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How would you upgrade...

mjhorsfield

New member
Nov 9, 2014
1
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Hi, this is my first post, so, "Hi" and thanks in advance for any advice you offer. Sorry for the long post.

My current system consists of:

1. Naim CD3 recently faulty (quiet/crackly left channel)

2. Naim NAP90 NAC92 pre/power amps (working)

3. Castle Harlech speakers (speaker cones come away in places and resonate causing an annoying 'buzz' at certain frequencies.

4. Rega Planar 3 turntable

5. B&W A7 (new).

6. All my music digitized on a Synology NAS with excellent WiFi throughout the house.

My main listening room is large (in my eyes): 4M x 6M with a high sloping ceiling (3m at peak). I listen to a wide range of music but mainly rock, big band and cuban (Metallica, Jools Holland, Buena Vista would be good examples).

Now here's the thing: I hate to say this but my B&W A7 via using the iPad/Synology NAS at 320, sounds better on blind testing than my pre-faulty Naim setup. The bass has more presence, the mid-ranges are more defined and I've heard things I didn't know were there. Even in the large room, the bass on the A7 has a physical presence; you can feel it as well as hear it. It passes through you and leaves an impact. All that said, the sound-stage is small as it is a single unit. There is little stereo imaging. The Naim/Harlech setup in comparison sounds 'thin' with less definition in the acoustic guitars and vocals, and the bass fails to 'hit' you. However there's clear left/right.

My CDs are digitised. I love vinyl and have a large collection but to be honest rarely delve into it for reasons of convenience. I got lazy.

Traditional dogma was to spend most on the source, then less on the amp and less on the speaker. The A7 turns this on its head. Since buying my original system I have studied a little bit of physics and my new reasoning in the digital age is as follows:

The CD player extracts a series of 1s and 0s in exactly the same way as the A7 gets its 1s and 0s from the synology NAS. 1s and 0s can not be musical. They are simply a stream of 1s and 0s. They arrive at the DAC or they don't. You can't have a high quality 1 or a low quality 1. It is either there or it isn't.

The speakers are therefore very important, rather like the tyres on your car. They are the end point. Assuming you have a string of 1s and 0s, and your amp doesn't introduce much interference, most of what you hear is due to what your speaker can do. Please correct me if my logic is wrong.

I have a buget of 2-3 thousand. I'm not afraid of second hand kit.

So, my questions:
1. Sell or repair the CD3, or repair then sell? (I would prefer a network based system rather than CDs as I can't tell the difference at decent MP3 bitrate).
2. Keep the amps? Add a flatcap? Sell them and get something else?
3. Pour most of the investment into new speakers (based on the A7 experience). Seems logical to me.
4. Can I run a source into the speakers from the NAS without spending a whole load of cash on a network streamer (going back to 1s and 0s)?
or 5. (what I've been doing) forget it as it's too complicated and overwhelming. Reviews seem industry led and full of pseudoscientific nonsense with little objective evidence (think interconnect cables). Just carry on listening, smiling and listening to the A7 and keep the 2-3 grand for something else.

Let me know your thoughts.
 

Al ears

Moderator
Traditional dogma may be rubbish....... spend more on speakers.

Personally if I had the money I would always repair anything I had to sell before parting with it in order to recoup more money.

Suggest you sell all you can and then buy an Oppo 105 and some active speakers .................. job done. *biggrin*
 

Thompsonuxb

New member
Feb 19, 2012
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It's a bit unfair comparing a busted system to your New toy......lol

Ethier get your speakers re-conned or replaced.

Googled them, are they the floorstanders with one of the drivers ontop?

If so, nice boxes - worth checking the net for repair services.

If you already have a source it may be worth getting a dac and continue using your amp if that's still good.

But for your budget you could get a quality set including speakers, amp & CDplayer to restore balance to your universe.

Find out who is your local hifi dealer and pay them a visit.

And don't worry about the 1 and 0's - there are differences.
 

davedotco

New member
Apr 24, 2013
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i always thought Harlechs to be fine speakers, given space, which you have, they can sound wonderful.

Clearly if they are in any way damaged then is is different, but in good working order I would most definitely keep them. I think the issue you are having with the comparisons with the B&Ws are to do with the way they are voiced. Hyped bass, sparkly top end is the norm on lifestyle type speakers, this may be what you are hearing to the detriment of the more neutral Harlechs.

Personally If I could get the Harlechs working, I would dump the Naim gear and buy something a little less bright and brash sounding, a lot would depend on what networking facilities you need but something like one of the bigger Peachtree Novas.

As so often with modern systems, functionality is everything, you need to work out what is important to you so thau you select the best front end options, amps and speakers are the easy bit.
 

drummerman

New member
Jan 18, 2008
540
1
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Tricky.

In view of your decent size listening room I would probably let go of your ageing and relatively low powered Naim products. Neither is a big problem, 30/ch can go a long way but they are getting on and your listening habits seem to prefer a 'physical presence' to music. - That and the fact that these Naims still command a good following should get you a decent return.

As for the speakers, it seems they are in need of tlc and unless you are handy with regards to re-coning or replacing surrounds, it could be costly and time consuming if someone else will need to carry the repairs out. Needless to say that a speaker whose cones have come loose do not function as intended. The lack of detail (guitars) could be a culmination of that and perhaps tweeters whose ferrofluid have dried out. - Not a good prospect all-in-all imho. I would sell them as is and hope for the best.

The Cdp, the CD3 is a nice unit imo. Its clearly not a transport/laser issue so my suggestion would be to get a few quotes for repair (including Naim). It will most likely be a leaking/faulty capacitor somehwere near the output. Depending on cost of the repair have it repaired if you can recoup it in the selling price or sell as is. You'd be surprised what people are still willing to pay for good cd players, even if faulty.

All this should leave you with a very decent budget, whether you decide to spend it all or not.

The active route has been mentioned. I once listened to some Dynaudio Focus 110a next to a pair of (original) AVI ADM 9.1. - I have a feeling that the Dynaudio's could be very much what you like. Plenty of powerful bass and lots of detail (both bass and treble can be individually adjusted).

To my mind the AVI's sounded more hifi ... neutral and even but the Dynaudio's more fun and involving. If I remember correctly the only thing I scored them down on was a slight lower treble lift which I, on occasions only, found a little intrusive but your mileage may vary, especially coming from an earlier Naim system. - I haven't heard any of the latest Dynaudio Excite active speakers but they use different drivers (and probably amplification) so may sound completely different.

Other than that, I personally would perhaps look into a Bel Canto integrated amplifier. They sound sumptious and lovely, with drive and detail. The C5i has the added bonus of digital inputs and an MM phono stage if you decide to indulge in vinyl again.

Alternatively perhaps something from Naim as you clearly have liked the brand. Their Superuniti light has a lot of facilities and more power than your current pre-power. I'd be surprised if it doesn't outperform the ageing combination in every respect.

As to speakers, this is where it gets more tricky. Clearly depending on your choice of amplification/power and room, here you have to match carefully.

Obviously, with something like Dynaudio's Focus 110A, this is taken care of (and you have a lot of money left) but with the Naim and Belcanto mentioned, something from Harbeth would probably be on top of my wish list but there are many speakers out there, some perhaps not obvious choices, which would complete a lovely system.

Good luck
 

davedotco

New member
Apr 24, 2013
20
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0
Al ears said:
davedotco said:
mjhorsfield said:
Thanks for all the suggestions so far... really interesting options.
Before you go much further I would contact these people and see if they can fix your speakers....

http://www.wilmslow-audio.co.uk/
On the other hand you could just contact the manufacturers themselves (now part of IAG).

http://www.castle.uk.com/
Worth trying but I was under the impression that they did not offer support for some of the older models, including the Harlech.

I may of course have been mis-informed......*unknw*
 

Al ears

Moderator
davedotco said:
Al ears said:
davedotco said:
mjhorsfield said:
Thanks for all the suggestions so far... really interesting options.
Before you go much further I would contact these people and see if they can fix your speakers....

http://www.wilmslow-audio.co.uk/
On the other hand you could just contact the manufacturers themselves (now part of IAG).

http://www.castle.uk.com/
Worth trying but I was under the impression that they did not offer support for some of the older models, including the Harlech.

I may of course have been mis-informed......*unknw*
I thought that too but they, very recently, proved to be very helpful when it came to me repairing my brothers old Wharfdales.

(They do keep quite extensive stock apparently as long as you know which transducer you require. There is a code on the back of the magnet on their orginally installed transducers.)
 

davedotco

New member
Apr 24, 2013
20
0
0
Al ears said:
davedotco said:
Al ears said:
davedotco said:
mjhorsfield said:
Thanks for all the suggestions so far... really interesting options.
Before you go much further I would contact these people and see if they can fix your speakers....

http://www.wilmslow-audio.co.uk/
On the other hand you could just contact the manufacturers themselves (now part of IAG).

http://www.castle.uk.com/
Worth trying but I was under the impression that they did not offer support for some of the older models, including the Harlech.

I may of course have been mis-informed......*unknw*
I thought that too but they, very recently, proved to be very helpful when it came to me repairing my brothers old Wharfdales.

(They do keep quite extensive stock apparently as long as you know which transducer you require. There is a code on the back of the magnet on their orginally installed transducers.)
Glad to hear it.

I sold a fair few of the bigger models back in the day, mostly Howards and Harlechs.
 

Al ears

Moderator
Yep, I always had a soft-spot for old Castle speakers, as did quite a few others apparently. Easy to drive, quite attractive in a funny way, and wonderfully 'musical' with just about all systems.
 

CnoEvil

New member
Aug 21, 2009
556
8
0
Your question says, "how would you upgrade"....and as I don't like Naim, it would be as follows:

Arcam A39 + Kef R300. That leaves £500 for a Streamer (I would look for a second hand Linn Sneaky DS).
 

Al ears

Moderator
CnoEvil said:
Your question says, "how would you upgrade"....and as I don't like Naim, it would be as follows:

Arcam A39 + Kef R300. That leaves £500 for a Streamer (I would look for a second hand Linn Sneaky DS).
Quite agree, however if he fixed the speakers (keeping at least one known, and presumably liked, item in the system), he would save himself a small fortune and might not have to look for a Linn Sneaky DS second-handed. *biggrin*
 

mjhorsfield

New member
Nov 9, 2014
1
0
0
Thanks.

As far as the speakers go: I love the looks. The cabinets are beautiful. I live in Skipton and knew the chap who had a big part in the original Castle company. He actually helped make the cabinets. As you know, Castle are now part of a larger Asian enterprise.

However, when I bought the speakers I had a far smaller volume living room. To be honest I'm not sure back then if I ever experienced the depths of controlled bass that I hear from that little A7 (nicknamed the Muggle-box by the kids as they think it's magic). I auditioned some speakers at the time which were boomy and bass heavy but lacked control. In a larger room, what bass there is from the Castle speakers seems somewhat attenuated but I'm sure that is more severe with the onset of the cone degeneration.

I don't know anything about speaker lifespan, but they are 20 years old now. Clearly the cones degenerate. I presume the magnets weaken over time. There was a mention of fluid drying up. This makes me wonder if a potentially costly repair would fix one problem, but fail to address other contributory factors.

The Naim dealer told me that a CD repair would likely be around £250 including carriage, which is what got me thinking if I actually need a CD player any more. The CDP was bought second hand, a few years old, in 1998, so again we face the problem of fixing one thing only for another thing to fail soon after. I had it repaired about 3 years ago at a cost of £200 or so through Naim with a similar problem.

There's clearly a good deal of expertise and experience helping me out, and I'm very grateful.

What are your thoughts about costly repairs on equipment of this age? Is it just 'kicking the can down the road' a few months?
 

drummerman

New member
Jan 18, 2008
540
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Personally and as I said before, I would let the castle's be and sell to someone who may be able/willing to restore them themselves.

Look at second hand prices of the CD3 and do your figures. If you can't recoup the repair sell as is too.

regards
 

Vladimir

New member
Dec 26, 2013
220
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When you buy/own 20+ year old speakers, the following things should be considered as part of refreshing them up to factory specs:

1) New surrounds on woofers (and midrange sometimes) if they are foam surrounds. Rubber can be simply refreshed to be supple again with some rubber refurbishing spray (bought from any auto cosmetics seller).

2) New electrolytic capacitors in crossovers.

3) Reflowing and refreshing connections inside the speakers, crossover to drivers. No need for new wires, just refresh the connections.

4) Change or top up the old ferro-fluid inside tweeters. Ferrotec ferro-fluid sold on ebay for few quid.

5) Checking for air leaks, retightening screws, maybe even changing new gaskets.

The materials don't exceede 50 quid, but it is time consuming and if someone does it for you the cost of labor is the considerable amount to have in mind.

Generally same thing like bying an old car.
 

CnoEvil

New member
Aug 21, 2009
556
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mjhorsfield said:
What are your thoughts about costly repairs on equipment of this age? Is it just 'kicking the can down the road' a few months?
Personally I'd go new, or at least go and demo what is available now before launching into costly repairs.
 

steve_1979

Well-known member
Jul 14, 2010
231
7
18,795
Vladimir said:
When you buy/own 20+ year old speakers, the following things should be considered as part of refreshing them up to factory specs:

1) New surrounds on woofers (and midrange sometimes) if they are foam surrounds. Rubber can be simply refreshed to be supple again with some rubber refurbishing spray (bought from any auto cosmetics seller).

2) New electrolytic capacitors in crossovers.

3) Reflowing and refreshing connections inside the speakers, crossover to drivers. No need for new wires, just refresh the connections.

4) Change or top up the old ferro-fluid inside tweeters. Ferrotec ferro-fluid sold on ebay for few quid.

5) Checking for air leaks, retightening screws, maybe even changing new gaskets.

The materials don't exceede 50 quid, but it is time consuming and if someone does it for you the cost of labor is the considerable amount to have in mind.

Generally same thing like bying an old car.
As rubber/material technologies improve over the years I wonder if newer speakers will last longer than speakers from the 80's and 90's?
 

davedotco

New member
Apr 24, 2013
20
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0
Not mentioned sofar is the 'kind' of sound wanted by the OP. A fully working pair of Harlechs have quite extended bass but none of the hyped bass 'punch' of many modern speakers, highlighted by the OP's preference for the A7.

I would suggest moving on the CD, amp and speakers and buying new equipment that is more in line with the OP's taste.

BTW. If it was my system, I would fix the speakers if at all possible and buy a decent amplifier.
 

Vladimir

New member
Dec 26, 2013
220
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MDF vs. chipboard.

Metal, woven (ex. kevlar), carbon and plastic vs. paper cones.

Metal, textile and plastic vs. paper domes.

Film caps vs. electrolytic.

Ceramic and neodymium vs. alnico magnets.

Mylar vs. paper voice coil formers.

Better knowledge of using ferro-fluids.

Cast or injection molded vs stamped metal baskets.

Better chemical process used for foam, textile and rubber surrounds longevity.

Anything else?
 

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