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Thank you, seriously. Also, several Questions:

Dad_Jokes

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New member...
First, I want to say an enormous, humble, and appreciative "thank you" for all of you, especially those involved in providing equipment to test and those testing and posting. I've read much on this site, including certain equipment-test reviews, and it's been a tremendous help for me to avoid falling into the moneypit of marketing lingo and shallow articles meant to drive traffic and sales. Seriously. Thank you.

Next, I have so many questions. I'm a smart guy, and I'll catch on quick. But I've learned only enough to be dangerous on the subject of audio. I've been reading a ton, but I have many questions.

My first request, humbly, is to ask for help in certain areas...

First, I'm satisfied with my current home theater setup - as far as it serves my streaming video needs. I don't even have a 4K TV, and I don't watch much in Atmos, so 5.1 decoding is fine for now. It's got more than enough volume and the bass is good. The front speakers sound nice to my ears playing stereo audio, even. Each is dual 5.25in woofers and a tweeter. And I like the separate sub so it doesn't muddy the mids. The CNET review below gives it rave reviews as a system.
Onkyo HTIB (SKS HT510 / 6.1 100wpc / 150w sub from roughly 2003)
https://www.cnet.com/reviews/onkyo-sks-ht510-review/
https://www.hifiengine.com/manual_library/onkyo/ht-r510.shtml

However, I'm trying to improve my stereo audio (music) setup.
Source: Amazon Music HD (AMHD) via Kindle Fire RCA out
Source: Audio Technica TT (AT-LP60XBT - stock) via PHONO out
Receiver: mid-late 70's vintage Kenwood KR-4400 (solid state) with Phono, Aux, Tuner
Speakers: pair of bookshelf Bose 2000

Comments:
-I'm 41 years old and my hearing range is about 50hz to 12khz. As far as I know, I have decent hearing, but I sometimes struggle to hear dialogue in crowded real-life scenes and in movies with similar scenes.
-I absolutely adore the tuner in the vintage Kenwood receiver. The sound is a soothing warm ear-bath of electrified liquid gold drizzled down the nipples of Venus and dripped directly into my headholes. I love the warm sound. I don't care if it's not "hi-fi precise." I realize it may technically be distortion/noise. But drums punch, bass vibrates my nethers, and electric guitars make me wanna rub up against something. KSHE 95 inspires me to go impregnate someone and then smoke a lung dart, and i don't even smoke. (and, i suppose, technically, i don't impregnate anymore, either, unless my urologist cut the wrong cord.)
-I know the turntable is decent entry-level and that I could get a lot more from a better quality unit. I have been watching used markets for models I've read are worth buying used - Thorens, Garrard 301/401, Technics SP10 or 1200, Linn, others, but, dang, they are insanely expensive right now. $400 for a nice turntable and cartridge would be more value than my vinyl collection is worth.
-I know the Kindle Fire via RCA-out uses the Fire's onboard DAC which probably leaves something to be desired.
-I know Bose is a lifestyle brand, and not a hi-fi targeted instrument of precision (each to his own).
-The TT, receiver, and speakers were gifts, not conscious choices.
-My "room" is my family room, about 20x13 with 10 ft ceilings. So there's a lot of space and not loaded with absorbent stuff. Plaster. Wool rug, leather couch, velvet chairs, linen curtains.

My goals and Preferences:
-I want to love my other sources as much as I love the tuner in the Kenwood. I want to hear Van Halen and smash a 6-pack of Schlitz. I want to question my very existence during Moonlight Sonata. I want to weep actual tears during the Flower Duet. I want Tchaikovsky's Slavonic March to motivate me to invade my neighbor. I want my jaw to drop at the rip-roaring brassy arpeggios from Lee Morgan's horn. I want to get visibly infuriated listening to Coltrane because everyone thinks he was a genius, but he played a quarter step sharp on everything because he swallowed his mouthpiece too far. It grates my nerves. Nearly unlistenable.
-I want to do it on a budget. :) And one piece at a time. :)
-I think I prefer a warm sound. By "warm" I mean:
*sufficient mid bass underlying immediate, accessible mids at the forefront
*sweet highs, not fatiguing. Listen for hours.
*"air" under the music, stereo soundstage, open tone. Breathy.
*that buzzy, organic, electric sound to Rock music. What I love about the Kenwood tuner is the sound reminds me of the "flange" distortion pedal from my guitar days (not so blatant, though, more subtle). The opposite of clean and sterile. A little wavy. Alive. I realize this is a form of distortion/noise. Maybe that makes me not an "audiofile." I don't care. Not into labels. I like what I like. I imagine I'd really like a tube sound, although I can't say I've heard a good example in person.

Questions:
-The overarching question is - where do i invest to improve? Then there are several sub-questions along that track...
-Should I maintain separate music vs theater systems? Or...am I better off investing into things that serve both purposes / merging the two systems into one? Like, replacing my front HTIB speakers with quality floor standers. (Then do i need to replace the receiver? how do i then balance the rest of the theater speakers so the system isn't overwhelmed by the big fronts?) I have a feeling keeping them separate might be less complicated and prevent a daisy-chain of necessary changes (and expenses), and that way I can target specific components more easily without worrying about the effects on the other usage.
-I've read several posts on this and other (not-so) similar forums advising to invest in the weakest link. How do I know what the weakest link is? I don't visit sound rooms, and I don't have friends who tinker or prioritize their audio experience. I don't know a single friend who has a dedicated listening space.
-What's my weakest link? The Bose speakers? The lack of a quality DAC? The basic TT? Will I even hear a better DAC or a better turntable through these lower end Bose bookshelfers? Will I hear ANY difference in the large-space, wood floor, plaster room I've got? Am I too old for it to matter now? :)
-If I wanted to incorporate the tube sound, I'd definitely want it to accommodate the TT. So, a phono tube pre-amp, perhaps? I'd like a USB DAC, too, to improve the AMHD. Is there a unit that has all of that in one? Tube-based Phono stage with USB DAC (that I could run the Kindle Fire through via an OTG cable?) If so, does the unit run the USB-in signal through the tubes before exporting via RCA out? Or does it hit just the DAC chip and skip the tubes?

My alternative inclination is to buy something like the Denon avr-s750h, which is a 7.2 channel receiver with Denon HEOS streaming built-in that works with Alexa/AMHD. Then my Fire/AMHD would be DAC'd by the internal chip in that unit. It also has a phono stage. The downside is, I wouldn't get tubes, and I'd have to find another setup or different unit to get that Kenwood tuner sound. (The Kenwood doesn't have an RCA out, unless there's some magic i don't know about, maybe with the Tape ports or something? I don't know. )
The upsdie is, it would consolidate some things and integrate into my voice activated smart-room setup. It would get me ready for when Atmos becomes more mainstream in Netflix/Vudu, etc. It would improve the digital streaming signal from max of 24bit/48 to 24/196. Does that even matter?

Another problem is that everything kind of cool and vintage seems to be TOP dollar, and I don't want to end up sleeping on the couch.

Please don't make me sleep on the couch. My future is in your hands.

:)

Thanks in advance!
 
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RayDunzl

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Have any "high end" audio salons within a 100 miles (or whatever your distance tolerance is)?

Just for fun, go listen and get a handle on what some of their systems produce.

Compare that to what you think you want.

Speakers and room very important. You might want to trade in the Bose speakers. I see someone asking $60 for some, so they at least aren't completely worthless.

Electronics, very important too, but need not be terribly expensive these days, as might be exhibited in the salon you visit.
 
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Dad_Jokes

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Thanks, yes, I live in Saint Louis. I'm sure there's a a few options for serious audio shopping at a dedicated audio place. There's something called The Sound Room. Probably others.

I think you hit on my biggest deficit, which is experience hearing different things. To do that requires time (visiting places) or money (buying things to audition). I'll have to determine what I have more of.
 

richard12511

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Thanks, yes, I live in Saint Louis. I'm sure there's a a few options for serious audio shopping at a dedicated audio place. There's something called The Sound Room. Probably others.

I think you hit on my biggest deficit, which is experience hearing different things. To do that requires time (visiting places) or money (buying things to audition). I'll have to determine what I have more of.

I think going out to listen first is great advice. You can also utilize a site like crutchfield or Amazon which has free 30-60 day returns.

Without a ton of experience, you likely won't know exactly what you like most. Fortunately, research has shown us that most people tend to prefer the same thing(at least when they don't know what their listening to ;)). Further, detailed measurements(like the kind that @amira posts) can predict that listener preference very well. Get to know the measurements a bit(and ask questions). Check out the speaker index, and sort by score. Learn what good measurements look like, and what bad measurements look like. Picking a speaker with good measurements is very likely to get you a speaker that you will most prefer.

What is your budget? Great speakers with great measurements can be found at most budgets :).
 

RayDunzl

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When I went speaker shopping, after being "on the road" for many years, my Audio Buddy recommended a similar path.

"Go listen to some expensive things you have no intention of buying, just to get an idea of what you might shoot for."

I did.

Speakers I expected to impress, didn't, really.

Current speakers purchased in 1998, though had a similar pair in 1995 and traded up in size a little. I like lots of power on tap, for when I want to turn the knob a little more in the clockwise direction.

---

Even better, attend an Audio Show, if possible.

They'll mostly audition in hotel rooms, similar to a room you have at home, without too much special acoustic treatment.

Except the really big stuff (think million dollar systems), that will occupy a ballroom and have Michael Fremer there at 2pm sharp to explain how wonderfult is all is to you and a hundred other people.

300 miles one-way here, if you're patient:

Axpona
Dates: Rescheduled: October 29 – 31
Location: Renaissance Schaumburg, Hotel & Convention Center, 1551 N Thoreau Dr, Schaumburg, IL

https://www.axpona.com/exhibitors.asp?list=company - check back later

Just recently I attended my first show, here in Tampa.

We ended up just "listening" to speakers.

Nothing stood out on the electronics side, if competent it all seems to sound the same, within power ranges and room sizes.

Speakers, though, differentiate themselves. You might hear a couple out of the whole thing that really stand out somehow.

All price ranges will likely be shown - well, maybe start at $1,000 or so in general (I could be off a bit there, not a shopper).

A good pair of speakers can last you a long time, so factor "cost per day" into your purchase calculations.

Mine are at something like $0.47/day. Hmmm... Thought it was less.
 
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RayDunzl

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charleski

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-I know the turntable is decent entry-level and that I could get a lot more from a better quality unit. I have been watching used markets for models I've read are worth buying used - Thorens, Garrard 301/401, Technics SP10 or 1200, Linn, others, but, dang, they are insanely expensive right now. $400 for a nice turntable and cartridge would be more value than my vinyl collection is worth.
There are a whole lot of questions here, but this one is easy. If $400 is too much for a turntable+cartridge, then I'd stick with what you have and forget about upgrading. The classic 'tables you mention are all objects of hifiland fetishism, so forget about value-for-money (especially with antique Garrards, which are the subject of an entire subculture and need to have massive amounts of money thrown at them to produce anything passable).

If you want to avoid spending too much I'd advise concentrating on one system. You can certainly build a home-theatre rig that will do stereo just fine. Definitely start with the speakers. The whole point of the spinorama plots provided here and on other sites is to provide a way to compare speakers objectively and eliminate the effects of room interaction, which can significantly colour the sound. A really good speaker will sound good in any room, but there are lots of speakers out there that (even some wildly expensive ones) that need meticulous setup to avoid sounding awful. Just going to listen to speakers at a show or at a dealer's only tells you what they sound like in that room, which is different to your's. And of course it's going to be months before these venues really become open again. I think you'd be better served by reading up on what the spinorama plots mean and comparing all the data that;s out there. Find a few models that perform well and are in your price range, then go looking to see if there's a way to see and hear them.

Don't worry too much about 'integrating' the front pair with the surround speakers you have unless you have a lot of money to spend. On a limited budget you're better served by buying the best front stereo speakers you can afford and then relying on the HT receiver to manipulate the frequency response to match your surrounds. The Denon you mention looks reasonable, it has Audyssey DSP and a fairly flexible manual EQ if you want to tweak it later using REW,

If you want tubes, be prepared to spend money. I'd get the basics sorted out first and then dabble with stuff like that later as your budget allows.

If you want a 'warm' sound, turn down the treble (which is what's going on with the tuner in your old receiver).
 
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Dad_Jokes

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There are a whole lot of questions here, but this one is easy. If $400 is too much for a turntable+cartridge, then I'd stick with what you have and forget about upgrading. The classic 'tables you mention are all objects of hifiland fetishism, so forget about value-for-money (especially with antique Garrards, which are the subject of an entire subculture and need to have massive amounts of money thrown at them to produce anything passable).

If you want to avoid spending too much I'd advise concentrating on one system. You can certainly build a home-theatre rig that will do stereo just fine. Definitely start with the speakers. The whole point of the spinorama plots provided here and on other sites is to provide a way to compare speakers objectively and eliminate the effects of room interaction, which can significantly colour the sound. A really good speaker will sound good in any room, but there are lots of speakers out there that (even some wildly expensive ones) that need meticulous setup to avoid sounding awful. Just going to listen to speakers at a show or at a dealer's only tells you what they sound like in that room, which is different to your's. And of course it's going to be months before these venues really become open again. I think you'd be better served by reading up on what the spinorama plots mean and comparing all the data that;s out there. Find a few models that perform well and are in your price range, then go looking to see if there's a way to see and hear them.

Don't worry too much about 'integrating' the front pair with the surround speakers you have unless you have a lot of money to spend. On a limited budget you're better served by buying the best front stereo speakers you can afford and then relying on the HT receiver to manipulate the frequency response to match your surrounds. The Denon you mention looks reasonable, it has Audyssey DSP and a fairly flexible manual EQ if you want to tweak it later using REW,

If you want tubes, be prepared to spend money. I'd get the basics sorted out first and then dabble with stuff like that later as your budget allows.

So, build from the speakers back. I've read that technique advised in other threads and that seems to make sense to me.

I've read more of the DAC and pre-amp reviews here than speaker reviews. I'll do some reading of those next.

Thanks for the tip on the Garrards.

I did a chat with a Crutchfield advisor and told her I wanted to spend $500, I wanted maybe to focus on speakers and I like a warm sound.

She put 600 pair in my cart and a 1500 amp. I'm not sure whether she advised the amp was necessary to drive them beyond what my other two receivers could do, or whether she was locked in on my desire to more easily integrate the streaming.

The Kenwood is 25wpc, as reported in the days when that meant something real, and the Onkyo is 100wpc as reported in 2003 without the gov body regulations ensuring consistent and fair reporting.

Either way, I'm not prepared to spend 1000, much less 2100+, so that soured me a bit on the quest to make a step function improvement without causing a chain reaction.
 
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Dad_Jokes

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FYI, this is what she put in my cart:

745C368B2I NAD C368 BluOS-2i Integrated Amplifier with BluOS

970DF52 ELAC Debut F5.2, ea floorstanding speaker
 
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Dad_Jokes

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.Without a ton of experience, you likely won't know exactly what you like most. Fortunately, research has shown us that most people tend to prefer the same thing(at least when they don't know what their listening to ;)). Further, detailed measurements(like the kind that @amira posts) can predict that listener preference very well. Get to know the measurements a bit(and ask questions). Check out the speaker index, and sort by score. Learn what good measurements look like, and what bad measurements look like. Picking a speaker with good measurements is very likely to get you a speaker that you will most prefer.

What is your budget? Great speakers with great measurements can be found at most budgets :).

Could you explain what you mean by this?
"research has shown us that most people tend to prefer the same thing(at least when they don't know what their listening to ;))."

People tend to prefer the same thing as what they already have? The same type of sound consistently across speaker types?

I'm not sure my budget exactly. I know what it isn't. It's more than 300 or why bother, and it's less than 3000 or they better come with a blanket and pillow and be good at snuggling.

I think 500-600 new probably feels right-ish for speakers. I'm also one who tends to obsessively stalk facebook and Craigslist, etc to buy used to try getting even better quality for less money.

Is that a respectable budget to make a significant improvement?
 

Golfx

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Hi and welcome. Something you may want to consider. I believe hiring an audio expert mentor like Gene Dellasalla or Matthew Poes from Audioholics website may be quite helpful in narrowing your searches. They charge around $100/hr but what you get is what most of us lack when starting out—experienced accurate comparisons already packaged for consumption.
 

Grotti

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So, build from the speakers back. I've read that technique advised in other threads and that seems to make sense to me.

I've read more of the DAC and pre-amp reviews here than speaker reviews. I'll do some reading of those next.

Thanks for the tip on the Garrards.

I did a chat with a Crutchfield advisor and told her I wanted to spend $500, I wanted maybe to focus on speakers and I like a warm sound.

She put 600 pair in my cart and a 1500 amp. I'm not sure whether she advised the amp was necessary to drive them beyond what my other two receivers could do, or whether she was locked in on my desire to more easily integrate the streaming.

The Kenwood is 25wpc, as reported in the days when that meant something real, and the Onkyo is 100wpc as reported in 2003 without the gov body regulations ensuring consistent and fair reporting.

Either way, I'm not prepared to spend 1000, much less 2100+, so that soured me a bit on the quest to make a step function improvement without causing a chain reaction.
Like it's been said before: IME there is no alternative to experience the possibilities of audio life by yourself. Expona should be a good start since you would find a lot of Sota-Equipment and a few affordable goodies too in one place. And some snakeoil of course ;)

My 2 cents regarding your 2ch system: start with the speakers and at least question your record player, if you decided to be in need of one. There are affordable models made by Pro-ject (they are called Debut IIRC) or look after a used Rega Planar
2 or 3 (mind you: NOT the Planar 1). With a decent system (and a solid entry Phonopre) they should be a real advantage over your recent player.
 

Count Arthur

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People tend to prefer the same thing as what they already have? The same type of sound consistently across speaker types?

Below is the Harman target curve and most people seem to like speakers that have an in-room frequency response close to this. There will be outliers, people that like more trebble, maybe a lift in the mid range or more bass. etc., but most peole will not like speakers that deviate too far from this ideal.

The curve below obviously extends well down into the bass region, and not many bookshelf speakers or small tower speakers will reach that low wothout a subwoofer, so they will roll-off significantly, typically in the 40 to 60Hz region. However, people will generally still prefer speakers that follow the target fairly closely above that.

1621088524721.png
 

RayDunzl

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I think 500-600 new probably feels right-ish for speakers. I'm also one who tends to obsessively stalk facebook and Craigslist, etc to buy used to try getting even better quality for less money.

Is that a respectable budget to make a significant improvement?

Maybe, given what you have.

I don't mean it in a perjorative manner, we all have different thresholds for "It's how much?!?!?!", but sounds like you are bottom fishing, without even knowing what fish are in the water.

Take somebody's recommendation for a pair of active speakers in your price range. The amplification is included. I have a pair of JBL LSR 308 around $400 new) which are my daily drivers for TV and general listening.

The big stuff only gets turned on now when I am too.

I can't point you past where I have.

Good luck, have fun.
 
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Grotti

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Below is the Harman target curve and most people seem to like speakers that have an in-room frequency response close to this. There will be outliers, people that like more trebble, maybe a lift in the mid range or more bass. etc., but most peole will not like speakers that deviate too far from this ideal.

The curve below obviously extends well down into the bass region, and not many bookshelf speakers or small tower speakers will reach that low wothout a subwoofer, so they will roll-off significantly, typically in the 40 to 60Hz region. However, people will generally still prefer speakers that follow the target fairly closely above that.

View attachment 129858
As much as I adopted the harman curve for headphones, it wouldn't be for me with loudspeakers. At least I made my peace (and with my wife....) with compact speakers, which fit in our living room without degrading it to a man's cave. And about 40 Hz in room response is enough for me (and for my neighbors btw) to enjoy music.

So again it comes down to making your own experiences and listen to anything you can get your hands on....
 
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Dad_Jokes

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Like it's been said before: IME there is no alternative to experience the possibilities of audio life by yourself. Expona should be a good start since you would find a lot of Sota-Equipment and a few affordable goodies too in one place. And some snakeoil of course ;)

My 2 cents regarding your 2ch system: start with the speakers and at least question your record player, if you decided to be in need of one. There are affordable models made by Pro-ject (they are called Debut IIRC) or look after a used Rega Planar
2 or 3 (mind you: NOT the Planar 1). With a decent system (and a solid entry Phonopre) they should be a real advantage over your recent player.

Thanks, as it concerns the TT, I've got those two models in mind as the budget entry competitors at the beginning of "serious" TT
Below is the Harman target curve and most people seem to like speakers that have an in-room frequency response close to this. There will be outliers, people that like more trebble, maybe a lift in the mid range or more bass. etc., but most peole will not like speakers that deviate too far from this ideal.

The curve below obviously extends well down into the bass region, and not many bookshelf speakers or small tower speakers will reach that low wothout a subwoofer, so they will roll-off significantly, typically in the 40 to 60Hz region. However, people will generally still prefer speakers that follow the target fairly closely above that.

View attachment 129858

Ah, gotcha! That's very helpful, thanks!

One thing I saw in the speaker review..."research shows listening tests in mono are more revealing of speaker differences."

When I go out listening, should I ask to hear the samples in mono?

Is there such a thing as a purpose-designed listening track? Like...first you hear bass thumping and you listen for precision, then you hear vocals and you listen for realism, then you hear guitars and you listen for bite, then you hear violins at the high notes...you hear cymbals and listen for a long decay...or something else that achieves those intents.

I have found plenty of sites like whathifi suggesting commercial songs to do those listening tests, but it's hard to focus on particular elements without isolating them.

Or, am I spewing "hi-fi" mumbo jumbo?
 
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Dad_Jokes

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Maybe, given what you have.

I don't mean it in a perjorative manner, we all have different thresholds for "It's how much?!?!?!", but sounds like you are bottom fishing, without even knowing what fish are in the water.

Take somebody's recommendation for a pair of active speakers in your price range. The amplification is included. I have a pair of JBL LSR 308 around $400 new) which are my daily drivers for TV and general listening.

The big stuff only gets turned on now when I am too.

I can't point you past where I have.

Good luck, have fun.

I truly appreciate it. And, I'm definitely looking for brutal honesty. When I shop for things I'm not terribly familiar with, I *always* suffer sticker shock. It's happened recently with a new car. A new bookshelf for my family room. Even a new lamp shade. ($50 MINIMUM for a freaking black square lamp shade! Fifty bucks!)

Then, I realize I'm either going to have to make a real dedicated investment or just be happy with what I have and that there's no silver bullet. That's often when I turn to the used markets and hope I can pounce on someone who doesn't know exactly what they have.

So, please tell me if I'm not being realistic, and don't hold back ... ha.

Thank you for the tip on the audio show near Chicago. That's probably too far, but if I can be patient enough, I can look for something similar closer to home.
 

Jim Matthews

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I would recommend a pair of small(er) Magnepan speakers, first.

Easily driven by your current rig, they're relatively inexpensive and robust.
Get hold of AlphaTech and give them the same list. If you buy secondhand, and keep the box, reselling a working set is possible.

Expensive, rarified gear will not appreciate in value. Today's computerized streamers, DACs and amplification *will* be superceded and depreciate. Budget accordingly.


I'm a user of the Blue sound products. If you have decent internet service, it's good enough (there are better products, with higher resolution - but BlueOS is dead simple).

It's not my money, but I have to tell you that the contemporary products are orders of magnitude better than just 10 years ago, let alone 40.
 
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Dad_Jokes

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At first peek through the speaker reviews and rankings herein, seems like there are some worthy DIY kits if I get so bold, or the ELAC debut reference bookies are highly rated at $300ea. and to get a significant bump in ranking above those, I'd spend triple.

They make a center speaker, too, so I could easily merge systems.

Would my Onkyo HT amp drive those? They are 6o speakers, and my current ones are 8. The link to the Onkyo specs is in the original post.
 
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