Changing priorities

matthewpiano

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I'm enjoying the sound I'm getting from my main system at present. The Rotel/Pioneer combination works very well together (as it always did), and the Dynaudios are a good match to the A400. I went to the National Audio Show on Saturday and heard a great deal of kit, but very little of it struck me as being in any way superior to my current set-up (or indeed my 2nd system in the study/spare bedroom). The main stand-outs were speakers by Russell K (Red 100), Kralk Audio (Black Cat BC30FL), Magnific Acoustics (M501), and Opera. Electronics-wise, the stand-outs were a re-conditioned Thorens turntable (Magnific room), Rotel RCD965BX (Magnific room), Melco streamer, Linn streamer, Luxman pre/power combination, Arcam blu-ray player and amp (A29?), and the Onkyo CP-1050 turntable (through Timestep phono stage, TEAC 501 headphone amp, and Denon AD-H700 headphones). The Unison Research valve integrated playing through Opera speakers was also lovely, but never likely to be in my price bracket. Overall though, I was left with the feeling that a lot of the really costly kit isn't particularly worth pursuing. Two Roksan systems left me completely cold (K3s through matching speakers, and BLAK series CD and amp through the Darius S1), and the system used for the premiere of the Queen Studio Masters vinyl collection sounded horrible to me. The biggest shock was hearing two tracks that I know very well, played off my own CDs, on £100,000+ of DCS electronics and Wilson speakers and wanting to go back and enjoy them on my own 'poverty-spec' system. The towering Clearaudio Master turntable playing Bjork through some very expensive amplification and using a host of mains isolation kit didn't excite me in the slightest either.

So, lesson learned. It was an enjoyable and highly instructive day. Getting further and further caught up in the whole thing isn't going to make me any happier than I am with what I've got. What I do need, though, is some extra functionality. I have to start being more selective about which albums and recordings I buy on CD or vinyl for space reasons primarily, and start using my Spotify Premium account through the main system alongside also being able to access Radios 3 and 4, as well as internet radio stations and (hopefully) DAB as well. It would also be nice to be able to embrace good quality downloads over time. I don't see my vinyl collection (about 300) growing much larger now as I find most new vinyl over-priced. A compact 'all-in-one' system isn't the answer. I've got a Yamaha 560D which is certainly better than the MCR610 I had, but it doesn't match up to the seperates I've got. So, the options are:

1. Get the new Onkyo TX-8150 network receiver, which offers everything I want features wise as well as plenty of power to control most speakers and a sound that (from memories of the previous model) would match up to the A400.

2. Add some sort of streamer to the system as it is. Pioneer N-50A perhaps? Only slight potential drawback is relying on an ageing amp.

3. Finally bite the bullet, and consider going down the active route, with a pre-amp/controller solution that allows for digital sources and connection of a turntable. Perhaps I could consider running Spotify/internet radio from a small net book in this scenario.

Please, no gripes at the box-swapping. I'm just interested in some positive thoughts/input at this moment in time. If I went down routes 1 or 2, I could see myself with a pair of Kralk BC30FL or Russell K Red 50 speakers eventually as both offer a more accurate/finessed sound than the Dyns, but this would be some time off. If I was to look into actives I think it would be AVI DM5s, but not sure how to deal with the pre-amp/control side of things.
 

matthewpiano

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CnoEvil said:
MP, what are you prepared to spend and would you sell some of your redundant kit. If so, what would that raise.
As little as possible. Certainly prepared to sell some redundant kit, but not necessarily interested in spending all the money it raises. I'm not looking to particularly 'improve' the sound now, as I think there is very little scope for that, so it is really about work out the best way to maintain the current standard of replay but with greater versatility/access to a broader range of sources.
 
Nice post, a bit of a thought provoker.

CnoEvil's question might be very relevent but based purely on what you've given us so far I might suggest simply adding the Pioneer streamer to a known system and see what you think. It should be fairly easy to move on if you decide its not the way to go.

Heard quite a bit about those unconventional Russell K speakers, think I'll have to find somewhere to attempt an audition. (Entered a competition once to win a pair but didn't get anywhere - last prize was some much cheaper headphones :) )
 
Two main points, Matthew. What are you lacking from your current stocks of boxes? It's all well and dandy planning new set-up as long as you can justify the effort to yourself.

Secondly, i know from personal experience listening to a said kit at a show bares little or no resemblence to long listening sessions in the comfort of your own abode.

FWIW you need to add a Pioneer somewhere in your system, whether it's a streamer or CDP or a TT or a Blu-Ray player.
 

matthewpiano

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Of course, there is a difference between the show experience and listening at home. However, this was a pretty well set-up show and most of the rooms at Whittlebury are quite 'domestic' in overall dimensions and feel. The over-riding impression was that, in the end, there is surprisingly little correlation between price and performance. The experience of hearing music you know very well through alarmingly expensive kit is a real wake-up call.
 

CnoEvil

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matthewpiano said:
The over-riding impression was that, in the end, there is surprisingly little correlation between price and performance.... The experience of hearing music you know very well through alarmingly expensive kit is a real wake-up call.  
I would word that slightly differently ie. There is surprisingly little correlation between price and enjoyment.

I'm not sure that you will find what you are looking for (in the longer term), without upping your budget considerably.

Tinkering in and around the same level as your existing kit will, in all likelihood, give you a "different", rather than "better" presentation.
 

davedotco

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But you know the solution, you have done it before, then moved away into interminal box swapping. (sorry.....*unknw*)

Compedent guidance from a good dealer or someone who knows what he is doing, there are some great systems out there and some perfectly good ones are simply not going to do it for you. There is a bit of magic to buiding a 'really' good setup, particularly for experienced listeners who no what they are listening for.

First up is to take your life in your hands and get down to Nailsworth and check out the DM5s. They will either work for you or not, it will be obvious. If they do work for you, then the rest of the setup is really just 'nuts and bolts', the Marantz NR1506 does everything you could need (except for a phono stage and you probably have one anyway).

About a grand all up, and it does everything.
 

matthewpiano

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CnoEvil said:
matthewpiano said:
The over-riding impression was that, in the end, there is surprisingly little correlation between price and performance.... The experience of hearing music you know very well through alarmingly expensive kit is a real wake-up call.
I would word that slightly differently ie. There is surprisingly little correlation between price and enjoyment.

I'm not sure that you will find what you are looking for (in the longer term), without upping your budget considerably.

Tinkering in and around the same level as your existing kit will, in all likelihood, give you a "different", rather than "better" presentation.
Whether the right word is 'performance' or 'enjoyment' doesn't bother me too much. If you have an exotic system and it makes some of your favourite music less enjoyable, then it becomes pointless anyway IMO. I'm not seeking to find a 'better' presentation. Some may think I'm completely mad, but I honestly don't think I'd find anything much 'better' than the RCD965BX and A400 combination, especially in the level of musical enjoyment offered. Few speakers involve me as much as the Dyns, but if there is one change I feel could bring a worthwhile improvement in general focus without losing that involvement, then I think a pair of Kralk BC30FL would do the trick nicely. My current querying is about facilities and access. I have an enormous CD collection and unless I want to end up with no space for anything else, I'm going to have to move towards only buying CDs of recordings I am confident of listening to very regularly, and streaming the rest from a hard drive, playing from Spotify and/or Qobuz, and listening to radio. My current set-up doesn't do any of this, so it is a matter of adding the facilities. The idea of the TX-8150 is appealing as it keeps the box count down, but retains a focus on quality amplification. However, I do also need to consider/discuss the other two ideas to help focus on the way forward.
 
Might I suggest the Onkyo C-N7050 as a means of keeping box count down? This is a very good CDP / Streamer which could replace your current CDP and negate the need for the Pioneer N50A you mentioned previously.

Just a thought.
 

steve_1979

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matthewpiano said:
...If I was to look into actives I think it would be AVI DM5s, but not sure how to deal with the pre-amp/control side of things.

As Dave has said the Marantz NR1504 is the perfect pre-amp for the DM5's and it has lots of extra bells and whistles like a DAC, streaming facilities and other DSP functions thrown in. For £250 it's a bit of a bargin and as it's about to be replaced by a new model it'll probably drop in price soon too.

Alternatively if you wanted to spend a bit more (OK quite a lot more) and get a really posh streamer with a built-in DAC and pre-amp the Cambridge Audio CXN would make for a very stylish one box system if paired with the DM5's.

A word of caution though. Once you've gone to the dark side there's no turning back. Your soul will belong to the Supreme Emperor of Nailsworth for all eternity. You have been warned!
 
steve_1979 said:
matthewpiano said:
...If I was to look into actives I think it would be AVI DM5s, but not sure how to deal with the pre-amp/control side of things.

As Dave has said the Marantz NR1504 is the perfect pre-amp for the DM5's and it has lots of extra bells and whistles like a DAC, streaming facilities and other DSP functions thrown in. For £250 it's a bit of a bargin and as it's about to be replaced by a new model it'll probably drop in price soon too.

Alternatively if you wanted to spend a bit more (OK quite a lot more) and get a really posh streamer with a built-in DAC and pre-amp the Cambridge Audio CXN would make for a very stylish one box system if paired with the DM5's.

This would only be a good choice if matthewpiano decided to ditch his turntable.

AFAIK it has no analog inputs
 

steve_1979

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Al ears said:
This would only be a good choice if matthewpiano decided to ditch his turntable.

AFAIK it has no analog inputs

Ah yeah, silly me. I just assumed the CXN would have analog inputs.

The Marantz NR1504 is the best bet then. Or maybe the upcoming Marantz M-CR611 (are those 'audio out' sockets on the back volume adjustable?).
 

lpv

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Matthew, Maatthew, Maatttthheewwwwww... buongiorno... no matter what you deicide, what risky way you take and what signature you create I support you sweetie.
 

chebby

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matthewpiano said:
Please, no gripes at the box-swapping. I'm just interested in some positive thoughts/input at this moment in time.

I can't gripe at box swapping right now having just changed my system (although it was the first time since early 2011).

I have a feeling you should stop going to hi-fi shows. I was still almost a kid when I went to my last show (it put me off them forever thankfully).

I swear that's helped to keep me from unhealthy levels of upgraditis since. After it I had systems for 6 years, 5 years, then 11 years straight with no additions other than occasional replacement stylii. Got a bit silly from 2008 - 2011 (probably influenced by this site too much) but then got back to relative sanity again since.

I enjoy reading your posts and trying to understand your thoughts about all the changes you make.

I think - for you and many others here - it's possibly more of a passion than I can muster. I still can't listen to kit in shops easily (and certainly not for enjoyment at weekends like some!) and avoid them whenever possible because shop demos just make me want to get outside and breathe fresh air despite the friendliest staff whom I have known for up to 25 years in some cases. (Although with very long gaps in between visits.)

180 degrees different to trying the stuff at home.
 

Covenanter

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Try doing nothing except listen to music for a few weeks. If at the end of that period you are still troubled then do what you must to scratch the itch.

So far this year this methodology has saved me from buying a streamer, new headphones and a new tv, maybe £5k in total.

Chris
 

tonky

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That must be some headphones - streamer - TV!!! - I fully agree with the method - but maybe not that amount of money (For me anyway)

Tonky
 

matthewpiano

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I think something has been lost in translation here.

This isn't 'upgradeitis' or about scratching any sort of itch.

I'm perfectly happy with the sound I'm getting and I'm not looking for an improvement in that respect.

This is about maintaining the current standard of performance whilst adding 21st century functionality.
 

Covenanter

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Matthew

I did pick up the functionality bit but my point was do you really need it? I don't have hifi radio at present and would like to have it mainly for concerts on R3. However, on reflection I decided I didn't NEED it. Similarly I don't buy that many CDs anymore as I have at least one recording of pretty much everything I want to listen to.

If you NEED this things then go for it. Otherwise I would save the money - there will be a new product next year that will be closer to your requirements.

Chris
 

matthewpiano

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Covenanter said:
Matthew

I did pick up the functionality bit but my point was do you really need it? I don't have hifi radio at present and would like to have it mainly for concerts on R3. However, on reflection I decided I didn't NEED it. Similarly I don't buy that many CDs anymore as I have at least one recording of pretty much everything I want to listen to.

If you NEED this things then go for it. Otherwise I would save the money - there will be a new product next year that will be closer to your requirements.

Chris
Thanks Chris. My issue is that I have an insatiable appetite for new music. Although classical is very much my first love, I also listen to a lot of new folk, progressive rock, jazz etc. Even with classical repertoire I can't resist a new recording of a familiar work - even if I already have several versions of it. Last week, for example, I bought the new Barenboim recordings of the Brahms Piano Concertos on DG, despite already having several complete recordings of them. I'm not likely to stop with the classical CDs, but I need an alternative way of accessing some of the other stuff. If I could stream new albums in other genres at hi-fi(ish) quality, I would probably get tired of some things without buying them, and then only buy the CD version of things I really enjoy.

It's a storage space issue, and a cost thing too. I would also like to be able to access Radio 3 and Radio 4 in good sound (DAB is good enough for me), as well as some of the internet radio content. It comes down to the easiest and cheapest way to do it.

I have had another thought today which is to add a Sonos Connect or a Denon HEOS unit to my current system. Wouldn't give me DAB, but it should provide Spotify, internet radio, and streaming functionality without too much expense or hassle. If anyone has experience with Sonos or HEOS I'd be interested to hear about it. Another option might be to consider a NAD D3020 as this would give me analogue inputs as well as connectivity for a little netbook or similar, and I've always enjoyed the NAD sound. Again, any experience from users welcome.
 

Andrew17321

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MatthewPiano, I use a NAS and Sonos for streaming to various systems: to Devialet Phantoms, to an ARCAM amplifier feeding Spenor floorstanders, and a legacy Rotel amplifier system. I also use it to stream radio, particularly Radio 3 at 320 AAC and Linn Radio. Works a treat, very easy to set up and use, and sound quality excellent, particularly through the Phantoms.

I can't understand why you would want to use DAB radio. Its sound quality is poor for listening seriously to music. There are higher quality streams of most music stations on the web which will work over Sonos, or via Bluetooth from a pad or smart phone. Our car radio has DAB; about a year ago we tried listening to ClassicFM on it - 5 minutes later we switched back to FM, and I haven't tried it again since. From reading your previous posts, I doubt you would be satisfied with DAB.
 

CarlDW

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I would certainly consider the Onkyo TX8150... It covers all of the basics, and should sound great based upon the previous TX8050. In fact, that, and a universal disc player, would be my ideal two-box solution, with some decent stand mounts.
 

matt49

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Matthew,

Have you looked into Qobuz Classical? It gives access to an enormous and remarkably up-to-date repertoire at CD quality. The cost is £15/month, which works out pretty well compared to the cost of new CDs. I can't imagine any 'itch' for classical music that it wouldn't satisfy.

Last Xmas I bought my dad a Sonos Connect and the Qobuz subscription. Despite the technological barrier -- not inconsiderable for a gent pushing 90 -- he's become quite addicted to it. While not an effusive person, every time I see him he regales me with news of the latest recordings he's been listening to. The gift has given me a lot of pleasure as well as him.

Matt
 

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