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Advice for good living room sound system (streaming, multi room)

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#1
Hi all,

my old stereo system is about 30 years now.It's from an company named Fisher with a receiver (2x100 W), separate FM radio and a turntable. Later I added a Technics SL PGA 500A CD player. This system is still working and sounding quite good besides of a jammed cassette deck, a broken equalizer display and a speaker repair.
I wish that nowadays system were that durable.

But now I would like to switch to a modern, better sounding sound system that can handle today's sources like streaming, Bluetooth etc.

System configuration
- Suitable for the living room (40 sqm (10m to 4m) with an open kitchen (about 15 sqm) at one of the long sides.
The speakers would be on the 4m side. I guess that this room is not ideal for a good hifi sound.
- Good sound on the coach, not only on a tiny "special" spot (as far as possible)
If possible special settings for differnt positions and hifi or movie, therefore...
- A sound improvement system like Dirac would be nice as I think this room is not very good for high end hifi.
- Good sound at lower volumes (wife, kids and neighbours...) and also at higher levels :)
- Streaming over Synology NAS, Spotify, Tidal,...
- Internet radio
- Bluetooth (input and output if possible)
- Smartphone App (iPhone and Android)
- LAN / WLAN
- Head phone access on front
- Access for turntable and CD player (I'd like to keep my old ones for costs reasons at the moment)
I have some old records (mainly from my Queen time).
But nowadays I mainly by CDs and use the EAC (Exact Audio Copy) to get high quality MP3 files.
Maybe I also convert them to better formats like FLAC,... ?
- USB access ?
- HDMI (see movies)
- Floorstanding loudspeakers
- No dependency on a cloud system which can be switched off in a few years !
- optional: recording possibility, e.g. to record the records to MP3 or FLAC and put them on the NAS for other players

System use
1. Mainly for playing music (rock, hard rock, blues, jazz,...) !
I'm thinking about using it for movies and maybe later a home cinema. But a good music sound is the most important for me.

2. Multi-Room: It would be nice to have the music in the living room at a lower volume while playing it in the kitchen at a high volume level
I only like to cook, clean up etc. with good and loud music. :)
3. Movies
- Play the sound of the video sources like Blueray, VDR (Linux video disk recorder PC, ( Nintendo Switch ) and the TV.
The all can be connected via HDMI. At the moment I use a 3,5mm jack socket cable for this and the sound is a
big improvement to the TV speakers.
- Optional: emphasize film dialogues
- Option to upgrade to a surround sound/home cinema later.
This may happen withhin the next years or never. My idea is to use the front speakers which are attached to the hifi amplifier.
Would it be possible over a Pre-Out signal of an AVR to the amplifier and other surround speakers could be handeled by the AVR system?
Or is this idea crazy?


Budget idea: 6 - 10T$ for the whole system including speakers
It could be a bit more if the improvement is that good. But this would inflict discussions with my wife.
I already bought a new PRS guitar this year. :)
This budget should include: Streaming system, amp(s), front speakers and multiroom speaker(s) for the kitchen

Included speaker budget: I was thinking about KEF R7, which cost about 3700$ at my location
and multiroom speaker(s): about 700$

Ideas so far after going to a local hifi store
- Main speakers: KEF R7 (or maybe the cheaper KEF R5)
- Multiroom speaker: Bluesound Pulse Mini or Bluesound Pulse Flex 2 (one or two)

Systems I though of until now:
1. AVR Setup: NAD T 778 with above speakers and maybe some later update to surround (or earlier if the budget is ok)
I would use the AVR setup if I get a very good hifi sound, but I fear I could regret it when I compare it to the following systems
2. NAD C658 + NAD C298 (+NAD MDC HDMI module ?)
3. NAD M33 (+NAD MDC HDMI module ?)
More expensive solution which would inflict some persuasion of my wife, but I guess it would be possible :)

4. Linn Majik DSM 4 - few inputs, no upgrades possible?
5. Linn Select More expensive, but options to upgrade with AVR functionality.
More expensive multi-room system speakers?

My tendency goes towards the NAD C658+C298 with above speakers. I could also go for the NAD M33 if it is worth the additional money.
I like the features NAD overs with Direc live room correction and Bluesound (streaming and multiroom)

The features of the NAT T778 are quite interesting for me. Do you think it provides a good hifi sound to be happy with it?
Unfortunately I wasn't able to here it in the store. But I can hear the NAD systems next time.

What do you think about these configurations?
Would there be better options?

Many thanks for your advice (and sorry for the long text),
Michael
 
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somebodyelse

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#2
If you're using VDR I guess you'd be ok with using something like a Raspberry Pi or a thin client for the streaming client - there aren't many ways to avoid dependency on external services otherwise. At least one of the usual suspects (PiCorePlayer, Volumio etc.) should have the set of features you require, and will have no problem streaming things from the Synology.
 

CDMC

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#3
I think the hardest part for your system will be the multiroom and various streaming sources. So lets start with the easy parts:

1) The KEFs are an excellent choice (as are the R5 which are available from Accessories for Less for $999 each). I would also strongly encourage you to look at the Revel F206 at the $3500 price point and the F36 at $2000 a pair (they can be bought for less from some dealers).
2) You should include two subwoofers. This is not for super loud bass, but rather that a pair of subwoofers will provide a great deal of smoothing in the bass range throughout the room. They will also offer solid bass extension to below 20hz which will knock your socks off on some music and movies. I would suggest looking at the Rythmik L12 or F12. With subwoofers, generally the larger enclosure, the more capability, so if you have the space, consider the LVX12 from Rythmik or VTF-3 MK5 HP from Hsu. Now we have taken another $1,000-1,500 out of your budget.
3) Amplifier- A Hypex NC502 will work wonderfully. Take a look at the March Audio P502 ($967), Nord One MP NC502 ($760), or Apollon NCMP700 ($976).
4) You will need cables to hook it up, Blue Jeans Cables or World's Best Cables from Amazon are great. You should be able to get all you need for less than $200.
5) A Umik-1 for $80 so you can download and learn to use REW to dial in your system.

So we have now used between $4,100 and $6,300 of your budget. This leaves us a good chunk of change for your preamp/dac and kitchen speakers. I can see doing this a few ways (but others are better at multiroom).

1) Get or use an old computer as a roon server for streaming and your stored music ($1,000). Use a Mini DSP SHD as your living room endpoint as wells as an input for your external devices. It has Dirac room correction and crossovers for your mains and subwoofers. Then just add a Sonos speaker for your kitchen which can run as a roon endpoint. All in you are looking at $2500-3000 more.
2) Skip Roon, still buy the Mini DSP and use a Sonos Port for your streaming, bluetooth, and stored music. Add a Sonos speaker for your kitchen (or anywhere else you want). Total cost $2,000-2,500.

Sonos is nice as it is dead nuts easy to use (passes what I call the drunk wife test) and anyone can pick up a tablet or smartphone and use the app to run it. Roon is not hard, but does take some configuration for the server and has a bit of a learning curve.

All in this gets you a system that on the lower price end of about $6,000 all in will knock your socks off. On the higher end it will run you about $9,300 and knock you socks off a little more. Going more expensive electronics will only get you better performance if they offer features you need. Going from the speakers at $2,000 to $3,500 a pair will get you a small increase in sound quality, but at $2,000 you are really at the point where you get great speakers (from the good manufactures) and when you spend more you are paying a lot for the incremental increases. With the subs, the larger ones will offer the shake your pictures bass instead of small rattle your pictures bass for movies and probably represent the best extra money spent over the lower priced items.
 
OP
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Thread Starter #4
Thank you both for this interesting input.
I will take a closer look at PiCorePlayer and Volumino. Does a Raspberry or PC provide a good quality through the sound output?

I looked for the suggested amplifiers but it seems that they are not easily available in Europe/Germany. Maybe I should have written my location earlier. My impression is that prices are lower in the US. This is the same for guitars, but sending them and getting them through customs would eat up the saved costs. I wouldn't think twice to get a KEF R5 for 999$ which would be 850€ here. The best price here on the internet is 1163€ / 1364$.

Glad you like the KEF R5. I heard them in the store and they sounded very good. I may go for the bigger KEF R7 but I have to here them first.
Maybe I also get the chance to hear a Revel speaker, too.
I'll have to speak with my wife if she wants me to build up an audio system with a Raspberry/PC, Mini DSP and an amplifier, or if we should get one "out of the box" from a local dealer. I'll also have a look on Sonos.

What I also have to keep in mind is that I don't have so much time as when I build up the vdr. By the way this solution uses an old Intel dual core processor, is about 10 years old now and I had no hardware problems except from a damaged power supply I had to change. I use a wireless keyboard for it as my remote control is broken. I just hope that the next stable EasyVDR release comes soon as it has an outdated linux at the moment.

I'll also take a look at th NAD M33 as this could fit the WAF (Women Acceptance Factor) better than a set of boxes with a lot of cables.

One question. Do you think that the difference between a good sounding AVR like that NAD T778 and above solution or for example the NAD Stereo Amps would be audibly?
 
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#6
Hi all,
my old stereo system is about 30 years now. It's from a company named Fisher
I wish that nowadays system were that durable.
I have a Fisher TX100 that I got in 1968 and still works (along with my AR 2ax). They don't make them like they used to but I hear Bryston, Accuphase, and Parasound still make very reliable gear. Naim is also back and I would also add brands like Anthem, Onkyo's Integra line, Yamaha's Aventage line, etc a look too.

If you are looking at KEF R series speakers, I would add Focal (Aria) to the list as well as Monitor Audio (Gold), Salk Sound, Martin Logan (Elektro Motion), and Sonus Faber (Sonetto).

Hope this helps.
 
OP
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Thread Starter #7
Have you considered active speakers? I've seen a new company, GGNTKT have active speakers at €5750 including vat which leaves 4250 for preamp and kitchen speakers. I've never heard these speakers but the measurements look pretty good and you could give them a listen.

https://ggntkt.de/preise-und-verfuegbarkeit/
Yes. I have thought about active speakers. For example from a Nubert (German company).
https://www.nubert.de/nupro-x-6000-rc/p3351/?category=254 (sorry, only german language).

But I guess it might be more difficult to extend this configuration later.
I have a Fisher TX100 that I got in 1968 and still works (along with my AR 2ax). They don't make them like they used to but I hear Bryston, Accuphase, and Parasound still make very reliable gear. Naim is also back and I would also add brands like Anthem, Onkyo's Integra line, Yamaha's Aventage line, etc a look too.

If you are looking at KEF R series speakers, I would add Focal (Aria) to the list as well as Monitor Audio (Gold), Salk Sound, Martin Logan (Elektro Motion), and Sonus Faber (Sonetto).

Hope this helps.
Thank you I'll take a look at them.

After talking with my wife I tend to get a "ready to use" solution. She complained that I didn't have the time to complete our home automation system in the last years and she is right about that. But I might do a Raspberry Pi solution for my old Fisher system when I have more time, again.

We also discussed about the AVR NAD T778 again.
I think it is still an option to go for home cinema if the audio sound of the NAD T778 is good enough.
From the feature side it has almost everything I'm looking for. I'm just not sure about the sound quality.

I will try to visit our local dealer today together wife my wife. I know, this could be a bad idea. :)

By the way they have:
  • Ayon
  • B&W
  • Cambridge
  • Dynaudio
  • Electrocompaniet
  • KEF
  • Linn
  • Loewe
  • Metz
  • NAD
  • Naim
  • Rega
  • T+A
  • Anthem
  • Arcam
  • Astell & Kern
  • Audio Pro
  • Audioblock
  • Audioquest
  • Benz
  • Blue Sound
  • Cocktail Audio
  • Creaktiv
  • Cyrus
  • Exposure
  • Goldkabel
  • Grado
  • HMS
  • Inakustik
  • Lehmann Audio
  • Marantz
  • Ortofon
  • Padis
  • Pioneer
  • Pro Ject
  • Rel
  • Rotel
  • Schnepel
  • Sennheiser
  • Soloos
  • Sonoro
  • Sonos
  • Ultrasone
  • Funk Firm
  • Isol
  • Russell K.
  • Dynaudio


Thanks,
Michael
 

somebodyelse

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#8
Coincidentally the M33 was tested soon after your original post. The MiniDSP SHD Power might be worth a look as an all in one too. It's not been measured here, but the version without the power amp did pretty well.

The Pi or a PC can be a perfectly good source - archimago has done an assortment of measurements for both USB and hat DACs if you want the details, and there are tests of several hat style DACs on this site. If you're sticking to normal usage PiCorePlayer, daphile, Volumio etc. have very little to set up. It's more or less a case of writing the downloaded image to the SD card, sticking it in the pi, connecting the network cable and powering up. Point a web browser at it and do some minimal config - probably just to tell it which audio output to use. At this point it's pretty much like setting up an off the shelf streamer, especially as some of them are now using a paid version of Volumio.

I have a similarly old mythtv setup, but being gentoo-based the software side is still current. That's a double edged sword as gentoo recently dropped support for the old nvidia graphics driver needed by the Ion (nvidia stopped updates some time back), and the video decode support in the open driver isn't up to the job. I'm using a Pi as a frontend while I decide while I decide what to do.
 
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#9
- A sound improvement system like Dirac would be nice as I think this room is not very good for high-end hi-fi.
- Good sound at lower volumes (wife, kids and neighbours...) and also at higher levels :)
- Streaming over Synology NAS, Spotify, Tidal,...
- Internet radio
- Bluetooth (input and output if possible)
- Smartphone App (iPhone and Android)
- LAN / WLAN
- Headphone access on the front
- Access for turntable and CD player (I'd like to keep my old ones for costs reasons at the moment)
I have some old records (mainly from my Queen time).
But nowadays I mainly by CDs and use the EAC (Exact Audio Copy) to get high-quality MP3 files.
Maybe I also convert them to better formats like FLAC,...?
- USB access?
- HDMI (see movies)
- Floorstanding loudspeakers
- No dependency on a cloud system which can be switched off in a few years!
- optional: recording possibility, e.g. to record the records to MP3 or FLAC and put them on the NAS for other players

System use
1. Mainly for playing music (rock, hard rock, blues, jazz,...) !
2. Multi-Room: It would be nice to have the music in the living room at a lower volume while playing it in the kitchen at a high volume level
3. Movies
- Play the sound of the video sources like Blueray, VDR (Linux video disk recorder PC, ( Nintendo Switch ) and the TV.

Included speaker budget: I was thinking about KEF R7, which cost about 3700$ at my location
and multiroom speaker(s): about 700$

Ideas so far after going to a local HiFi store
- Main speakers: KEF R7 (or maybe the cheaper KEF R5)
- Multiroom speaker: Bluesound Pulse Mini or Bluesound Pulse Flex 2 (one or two)
Systems I thought of until now:
1. AVR Setup: NAD T 778 with above speakers and maybe some later update to surround (or earlier if the budget is ok)
2. NAD C658 + NAD C298 (+NAD MDC HDMI module ?)
3. NAD M33 (+NAD MDC HDMI module ?)
4. Linn Majik DSM 4 - few inputs, no upgrades possible?
5. Linn Select More expensive, but options to upgrade with AVR functionality.
More expensive multi-room system speakers?

My tendency goes towards the NAD C658+C298 with the above speakers.
Michael
Since audio is what you are focussed on, what about using an AVR + high-end stereo integrated amplifier (NAD T758+ C375)? The front speakers can be driven by the C375 while the centre and surround speakers can be driven by the 758. You don't need to stick to NAD but I am using the brand as an example. The KEF R7s, for example, are happier with 100W/ch. Most AVRs cant deliver the quality of power demanded by high-end loudspeakers.

Then you need to add a media player that has a simple GUI interface (like Apple TV) and can
  1. Help you navigate through your Audio and Video files (on USB or NAS Drive)
  2. Act as a streamer for services like Tidal, Spotify, Netflix, etc.
  3. Broadcast Audio to wireless speakers (BlueOSi if you are using NAD but look at PlayFi products too). PlayFi gives you access to products from Sonus Faber, Martin Logan, SVS, Audiolab, Rotel, Anthem, Onkyo Integra, etc.
You can connect your 2 channel sources like the CD player and Turntable directly to the stereo integrated amplifier ((bypassing all the unnecessary processing in the AVR) and connect all your multi-channel sources (Set-top box, PS5, Blue Ray player, Media player, etc) to the AVR via HDMI. The stereo integrated amplifier acts as a power amp for multi-channel use.

This will give you the option of adding a high-end "Chi-Fi" DAC (like the Gustard A18 see link) later and using the DAC for your media player (via USB), your CD player (via CoAx). Some DACs (SMSL M400/SU9, Topping D70/90) even have the option of using Bluetooth 5.0 to connect a portable media player. The DAC will then connect to both the stereo amplifier (for 2 channel audio) and AVR (for everything else). https://apos.audio/products/gustard-a18-dac

This also gives you the option of upgrading the AVR as newer codecs become available and still retaining your stereo set up.

Just a thought.

P.S. I use a Yamaha S2000 and a Rotel 1570 (the best I could afford in India with all the additional import duties and taxes) for my 2 systems. The flexibility of changing the AVR has been a blessing as newer codecs, wifi, Bluetooth and other functionality keeps getting added every 5 years or so. My current AVRs are a Denon X7200W and Marantz 7013.

I connect all my HDMI sources to the AVR including the home security DVR. By offloading the audio sources to the stereo amplifier, I freed up 2 HDMI inputs on the AVR. You run out of them faster than you think. We even have Karaoke connected to our Denon AVR.
 
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OP
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Thread Starter #10
Yesterday I went to the hifi shop with my wife. She liked the Bluesound speakers very much.
So we are going for the NAD C658 in combination with an NAD C298 and the KEF R7.
This combination sounded very good (although I did not have the chance to hear the NAD C298, but we had a comparable amplifier).
The KEF R5 sounded very good, too. But I think I'll go for the bigger one with the 40 sqm living room.
We will also get two Bluesound Flex i2 speakers for the kitchen. They are meant for the kitchen, but I it could be that my wife takes one or two into her home office.
From the equipment I looked at (and can buy around here) the NAD C658 wins for us regarding features (Bluesound,...), easyness and price.
The M33 is also tempting, but Iot more expensive.

I discovered that my old TV (Sony KDL 40HX855) has HDMI Arc. So I can use the HDMI ARC access for now and don't have to get the HDMI Module ( https://nadelectronics.com/product/mdc-hdm-2-hdmi/ ). The idea is to plug in the VDR, Console and Blueray into the TV and get the sound into the C658 via HDM ARC. I hope this works the way I think?

My biggest concern now is to find a perfect position for the speakers as there is an old cupbard in the way and my wife doesn't want to put it into another room and get a more suitable one. Maybe I can persuade here to get a new cupboard as we have reduced VAT of 16% instead of 19% due to Corona until the end of the year in Germany.


I think I will try the Raspberry Pi as a source for my old system when I have more time. There is even an unused Pi in my cupboard.
Thanks for the good ideas.


Regards,
Michael
 

Harmonie

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#11
Yesterday I went to the hifi shop with my wife. She liked the Bluesound speakers very much.
So we are going for the NAD C658 in combination with an NAD C298 and the KEF R7.
This combination sounded very good (although I did not have the chance to hear the NAD C298, but we had a comparable amplifier).
The KEF R5 sounded very good, too. But I think I'll go for the bigger one with the 40 sqm living room.
We will also get two Bluesound Flex i2 speakers for the kitchen. They are meant for the kitchen, but I it could be that my wife takes one or two into her home office.
From the equipment I looked at (and can buy around here) the NAD C658 wins for us regarding features (Bluesound,...), easyness and price.
The M33 is also tempting, but Iot more expensive.

I discovered that my old TV (Sony KDL 40HX855) has HDMI Arc. So I can use the HDMI ARC access for now and don't have to get the HDMI Module ( https://nadelectronics.com/product/mdc-hdm-2-hdmi/ ). The idea is to plug in the VDR, Console and Blueray into the TV and get the sound into the C658 via HDM ARC. I hope this works the way I think?

My biggest concern now is to find a perfect position for the speakers as there is an old cupbard in the way and my wife doesn't want to put it into another room and get a more suitable one. Maybe I can persuade here to get a new cupboard as we have reduced VAT of 16% instead of 19% due to Corona until the end of the year in Germany.


I think I will try the Raspberry Pi as a source for my old system when I have more time. There is even an unused Pi in my cupboard.
Thanks for the good ideas.


Regards,
Michael

Yes, I agree.
The NAD C658 was my first choice when I was looking for a Dac earlier this year .
Then I came across ASR ....

Needless to say I did NOT buy it !
 

Harmonie

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#14
I hope so too, sincerely.
As said, it was my prior first choice; but many things changed since.
 

Beershaun

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#15
NAD M33 sounds like the best for your needs. It covers everything in one box, in your budget, beautiful and usable by your wife, and gives you the the Audio quality you want for a 2.2 system with the ability to plug in a TV for really nice tv Audio quality. I think if you can remove the surround sound requirements you get much better audio quality and power at a sensible price. Once you get into any surround sound requirements the audio quality gets worse and the price goes way up quickly. Better to stick to 2.2 solution in your room.
 
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Thread Starter #16
Yes, the NAD M33 would be nice. But this would cost an additional 1850€ / 2200$. So I guess I'll stay with the C658 and the C298.
Do you think it the M33 is really that much better soundwise?

I can give it a try but I have to be careful. I already have tough discussions because we would need to regroup our cupboard to get a good place for the speakers.
Besides I 'm having eyes on a Gretsch White Falcon guitar which could be a nice add in 2021. Unless my wife kills me before for spending to much money for hifi and guitars. :)
 

Beershaun

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#17
The ASR review for the c658 gives it a poor objective rating. So it doesn't seem like a good choice for that reason. Others have pointed out better options if you want a separate DAC.
 
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#18
I have had the NAD C 658 for about six months now and am delighted with it. All of the earlier (2019 - early 2020) online complaints that I saw were addressed by the time that I purchased my unit. Since then, there have been at least 4 firmware updates, three of which added noticeable functionality, especially additional streaming service integrations.

It is amazingly easy to use, as the BluOS software has matured nicely. I have not used multi-room setup, but typical operations are very smooth indeed. Just turning it on and sitting down with access to incredible musical libraries through streaming services is like magic.

Tips:
  • If you have an old smartphone lying around, install the BluOS app and make the phone your remote control. That way you not only control the basic functions of the unit, you also can run your streaming service and downloaded music files, if any.
  • Use DIRAC, but take your time to do the needed measurements carefully. Use some kind of boom arrangement to position the included microphone when doing so. The results will be well worth the trouble.
Finally, with all respect to Amir's earlier measurements, those measurements were of a unit of unknown provenance ("factory refurbished"? NAD certainly doesn't see these units factory refurbished). Moreover, I ran across subsequent tests of a new -- I apologize but cannot locate the source -- suggesting that if there were indeed problems originally, they have been corrected with a software update.

Enjoy the music!
 

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