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John Kemker
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Long time interest, just now starting to assemble basic setup. Need advice.

After being interested in quality audio gear for decades, I'm finally in a position where I'm able to start assembling a basic setup. Since I'm a ham radio operator and not afraid of a soldering iron and assembling my own equipment, I'm planning on putting the Akitika GT-102 amplifier at the center of my setup. Question is, what do I use for a decent, affordable pre-amp to go with it? I could use the Akitika PR-102, but don't know much about it other than what's on the Akitika web page.

I'm willing to purchase a used pre-amp (need a phono section, because I'll be getting a turntable) from e-Bay or other source. Speakers, I'll be starting with a pair of Boston Acoustics VR-20's that were given to me by my sister.

For turntable, I'm wavering between a Rega Planar 3 or the Schiit Sol, as recently reviewed in Stereophile.

As far as CD/DVD/streaming, I have no earthly idea where to start. I'm willing to take suggestions for those parts.

Overall, the Schiit Sol is probably the most expensive piece that I'm planning on buying at this time. I'd like to keep each component under $500, if possible, and build it a bit at a time.

Suggestions?

--JohnK

Old Audiophile
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For What It's Worth

Just finished reading Michael Fremer's review of the Schiit SOL because you piqued my interest in it as a possible contender to the tried and true Rega P3. That Schiit is certainly a very interesting TT, to say the least. That being said, it is definitely not a beginner's or a plug & play, per se, TT, especially if you plan to mount your own cartridge. It has a very interesting and conceptually very appealing tonearm. Given your background and experience, its fussy set-up nature may not be off-putting for you. However, given Mr. Fremer's review, it seems you would need to pony up an additional 3 or 4 hundred bucks above list price to get most everything out of it possible. Keep in mind, also, that with any TT but especially with the 2 you are considering here, you will need an exceptionally stable rack or surface to put it on. Rega is a major proponent of ultra low mass design. Their TTs are very light. That Schiit Sol tonearm will, similarly, not take kindly to unwelcome shocks or vibration.

I always recommend people do some critical listening, if at all possible, to the components they're seriously interested in purchasing before pulling the trigger. Haven't heard this Schiit Sol but, especially after reading Michael's review of it, I would love to do that, especially in an A/B shoot-out with the Rega P3. I've done several hours of critical listening to the Rega P3 with an Ortofon Blue MM, McIntosh MA5200, Luxman integrated (forget the model number but comparable to the MAC) and Focal Aria 936. That was a spectacular experience! You might want to drop Mikey a line to see what he thinks would work well with your amp and a phono pre-amp in your budget range. He would know.

With regard to choice of CD player, all I can say from an experiential point of view is that I've been living with and loving my Marantz CD6005 for years. I bought it around the time it was introduced after doing some critical listening of it and a couple higher-priced NAD CD players. To my ears, there was no contest and I didn't have to listen to the NADs for long in this regard. I recently switched or programmed the Marantz to "Audio EX 2" mode and don't know why I didn't do this sooner. I'm not familiar with your amp but if it has or comes with a quality DAC or if you are considering adding an external one to the mix, you might want to consider a CD transport, instead of a CD player.

Good Luck! Let us know what you go with. Always interested in that sort of stuff.

John Kemker
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Thanks for the insights!

Considering going with an RP1 rather than the 3, but still trying to find the sweet spot for the setup.

If I get the Akitika, I'll have to get a preamp at the same time, as my current receiver (a gift from my BIL) does not have preamp outs. I might just go ahead and pair it with the Akitika preamp and build them together.

Finding a used Marantz CD6005 doesn't seem too difficult a challenge. eBay has several available. Though, you do bring up an interesting thought with an external DAC and a CD transport, instead.

Again, thanks for the thoughts!

Anyone else want to chime in? All ideas entertained! (Even if it's just to tell them some lame jokes...)

Old Audiophile
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F.Y.I.

You could get a Marantz CD6006, new, for under $500. There are still some of those kicking around. With regard to the CD6007, however, please be advised that I've read a few reviews indicating the CD6005 and CD6006 actually sound a little better. The CD6006 and CD6005, for all practical intents & purposes, sound the same.

My friend has an old Rega Planar 1 and he loves it. Again, make sure you have a rock solid surface to place whatever TT you choose on and don't scrimp on the phono pre-amp. That will make all the difference.

Finally, let me confuse you even further. You could get a Fluance RT85 TT for under $500 which usually comes bundled with an Ortofon Blue, a cart that many find a significant step up from the Rega Carbon, which normally comes bundled with the Rega P1. Then again, you could wheel & deal and see if you could get a better cart for the P1. I would encourage you to check with the Akitika people to see what they think about the options involved. Don't know diddly squat about Akitika stuff but, most times, the last thing you want to do with an amp that tends toward accuracy & brightness or one that leans to the warm & musical side is to pair it with a cart or equipment that leans in the same direction. It's the old Yin & Yang thing.

mtymous1
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Use cases
John Kemker wrote:

As far as CD/DVD/streaming, I have no earthly idea where to start. I'm willing to take suggestions for those parts.

You'll be better off by first determining your use cases before asking for a blind recommendation.

Some things to consider:
- What are the formats and max resolution of the digital content you plan to play?
- Do you expect to play a lot of physical media? If so, which ones? (CD, DVD-A, SACD, BluRay Audio)
- Streaming: Personal library and/or subscription-based?
- For streaming, what are the limitations - if any - of your home network?
- Do you seek a separate disc-player and streamer, or combined?

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