You are here

Log in or register to post comments
Ivor Darcy
Ivor Darcy's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 20 2016 - 12:38am
Want to build a budget system but where to start?

Hi,
new to the forum and even at age 50+, guess I am new to "quality" hifi gear and looking for advice.
I want to build a reasonably good system from the ground up but don't know where to start. I listen to most types of music from Gospel to Death metal. The room I will be in is open area and is about 40ft x 20ft with 8ft ceiling height. I would like something that looks good as well as sounds good. I really do like the look of Tube amps as I remember them when I was a kid. Are they still made nowadays and at an affordable price? I don't mind buying one item at a time while I save up for the others.
I still have a bunch of CD's so a decent CD player would be nice. A nice set of floor standing speakers. Maybe a simple but good quality turntable if I decide to get back into vinyl. Aforementioned Tube Amp would be great but a " regular " amp not a deal breaker. Would like to have some sort of streaming device too.
So, is it possible to have a system like that on a budget that looks and sounds good?

Thanks

David

bierfeldt
bierfeldt's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 1 week ago
Joined: Oct 26 2007 - 2:30pm
So what do you define as an affordable price?

That is the big question. Affordability is the big question. What kind of budget are you looking at? $2K, $5K, $10K?

What I would do and have done in the past is start with the speakers. And from there you would pick an amp, DAC Streamer, turntable, etc... Here is an example of two units you could consider in each class that would get an A or B rating here at Stereophile except turntables which are going to be C rated in this price range.

Here are a few examples of what you could do that will sound, IMO spectacular.

Monitor Audio Silver 8s - $2K, very neutral and nice detail that sound great. They are efficient with an SPL of 90dB.

PSB Imagine T - $2200. Also neutral with great detail. Also highly efficient with an SPL of 90dB

For pure tube integrated amps - two good options

Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum II - $2495 and will output 100w into 4ohms. Tons of power and it looks really cool.

PrimaLuna Dialogue HP - $4399 and depending on the output tubes will give you between 70w and 96w of power.

These are both highly regarded, really spectacular integrated amps that everyone pretty universally likes. They are both pure tube amps and are great for the money.

You could get a streamer with a nice internal DAC. These will support streaming services like Pandora and Spotify and are very good sounding. Two examples:

Marantz NA8005 for $1199. I have 4 Marantz streaming devices and am happy with them. Great internal DAC and easy enough to use.

Cambridge Audio CXN for $1099. Great feature set and easy to use. Cambridge is well known for making outstanding DACs.

For a CD Player, the Cambridge Audio CXC for $499 is a CD Transport and you would be incredible to match with either the CXN or the NA8005. For aesthetic reasons I would go with the CXN.

You could also get a Marantz CD 5005 for $399 which is also a spectacular disc player which again, you would connect via digital cable to the NA8005.

So on the low end, you could get great speakers for $2K, tube integrated for $2.5K and streamer and CD player for $1600. That would be $6100 plus cables and any tax.

For a turntable, I would encourage you to look at a few different units.

The Rega Planar 3 with Elys2 for $1145 is spectacular or the Music Hall MMF 5.3 with an Ortofon 2M blue for $995 would be great. The Cronus has a good built in phono stage and you would be good.

That would put you up to $7100 to $7250 with turntable. Figure $200 to $250 for cables and you would be all in for $7500. Went with a higher end amp and speakers you would be at $10K and the system would be pretty spectacular and be a true tube system.

If you went with a solid state or tube hybrid system you could definitely spend less.

commsysman
commsysman's picture
Offline
Last seen: 8 months 1 week ago
Joined: Apr 4 2006 - 11:33am
SYSTEM CHOICES
Ivor Darcy wrote:

Hi,
new to the forum and even at age 50+, guess I am new to "quality" hifi gear and looking for advice.
I want to build a reasonably good system from the ground up but don't know where to start. I listen to most types of music from Gospel to Death metal. The room I will be in is open area and is about 40ft x 20ft with 8ft ceiling height. I would like something that looks good as well as sounds good. I really do like the look of Tube amps as I remember them when I was a kid. Are they still made nowadays and at an affordable price? I don't mind buying one item at a time while I save up for the others.
I still have a bunch of CD's so a decent CD player would be nice. A nice set of floor standing speakers. Maybe a simple but good quality turntable if I decide to get back into vinyl. Aforementioned Tube Amp would be great but a " regular " amp not a deal breaker. Would like to have some sort of streaming device too.
So, is it possible to have a system like that on a budget that looks and sounds good?

Thanks

David

In general, tube amps are about twice as expensive as solid-state amplifiers for similar sound quality. I have have used several of both over the last 60 years, and am not convinced that tube amps offer any advantage, so I would advise you to get a good solid-state amp unless you have a very large Budget ($10,000+). The Music Hall 15.3 is one I would recommend, and it is only $550 from Audio Advisor.

Grace Digital makes good internet tuners for streaming internet content for under $150; I have one and it works fine. The GDI-IRCA 6000 or 7000 are usually available at Amazon, Target, and other stores. It has a menu and selection of over 10,000 internet stations, and connects to any amplifier.

There is a remarkable deal right now on an excellent set of speakers at KEF DIRECT that would be perfect for you. The KEF Q900 speakers listed at $2200 per pair, but KEF Direct has them now for only $549 each, which is a steal. I would recommend that you get a pair of those ASAP. Check out the Stereophile review of them.

For a CD player, any of the Marantz or OPPO CD players are very good. You should be able to get one for $600 or less.

Ivor Darcy
Ivor Darcy's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 20 2016 - 12:38am
Thanks

Thank you both for your input.

I should also point out that I have poor hearing in my right ear so super high end would not only be too expensive, but probably wasted on me. I think a budget closer to the suggestions that Commysman made is nearer the mark for me. With the holidays fast approaching I, unfortunately, would not be able to purchase any components until the beginning of next year. Those speakers sound like a fantastic deal but I doubt the deal will still be there by the time I have the money to pay for them.
I saw from reading some of the other topics that Audioengine 2 speakers seem to be a good choice for laptop use and they sound ideal for when I am sitting in bed with my laptop.
I looked up the Grace Audio internet radio...not sure that is quite what I am looking for as it looks a little bulky to sit in a shelf system ( I am assuming folks still place their components on some sort of cart/shelf system ). Something that looks more like the amp suggested would be more to my liking.
Cd players, I have not researched yet but will look up the ones suggested. I do have a couple hundred CD's but still tend to listen to music from my laptop/phone as I have a good deal of music stored there. I think if I had a decent CD player I would listen to my CD's more.
Would a set of high end headphones work better for me than speakers? I have noticed ( especially with the speakers I currently use for my laptop...little Logitech ones with a sub woofer...) that sitting at my desk i feel that I am only hearing the music from the left speaker and I have to check sometimes that the right one is working! With headphones it sounds like the music is filling my head even though if I take the left side one off, the music is definitely muffled in my right ear ( I have a large hole in my eardrum which I am hopefully going to get repaired sometime next year which should restore some of my hearing...possibly as much as 75% more )but with both sides on I never seem to think I am hearing the music more with my left ear.
Sorry about the rambling. Thanks again for the information.

David

commsysman
commsysman's picture
Offline
Last seen: 8 months 1 week ago
Joined: Apr 4 2006 - 11:33am
Headphones

I have a set of Sennheiser wireless headphones, which I highly recommend. You can connect them to a computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet, or a TV; anything with a headphone jack or audio output. I use them for quiet listening after my wife or I have hit the sack for the night by just turning off the power amp and getting the signal from the preamp out for the headphone transmitter.

Mine happen to be the model RS170, which is discontinued but still available from Amazon, and the RS165 and RS175 are similar; the sound quality is excellent, and they are under $200 complete with base unit/charger.

mtymous1
mtymous1's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Dec 15 2015 - 5:47pm
Some clarification, please

@Ivor Darcy:

David,

A warm welcome!

Gospel to Death Metal, huh - now THAT'S what I call a diverse taste in music!

I'd like to chime in, but am not sure that *you* are sure about the type of system you seek. Are you leaning towards a solid amp that serves as a foundation for a stack that you can add to as time progresses? Or are you looking for a quality desktop system?

I would caution you against any recommendations made without understanding more about what you are trying to accomplish. The more detail you provide, the better.

You need to step back and really itemize your current and future use cases.

DEFINE how you want to satisfy your listening today.
DEFINE how you want to satisfy your listening tomorrow.
IDENTIFY the necessary components and features to meet the defined requirements.
THEN you can consider a purchase from qualified selections.

And for heaven's sake, a budget number would help us help you a LOT better!

Ivor Darcy
Ivor Darcy's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 20 2016 - 12:38am
mtymous1 wrote:
mtymous1 wrote:

@Ivor Darcy:

David,

A warm welcome!

Gospel to Death Metal, huh - now THAT'S what I call a diverse taste in music!

I'd like to chime in, but am not sure that *you* are sure about the type of system you seek. Are you leaning towards a solid amp that serves as a foundation for a stack that you can add to as time progresses? Or are you looking for a quality desktop system?

I would caution you against any recommendations made without understanding more about what you are trying to accomplish. The more detail you provide, the better.

You need to step back and really itemize your current and future use cases.

DEFINE how you want to satisfy your listening today.
DEFINE how you want to satisfy your listening tomorrow.
IDENTIFY the necessary components and features to meet the defined requirements.
THEN you can consider a purchase from qualified selections.

And for heaven's sake, a budget number would help us help you a LOT better!

Hi,
really not sure about budget. I would basically be making things up as I go ( as cash becomes available ) and due to my hearing problem I am not sure whether to go the " traditional " route ( pre-amp, power amp, speakers, CD player, Turntable...you know what I mean ) or to get a high end set of headphones and something good to drive them. That is why I am here, to ask the folks here who are more knowledgeable about these things.
I can't really see myself spending more than $3,000-$4000 on whatever set-up is recommended though. So, do I go for a " traditional " set up and buy each component when I can afford them? Or, do I buy a high end set of headphones ( I saw some that come with an amp?? ) and listen to the music on my phone/laptop that way? I would still have to get a decent CD player for my CD's though.
Alternatively, I could go the traditional route and also get a quality set of headphones ( rather than high end ones ).

I hope I have made things a little clearer. Traditional route ( buying as I can afford each component )..high end headphones with something to drive them...traditional route and " quality " headphones.

I think each option has it's own merits but I am not really leaning towards any one in particular. I will say that when I was a kid my " system " consisted of a Naim amp, Nakamichi tape deck, a technics turntable ( I think it was a technics...was a long time ago ) and Tannoy speakers. Nothing fancy but I liked the sound and the looks.

Thank you for your advice.

David

mtymous1
mtymous1's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Dec 15 2015 - 5:47pm
Thanks for the info
Ivor Darcy wrote:

Hi,
really not sure about budget. I would basically be making things up as I go ( as cash becomes available ) and due to my hearing problem I am not sure whether to go the " traditional " route ( pre-amp, power amp, speakers, CD player, Turntable...you know what I mean ) or to get a high end set of headphones and something good to drive them. That is why I am here, to ask the folks here who are more knowledgeable about these things.
I can't really see myself spending more than $3,000-$4000 on whatever set-up is recommended though. So, do I go for a " traditional " set up and buy each component when I can afford them? Or, do I buy a high end set of headphones ( I saw some that come with an amp?? ) and listen to the music on my phone/laptop that way? I would still have to get a decent CD player for my CD's though.
Alternatively, I could go the traditional route and also get a quality set of headphones ( rather than high end ones ).

I hope I have made things a little clearer. Traditional route ( buying as I can afford each component )..high end headphones with something to drive them...traditional route and " quality " headphones.

I think each option has it's own merits but I am not really leaning towards any one in particular. I will say that when I was a kid my " system " consisted of a Naim amp, Nakamichi tape deck, a technics turntable ( I think it was a technics...was a long time ago ) and Tannoy speakers. Nothing fancy but I liked the sound and the looks.

Thank you for your advice.

David

David,

Thank you for the information. You can definitely get good sound with $3-$4K.

The cardinal rule is to audition and determine the speakers you like best, THEN match it with equipment that will get the most out of them. Since you do not yet know which speakers you'd be purchasing, it's best to wait on amplification selections. There is a math component to speaker and amp matching, so you'll have to do a little homework. (Don't worry - search engines make this easy enough, and besides, it's part of the fun in this hobby!)

Given the keywords of "budget, CD player, laptop, and headphones," you may want to look at some integrated amplifiers with features that support your wish list. You may want to start comparing some integrated amps on Crutchfield because their site offers a decent selection, with hands-on reviews, and a great compare feature: http://www.crutchfield.com/g_344650/Integrated-Amplifiers.html.
Featurewise, the NAD C 338 looks interesting, but again, know which speakers you'll be purchasing before pulling the trigger on an amp. (SAFE HARBOR: normally, I don't make recommendations on equipment I've not personally auditioned, so this is just an awareness comment on that NAD since it is pre-order now.)

Emotiva markets themselves as a budget-conscious-without-sacrificing-SQ type of vendor, but they are only direct-to-consumer. They do offer a 30-day guarantee so you'll have that long to audition in your home. That said, take a look at the features of the TA-100 (https://emotiva.com/products/amplifiers/pres-and-pros/ta-100). Safe harbor again: I have not personally auditioned the TA-100 and do not know which speakers you'd be getting -- this is just an awareness comment about the features available in a budget-conscious integrated amp so you can see what features are available in a particular price range.

As far as headphones go, you're better off combing through sister site http://www.innerfidelity.com/ for reviews and measurements. (FWIW, I ended up getting the HiFiMan HE400S planar magnetic headphones because of the rave review: http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/terrific-hifiman-he400s-planar-magnetic-headphones. I absolutely love them!)

Hope this helps and look forward to hearing about your journey to sonic bliss!

P.S. Do you see yourself getting in to high resolution audio?

mtymous1
mtymous1's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Dec 15 2015 - 5:47pm
Addendum to "Thanks for the info"

It was more implied than explicit, but most integrated amps should drive demanding headphones nicely. In fact:
- the NAD C 338 touts an "independent built-in high-output headphone amplifier."
- the Emotiva advertises "Intelligent headphone level control – independently remembers the level you set for your headphones and your main outputs..." and "Headphone output – independent, high current, direct coupled headphone amplifier provides a high quality signal to drive your favorite headphones for personal listening."

mtymous1
mtymous1's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Dec 15 2015 - 5:47pm
Hi-Fi or Head-Fi?
Ivor Darcy wrote:

Hi,
new to the forum and even at age 50+, guess I am new to "quality" hifi gear and looking for advice.
I want to build a reasonably good system from the ground up but don't know where to start. I listen to most types of music from Gospel to Death metal. The room I will be in is open area and is about 40ft x 20ft with 8ft ceiling height. I would like something that looks good as well as sounds good. I really do like the look of Tube amps as I remember them when I was a kid. Are they still made nowadays and at an affordable price? I don't mind buying one item at a time while I save up for the others.
I still have a bunch of CD's so a decent CD player would be nice. A nice set of floor standing speakers. Maybe a simple but good quality turntable if I decide to get back into vinyl. Aforementioned Tube Amp would be great but a " regular " amp not a deal breaker. Would like to have some sort of streaming device too.
So, is it possible to have a system like that on a budget that looks and sounds good?

Thanks

David

Perfect little article for you over on sister site S&V:
http://www.soundandvision.com/content/hi-fi-or-head-fi

Ivor Darcy
Ivor Darcy's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 20 2016 - 12:38am
Ok...speakers ordered but what cables?

Thanks for all the input guys.

I have ordered the KEF Q900 speakers in European Walnut color and they should be here soon. My next question is...what cables do you guys suggest that wont make me have to take out a second mortgage? Also, I have wooden floors and am worried that those seriously spiky feet on the speakers will scratch the floor.

Should be able to afford an amp in the $500-$1000 range by the end of next month so will start doing some research now. That will just leave a decent cd player and network receiver/streamer.

Thanks again guys.

David

mtymous1
mtymous1's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Dec 15 2015 - 5:47pm
Cables and Streamers
Ivor Darcy wrote:

... My next question is...what cables do you guys suggest that wont make me have to take out a second mortgage?

...That will just leave a decent cd player and network receiver/streamer...

Not to open up a can o' worms here, but even if I had six significant digits worth of audio equipment, I likely wouldn't spend $10K on a cable. So the "economies of scale" response is to visit Monoprice.com.

As far as streamers go, there are {almost too} many options. Again, the "economies of scale" response would be to build yourself one of these:
http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/nuc/nuc6i3syh-home-entertainment-usage-guide.html

If you’re up for customizing one on your own, check out the various models:
http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/nuc/products-overview.html

Or if you prefer something that’s out-of-the-box ready:
http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/nuc/nuc-kit-nuc5pgyh.html

All of the NUCs support USB and HDMI, but not all come with optical out, so I recommend the model you choose supports optical -- especially since optical also has lower jitter than HDMI.

(FWIW, I have this one: http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/nuc/nuc-kit-nuc5ppyh.html and can confirm that it supports 24-bit/192-kHz over TOSLINK and HDMI. I can also confirm that the Universal ASIO for foobar2000 works with the NUC as well.)

And if you want to install Linux, the NUC will support it. For grins, check out AudioPhile Linux: http://www.ap-linux.com/.)

...or...

If you want a disc player, streamer, and DAC all-in-one, check out what Oppo has to offer, particularly this model:
https://www.oppodigital.com/blu-ray-bdp-105/blu-ray-BDP-105D-Overview.aspx

(NOTE: the BDP-105 will soon be replaced by a newer model. You might be able to get a good deal on the BDP-105.)

Ivor Darcy
Ivor Darcy's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 20 2016 - 12:38am
No Blu-Ray or video

Thanks for the info mtymous1 but I am looking for more of a straightforward music streamer with bluetooth/wifi to listen to online radio stations and to play the music from my phone. It doesn't have to do anything else, just stream music. I would like something that is the same kind of size/shape as a "regular" amp. Combined dac/streamer/disc player would be wasted on me.
I will check out Monoprice for the speaker cable. I have no intention of spending hundreds of dollars on cable but want something of good quality that I won't need to replace very often.
I am still checking out amps and I think I can probably afford something nearer $1000 ( was thinking of something like the NAD C368 ). Then maybe $500-$600 on a CD player and $300-$400 on a DAC. I don't think I need to spend more than a couple hundred bucks on a streamer as I don't really listen to the radio much.
At some point in the future I may add a Turntable as I have noticed a small resurgence in Vinyl ( even Barnes and Nobles has a small selection of LP's ) and I always loved the sound from a good LP.

Thanks again

David

Ivor Darcy
Ivor Darcy's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 20 2016 - 12:38am
Amps

Ok. I am totally bewildered by the sheer amount of amps out there! Spent the last couple hours researching and no further forward.
Do you folks have any suggestions on a good amp around $1000 to pair with the KEF Q900's? I would like something with at least 75w ( more if within budget ) if possible. Am I better looking at an integrated amp at that price or do I have sufficient funds to split it into a pre and power amp? As long as it has connections for cd player/dac/streamer and a turntable down the line I have no preference over pre/powered or integrated.
Also, had a quick search for a rack to sit all these components on...eek!!! $500 for basically a shelving unit. There must be cheaper alternatives somewhere right? That's the price of a fairly decent budget amp!!

One more thing...I sincerely want to thank you guys for all the help and advice. It is much appreciated.

David

mtymous1
mtymous1's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Dec 15 2015 - 5:47pm
Ah...
Ivor Darcy wrote:

Thanks for the info mtymous1 but I am looking for more of a straightforward music streamer with bluetooth/wifi to listen to online radio stations and to play the music from my phone. It doesn't have to do anything else, just stream music. I would like something that is the same kind of size/shape as a "regular" amp. Combined dac/streamer/disc player would be wasted on me.
I will check out Monoprice for the speaker cable. I have no intention of spending hundreds of dollars on cable but want something of good quality that I won't need to replace very often.
I am still checking out amps and I think I can probably afford something nearer $1000 ( was thinking of something like the NAD C368 ). Then maybe $500-$600 on a CD player and $300-$400 on a DAC. I don't think I need to spend more than a couple hundred bucks on a streamer as I don't really listen to the radio much.
At some point in the future I may add a Turntable as I have noticed a small resurgence in Vinyl ( even Barnes and Nobles has a small selection of LP's ) and I always loved the sound from a good LP.

Thanks again

David

Thanks for the further clarification...

As an integrated amp with a built-in DAC and Bluetooth, the NAD C 368 should meet your basic needs. Since you also expressed an interest in vinyl, its phono input should satisfy you there as well.

That leaves just the disc player and separate DAC - if you want to go with a full NAD stack, check out some options here:
http://www.crutchfield.com/brands/NAD/

WRT the streamer, you mentioned internet radio stations and music on your phone, but how do you wish to navigate to the sources: through a separate display? Through menus on the front panel of the component itself? Or by using an app on your phone?

Should I assume your streamer doesn't need to support high-resolution music?

Also, what's the ballpark figure for your streamer spend? That will help narrow your selections, as well.

Ivor Darcy
Ivor Darcy's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 20 2016 - 12:38am
Still confused

Thanks again mtymous1.

In regards to the Streamer...I don't listen to the radio very much unless I am in my car so I would probably be looking to use it for Pandora/Spotify and to hopefully play the music from my phone ( although I tend to listen to the music on my phone through headphones 90% of the time ).

Do you think the Nad C368 is a good choice for the KEF Q900's? I could maybe stretch the budget a little more and go for something like the Rogue Audio Sphinx which gets very good reviews or Peachtree sona, Arcam a39...they are all about the same price as far as I can tell. There are just so many to choose from so I want to get it right before parting with $1000+. I know that is a spit in the ocean compared to the cost of some of the systems you guys have but it's a fairly hefty output of cash for me. I could maybe, at a push, stretch to $1500 for the amp if there was a definite advantage over one at $1000-$1200ish.

As to high res...would I notice the sound difference between that and CD quality??

Thanks again mtymous1...I really do appreciate it and Merry Christmas to you and yours.

David

bierfeldt
bierfeldt's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 1 week ago
Joined: Oct 26 2007 - 2:30pm
Check out

Directly competing with that NAD like is the Cambridge CX line. The CXA 80 is a darn nice integrated. The CXN is there network streamer and the CXC is a superb CD transport. Aesthetically the will all match and are pretty nice units.

mtymous1
mtymous1's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Dec 15 2015 - 5:47pm
C 368, Distortion, High-Res
Ivor Darcy wrote:

Thanks again mtymous1.

In regards to the Streamer...I don't listen to the radio very much unless I am in my car so I would probably be looking to use it for Pandora/Spotify and to hopefully play the music from my phone ( although I tend to listen to the music on my phone through headphones 90% of the time ).

Do you think the Nad C368 is a good choice for the KEF Q900's? I could maybe stretch the budget a little more and go for something like the Rogue Audio Sphinx which gets very good reviews or Peachtree sona, Arcam a39...they are all about the same price as far as I can tell. There are just so many to choose from so I want to get it right before parting with $1000+. I know that is a spit in the ocean compared to the cost of some of the systems you guys have but it's a fairly hefty output of cash for me. I could maybe, at a push, stretch to $1500 for the amp if there was a definite advantage over one at $1000-$1200ish.

As to high res...would I notice the sound difference between that and CD quality??

Thanks again mtymous1...I really do appreciate it and Merry Christmas to you and yours.

David

And a Merry Christmas to you and yours as well!

The C 368 is relatively new so I've not yet had the chance to audition it - therefore, I can't personally confirm whether or not it's a good choice with the Q900's. On paper, it's not a bad choice, but your ears are always the best judges. (You can always add more power later.)

The Rogue Audio Sphinx seems to have a little more power, but also seems to have more distortion as well:
http://www.stereophile.com/content/rogue-audio-sphinx-integrated-amplifier-measurements

While the C 368 seems to have the lowest advertised power from your list of candidates, it also has the lowest advertised distortion. It also seems to have the most features.

As far as high-res goes, I can hear a clear and distinct difference on my equipment. Your experience will vary. (Am intentionally keeping the high-res part of this response short because I don't want to hijack your post and there are PLENTY of other threads about it in these forums and other sites. I will suggest taking a look at this on sister site Audiostream: http://www.audiostream.com/content/its-official-people-can-hear-high-res)

Very interested in hearing about your sonic journey - please keep us in the loop.

P.S. Echo Bierfeldt's suggestion of Cambridge's CX series.

Ivor Darcy
Ivor Darcy's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 20 2016 - 12:38am
CXA80

Thanks guys.

Regarding the CXA80. It does look good and it does have the matching streamer/cd player. I didn't see any mention of a phono stage though. Does the CXA80 have one? I do intend to add a turntable at some point.
As I said in my earlier post, I can maybe stretch my budget to $1500 for the amp. Do you have any recommendations for something in that price range or is an extra $500 not going to make much difference over the Nad C368, Cambridge CXA80, Rogue Audio Sphinx, Peachtree or Arcam?
Because of the hearing loss in one ear, I am not sure if I would hear the difference between one amp and the other unless it were quite a marked difference. Also, I live in the sticks and auditioning equipment would be a long process and a nightmare drive in LA traffic. The sound would not be the same anyway unless I took my whole room with me right? I don't have the time and energy to buy something, try it out and send it back if I don't like it. That process could take months and not all places offer free returns so I would rather spend the money on something of quality that will last me for years to come.
So, to sum up. I will check out the Cambridge CX series and make comparisons to the other amps I like but if you kind folks think jumping up to an amp around $1500 will get me better quality/sound/power then I am open to suggestions.

You guys are amazing and wonderfully patient. I sure do appreciate it.

David

bierfeldt
bierfeldt's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 1 week ago
Joined: Oct 26 2007 - 2:30pm
Two items

The Rogue Audio Sphinx is great. I have it's big bother of a power amp called the Hydra and love it. Great sound and excellent internal phono stage.

You could add a Vincent Pho 8 to the Cambridge for $299 as an external phono stage as it will be better than any of the internals in this price range.

The musical fidelity M3si at $1500 is awesome and worth the upcharge.

mtymous1
mtymous1's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Dec 15 2015 - 5:47pm
What?!?!
Ivor Darcy wrote:

Also, I live in the sticks and auditioning equipment would be a long process and a nightmare drive in LA traffic. The sound would not be the same anyway unless I took my whole room with me right? I don't have the time and energy to buy something, try it out and send it back if I don't like it. That process could take months and not all places offer free returns so I would rather spend the money on something of quality that will last me for years to come.

The quest for sonic bliss is part of the fun of being an audiophile!

Well, you could certainly browse the integrated amp reviews here:
http://www.stereophile.com/content/recommended-components-fall-2016-edition-integrated-amps-receivers

And all other components here:
http://www.stereophile.com/category/recommended-components

Ivor Darcy
Ivor Darcy's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 20 2016 - 12:38am
Yes but...

Normally I would agree with you mtymous1 but the only way I can afford a good quality set-up is because I am working 6 days a week ( not through choice ) and at the moment I see no end in sight. Therefore, making any kind of journey is going to be a long and slow process and I ain't getting any younger! You obviously haven't sat on the 405, 101, 5 or 710 freeways for hours just to move a few miles. Not my idea of fun.
Sonic bliss is going to have to be found from the comfort of my couch which is why I am looking for recommendations from folks who have the knowledge, experience and have tried and tested some of the components I am looking for. Many moons ago, I used to love the travel to the audio shops but that was another time and another place.
@Bierfeldt...I will check out your recommendations. You think the Cambridge CXA80 is a better amp than the NAD? The Rogue better than those 2? And, the Music Fidelity worth the extra $500?

Again, you guys are the best.

David

Ivor Darcy
Ivor Darcy's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 20 2016 - 12:38am
Roksan Kandy K2

I can get the Roksan Kandy K2 for $1500...gets rave reviews. From some of the reviews I read it seems to be a good match with virtually any speakers.

What do you guys think about that one? Better than my other choices???

David

bierfeldt
bierfeldt's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 1 week ago
Joined: Oct 26 2007 - 2:30pm
I have no POV

I have no POV on the NAD. I have never hear it.

I have heard the Cambridge and am a big fan. It is a nice unit. I am planning on getting a CXC for my system and Cambridge DACs are very nice. I personally would opt for the Rogue with an external DAC over the Musical Fidelity but that is personal taste. The Musical Fidelity is a very nice unit and for the money. It is a good value but so is the Rogue. I picked a Rogue Class D amp for my system and love it. You could easily hear a musical fidelity and prefer it. I like both VERY much and this is like picking between a rear wheel drive BMW 3 series car an AWD BMW 3 series. They both are very refined and slightly forward. The Rogue has a bit more power, the Musical Fidelity has a USB DAC. Both will produce a bit more detail than the Roksan but the K2 is awesome and would be worh considering. This is a tougher choice because all the units are so good.

mtymous1
mtymous1's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Dec 15 2015 - 5:47pm
Final thoughts
Ivor Darcy wrote:

I can get the Roksan Kandy K2 for $1500...gets rave reviews. From some of the reviews I read it seems to be a good match with virtually any speakers.

What do you guys think about that one? Better than my other choices???

David

If the majority of your listening will be from sources such as internet radio, a smartphone, and over the Bluetooth medium (which we all know is an additional layer of lossy compression that's intended more for voice than music), I think you'd be overspending. (Especially when you figure in hearing loss.) I really think you should reconsider the desktop and headphone route, and spend more time perusing sister sites Audiostream and InnerFidelity.

As for the integrated amp in question, Stereophile did a review of it a couple of years ago, that actually compared the Rogue (and Naim NAIT 5si) on Page 2:
http://www.stereophile.com/content/roksan-kandy-k2-bt-integrated-amplifier-page-2

With the reviews on here, at least you can gain some insight from those who have actually listened to all/more of the units that interest you. (Although a lot of the adjectives remind me of high school Word Wealth exercises, with repeatedly overused and ambiguous idioms. Hence why I will always insist on actual auditions before transitioning to ownership.)

Best of luck and happy listening!

Ivor Darcy
Ivor Darcy's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 20 2016 - 12:38am
Actually, no it won't be...

At the moment most of the music I listen to is from my phone or the radio solely because I seem to spend more time outside my home ( see aforementioned working 6 days a week ) than in it. When my work situation changes and I have more time to relax at home I will be listening to cd's, and eventually vinyl, mostly. I have a pair of Audio Technica ATH M50x headphones that I use with a little FiiO headphone amp that I use with my phone, and a little Sony portable mini-disc player that I have had for years, and the sound is better than I thought it would be. I will eventually upgrade the headphones and amp at a later date.
At the moment it would seem that my top 4 would be the Roksan, Rogue, Cambridge and M3si.
What I want is a system that will fill the room with music. I am not going to be fiddling with stuff so that I am sitting in the optimum spot for listening ( I guess I am a little bit like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, I have my favorite spot to sit and can't see me changing it just so I am in the optimal listening spot). Basically, good sound and good build quality that will last me for years is what I am looking for. Always believed in buying quality rather than having to keep replacing things every few years.

Once again, I thank you both. I will let you know my decision when ( or if...lol ) I finally make it.

mtymous1...I think I can do both. If I buy a good enough amp with a good built in headphone amp then I can kill two birds with one stone. Or, a good amp then buy a separate headphone amp and I will be all set.

David

bierfeldt
bierfeldt's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 1 week ago
Joined: Oct 26 2007 - 2:30pm
Based on your last description

Of eating room filling music where you aren't worried about a sweet spot. Those Kefs are great speakers and I think I like your choice of the Roksan with them. They will benefit from a bit more oomph and pairing that with the Marantz NA 8005 or the cambridge CXN would be pretty sweet. That Kandy K2 has a built in phono amp and is a pretty highly regarded unit.

Ivor Darcy
Ivor Darcy's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 20 2016 - 12:38am
Hmmmm...

I think I have decided on the Rogue Sphinx. The money saved over the Roksan ( it is the older K2 at $1500 and not the BT version at $1925 ) will be about $650-$700 and I am sure I could probably find a decent CD player for that kind of money. Or, I could add a few hundred bucks and buy a turntable around the $1,000 mark. Or, buy a cheaper CD player ( Nad C516BEE or OPPO BDP 103 around the $300 mark ) and wait a few weeks, maybe couple months, to get a turntable around the $1000-$1500 mark ( with tonearm and cartridge ).
I do like the Retro/Classic look of the Rogue over the very Modern looking design of the Roksan and I feel 100w should be plenty of power for the Q900's.
Yikes! If this is what it is like trying to make a decision on just an amp, what the hell is it going to be like making a decision on a CD Player and Turntable??!!!...lol

I am so glad I found this place or I would have ended up buying some generic crap and wasting my money. Again, you guys are the best.

David

bierfeldt
bierfeldt's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 1 week ago
Joined: Oct 26 2007 - 2:30pm
One note

I know you are going to have limited flexibility in your seating location and where the system is but you want to really take some time in your setup of the speakers. Try different spacing, towing angle and rake angle. Also those Kefs will have a break in period. If it is feasible, leave them on for the first couple days after setup or whenever you are away at a moderate level.

CD a player will be a breeze. DAC and music streamer may be harder to select but you are looking for an audio disc transport and you will run a digital cable from it to the DAC.

Ivor Darcy
Ivor Darcy's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 20 2016 - 12:38am
Good idea sir...

I was going to play around with the positioning a bit and have been reading up on all the jargon on toe angles and rake and about distance from the wall too.
Usually when I go out of the house for a few hours I leave the TV on or my little mini system switched on ( and a couple room lights on ) to make it look and sound like someone is home. Once I have everything I need, I will leave that playing instead. I did hear that a lot of speakers sound better after a " burn in " period.
The Marantz NA8005 that you mention is on sale at Amazon for $600 ( about half MSRP ) but a steep discount like that always makes me worry why?? There are a lot of positive reviews for it and quite a few negative. I think I may hold off on the streamer until last and wait to find something suitable that I like.
So, when I buy the amp and CD player I can just connect the CD player to the amp right? Or do I need the player into a DAC and then the amp? It has been 30 odd years since I last had separates and I don't even know if they had DAC's back then. I seem to remember everything just plugged in with phono cables back then and I believe my speakers were just the bare wires wrapped around the binding post.
Also, do you have a recommendation on a rack to sit everything on? The quick search I did gave me racks that cost almost as much as the amp! I would like something of a decent quality but not so expensive that the cost would have been better going to upgrading one of the components. I am trying to keep my budget at the $3000-$4000 range. The speakers were $1,200. The amp is going to be $1,300. Figure $500 for the CD player and I have reached $3k. Want to get a turntable around $1000-$1,500 ( think I need to spend at least that amount for a decent one with arm and cartridge ) and that pushes me $500 above the top end of my budget. Adding several hundred dollars to buy a rack is going to push me to the $5k mark which is a bit more than I really wanted to spend. Is there something out there that is a little more affordable? More research needed.

David

bierfeldt
bierfeldt's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 1 week ago
Joined: Oct 26 2007 - 2:30pm
The NA8005

My hunch is it is on discount because it is going to be discontinued and replaced. I have a Marantz NA7004 which I bought for $400 from Music Direct via Amazon and it listed at $1100 because it was being discontinued. Couple of notes on Marantz:

Marantz' app sucks. It takes forever to load a long list of music and I had trouble with it interacting with my Netgear router when using AirPlay which in fairness was a Netgear issue and not Marantz. Additionally, periodically the geniuses at Pandora do a software update that renders it incompatible. It takes Marantz a few weeks to straighten it out each time. Some Marantz equipment can be buggy in the software. If it works, it works spectacularly well. In a small number of cases, the units can have annoying problems. I have 5 units that are Marantz or Denon that are either streamers or receivers and all work just fine.

You can absolutely plug a CD player right into the back of an integrated amp. It occurs to me the Oppo has built in apps that stream and I believe the device is UPnP/DLNA compliant though I am not sure if you need a video monitor to use all the features. It might serve as a disc player and streamer. Others own them and may be able to offer more insight. Almost all CD player, like the Oppo, have an internal DAC. The exception is anything labeled a CD transport like the Cambridge CXC. NAD, Marantz and Oppo all make nice, modestly priced CD players and because it is not a streamer, none of my Marantz notes above apply to the CD player.

Needle Doctor had a nice rack made by Sanus for like $200 to $300. It is 4 shelves total and is literally the rack in my profile picture. IKEA also has some reasonably priced stuff that is all made of MDF. It may not be as isolated as these expensive ones but it is not going to be an enormous issue.

I know for a fact that the Rega RP3 with Elys2 cartridge has recently been discontinued and replaced by the Planar 3. You may be able to find an RP3 on clearance for $800 to $900 which would be a steel. Call needledoctor if they have them on their website on deal. They also sell rogue. Buy everything together and you might get a deal and if you don't live in MN you could avoid sales tax. I

Ivor Darcy
Ivor Darcy's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 20 2016 - 12:38am
That is what I was thinking..

I was thinking that was the reason for the steep discount on the NA8005.

I like the sound of $200-$300 for a rack. The ones that kept coming up in my searches were more like $2,000-$3,000! That to me is just crazy unless you have the money for the really high end equipment.

I just found an audio shop right near where I work. I pass it every day but would never have guessed it was there. It is tucked away in an industrial area and has no signage, that I can see, indicating it is an audio store. The website says they have the likes of NAD, Cambridge, Arcam and a few other well known brands. No Rogue Audio unfortunately ( can't find a dealer anywhere near me ). They do have Pro-Ject and Music Hall and I quite like the looks of some of their turntables. I will try to pay the store a visit on my day off.

The Rogue amp I will probably order from Needle Doctor in the next few days. I will certainly see if they have a good deal on a turntable ( my buddy had a Rega years ago ) and see if I could maybe get a small discount for buying both together. I think I may buy the Cambridge CXC and a separate DAC rather than a straightforward CD player if I can stretch the budget a little.

Thanks Bierfeldt...much appreciated and Happy New Year!

David

bierfeldt
bierfeldt's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 1 week ago
Joined: Oct 26 2007 - 2:30pm
Happy new year

Happy new year to you as well.

I have the Sanus AFA a/v rack which was $149 at needle doctor. They have several other nice, affordable options.

Make sure you call them instead of just ordering on the web. If you buy a few items they might be willing to bundle them at a more favorable price.

The CXC and the CXN together would be really nice and would have a killer feature set and incidentally also sold by Needle Doctor but requires a nice chunk of cash at $1600 combined.

An appealing alternative would be the Bluesound Node 2 for $499 as a streamer and then a good CD player like the Marantz CD 6006 for $499 and you would save a bit.

Ivor Darcy
Ivor Darcy's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 20 2016 - 12:38am
NeedleDoctor

Thanks Bierfeldt.

Due to my crazy work schedule it is difficult for me to make calls during the day so I emailed NeedleDoctor. I asked if I bundled the Rogue Sphinx V2 and the Cambridge CXN/CXC together, could they give me a good deal. Brian from NeedleDoctor emailed me back and said he would see what he can do. I am hoping to hear back from him tomorrow. I will wait a couple months before deciding on a turntable as I have no vinyl ( yet ) to play on it.

David

bierfeldt
bierfeldt's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 1 week ago
Joined: Oct 26 2007 - 2:30pm
Good luck to you

I hope they can do something for you. Good luck and it sounds like you are putting together an awesome system.

Ivor Darcy
Ivor Darcy's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 20 2016 - 12:38am
Thank you so much Bierfeldt

I wanted to say thank you to you.

I got a really, really good quote from Brian at NeedleDoctor and I am calling him later today to make payment and give him delivery details. If it were not for your advice I would have just ordered online and been done with it. However, taking your advice saved me a few hundred dollars!!!

Again, thank you so very much for all your help and advice. I really do appreciate it very much.

David

bierfeldt
bierfeldt's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 1 week ago
Joined: Oct 26 2007 - 2:30pm
That is awesome

Once you get everything setup and burned in, tweaking placement along with rake and toe angle is a process. Pick a few tracks off of CDs you know sound great and are very familiar with. Take notes about how the soundstage comes together from each listening position. You have 3 variables with an infinite number of adjustments to each so you may find yourself repeating this process many times with some positions sounding better and others worse.

Once you get everything set exactly the way you want it, make sure you mark the spots to ensure you can always get back to it in case you nudge the speaker with the vacuum, etc...

Ivor Darcy
Ivor Darcy's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 20 2016 - 12:38am
My thoughts on Cables

Great advice as usual Bierfeldt. Soon as I have everything delivered and set up I will start tweaking away. Apparently, NeedleDoctor doesn't have the Cambridge CXC/CXN in stock ( said it would be about a week ) so I have time to think about cables/interconnects.
I am thinking Audioquest TYPE 4 speaker cable and their Evergreen interconnects. They get great reviews and don't cost an arm and a leg! I did buy some 16 gauge speaker cable from Monoprice ( the oxygen free copper stuff..I think 2747?? ) and would be interested in seeing if I could notice a difference in sound if I switch between that and the Audioquest ones. What is your opinion???

Oh, I decided to go for the 4 shelf SolidSteel rack from NeedleDoctor. Brian highly recommended it and said I would definitely not be disappointed in the quality of it. ( I really, really need to stop going over budget! )

Thanks again.

David

bierfeldt
bierfeldt's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 1 week ago
Joined: Oct 26 2007 - 2:30pm
Cables

I am not a big believer in cables with a few exceptions:

Unbalanced RCA cables absolutely can make a difference to a point. I usually by audioquest golden gate but can't really hear a difference between them and Monster THX. You want to get a decent cable but I just don't get $1000's for cables.

Speaker Cable is one where I am not a believer. As long as it is 100% oxygen free copper it should make no difference in runs under about 25ft. There are rare exceptions and usually it has to do with living next to a broadcast tower.

With digital cables it is digital so as long as the cable is of adequate quality to ensure 100% of data transfer I feel it shouldn't make a huge difference. Base audioquest should be fine.

Just my opinion. Other disagree vehemently.

Ivor Darcy
Ivor Darcy's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 20 2016 - 12:38am
Just what I was thinking

I agree. No way I want to spend mega bucks on cables but I am not against spending a reasonable amount to get better quality than the bare bones stuff. By the time I get my turntable my original $3,000 budget will have doubled! ( maybe more than doubled ) and it seems silly to have around $7k in equipment and $10 wire.
Brian at NeedleDoctor recommended the AudioQuest TYPE 4 speaker cables and they are not too unreasonable price wise. It was my reason for looking at the Audioquest Evergreen interconnects as ( not that it really matters I guess ) my plan was to keep the cables all the same brand.
I am thinking a 10ft pair of speaker cables should be plenty and I can use the Monoprice ( 50ft spool ) to make longer lengths if I ever need it.

Thanks again Bierfeldt.

David

  • X