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Help me upgrade my budget system

aerochrome2

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Hi all! I would love some advice on upgrading one or more components of the budget system I have been slowly building over the last few years. I am trying to figure out where to get the most value / improvement out of the potential upgrades.

My use case is a single (near field) listening position at my desk. I listen to music 6+ hours a day, but almost never listen above 75 DBs or so. I strongly prefer a system that can excel at lower volumes. The room is 18x10 with the speakers on stands to either side of my desk at the front of the room (i.e., along the 10 foot width of one wall). The room has glass walls, but is fully climate controlled, secured, etc.

Chain:
  • Sources: (1) Android tablet with UAPP to stream primarily Tidal and SiriusXM and (2) Vintage 1979 Mitsubishi DP-EC2 Turntable; with upgraded Ortofon OM 20 -->
    • (2 only) Phono Preamplifier - Emotiva SP-1 -->
  • ARC Room Correction: MartinLogan Unison -->
  • DAC: SMSL M500 -->
  • Integrated Amplifier: Emotiva BasX A-100 -->
  • Speakers: KEF Q150 Bookshelf Speakers and SVS SB 1000 Pro Subwoofer
  • Interconnects / speaker wire: good enough
Below, I laid out some basic options and budget ideas I came up with by browsing this forum a bunch.

Option 1: Add a Second SVS SB-1000 PRO with the goal of flattening the curve on my low frequencies (not for extra bass). Unfortunately, the room is tight and I could only add the second sub about 2 feet to the right of my existing sub (i.e., also under my desk, but to the other side). I wouldn't have much if any room to experiment with positioning since the rest of the room has furniture, etc. for other uses, and I worry about the potential dual-sub benefit with them being so close together. (Cost = approx. $500 - $600).

Option 2: Replace Emotiva BasX with something focused on SINAD like the Topping LA90, or a prebuilt Hypex NC252MP or Hypex NC502MP from Buckeye or another company. (Cost = $600 - $1,000 depending on model, minus return from sale of existing amp).

Option 3: Replace the KEF Q150s with another passive speaker (perhaps the LS50 Meta). (Cost/Budget = $1,000 - $1,500 depending on model, minus return from sale of existing speakers).

Option 4: Replace the Emotiva BasX and the KEF Q150 with an active studio monitor like the Genelec 8320a or Genelec 8330a (Cost/Budget = $1,300 - $1,800 depending on model, minus return from sale of existing speakers and amp).

Option 5: something I haven't considered. (Cost/Budget = $1,000 - $1,750) - I am not inclined to upgrade the turntable right now as it was my grandfather's and has sentimental value. I also can't do much with room treatment since it is a shared space.


I am not fixated on any of the specific replacement options listed above, but these are some options I gravitated towards browsing these forums - as such any other recommendations would be appreciated on that front as well.

Based on an all-in budget of around $1,750 - I am thinking I could do both options 1 and 2 (or do just one and save up for the next upgrade in a year or so). Or choose option 3, option 4 or option 5 alone, and again, save up for future upgrades.
 

Peluvius

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I have a very similar use case. Genelecs (8030c) were a massive upgrade for me so that would be my suggestion. I notice the difference between the Tidal normal HiFi and Masters as well so maybe leave room for that in your budget if you go Genelec option ;)
 

Chrispy

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Personally seems your hardware is quite sufficient altho better speakers may always help. Is this the permanent listening position setup? That seems to me one of the most limiting factors.....
 
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aerochrome2

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Personally seems your hardware is quite sufficient altho better speakers may always help. Is this the permanent listening position setup? That seems to me one of the most limiting factors.....
Permanent for the foreseeable future. I just moved my office out of our guest room to this room when my 3rd kid was born, so there aren't many places left for me to go!
 
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aerochrome2

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I have a very similar use case. Genelecs (8030c) were a massive upgrade for me so that would be my suggestion. I notice the difference between the Tidal normal HiFi and Masters as well so maybe leave room for that in your budget if you go Genelec option ;)
I do use MQA although note it is unfortunately down sampled by the Unison (I figured room correction was more important). Will do some more research into Genelacs. Thanks!
 

Marc v E

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Hi all! I would love some advice on upgrading one or more components of the budget system I have been slowly building over the last few years. I am trying to figure out where to get the most value / improvement out of the potential upgrades.

My use case is a single (near field) listening position at my desk. I listen to music 6+ hours a day, but almost never listen above 75 DBs or so. I strongly prefer a system that can excel at lower volumes. The room is 18x10 with the speakers on stands to either side of my desk at the front of the room (i.e., along the 10 foot width of one wall). The room has glass walls, but is fully climate controlled, secured, etc.

Chain:
  • Sources: (1) Android tablet with UAPP to stream primarily Tidal and SiriusXM and (2) Vintage 1979 Mitsubishi DP-EC2 Turntable; with upgraded Ortofon OM 20 -->
    • (2 only) Phono Preamplifier - Emotiva SP-1 -->
  • ARC Room Correction: MartinLogan Unison -->
  • DAC: SMSL M500 -->
  • Integrated Amplifier: Emotiva BasX A-100 -->
  • Speakers: KEF Q150 Bookshelf Speakers and SVS SB 1000 Pro Subwoofer
  • Interconnects / speaker wire: good enough
Below, I laid out some basic options and budget ideas I came up with by browsing this forum a bunch.

Option 1: Add a Second SVS SB-1000 PRO with the goal of flattening the curve on my low frequencies (not for extra bass). Unfortunately, the room is tight and I could only add the second sub about 2 feet to the right of my existing sub (i.e., also under my desk, but to the other side). I wouldn't have much if any room to experiment with positioning since the rest of the room has furniture, etc. for other uses, and I worry about the potential dual-sub benefit with them being so close together. (Cost = approx. $500 - $600).

Option 2: Replace Emotiva BasX with something focused on SINAD like the Topping LA90, or a prebuilt Hypex NC252MP or Hypex NC502MP from Buckeye or another company. (Cost = $600 - $1,000 depending on model, minus return from sale of existing amp).

Option 3: Replace the KEF Q150s with another passive speaker (perhaps the LS50 Meta). (Cost/Budget = $1,000 - $1,500 depending on model, minus return from sale of existing speakers).

Option 4: Replace the Emotiva BasX and the KEF Q150 with an active studio monitor like the Genelec 8320a or Genelec 8330a (Cost/Budget = $1,300 - $1,800 depending on model, minus return from sale of existing speakers and amp).

Option 5: something I haven't considered. (Cost/Budget = $1,000 - $1,750) - I am not inclined to upgrade the turntable right now as it was my grandfather's and has sentimental value. I also can't do much with room treatment since it is a shared space.


I am not fixated on any of the specific replacement options listed above, but these are some options I gravitated towards browsing these forums - as such any other recommendations would be appreciated on that front as well.

Based on an all-in budget of around $1,750 - I am thinking I could do both options 1 and 2 (or do just one and save up for the next upgrade in a year or so). Or choose option 3, option 4 or option 5 alone, and again, save up for future upgrades.
Imo you will only gain real improvement when upgrading speakers. So this part of my advice is easy. The rest of your system is good enough.

If going for option 3 I would recommend to listen to the Kef R3 too, next to the meta's.

Due to positive experience I am heavely biased to actively powered systems and I love my desktop Genelecs. This would be my personal choice.

In short, go for speakers, but listen to the three mentioned and see what you like best. (I can imagine you could have a great deal on the kef r3.)
 
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aerochrome2

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Imo you will only gain real improvement when upgrading speakers. So this part of my advice is easy. The rest of your system is good enough.

If going for option 3 I would recommend to listen to the Kef R3 too, next to the meta's.

I am heavely biased to actively powered systems and I love my desktop Genelecs. This would be my personal choice.

In short, go for speakers, but listen to the three mentioned and see what you like best. (I can imagine you could have a great deal on the kef r3.)
Thanks! Where/when do you expect deals on the R3? Is it because they will be going meta as well soon?
 

Marc v E

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ZolaIII

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Put a cork in Q150 pot and adjust sub transition to 100 Hz. Get some normal cheap laptop/desktop as a primary source (or RPi) and a measuring mic and play with room correction software and EQ. If you really, really want to spend that money go for better speakers but please try suggested first.
Best regards and enjoy.
 
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aerochrome2

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Put a cork in Q150 pot and adjust sub transition to 100 Hz. Get some normal cheap laptop/desktop as a primary source (or RPi) and a measuring mic and play with room correction software and EQ. If you really, really want to spend that money go for better speakers but please try suggested first.
Best regards and enjoy.
I have played with ARC (through the Martin Logan) to great results so I am comfortable there.

But with setting the crossover, I was hesitant to set it that high without the ability to high pass the KEF q150s. Is there a creative solution there?
 

ZolaIII

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I have played with ARC (through the Martin Logan) to great results, but I was hesitant to set the crossover that high without the ability to high pass the KEF q150s. Is there a creative solution there?
Well with some of the players you can set high/low pass to my better knowledge only with Neutron on Android but it's not a very polished one regarding bugs. I use JRiver on Windows. That high is with cork only as they will start to fall under 100 Hz (but will improve in many aspects). Just try it it doesn't cost you anything and see how you like it.
 

Galliardist

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That's a long time listening daily when you have a family...
Looking at your post, I see lots of options, but no thinking about why you want to upgrade and what target you want to achieve.

Seeking "better sound" rather than having a target is the way to subjectivist hell.

Rather than do that, I suggest that you think about your target system. It seems to me that you understand your constraints, which are actually quite considerable - lots of glass in particular is the enemy of good sound. I'd have a set of decent headphones to hand. You can't use them all the time as they can shut you off in that family environment, of course.

So, I suggest a few questions for you to answer.
First off, how much of that listening is intensive/fully absorbed?

If you are mostly playing music while doing other things, I'm not sure that upgrades are going to be that audibly noticeable to you. If all of your listening is background, I suggest the first upgrade for you is in quality of listening time - a period, even if it is only fifteen to twenty minutes a day, where you are just listening with no distractions from family, work, posting in forums, etc. That time may well help you to answer my next question....

Secondly, what is your reason to upgrade?

I suggest you should have something specific in mind to start - a problem to solve, or a goal to achieve. What is wrong with this system that you listen to 6+ hours a day?
You can't really get on with the upgrade until you can answer those two questions, and in a quite specific manner. If there's a lesson to be learned from ASR, is that there is no magic subjective "better" to spend money on. I doubt you have money to waste - you are putting resources into an activity you do a lot of, listening to music. That's fine. Listening to music is great. I hope you are including your family in the activity some of the time, as well as that more intense listening I talked about here. Make sure that what you do here is a good investment.

I'm making a few assumptions about your situation here of course and I may be well out of line. If that's the case, your reaction will still tell you something about the answers to those questions and start you on the right track.

Good luck!
 
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aerochrome2

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That's a long time listening daily when you have a family...
Looking at your post, I see lots of options, but no thinking about why you want to upgrade and what target you want to achieve.

Seeking "better sound" rather than having a target is the way to subjectivist hell.

Rather than do that, I suggest that you think about your target system. It seems to me that you understand your constraints, which are actually quite considerable - lots of glass in particular is the enemy of good sound. I'd have a set of decent headphones to hand. You can't use them all the time as they can shut you off in that family environment, of course.

So, I suggest a few questions for you to answer.
First off, how much of that listening is intensive/fully absorbed?

If you are mostly playing music while doing other things, I'm not sure that upgrades are going to be that audibly noticeable to you. If all of your listening is background, I suggest the first upgrade for you is in quality of listening time - a period, even if it is only fifteen to twenty minutes a day, where you are just listening with no distractions from family, work, posting in forums, etc. That time may well help you to answer my next question....

Secondly, what is your reason to upgrade?

I suggest you should have something specific in mind to start - a problem to solve, or a goal to achieve. What is wrong with this system that you listen to 6+ hours a day?
You can't really get on with the upgrade until you can answer those two questions, and in a quite specific manner. If there's a lesson to be learned from ASR, is that there is no magic subjective "better" to spend money on. I doubt you have money to waste - you are putting resources into an activity you do a lot of, listening to music. That's fine. Listening to music is great. I hope you are including your family in the activity some of the time, as well as that more intense listening I talked about here. Make sure that what you do here is a good investment.

I'm making a few assumptions about your situation here of course and I may be well out of line. If that's the case, your reaction will still tell you something about the answers to those questions and start you on the right track.

Good luck!

Thanks for the thoughtful response. I really appreciate it. I will try to reply in order of your questions.

1) I have a pair of Beyerdynamic Amiron Home headphones. I like the sound but I have found that much prefer to listen to speakers than headphones, so I mainly use them for late at night listening or on the go with my dragonfly DAC.

2) Almost none of my listening is intensive/fully absorbed. I am almost always listening while I work on my computer or with the family around (the kids are young, so listening with them means playing or dancing at the same time). I will give the solo intensive listening period a shot, but it is definitely hard for me to find an extra 20 minutes a day right now!

3) My reason for upgrading is basically that I have fun picking out my system from a hobbyist perspective. I have an occasion coming up where I can justify spending some additional dollars. While I generally like how my system sounds, I also like the idea of spending a bit more to get a 20% or 30% jump in performance (I get not trying to chase a 2% improvement using cables and power conditioning, etc.). I think getting a better soundstage and clarity is what I would look for most. There are moments where my system blows me away on certain passages or songs, but it is not consistent. I think I am chasing that better sound more often? Also, I built this system without auditioning anything. I plan to stop by a few local hifi stores to try to remedy that this time around.
 

Azazello13

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some people swear by the second sub. I'm not so sure I do, but I've never had that set up. That couldn't be a bad option, it would be pretty easy to sell one later if you decide you don't need it.

speaker upgrade would seem like the obvious choice as far as something you can really hear and be happy about. If you've got money burning a hole in your pocket that's usually the way to go.

You don't probably need a new amp unless you end up with speakers the A-100 can't drive real well. If you start down that road and you like Emotiva, it might be tempting to look at something like the TA-2. You could drop a couple pieces (DAC and phono amp) and have a lot of power on tap all in one box.
 
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aerochrome2

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Thanks all. I am starting to worry that any gain I get from new equipment will be negated by my room constraints. I assume that's the case even with my room correction software?
 

ZolaIII

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Thanks all. I am starting to worry that any gain I get from new equipment will be negated by my room constraints. I assume that's the case even with my room correction software?
You are probably right, then again there's a room treatment I hope you tried with sealed Q150's and that it made improvement (with such sub it really should).
 
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aerochrome2

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You are probably right, then again there's a room treatment I hope you tried with sealed Q150's and that it made improvement (with such sub it really should).
Thanks for the link! Is the room treatment you reference just sealing with the port plugs and bumping up the low pass crossover on my sub? Sorry to be dense but I didn't see anything else in the video on that point. I somehow misplaced the port plugs but KEF is sending me new ones as we speak. Part of my issue there is that I can't high pass the KEFs. It doesn't appear there is an easy way to do that with my system without spending a lot of additional money?
 

ZolaIII

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@aerochrome2 by room treatment I meant acoustic treatment (bass traps and difuzers) if possible of course and depending how bad it needs it (clap your hands and see is a echo there). Even thick curtains will help (but not much in bass region) regarding glass surfaces.
Puff had to dig trogh documentation for Unison... Use it as you always did with Low-pass: Bypass meaning it cuts it out from main out (or at least it should).
Your power amplifier is so so but I guess it's strong enough for small KEF's, hope waiting it to warm up doesn't bother you to much and cutting it's output (bypass) above fundamental grid frequency (50 or 60 Hz depending on region) would help filter out some of the PS noise it has.
Anyway by putting cork in Q150 back port you get less problems with room acoustic, it improves a bit on performance and a lot regarding impulse response (any closed enclosure does and your sub is already such) and it compresses less on higher volumes. For 0$ it's not exactly a small improvement.
 
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aerochrome2

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@aerochrome2 by room treatment I meant acoustic treatment (bass traps and difuzers) if possible of course and depending how bad it needs it (clap your hands and see is a echo there). Even thick curtains will help (but not much in bass region) regarding glass surfaces.
Puff had to dig trogh documentation for Unison... Use it as you always did with Low-pass: Bypass meaning it cuts it out from main out (or at least it should).
Your power amplifier is so so but I guess it's strong enough for small KEF's, hope waiting it to warm up doesn't bother you to much and cutting it's output (bypass) above fundamental grid frequency (50 or 60 Hz depending on region) would help filter out some of the PS noise it has.
Anyway by putting cork in Q150 back port you get less problems with room acoustic, it improves a bit on performance and a lot regarding impulse response (any closed enclosure does and your sub is already such) and it compresses less on higher volumes. For 0$ it's not exactly a small improvement.
Thanks! I have very limited ability to add acoustic treatment, even though I know it would make a big difference.

It seems like the easiest way to high pass the KEFs is to add an $85 MiniDSP 2x4. Does anyone have an opinion on whether the extra ADC is worth the benefit of high passing the KEFs? I.e., once I have the KEFs running in a sealed configuration and raise the low pass crossover on the SVS to something between 80 Hz and 110 Hz (per Erin's suggested range), how much benefit will I get from high passing the KEFs at the same crossover?

(At that point, I can re-run my Unison room correction, go back from a 24 DB slope to a 12 DB slope, etc. and see what I can get out of that.)
 
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