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New member needs new system and your advice.

Flip1228

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I bought my first system in Japan in 1968, and have replaced the parts over the years. Now, I’m a new place and need a new system.

The rooms are cozy (not tiny), and I will probably need an integrated amp that can receive music both by wire and Bluetooth, and deliver at least 75W per channel.

I’m only interested in using the system to hear music. My top priorities are clarity at the top end, and mid-range.

I’d like to keep the cost of the the integrated amp and two speakers around $3,500. I’m not adverse to spending additional funds on room equalizers if necessary.

I’m within an easy drive to Philadelphia, Washington, and Baltimore, and I have the time to travel and listen to your recommendations.

Of course, I'm interested in what measures best, but my artillery damaged ears are going to have a major vote as well.

What amp and speakers would you buy if you had $3,500?

Thanks so much!
 

NiagaraPete

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I’d buy a DAC with volume control and a pair of good active speakers.

Best advice I can give on brands/models is check the review index for recommendations.
 

Beershaun

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I'd suggest looking at something like the KEF LS50 wireless II. It's great for cozy rooms and does everything you want in a slick good looking package. Everything is built into the speakers so you just run power and are done.
 

digitalfrost

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Are you looking for bookshelves or towers? Active speakers okay or do they have to be passive?
 
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Flip1228

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I'd suggest looking at something like the KEF LS50 wireless II. It's great for cozy rooms and does everything you want in a slick good looking package. Everything is built into the speakers so you just run power and are done.

I can use "wired" speakers if that makes a difference

Are the LS50s superior to the Q950 and KEF R3?
 

DMill

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I can use "wired" speakers if that makes a difference

Are the LS50s superior to the Q950 and KEF R3?
Start with speakers. You are in a place where you can audition many products. Build around that. DACs/preamps- you have million opinions that are great in your price range. A Buckeye amp is nice if you choose passives, but there are many others. If you spin vinyl… idk I quit on that 30 years ago. :). Subs are the usual suspects, SVS, Rythmik, HSU, JL and probably 2 or 3 more that do great. Bottom line. Start with speakers
 

NiagaraPete

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I would reconsider actives. It simplifies the setup. You don't need to buy amps/pre-amp. Some actives are digital, so DSP is built in.

That said the R3 are a great speaker for a starting setup.
 

alex-z

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I can use "wired" speakers if that makes a difference

Are the LS50s superior to the Q950 and KEF R3?

No. LS50's have dramatically lower output capability, there is no reason to buy them if you can afford a pair of R3. R series uses a 3 way design, giving it more bass output, better directivity control, and less distortion.



$1600 for the KEF R3, $1550 for the miniDSP SHD Power.

There are cheaper solutions than the miniDSP SHD Power, but it is highly convenient, being an amp, DAC, streamer, and room correction software in one box.

It is absolutely worthwhile to spend money on 1-2 good subwoofers, and acoustic treatment for your room. The KEF R3 by themselves will sound good, but untreated rooms with no bass management always have uneven bass response, and unbalanced decay times. Something as simple as a pair of SVS SB-1000 Pro, and some 10" thick bass traps for the front and rear corners can transform the sound. That would be another $1500-2000, depending on if you build the acoustic treatment or buy it.
 

DMill

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I would reconsider actives. It simplifies the setup. You don't need to buy amps/pre-amp. Some actives are digital, so DSP is built in.

That said the R3 are a great speaker for a starting setup.
I also would not discount an active speaker. The only downside being if something were to break or you wanted “upgrade”. The benefit of them is they perform great in some designs.
 

DMill

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No. LS50's have dramatically lower output capability, there is no reason to buy them if you can afford a pair of R3. R series uses a 3 way design, giving it more bass output, better directivity control, and less distortion.



$1600 for the KEF R3, $1550 for the miniDSP SHD Power.

There are cheaper solutions than the miniDSP SHD Power, but it is highly convenient, being an amp, DAC, streamer, and room correction software in one box.

It is absolutely worthwhile to spend money on 1-2 good subwoofers, and acoustic treatment for your room. The KEF R3 by themselves will sound good, but untreated rooms with no bass management always have uneven bass response, and unbalanced decay times. Something as simple as a pair of SVS SB-1000 Pro, and some 10" thick bass traps for the front and rear corners can transform the sound. That would be another $1500-2000, depending on if you build the acoustic treatment or buy it.
I have a miniDSP 2x4. It’s great. I wish they had a better guarantee policy, but have not heard complaints about reliability. It would be my only caveat to suggesting this as a good option.
 

DVDdoug

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A receiver will give you a lot more for the money than an integrated amplifier (with no loss of sound quality). You'll get a tuner, multiple inputs (usually analog and digital) and remote control, etc. An AVR (audio video receiver) will decode all of the DVD & Blu-Ray formats and have a dedicated subwoofer output, whereas an amplifier or may not. (With an AVR you'll get "extra" surround channels but you can disable them and downmix multichannel to stereo.) And an AVR will still probably cost less than an integrated amp.

Integrated amplifiers (or other separate) are "specialty items", manufactured, distributed, and sold in smaller quantities, into a less competitive market with a "better" profit margin. That makes them more expensive. Plus in the "audiophile market" a higher price makes a product more desirable. ;)

And yes, speakers are the most important factor when it comes to sound character/quality. If you don't know what you want it wouldn't hurt to go to an audio/video store and listen, even you don't buy from that store or buy exactly the same thing you listen to in the store. Speakers will sound different in your home, with different acoustics from the store but it can still be worthwhile, especially to compare speakers.

Speakers haven't really changed that much since 1968. :) We still (mostly) have 2 or 3-way speakers with dynamic drivers (with a cone/diaphragm, a voice coil, and magnet). There are some very-good older speakers.

The main things have changed is the discovery/development of the Theile-Small parameters along with the availability of computers which makes it easier to model and predict speaker performance before you build it. ...A lot less trial-and-error and hopefully more better-sounding and fewer bad-sounding speakers on the market.

Also the "style" has changed with a lot of smaller speakers. This is because with surround sound most people don't want 5 or 7 big speakers, plus a big subwoofer, and with 5.1 or 7/1 channel sound, a subwoofer is required for the "point one" channel. Since all of the regular bass can also be optionally sent to the sub, you can get-by with smaller main speakers.

The sound quality of solid state electronics hasn't changed that much (especially if you had good equipment) since the 1960s, but it's cheaper and power is cheaper so the average receiver now has a lot more power.

Of course the real improvement is the digital sources and digital recordings. Although the analog studio equipment was pretty good in the 1960s so digital copies of these older recordings are often very good.

P.S.
Beware
of most "audiophile" websites and reviews, especially if they don't use measurements or if they describe the sound with a lot of meaningless flowery language instead of using real meaningful scientific-engineering terminology like frequency response, distortion, and noise.

The "audiophile community" is mostly nuts! :D Here and HydrogenAudio are exceptions. (HydrogenAudio doesn't do official "reviews" and they rely solely on blind listening instead of measurements.... They don't allow measurements as evidence of sound quality without a proper blind listening to "prove" you can actually hear the measured difference. They don't allow ANY sound "quality claims" without blind listening.)
 
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alex-z

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A receiver will give you a lot more for the money than an integrated amplifier (with no loss of sound quality). You'll get a tuner, multiple inputs (usually analog and digital) and remote control, etc. An AVR (audio video receiver) will decode all of the DVD & Blu-Ray formats and have a dedicated subwoofer output, whereas an amplifier or may not. (With an AVR you'll get "extra" surround channels but you can disable them and downmix multichannel to stereo.) And an AVR will still probably cost less than an integrated amp.
Mostly true, an AVR does offer a lot of functionality, but the software may be worse.

For example, miniDSP SHD Power, Denon X3700H, and Onkyo RZ50 are all roughly the same price. Of the 3, only the miniDSP SHD Power has the ability to have 2 fully discrete subwoofer outputs with their own EQ settings. Additionally, no AV receivers under $2000 have Roon and Volumio support AFAIK.

Now, there is a strong argument for purchasing a cheaper model like a Denon X1700H, and then using a miniDSP 2x4HD for external bass management. I use that approach myself, but I understand some people may not want the added complexity, or care at all about surround decoding.
 

MaxBuck

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A receiver will give you a lot more for the money than an integrated amplifier (with no loss of sound quality). You'll get a tuner, multiple inputs (usually analog and digital) and remote control, etc.
What if the user has no use for those features?

Personally, I don't see the value proposition in "integrated amplifiers" at all. They don't all have the same features, and inevitably you end up paying for features you don't use. I have a streamer, DAC and power amp, and that's all I need. I do understand the attraction of an integrated for the purpose of having fewer boxes and wires, though.
 

delta76

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I can use "wired" speakers if that makes a difference

Are the LS50s superior to the Q950 and KEF R3?
Definitely not R3 (it's the way around)
No. LS50's have dramatically lower output capability, there is no reason to buy them if you can afford a pair of R3. R series uses a 3 way design, giving it more bass output, better directivity control, and less distortion.



$1600 for the KEF R3, $1550 for the miniDSP SHD Power.

There are cheaper solutions than the miniDSP SHD Power, but it is highly convenient, being an amp, DAC, streamer, and room correction software in one box.

It is absolutely worthwhile to spend money on 1-2 good subwoofers, and acoustic treatment for your room. The KEF R3 by themselves will sound good, but untreated rooms with no bass management always have uneven bass response, and unbalanced decay times. Something as simple as a pair of SVS SB-1000 Pro, and some 10" thick bass traps for the front and rear corners can transform the sound. That would be another $1500-2000, depending on if you build the acoustic treatment or buy it.
I wonder at that price, why not an AVR. You also have an amp, dac, streamer, room correction and cheaper. I doubt that music will be that much different, but you have the capacity to expand to a home theatre if you wish to
 
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Flip1228

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A receiver will give you a lot more for the money than an integrated amplifier (with no loss of sound quality). You'll get a tuner, multiple inputs (usually analog and digital) and remote control, etc. An AVR (audio video receiver) will decode all of the DVD & Blu-Ray formats and have a dedicated subwoofer output, whereas an amplifier or may not. (With an AVR you'll get "extra" surround channels but you can disable them and downmix multichannel to stereo.) And an AVR will still probably cost less than an integrated amp.

Integrated amplifiers (or other separate) are "specialty items", manufactured, distributed, and sold in smaller quantities, into a less competitive market with a "better" profit margin. That makes them more expensive. Plus in the "audiophile market" a higher price makes a product more desirable. ;)

And yes, speakers are the most important factor when it comes to sound character/quality. If you don't know what you want it wouldn't hurt to go to an audio/video store and listen, even you don't buy from that store or buy exactly the same thing you listen to in the store. Speakers will sound different in your home, with different acoustics from the store but it can still be worthwhile, especially to compare speakers.

Speakers haven't really changed that much since 1968. :) We still (mostly) have 2 or 3-way speakers with dynamic drivers (with a cone/diaphragm, a voice coil, and magnet). There are some very-good older speakers.

The main things have changed is the discovery/development of the Theile-Small parameters along with the availability of computers which makes it easier to model and predict speaker performance before you build it. ...A lot less trial-and-error and hopefully more better-sounding and fewer bad-sounding speakers on the market.

Also the "style" has changed with a lot of smaller speakers. This is because with surround sound most people don't want 5 or 7 big speakers, plus a big subwoofer, and with 5.1 or 7/1 channel sound, a subwoofer is required for the "point one" channel. Since all of the regular bass can also be optionally sent to the sub, you can get-by with smaller main speakers.

The sound quality of solid state electronics hasn't changed that much (especially if you had good equipment) since the 1960s, but it's cheaper and power is cheaper so the average receiver now has a lot more power.

Of course the real improvement is the digital sources and digital recordings. Although the analog studio equipment was pretty good in the 1960s so digital copies of these older recordings are often very good.

P.S.
Beware
of most "audiophile" websites and reviews, especially if they don't use measurements or if they describe the sound with a lot of meaningless flowery language instead of using real meaningful scientific-engineering terminology like frequency response, distortion, and noise.

The "audiophile community" is mostly nuts! :D Here and HydrogenAudio are exceptions. (HydrogenAudio doesn't do official "reviews" and they rely solely on blind listening instead of measurements.... They don't allow measurements as evidence of sound quality without a proper blind listening to "prove" you can actually hear the measured difference. They don't allow ANY sound "quality claims" without blind listening.)
Thanks so much!

Great advice AND with minimal jargon.

I'm going start visiting vendors in the region (DE MD PA and VA) to listen to speakers reviewed and recommended here and on Hydrogen Auto within my price range
( ± $1000/speaker).

Once I've got a top three, I'll try to find a way to pair them with four to five AVR receivers chosen the same way from the same sources.

I'm sure to need some help with matching sensitivity/power/impedance.

Part of my current space is an "Open Floor Plan" (a term that hadn't been invented in 68) that measures 21 X 21. I'm thinking a sub and perhaps a room equalizer might be useful there.
 
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Flip1228

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Start with speakers. You are in a place where you can audition many products. Build around that. DACs/preamps- you have million opinions that are great in your price range. A Buckeye amp is nice if you choose passives, but there are many others. If you spin vinyl… idk I quit on that 30 years ago. :). Subs are the usual suspects, SVS, Rythmik, HSU, JL and probably 2 or 3 more that do great. Bottom line. Start with speakers
Will be starting with speakers. Is there a HUGE jump in quality when one goes from $1000 to $1500 each or would one be better off adding a good sub for the bass?
 

Capitol C

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GoldenEar Triton 2+ speakers are really worth listening to. Their folded-ribbon tweeters are impressive, and the lower limit of the bass is hard to beat. Since they are not the newest model, they can be had for about $2250, leaving you lots of room for an integrated amp. (You can also listen to other speakers in the Triton line, either more or less expensive.) For an integrated amp, I'd suggest one of the Yamaha A-S models. The speakers have a built-in amp for the woofers, so they don't require a huge amount of power--you don't need to go as high as the A-S801 at about $900, but even if you bought that model you have a few hundred bucks left over! (I just saw that you want Bluetooth, which the Yamaha integrated amps don't have. They are still worth a look, though, with very high quality to price ratio. As someone else mentioned, there are quite a few good stereo receivers with built-in Bluetooth which are generally less expensive than integrated amps. If it doesn't break any rules, you can see about a dozen here: https://www.crutchfield.com/g_356350/Stereo-Receivers.html)
 
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DJBonoBobo

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I’d like to keep the cost of the the integrated amp and two speakers around $3,500. I’m not adverse to spending additional funds on room equalizers if necessary.

(...)

What amp and speakers would you buy if you had $3,500?
I think i would buy:
2x Neumann KH120
1x Neumann KH750DSP + MA1 Bundle
1x Topping EX5
1x Focusrite Scarlett Solo (for measurements only)

Something around $3,800 for everything, i guess. Automatic room EQ and automatic sub integration solution and measurement microphone are included.

Just another option to consider.
 
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