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Overhauling the setup

Ilkless

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I am in a position to overhaul my setup this year. Looking for some opinions. I don't think I'll be in a position for much room treatment, if any. Owing to apartment living in Asia, I don't miss <35Hz, and my listening peaks are roughly 83dB at a listening position of ~2m away for a stereo pair. Nothing too demanding, but I would want something with tons of headroom relative to the SPLs I listen to, if only to ensure distortion and compression is minuscule at the SPLs I listen to. I currently own a lightly-modded pair of SEAS Idunn that I'm trying to sell, as well as a Marantz PM6004. I require Tidal and Spotify, and strongly prefer Volumio for its open-source origins. I have a few options:

1. ATC SCM11/19 + Topping PA5 + DAC/streamer (TBC which, but likely PecanPi or Topping EX5 + an Allo streamer)

- I know I haven't been the biggest fan of ATC on this forum, but I can get the domestic ATCs for the cheapest prices I've ever seen in the world and it would be a shame not to capitalise that. The local authorised reseller is incredible. It's not like the speakers are highly objectionable from my auditioning, they are good for the usual 2-way flat baffle format, they just don't transcend it. Much of my previous comments apply to the US/European context, where there are many superior speakers available at the massively marked up prices of ATCs. Different story here. I can get a pair of new SCM19v2s for around $2500 - about $2k cheaper than US MSRP. Yet I don't have many forum-recommended options like Neumanns available at a sane price locally. And the logistics of getting most Internet-direct/factory-direct brands to Asia make it a non-starter - believe me, I've tried. The ATC option is alluring for good enough sound, robust build, solid depreciation (~70% value retention on resale), pride of ownership yada yada. Hell, I might even be able to stretch to used SCM40As (new lute-shaped cabinet) if a set turns up on the market.

2. Neumann KH120A + DAC/streamer

- My problem with this is size and age. It's a decade old (though still arguably SOTA in its form factor). I worry about buying into it only for a next-gen KH120 to come out, or even better, a 6.5-inch speaker from them within a year. 5.25 inch gives me pause, but I have found even LS50s (which have an effective midbass radiating area of a 4.5-inch midwoofer) quite satisfactory SPL and extension-wise. I really prefer a 6-inch 2-way or something.

- The other problem is price. MSRP here (never seen it discounted) is much more than what importing from Thomann would cost. I find that absurd. I could import from Thomann, since last I checked Neumann has a 2 year international warranty. But not buying from local distributors and supporting a local business does give me pause. KH80DSP is still priced within reason but I keep thinking about how its too small (even though its dedicated midwoofer is about the same size as the LS50's midwoofer once you subtract the space taken up by the coaxial tweeter).

- The mark-up for Genelecs are even more ridiculous and they have no international warranty, so the option is a non-starter for now. I was considering an 8030C or even an 8050B at a stretch, but I'm not a fan of paying $400-500 more vs Thomann prices. And before someone mentions it... I can buy into used Magicos for how much the Genelec Ones go for here, so not exactly an option.

3. KEF R3 + Topping PA5 + DAC/streamer

- KEF is marked up slightly from the prices I see in US/UK and because (IIRC) Gold Peak distributes KEF directly round these parts, they pretty much never go on sale. Can't go wrong with KEF engineering but I'm not a big fan of the prices, especially compared to the ATC prices I can get.

5. Downgrade to Kali LP-6 mk2, because I have DCA Aeon 2s now for headphone listening, and work from home means I can't really play the speakers as much with family around.

- Worried about the hiss. Hiss just reminds me of the purgatory of budget monitors like KRKs. Worried about the distortion and compression coming down from SEAS drivers as well.

4. Various used speakers + used high-end amp + DAC/streamer

- Sonus Faber, ATC as mentioned, KEF, Revel are all options. And just to scratch an itch, used Levinson, McIntosh or Rowland are kinda within reach.

- I don't intend to go into the purgatory of samey China-made IAG speakers that depreciate like mad, such as Wharfedale.

5. Most left-field option: another custom-build... but a better one, in a design format not available on the retail market.

- My Idunns were made by the local SEAS distributor with great parts. But his woodworking wasn't amazing. I would find someone else to do the woodwork this time round. But I've been thinking of a speaker with an 8-10 inch woofer crossed 400-700Hz to a great widebander. Most likely the Scanspeak 10F/8414G10. That widebander has exceptionally smooth response and directivity for its diameter. It only starts rolling off around 15kHz, which is more than enough IMHO. Narrower directivity up top is a worthy sacrifice for a directivity match with a larger woofer and better dynamics in a 2-way format. More people should exploit it. Let's say if such a speaker were designed, would anyone be interested? I might have some contacts and leads for this...
 

thewas

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I am surprised that you consider ATC which you (imho correctly) criticised several times in past posts... If you ask me the 19 is not even worth the $2500 for a passive 2-way, here in Europe you get used Neumann KH300/310 pairs for that amount of money, don't know in your country though. If you consider also Kali LP-6 c2, why not also the IN-8 v2?
 

tw99

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ATC after all you’ve said. That is very funny :):) , but I can see the sense in your reasoning given where you live.
 

Χ Ξ Σ

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Please start a poll so we can all vote ATC! :D

In all seriousness, Since you are letting a lot of non-performance related differences help you make a decision (which I do that all the time), I would recommend looking into the residual value in case you regret your purchase. I would check the history of local audio aftermarket and see which one of these options would depreciate less if I needed to sell them eventually. You might think the ATC was a good deal, but what if it takes forever to resell them? You don't like the insane markup on the Neumann, but what if it maintained its aftermarket value very strong? Thinking about those scenario might help.
 
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Ilkless

Ilkless

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I am surprised that you consider ATC which you (imho correctly) criticised several times in past posts... If you ask me the 19 is not even worth the $2500 for a passive 2-way, here in Europe you get used Neumann KH300/310 pairs for that amount of money, don't know in your country though. If you consider also Kali LP-6 c2, why not also the IN-8 v2?

KH310 is not even available here for retail customers, only the installation market. And KH120 sell used for over 80% of retail because of how hard they are to come by, which I feel is ridiculous. I could do a Thomann import but Thomann shipping isn't as cheap as it used to be. It used to be 50€ flat rate up to 30kg to me here in Asia (imo, incredibly good price), but it's much more nowadays.

Why not IN-8v2 - not a big fan of the coaxial null and worried about hiss still. SO didn't seem keen on the looks and build either. It always feels like compromises have to be made to have a woofer this size at that price range.
 

Kegemusha

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IMO a based Hypex Ncore NC122MP amp will be more than sufficient, and you can add a little toppig DAC for 100usd to add some sources and volume. I sit 4m from my stereo setup and in my room this setup is more than enough, and sounds really good to me.
These kind of amps have been reviewd here as well.

If you are in Asia, maybe you could get one of these
 
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Ilkless

Ilkless

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IMO a based Hypex Ncore NC122MP amp will be more than sufficient, and you can add a little toppig DAC for 100usd to add some sources and volume. I sit 4m from my stereo setup and in my room this setup is more than enough, and sounds really good to me.
These kind of amps have been reviewd here as well.

If you are in Asia, maybe you could get one of these

Did look at it. New Topping PA5 has enough power for my needs and very good performance. With shipping and taxes, Alan's amp would cost more than twice the Topping. Plus I can go into a shop locally and get any Topping or SMSL or E1DA or Matrix Audio gear right away with warranty. Hence I'm actually not very fussed with the electronics. My puzzle is more of with transducers. If buying new, do I want a decent speaker at a great price unmatched anywhere else, a very good speaker (but an old model likely reaching EOL) at a substantial markup or a downgrade and going all-in with headphones? And that's before the possibilities of going used.
Please start a poll so we can all vote ATC! :D

In all seriousness, Since you are letting a lot of non-performance related differences help you make a decision (which I do that all the time), I would recommend looking into the residual value in case you regret your purchase. I would check the history of local audio aftermarket and see which one of these options would depreciate less if I needed to sell them eventually. You might think the ATC was a good deal, but what if it takes forever to resell them? You don't like the insane markup on the Neumann, but what if it maintained its aftermarket value very strong? Thinking about those scenario might help.

Yes, I have come to embrace factors more than raw performance matter to me like circuit design/originality (to a point - my limit is Schiit/Chord levels of vaguely technically motivated zaniness), country of production, industrial design, demonstrable reliability (e.g. McIntosh), history and materials used. Hence why I always go back to used Jeff Rowlands as an example, you bet I want machined alumnium with Geneva stripes on my rack. Better that than trying to fool myself into thinking things that don't affect performance actually do affect it. If I had more budget I'd just go with used Magico or Vivid and be done with it. All the intangible fuzzies but also the engineering and manufacturing chops.
 

RickSanchez

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KEF R3 + Topping PA5 + DAC/streamer
That gets my vote. Based on your description of the options that seems to be where you want to go, at least when setting price aside.

I also thought about the option for you to replace the KEF R3 with the KEF Q350's + a (small) sub, which could bring the overall costs down even if you have to invest in a miniDSP 2x4 or something like that. But in looking at Amir's review it seems like distortion (at 96dB) is problematic; your stated listening levels are below that, but might still cause problems.
 
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Ilkless

Ilkless

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Not even the March Audio Sointuva? (The price apparently is $3500 per pair. Not sure what it comes out to in Singapore though.)


$3500 is a tough sell considering the standmount actives available (Genelec 8050) new even with the local markup for the price, or the floorstanding stuff I can find used. I did entertain the idea of Sointuva but I'd rather keep it to $2500 max for standmount (passive or active, because I can easily get a Topping PA5, so I consider the cost of amplification negligible).
 
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Ilkless

Ilkless

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That gets my vote. Based on your description of the options that seems to be where you want to go, at least when setting price aside.

I also thought about the option for you to replace the KEF R3 with the KEF Q350's + a (small) sub, which could bring the overall costs down even if you have to invest in a miniDSP 2x4 or something like that. But in looking at Amir's review it seems like distortion (at 96dB) is problematic; your stated listening levels are below that, but might still cause problems.

Yes, I might be able to swing a sub but subs aren't cheap here, be it retail or Internet-direct after shipping. If I were to go sub I'd definitely want something of Rythmik-level performance at least and that would eat into the budget. And as you pointed out, sub management is another issue.
 

Chrise36

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Used passive scm40 with ncore and sub or KH 310. Compare the 3 way side by side to the 2 way if in doubt.
 
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Ilkless

Ilkless

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Used passive scm40 with ncore and sub or KH 310. Compare the 3 way side by side to the 2 way if in doubt.

KH310 will have to be imported from somewhere like Thomann because it's only available for the installation market locally for some whacked out reason. And even if I can buy it, the prices I'm seeing are over $1k/pair more than me importing them from Europe, even after shipping and taxes. So it'll have to be a blind buy unless I can find someone local to demo. That said, I have auditioned the KH420 overseas and it was nothing short of breathtaking so I expect a family resemblance. I'm also slightly concerned about the asymmetric dispersion from the horizontal 3-way format. Neumann has made it as good as it gets in that format, which was designed for metre bridges, but a vertical format is vastly preferable for home listening.

It's sad but the options here for well engineered and well made speakers without a ridiculous markup are so few that even ATCs are a plausible option.
 

Inner Space

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The ATC option is alluring for good enough sound, robust build, solid depreciation (~70% value retention on resale), pride of ownership yada yada. Hell, I might even be able to stretch to used SCM40As (new lute-shaped cabinet) if a set turns up on the market.
In my long-ago pro life I was never a huge ATC fan, and therefore ignored them for years, but recently I have had to eat humble pie on the subject - the current versions are seriously pretty damn good now. The new 19s and especially the 19As are really good, and the 40As are truly excellent - ideal apartment speakers in the bass.

It's a real shame ASR's collective opinion is based on the old 19. Things have really changed.

That said, I just needed mid-fields for a new room and bought 310As.
 

Chrise36

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KH310 will have to be imported from somewhere like Thomann because it's only available for the installation market locally for some whacked out reason. And even if I can buy it, the prices I'm seeing are over $1k/pair more than me importing them from Europe, even after shipping and taxes. So it'll have to be a blind buy unless I can find someone local to demo. That said, I have auditioned the KH420 overseas and it was nothing short of breathtaking so I expect a family resemblance. I'm also slightly concerned about the asymmetric dispersion from the horizontal 3-way format. Neumann has made it as good as it gets in that format, which was designed for metre bridges, but a vertical format is vastly preferable for home listening.

It's sad but the options here for well engineered and well made speakers without a ridiculous markup are so few that even ATCs are a plausible option.
Did you hear the 40's;
 
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