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Help deciding on new Hi-Fi

admin_exported

New member
Aug 10, 2019
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Hi all,

Here's my situation. I don't currently own a hi-fi system. All my music is on the MacBook Pro in MP3s and Flac format. I listen mainly to a mix of classical, electronic, jazz, acoustic, and the odd pop/rock/dance. For ten years I've been listening to music through my old Altec Lansing computer speakers (which have an awful hiss sound when not playing anything).

So time came to upgrade. I started researching and thought the Denon DM39 would do. However after being advised to listen to the Arcam Solo Mini by a salesman, I fell for the richness of sound of the Arcam. However the Arcam doesn't suit my technical needs which are as follows:

1. The best sound quality for around £700 (+ £400 for speakers)

2. Network streamer with AirPlay (wi-fi not necessary as I prefer to use ethernet)

3. FLAC playing/streaming capability

4. Optical input

5. DAB receiver

6. Must be able to add a sub in the future

7. no CD player, thanks!

After some research I noticed that the Marantz 603 and the Naim unitiQute have all that I need. However I listend to the 603 and was not as satisfying as the Arcam. As for the unitiQute it's a bit too expensive. Also I keep reading extreme and mixed opinions about Naim's unitiQute sound quality. People seem to either love it or hate it! How can this be? I know that the only way to find out is to listen to it, so that's what I'm doing this weekend. I want to compare it with the arcam.

Anyway, my question is, whether there are any other systems out there that do what I want for less than £1000 and without compromising on sound quality. I don't mind if they're seperates as long as it sounds good. I quite like the look of the Denon D-F109DAB but there seem to be no reviews out yet. Also the Marantz PM604 with the Marantz NA704 fits the bill but it looks like the kind of kit you'd find in a gangster's house - i.e. too "bling" for my small and minimalist room.

I've also researched other combinations of amps with different network players but the good reviews seem to always circle back to the Marantz combination above. So, please help me make the list of contenders for my first proper Hi-Fi. Remeber sound quality is paramount.

Then come the speakers and that's another long story, which boils down to Monitor Audio's RX1 (which I have listened to) or B&W 685 (which I want to listen to)? Any other suggestions?

Buying this will be quite an investment for me which I hope will last many years so thank you if you bothered to read this far :)
 
T

the record spot

Guest
If you can find one, you could demo Onkyo's TX8050 network stereo receiver. £400, great functionality and connectivity. Sound quality is deeply impressive I find, as do most owners (check the web) one or two less complimentary ones and others think it needs careful partnering, but of course, that is true of most separates. I use mine with a pair of Tannoys and it's a very fine solution. Four digital inputs, a 24/96 DAC and a front mounted USB input that'll take your iPod, external HDD, etc.
 

matthewpiano

Well-known member
Nov 23, 2007
395
206
19,270
The Onkyo is a great solution and very capable. Should work well with B&W 685s too (which, by the way, are incredibe speakers).

The one draw-back of quite a few of these streaming devices (the Onkyo included unless there has been a software update since I had mine) is the lack of support for gapless playback. If you want support for this you would need to consider an option like the Squeezebox Touch or one of the Cambridge Audio streamers. To me, the lack of gapless support is a deal breaker but it might not bother you.
 

matthewpiano

Well-known member
Nov 23, 2007
395
206
19,270
Thinking about it, I'd probably opt for a Squeezebox Touch (if you can still get one), Onkyo's new A-9050 amp (with ample digital connectivity) and your choice of speakers (B&W 685s, MA RX1s or the Tannoy DC4).
 

steve_1979

Well-known member
Jul 14, 2010
231
7
18,795
siulca said:
All my music is on the MacBook Pro...

my technical needs which are as follows:

1. The best sound quality for around £700 (+ £400 for speakers)

2. Network streamer with AirPlay (wi-fi not necessary as I prefer to use ethernet)

3. FLAC playing/streaming capability

4. Optical input

5. DAB receiver

6. Must be able to add a sub in the future

7. no CD player, thanks!
Hi siulca and welcome to the forum. :)

I suggest that you take a look at the AVI ADM9.1 speakers used together with an Apple Airport Express.

The AVI speakers have exellent sound quality and have the optical inputs and amplifiers built in to them. The only thing that this setup is missing is a DAB receiver but as you can listen to thousands of radio stations on the internet using the MacBook this shouldn't be a problem.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
First of all, thank you for the swift and helpful replies.

<cite>...you could demo Onkyo's TX8050 network stereo receiver. £400, great functionality and connectivity. </cite>

This looks like it ticks all the spec boxes but at that price and functionality it appears to be in competition with the Marantz 603 in terms of sound quality and not something better. Also some users seem to have found a bunch of issues with it: http://www.avsforum.com/t/1353726/beware-of-the-onkyo-tx-8050

matthewpiano, thank you for drawing my atention to the gapless playback issue, that's something I wasn't aware of. Also the squeeze box is something that I hadn't considered as it looks like a product of convenience and not built by a hi-fi specialist. Perhaps I'm judging too soon?

steve_1979, the AVI ADM9.1 do look like neat speakers indeed but I'd rather have an independent system that I can switch on in the morning and listen to some radio without having to boot up the mac.

By the way, what is everyone's opinion on the Naim? I really like the unitiQute and if I find that its sound blows the rest in my contenders list, I might wait a bit and give myself a christmas/birthday present :D Has anyone heard/compared/owned it?

Many thanks again.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
<cite>The MBP does what you want (Internet radio v DAB). I would add an Airport Express & AVIs. </cite>

I'd like to have the option to listen to the radio without having the computer on.
 

Optare prisma

New member
Nov 23, 2011
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Just want to share my experience with the Marantz NA7004 which I bought over a month ago. Despite the host of features it offers. I used it primarily as a dac. I'm very pleased with it so far. I have the 6003 combo as well. A quick comparison with my CD 6003, the NA7004 does sound quite a fair bit better, especially at low volume. If sound quality is paramount to you. The NA7004 and probably the PM7004 (to get the best out of the NA7004) may be the answer for you. And they look great together as well IMO.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v487/CZsfl/P1030878.jpg
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Optare prisma, personaly I find the Marantz too imposing, specially if I put it in my small room, it'll be a real atention seeker ;) But perhaps not so much in black. Does the NA7004 support gapless playback by the way? What speakers do you have?
 

Optare prisma

New member
Nov 23, 2011
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Hello Siulca. It does not support gapless playback unfortunately, which is one of its shortcoming. My speakers are Mission M51.
 
T

the record spot

Guest
siulca said:
First of all, thank you for the swift and helpful replies.

<cite>...you could demo Onkyo's TX8050 network stereo receiver. £400, great functionality and connectivity. </cite>

This looks like it ticks all the spec boxes but at that price and functionality it appears to be in competition with the Marantz 603 in terms of sound quality and not something better. Also some users seem to have found a bunch of issues with it: http://www.avsforum.com/t/1353726/beware-of-the-onkyo-tx-8050
Yes, and you've obviously not read the rest of the thread where other contributors highlight alternative possible causes on the back of that particular owner's very specific concerns for the functionality he wants.

Of course, if those few issues are likely to bother you because of what you plan to use, then move on. But seeing as you've not got a stereo it seems you're missing the point and looking to find issues. Have you seen what the player offers?

But, seeing as this needs a bit of balance...69 user reviews at Retrevo below...

http://www.retrevo.com/s/Onkyo-TX-8050-Receivers-review-manual/id/23920dj393/t/1-2/

...a further 38 user reviews at the US Crutchfield site...

http://www.crutchfield.com/S-zpAsv69RseF/p_580TX8050/Onkyo-TX-8050.html

...20 reviews on Google Products page...

http://www.google.co.uk/products/catalog?hl=en&safe=off&q=onkyop+TX-8050+review&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.&bpcl=35466521&biw=1366&bih=643&um=1&ie=UTF-8&cid=12342351685909693271&os=reviews&sa=X&ei=hAmLUNa5CYSf0QWy1YHwCw&ved=0CCEQ9AIwAA

...Amazon...

http://www.amazon.com/Onkyo-TX-8050-Network-Stereo-Receiver/product-reviews/B004UR486G

...130 or so reviews on Testfreaks...

http://www.testfreaks.co.uk/stereo-amplifiers-receivers/onkyo-tx-8050/

I trust this helps you come to an informed opinion. Oh and I did one on this site a few months ago. Just search.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Ah, another thing I meant to ask is whether network players in general support fast forwarding?

Optare prisma, does the NA7004 have this functionality?
 

calpark46

New member
Jan 19, 2009
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0
The OP asked for some opinions on the Unitiqute. I would be interested in anyone's opinions, particularly compared to the Solo Neo.

Siulca, if you get a chance to compare the two over the weekend, please post your impressions.
 

steve_1979

Well-known member
Jul 14, 2010
231
7
18,795
siulca said:
steve_1979, the AVI ADM9.1 do look like neat speakers indeed but I'd rather have an independent system that I can switch on in the morning and listen to some radio without having to boot up the mac.
I have to admit the boot up time is something that's occasionally irked me when using a computer based setup to listen to music. Although it is possible to shut Windows down in 'sleep mode' if I wanted my computer to start up immediately.

siulca said:
By the way, what is everyone's opinion on the Naim? I really like the unitiQute and if I find that its sound blows the rest in my contenders list, I might wait a bit and give myself a christmas/birthday present :D Has anyone heard/compared/owned it?
I like the UnityQute. It sounds nice and looks very classy. I also think that it's a bit underpowerd and is overpriced for what it offers.

The Onkyo TX8050 is (IMO) a better sounding and better equipped product. It also costs much less than the UnityQute too. The Onkyo isn't anything special to look at though.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Well, I just arrived from the Audio-t shop where I listened to the unitiCute and the Arcam Solo Neo, both paired with B&W 685. I had a USB stick with a folder of FLAC and one of MP3 files. Sadly the Neo doesn't support FLAC, or if it does it didn't like my files.

I was surprised at how small the unitiQute actually is compared to the Neo. The Qute's remote felt solid and responsive, while the Neo's looks/feels tacky and there's a delayed response from its comands.

When it comes to sound quality I have to admint that I found it difficult to tell them apart (although I only heard to 320Kbps MP3s on the Neo). They both sound very clear and precise. And both very revealing of detail. Perhaps the Qute had a tiny more bass but only marginally. An interesting thing that both systems revealed was that my right hearing is slightly impared. Not hugely but noticeable when sitting in the sweet spot of a beautiful stereo image.

The audio salesman mentioned that the unitiQute supports a proper subwoofer setup, where it cuts off the sub frequencies from the speakers which removes strain from lower frequencies. Aparently this a feature that not many systems below this price have? Can anyone confirm? Because I plan to get a sub at some point, this is a feature I'd like to have.

One thing that I wasn't expecting though, was that I found the whole experience to be a huge lesson on how difficult it is to compare audio systems. I'm obviously no audiophile but I don't know how anyone can compare without being able to switch the same track between two systems back and forth. This makes me wonder if audio reviews aren't a bit overrated. I believe that unless blindfolded, there's a good chance the review will be biased. Any opinions on this?

Another thing that I learned was that because these systems show you the detail in the music, this also includes the "bad" detail. For example one of the artists that I enjoy is RJD2. His remixes have an amazing beat and flow but the hiss of old recordings was so evident in both of these systems that it was too distracting from the actual music. So I guess that an inevitable consequence of getting a decent audio system is that I will start appreciating different music, based more perhaps on the quality of the production.

After comparing both systems I went back to the unituQute with the Monitor Audio's RX1. Again I was impressed and (probably I'll get hanged here by the B&W fans but) I couldn't tell them apart from the 685s. So I think I'll go with the RX1 as they're smaller for my small room and prefer the way they look. Their finish is perfect.

Handn't I had to wait for next months salary, I'd have ordered the unitiQute with the BX1s. They are quite a bit over my budget but I figured winter is coming, I'll just wear more coats indoors and turn on the heating less. I'll walk to work, it's only 45mins. And I'll reduce electricity usage to the computer and the hi-fi. Sorted! :D
 

steve_1979

Well-known member
Jul 14, 2010
231
7
18,795
siulca said:
One thing that I wasn't expecting though, was that I found the whole experience to be a huge lesson on how difficult it is to compare audio systems. I'm obviously no audiophile but I don't know how anyone can compare without being able to switch the same track between two systems back and forth. This makes me wonder if audio reviews aren't a bit overrated. I believe that unless blindfolded, there's a good chance the review will be biased. Any opinions on this?
You make a very good point here and I agree with you completely.
 

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