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Spending ratios on a hifi system

arboleda

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#1
I'm thinking about dollar ratios. I have an untreated room in a new (to us) home that I intend to make a nest of musical joy. I can get into more specifics on the room but because I'm in the learning and planning phase, I find myself wanting to splurge on certain things to a degree that might not make sense relative to the dollars I spend on other areas. In my case I am looking at spending in the following areas:

1. Room treatments
2. Speakers
3. Amplifier
4. DAC
5. Source components (if not integrated with 4).
6. Cabling

Thinking out loud, I'll probably spend $3,000 to $5,000 and I should probably give myself a budget to spread out on the 6 items above. In the absence of a budget, I suspect that the first thing I buy will be disproportionately expense and that the last thing I buy to complete the set of 6 might get squeezed on dollars because the budget is gone.

Case in point as I began to read about DACs I thought that $500 was more than I'd ever spend but now I find myself tempted by the MiniDSP SHD (though that device does more than DAC'ing). But is $1200 on source/dac/preamp/etc a silly amount to spend if I go with Statement II speakers in the $1500 range? Would I be better off with $500 on DACs and sources, and $2000 on speakers? I'm asking this in a over-simplified way and clearly the answer will vary based on differing needs but I think it's generally an interesting question.

My situation might be a little unique because I am open to putting a lot of time into DIY efforts on (1), (2), and (3).

Ignoring for a moment whether this fits into the $5k I'm tempted to allocate dollars about as follows:

1. Room treatments - $1000
2. Speakers - $1500
3. Amplifier - $1500
4 and 5 combined. - $1200
6. Cabling - $50 to $250

This creates roughly a 1:1:1:1 ratio on 1-5 (again with 4 and 5 combined). Is such a ratio silly? Am I going too far on 3 or 4/5 relative to what I spend on (2)?

I'm sure many would say that dollars don't mean performance and perhaps by extension, my core question might be flawed. Do you apply such ratios when you consider a build? If so, what are your ratios and would you change them if you had a chance to do a new build from scratch?
 
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arboleda

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#2
Rechecking my math, if I go with Statement IIs I'm probably closer to $2k. But I guess I'm wondering if I have too little on (1) and perhaps too much in 3,4,5 when I look at them relative to each other.
 

digicidal

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#3
I would definitely put speakers over everything else... if you either combine the amp and speaker budget and allow for $3K for powered monitors... or just go with a competent but much cheaper amp... the value is better. Depending on what you're planning on doing with your room... $1K will go a long way and probably be overkill (depending on how much WAF you're considering). However, if you allocated a chunk of source budget dollars to DSP/measurement device - then it will go much further because you'll know if there's anything you really need to treat vs. just throwing panels/diffusers at some reflection points and hoping for the best.

So I'd definitely say in the case of the SHD... no, those are dollars well spent... and will likely eliminate much of the need for that room treatment budget in return - so throw that money at the speakers and enjoy them! ;)
 

617

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#4
The statements are pretty sensitive speakers; I built an IcePower amp for under 300 dollars which I plan on using with my similar speakers. You might want more power than that but you can definitely save money on an amp. See my thread about building the IcePower 125ASX2 kit.

Regarding DACs, you can get a good topping/SMSL DAC which will have more than enough resolution for speakers. Remember that the reviews of DACs here at ASR are 1. really obsessive and 2. focused on headphone use. I really don't think anyone could tell the difference between a 95 SINAD and 105 SINAD DAC, much less 120, on speakers. In other words, I'd shop for a DAC that has the features you want and respectable sound quality. If you want room correction of some sort minidsp sells some good options. Being able to do some EQ to get the tonal balance how you like it in your room is not a bad idea but you can also do this by changing a few resistors in your speaker.

Regarding room treatments - I think this depends on your room. The statements radiate sound in a somewhat unusual way - the MTM in the middle gives somewhat narrow vertical dispersion, lessening the need for rugs and ceiling treatments. They are also designed to put a lot of mids and upper mids into the room that other speakers can't due to the open tunnel design. Given that room treatments disproportionately suck mid and treble out of rooms (they aren't effective below 150hz for the most part) it would affect the tonal balance of the speaker. The one circumstance where it might make sense is if the speakers are close to side walls - toning down those early reflections might sound good. A diffuser behind the speaker might improve things also but again I am somewhat skeptical.

In any case, you can get a lot of acoustic treatment for less than a grand - acoustimac sells nice kits with 2-4" of high quality sound insulation already installed in frames, all you need to do is staple the fabric on (nice fabric options too.) They sell 2x4' panels, 2'2' and 1'x4' I think too.

I hope you make the statements, the satisfaction you get from listening to a pair of speakers you build for the first time is unreal, and when it's a huge and technically unusual design like the statements it's even better!
 

Blumlein 88

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#5
Ok, spend the most on speakers.

My suggestion is always to choose your speakers first and work backwards. Your room and ideas about decor and such will limit the reasonable choices, but find speakers you love. Then, if speakers aren't actives (which I recommend), get an amp suitable for the speaker. The expense will depend on speaker requirements. Everything else including source components is easy and mostly comes down to user interface and convenience features you desire.

I'd put no less than $3k on speakers. Cabling costs are going to be very low.

In regard to room treatments. I'd also suggest getting at least a Umik 1 and REW spend some time measuring. You won't know what kind of benefit room treatment will provide and rarely is it cut and dried ahead of time. I'd probably spend piecemeal on room treatment a little at time after the rest of the system is up and running. Maybe even not include it in budget, but just slowly add to it at whatever rate is comfortable.
 

Daverz

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#7
$1000 on room treatments? I might spend a few hundred bucks on panels for the first reflection points. You might want to DIY here. I like the atsacoustics panels. (I do not like cheap acoustic foam panels. IME they rot rather nastily over time.)

My experience with bass traps isn't very encouraging: I think they need to be huge to make much a of a difference. Small mains and multiple subwoofers + room correction is probably the way to go for smooth bass in a small room. DSP can be done on the music server side rather than dedicated hardware.

With the newer Ncore modules like the NC252, you might be able to get away with under $500 for amplification (e.g. from Audiophonics) I have no experience with these, though, so this may be optimistic.

What I would spend if I was starting from scratch:

$2000 for stand-mount speakers (I might consider a DIY kit here, which could bring the price down to $500 or so.) I might go higher if I could get a deal on, say, Revel floorstanders.
$80 for Raspberry Pi 3 transport (assuming your music is on another machine that can run as a dedicated music server.)
$250 for a balanced DAC with volume control
$500 amplification (2-channels, balanced class D)
$100 for XLR cables and speaker wires (assuming some nice locking banana plugs)
$300 for room treatments (four 24" x 48" x 4" panels for front and side walls) if you don't DIY. Very room dependent, of course. Heavy drapes would replace some panels if you have a large window in the room.
$90 for Umik-1 mic
$??? for subwoofers (haven't gotten here myself)
 

RayDunzl

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#8
I have an untreated room in a new (to us) home that I intend to make a nest of musical joy.

What gear do you have now, with which you can start building?
 

Willem

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#9
I have two serious systems, a big one in the living room and a small one in my study. In both of them the speakers were about 80 % of the budget. Both systems are of quite similar high quality - the difference primarily relates to what is possible and desirable in a given room size. Deep bass and high volumes are impossible in a smallish room so in my study I use a pair of Harbeth P3ESRs and in the living room big Quad 2805 electrostats (plus subwoofer).
So my first question would be: what is the size of the room? The second would be what kind of music you listen to. My third question relates to your interior style: heavily furnished and carpeted or minimalist modernism?
The first and the last question relate to the need for room treatment. Here you have to distinguish between problems above and below the so called Schroeder frequency, often somewhere between 100 and 200 Hz, depending on room size. Problems above the Schroeder frequency can often be dealt with with a rug, some curtains, bookcases etc. Problems below the Schroeder frequency come from room modes, i.e. resonant frequencies related to the room's dimensions. The bigger the room, the lower the frequencies of the room modes. Use a big speaker with low bass output in a small room and you have a big problem. Use a smallish speaker in a large room and there will be little to do. So the simplest solution, and certainly with a smallish budget, is to avoid biggish speakers. My preference is for speakers with a very neutral and transparent midrange like my little Harbeths or, of course, my electrostats.
As for electronics, and unless the room is very big, I would go for a good integrated budget amp like the Yamaha AS501, AS701 or AS801. These have enough power and include internal DACs so you will not need an external one.
 
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#11
Couldn't agree more, remember that the loudspeakers have the significant task to actually decode the electrical music signal for our ears and our brain. That is a far more complicated thing than relaying (/amplifying) an electrical signal. My approach has always been to find a pair of suitable speakers that are able to give me the closest reproduction of the actual music. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to hear the loudspeaker model I chose in a very well thought out listening room on forhand. Therefore I know what they are capable of. The next step is to get my own room closer to that.


My electronics are chosen simply to keep the signal without coloration, and my amplifier are able to do that while putting out the power I need.

This ended up with the following "cost profile" for the main parts of my system:
Loudspeakers: €5500
Preamp/DAC: €900
Power amp: €1000
Source: €300

I can't add acoustic treatment here since that's work in progress, but I will probably need to spend about €300 on that to get to a decent level.
 

murraycamp

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#12
Good advice here. Something to keep in mind is that many (me included) have concluded that room correction software in almost always necessary. That's why I chose the SHD over a seperate dac, preamp, dsp configuration - budget constraints and the desire to reduce the number of components/ length of signal path. FWIW I've been pleased with the unit. Just something to consider.
 

JohnBooty

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#13
1. Room treatments - $1000
This is debatable at best, and possibly harmful at worst.

Our ears (or more specifically, our brains) already do a great deal of "room correction."

Reflections are a part of hearing sounds in the natural world. That is one reason why loudspeakers can be more emotionally involving than headphones: they trick us into feeling the sounds are happening around us rather than inside our heads.

Treat a room too much, and you essentially wind up with a sterile headphone experience. Nothing wrong with that (I don't hate headphones or anything) but at that point, why not simply go with headphones?

A "normally" furnished room is fine for enjoyable listening. Some soft chairs, soft couch, a rug, bookshelves full of books, normal shelving filled with knick-knacks, etc.

I'd highly suggest tackling room treatment last, if at all. Set everything else up first. Make a room that's comfortable for you, the human, who's spending all this money. Experiment with speaker placement a bit. Are you hearing any problems? If so, take measurements and then think about some specific treatment measures that might help.

You may well find room treatment totally skippable.

Rest of what you proposed looks roughly correct. Like others have said, perhaps start with speakers and work backward. Probably at least half your total budget ought to go to the speakers.

Also accept the painful fact that there are no perfect all-around speakers. Most audiophiles wind up experimenting with multiple speakers. You might want to make this part of your process. Make use of companies that offer liberal in-home audition periods. There's really no substitute for experimenting with multiple speakers in your listening room.

Something to keep in mind is that many (me included) have concluded that room correction software in almost always necessary.
I think there's fairly broad agreement here when it comes to sub-bass especially involving a single subwoofer. Opinions definitely diverge as we move up the frequency range. I have one room where I use room correction and in my other setups I don't find it too necessary. My opinions even diverge... with my own opinions!
 
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Ron Texas

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#14
LS50's are on sale now at Kef Direct for only $900. Any old notebook computer will serve as a digital source. You might even have one already. A Topping DX3 Pro will give you a great DAC and Headphone Amp for around $200. A pair of Emotiva PA-1 monoblocks is $630. Stands, $100. Get wires from Monoprice. Room treatments are DIY. I put up some woven art my wife made years ago when she was doing that. If you have money left over get a Rythmik sub. Use passive high pass filters from Harrison Labs, $55 from Parts Express.
 
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#15
Just to unneccessarily pile on to emphasize the point - speakers.
Speakers are far and away the thing to splurge on and ideally spend at minimum half your budget on - I would suggest much more than half. Then, accessorize and build out from there.
Active speakers are well worth consideration today, there are some very well implemented examples out there that have advantages over traditional setups.
Also, would highly recommend a sub or two. Properly integrated, it adds so much to almost any system.
 
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#16
Something to keep in mind is that many (me included) have concluded that room correction software in almost always necessary.
I wouldn't strictly call it necessary, but if you have to compromise it is. The "correct" approach should always be to build the room strictly for the purpose of music reproduction, but most people (as myself) don't have the option of doing that for aesthetic and/or practical reasons. I've heard plenty of rooms with almost totally resonace free low frequency reproduction, and with an even RT60 over the frequency spectra. This with no signal processing at all. It's just a shame that the necessary means to reach that far involve using the back half of the rooms volume for bass absorption.

When writing this, I realise that you said "almost always necessary", sorry. But well, see the above as an example of when it isn't. :)
 

Willem

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#17
I agree that the room is important. However, in many situations the problems above the transition/Schroeder frequency can be dealt with by domestic means like rugs, bookcases etc. Below the Schroeder frequency problems (room modes) are not so easily solved, other than by having a large listening room (size matters). If budget is tight and if the room is not too large, I think the best solution is to go for very clean and neutral speakers without too much bass extension (Harbeth P3ESRs are my personal favourite for this situation). Big speakers with bass traps in small rooms are domestically quite unaccepatable in my experience, and may not sound right even after much room treatment. If deep bass is still required, we are talking rather bigger money because you will usually need multiple subwoofers. These of course will benefit from dsp eq as well.
 

JohnBooty

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#18
The problem with subwoofers is that you really need at least two.

With a single subwoofer, the "subwoofer crawl" method is nearly always going to reveal an ideal placement that is extremely inconvenient.

A pair of decent subwoofers is not cheap. I have a pair of SVS SB-1000s in my main listening room and I think they're awesome, but realistically that's $950 that might have been better spent on better speakers that simply play deep enough on their own. For nearly any musical purpose, you don't need to go too much deeper than the 30hz range.
 
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#19
The problem with subwoofers is that you really need at least two.

With a single subwoofer, the "subwoofer crawl" method is nearly always going to reveal an ideal placement that is extremely inconvenient.

A pair of decent subwoofers is not cheap. I have a pair of SVS SB-1000s in my main listening room and I think they're awesome, but realistically that's $950 that might have been better spent on better speakers that simply play deep enough on their own. For nearly any musical purpose, you don't need to go too much deeper than the 30hz range.
The best location for bass frequencies is rarely the same as the ideal location for imaging, plus accommodating a television or projector screen, etc. You’re almost certainly better off getting a couple bookshelves and smaller subwoofers than two large towers.
 

Willem

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#20
I agree it only makes sense to go the (dual) subwoofer route if the main speakers are already very good. I experimented (just for the fun) with my little Harbeth P3ESRs in my main system in our large living room. With a subwoofer the result was pretty stunning. The main limitation was that they did not quite fill the large room (but much better than without the sub). The (dsp equalized) sub was from the main system (with Quad 2805s), and a second sub for that system is high on the shopping list. The mistake I made was that I thought an expensive sub was required. Two cheaper ones would have been better.
 
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