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Cheapaudioman
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What upgrade will have the greatest impact

Hi all, new here…I am retired, 70 something, Vietnam vet with a modest 2.1 stereo system. Yamaha 301 integrated amp, older Sony dvd/cd/vhs player, Klipsch rp150m speakers and an SVS SB1000 sub., the Sony plays through a Schiit Modi 3+ To the amp. My TV is hooked up to the amp via optical.
Living on a modest income.
Without breaking the bank…Which one piece of my system would you upgrade where I could gain the most noticeable improvement in SQ?
I listen to lots of different music, blues, jazz, rock,country, classical. My system sounds fairly good now but I am sure there are improvements to be had. For example I just recently added the Modi and noticed the music seems to have a little more body than before.
Thanks for any suggestions and advice in advance

Old Audiophile
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No Easy Answer(s)!

Cheapaudioman, first and foremost, thank you for your service!

There is no easy answer to your question. Only you can decide what will sound better to you. That being said, however, that Sony dvd/cd/vhs player seems like the weakest link. How about relegating that to DVD and VHS duty and adding a dedicated CD player like a Marantz or whatever else sounds good to you? Good luck and happy holidays!

Cheapaudioman
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Thanks for the input Old

Thanks for the input Old Audiophile…that was one of my thoughts as well. Although I don’t know how much just the CD transport and laser can effect the sound. Im going from the Sony “digital out” to the Modi DAC to the amp. I was looking at Rotel cd11 tribute and read several reviews. One of them was saying how the SQ improved with each upgrade in the various components as they were testing it with different levels of DACs, amps and speakers. Most CDs are 16/44.1 so not a super high data rate. But obviously good enough to make descendant sound. I guess just because I don’t see how the transport can have a tremendous effect on SQ doesn’t mean it doesn’t.
At any rate…Happy Holy Days

Old Audiophile
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Most Welcome!

I encourage you to do as much research and critical listening of CD players and CD transports as you can or as you can tolerate. I wouldn't have believed there would be much of a substantive difference, if any, between players of similar price points, build quality and specifications the last time I was in the market for one. However, I found that was definitely not the case. If you already have a good quality DAC, I think it makes sense to spend your hard-earned bucks on a good quality transport and hook it up via good quality digital coax. I'm currently using my CD Player as a transport. Although I haven't done any critical listening to transport machines, I've read some really great reviews of the Cambridge Audio CXC (version 2) and the Audiolab 6000CDT. You might want to check those out. Those are two relatively reasonably priced transports.

BluesDog
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Welcome home and thank you for your service

With your equipment and a modest income, one way to improve sound quality is an inexpensive change in speaker wire. If you read a Wirecutter review of best affordable speaker wire, Monoprice 12 gauge was rated tops. At $35 for 50 feet it noticeably bested some standard Monster 16 gauge speaker wire I previously used.

The danger of other upgrades are better speakers will make you want better amperage and vice versa.
You also might want to try the Audioquest Evergreen rca cables from your cd player to the Yamaha. Very effective inexpensive upgrade.

Cheapaudioman
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Thanks Bluesdog, gives me

Thanks Bluesdog, gives me more options. I’ve been thinking about getting an extra set of RCA cables. I’ll have to read the review you suggested about this speakerwires. That would also be an inexpensive upgrade.

Cheapaudioman
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Well I just ordered Kimber's

Well I just ordered Kimber's PBJ interconnect. Just got done reading a review on these in the stereophile.com sight. The reviewer said they were better than any other interconnect he has tried except for his silver KCAG…but they were very close.
We will see how they do when they get here…also been looking for a descent price on a used Cambridge CXC transport to add into the system.
First the interconnect.

BluesDog
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Nice call on the PBJ

Let us know how the PBJ does. If you are somewhat ambitious about speaker wire try listening to the Audioquest type 4 if you can get it. Kimber Kable 4PR or 4VS may be worth a look.

Regarding CD players keep an eye out at Music Direct. I obtained a refurbished Marantz CD 6006 in the spring that has been doing a very nice job. They have one listed for $499. I feel this would noticeably best the Rotel 11 or 14. Musicdirect is as reputable as it gets.

Cheapaudioman
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Well the cables shipped

Well the cables shipped yesterday. They are to be here Friday.
I will give them a good listen for at least a week (not sure if cables need to burn in) and then do an update on sound difference between these and my nondescript cables.
Unless of course the difference is so obvious you can’t mis it. Then I will report back sooner.

Cheapaudioman
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So…the USPS being what it is

So…the USPS being what it is the cables were scheduled 12/31…arrived 1/5…so late on the update.
So the PBJs are plugged into the amp from the Modi3+, which in turn comes from the Sony via coax cable (blue jeans).
Then the Sony is also playing to the amp via analog out cables.
This is not an A/B test and I’m not going to plug and unplug the PBJs .
What I can say so far is…there is very little difference from one to the other. If I strain my brain and my ear maybe, just maybe the soundstage is a little deeper, maybe.
At this point I would say the $120. Would have been better spent on upgrading the DAC, again, maybe.
I’m going to keep listening, maybe the cables need to burn in, and report back in a week or two.
This also has me questioning whether or no spending $600 on an audio lab 6000cdt will give a similar or rather lack of improvement.
I’m not an audiophile, I’m old, probably hearing loss, don’t even know what to listen for. But my system doesn’t sound all that bad to me.

manunkind
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I am extremely sceptical that

I am extremely sceptical that the cable quality would make a difference, at least at the level of Schiit Modi etc. It seems that the opinions on this matter are quite divided, but the proponents of expensive cables usually try to use the technique of snake oil salesman- shout the loudest and use many big words and hope that the complete absence of empirical evidence is overlooked.
Schiit Modi is a very simple DAC, and you can probably upgrade it- but I bet that you could never tell the difference if you compared expensive AuduoQuest cables with simple Monoprice.
As far as DAC- I had the original Schiit Modi and found the Cambridge Audio dacmagic (at $200) a worthy upgrade. I don't listen to CDs, but your speakers and amp are quite decent. Or so I see it.

Kal Rubinson
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Quote:
Quote:

Without breaking the bank…Which one piece of my system would you upgrade where I could gain the most noticeable improvement in SQ?

The changes that will have the biggest audible impact center on your choice of speakers, their placement in the room and the room acoustics. None of the other stuff will make as big an impact unless you make major investments and some, like cables (burned in or not), are unlikely to make any.

Cheapaudioman
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Thanks for your thought and

Thanks for your thought and comments Kal and manunkind. At the moment I am quite satisfied with the sound of my system. The sound staging and imaging are both good with well mastered CDs. The Klipsch play clear and neutral and stay together as loud as I can stand playing Metallica or Santana. Listening to Nora Jones at the moment and she has a smoky, airy sensual voice.
I guess I’ll have to wait a while for that “three D holographic soundstage” experience that I read and hear talked about by some audiophiles.
I’m thinking maybe a DIY speaker kit, maybe the NX Studio Monitor, down the road a ways. And then maybe a better DAC.
My wife and I raised 5 girls, weddings, college, etc. and I really never had a descent stereo system.
The system I have now is better than I’ve ever had.
But there is always room for improvement. The audio bug has bitten.

geoffkait
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All cable tests, when the

All cable tests, when the cables are unplugged and replugged when the cables under evaluation are new are unreliable for a great many reasons. To name just a few, wire directionality, disrupting the sensitive electrical-mechanical interface of the plugs, the new and unbroken-in state of the new cables, errors in the system. All cables must be broken to for at least 100 hours to condition the dielectric, sorry to break the news to you.

Cheapaudioman
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Thanks, I appreciate the

Thanks, I appreciate the input. But I am not plugging and unplugging these PBJ interconnect cables. They are new, I plugged them into the DAC analog out to the Yamaha amp. I also have the analog out from the Sony going to the amp. So now just playing music and letting the interconnects break in. When they were brand new I could tell no difference in sound quality switching between the two channels. Listening to Nora Jones CD and switching between the channels today I noticed she was a little more forward with analog coming from the CD player compared to going through the Modi 3+. She seemed more well placed on/in the sound stage through the DAC. That could be due to the new interconnects or the DAC or a combination of the two verses direct from the Sony. Just going to listen and compare some more as they break in. More updates coming.

Dorsia777
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I am happy for you

Upgrading parts of a system or a signal chain is fun. Stereo equipment is a lot like wine tasting. Only your taste matters! If those PBJ’s already sound better than what was previously connected…then congrats! Regardless of break in time…you know when you hear a difference. Even if it’s minute…

BluesDog
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Should Be An Extra Pension For 5 Daughters!

God bless you for srviving the financial onslaught of 5 daughters! Kal is very likely right about speaker wires making a further difference but I was curious about Monoprice 12 gauge or other choices.

Cheapaudioman
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Thanks Bluesdog, wouldn’t

Thanks Bluesdog, wouldn’t trade those girls and the experience raising them for anything. Family first. Anyway I’ve been listening to the regular cheap audio cables and the PBJs using the remote. Still can’t tell much difference. If I listen really hard maybe the sound stage might be just slightly more composed, maybe.
Anyway, my system is probably of not enough refinement for cables to make a noticeable difference so I’m proceeding in a new direction.
Between speakers and/or DACS and room treatment could I make the most gain? Right now I’m thinking of a really good DAC (Denafrep ares 2) or building the GR Research NX Studio monitor.
The room treatments may not have as big an impact as our livin/listening room is 25’ wide with a thick heavy rug on the froor, long curtains and open to the kitchen on one end and open to the living dining area on the other. Heavy blanket on the sofa at the listening sweet spot.
So better speakers or better DAC that is the question.

Notreallyhere
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I registered just to reply to this topic....

I registered just to reply to this topic....

I am dismayed to hear recommendations about cables and disk spinners when looking for easy/cheap gains in a hifi system.
At best, those things are just tinkering around the edges. At worst, they are snake oil.

At a certain point, the source becomes transparent. This happens at very low levels of expenditure.
A 10$ DAC and 320VBR MP3 will effectively be transparent to any system unless you start shovelling large amounts of money at it. Even then, the gains would likely be indistinguishable in a blind test.

As for amplifying that signal, you just need something that will remain "Transparent" at the power level you need.
For low power systems, transparent amps are 10/penny.

Your amp seems ok tbh. Reviews are favorable. No idea how it measures but again, it isn't a bad execution so likely, gains will be small.

Cables, wires, etc, Meh, so long as they are made well, who cares, your system won't.

Speakers are where the money needs to be and they are everything to the system.
Speakers, and the room they are sat in are where you should look to be spending your cash.

Dump the CD player and use your PC to feed the digital input on the amp from a music subscription service. Whilst you might not quite get the bitrate of a CD if you get a basic package, you will be open to the world of online music and after all, this hobby is about enjoying music, not listening to it.

Sell those useless cables and get a room mike and use room eq software (there is a free wizard on the net). Tune the room as best you can.

Then whilst you are sat enjoying your reasonably transparent system, in a good speaker setup with the room eq'd and a world of music at your fingertips, you can think about getting better speakers to suit the room and you...or not.

If you do change the speakers, you might need to change the amp to meet the room/speaker demands.

So in summary:
What upgrade will have greatest impact?
None. Just set up and tune your current system as best you can.
Further improvements will likely require significant investment for not that much genuine improvement.

IMHO obviously. Hope it works out for you.

Cheapaudioman
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Thanks for the input

Thanks for the input Notreallyhere…I’m took your advice and started with tuning the room, moving the speakers around, changing the toe in from crossing just in front of me to almost straight into the room. The Klipsch rp 150ms project up, I leveled them (they come with a base that tilts them back a few degrees so they project slightly upwards). I stuffed a folded sock into the port on both. Anyway after some experimenting I’m liking the music better. Better sound stage, less bottom bloat…all around better.
I’m an old guy and just don’t think I want to stream. I like my CDs, I have a few and pick up a new one every now and then.
Just going to enjoy what I have right now. But…going to save up to get the GR Research NX Studio down the road, I want to hear what Open Baffle sounds like. (It is a DIY kit)
Sealed woofer, open baffle tweeter.
Listening to Miles Davis “Kind of Blue” right now, what a great album.
Thanks again to everyone for their comments and recommendations.

Austin93
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expensive cables

I can attest to after just having bought AudioQuest's $100.00 "GoldenGate" RCA>3.5mm stereo cable that unfortunately...besides stellar build quality, I wouldn't be able to distinguish sound quality in a blind test between the AudioQuest and the $12.00 no-name cable from Wal-Mart I had previously.

The AudioQuest is awfully good eye candy with it's braided jacket and gold plated connections. As long as the dog doesn't chew it up, it should last a lifetime no doubt.

I also recently purchased the sony walkman high resolution player, with Tidal streaming @24bit/196khz and couldn't distinguish a big enough difference from that of my Iphone streaming Spotify in their highest quality setting...So I returned the sony walkman.

I agree with NotReallyHere...A good set of speakers goes a looooong ways.

bizyz
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Another System For You

since you seem to be willing to spend more on a good dac such as the denafreps when your finances will allow along with the studio monitor kit from GR Research perhaps this might be another way to go,for future consideration:
audiolab 8300 integrated amplifier-----see if you can trade in your yamaha unit at a dealer.
audiolab 6000cdt cd transport
denefreps dac

pair of klipsch rp6000 tower speakers with 2 6 inch woofers
monoprice speaker cables with banana plugs,interconnects you already have.
be advised that according to their website,GR Research does not have the speaker kit you want in stock among other items due to what they indicated were manufacturing problems.
btw,were there any hi fi shops in saigon when you were over there?

Cheapaudioman
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Never got to Saigon. I was

Never got to Saigon. I was Navy, mostly off shore. Danang Harbour once.
Been rethinking the speakers since GR research is still having problems sourcing parts I’ve heard good things about CSS audio 1TD-X speakers.
I adjusted my sub gain down a few clicks and raised the low pass from 60 to 80 db. That seems to have integrated the sound a little more.
I have one CD where the the sound stage is huge. There is sound coming from my left speaker, if I close my eyes and turn my head towards the sound then open my eyes I am looking about 6-8 feet outside of the speaker. The right side too but not to that extreme, maybe just outside of the speaker. Probably my right ear has more hearing loss than the left.
Any way CSS 1TD-X build from scratch (spent 15 years as a carpenter). They have some glowing reviews. We will see.
Room placement and directivity definitely have an effect, as does sub blending.

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I fall into the speakers-as

I fall into the speakers-as-biggest-improvement-for-the-money camp. But you are on a good path with speaker/room adjustments. I have found that getting a bit of space under my towers with the supplied stands, and raising my sub off the floor by about an inch or so, has really tightened up the bass and improved midrange detail. Getting the towers away from front and side walls, along with toe-in, has dramatically improved the soundstage. There's lots of things that will give some improvement (separates, cables, interconnects, etc), but IMHO, nothing makes more of a difference than speakers.

Cheapaudioman
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Me too, I’m reevaluating my

Me too, I’m reevaluating my cheapness. I’m with MattJ, speakers are where I’ve been focusing. I was thinking of spending $750 on a speaker kit…who was I kidding, I’m the Cheapaudioman. So I found on line a schematic for my Klipsch rp 150ms and ordered the parts upgraded to Jantzen capacitors and Solen 14guage air core inducters. The whole Klipsch crossover only has 5 components. 2 inducters, 2 capacitors and 1 resistor. The Klipsch crossover is mounted on the back of the plastic cup that hold the hookup posts fastened to the back of the cabinet and is so small it comes out of that small opening when you take that cover off.

Anyway the parts I ordered were 2 Jantzen Superior Z caps for the tweeter, 2 Jantzen Cross Caps for the woofer, Mundorf resisters and the two air core inductors. Then I ordered some No Rez from Danny.

Cheapaudioman
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All told about $285 +/-. I

All told about $285 +/-. I cleaned out the inside of the cabinet from gobs of glue here and there holding the fiber fill sheet which was wrapped around the inside. Then added a dowel cross brace to one cabinet but forgot to do the other cause I was so excited about getting the cabinet done and running.
I built the crossover for one speaker only fist in case there was a problem. I had never built a cross over before. With the new components and built as snug as possible thr new cross over takes up the entire bottom of the cabinet. There was maybe an 1/8 inch of play front to back.and not much more side to side due to some corner bracing strips. I’m going to sign off for now but will be back tomorrow with some details.

geoffkait
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Carefree downgrading is my

Carefree downgrading is my game, it’s really all about down sizing and thereby eliminating those things that produce noise and distortion in the first place. So I went from full size speaker system to a headphone and tube headphone amp to a portable SONY SPORT CD player and portable SONY PROFESSIONAL cassette player, both SONY Walkman. Here’s what I found out, when you ditch the house AC power and go to battery power, eliminate all power cords, eliminate big old speaker cables, interconnects, digital cable, big old power transformers, large capacitors, fuses you wind up with a lot less noise and distortion. No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.

Kal Rubinson
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geoffkait wrote:
geoffkait wrote:

Here’s what I found out, when you ditch the house AC power and go to battery power, eliminate all power cords, eliminate big old speaker cables, interconnects, digital cable, big old power transformers, large capacitors, fuses you wind up with a lot less noise and distortion. No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.

No more soundstage.

geoffkait
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What good is a soundstage

What good is a soundstage with noise and distortion?

Kal Rubinson
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If I took you seriously, I

If I took you seriously, I would have objected to the entirety of your post but this just seemed to complete your melody.

geoffkait
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No text

No text

geoffkait
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I’m afraid my comments on

I’m afraid my comments on subject of very low mass systems, esp. battery powered ones, and how they eliminate or avoid noise and distortion producers are serious. It’s purely physics and how electricity works.

You probably missed the longish discussion on this topic of very small low mass systems several years ago on this very forum. It was yours truly, Michael Green, May and Peter Belt and a few other regulars. Check it out, it’s all still there. In fact you can obtain very good soundstage, a very immersive soundstage, with headphones, you just have to do it the right way. Audio is not something one does by plugging in a bunch of stuff and hoping for the best.

Cheapaudioman
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Low mass, portable battery

Low mass, portable battery powered, headphones is all good…if your house stereo, dvd, TV movies with more than one person listening were not running through it, like mine.
Back to my speaker upgrade. This was the lowest cost option for improved sound. Verses new $750 to $1000 dollar new speakers or DIY kits.
I will say that along with the No-Rez I put Dyna-matt on each of the speaker basket struts.
I will say with the sound deadening of the cabinets plus’s the cross over component upgrade the sound has improved…! A lot.
I had no problem with the sound signature of the Klipsch rp 150m speakers. Some people don’t like the emphasis on the treble but being 70+ that part of my hearing range probably needs some help any way. So my goal was to tighten up the bass and maybe improve the overall experience.
Well I will say this project turned out great.
The sound stage used to be for the most part between the speakers with an occasional well mastered CD extending outside of the left speaker. Now the whole front of our room is a huge sound stage. Unless it is a particularly badly mastered CD.
Imaging is great. The Bass has tightened up. Voices seem more present, fuller, richer. Nora Jones always sounded good on the Klipsch but her voice was a little thin. It has become richer. Casey Abrams Jazz CD he plays standup bass, it is again more present, fuller, defined. Play Elvis’s Ultimate Gospel CD and wow, sound stage, rich voice, backup singers are almost in the room.
Sax was good before but now put on some Coltrane and Wow, rich, saxy.
Basically in all respects they are better speakers. For the around $300 upgrade I am totally thrilled.
I will have to hear something really special to get me to want to spend more on speakers.

Cheapaudioman
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Well, been enjoying the

Well, been enjoying the upgraded speakers and just for fun decided to hang some doubled up heavy towels behind the speakers to see if wall treatments would make things even better. Low and behold the answer is yes. Cleaned up the reflections from the front wall. I was not even aware these reflection existed. But with the acoustic wall treatment it seamed the music was cleaner. The soundstage also seemed the tighten up.
Anyway I’m going to get or make some sound panels for behind the speakers and maybe some for behind my listening area. Maybe a nice thick quilt/wall hanging. Tapestry.

David Harper
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improvement

Wires will make absolutely zero difference in sound quality. Anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional. The thing that will make an actual difference is speakers. Also don't waste your money on a different CDP. That won't make a difference either.
Despite what you read here.

ChrisS
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Depsite David Harper...

...open-mindedness exists.

Go shop.

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