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[Requesting Advice]: Audiophile beginner looking to expand & upgrade

meajmal

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Hello Folks,

I started of my audio journey during pandemic with a Denon x4500h, JBL studio 530s , an Infinity RC263 center and a HSU Research VTF-15H MK2 sub. Over the past few months i wanted to take the hobby a bit further. Mostly, wanted to improve my AV side and create a dedicated 2 (& future 2.1 channel) station. I have been doing the following home auditioning and reading up like crazy (and confused like crazy :) ). Appreciate thoughts from the knowledgeable folks here who are in this beautiful journey.

Here is a summary of my thoughts on the 2 channel side (Future 2.1 with an SVS micro or KEF sub). The 2 channel currently will be in the bedroom (~10x10).
- Amp + Streamer: Naim Uniti Atom (got it for 2.3k new), Cambridge Audio CXA81 paired with a Node Gen3
- Speakers:
-- [Auditioned] Wharfedale Evo 4.2, Focal Chora 806
-- [Not Auditioned] Sonus Faber Lumina IIs, KLH model Fives
- Stands: Monolith 24 inch
- Music:
-- Only streaming music (Spotify, Apple Music Lossless but through airplay, Amazon Music HD)
-- Acoustics, Symphony, Classic Rock, Vocals, Jazz, Blues, Electronic >>> Some hip-hop of course

Notes:
- Naim is just beautiful with the Wharfedales even with just 40 Watts per channel. But lacks any room EQ and is a single system that possibly will get outdated faster)
- Cambridge is good as well but seems to hold back the music a bit. Returning both the Node and Cambridge
- Returning the focal chora 806 as well as the wharfedales are subjectively better
- Thinking of keeping the wharfedales as it is beautifully made and sound great

- Option 1: Build a RPI4 streamer and go full separates - DAC, pre-amp, amp. I would like to have some sort of Room-EQ or equalization capability to adjust for the room as well as sub integration, not sure how to get that when doing separates. Was also thinking of a tube pre-amp/hybrid possibly. Considerations: MiniDSP SHD (dirac) OR Schiit Freya+ & some DAC ---> Starkesound AMP/Emotiva XPA 2 channel/ NAD c298
- Option 2: Replace the Naim with a Lyngdorf TDAI-1120 which has the room perfect room EQ OR NAD m10 v2 (comes with issues of a single box setup)

Here is a summary of my thoughts on the multi channel side
Notes:
- Replace the Denon x4500h with a Onkyo RZ-50 and get a starkesound 2 channel amp for the front L-R (currently will only be a 2.1/3.1 with the HSU sub)
- Need HDMI 2.1 for my PS5 and better room-EQ than the Audyssey hence looking at Onkyo
- Speakers: May be replace with front LCR of Sonus Faber Lumina IIIs or IIs, Heco Aurora 700

Appreciate all of your valuable thoughts on upgrade paths for both the 2/2.1 channel and the multi channel setups above.
 
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DVDdoug

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I don't have any recommendations but I'd start by thinking about what you're unsatisfied about with your current setup.

Speakers are the main thing (assuming you have enough power). Every speaker sounds different, so maybe better or worse than what you have.
 

alex-z

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Don't buy a micro SVS or KEF sub unless you are incredibly space limited. Larger subs naturally play lower and more efficiently, because they require less DSP to flatten the response. DSP is not free, it requires excess power which with small drivers causes thermal compression and more distortion due to excursion.

I am going to rip on the Naim streamer. You can spend half the money, get a top of the line amp + DAC, and invest the savings on better speakers. Wharfedale EVO 4.2 are good speakers, but the KEF R3 are better.

Don't go with a tube pre-amp, or any pre-amp for that matter. Makes zero sense to intentionally add distortion, if you want to "colour" the sound that is easily done via DSP. Biggest valid use for pre-amps is pro-audio, where manually adjusting an entire rack of amps takes too long.

Square rooms are acoustic nightmares. Make sure to invest in acoustic treatment and a second identical subwoofer. You can blow a million dollars on gear and still not like the sound if you don't fix the room. Better room correction software is not a cure, that is like painting over a giant rust spot on your car.
 
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meajmal

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Don't buy a micro SVS or KEF sub unless you are incredibly space limited. Larger subs naturally play lower and more efficiently, because they require less DSP to flatten the response. DSP is not free, it requires excess power which with small drivers causes thermal compression and more distortion due to excursion.

I am going to rip on the Naim streamer. You can spend half the money, get a top of the line amp + DAC, and invest the savings on better speakers. Wharfedale EVO 4.2 are good speakers, but the KEF R3 are better.

Don't go with a tube pre-amp, or any pre-amp for that matter. Makes zero sense to intentionally add distortion, if you want to "colour" the sound that is easily done via DSP. Biggest valid use for pre-amps is pro-audio, where manually adjusting an entire rack of amps takes too long.

Square rooms are acoustic nightmares. Make sure to invest in acoustic treatment and a second identical subwoofer. You can blow a million dollars on gear and still not like the sound if you don't fix the room. Better room correction software is not a cure, that is like painting over a giant rust spot on your car.
First of, thanks so much for a detailed response.

“top of the line amp + dac”. Are you referring to an integrated amp here or something separate? I got the Naim for 2.3k USD and still returnable. What would you suggest an alternative would be around that price?

Pardon the noob question. I assumed preamp was a required component when going separates. Where would DSP come into picture in the whole thing and what would do that?

I live in an apartment now. The 2 channel will move into a different space at some point. So looking for something that has some longevity as things are not necessarily cheap .
 

DanielT

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I am going to rip on the Naim streamer. You can spend half the money, get a top of the line amp + DAC, and invest the savings on better speakers. Wharfedale EVO 4.2 are good speakers, but the KEF R3 are better.
It seems like good speakers!

I'm adding the Revel M106
What do you think of those speakers?

 

DanielT

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Hello Folks,

I started of my audio journey during pandemic with a Denon x4500h, JBL studio 530s , an Infinity RC263 center and a HSU Research VTF-15H MK2 sub. Over the past few months i wanted to take the hobby a bit further. Mostly, wanted to improve my AV side and create a dedicated 2 (& future 2.1 channel) station. I have been doing the following home auditioning and reading up like crazy (and confused like crazy :) ). Appreciate thoughts from the knowledgeable folks here who are in this beautiful journey.

Here is a summary of my thoughts on the 2 channel side (Future 2.1 with an SVS micro or KEF sub). The 2 channel currently will be in the bedroom (~10x10).


Here is a summary of my thoughts on the multi channel side


Appreciate all of your valuable thoughts on upgrade paths for both the 2/2.1 channel and the multi channel setups above.
Do you have the opportunity to borrow speakers and listen to them in peace and quiet in your own listening environment?

New or used? A few years old speakers / amplifiers can be bang for the buck.:) Then there is the aspect of lack of guarantee when buying used. I do not know how it is with the guarantee regarding hifi products in your country?
 
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MaxBuck

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My own opinion is this:

1. Buy (or build) a streamer that is able to access your favorite music source, such as Tidal, Spotify or Apple Music.

2. Buy a DAC that measures well and provides balanced output and volume control.

3. Buy as much clean power as you can afford from among Hypex, Purifi and GaN modules, in a reliable package such as those provided by NAD, March Audio, Boxem and Buckeye.

4. Buy the speakers you most like listening to.

This opinion is worth every last dollar you spent on it.
 

DanielT

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My own opinion is this:

1. Buy (or build) a streamer that is able to access your favorite music source, such as Tidal, Spotify or Apple Music.

2. Buy a DAC that measures well and provides balanced output and volume control.

DAC + Streamer.

Allo Boss2. Very much performance for little money. Then You, Meajmal, will have money left over to put on good speakers.:)
I'm a novice, so it's more of a question than a statement, but surely Allo Boss 2 looks interesting, right? :)

 
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alex-z

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First of, thanks so much for a detailed response.

“top of the line amp + dac”. Are you referring to an integrated amp here or something separate? I got the Naim for 2.3k USD and still returnable. What would you suggest an alternative would be around that price?

Pardon the noob question. I assumed preamp was a required component when going separates. Where would DSP come into picture in the whole thing and what would do that?

I live in an apartment now. The 2 channel will move into a different space at some point. So looking for something that has some longevity as things are not necessarily cheap .


About $700 total for high quality separate components. Integrated amps aka "streamers" are terrible value, costing extra money for no reason, and creating a situation where the entire thing must be replaced if you want to upgrade a small piece.

Pre-amps are simple, take an input voltage, adjust it slightly so that it falls within the preferred range of the amplifier you will be using. This is wholly unnecessary for consumer amplifiers which accept a wide range of input voltage.

DSP can either be done at the DAC level, or at the source level. MiniDSP 2x4HD for example is a popular DSP solution, it doesn't perform as well as flagship DAC models, but is still audibly transparent.


Longevity does not scale with cost. Someone with good room acoustics will appreciate $600 speakers far more than someone with bad room acoustics and $6000 speakers. Electronics are even harsher, good luck hearing a .01% distortion difference in an amplifier when the speakers contribute 5% distortion.
 
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meajmal

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Update

For the 2.1 channel movie and music setup, I decided to mate a miniDSP SHD + March Audio P452 + Wharfedale Evo 4.2 + HSU Research VTF-5 MKII .. Waiting for the March Audio shipment to make my speakers sing.

For the 2 channel stereo setup, I am thinking of getting the new Buchardt S400 MKII in Walnut to be delivered in 2022 or a Dynaudio Evoke 20. Still exploring an integrated amp/separates to power this up. I am looking at maximum flexibility. So would like to get a miniDSP DDRC24 in the signal chain if possible for woofer integration at some point even for the 2 channel setup Or go for something like a Lyngdorf TDAI-1120.

Thoughts appreciated as always.
 

Ataraxia

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How are things working out? I'm looking at miniDSP options myself.
 
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