First audio Hi-Fi system recommendation

johnnyb

Active member
Apr 24, 2021
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Hello,

This is my first post here, so looking forward to interacting with you all.
Also I'm a total newbie when it comes to Hi Fi so please bare with me and pardon my ignorance.

For a while now I have been thinking of building a Hi Fi system and now that I have moved to a bigger apartment I couldn't wait to get started. I thought it was going to be easy but here I am deep down the rabbit hole... annoyed... pulling my hair out... 2AM writing this post. I just can't seem to make up my mind.

I have a very limited budget and it's not very flexible (at least at this time) and this is what I have come up with:
  • Dali Spektor 2 ($350 USD)
  • Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO Turntable ($500 USD)
  • Cambridge AXA35 Integrated Amp $(350 USD)
  • Cambridge AXC35 CD Player ($350 USD)
  • Turntable Station by Line Phono ($230 USD)

I had initial budget of $1500 but I'm getting close to $2000 which is as far as I can go...

I'm building this system in my office where I spend most of the time during the day. My office is a small 90 sqft room and I do not need a very loud system. I have my Home Theatre system already setup for that... so this is more for personal listening.

Because I'm sticking with everything entry level yet still spending almost 2 grands, I'm battling with a few thoughts and I want to make sure my money is well spent.
  1. is this setup durable and scalable?
  2. Should I invest more on amp and speakers and perhaps push cd player purchase to later... (CXA61 integrated amp with Schiit Mani phono amp + B&W 606/7, Oberon 1 or Klipsch rp600m)... this puts me over budget by $500 bucks but does it make my setup more scalable?
  3. Most of my music is digital, but I do have decent collection of records and CDs - am I able to connect my computer to cxa35 since it includes a dac?

I would really appreciate any insight or feedback or thoughts you may have to share with me!

Thanks in advance,
Johnny!
 
Last edited:

muljao

Well-known member
Jul 18, 2016
333
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10,970
Firstly welcome to the forum.

All the bits you picked will be nice but if you put a little more into an amp that has a built in phono amp and a dac with usb it would simplify things. Also there are powered speaker options that might work for you also if you are not set on an amp.

The other side of it is if you buy an amp with a good dac, you could buy a cheaper cd player, connect it up digitally and the better dac in the amp would carry out the sound quality duties.

You can as you say connect computer to dac on the amp if your computer has a optical output, of not you'll need a usb to optical adapter.

In your position I'd look at something like a marantz nr1200 or denon dra 800h that gives you most of what you need (you may find with built in streaming capabilities you don't need to connect pc, but if you did you could buy usb adapter for 50 dollars).
These amps mean no buying extra phono stage. If you bought either makes entry level cd player, connect via rca and try optical input and keep what you prefer.

Alternative you have the denon pma800ne or the pma600ne just amps that give you lots of inputs, phono stage, you could add a streamer if req.

I'm not saying anything wrong with the cambridge audio, but it's more simplife if you get amp with phono stage
 
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RoA

Well-known member
Feb 11, 2021
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370
I can't say anything about your choices but if your budget is limited and you don't already have a vinyl collection ... drop that idea for the moment imho.

Buy the best amplifier speaker you can afford instead, stream, play cd's.

Vinyl is expensive. A a good TT will start around a Rega RP3. Add all the other bits you will need and you'll soon be out of pocket.

If it was me I'd get a set of MK1 Kef Wireless and then add in time.
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
951
605
19,770
Welcome from me too! Priced in dollars probably means every item is an import. That’s fine, but often you are paying a premium, whereas some local brands may be more competitive. As a Brit, I only have a vague idea of USD pricing. Many stores offer better values when you buy a ‘bundle’, so do shop around.
Not much to criticise over individual items, though I’d also choose a better amp especially if you have a record collection. The Cambridge does have a phono input, I see.
 
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millennia_one

Well-known member
Sep 1, 2014
928
451
11,270
Hello,

This is my first post here, so looking forward to interacting with you all.
Also I'm a total newbie when it comes to Hi Fi so please bare with me and pardon my ignorance.

For a while now I have been thinking of building a Hi Fi system and now that I have moved to a bigger apartment I couldn't wait to get started. I thought it was going to be easy but here I am deep down the rabbit hole... annoyed... pulling my hair out... 2AM writing this post. I just can't seem to make up my mind.

I have a very limited budget and it's not very flexible (at least at this time) and this is what I have come up with:
  • Dali Spektor 2 ($350 USD)
  • Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO Turntable ($500 USD)
  • Cambridge AXA35 Integrated Amp $(350 USD)
  • Cambridge AXC35 CD Player ($350 USD)
  • Turntable Station by Line Phono ($230 USD)

I had initial budget of $1500 but I'm getting close to $2000 which is as far as I can go...

I'm building this system in my office where I spend most of the time during the day. My office is a small 90 sqft room and I do not need a very loud system. I have my Home Theatre system already setup for that... so this is more for personal listening.

Because I'm sticking with everything entry level yet still spending almost 2 grands, I'm battling with a few thoughts and I want to make sure my money is well spent.
  1. is this setup durable and scalable?
  2. Should I invest more on amp and speakers and perhaps push cd player purchase to later... (CXA61 integrated amp with Schiit Mani phono amp + B&W 606/7, Oberon 1 or Klipsch rp600m)... this puts me over budget by $500 bucks but does it make my setup more scalable?
  3. Most of my music is digital, but I do have decent collection of records and CDs - am I able to connect my computer to cxa35 since it includes a dac?

I would really appreciate any insight or feedback or thoughts you may have to share with me!

Thanks in advance,
Johnny!

Hi and a very warm welcome.

I think you need to push something back especially if you're really starting to reach the top end of your budget. Some great advice I once received, "if you can't afford to buy something twice then you can't afford it" and it stuck with me

I'd seriously consider second hand for the CD player, and old DVD player would work wonders from the like of Arcam or pioneer saving you some serious pennies.

Amp wise id try and find one with a Phono stage as well as an inbuilt dac saving you more pennies
 

johnnyb

Active member
Apr 24, 2021
11
4
25
Firstly welcome to the forum.

...

I'm not saying anything wrong with the cambridge audio, but it's more simplife if you get amp with phono stage
Thank you for your response.

The Cambridge AXC35 I'm looking to buy does have an integrated moving magnet phono stage. But no USB or Bluetooth.
However, it doesn't have any digital audio input which I'm not sure I need at this point but down the line I'd like to add a network streaming player like the CXN V2
or something alike. Not sure if that would be a good match with the AXC35....

Next upgrade will be something like cxa61 (3 times the cost of aforementioned amp) which has better DAC but no Phono :( , aptx bluetooth , usb audio... but also I don't think this amp is a good match for the Dali Spektor 2, it will be underutilized.
Ugh what have I gotten myself into...
 

johnnyb

Active member
Apr 24, 2021
11
4
25
Hi and a very warm welcome.

I think you need to push something back especially if you're really starting to reach the top end of your budget. Some great advice I once received, "if you can't afford to buy something twice then you can't afford it" and it stuck with me

I'd seriously consider second hand for the CD player, and old DVD player would work wonders from the like of Arcam or pioneer saving you some serious pennies.

Amp wise id try and find one with a Phono stage as well as an inbuilt dac saving you more pennies
Thank you!

I agree with your advice, hence why I have drawn a line at 2k anything more would def hurt my pocket lol

And the Cambridge AXC35 I'm looking to buy does have an integrated moving magnet phono stage. What Hi-FI has rated it full stars and many other reviewers speak highly of it
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
951
605
19,770
Yes! If you look at my list above this is exactly the setup i'm trying to build. Just want to validate the compatibility of all these together which is why I decided to make this post here seeking advice from experts :)
That’s why I showed it, to build on my point earlier about buying a bundled system to save money. There’s everything you need in your proposal. I am validating it by showing your choices from the UK’s top dealer. (Nobody here is an ‘expert’, incindentally. Most of us are enthusiasts though.)

A few of us have suggested a slightly better amp, if your budget allows, but you may be quite happy with the 35. I also hinted that non imported products may be better value. Are you in the USA?

It is invariably better value in the long run to buy better and less often, rather than upgrading within months.

Re the CXN, it has analogue outputs so will plug directly into a spare input, like ‘Aux’ on your amp.
 
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johnnyb

Active member
Apr 24, 2021
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That’s why I showed it, to build on my point earlier about buying a bundled system to save money. There’s everything you need in your proposal. I am validating it by showing your choices from the UK’s top dealer.

A few of us have suggested a slightly better amp, if your budget allows, but you may be quite happy with the 35. I also hinted that non imported products may be better value. Are you in the USA?

It is invariably better value in the long run to buy better and less often, rather than upgrading within months.

Re the CXN, it has analogue outputs so will plug directly into a spare input, like ‘Aux’ on your amp.
I agree with your point of buying better which is why I’m considering all possible options now before I commit to anything and I really appreciate your input!

Yes I’m in the US. There’s something about these Cambridge system that I cannot look past them lol. Do you think the CXA61 is a better choice in a long run? It doesn’t have preamp built in but it does has usb and Apt X Bluetooth, better DAC and phono stage. It’s almost 3 times the cost of axa35 but I’m now inclined towards spending a little more on amp and buy CD player or Record player later.
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
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With your office size, and the Dali speakers, I suspect the axa35 will be quite powerful enough. But most of us who’ve been enjoying audio for years often see a really good amplifier as the heart of a system.

The facilities are another matter - personally I have never wanted to send Bluetooth signals to my amp, but then I can Airplay to my streamer if I have to. Likewise, I prefer the DAC in the source - the CD player or streamer - but you may not. I can understand that in an office it might be very handy to send music from your phone to your amp, for example, via Bluetoot.

If you have a collection of LPs, then money spent on a turntable is well worth it, but if you’re starting out, it’s an expensive rabbit hole, however trendy it is right now. Streaming is the future, though I still enjoy my records and CDs from the past, and streaming now makes up the majority of my listening. But we are all different!

If you might want to move the Hifi into a nice apartment one day then get the better amp, and stick to CDs or streaming for now. But if it’s staying in the office, you can not go wrong with your initial choice, imo.
 

johnnyb

Active member
Apr 24, 2021
11
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Nopiano,

Thanks for the response again!

I have a decent collection of CDs and around 35-40 records that I've been collecting in hope of playing them on a decent TT one day lol. And I'm in a rental apartment for now but sooner or later will be moving out.

I've already purchased the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo with Sumiko Ranier MM Cartridge. It was highly recommended by most stores I visited.

I'm still on budget ($2000) with Pro-Ject Carbon Evo TT, CXA61, Dali Spektor 2.

I just need to add a decent phono preamp - have a few in mind the likes of Cambridge Solo, Pro-ject Box S2 and Schiit Mani or any other < $200.

I've decided to leave CD Player out for now, will try to get a used or refurbed one if possible like Millenia_one suggested... Or i'd stick with AXC35 - its backordered everywhere here in the States.

I'm so glad I decided to post here, I definitely feel like i'm making a more informed decision!

PS: do you have any recommendations re: phono preamp? Are you familiar with any I mentioned above?
 

rainsoothe

Well-known member
Apr 30, 2012
679
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Nopiano,

Thanks for the response again!

I have a decent collection of CDs and around 35-40 records that I've been collecting in hope of playing them on a decent TT one day lol. And I'm in a rental apartment for now but sooner or later will be moving out.

I've already purchased the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo with Sumiko Ranier MM Cartridge. It was highly recommended by most stores I visited.

I'm still on budget ($2000) with Pro-Ject Carbon Evo TT, CXA61, Dali Spektor 2.

I just need to add a decent phono preamp - have a few in mind the likes of Cambridge Solo, Pro-ject Box S2 and Schiit Mani or any other < $200.

I've decided to leave CD Player out for now, will try to get a used or refurbed one if possible like Millenia_one suggested... Or i'd stick with AXC35 - its backordered everywhere here in the States.

I'm so glad I decided to post here, I definitely feel like i'm making a more informed decision!

PS: do you have any recommendations re: phono preamp? Are you familiar with any I mentioned above?
Hi and welcome! Are the speakers gonna be placed on stands or on a desk? If it's gonna be on a desk, I'd think about a headphone setup instead (if you don't mind listening through headphones). Otherwise, the components you're considering are pretty good.

A great alternative would be a Rega Io amp (or even a Brio if it fits your budget), which also comes with a really decent integrated phonostage, and perhaps a Bluesound Node 2i for DAC and streaming duties, or even the discontinued (but still available) Google Chromecast Audio for streaming.

For the record, I think the Schiit Mani is great, and perfect for my (higher budget) setup, especially with the Swagman Labs PSU.
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
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PS: do you have any recommendations re: phono preamp? Are you familiar with any I mentioned above?
I know the ones you mention only by repute. I’ve used an early and newer version of the Rega Fono, and if you can buy a mini or newer secondhand (on your voltage) then it’s a no brainer for the quality. Otherwise, I’d go for the Pro-ject mainly because of their preeminence in turntables and related products.
 
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johnnyb

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Apr 24, 2021
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I know the ones you mention only by repute. I’ve used an early and newer version of the Rega Fono, and if you can buy a mini or newer secondhand (on your voltage) then it’s a no brainer for the quality. Otherwise, I’d go for the Pro-ject mainly because of their preeminence in turntables and related products.
Sorry for going MIA.

I've finally settled on a system :D
DALI Spektor 2 (mounted on a 6 inch desk stand to align with my ears)
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo TT
Pro-Ject Phono Box DC Phono Preamp
Cambridge CXA61 Integrated Amp

I absolutely love the sound and quality of every product in my setup. I'm also glad that I went with CXA61, this thing sounds absolutely amazing compared to AXA35 and for obvious reasons. I've owned a pair of ATH-M50x for over 7 years and have never used a DAC... plugged them into the CXA61 and HOLY ****! Mind blown!

Compared the DALIs with Klipsch RP500M, KEF Q350, CA SX60 and Q Acoustics 3030i. QAcoustics were my second favorites, but I favorited DALIs for their size, clarity and precision in the sound. Bass is bit absent but I can always throw a sub later on.

This system puts me right at budget - Cambridge CXC CD Transport coming up next to complete the setup

Thank you everyone for helping me make a better decision!
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
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Glad you invested in the better amp after all. Now you can see why it might not be *necessary* but it is better! Nice system, and I hope you get lots of pleasure from it.
 
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johnnyb

Active member
Apr 24, 2021
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May i ask why you spend so much on the amp and so little on the speakers ?

£749 vs £199

The cambridge audio amp has never been good at bass
For now I have a small office but at some point (in a year or 2) I'd like to upgrade my listening room and will probably require bigger speakers... hence I decided to invest in better amp now and these speakers I can always repurpose and/or upgrade if need be.

Now the other reason is that I really really like these speakers... I have compared them with KEF Q150 and Q350, Q Acoustics 3020i and 3030i, Klipsch RP500M and RP600M and finally the Cambridge Audio SX50 and SX60. Only pair that came close to the dynamics of DALI Spektor 2 was the Klipsch. but they were also too clunky and big for my room plus DALI still sounded and looked better!

I'm very happy with how everything sounds put together.
 
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insider9

Well-known member
Sep 20, 2016
1,148
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For now I have a small office but at some point (in a year or 2) I'd like to upgrade my listening room and will probably require bigger speakers... hence I decided to invest in better amp now and these speakers I can always repurpose and/or upgrade if need be.

Now the other reason is that I really really like these speakers... I have compared them with KEF Q150 and Q350, Q Acoustics 3020i and 3030i, Klipsch RP500M and RP600M and finally the Cambridge Audio SX50 and SX60. Only pair that came close to the dynamics for DALI Spektor 2 was the Klipsch. but they were also too clunky and big for my room plus DALI still sounded and looked better!

I'm very happy with how everything sounds put together.
Happy for you. I'd also pick the speaker I like no matter what price. Dali makes cracking speakers at all price point for a long time now.
 

angelmf2704

Well-known member
Nov 15, 2020
65
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I can't say anything about your choices but if your budget is limited and you don't already have a vinyl collection ... drop that idea for the moment imho.

Buy the best amplifier speaker you can afford instead, stream, play cd's.

Vinyl is expensive. A a good TT will start around a Rega RP3. Add all the other bits you will need and you'll soon be out of pocket.

If it was me I'd get a set of MK1 Kef Wireless and then add in time.
I agree with you. Getting involved in vynil could be frustrating and very expensive. Streaming and CD sound great when mastered correctly. I like your setup by the way.
 
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