New hi-fi purchase. Last was in the 1980s. Help!

BadGuitarist

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Jun 19, 2024
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First post here, please be kind. I am a bit out of touch with modern gear and the buying choices are overwhelming.
Hello. I am hoping to utilise your experience to buy a new hi-fi separates system.

I need an amp and speakers to begin with, and will add to that later. My current gear is entry level, and I am looking for more capable gear to replace this. Vinyl and CD will be primary source, with a WII streamer to follow.
I have-
Amp - Cambridge AXA35 - I find the controls annoying and the bass is weak.
Mordaunt Short MS3.10 speakers which sound very light and not very good.
Turntable - Audio Technical AT-LP60X USB which was a gift to replace a dropped Dual deck. This is to be replaced. I have my eyes on a Rega Planar deck.
CD player - Technics SP277 from the 80s – to be replaced
There is a cassette deck (yes, I know) and a mini disc player that will be connected at some stage for the memories of when I was younger.

Now, my hearing is not brilliant, but I can distinguish between cheap tinny sounds and quality sounds.
I was going to buy at the entry level again, but hit some problems:
I auditioned Cambridge AXR85 amp and Cambridge AX35 CD player first, using -
speakers -Dali Oberon 3 - which I thought were okay, but not brilliant,
- Wharfedale 12.1 which I felt were more articulate and better than the Dalis but had less bass output
- Q Acoustic 3020i which were flat and uninspiring.

I then listened to the Marantz PM6007 amp and CD player. This was played through -
speakers -Dali Oberon 3 - A much flatter experience then with the Cambridge amp. Not inspiring at all.
- Wharfedale 12.1 - again good, but not as good as with the Cambridge amp.
- The 3020is were not tested with the Marantz amp, which I felt was underwhelming.

A Dali sub-woofer was introduced to boost the bass. With some lighter music, this seemed to integrate nicely with the Dalis, but as soon as I played Prince's Gett Off, the sub went wild, and gave a bloated bass experience as it danced across the floor, trying to cope.
I like Norah Jones, and on my old existing system, sounds mellow, although with this gear above, the vocals sounded as though they were being constrained as Norah tried to sing her way out of the speaker boxes. I put this down to a bad recording or disc. I had never heard this before, so I suppose there was something to learn from this experience, that although I didn't like the sound, the presentation was much better than with my own gear at home, through which I hadn't heard this effect.

This session ended with an Arcam A5 amp with Fyne Audio F501 floorstanders. The bass was subtle, and I would have liked more, but we were running out of time. However, I thought this was the best sound overall. The speakers were the best I listened to that day.
So, I left thinking that I needed to start again and maybe go a level higher to get decent gear. I am disappointed with the Marantz amp and did wonder how it was getting five star reviews. This was certainly not my experience.
As I left, the sales assistant suggested that I listened to a higher spec Cambridge amp, the CXA61 or the CX81 Mk2. Now, I don’t like having to go through a button pressing menu to increase the bass (which I feel is light on all of the Cambridge amps I have tried), so I am reluctant to take a chance here.
The Arcam 5 seemed ok, and I think it will be ok with good speakers. But, I balk at the thought of spending £1000 on a set of speakers and wonder if a £500 pair could give the same response?

As I left, I was shown a Roksan K3 amp for a very good price. Whilst this seems a very good deal, I wonder how my budget/entry level or gear that is just a bit better than that will sound.
I am of an age where a thousand pounds for a set of speakers seems crazy money, but my experiences in auditioning gear have shown me that you get what you pay for, and not to rely on reviews.

Qs – What are your experiences of Cambridge, Roksan or Arcam?
Is one significantly better than the other?
What would a cheaper CD player sound like through these? After all, it just spins discs, doesn’t it (I am joking).
Your advice on cheaper speakers that offer some bass grunt without sounding like the Dali sub-woofer would be appreciated.
Thank you.
 

Gray

Well-known member
I am of an age where a thousand pounds for a set of speakers seems crazy money
So am I.
There was a time when it was completely unthinkable to me.
But I've ended up spending more on some PMC standmounts.
And, in the right house, I could see myself spending a lot more on speakers.

Welcome to the forum.
You've already done more auditioning than many people do - which is a good thing.

If you quite liked the 12.1, you might like the 12.3 floorstanders (which came top in a Hi-fi Choice group test made up of more expensive speakers) - and a mate of mine loves his.

Sounds like you might prefer a bit more bass than is common now, so continuing with your extensive auditioning is the best advice for you.
As, whatever anyone else anyone else recommends, only you can judge whether it suits you.
 
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BadGuitarist

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So am I.
There was a time when it was completely unthinkable to me.
But I've ended up spending more on some PMC standmounts.
And, in the right house, I could see myself spending a lot more on speakers.

Welcome to the forum.
You've already done more auditioning than many people do - which is a good thing.

If you quite liked the 12.1, you might like the 12.3 floorstanders (which came top in a Hi-fi Choice group test made up of more expensive speakers).

Sounds like you might prefer a bit more bass than is common now, so continuing with your extensive auditioning is the best advice for you.
As, whatever anyone else anyone else recommends, only you can judge whether it suits you.
Thank you. I did listen to the 12.3s at my first demo. I thought they were light in the bass department, and one piece of advice was to add a sub. I'm glad I didn't, and would prefer to get the bass from the speakers and amp if poss. I wonder if I am asking too much.
I'm a bit embarrassed at asking to visit a third time for more demos, so find myself asking others who have taken the time to join forums such as this, for the benefit of their experience.
 

jjbomber

Well-known member
You going about it exactly the right way. Audition until YOU are happy with a system that suits YOU. As I've said on here before, hi-fi is like haircuts. We can all tell you what haircut suits ourselves, but we can't really tell you what is best for you. So several on here will throw up some great suggestions, but you have to audition them and go with whatever is best for you.
 
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Stuart83

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I will only ever comment on what I've actually heard, I currently have both a roskan k3 and Arcam sa30 from of the makes you mention which are both good but I much prefer personally the Arcam sa30 for its way of throwing the music at higher volumes in such clarity and visceral power that far exceed the k3's with it's claims of 140W.

But then again I prefer my much older pioneer a400 over the roskan k3 which sounded much better in the demo room😲

The Roksan I have came with the woes of the pandemic and hasn't got Bluetooth due to the chip shortage so ask about that incase their stock too is affected in view of your decision.

For classical the roskan shines but remains off for most of the time.
The Arcam is a "very lively performer" within my preferences of volume on the higher side of the dial and offers much, much more infact it would be quicker to list what it hasn't got than what it has.
I find for once the written reviews of the day ways of describing it's sound to be shockingly accurate.
Arcams usual firmware hiccups that dogged the amp at release (long since resolved) mean an originally much more expensive amp is always on sale now 😊

I recently demoed all sorts including the fynes you mention which I too championed over all the current alternatives but was pulled away by a much more stunning performance by the fynes much bigger brother the f502s with bass off such plenty that I've since had to tame it in a tad whilst streaming some low quality Spotify, YouTube and using my djay decks but with highs that put the singer in the room and with everything else within my preferences.

They turn listening to loud music into an event.
They impressed me so much I came home with them.

(All that said that's where demoes hold their worth, it's your preferences you need to fill and if your intention is to indeed purchase from this dealer giving a quick mention of this to them will mean going in a third or fourth time isn't going to be a bother)

Whilst there I looked at the new Arcam radia range and a few others which to me just didn't perform like the older (now problem free) arcam sa30 when testing them back to back in the demo room.

However it's ok for people to wax lyrical about what they like, and "a helpful push towards the right direction" is good but you have a unique taste that only you can cater for.

As for price dictating quality unfortunately its a rule of thumb not missed with hifi either.

It's been my experience the jumps in quality are a tad different.
Whilst the quality from a 300£ to a 1500£ pair of speakers etc can be vast, although there is a few exceptions to the rule the way of obtaining the same big noticeable jumps in quality after that can be much more, even silly expensive to aquire.

I suggest hitting the reviews and compiling a shortlist on what you like then further visiting the demo rooms until something clicks.

It would be nice to hear what you decide on 👍
 

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Din5

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Hi, are you willing to buy second hand / or ex demo ? If so, then within your price range you could achieve (for eg.) good examples of Rega Elex-R amplifier , or even better Rega Elicit-R and pair either amps with Fyne Audio 501 speakers. Those amps are both excellent, the Elicit has a slightly different sound and provides extra bass thump , dynamics and detail . I use the Elicit-R with the 501's with great results, I owned an Elex-R previously and I think it would also work well with the Fyne 501's. - or the 502 if you have the space for them !.
I auditioned the 501's with a Marantz model 50 at R/Sound and the overall sound was excellent.
I can also say that either of these Rega amps work well with KEF Q5 and Rega RX5 or probably RS5 speakers, all of which can be picked up for bargain prices in the second hand market. The problem is that there's so much to choose from on the market, but I can only advise on what I have listened to.
My advice is to keep auditioning, seek out dealers who have some Rega kit and other alternative makes so that you can broaden your choice.
Happy hunting.
 

MikGle

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I will look for a speaker first. Either if you have the space a floor stander or the more expensive compromise - small stand/booksehelf and active subwoofers…….You wish for more bite and body to the sound and that is not possible with the currnt speakers. Your amp is know for being punchy good sounding. Find a set of speakers and then live with the current amp maybe you will like that or save up for a new one……Let me post a picture of to bass driver both found in current UK production models, 2 way bookshelf, driver to the right is used in a set retailing for 1500,- gbp. The one to the right is from set retailing for 995,- gbp Both companies is know for their highly respected studio monitor but have a pparently a differnt design approach.
 

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