Upgrade question

matthewpiano

Well-known member
Nov 23, 2007
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This is a hypothetical question (for the time being), but I'm hoping it will help to stimulate some useful discussion about upgrading from budget systems which will be useful for lots of people reading the forums.

My current set-up is a very good budget system. It all works well together and makes an enjoyable sound overall. There is plenty of power and the system is balanced so that the NAD's propensity towards being on the bassy side is counterbalanced by the other components. Simple acoustic music sounds excellent as does rock music. Orchestral music works well when it isn't too complex, but in the climaxes of a Symphony or Concerto the soundstage can start to dissolve and things can become a little ragged. Vocal re-production is fantastic.

It would be interesting to hear people's thoughts on what the next step would be. I suspect the speakers have more to give, but would you start by upgrading the source to something like the Marantz SA KI-Pearl Lite SACD/CD player, Cyrus CD6SE.2, NAD C546BEE or Audiolab 8200CD, or would you go for a change of amp instead - Roksan K2, Marantz PM KI-Pearl Lite, or Cyrus 6XP? Alternatively would anyone go for a change of speakers instead? Would the NAD cope?

Remember this is hypothetical for now but should be an interesting and useful conversation anyway...
 

ID.

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Feb 22, 2010
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My heart says the amp or that the Zensor's could be bettered for not much more money so they'd be a good candidate for upgrading, but there are other questions I'd be asking myself like what do I want to achieve? what do I like/dislike/want more of/less of? Do I have the Zensor's because I'm restricted to a smaller speaker for a reason?
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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MP, I would put together a slightly quirky system -

Sneaky DS (can use the amp if necessary) + Pure Sound A10 / Icon Audio Stereo 20 + Audio Note AX-2 / AZ-1 / AZ-2
 

shooter

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May 4, 2008
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I'm not sure on your next upgrade though the speakers will bring the greatest reward.

I'm interested in the balance of the system and if you would like to maintain it whilst your upgrading, i presume you will upgrade all the componants over a perriod? If this is the case do you want to keep a balance in the system or are you willing to sacrifice in certain areas to achieve to goal?

Are you interested in other brands apart from the ones you have mentioned and eventually what would be your max budget per component or overall.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Nothing wrong with your amp Matthew, i picked up a Nad c352 from ebay and over the last few days have enjoyed it's smooth non-fatiuging sound over the weekend. I personally would buy some better speakers for your system.
 

matthewpiano

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Nov 23, 2007
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ID., I could accomodate larger speakers. I have owned better speakers. I feel the Zensors suit my taste better than the MA BX2s, and although the Epos M5i that I still have are significantly better than the Zensors in most ways they do over emphasise sibilants a little too much which I find irritating when listening to vocals. I had wondered whether a pair of floorstanders might help with the bigger orchestral works but I'd have to be careful not to get anything too bassy to partner with the NAD. I fear the Zensor 5s might be too slow in the bass, but perhaps the Q 2050i would be worth a try. Alternatively I could go further up the Dali standmount range - Ikon 1 MkII perhaps?

In terms of what I want to achieve, I really want more of the same but with more control when textures, dynamics and mixed timres become more demanding.
 

matthewpiano

Well-known member
Nov 23, 2007
494
330
19,270
shooter said:
I'm not sure on your next upgrade though the speakers will bring the greatest reward.

I'm interested in the balance of the system and if you would like to maintain it whilst your upgrading, i presume you will upgrade all the componants over a perriod? If this is the case do you want to keep a balance in the system or are you willing to sacrifice in certain areas to achieve to goal?

Are you interested in other brands apart from the ones you have mentioned and eventually what would be your max budget per component or overall.
Hi shooter. Yes, the idea here would be to eventually move the whole system up a level. I think components in the £500-£750 region is where I would need to go to get sufficient improvement and I would consider most brands in order to get the right result. I have, however, had Arcam in the past (CD17/A18 as well as some others) and came to the conclusion that it doesn't really suit me.
 

plastic penguin

Well-known member
Matthew I'd stick with the same brands as you currently have. Nad has a very distinct sonic signature, likewise the Dalis are fairly individual. So I'd be looking the following:

Nad 356BEE; Dali Ikon 6; Perhaps Marantz Pearl Lite CDP or Rega Apollo.

I remember Max used to have the 326BEE with RX6s and, if memory serves me right, said when cranked up the Nad started to struggle a little and lose composure.

At least my options with keep all the good traits but add some extra all-round ability.
 

paradiziac

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Jan 8, 2011
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In my case, I went amp > source > speakers and would advise the same.

The problem if you start with the speakers is that better speakers will reveal the limitations of (budget) downstream kit. So either you have to put up with hearing the shortcomings of the budget electronics until you can afford the upgrade, or you choose speakers that, for example, smooth over a raggedy budget component, but then that's not what you eventually want when you end up upgrading the source/amp.

I found my Dali Lektor 1's a very well balanced speaker and good enough to judge electronics in the 1K+ price range, I'm sure the Zensors would be too.

I wouldn't go source first as the budget amp won't show enough difference to enable you to judge the improvement in your system.

MP, I reckon if you sell all the budget amps you seem to have knocking around, you'll be close to being able to buy a decent amp ex-demo. I'd recommend the Sugden Mystro, I'm continually surprized by the capabilities of this amp as I upgrade other bits of my system.
 

paradiziac

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Jan 8, 2011
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matthewpiano said:
Hi shooter. Yes, the idea here would be to eventually move the whole system up a level. I think components in the £500-£750 region is where I would need to go to get sufficient improvement and I would consider most brands in order to get the right result.
I think that's a bit on the low side, but if you think about 1K+ components that you might pick up ex-dem, you might do it for £750 each.

Much less than that, I think it's just compromises and messing around, and not much better than the cheaper budget gear, which as you know (better than me!) is pretty decent.
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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paradiziac said:
In my case, I went amp > source > speakers and would advise the same.

The problem if you start with the speakers is that better speakers will reveal the limitations of (budget) downstream kit. So either you have to put up with hearing the shortcomings of the budget electronics until you can afford the upgrade, or you choose speakers that, for example, smooth over a raggedy budget component, but then that's not what you eventually want when you end up upgrading the source/amp.

I found my Dali Lektor 1's a very well balanced speaker and good enough to judge electronics in the 1K+ price range, I'm sure the Zensors would be too.

I wouldn't go source first as the budget amp won't show enough difference to enable you to judge the improvement in your system.

MP, I reckon if you sell all the budget amps you seem to have knocking around, you'll be close to being able to buy a decent amp ex-demo. I'd recommend the Sugden Mystro, I'm continually surprized by the capabilities of this amp as I upgrade other bits of my system.
I agree with this.

If the amp budget is raised a bit, I certainly would be looking at the Mystro as well as the MF M3.
 
T

the record spot

Guest
Hi Matthew, I think you'd probably want to look at gear that will bring a more distinct and noticeable change. I don't think that you'll get what you're after by going one level up, but maybe do a bigger leap instead. I would advocate trying out other brands you haven't tried and I do think that some of the brands you've mentioned might not resolve your problem/issue. If they haven't at the entry level, then there is some chance that's not going to happen at their next level of gear and you'd need to budget for that accordingly.

I definitely would recommend going to the dealer sold secondhand route (check out some of the stuff on the Moorgate Acoustics site, not the Cyrus stuff, but things like the Quad QC24 preamp with fitted phono stage at £700, the 6Moons review is positive and it looks very fine). Your money will go further and, like Moorgate, you might get a warranty - in their case, 6 months. Plus the gear will have been serviced and cleaned up, or maybe even "as new" as my Denon DVD3930 was.

Equally, I'd also point you towards actives; if you're planning to spend the kind of money you're looking at, you'd be daft not to at least add the new "Red Dot" AVI ADM9.1s to your shopping list. I think they might now do a little more in the bass department thanks to the new drivers they are using. For £1200-ish that's the cost of two of your mid-fi upgrades. Yes, they split opinion, but putting that to one side, good product is very much good product.

If you are looking at staying the mid-range category, then I'd point you towards the XTZ lineup at Audio Sanctum. They deal direct and you can try out at home for a good three or four weeks. Check their website, but the products review incredibly well and though they're keenly priced, there's no distributor or dealer margin, so - according to XTZ - their £400 CD player would normally retail in the £1000 space.

But yes, I'd look a few points north, consider actives and widen the scope of your search. I noticed a difference with what the £1000 product brings in the Denon player and that was over my £600 Marantz. Worth considering.
 

tino

Well-known member
Sep 29, 2011
135
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I think that a step up on the speaker ladder could be a good move ... and keeping under a hypothetical £500 budget ... some small/slimline, modern, detailed, rythmic, pacey, that can remain coherent across the audio spectrum, especially with complex music ... then why not hypothetically audition these ...

- Amphion Helium 520 (used)

- Leema Xone (used/ex-dem)

- Triangle Color bookshelf (new)

These are good enough speakers to take a couple of upgrades upsream if you feel that that is the next move ...
 

paradiziac

New member
Jan 8, 2011
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the record spot said:
Equally, I'd also point you towards actives; if you're planning to spend the kind of money you're looking at, you'd be daft not to at least add the new "Red Dot" AVI ADM9.1s to your shopping list. I think they might now do a little more in the bass department thanks to the new drivers they are using. For £1200-ish that's the cost of two of your mid-fi upgrades. Yes, they split opinion, but putting that to one side, good product is very much good product.

If you are looking at staying the mid-range category, then I'd point you towards the XTZ lineup at Audio Sanctum. They deal direct and you can try out at home for a good three or four weeks. Check their website, but the products review incredibly well and though they're keenly priced, there's no distributor or dealer margin, so - according to XTZ - their £400 CD player would normally retail in the £1000 space.

But yes, I'd look a few points north, consider actives and widen the scope of your search. I noticed a difference with what the £1000 product brings in the Denon player and that was over my £600 Marantz. Worth considering.
Agree with that as well.

http://www.audiosanctum.co.uk/Integrated-Amplifiers/XTZ-Class-A-100-D3-Integrated-Stereo-Amplifier-Silver-and-Black.html
 

moon

New member
Nov 10, 2011
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matthewpiano said:
This is a hypothetical question (for the time being), but I'm hoping it will help to stimulate some useful discussion about upgrading from budget systems which will be useful for lots of people reading the forums.

My current set-up is a very good budget system. It all works well together and makes an enjoyable sound overall. There is plenty of power and the system is balanced so that the NAD's propensity towards being on the bassy side is counterbalanced by the other components. Simple acoustic music sounds excellent as does rock music. Orchestral music works well when it isn't too complex, but in the climaxes of a Symphony or Concerto the soundstage can start to dissolve and things can become a little ragged. Vocal re-production is fantastic.

It would be interesting to hear people's thoughts on what the next step would be. I suspect the speakers have more to give, but would you start by upgrading the source to something like the Marantz SA KI-Pearl Lite SACD/CD player, Cyrus CD6SE.2, NAD C546BEE or Audiolab 8200CD, or would you go for a change of amp instead - Roksan K2, Marantz PM KI-Pearl Lite, or Cyrus 6XP? Alternatively would anyone go for a change of speakers instead? Would the NAD cope?

Remember this is hypothetical for now but should be an interesting and useful conversation anyway...
Without having read the whole way through the thread, My initial thoughts considering your propensity for classical music would to be look at a speaker with a larger main driver as a must. Just my tupence.
 

moon

New member
Nov 10, 2011
47
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0
matthewpiano said:
This is a hypothetical question (for the time being), but I'm hoping it will help to stimulate some useful discussion about upgrading from budget systems which will be useful for lots of people reading the forums.

My current set-up is a very good budget system. It all works well together and makes an enjoyable sound overall. There is plenty of power and the system is balanced so that the NAD's propensity towards being on the bassy side is counterbalanced by the other components. Simple acoustic music sounds excellent as does rock music. Orchestral music works well when it isn't too complex, but in the climaxes of a Symphony or Concerto the soundstage can start to dissolve and things can become a little ragged. Vocal re-production is fantastic.

It would be interesting to hear people's thoughts on what the next step would be. I suspect the speakers have more to give, but would you start by upgrading the source to something like the Marantz SA KI-Pearl Lite SACD/CD player, Cyrus CD6SE.2, NAD C546BEE or Audiolab 8200CD, or would you go for a change of amp instead - Roksan K2, Marantz PM KI-Pearl Lite, or Cyrus 6XP? Alternatively would anyone go for a change of speakers instead? Would the NAD cope?

Remember this is hypothetical for now but should be an interesting and useful conversation anyway...
Without having read the whole way through the thread, My initial thoughts considering your propensity for classical music would to be look at a speaker with a larger main driver as a must. Just my tupence.
 

moon

New member
Nov 10, 2011
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0
oh and the best i've heard classical was through some very large stand mount Snell speakers.The owner refused to sell them to me.

I would suggest an audition of the EB2, but that is a whole different kettle of fish. I look forward to your next move.:)
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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moon said:
oh and the best i've heard classical was through some very large stand mount Snell speakers.
Audio Note based their speakers on old Snell designs:
http://www.stereophile.com/standloudspeakers/506an
 

CnoEvil

New member
Aug 21, 2009
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moon said:
Hey thanks for the link Cno, very interesting reading........ my HiFI is under consideration at the moment........so I hope you don't cost me more money.
.....but it's what I do best! :shifty:
 

moon

New member
Nov 10, 2011
47
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CnoEvil said:
moon said:
Hey thanks for the link Cno, very interesting reading........ my HiFI is under consideration at the moment........so I hope you don't cost me more money.
.....but it's what I do best! :shifty:
Thankfully the speakers are decied on!
 

matthewpiano

Well-known member
Nov 23, 2007
494
330
19,270
Trying the M5i again this afternoon and they certainly seem to resolve the issue of soundstage instability in more complex music. Also not finding the sibilance an issue any more so maybe this is a good step forward without any spend.

I suspect that, good though it is, the CD63SE could be improved upon and that doing so would then establish a better source for the day when an amplifier upgrade becomes a possibility.
 

idc

Well-known member
Jan 2, 2008
1,093
52
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How about, at least as an experiment, since the science strongly suggests that the major by far difference in hifi is the speakers, you spend every single penny you have trying new speakers. So long as you avoid really hard to drive or sensitive speakers, there really should be no issue with your amp.

I am just suggesting that you give all the research I have done into blind testing and what matters and what does not a go :)
 

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