Question Upgrade from first hi-fi (B&W 684 / Marantz PM7200)

dense179

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Jan 29, 2021
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Hi everyone,

I have B&W 684 floorstanders and a Marantz PM7200 amp, playing a mix of Spotify and FLAC through a Yamaha WXC-50 streamer/DAC. This was my first ever hi-fi setup, assembled second hand for under £1000, and for many years it has served me well, but I'm looking to make the step up. Sometimes I feel my setup lacks 'punch' for want of a better word - I would love something with more attack, more crispness, more of a feeling of 'being there' with the music. Adding the Yamaha streamer/DAC a few years ago certainly brought in some more high-end clarity and reduced the overall muddiness, but still the setup feels warm, laid back, and a little unexciting at times. I listen to a wide range of genres, but have a particular love of 60s/70s soul/motown/funk, classic rock, very old-school blues, 90s and 00s rock (Radiohead etc) and occasionally disco. I like music to feel visceral, dynamic, and exciting but without sacrificing detail or refinement. I record and mix music myself as a hobby, so I have some experience of judging things with a critical ear, but I wouldn't necessarily class myself as an expert audiophile.

I'm asking for help here because I'd love to know: if I were to change *just one* of these components, which would make the biggest impact? Is the amp the bottleneck, or the speakers? Is the Yamaha holding back the rest of the setup? The latter seems unlikely as it has, to my ears, notably improved the sound, but I'd love to hear from people more expert than myself. It may be that to achieve a real, noticeable leap in quality I'd need to change all three components, so I'm not averse to hearing that! I'm also not snobby about being 'traditional' with a stack of separates vs newer, more modern approaches like a KEF all-in-one wireless system. What I don't want to get into, respectfully, is spending hundreds or even thousands on the more weird and whacky approaches like rewiring my flat or rubbing garlic on my speaker terminals or whatever other stuff goes on down here in the forums ;) [Just a joke - I come in peace]

Thanks in advance for any contributions!

[Edit: I'm open minded about budget for now. If there's something I could change for a few hundred quid, great! But if the answer is "you need to spend £2000 to make a difference" I'm equally open to hearing that. All opinions welcome!]
 

rainsoothe

Well-known member
Apr 30, 2012
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19,270
Hi. How big is your room and how far away from walls can you place your speakers?

P.S.: i'm defo gonna recommend Naim, they're awesome with the music and sound characteristics you describe.
 

dense179

Member
Jan 29, 2021
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Hi. How big is your room and how far away from walls can you place your speakers?

P.S.: i'm defo gonna recommend Naim, they're awesome with the music and sound characteristics you describe.
Thanks for the reply! I'm in a reasonably small living room (about 5m x 5m) so it's possible that my speakers are too big for the space. I've already put bungs in the rear ports to reduce the overbearing, boomy bass effect. I share with a flatmate so can't get away with having the speakers more than 30cm from the walls, otherwise they rather ruin the room! The room has wooden floorboards but plenty of soft furnishings and books too, including a large rug covering most of the floor.
 

rainsoothe

Well-known member
Apr 30, 2012
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Thanks for the reply! I'm in a reasonably small living room (about 5m x 5m) so it's possible that my speakers are too big for the space. I've already put bungs in the rear ports to reduce the overbearing, boomy bass effect. I share with a flatmate so can't get away with having the speakers more than 30cm from the walls, otherwise they rather ruin the room! The room has wooden floorboards but plenty of soft furnishings and books too, including a large rug covering most of the floor.
Ok. For a room that size, unless you're really used with floorstanders, I'd switch to standmounts (or maybe small floorstanders) and look at something like a used Naim Unitiqute 2 (which will also replace your Yamaha WXC 50) and pair it with something like Focal Aria 906 or Dali Oberon 5. The downside of the Unitiqute aproach is that it's pretty old software wise, and can only do Tidal (no MQA), Spotify and internet radio (+fm if you got that kind of antenna in your building) - besides local streaming, of course. So you won't have access to Qobuz or Amazon HD music, and will be stuck with it like that. But this setup will sound very good, and if you want to beef it up a bit, you could always add a power amp (like the Nap100 or whatever).

Alternatively, you could keep your current speakers for a while and look at geting a straight amp, like the Naim Nait 5si or a used Supernait 2, and match speakers later (Focal Aria 906 and the Dali should also work great with these, but of course a Supernait 2 will be able to drive much better speakers than these - although it's strong bass might be overbearing with some speakers). A Naim Nait XS2 could also be a great option, but with speakers like Ophidian or Acoustic Energy.

For speaker cables, look at Witchhat N2, DNM Reson (not ReAson), and maybe Chord Rumour 2 (or X), Van Damme Blue 4mm or Van den Hul Clearwater. Atlas Element or Chord Clearway interconnects (Qed suck, imo, but I only tried their entry-level stuff).

For a lower budget, I'd look at Cyrus One HD or Rega Brio + Chord Mojo, both of these would work well with your B&W and would also be an upgrade, imo. But I'd just get the Unitiqute instead if you're not interested in keeping the streaming bit separated.

In any case, biggest advice anyone can give you is to audition and let your ears decide (preferably in your own room, since the room matters more than any individual piece of gear in your hi-fi). The upside with buying sh Naim is that you can sell it on for no (or minimal) loss, as they retain their value very well.

Good hunting!
 
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dense179

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Jan 29, 2021
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Thank you for being so detailed. If I were to replace one single component for £1000 or less, which would make the biggest impact? A new amp, like a Rega Brio or Nait 5si (they can be found ex-display for £850) or find a second-hand Unitiqute 2? Or stick with the current amp and get some Focal Aria 906s?

You've given me some fantastic options there, but as someone relatively inexperienced I'd be so grateful if you could tell me what you think is the single weakest link in my chain at the moment. I don't have the budget for a full new system but would like to have that 'wow' factor again from my music. When I first bought the Marantz/B&W combo I was coming from an iPod dock so the upgrade was huge. I'm aware I may not experience such a leap again, but if it were your money and you had £1000 or less to upgrade my system, what would you go with?

Thanks!
 

dense179

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Jan 29, 2021
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Also I should add: what do you think of things like the Cambridge Audio CXA-61 and 81? As amp/streamer combos they seem appealing but with a more recently released amp are you paying a 'newness' overhead and therefore a second hand Naim would be better? Again thanks for the advice!
 

plastic penguin

Well-known member
Apr 28, 2008
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Thank you for being so detailed. If I were to replace one single component for £1000 or less, which would make the biggest impact? A new amp, like a Rega Brio or Nait 5si (they can be found ex-display for £850) or find a second-hand Unitiqute 2? Or stick with the current amp and get some Focal Aria 906s?

You've given me some fantastic options there, but as someone relatively inexperienced I'd be so grateful if you could tell me what you think is the single weakest link in my chain at the moment. I don't have the budget for a full new system but would like to have that 'wow' factor again from my music. When I first bought the Marantz/B&W combo I was coming from an iPod dock so the upgrade was huge. I'm aware I may not experience such a leap again, but if it were your money and you had £1000 or less to upgrade my system, what would you go with?

Thanks!
Hiya.

You mentioned it lacks punch then you state the use of port bungs. That's possibly why. Using bungs has an impact on the LFs.

That said, those floorstanders only a 12 inches from the wall is another problem. I've heard that particular Marantz and it's a really good amp for the money. I would suggest looking at different speakers. Your problem is placement not the quality of individual components.

I would look at Dali Oberon or standmounters, such as ATC SCM11. Your amp with in A/B class specs suggest 95 watts per channel, shouldn't have an issue. As the ATCs are sealed boxes (infinte baffle), they'll be zero boom, but won't lack in punch.

If you could have the speakers another couple of inches away from the wall, that would be ideal.
 

rainsoothe

Well-known member
Apr 30, 2012
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Also I should add: what do you think of things like the Cambridge Audio CXA-61 and 81? As amp/streamer combos they seem appealing but with a more recently released amp are you paying a 'newness' overhead and therefore a second hand Naim would be better? Again thanks for the advice!
Those Cambridge Audios aren't amp/streamer combos, they're just amplifiers with DAC (digital to analogue conversion) - so you still need another device to stream the music, but you can use the digital circuitry in the CA. As for their sound, it's all subjective, you really need to audition for yourself.

Firstly, though, I would take Plastic Penguin's advice of toying with speaker positioning some more. However, without having heard that particular model, I disagree that Marantz can do "visceral" - they can be liquidy smooth, or japaneese-y bright, but not the viscreal "get-up-and-go" type (imo).

So to get back to it, were it me my money, I'd aim for ending up with a Nait 5si + Focal Aria 906/Acoustic Energy AE300, or Rega Brio + B&W 606/Fyne Audio/Elac Debut stuff, and switching streamer to a Cambridge Audio CXN v2 at a later date (or add a DAC to your current one). But an amplifier change is where I (personally) would start, and take it from there.
 
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dense179

Member
Jan 29, 2021
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Thanks to both plastic penguin and rainsoothe. Positioning is clearly an issue so I'll look into it, thanks. Unfortunately the room is small and I bought these speakers when I had a much larger living room in a previous flat. Adding bungs to the rear ports has certainly improved the sound (it feels like it's gained clarity and rhythmic precision - before, every bass note was accompanied with a huge booming echo, so I do feel it's worth losing a bit of bass extension in favour of clarity) but I feel like they may just be too big. But I'll try moving them around and see how much improvement I can make that way.

I do instinctively feel that the Marantz is too smooth as rainsoothe suggests. Having listened to a few other friends' amps with equal or worse speakers, they seem to have more 'oomph' - it's not just about bass frequencies, but that speedy rhythmic response and sense of power rather than just bass.

Grateful for your advice, both! I will definitely give all the options you've suggested serious consideration.
 

plastic penguin

Well-known member
Apr 28, 2008
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Thanks to both plastic penguin and rainsoothe. Positioning is clearly an issue so I'll look into it, thanks. Unfortunately the room is small and I bought these speakers when I had a much larger living room in a previous flat. Adding bungs to the rear ports has certainly improved the sound (it feels like it's gained clarity and rhythmic precision - before, every bass note was accompanied with a huge booming echo, so I do feel it's worth losing a bit of bass extension in favour of clarity) but I feel like they may just be too big. But I'll try moving them around and see how much improvement I can make that way.

I do instinctively feel that the Marantz is too smooth as rainsoothe suggests. Having listened to a few other friends' amps with equal or worse speakers, they seem to have more 'oomph' - it's not just about bass frequencies, but that speedy rhythmic response and sense of power rather than just bass.

Grateful for your advice, both! I will definitely give all the options you've suggested serious consideration.
All Marantz amps are quite fluid and musical. Obviously experiment with speaker positioning first, it can give surprising results, even moving them a couple of inches makes a difference.
 

MUSICRAFT

Well-known member
Hi everyone,

I have B&W 684 floorstanders Sometimes I feel my setup lacks 'punch' for want of a better word - I would love something with more attack, more crispness, more of a feeling of 'being there' with the music.

but still the setup feels warm, laid back, and a little unexciting at times. I listen to a wide range of genres, but have a particular love of 60s/70s soul/motown/funk, classic rock, very old-school blues, 90s and 00s rock (Radiohead etc) and occasionally disco. I like music to feel visceral, dynamic, and exciting but without sacrificing detail or refinement.

Is the amp the bottleneck,

If there's something I could change for a few hundred quid, great!
You can have a profound uplift in performance for around a few hundred pounds or so. If you're still ok to look at used equipment then look out for Rotel's RA-1062 amplifier. The high current 60w RA-1062 which is working to its full intended specification will grip, drive and energise your B&W 684 speakers far more effectively and remain more stable at almost any comparable level and thereby enhance the traits such as punch, attack, etc. you are looking for compared to your existing amplifier (which along with the RA-1062 I know well as I used to deal with both btw).

It's better to have current rich power rather then current starved marketing and brochure impressive but ultimately somewhat weedy 'paper' watts.

Power is nothing without energy. No guts. No glory
 

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