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Speakers and Amplifier / CD Player / Streamer recommendation please

Om

New member
Sep 16, 2014
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I am a relative novice in the HiFi world. I am planning to invest in a decent HiFi system. My objective is simply to enjoy listening to music. I am not interested in studying numbers or specifications - I simply want to close my eyes and enjoy the output.

I am looking for advice on speakers and amps / CD players / streamers I should buy to complete my system.

Let me get through the basics first:

a. Budget : 5 to 7 K (GBP)

b. Type of music: Jazz, Vocals, Soul, Indian Classical, Acoustic

c. Mostly low level relaxing listening _ for occasional partying and irritating the neighbours I have all-purpose speakers and players

d. What's important - warm and clear sound, musicality, soundstage, imaging. Most of the time I want to listen at low volumes therefore speakers and system should come to life at low power levels

e. I have lots of CDs (and I still buy them) - so should have a CD player. At the same time integration with technology is important - so I should have a component allowing me to play digital music from iPhone, IPod etc wirelessly

f. I prefer floor-stander speakers but am not pathologically opposed to stand-mounters

Some random questions I have been toying with (in no specific order or preference) -

1. Should I consider electrostatics (like Martin Logaln ESL?)?

2. Should I be looking at high sensitivity speakers like Klipsch RF-7 II or similar?

3. Would a NAim Superuniti or Uniti2 work for what I am looking for?

4. Should I consider tube amps? Would they work well with a Streamer?

5. Should I decide on the speaker first and then match the amp?

6. Should I get a set of neutral speakers like Harbeth and get a warm, musical amp or the other way around?

I am, in short, looking for help. I am open to sugggestions that are entirely different from brands/ideas that I have mentioned above as long as they deliver against my key objectives. Thanks a lot in advance.

PS - i am open to buying brand new / used / ex-demo.
 

matthewpiano

Well-known member
Nov 23, 2007
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With a healthy budget like that, and with your (very sensible) desire to do this once and then get on with enjoying the music, you need to do some auditioning. Initial auditions for reducing your shortlist could take place at a dealer but when you think you have got the right bits together you should then insist on a home demo, preferably over a full weekend when you can do plenty of listening.

I would suggest looking at speakers by PMC, Dynaudio and ATC. All three makers produce their own drive units and make professional as well as domestic loudspeakers. All three make natural and involving sounding speakers that should be perfect for your musical tastes. Harbeth, as you mention, would also be worth a look.

For amplification, if you want an obviously punchy and slightly forward sound (though never harsh), the Naim products you mention would be worth a listen. However, I personally prefer the more natural sound of Rega and Exposure amplification so would suggest you try the Exposure 3010S2 and the Rega Elicit-R.
 

Covenanter

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Jul 20, 2012
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I'm no great expert on the various bits of kit but I do believe that synergy is the most important factor. So don't think that putting the best CD player with the best amp with the best speakers, even if you can decide what those are, will get you the best system. What is important is that the kit works well together.

So you absolutely have to listen to systems and that means finding good dealers who can assist you. It can be very frustrating to get loads of many very well meant recommendations from this forum and then finding there are no dealers anywhere near you where you can hear them all together.

Chris
 

Esra

Well-known member
Feb 20, 2011
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With your budget your dealer should be able to show/demo you few options so you are able to find the right direction.For low level listening PMC speakers are a good starting point providing the sound you are looking for.
 

Om

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Sep 16, 2014
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Thanks for the replies so far.

I know that auditioning is the best way forward but I can only audition once I have made a shortlist. I live in SW London so finding a dealer is not a major issue - can you please recommend what speaker/amp I should be looking for?
 

ellisdj

New member
Dec 11, 2008
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You wont hear from the norm on here about these but a vist to this boutique for a listen is not a bad idea - Its in West London

£7k wont go far in RRP but dealers always do very good deals. Rick at Audio Images is a very good person to speak to if you like what you see / hear
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
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I think some of the otherwise sound suggestions above have missed your requirement for CD replay.

I am going to ignore it too by suggesting this:-

http://en.devialet.com/devialet-ensemble-en-us

Actually, you have enough change to get a decent cdp too!
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
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CnoEvil said:
nopiano said:
I think some of the otherwise sound suggestions above have missed your requirement for CD replay.
I didn't miss it, but was prepared to argue the case as to why it isn't necessary......as I can testify, as I sold on my very decent Linn Karik/Numerik, as it was never used.

I just felt that my previous post was long enough. *biggrin*
Your posts never outstay their welcome, Cno. And I take your point! I think I'd try an Oppo if I could tuck it out of sight...assuming I couldn't survive without silver discs.
 

plastic penguin

Well-known member
Apr 28, 2008
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Om said:
Thanks for the replies so far.

I know that auditioning is the best way forward but I can only audition once I have made a shortlist. I live in SW London so finding a dealer is not a major issue - can you please recommend what speaker/amp I should be looking for?
Okay, I'm going to take a slightly different take - I won't recommend any particular brands as most have been mentioned with the above posters. As you live in SW London, first port of call would be these guys. They are dealers for Naim, Linn, Rega, Arcam, Rotel, B&W, Focal, Kudos, PMC, ClearAudio....

Also, just down the road are these people, who are none too shabby when it comes to brands the first dealer doesn't: Kef, Creek, Roksan Caspians, Bryston, Wilson Benesch, Musical Fidelity, Pro-ject blah, blah...

As others have said, dems will be essential.
 

KidKomet

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Jun 5, 2013
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I hate to throw a spanner in the works but have you considered the active route? You may struggle to get the warmer sound you're looking for but with the right CDP and Pre-amp it can certainly be achieved. Maybe something from the likes of Bang & Olufsen? (Ex-dem Beolab 9 comes to mind, or see if you can strike gold from an auction site.) Otherwise, most conventional options have already been covered.
 

CnoEvil

New member
Aug 21, 2009
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Hi Om and welcome to the forum.

From your description, I think you are looking for much the same things as I do in a system. The regulars on here are probably fed up with my suggestions, as they are mostly the same, but FWIW. here are my thoughts.

I would go with a Linn Streamer as a source, but other options are available from Naim and Cyrus (amoungst others).

On the amp front, I would be looking at Sugden, Electrocompaniet, Croft, Lavardin, Pathos, Arcam, Musical Fidelity, Ayre and Audio Analogue. If you are interested in Valves, then there are brands like Pure Sound, Icon Audio and Unison Research.

For speakers, I would be looking at Harbeth, Proac, Spendor, Vienna Acoustics, Kef R Series, Opera and Sonus Faber.

To answer your questions:

1. Electrostatics are always worth an audion, provided you have the room and an amp with enough current to drive them.

2. High sensitivity is only necessary if you are looking at Valve amps, or some low powered Class A Solid State amps.

3. Naim may work for you, but it is a bit of a marmite brand...worth hearing to see what you think.

4. You should certainly hear Tube amps, and they will work with a Streamer.

5. This is personal, as the amp and speakers should be seen as a matched pair, that has a synergy that is (ideally) greater than the some of its parts. eg. If you want to go with Valves, it can limit the speakers you get. If you hear speakers you really like, then it's a matter of going for an amp that gets the most out of them.

6. It can work either way round, but this is where auditioning comes in.

Here are some suggestions of systems that I think you would like, but speaker size is dependant on room size:

Linn Sneaky DS + Sugden A21 SE + Harbeth HL5 Plus

Linn Majik DS + Sugden A21SE + Spendor SP2/3R2

Linn Sneaky DS + Sugden Masterclass IA-4 (ex-dem) + Proac D18 (ex-dem)

Linn Majik DS + Electrocompaniet ECI-5 + Kef R700

Linn Majik DS + Icon Audio Stereo 60 + Proac D20R

Linn Sneaky DS + Arcam A49 + Kef R700

Linn Majik DS + Audio Analogue Maestro Settanta Rev 2 + Sonus Faber 2.5

Linn Majik DS + *Pathos Logos + Vienna Acoustics Mozart Grand

I have also heard a Linn Majik DSM + Kef R700s sounding very good as well.

These are only my personal suggestions to give you food for thought, but ultimately, it's your ears that have to decide.

*EDIT. New Pathos Logos Mk.11 now has the option of a built in DAC module, which means you don't need a Linn DS...see WHF review here: http://www.whathifi.com/pathos/logos-mk-ii/review
 

Om

New member
Sep 16, 2014
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After auditioning a few speakers mentioned in this thread, I am leaning towards the Harbeths, specifically the SHL5 Plus.

my questions to the more experienced are:

1. When compared with Martin Logan Electromotions, are the Harbeths slightly warmer sounding?

2. What amps (or pre/power combo) would you recommend for the SHL5? How about Quad Elite series?

thanks
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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I certainly would expect them to be warmer and darker, but that's a guess based on what I've read.....Matt will give you a more experienced view, if he sees this.

For amps, look at Sugden, Accuphase, Luxman, Icon Audio, Unison Research and Jadis....Oh, and Devialet!
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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nopiano said:
I think some of the otherwise sound suggestions above have missed your requirement for CD replay.
I didn't miss it, but was prepared to argue the case as to why it isn't necessary.....I sold on my very decent Linn Karik/Numerik, as it was never used (since getting the Majik DS).

I just felt that my previous post was long enough. *biggrin*
 

Al ears

Moderator
Om said:
After auditioning a few speakers mentioned in this thread, I am leaning towards the Harbeths, specifically the SHL5 Plus.

my questions to the more experienced are:1. When compared with Martin Logan Electromotions, are the Harbeths slightly warmer sounding? 2. What amps (or pre/power combo) would you recommend for the SHL5? How about Quad Elite series?

thanks
As a suggestion I would not rule out a Creek amp, possibly Sugden, and if you can find one Hegel.
 

BigH

New member
Dec 29, 2012
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Om said:
Thanks for the replies so far.

I know that auditioning is the best way forward but I can only audition once I have made a shortlist. I live in SW London so finding a dealer is not a major issue - can you please recommend what speaker/amp I should be looking for?
people can recommend lots of difference systems but as you live in London I would book a demo for about 1.5 hours with a decent dealer, tell him what your budget and music tastes are and see what they recommend. People can recommend certain brands but dealers may not stock them, Harbeths only have about 7 dealers in England. Creek also not many dealers, not sure about sugden. But London is best bet to hear less popular brands. I had to go up to London to hear certain brands as not stocked in my area.
 

Om

New member
Sep 16, 2014
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Now that I have decided on the Harbeth SHL5 Plus for speakers, I have narrowed down my search for amplifier/source as well.

i have excluded a few options ( all of them excellent pieces of electronics - but do NOT work for me) - no Devialet, no Pathos and definitely NO Naim.

i am now torn between two different combinations:

a. Quad Elite Pre plus Quad Elite QSP - used Quad Elite CDP as the source

b. Croft Micro 25R Preamplifier plus Croft 7R Power Amp - used a Rega Saturn-R as source.

i loved that something magical about the Croft sound but I am also tempted by the Quad's feature sets - specially tone/tilt controls.

would appreciate your views/opinions/experience please.

i am also quite tempted to use a Unico CDE or CD Primo as source with either combination. Has anyone used this valve CD player with either the Quads or the Croft amps as source? To what extent did the difference in source (Quad CDP vs Rega Saturn) made the difference in the sound during my audition you think?
 

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