? Should I take their information/advice with a grain of salt? I've sniffed around there a few times.

Oh, they're generally good over there, and very helpful. Since it is a "head-fi" oriented site, they are all about phones and amps, etc., and you'll notice that there is "always something better." Of course, that is what all audiophile sites are like, but still...

Anyhow, I would surf around there for a bit for the headphone/amp stuff. Run a search for your headphones and you'll find some amps people have paired with them.

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