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audion's picture
Last seen: 5 years 5 months ago
Joined: May 24 2012 - 1:32pm
looking for loud (searching for smooth)

I won't waste your time by telling you how I am a newbie and how much I love this site and have found so much useful information. I have and it has been overwhelming! I am looking for unabashed advice and opinions on spending a little bit of cash for a new (or used) set-up in my living room. My budget is about $1.5k for an amp, tuner (or integrated) and speakers.

I listen to the radio daily, pandora or music off my phone, sacd's and vinyl. I like it loud. I love to play graveyard or high on fire at elevated volume while cooking dinner or working from the living room. I also like to put on some Sade or Steely Dan and chill on the weekends. Not to mention occasionally feeding audio from the tv or ps3.

I want a good sounding utilitarian set-up that can give me some flexibility without sacrificing quality. While I love chest pounding bass, I do appreciate subtlety and finesse. I kinda want it all and want it on a budget.

I would prefer a two speaker set-up, no sub or surround, but not if it means sacrificing bass. The speakers will be next to my TV and component rack, so space while not a huge issue is a concern.

Should I be looking for a good solid state integrated? If so what is your suggestion and why based on my needs. Speakers? What won't break the bank but give me both the power and the refinement I so desire?

I do have an old Sansui 2000x in great shape I use as a headphone amp in my studio that i have never hooked up to speakers. Can it be put to use?

Demondog's picture
Last seen: 7 months 1 week ago
Joined: Feb 22 2009 - 5:01pm
Made me chuckle

Your description of what you're looking for is probably the same as 95% of people shopping for new equipment, including myself. Powerful, refined, and versatile, all at a budget price. The powerful and refined is not so hard, but having it at an affordable price of $1,500 means there will be compromises. I think you can find some fairly satisfying amps and speakers in that range, but the the key will be in selecting ones that complement each other, and strike an overall balance between them.

I'm probably going to disappoint you by not recommending any particular component. There are just too many options, and components to choose from that could work for you, and if I made a list it probably wouldn't be that helpful anyway. I could recommend a few items, but I don't like recommending equipment I haven't used myself, so it would be pretty limited.

What I would do, and what I have done, is to look at online retail sites like musicdirect, crutchfield, audioholics, etc.. and find components in a price range with features that are needed, and then look up reviews, or see if I can find a way to audition in person.

I will say that an integrated amp, and complementary speaker is a good starting point if you have the source components you need.

bierfeldt's picture
Last seen: 16 hours 5 min ago
Joined: Oct 26 2007 - 2:30pm
I am going through a similar process

My total budget is higher but I am going to end up spending about the same on my speakers and power source.  I am looking at a CD player, networker player, turntable and outboard DAC as well. 

I started by picking out speakers I like and am building the system around them.  To me, that is the most important element and now I am picking out hardware to power the speakers.  I did the same thing with my home theatre and was extremely pleased with the results. 

Also, the speakers will dictate the amount of power you need to achieve the desired volume.  An extremely efficient speaker like the Klipsch Reference Series will require a lot less power than a less efficient speaker like a B&W CM Series to achieve the same volume.  The question is, what sounds better to you.  For me, I went shopping and listened to a bunch of different speakers.  Personally, I like a very neutral English sound and lean towards B&W and Kef.  I have friends that think they sound flat and much prefer Polk or Klipsch. 

When considering hardware, features are a big deal as is sound.  Do you need a built in DAC?  Do you want the device to stream Pandora?  Does it need to be Airplay equipped?  Do you need a tuner?  Do you need an iPod Dock?  This very much dictates whether you will want a receiver or an integrated amp / separate preamp/amp. 

Will you add a turntable in the futures so is a bulit in phono stage important? 

Four other notes: 

1  Don't dismiss a bookshelf / sub combo as inferior to floorstanders.  I do firmly believe that a pair of well designed floor speakers will always sound better, but on a budget, you may find you can get superior sound with bookshelves and a subwoofer.   

2.  If you do consider a subwoofer, spend some time listening to the differences.  The ones that are better suited for movies and home theatres tend to get much muddier, especially when volume goes up.  I just realised how awful my Polk subwoofer is compared to a very inexpensive Mirage for music, while the Mirage is totally inadequate for a movie.   

3.  Take your own music when shopping.  I picked a range including a soundtrack that showed off what the speakers could do and picked screening music.  Things that sound really bad on a bad set of speakers.  In my case it was Journey and Miles Davis. 

4.  Make sure they use an inexpensive power source when you demo the speakers.  The stores tend to demo speakers on their best harware.  For example, at BestBuy they use a $2000 Denon, $1600 Marantz or $1500 Pioneer Elite Receiver to demo the speakers.  This will give you a false idea of what the speakers can do.  I bought B&W M-1's after listening to them through a Marantz integrated amp.  When I got home and hooked them up to my POS Onkyo, I was extremely disapointed and have since started my shopping for a new power source.  Make them use hardware you can afford on your budget to get a true idea of the sound. 

I am literally going through this now.  I just bought B&W M-1's and a Mirage subwoofer and am more than happy to share my research and experience.  If you provide a touch more info, I can target what I am sharing. 

bierfeldt's picture
Last seen: 16 hours 5 min ago
Joined: Oct 26 2007 - 2:30pm
I am shopping for a similarly priced system...

I am shopping for a similarly priced system for speakers and power source.  I need source components so my budget is a bit higher.   

My experience has been to find speakers I like and then choose are receiver or amp.  You obviously need to find items that compliment each other but I found huge variability in the sound quality in sub $1000 speakers.  Personally, I like a very neutral, british sound that you get out of the KEF's of B&W's.  Others like a more colored sound. 

The other factor is speaker efficiency.  The Klipsch Reference series is super efficient and will require dramatically less power to achieve the same volume as say any speaker from B&W.  An added reason to pick out speakers first. 

I personally found that I get more bang for the buck from bookshelf speakers and a subwoofer and settled on the B&W M-1's with a Mirage Omni CM-8 subwoofer.  It was more reasonably priced than the B&W subs that match up with the M-1's and was more musical while the B&W's were better for movies. 

Depending on your personal preferences I would look at B&W M-1's and 600 series, Def Tech, Klipsch, Polk, JBL, Boston Acoustic, PSB and KEF.  They all have models that will be in your price range and will give you a good range of sound.  BestBuy has the B&W, Def Techs and a few other brands that are worth looking at.  The Polks and Klipsch that they display are not great and you may want to look for a different dealer that displays higher end items from both manufacturers.

Once you pick out speakers, then pick out a power source.  I would look at the Harman Kardon HK 3490 and Denon also has a really nice two channel receiver, I think it is model 697.  Also, you should look at NAD and Marantz integrated amps.  They are well priced and churn out more power than you would think given the power ratings.  The one other one worth looking likely at the high end of your price range is the Rega Brio R. 

I have just demo'd all of these accept the Rega which I am going to listen too next week.  I think NAD sounded the warmest and was way more powerful than I thought it would be while I elimnated Yamaha from the running because it shounded very bright to me, especially compared to the NAD. 

Good luck.

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