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My hifi journey + what would you do?

BobbyTimmons

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Dec 26, 2019
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This is gonna be a long(ish) one, so please bear with me.

About 2 years ago, I had too much spare time (and money apparently? :facepalm:), so what better way to spend time (and money), than to upgrade my hifi system (which is hindsite was not necessary I guess). I've had my system since 2003 if I recall correctly. It consisted of a Rotel RA-1062 (2x60 integrated amp) and a Rotel RCD-1072 CD player. (Connected via RCA cables, so no fancy DAC.) Speakers were DSL R55 tower speakers. After I initially bought the system, I really never considered doing anything to it, as I liked everything about it. Sound, looks, everything.

In early 2014 we bought a small stylish internet radio with Spotify connect and line out, that we connected via mini stereo jack to RCA to the amp. Everything was fine, and I never really felt the need to do anything. We just listened to music and everything sounded fine. We got our first child in 2014, and the convenience of having all our CD's in an app + every CD we could ever think of, resulted in us never using the CD player. As time went by, the CD player did not work well anymore. The few times we tried to use it after we started streaming, the CD player skipped and jumped tracks. I got it cleaned at a hifi repair shop, but that didn't fix the "problem". I was told that, there was nothing to clean, and it might be because of vibrations, and that I should try to put the amp on top of the CD player. In over 15 years I've had the amp under the CD player, so it seemed illogical to me, that that would solve anything. And in fact it didn't. No difference. Still skipping and jumping around on tracks like a madman. I could live without the CD player as we never used it anyway.

Then came the digital TV out "problem" on our new TV, that we (mostly me) wanted to connect to the amp, so we could get good audio from the hifi speakers. That required a DAC, so I bought a 50$ S/PDIF & COAX to analog converter, and connected it to our amp. I know now, that the DAC was probably the worst DAC ever made in history, but it did the job. One day our "streaming radio" died, and I got a SONOS connect box instead. Connected it to the DAC via COAX and continued with Spotify that way. Again. Everything worked as required, so no need to upgrade. At this point in time, I felt that there was quite a pileup of boxes and cables, and I could probably find a smarter all-in-one solution. At that point everything went downhill :rolleyes::facepalm: On to the interwebs and reading reviews and watching videos of idiot audiophile YouTubers. I wish I never went down that rabbit hole.

Anyway. My first attempt to upgrade was the 2nd gen. Bluesound Powernode. It was buggy as hell (imho), and if I plugged a pair of headphones in the socket on the front, the speakers would still play at a very low volume! As I investigated, it turned out, that Bluesound at that point in time, was basically a beta product, with soooo many hiccups and angry users, so I returned it.
Next step was an integrated Marantz 60something If recall correctly. The sound from that unit was an obvious downgrade in sound quality from the Rotel (imho). To be fair I didn't give it much time, so maybe I could have done something to better it, but right out of the box, I didn't like it. So it got returned. Next unit was a Quad Vena II integrated amp. Lovely piece of kit. When I unpacked it, one of the binding posts was loose and rattled. Brand new unit. Returned it and didn't want to do anything Quad again. Until this point most things were bought online.

I then went to a local hifi dealer with a budget of 500$. I drove home with a 1500$(!!! :facepalm:) Roksan streaming amp. I really liked the design of the unit but over a weekend, I encountered numerous freezes/lockups, that required an "power unplug" reboot. Also the unit had an audible hum. That went back to the store. Then I tried a Hegel H190 (approx 2000$). I really like the design of the Hegel, but it didn't sound any better/different than my old Rotel, and the remote was a pain to operate. The Hegel also had an obvious audible hum. Side note: Hegel is a whole other story so don't get me started on Roon integration, "audiophile" airplay and sota DAC on the Hegels :mad:. Back it went. Although I've already then "travelled long miles" in my hifi journey, I was basically still at my starting point.

Watching more idiot YouTubers, I fell in love with the Solidsteel speaker stands, and as my tower speakers obviously did not fit the stands, I was suddenly looking for other speakers. Don't ask me what part of my brain, that got that brilliant idea to get new speakers, when my quest initially was and all-on-one amp solution - definitely not speakers! Only first world problems I'm embarrassed to admit. My favourite local dealer had a "cheap" demo pair of gorgeous white ATC SCM19 (2200$ retail) that would fit my new stands well, so I bought them. (I'dont care how they measure, they sound like a million dollars in my opinion!) Next problem was getting an amp that could drive the darn good looking boxes. My Rotel 60W integrated did not have a chance to give them any justice, so I had to go back to my initially plan, and look at an all-in-one solution - now with a minimum of 100W and preferably 150W per channel. In the mean time I discovered the wonders of HDMI in hifi, and of course had to get an integrated with HDMI.

I got a Cambridge EVO 150. Everything fit the bill in that unit. 2x150W, HDMI, Roon, Spotify, Tidal, Airplay (if I recall correctly) and good looks. What a nightmare that unit was. I had soo many software related problems with the EVO (2000$ retail), that I could'nt believe it. It reminded me of Windows ME. I tried to contact Cambridge support numerous times but with no help. The usual "try to reboot, factory reset etc noob help)" I could try and wait, and maybe they could fix the problem in a future software update. I got a replacement unit from the dealer, as I've only had it for a few weeks. The 2nd unit was a never batch, and would probably work better. It did not :mad: The unit would turn on and off randomly, the screen would flicker and go black. The 2nd unit was even worse than the first. I got my money back. Never Cambridge Audio again.

I then fell in love with (mostly with the reviews from the same idiot YouTubers) the Audiolab 6000A. I found a 2nd hand unit cheap(ish), and bought it. In my haste to burn my money, I forgot it did not have HDMI and was way underpowered for my new speakers :facepalm:. The 6000A is really nice to the feel, the remote is garbage though but it sounds great with the right speakers I'll imagine. So after a few weeks I sold it with a small profit. What now?

My experience with the EVO made me very concerned about all-in-one solutions, so I wanted to go "oldschool" and look for separates from now on. I ended up with an ATC P2 power amp and ATC SC2 preamp (both 2K$ retail). That combo made the speakers sing like small angels. I got a D10S DAC for that system (and I've had jumped boats from Spotify to Roon and Qobuz by now), and I was really enjoying the system. After a few months my favourite hifi dealer got a pair of gorgous ATC SCM40 in white satin finish. I quickly forgot about my love afair with the Solidsteel stands, and traded in the SCM19 for the SCM40's. Before I got the SCM40's home we had to move to a new place, where I could get a 30m2 mancave in the basement so everything was ideal for me. Or so I thought. The basement was all concrete, and sound management was a war I'd rather be without. But looking back I now know a lot about acoustic treatment that I would not know otherwise, so I guess that the process was not totally in vain. Anyway. The build of energy in the basement with that setup, would result in physical earache (unbelieveable pressure) and a room mode at around 35-40hz that could jumpstart a freight train! My dealer was very understing to my situation and offered me to return all my gear I bought from him. Where should I go from here?

All of sudden I had forgotten that all-in-one solutions was a big fat NO, so I got a pair of KEF LS50 ll wireless :facepalm:. I had them for a weekend, and then returned them. They sounded OK, but not much better than a pair of stereo paired SONOS ONE's. I could not get HDMI to work properly with a Samsung TV, and had quite a few software hiccups. I also encountered numerous connection fails between the two speakers during the weekend I had them. There was no way on earth that I would consider a price tag close to 2K$ for those boxes. The finish on them are not great either.

A few weeks later I must have lost all common sense and got total memory blackout, because I got so excited about a pair of ATC SCM40A (the active version of the speakers that did NOT work in my mancave), that I could acquire with a substantial rebate, that I thought it was a brilliant idea get buy a set of 8K$ speakers + 2K$ preamp that would NOT work in my current situation. How stupid are you allowed to be! :facepalm::facepalm::facepalm:

After I got the SCM40A's I did do some substantial sounds treatment, that would radically change the properties of the room, but pressure buildup was still a problem I couldn't find a practically solution for. If you're still with me, then please remember all of this was a result of me trying to eliminate too many boxes in my setup and to get HDMI. Still no HDMI but a kick åss hifi system I really never needed, and a 10K$ hole in my (our) wallet :facepalm: My new "dream speakers" did simply not fit into my current hifi situation. I talked to my favourite dealer (probably the best and most kind and overbearing hifi dealer in the world) about my situation, and we made an arrangement, where I get some money back, and can get gear for the rest of the value the setup has.

I had given away my speakers to my mom and amp/CD to my sister. My mom moved recently and did not have space for the speakers, so I got them back. I had to get some kind of amp, so I bought a 2nd hand Denon AVR X1100W with the notorious defect display issue for 30$(!). It has HDMI (wink wink) :) To be honest it sounds great with my speakers (in direct mode) and my room, but the grass is always greener... So I browsed used hifi, and found a pair of "as new" Argon Forte A55 MK ll active speakers. 50% off the retail price and HDMI and analog/digital input. They sound great. Or should I say sounded in pretence. The speakars has an auto detect signal feature, that I could really not get to work satisfactory with my new Panasonic OLED television. About 50% of the time we turned on the tv, the speakers would not turn on. I think I've tried every HDMI related setting on the tv with no success. The optical input was also considerable more quiet than the RCA inputs?!? I don't know why. If my only use case was listening to music (connected to a D10S DAC "fed" with Roon from a Ropieee PI4) I would have kept them. They sound really great. But still no (working) HDMI. They were easy to sell again though.

So to sum it up. I've still got the same speakers I bought in 2003 paired with a "defect" budget AVR amp that sounds fine with my current "hifi" situation. And did I mention that HDMI works flawlessly ;) I use Roon over Airplay and that's fine too. I still have about 3K$ to spend at my dealer that's marked for hifi, so "unfortunately" I'm in a situation where I have to use them on some kind of hifi. Poor me :cool: Looking back I don't know what I was thinking with my initial 500$ budget ending up at 10K$. Typical "audiophile" logic I guess. Maybe I should leave my finances to my 8 year old son or 9 year old daughter. They'd probably manage it more wisely than me :facepalm::D

If you had an empty hifi rack, two empty spots on the floor and 3K$ to burn on hifi, what would you do today and why?

Thank you for reading this far. I really appreciate it!
That's not 'typical audiophile logic'. Most audiophiles don't spend $10k buying things like that without planning. It seems like you have shopping addiction. I would enjoy the stuff you already bought.
 
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Ze Frog

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That's not 'typical audiophile logic'. Most audiophiles don't spend $10k buying things like that without planning. It seems like you have shopping addiction. I would enjoy the stuff you already bought.
On the contrary that is 'audiophile' logic.

I really wish people that come to ASR to learn and be informed of facts would just ditch referring to themselves as 'audiophiles'. The 'audiophile' is a pretentious and elitist manipulation tool devised by influencers and the industry, it's almost insulting ones own intelligence to refer to oneself as an 'audiophile'. Large majority here are extremely deep into music and gear, but also not cultist's, so why refer to themselves with a label that was conjured up by the cultist's.

We need a new name for the subset of people who frequent this place or base their expectations on facts, science and reality, because the truth is, very few people here are 'audiophiles' in the vein the term was created for.
 

Ze Frog

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Wow, feel your pain fella, it's a journey many of us have fallen victim of.

Definitely never trust YouTube influencers.

And if you get a CD player that does that again, try turning in upside down, when I store CD player's I instinctively turn them every few months as the mechanism can sag, PS1 that was a definite thing back in the day.

As for system on that money I'd be going for powered monitors through a DAC with volume control and blu ray as CD transport. If I had regular speakers I'd likely just get something like the WIIM Amp and speakers that have a good review here without breaking the bank.
 
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