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Stereo system upgrade - recommendation please.

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Hi everyone,

I want to upgrade my home stereo system and need your recommendations.

Last year I upgraded my headphone set-up based on the recommendations I received on this forum. Thank you SJ777 & Bravomail for suggesting to go with Topping E30 + L30 combo. The recommendations were spot on and I am very pleased with the sound.

At the moment, I have Yamaha R-N602 Network receiver and Q Acoustics 3050 floor standing speakers. I normally stream music using Spotify connect and listen at loud listening volumes with typically pure direct mode on. After upgrading my headphone setup, I have stopped enjoying the sound of this system. With some tracks I find the speakers are lacking in detail, instrument separation and also the bottom end. I have now finally decided to gift this stereo system to a family member and start my stereo system from scratch.

At the moment I like the physical appearance of Wharfdale Evo 4.4 or Wharfdale Lintons but I have not ordered them yet (or heard them for that matter). I also need a suitable stereo amplifier. Max budget for speakers is circa £1000 and amp is around £600.00. I also intend to get a DAC with Bluetooth, something from Topping or SMSL. I must add that I found the loudness control on the Yamaha R-N602 extremely useful for late light low volume listening levels.

Could you please advise which amp would be good enough in the £600.00 region with something like a Topping or SMSL DAC? Is it possible to get a DAC that I can use with both my existing headphone amp (Topping L30) and the stereo amplifier?

Thank you in advance!
 

jsrtheta

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I can only give you a subjective opinion re: speakers. And I caution you that there are FAR more knowledgeable and technically sophisticated folks here, so listen to them if they chime in.

The nice folks at Saturday Audio Exchange in Chicago sent me home with successive Wharfedale models to audition, and I never heard a pair I would consider buying. OTOH, they turned me on to Monitor Audio speakers, and I've owned a number of pairs and loved them all. Then again, you might be transported by Wharfedales, so give them a listen if you can.

Other speaker makes I've been very impressed with are Dali and Focal. Also, if you can find them, Whatmoughs from Australia are superb. Don't know if they're still around, but they were great.

Of course, it's best to listen to speeakers before purchasing. Back when there were more "high end" shops you could spend a day auditioning and ensuring you made the right choice. Where I am now, Denver, a lot of those stores are simply gone.

I'm not sure if this is helpful or not. Do pay attention to others who respond: they are far more knowledgeable than I.
 
OP
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Thank you for your reply jsrtheta.

I've always liked the Dali design but not heard them. Monitor Audio Gold look nice too but not heard them either.

In Aberdeen there is only one hifi shop and I have not had a great experience with with them. That is, they say have the speakers to demo and when you go there they don't have those and try and sell you something even more expensive.

In my case, I have a feeling I'm going to end up ordering something without audition and hope for the best. Hence, I'm asking for help :)

Edit: just realised the monitor audio gold are way out of my price range.
 

Walter

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If the Focal Aria 906 were anywhere near as cheap in England as they are in France, I'd definitely check them out, but it looks as if they are about £800,and then you'd still need a sub. Wharfdale and Monitor Audio might indeed be your best bets there.

For the DAC, why not just keep what you have, with the L30 being used as a preamp? Or if you want to go balanced, sell them and buy ether an EX5 or E50/L50 combo?

For amplification, the Nord One MP NC252 or NC502 would be great choices within your budget.
 

Walter

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If the Focal Aria 906 were anywhere near as cheap in England as they are in France, I'd definitely check them out, but it looks as if they are about £800,and then you'd still need a sub. Wharfdale and Monitor Audio might indeed be your best bets there.

For the DAC, why not just keep what you have, with the L30 being used as a preamp? Or if you want to go balanced, sell them and buy ether an EX5 or E50/L50 combo?

For amplification, the Nord One MP NC252 or NC502 would be great choices within your budget.
Oops, make that Scotland! Our posts crossed.
 

jsrtheta

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Thank you for your reply jsrtheta.

I've always liked the Dali design but not heard them. Monitor Audio Gold look nice too but not heard them either.

In Aberdeen there is only one hifi shop and I have not had a great experience with with them. That is, they say have the speakers to demo and when you go there they don't have those and try and sell you something even more expensive.

In my case, I have a feeling I'm going to end up ordering something without audition and hope for the best. Hence, I'm asking for help :)

Edit: just realised the monitor audio gold are way out of my price range.

The Gold are second to the top of the line (i.e., the Platinum), to be sure. But I'm listening to the Bronze as I write this, and I'm in heaven. They benefit from the prior technologies used in the Gold and Silver lines. If I had the lolly (sorry), I'd buy the Platinum, but I don't. I wouldn't shy away from the lower lines of any manufacturer just based on the price of a particular line - these Bronze surpass the Silvers of a few years back. I think a number of manufacturers incorporate previous premium design and part choices in their lower-priced lines as time goes by. These Bronze beat the Silvers of the '90s.

That said, speakers are the one area you don't want to stint. That's why in-person auditions are vital. The difference between amplifiers is almost all hype in the audible range. But bad speakers will kill you from Day One.

Can you get to Glasgow or Edinburgh? I have to think there are more shops with variety there. They are a hike, though, I imagine.

In the meantime, give my best to Logan McRae.
 
OP
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Thank you Walter & jsrtheta for your suggestions.

I can indeed travel to Glasgow & Edinburgh for an audition but that means I have to wait a couple of months before I can eventually travel, audition and then order. So far I have shortlisted the following:

Monitor Audio - Bronze 500 & Silver 300
Wharfdale - Lintons & Evo 4.4
Dali - Oberon 7
Focal - Chora 816

@Walter Unfortunately, the DAC/Headphone Amp combo ( E30 + L30) is set up in one of the bedrooms so I will have to invest in new kit for the living room. Also I have never really used a Pre-Amp and Power Amp before. Am I right in saying to go down this route I will need DAC + Pre-Amp + Power Amp?

Are there any Amps apart from Yamaha that have loudness control for late night listening?

@jsrtheta , I had to google Logan McRae! :D:D
 

MaxBuck

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... I have never really used a Pre-Amp and Power Amp before. Am I right in saying to go down this route I will need DAC + Pre-Amp + Power Amp?
Actually, there are a number of DACs that serve perfectly well as preamplifiers so long as you limit yourself to digital sources. Examples include the RME ADI-2 FS and the miniDSP SHD.
 

tonycollinet

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I have the oberon 5's and am very happy with those. I gues the 7's will be better still.

By the way - when you pick, if you want a home trial - Richer Sounds have a scheme where you can buy for a home trial, but return within 30days, no questions asked, if you decide they don't suit you. You have to specifically request it though - it is not the standard return policy.
 
OP
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Thanks @MaxBuck - unfortunately those DAC's are way outside my budget. Good to know though!

@tonycollinet - that would be amazing if I could do a home trial. Do they offer it only on speakers or on amplifiers as well?
 

tonycollinet

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I'm not sure. I only needed to test speakers (I had the amp to test from a local dealer - RS didn't do it). Ask them I guess. (You do actually have to pay for the kit though)

By the way - the amp I've ordered is the Rega Brio - which is spot on your budget. Analogue only, but since you're getting a separate DAC anyway, then that wouldn't be a problem. It doesn't have any loudness feature - but sounds great at low volume anyway. There are Rega dealers in Glasgow and Edinburgh

EDIT: PS - If one RS doesn't offer the home trial method, phone another. My local was useless so I had to travel a bit further.
 

jsrtheta

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Are there any Amps apart from Yamaha that have loudness control for late night listening?

@jsrtheta , I had to google Logan McRae! :D:D

Not a lot of preamps will feature loudness controls.

As for Logan McRae, Stuart MacBride's novels are very violent and very funny. I read one, and then read the whole series. Very addictive. As an Aberdonian, you should love them.
 
OP
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Peter Tyson have Monitor Audio Silver 10 Speakers in High Gloss Black for £1199. They seem to be discontinued and can only order them online from them. Are they a considered a bargain?

@tonycollinet - I'll call up RS tomorrow and see what services they offer. Thanks for the recommendation for Rega Brio. I'll be sure to check it out.

@jsrtheta - I'll add it to my reading list. I'm actually not Aberdonian. I was born in Glasgow & ethnically I'm mixed race, Pakistani/Iranian. :)
 

jsrtheta

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Peter Tyson have Monitor Audio Silver 10 Speakers in High Gloss Black for £1199. They seem to be discontinued and can only order them online from them. Are they a considered a bargain?

@tonycollinet - I'll call up RS tomorrow and see what services they offer. Thanks for the recommendation for Rega Brio. I'll be sure to check it out.

@jsrtheta - I'll add it to my reading list. I'm actually not Aberdonian. I was born in Glasgow & ethnically I'm mixed race, Pakistani/Iranian. :)

Dude, if you live in Aberdeen, you're an Aberdonian. Don't let 'em tell you different. And have a butty for me.
 

Walter

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Many DACs will also work as preamp if you don't need headphone outputs--including the E30, or the E50 if you want balanced connections. If you also need headphones, consider the Loxjie D50 (if you can find it) and the Topping EX5.

Loudness controls are not easy to find these days other than in receivers, which is a shame. I would love one for desktop use.
 
OP
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Thank you @Walter . I have convinced myself that loudness control is an essential feature for me. This means I have limited myself to Yamaha receivers. I'm thinking to go with Yamaha A-S701 or Yamaha R-N803D. And if I don't like the DAC, I can add a better DAC from Topping or SMSL to use when listening in Pure Direct mode. For late night listening I can just rely on the onboard DAC and loudness control. I've read the ASR review on R-N803D and see it is recommended ( although I have no idea what half of the measurements mean and even if my ears can pick them up).

This also means, as I'm not going to buy the DAC straight away, I can spent a wee bit more on speakers, up to £1500 ish. I've also shortlisted Dali Oberon 9. However, these might be a bit too excessive for my living room? The living room is approx 3.8 * 6 meters.
 
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