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How to get the most hifi for your bucks?

Timo

New member
May 6, 2016
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With great interest I am following Muljao's thread on "Items that give the least improvement". I wonder along similar lines but coming from the other end: how to maximise improvement within financial constraints? It has been suggested that speakers and amplifier are at the heart of a hifi system -- so these two components should receive the most attention. Fair enough!

But, how to balance this with other components? For instance, 2k on amplifier and speakers (1K each?) might get dragged down a lot by a 200 quid CD player. So it might be worth to squeeze a bit out of the amp and speaker budget for a proper source with a decent enough DAC to do amp and speakers justice.

Or, if one has some financial flexibility in the amp and speaker upgrade, where should one do the "step-up": amp or speaker? For instance, does moving from Arcam's A19 to A29 make much difference? Or should one rather spend the "spare" money on better speakers?

Views on how to spend your bucks the best would be greatly appreciated -- cheers!
 

Andrewjvt

New member
Jun 18, 2014
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Me personally building a system will always go amp firat then pick speakers but others might do it the other way round.

Id always get the very best amp and save for it then get cheap speakers to use while i save for better speakers.

I would only worry about source after i have top amp and speakers. The source while also important wont impact as greatly on your sound and some people cant even hear the difference between cheap and expensive cdp.

Although if i had nothing atm and was building from stratch id go straight into active. (ATC SCM100S A) second hand. Then get a hegel pre amp.
 

avole

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Jul 15, 2016
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is all you need. There's frighteningly little difference between one costing 20€ and one costing 2000€. To be honest, there's little difference between amplifiers either, so you're always better off spending the most on speakers.

These days, though, I'd look at the wireless active solution. The Dynaudio Xeo speakers are top quality, don't require any cable other than the power ones and can do multi- room.
 

thewinelake.

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Jan 22, 2016
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It does depend if it's a one-off spend or the first rung of the (sometimes painful) ladder of seperates upgraditis.

If starting from nothing, and with an objective of listening to music rather than the system itself, it seems to me that Active (properly active) is indeed the way to go. It seems perfectly reasonable that this gives the designer the best opportunity to match amp & speakers in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

An alternative approach is to go for cheap second hand components (or, indeed, like I did, cheap secondhand active system). A bit like buying a seconhand car, if you are knowledgeable and patient you can get a bargain.

I also agree that lots of money spent on digital source components seems a bit of a waste. The quality of a £15 Chromecast Audio is perfectly up to driving a £1,000-£2,000 amp/speaker combo. I'm sure there are expensive systems where one can begin to tell the differences in an A-B test, but you'd not necessarily benefit from that at home when you're listening rather than testing unless your mind works in that particular way!
 

ID.

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Feb 22, 2010
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I have no doubt whatsoever that the lindsayt approach would by far get you the best value for money, and I think the greatest cost might be the time one spends acquiring the knowledge/doing the research required.
 

abacus

Well-known member
Sep 24, 2008
383
133
19,070
1. Set your budget

2. Look at items that match your requirements

3. Pick those that look nice to you

4. Go to a dealer(s) and try out different combinations of those on your short list (Don’t make a decision on your first demo)

5. Buy the combination you like the sound of best

6. Get some basic decent cable & interconnects (Avoid anything made by Hi-Fi cable manufactures) from Maplin’s or similar.

7. Throw all your Hi-Fi mags in the dustbin and avoid Hi-Fi forums

8. Get some decent content and enjoy your system

Bill
 

Leeps

New member
Dec 10, 2012
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thewinelake. said:
An alternative approach is to go for cheap second hand components (or, indeed, like I did, cheap secondhand active system). A bit like buying a seconhand car, if you are knowledgeable and patient you can get a bargain.
Completely agree with this. In my experience I don't think the key is cost at all. It's whether you actually enjoy the components or not. I've owned and listened to quite a number of different speakers over recent years and the ones that really hit the spot have not been the most expensive. So while in general I would agree with the law of diminishing returns, sometimes spending more money and "upgrading" makes matters worse.

My favourite speakers of all time (which I now proudly own) are 5 ten year old Ruark speakers. I paid a total of £540 for all 5 speakers and they sound far far better than speakers I'd previously owned costing many times that. So if you lock onto a particular model or brand that really floats your boat and then search them out used, that's where my money would go and has done.

I've listened to some pretty expensive gear at hifi shows. Some of it has been really good (Neat, Paradigm, Anthem, Spendor), but some of it has been so bad I just had to walk straight out of the room again. So repeating myself, it's not all about the money you spend.
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
181
61
18,670
lindsayt said:
Here's a few tips for getting the most high fidelity for the least amount of cash:

1 DIY

2 Go 2nd hand

3 Don't buy flavour of the month / over-hyped / popular items. Buy something obscure.

4 be at the right place at the right time. Buy from outside the usual channels. IE NOT from dealers nor ebay. If you do buy from ebay, look out for miss-spelled item headers. Pay cash on collection only. Never send money to scammers.

5 buy items that are cosmetically tatty

6 buy items that are broken / need repairs that you know can be repaired cheaply - preferably by yourself, alternatively by a trusted technician.

7 buy ugly kit

8 keep an open mind

9 don't stick to ANY rules when it comes to allocating budget between source, amp, speakers, cables, stands

10 buy equipment that you're confident you can sell on for more money. If you don't want to keep it, sell it and use the profits to fund your next purchase

11 less is more, where you can get away with less. If you go for a less is more approach you'll be able to concentrate your funds more. EG by building a system based around a passive pre-amplifier you'll be able to afford the very finest, boutique resistor based stepped attenuator for the price of a run of the mill 2nd hand active pre-amplifier.

12 be willing to buy professional audio equipment as well as domestic hi-fi.

13 use common sense when matching components. EG don't put a low compliance cartridge in a high mass arm.

14 Be aware of the price when new and the weight. Higher in both categories is generally a good sign. But treat it as a sign only.

15 Don't get taken in by marketing of any sort. Plough your own furrow. Buy what's right for you. Your tastes. Your needs. Your desires.
That's a great list. May I just correct number 13, where I think you meant don't put a high compliance cartridge in a high mass arm.
 

lindsayt

New member
Apr 8, 2011
16
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0
Here's a few tips for getting the most high fidelity for the least amount of cash:

1 DIY

2 Go 2nd hand

3 Don't buy flavour of the month / over-hyped / popular items. Buy something obscure.

4 be at the right place at the right time. Buy from outside the usual channels. IE NOT from dealers nor ebay. If you do buy from ebay, look out for miss-spelled item headers. Pay cash on collection only. Never send money to scammers.

5 buy items that are cosmetically tatty

6 buy items that are broken / need repairs that you know can be repaired cheaply - preferably by yourself, alternatively by a trusted technician.

7 buy ugly kit

8 keep an open mind

9 don't stick to ANY rules when it comes to allocating budget between source, amp, speakers, cables, stands

10 buy equipment that you're confident you can sell on for more money. If you don't want to keep it, sell it and use the profits to fund your next purchase

11 less is more, where you can get away with less. If you go for a less is more approach you'll be able to concentrate your funds more. EG by building a system based around a passive pre-amplifier you'll be able to afford the very finest, boutique resistor based stepped attenuator for the price of a run of the mill 2nd hand active pre-amplifier.

12 be willing to buy professional audio equipment as well as domestic hi-fi.

13 use common sense when matching components. EG don't put a high (thanks for the correction nopiano) compliance cartridge in a high mass arm.

14 Be aware of the price when new and the weight. Higher in both categories is generally a good sign. But treat it as a sign only.

15 Don't get taken in by marketing of any sort. Plough your own furrow. Buy what's right for you. Your tastes. Your needs. Your desires.
 

muljao

New member
Jul 18, 2016
154
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I find this very interesting, but there is one hi-fi shop (that does seperates) 20 miles from me. They do 3 or 4 of the popular makes (Denon/Marantz, Onkyo and I seen Rega there). Anything else is likely possible if ordered, but I'm not sure how you can try these without buying.

The next shop I am aware of is about 80 miles from where I live, and then there are a few in Dublin. This does make the forums and hifi mags helpful for someone like myself when trying to buy (grant it I will never be buying really high budget gear, and anything that remotely gets the thumbs up here is likely as good as I would ever need)

I did get it in my head a few weeks ago that a really good DAC would benefit all my sources (Flac from laptop/ cds and flacs from a modest bluray, and streams through chromecast, digitally passing through to said DAC), but I asked a few questions here and another poster reckoned my DAC was likely good enough. It probably is, and while I'll keep reading the advice here, I'll likely buy a few mags also before I make a bigger purchase
 

matthewpiano

Well-known member
Nov 23, 2007
232
18
18,795
abacus said:
1. Set your budget

2. Look at items that match your requirements

3. Pick those that look nice to you

4. Go to a dealer(s) and try out different combinations of those on your short list (Don’t make a decision on your first demo)

5. Buy the combination you like the sound of best

6. Get some basic decent cable & interconnects (Avoid anything made by Hi-Fi cable manufactures) from Maplin’s or similar.

7. Throw all your Hi-Fi mags in the dustbin and avoid Hi-Fi forums

8. Get some decent content and enjoy your system

Bill
100% sense. Totally agree, and there's been several times I should have followed this. On one occasion I auditioned Marantz CD6004 with Rotel RA-04SE and B&W 686 and thoroughly enjoyed it. I ended up having my head turned by Arcam CD17, A18 and the 686s, bought them thinking they *must* be better and soon regretted it.
 

CnoEvil

New member
Aug 21, 2009
556
8
0
Fully understand the way you like the sound presented and know what brands will give this to you....and the only way to do that is a combination of research and a lot of demoing.

If you don't know what is out there, it's very easy to make an expensive mistake. What you prefer could be Valves, or some Active speakers, from the likes of AVI.
 

ChrisIRL

New member
Apr 12, 2014
36
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0
Firstly always ask dealers for a cut, I've literally been given hundreds off various items simply by asking.

Buy something that has plenty built in already. My unitiqute 2 for example has ended my constant amp/dac/source swapping. Not cheap but when you break it down into its individual parts it's not too bad at all. Eliminates the endless searching for component synergy too.

Spend well on speakers and you'll probably only spend once ( or twice ;) ). What might seem like a budget blower will pale in comparison to the money lost dribbling your way up the ladder.
 

knaithrover

Moderator
Nov 24, 2013
159
57
10,670
Leeps said:
thewinelake. said:
An alternative approach is to go for cheap second hand components (or, indeed, like I did, cheap secondhand active system). A bit like buying a seconhand car, if you are knowledgeable and patient you can get a bargain.
Completely agree with this. In my experience I don't think the key is cost at all. It's whether you actually enjoy the components or not. I've owned and listened to quite a number of different speakers over recent years and the ones that really hit the spot have not been the most expensive. So while in general I would agree with the law of diminishing returns, sometimes spending more money and "upgrading" makes matters worse.

My favourite speakers of all time (which I now proudly own) are 5 ten year old Ruark speakers. I paid a total of £540 for all 5 speakers and they sound far far better than speakers I'd previously owned costing many times that. So if you lock onto a particular model or brand that really floats your boat and then search them out used, that's where my money would go and has done.

I've listened to some pretty expensive gear at hifi shows. Some of it has been really good (Neat, Paradigm, Anthem, Spendor), but some of it has been so bad I just had to walk straight out of the room again. So repeating myself, it's not all about the money you spend.
I really like the look of Ruark Templars but not a chance in hell of trying before I buy. Not too much of a punt at around £200 quid though
 

knaithrover

Moderator
Nov 24, 2013
159
57
10,670
Lots and lots of research on oldish midrange kit then buying 2nd hand with an element of hit and miss is my method. If you get it wrong you can sell on without any loss at all if you are cute about it. Great fun and very very satisfying when you get it right without spending big bucks
 

NSA_watch_my_toilet

New member
Aug 24, 2013
7
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Timo said:
With great interest I am following Muljao's thread on "Items that give the least improvement". I wonder along similar lines but coming from the other end: how to maximise improvement within financial constraints? It has been suggested that speakers and amplifier are at the heart of a hifi system -- so these two components should receive the most attention. Fair enough!

But, how to balance this with other components? For instance, 2k on amplifier and speakers (1K each?) might get dragged down a lot by a 200 quid CD player. So it might be worth to squeeze a bit out of the amp and speaker budget for a proper source with a decent enough DAC to do amp and speakers justice.

Or, if one has some financial flexibility in the amp and speaker upgrade, where should one do the "step-up": amp or speaker? For instance, does moving from Arcam's A19 to A29 make much difference? Or should one rather spend the "spare" money on better speakers?

Views on how to spend your bucks the best would be greatly appreciated -- cheers!
I don't know if you read this forum in the last months. But it was already discussed more than 5 times in different threads. No, a 200 pounds CD player will not drag down your 1k/1k combination IF HE IS MADE CORRECTLY ! And this last words are important, because you can buy a piece of bad engineered horse_hit for 1'500 and even more.

Amps, are here to deliever current to the speakers. If a very good speaker is not critical in any point, you could, for example, go for a first class sound with a 200 £ amplifier. I had several good speaker running here in the lab, B&W 802 D2, 804 D2, 804 D3, Triangle Magellan, Dali Epicon 6, ATC SCM 50, PMC Fact8, Goldmund Logos, Atohm GT2, Kef Blade, ProAC D18 and D30, Wilson Sophia and lots more. No one, never, needed "an over-expensive amp" to play at their best. Some where perfectly fine with some ridiculously cheap built studio amplifers.

The moral is :
-> the more current and impedance demanding the speaker is, the strongest the amplifier should be, and the more expensive it will become.
-> your speakers don't see the fancy casing of your amplifier. If money is an issue, go simple.

You could and should invest the maximum budget in your speaker. And find a decent room to insert your gear in. Because room condition is the second key point. You could have a Dali Opticon, setted up in a well prepared room, that will beat to a pulp a Triangle Magellan setted up in a bad room.
 

Benedict_Arnold

New member
Jan 16, 2013
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Buy ex demo kit from a BADA dealer.
You might get last month's model but you should get a heck of a deal and a full BADA backed warranty.
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
181
61
18,670
Benedict_Arnold said:
Buy ex demo kit from a BADA dealer. You might get last month's model but you should get a heck of a deal and a full BADA backed warranty.
I hadn't heard of BADA for years. The domain name isn't in use. Is it no longer around?

EDIT: to answr my own question;-

http://www.whathifi.com/news/clarity-alliance-officially-replaces-bada
 

Timo

New member
May 6, 2016
13
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0
Some great suggestions -- thanks so much! Though I am not sure whether I am the right person for DIY... ;-) But I have certainly started looking into ebay to get a sense for good prices for second-hand gear. Also, I look into ex-demo kit. What sort of discounts can one normally achieve when going for ex-demo gear?

Cheers!
 

Al ears

Moderator
Timo said:
Some great suggestions -- thanks so much! Though I am not sure whether I am the right person for DIY... ;-) But I have certainly started looking into ebay to get a sense for good prices for second-hand gear. Also, I look into ex-demo kit. What sort of discounts can one normally achieve when going for ex-demo gear?

Cheers!
Ex demo gear can be the way to go. Invariably it has had little use but you know if it has had any problems they will have been sorted. The discount rate varies dramatically from dealer to dealer and to equipment type. I would expect to see at least 10 percent discount if not more.

Always understand that, even if discounted, it is an asking price. You can always haggle a lower price with some dealers.
 

oivavoi10

New member
Aug 9, 2016
0
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I actually don't think this is a very difficult question to answer. It shouldn't be at least... But I guess some people will disagree ;)

1) Buy second-hand, if at all possible. No matter if we're talking about parts for DIY projects, active speakers or components for passive systems... secondhand will always give more bang for the buck. Hifi gear usually keeps up fairly well, and can be serviced in the case that something stops working. So rule 1 is simple: Don't buy new, if you can avoid it.

2) Rule 2 is to go for well-thought out DIY projects. This is also rather intuitive. When you buy commercial packages, you pay for someone else's know-how. They also want to make a profit. With DIY you only pay for the parts. DIY can be difficult, though. So the best approach for novices will usually be to purchase a complete package with good instructions. I'm particularly fond of siegfried linkwitz' designs. I honestly don't think it is possible to get better sounding speaker systems in almost any price range than the LX Mini and the LX 521, unless one goes for over-sized horn systems (those horn systems can sound damn good, though!). But even other diy designs will often deliver much more value for money than commercial systems.

3) If you must buy a commercially sold product, then go active. It's very simple. It will almost alway be much cheaper than to put together separate components. Plus, it often sounds better. The hotly debated AVI DM10 or DM5 is a good choice. Otherwise, going for a well-regarded set of studio monitors, together with a google chromecast, will also give extreme amounts of value for money. Event Opals, or the less known Eve SC208, are both monitors I've really really liked.

-----

So what would be the worst approach if one seeks value for money? Very simple: To put together a passive system with separate components and passive speakers, and buy it all new. If one is lucky, one might find very good passive speakers second-hand for not too much money, though. Then add a Behringer A500 and a chromecast, and it might not turn out that bad:)
 

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