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anarchy84
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Totally new to this - a few questions

First off I'd like to say that I love this site.  I have been researching components for about a week now, and these forums have been extremely helpful.

I am building an entry level system to try and breathe new life into a vinyl collection I inherited a year ago when my Father passed away.  Up until recently, I didn't have a whole lot of spare cash to sink into it, but now I am looking to build a simple, compact system to play his records in my new apartment.  Based on research / listening to different setups at the local hi-fi store, I've decided on the following components:

TT:  Pro-Ject Debut Carbon

Integrated Amp/Pre-amp Receiver:  Harman Kardon HK 3490 120 watt

Speakers:  B&W 686's or Polk RTI A1's (haven't decided yet, loved both at the hi-fi store)

I have seen a few other posters planning on a similar setup, so I assume this should be an O.K entry level system with a clear upgrade path.  

My question(s) is:

1.  Do I need anything else, or will unpacking the three components listed above give me all the parts necessary to plug and play?

2.  I have never connected a speaker wire to a receiver before, and frankly I'm not sure if either of the speakers I've listed will come with wire included.  This is easy enough to look up in the user manual online, but assuming they do...is the included wire sufficient for the components listed, or should I buy new / better wire?  What would you recommend if I need to purchase new?

3.  Will the HK 3490 provide adequate amplification, or would I need a dedicated amp / phono stage?

Any other feedback you can provide to a complete and utter audio newbie would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

Bill B
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wire

Speakers do not typically come supplied with speaker wire (speaker cables).  So buy a spool of 16 gauge speaker wire and you will have what you need.  Assuming you have a pocketknife or wire stripper to expose the ends.

You can also get speaker cable that comes with "spade lugs" or "banana" connectors.  Monoprice.com is good quality and cheap prices.  Or go more upscale and look at brands such as Audioquest, Kimber, Cardas, MIT, etc.

Just make sure you hook up your wire to the speakers and the receiver properly/consistently, so the speakers are "in phase" when they play.  Your manuals will tell you how to do this.   It's simple and if you don't see it in the manual then ask again here.

That HK has a built-in phono preamp so you don't need a separate one.

 

Demondog
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Speaker wire

Looks like a nice start. I assume you have an anti-static record brush, and stylus cleaner?

Your speakers will not come from the manufacturer with wire. You can just buy some off the shelf speaker cables made to the length you need, and they will probably sound fine.

What you should look for is wire with low resistance. The speaker manufacturer often states the maximum allowed resistence for the speaker connection in the owners manual. For example, the B&W 686 manual has 0.1 ohm as the maximum resistance for the connection.

The resistance for a wire is dependent on its thickness and length. Many people just grab some 18 gauge "speaker" wire from the local electronics store.  16 gauge is better, and I have often used even thicker 14 gauge lamp cord from the hardware store, in non-critical applications. 14 gauge wire is the thinnest gauge I will use, and currently use it for fairly long runs to my outdoor speakers.

If you google "speaker wire gauge resistance" you can find the information to figure what gauge to get. The largest facter in the decision is the distance from your amp to your speaker. Longer distances require thicker wire (smaller gauge #) to keep the total wire resistance low. Remember that you need to count the length of wire to the speaker, plus back again, since it's a two conductor wire.

As to the B&W 686's 0.1 ohm limit. 16 gauge stranded copper wire has a resistance of .0041 ohms/ft. So 16 gauge wire will be at the B&W's specified limit at 24 ft. Counting both the out, and return path, you'd have to be inside 12 ft of speaker cable at the best. No problem? I don't like living so close to the edge myself.

Moving one step, to a thicker 14 gauge wire will reduce the resistance by about a third. I suppose if your speakers are only four feet apart you could use a thinner gauge, but you really can't have wire that's too thick (electrically). I'll soon be ordering some 10 gauge for a 15 ft run.

Here is a link to a handy calculator  http://www.stealth316.com/2-wire-resistance.htm

Just to mention that I've recently been trying out some 14 gauge black low-voltage 2-conductor wire from the hardware store, that I think is meant for low voltage outdoor lighting, or something. I'm only using it for smaller, lower-fi speakers though.

anarchy84
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Speaker Cable

Thank you guys for your responses.  That clears up a bit of confusion for me.  Follow up quesiton:

I've read several posts recommending different cable brands, but opinions seem to vary quite a bit.  In your opinion, does a cable with a high number of strands produce better sound quality than a 'solid core' cable with very few - albeit thicker- strands?

Example, comparing AudioQuest X2 (~20 solid core copper strands) to Signal Cable Ultra (152 copper strands):

http://www.amazon.com/AudioQuest-X-2-bulk-speaker-cable/dp/B000F1X75E/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

http://signalcable.com/ultraspeaker.html

Also, would you recommend getting banana plug terminations, or using bare wire?

Thanks!  It's almost purchasing time.  :)

commsysman
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SYSTEM CHOICES

I would get a 100 foot roll of Monoprice speaker 14 gauge speaker wire. You can get a wire stripper from Radio Shack or MCM Electronics if you don't have one. I suggest that you not use 16 gauge or smaller wire.

Their part number is #2791 and it only costs about $25.

It is high-quality copper wire and will be very good for your needs.

IMO there are speakers that sound much better than either B & W or Polk in that price range, so you might want to do some more shopping for speakers. Those are two brands of speakers I would rank relatively low in sound quality, and they are overpriced IMO also.

One example is the Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 and 10.2 speakers; they are excellent speakers that sell for $349 and $449 per pair at Music Direct. They have had rave reviews from the audio magazines etc.

Another example is the Focal Chorus 705V and 706V speakers; they are also excellent speakers that are available from Music Direct and other sources, and are in that price range.

If you want some speaker cables that are higher-quality, i am selling one set. They are Audioquest Type 4 cables that are 8 feet long. They are factory-terminated with gold spade lugs on one end and gold push-in (banana-type) connectors at the other end. New cost is $220 from Audio Advisor and I am selling them for $80. Send me a PM if interested.

The H-K 3490 is a very good choice IMO. It has good sound quality and you would have to spend at least twice as much to get an integrated amplifier that is significanty better-sounding.

anarchy84
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Wharfedale Diamond 10.1

The Wharfedale speakers weren't available for listening at my local hifi shop, but reviews tend go agree with you, Comm. Thanks for that! 

The speakers are rated for 20-100 watts per channel. Do I have to worry about that with the 125 wpc Hk 3490?

Also curious about 'Nominal Impedance'. If the receiver is rated for 8 ohms and the speakers are rated for 6, is that an issue? 

Really appreciate your help and patience. 

Demondog
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Joined: Feb 22 2009 - 5:01pm
Speaker power ratings are

Speaker power ratings are one step from meaningless. Just don't turn the volume up to where it sounds bad and you're good Your new amp will be fine with any speaker rated 4 ohms and up.

Btw, people tend to think that different cable constructions, and resulting higher prices can make cables that sound better, or not. I am one of the not.

As commsysman mentioned, you can get the quality you need from Monoprice, or if you want to spend some more money (like 30-40 bucks or so), but still at a reasonable price, order custom cable made up to your desired length/configuration from high quality commercial wire like Beldon, from my favorite cable co, bluejeanscable.com. Terminations are primarily personal preference depending your needs. And I do want to note here that Blue Jeans Cable now offers ultrasonically welded terminals in both bananas, and now several angles of spade connectors. These should be great.

Sorry for the lack of hotlinks in post, too lazy from my phone

Bill B
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cables

The variety of competing opinions on cables mean (in the end) that there are small differences between them.  Some people cannot hear any difference, and those that do hear a difference usually admit that differences are fairly subtle.  So don't worry about stranded vs. solid.  That's an esoteric debate, appropriate for more expensive systems.

 

BTW, I like and recommend B&W speakers.  Just so you have another opinion on that.

anarchy84
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Wanted to say thanks

Thank you guys so much for your help.  For the past year I have felt like my Father's records have been gathering dust, and I know he would want them singing.  Coming into the world of turntable audio as a novice is such a daunting experience, but this website - and especially you guys - have eased that transition more than I can say.  

I really appreciate your assistance in answering my questions, and your advice when it comes to different components.  

P.S. - I really liked the B&W 686's when I listened to them at the hi-fi store.  I wish I could listen to the Wharfedale Diamond speakers before I make a final decision, but it seems finding a US based reseller with demo units is next to impossible.  Music Direct has a 30-day money back gaurantee, so perhaps I'll just throw caution to the wind and give them a shot.  Based solely on reviews / head-to-head comparisons I've read, they seem to be the most highly saught after bookshelf unit in this pricerange.

I'm sure I'll have more questions as time goes on, and I know exactly where to bring them.  Thanks again for your help.

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