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I wanna get rid of my Beresford, would you help me pick something???

Mart68

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I don't totally disagree, but this kind of attitude will kill off the audio industry as we oldies know it and has almost done this in the UK, where a certain speaker brand we know well, sells mainly now as 'ex dem' and 'seconds' all too often (I suspect the 'seconds or ex-dem' labels are a way of discounting A1 ex-factory products to get sales, something that would have been unheard of ten or more years back). Having said that, many well off people seem to LIKE to spend their copious income on lavish high end confections whatever the interest (we had B&O which was actually a lot better than we thought at the time, while also having two other basically rip-off (I now see) agencies ruling our takings and profits - our livelihoods couldn't survive on Quad alone sadly).

Many here may disagree, but buying speakers for example on a Klippel test alone, unheard anywhere and online 'mail order' is risky to say the least. This is where dealers can be helpful - but I would say that, wouldn't I as I was one for decades? Audio shows are feasts for the hobbyist eyes but almost never ears as the sounds are often awful and TOO LOUD to counter the din in the next room and attendees still seem increasingly aged (50+ looking at the pictures posted here and elsewhere). Amir has posted pics of the headphone sections or dedicated headphone style shows where attendees are very much younger. No idea if mainland Europe is the same though, especially Germany where much of our imported high end audio seemed to come from (one man/distributor with a chequebook taking a trip every so often to top up).
Audio shows I have been to the sound has been poor when the speaker were poor (or demo with a turntable) and good when the speakers are good, with the odd exception.
Surprising number of youngsters (i.e under 40) at the shows although still heavily outnumbered by those of us with grey hair (or none at all).

But then the systems are costing anything from ten grand to almost a million, and who has that kind of money to burn when they are still at the age where they have a mortgage and young children?

IMO UK audio industry needs killing and replacing with something far more rational (i,e just going back to what it was in the 70s) but given that the typical punter has learned nothing useful about his hobby despite all the years he's been doing it, I wouldn't worry, it'll never happen.
 

Ian Wendt

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The Beresford DAC is by no means great but it is unlikely to seriously degrade the sound (few DACs do, even bad ones). However, looking at your electronics, I see an odd bunch of subjectively pushed gear. So, instead of selling just the DAC, why not ditch the completely unnecessary preamplifier as well, and replace both with a good DAC with volume control? My suggestion would be the DSpeaker Antimode X2 because it also offers dsp room equalization, which really makes a big sonic difference. I am afraid it uses an external power supply, but at least you would have gotten rid of the preamp.
This Beresford might actually be the exception. The test it received here was certainly deeply unimpressive. It seems entirely reasonable to start with the DAC and go from there. It's painfully clear that while the other gear here isn't what ASR usually cares for, the DAC is clearly the weakest link in the chain.
 

Willem

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the DAC is clearly the weakest link in the chain
I doubt that is true. It is bad, but the sonic impact of that is not so obvious. Many years ago, at a time when the market was much thinner, I bought an earlier version for my son, to serve as a cheap preamp with digital inputs. I tried it in my own main system with Quad 2805 electrostatic speakers and had great difficulty distinguishing it from other better measuring DACs.
 

Galliardist

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I doubt that is true. It is bad, but the sonic impact of that is not so obvious. Many years ago, at a time when the market was much thinner, I bought an earlier version for my son, to serve as a cheap preamp with digital inputs. I tried it in my own main system with Quad 2805 electrostatic speakers and had great difficulty distinguishing it from other better measuring DACs.
The entire chain is actually weak and borderline even working, all links are weak. Each of the audio electronics boxes are distorting, the speakers are an old and complex design that I would want to be certain are working correctly (and they really have to be as designed to have a chance of working with the amp). The problem here is really the First Watt, which is "special" and needs easy to drive speakers and a neutral preamp with high gain to work as designed: If I read @Giuanniello correctly, though, it is non-negotiable. The SP9 has decent gain but is also distorting.

The Beresford here isn't really the weakest link, but it is the icing on the distortion cake, as it were. Replacing it in this system will probably be noticeable even if it wasn't in your system, which I'm guessing didn't contain a pair of other awkward and distorting components.
 
OP
G

Giuanniello

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You confuse me: on the one hand you call the RME ADI-2 DAC expensive, and on the other hand you call the Yamaha too cheap. Yes, the RME is expensive, but not really that much more than the DAC that he was considering, and a lot, I mean really a lot, cheaper than the Benchmark DAC. Conversely, the OP laughed at my really budget friendly suggestion that the DAC in his MAC is probably good enough.
I agree that the message is tough to take, but not facing reality is ultimately more expensive.
It sure has to do with my English as my mother tongue is Italian but I thought it was clear enough that I need a device which allows me to stream a digital audio signal from a TV screen, a MacMini and, not mandatory but welcome, also a second device with an optical out as either a CD player or a different one so be it better the MacMini built-in DAC than the Beresford is of no relevance as for what it matters, again, if not clear enough off or my request I don't want to see the Beresford thing!!!

"I would like a box fitting it all, PSU and DAC, the less whistles and bells (no headphone amp, no preamp, no knobs, no nothing, the less the better), I play lossless music through a MacMini at the moment, USB to the DAC and then to an Audio Research preamp which then feeds either a FirstWatt F4 clone or a push pull KT88 tubes to then power JBL L220, after some research on Italian forums (yep, that's where I am from) I got suggestion for a PS Audio Nuwave DSD, nice design, reliable company, good reviews from users, only one optical input which I can live with (I stream audio from TV to the DAC and, for the fun of it, also through my CD player which is soooooooo much more pleasant to listen nonetheless 30+ years old than the Caiman SEG)"
 

JeremyFife

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It sure has to do with my English as my mother tongue is Italian but I thought it was clear enough that I need a device which allows me to stream a digital audio signal from a TV screen, a MacMini and, not mandatory but welcome, also a second device with an optical out as either a CD player or a different one so be it better the MacMini built-in DAC than the Beresford is of no relevance as for what it matters, again, if not clear enough off or my request I don't want to see the Beresford thing!!!

"I would like a box fitting it all, PSU and DAC, the less whistles and bells (no headphone amp, no preamp, no knobs, no nothing, the less the better), I play lossless music through a MacMini at the moment, USB to the DAC and then to an Audio Research preamp which then feeds either a FirstWatt F4 clone or a push pull KT88 tubes to then power JBL L220, after some research on Italian forums (yep, that's where I am from) I got suggestion for a PS Audio Nuwave DSD, nice design, reliable company, good reviews from users, only one optical input which I can live with (I stream audio from TV to the DAC and, for the fun of it, also through my CD player which is soooooooo much more pleasant to listen nonetheless 30+ years old than the Caiman SEG)"
Hi, I'm glad you are still with us.

You said before that you were considering a Denafrips DAC. That would be a good choice for you. It measures well, has the connections you want and, most importantly fits your personal criteria.
It's a good DAC, use with confidence.

I would humbly suggest that you also spend some time reading threads and comments on this site. You may not get anything useful out of it, but it completely changed the way I think about hi-fi.
Some members are a little zealous, but many are true experts in this field. I have learned a huge amount from them.

Your opinion is your own, and what matters is that you enjoy the music.
 
OP
G

Giuanniello

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I've done a bit of digging and reading up on this system. It's a collection of vintage and less usual items that I'm not convinced about. But it is your starting point and you've chosen these components...

Exactly, I got the occasion to buy a Michell Gyrodec and the AR SP9 locally and I didn't miss the chance, the turntable is 99% of the time a nice piece of furniture as I have no space to stack it along with the other components so it doesn't play much while the SP9, which also serves as a phono stage, does it's job well and it has recently been tested and restored to original specs where needed and it is everything besides a bad preamp nonetheless the age.

The first step is to get the speakers looked at, if you haven't already. The L220 is supposed to be good on the impedance front, and for the F4 to have a chance of working you'll need that to be right. If you have problem components in the speaker the whole thing is going to fall to bits, especially if the impedance falls in the bass, in which case the amp won't provide enough power. I think the F4 is borderline here in any case, but it's not the worst pairing you could have.

The L220 are very easy speakers to drive impedance wise, the issue with the F4 is that being it a buffer it needs a high gain preamp and I realised that the 21db out of the SP9 are enough for moderate listening volumes but sure can't compete with the other tube amp which, again, I bought used locally along with the L220. The F4 has been an hazard, I wanted to try a good solid state amp and the Nelson Pass project was the choice as the most balanced sound among the FirstWatt line sound wise but, being a buffer and in need of big input gain, it fails a bit with the L220 and SP9 so another preamp went into the build, another Nelson Pass project based on the BA3 front end, on paper over 27db gain (can't now recall the specs), it also got built in dual mono (as well as the F4 which is a magnificent build) but the builder thought of adding a candy to it with a BT receiver to stream music off a portable device and this induced a thin and high pitch hum paired with the F4 and a loud and low pitch one when with the tube amp, off the few times I used it the gain is there, still can't compare to sound pressure I can obtain with the KT88 but this is another story.

Newer, well designed speakers would make the biggest improvement usually, but the amps limit choice and you appear to be on a vintage kick, so if the L220s work and you like the sound, I'd say work with them. If you don't like the sound, then lose the lot and start from scratch. You can build a good modern system for the resale price of your components and your apparent DAC budget.

Should I decide to sell the L220 I'd have a line of potential buyers out of my door but, 1st, I like them and like JBL sound as I owned JBL since I was a teen and my 4311b, original owner, are still here and in great shape, 2nd, I live on a small island and would I sell it would be a big deal to ship them over, 3rd, I know they are "only" 90dbW/m gain and, believe me, for our tight spaces I'd so much love a pair of bookshelves onto stands, both space and looks (the L220, to me, are horrible to look at into my environment) but I'd never reach the sound pressure I have now and as such I will have to rethink the whole chain (amp wise for sure) and even tho I am thinking to give away the SP9 and the tubes amp for a tube integrated the only result I'd achieve would be to save space (which is super welcome!!!) but loose money to retain the same or inferior sound with something within the same specs and same price range (thinking of a Synthesis Roma 510 which here sells for shy of 2.000).

End of the day I have other priorities now, audio wise it's about the DAC, the preamp (try and make my BA3 work but the person in charge has literally vanished...) and then whatever comes.

Personally, I'd replace all of your electronics with a good all in one or integrated amp, and would suggest (since you seem to be a traditionalist) a decent Yamaha, or stretching to the Marantz Model 40 - class AB, more than capable of driving your speakers.

If you must keep the FirstWatt, I would strongly suggest you need a proper preamp. The SP9 adds distortion to the FirstWatt's distortion, the Beresford more again: and that would be too much for me personally. You may differ, of course. I'd be looking for a solid state preamp with low distortion and good voltage output and gain. Such things are expensive new, unfortunately. Benchmark (we get to be stuck records here, either Benchmark or Topping/SMSL) preamps would be a good choice. Two F4's run as mono power amps is another upgrade that may help with your speakers if you are committed to them. They are not recommended items here, of course!

Here the specs of the BA3 which makes the perfect mate for the F4 (but not necessarily the best match for my L220, it was an evaluation mistake) art_ba_3.pdf

A lot of the modern DAC/amps as suggested by some here will not work with the F4, which needs good voltage and some gain. And digging in, I agree the Beresford is the first thing that should go. A Benchmark DAC may be the best answer if you intend to keep everything else (again, we have to be a bit concerned about decent output levels from the DAC). If the Denafrips appeals, though, again it's not the worst choice. Any DAC recommended here will work with a proper preamp to the F4, and a cheap model gives you more room to work with the next steps. The Beresford isn't a great DAC, from what I can see. I suspect that it won't provide sufficient voltage for the F4, so wouldn't take the advice to connect it directly.

I don't want a DAC which serves as a preamp, I need a preamp to switch between various sources among which also a turntable so that option is not contemplated, DAC wise I think I stated, in the opening post, I want it the plainest and simplest, no displays, possibly no knobs, dim LEDs, built in PSU.

The Caiman states to swing 2Vdc as a DAC and 1.2Vac as a preamp, besides this at every damn bitrate change it does a very audible click which bothers me big time, the guy who puts them together is a very kind person, he replies to inquiries and after a chat he shipped me an eprom (!!!) with the new firmware which for only 10 pounds didn't change anything...

You do not need fancy cables and especially not fancy AC cables. Even if you want them, they should come well down the list.

So, you are closer to correct with your ideas here than we may at first think. Forget cables, though: replace the Beresford with a low distortion DAC, and get the speakers properly checked and refurbished if necessary and doable, if you haven't done that already. Then consider amp choices. If the speakers have impedance problems such as a dip below even 6 ohms (I can't find a good measurement) then your system is probably mismatched, and you'll need to look at what you want to change.
I won't spend more than 50 bucks for a couple of cables, I need two couples as mine are very old, either I buy some cable and RCA plugs and build them myself either unbalanced or semi-balanced or just buy them already assembled, I don't believe into cables to a degree, been a HAM in my younger age and learnt something about them, I just don't believe that on such frequencies they can make too big of a damage nor to add anything to quality but I understand that if people spends 5K-6K on a power amp they can spend a good fraction of that for a cable, with my vintage setup it's not really worth investing much into cables but this is a dangerous mine field I don't want to go through.

Thank you for your concern and suggestions


Giovanni
 
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Giuanniello

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Willem sir, I do know where you're coming from here, but something I've (hopefully) learned late in life is that going for it all guns blazing in terms of dissing every component in the OP's system and recommending the same old same old (otherwise excellent) alternatives mantra can put established audiophiles with a subjectively biased viewpoint and gear choice TOTALLY off and drive them away (something I've been recently accused of
...
I hope my thoughts above aren't too muddled or muffled, but in wanting to help the OP, I fear we may have driven him off and if we have, that's sad!

Good morning Sir, well, I do really appreciate the above, honestly it's like when people ask me, as a passionate photographer, about a lens and I suggest them to get a new camera, I simply asked for a DAC with no whistles and bells, one if not two optical inputs and a built in PSU with a discrete look and, of course, easy to obtain better specs than the Caiman, got recommended stuff with displays, stuff with preamp out, new amps, new speakers, Class D...

I'd ask to some of the gentlemen, do you think somebody who choses and uses both tubes and Class A amps does it unaware of what he's gonna face and who'd dig them to get to a 100W integrated amp???

Thank you for your concern, I came back to here by accident and thought that yours and somebody's else kindness at least deserve a thank you and an apology for the space and time I stole and for the tone the discussion lead to which was not my intention at all.

Have a great Sunday


Giovanni
 

Galliardist

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Exactly, I got the occasion to buy a Michell Gyrodec and the AR SP9 locally and I didn't miss the chance, the turntable is 99% of the time a nice piece of furniture as I have no space to stack it along with the other components so it doesn't play much while the SP9, which also serves as a phono stage, does it's job well and it has recently been tested and restored to original specs where needed and it is everything besides a bad preamp nonetheless the age.



The L220 are very easy speakers to drive impedance wise, the issue with the F4 is that being it a buffer it needs a high gain preamp and I realised that the 21db out of the SP9 are enough for moderate listening volumes but sure can't compete with the other tube amp which, again, I bought used locally along with the L220. The F4 has been an hazard, I wanted to try a good solid state amp and the Nelson Pass project was the choice as the most balanced sound among the FirstWatt line sound wise but, being a buffer and in need of big input gain, it fails a bit with the L220 and SP9 so another preamp went into the build, another Nelson Pass project based on the BA3 front end, on paper over 27db gain (can't now recall the specs), it also got built in dual mono (as well as the F4 which is a magnificent build) but the builder thought of adding a candy to it with a BT receiver to stream music off a portable device and this induced a thin and high pitch hum paired with the F4 and a loud and low pitch one when with the tube amp, off the few times I used it the gain is there, still can't compare to sound pressure I can obtain with the KT88 but this is another story.



Should I decide to sell the L220 I'd have a line of potential buyers out of my door but, 1st, I like them and like JBL sound as I owned JBL since I was a teen and my 4311b, original owner, are still here and in great shape, 2nd, I live on a small island and would I sell it would be a big deal to ship them over, 3rd, I know they are "only" 90dbW/m gain and, believe me, for our tight spaces I'd so much love a pair of bookshelves onto stands, both space and looks (the L220, to me, are horrible to look at into my environment) but I'd never reach the sound pressure I have now and as such I will have to rethink the whole chain (amp wise for sure) and even tho I am thinking to give away the SP9 and the tubes amp for a tube integrated the only result I'd achieve would be to save space (which is super welcome!!!) but loose money to retain the same or inferior sound with something within the same specs and same price range (thinking of a Synthesis Roma 510 which here sells for shy of 2.000).

End of the day I have other priorities now, audio wise it's about the DAC, the preamp (try and make my BA3 work but the person in charge has literally vanished...) and then whatever comes.



Here the specs of the BA3 which makes the perfect mate for the F4 (but not necessarily the best match for my L220, it was an evaluation mistake) art_ba_3.pdf



I don't want a DAC which serves as a preamp, I need a preamp to switch between various sources among which also a turntable so that option is not contemplated, DAC wise I think I stated, in the opening post, I want it the plainest and simplest, no displays, possibly no knobs, dim LEDs, built in PSU.

The Caiman states to swing 2Vdc as a DAC and 1.2Vac as a preamp, besides this at every damn bitrate change it does a very audible click which bothers me big time, the guy who puts them together is a very kind person, he replies to inquiries and after a chat he shipped me an eprom (!!!) with the new firmware which for only 10 pounds didn't change anything...


I won't spend more than 50 bucks for a couple of cables, I need two couples as mine are very old, either I buy some cable and RCA plugs and build them myself either unbalanced or semi-balanced or just buy them already assembled, I don't believe into cables to a degree, been a HAM in my younger age and learnt something about them, I just don't believe that on such frequencies they can make too big of a damage nor to add anything to quality but I understand that if people spends 5K-6K on a power amp they can spend a good fraction of that for a cable, with my vintage setup it's not really worth investing much into cables but this is a dangerous mine field I don't want to go through.

Thank you for your concern and suggestions


Giovanni
Thanks for replying.

In any case like this, we do various things that often don't help. We see different problems to you with your setup, and we all have our own solutions, which people have often found only after struggling to make setups of "recommended" components work, when they don't. Here too, we have a tendency to go for neutral/"accurate" sound. You'd have to spend some time here to understand the whys and hows, and why we take different approaches (such as class D amplifiers). It's worth doing some reading in the technical parts of the forum here.

You're showing an understanding of the situation you are in, which is good.

I'm going to make the point that you don't actually need an analogue preamp with a turntable: that you can in fact digitise the signal from the turntable, and do the RIAA processing more accurately on your Mac. This is an idea that you won't appreciate now, but I'm adding it here as a seed for later: you may come to appreciate it in time. (Disclaimer: I ditched vinyl 18 years ago, so I'm not preaching something I practice here).

My own DAC/player (Marantz SA-10) also clicks when changing bitrate: it doesn't bother me, since it's only the player that makes the noise, nothing through the speakers which would bug me big time.

I think the Denafrips Ares you mentioned would do nicely as a source here: but so would a lot of other DACs, including some much cheaper ones. Read the reviews here - and also the comments, as people do tend to post their problems with equipment and you can dodge some bullets, as it were.

I think your aim over time should be to get a bit more power to the speakers, and to choose lower distortion components. But that's me.
 

DSJR

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...


Good morning Sir, well, I do really appreciate the above, honestly it's like when people ask me, as a passionate photographer, about a lens and I suggest them to get a new camera, I simply asked for a DAC with no whistles and bells, one if not two optical inputs and a built in PSU with a discrete look and, of course, easy to obtain better specs than the Caiman, got recommended stuff with displays, stuff with preamp out, new amps, new speakers, Class D...

I'd ask to some of the gentlemen, do you think somebody who choses and uses both tubes and Class A amps does it unaware of what he's gonna face and who'd dig them to get to a 100W integrated amp???

Thank you for your concern, I came back to here by accident and thought that yours and somebody's else kindness at least deserve a thank you and an apology for the space and time I stole and for the tone the discussion lead to which was not my intention at all.

Have a great Sunday


Giovanni
My own 'aspiration' for a dac with no bells and whistles is leading me towards an SMSL SU-1, as it's a small black box which can be hidden away. I don't need easily switched multiple inputs, but I do require a good honest basic performance and as reviewed, this eighty seven pounds dac (in the UK via Amazon) should do it for me and my currently stretched bank account. When the main rig (all very old stuff now) needs a 'better' digital input, I may look at a Schiit as I like the company stance, explanations for doing things and Jason's numerous blog posts on Head-Fi (Schiit happened.....).

Tubes and Class A do seem popular still by sections of the subjectivist 'analogue primarily' audiophile fraternity. I'd respectfully suggest that the continued popularity is visually driven though. If you're willing to carry on here, you'll realise if you haven't already just how incredibly much looks and 'feel' count in our gear choices if we can afford it. Some valve/tube amps do look gorgeous, but I've been through that pleasure and pain decades back and just can't today -

(I am custodian of a set of fully now reliable and properly rebuilt Quad II's which come out to play every few years - said amps would have been junked if not rebuilt as one of them was extremely naughty before said rebuild, expensively taking out a Quad speaker and Quad's service dept. barely tickled the edges, the thing blowing up again a year later, hence the transfer of ownership and subsequent rebuild.)

Class A *these days* isn't as necessary as it may have been in the 60's as modern components are better matched and far more capable as manufactured. Some companies tweak the circuits and performance to give a 'warm-toned and slightly soft-focus 'effect' but this isn't 'HiFi' as specified here of course. the *best* class A amps should and I believe do, sound 'the same' as a well designed AB model these days.
 

Willem

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Ah, now there is also a turntable that we did not know about. That changes the options a bit. Here some suggestions:
1 Cheap and simple, but sonically perfect: a Topping E30 DAC.
2 All in one: the Yamaha AS801 integrated amplifier. It has multiple digital inputs, including USB. It also has a MM phono input. And a healthy 2x100 watt power output. It will be sonically far superior to what you have now, and reduces the box count a lot.
3 An RME ADI-2 PRO 2/4 SE This is a DAC/preamp with an analogue input with RIAA correction for phono input: https://www.rme-audio.de/adi-2-4-pro-se.html The quality is unsurpassed, and so are the various features such as balance and tone control, filters, and much much more. It does not get any better. The output is powerful enough to drive any low gain power amplifier. Support is superb, and long lasting.
 

Rednaxela

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It sure has to do with my English as my mother tongue is Italian but I thought it was clear enough […]

"I would like a box fitting it all, PSU and DAC, the less whistles and bells (no headphone amp, no preamp, no knobs, no nothing, the less the better), I play lossless music through a MacMini at the moment, USB to the DAC and then to an Audio Research preamp which then feeds either a FirstWatt F4 clone or a push pull KT88 tubes to then power JBL L220, after some research on Italian forums (yep, that's where I am from) I got suggestion for a PS Audio Nuwave DSD, nice design, reliable company, good reviews from users, only one optical input which I can live with (I stream audio from TV to the DAC and, for the fun of it, also through my CD player which is soooooooo much more pleasant to listen nonetheless 30+ years old than the Caiman SEG)"
Just so you know, this is not at all a clear piece of proze. And this has nothing to do with your command of the English language. Your English is perfectly adequate.
 
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