Stereo Rec Upgrade from Onkyo TX-8522


Mar 13, 2022
The short: I bought an Onkyo TX-8522 a few years ago used for $100 (MSRP $350) to start my stereo setup and I'm looking for an upgrade. I'm not sure what my budget is but I'll arbitrarily say 500-600. I think the buzzwords I'm looking for are "Relaxed", "Full", and "Mellow". I'll bore you with the details below.

The long: After being disheartened with the current state of vinyl quality control, I've gone back to listening primarily to digital music. I use a Fiio m11 with an aux to rca cable to accomplish this with a pair of Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2. Going from vinyl to digital I felt like something was lacking. I felt like I had to really turn up the volume to hear the "fullness" of the music and, in doing so, it made the sharpness of the highs grate on my ears. So, recently, I purchased a Fosi tube buffer and threw in the recommended tubes out of curiosity. At first I didn't notice much difference, but after A/Bing for a while I picked up some subtle yet striking differences. With the Fosi the sound was more relaxed. I could turn it up to hear that fullness with mellow highs that don't grate my ears. Voices sounded more natural. All in all, it just seemed to take the edge off of everything. Not convinced it wasn't just in my head, I subjected my GF to my experiments. She is notorious for "not hearing any difference" yet even she appreciated the tube buffer's enhancements. Then, I turned up the base knob. Where the Onkyo's base is weak and muddy, the fosi base was powerful and punchy without muddying the mids. I didn't know these Elacs were capable of such strong base with just the Onkyo, all while keeping the rest of the sound clear. Then, I turned up the treble knob. This is a no-no on the Onkyo as it sounds like the cymbals are right in your ears. On the Fosi, it brought the highs to the forefront without ever making them sharp, without ever losing the mellow-ness of the sound.

So I'm speaking highly of this 50 dollar Chi-Fi box (80 after the tube upgrade) but I feel like these enhancements could probably be accomplished with a better amp rather than a toy thrown in the signal chain. I've read a bit on Cambridge and Marantz being described as full-bodied/warm/relaxed etc. What are some good recommendations? Thanks in advance!
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