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Thank you, seriously. Also, several Questions:

LTig

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When I go out listening, should I ask to hear the samples in mono?
Yeah, why not.
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 wouldn't recommend that. In your 1st posting you made quite clear what kind of sound you prefer. Just use your own recordings (preferably on CD, not vinyl) you know well, and try to find speakers where your recordings sound good.

In the price range you're shopping there are not that many neutral speakers, and quite a bunch tested so far suffer from too much brightness which is the opposite of what you prefer. Even a neutral speaker may reveal too much shortcomings in your recordings and then it may make sense to not buy a neutral speaker but one which is more forgiving. OTOH you may be able to use the tone controls of the Kenwood to conteract a bright sounding speaker.

And I also recommend to keep the TT and the Kenwood. A better TT may be very expensive, and if the Kenwood was good (loud) enough for FM it's good enough for all sources.

Of course, since I'm on the active path I would recommend active speakers like the JBL 308 measured here. I just cannot recommend a matching preamp to use as volume control. Maybe the Headphone output of the Kenwood could be used to feed the JBLs - I've done this before using a special made cable or adapter cable.
 

Wes

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replace: Speakers: pair of bookshelf Bose 2000 with whatever fits your budget

for a quick decision, buy Revel speakers at a price level that fits your budget, or JBL

buy used

I like Maggies. I have Maggies. Do you want bass extension?

Also, since you wrote "The sound is a soothing warm ear-bath of electrified liquid gold drizzled down the nipples of Venus and dripped directly into my headholes." you can get a job as an audio reviewer and get your speakers for free.
 

Jim Matthews

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Also, since you wrote "The sound is a soothing warm ear-bath of electrified liquid gold drizzled down the nipples of Venus and dripped directly into my headholes." you can get a job as an audio reviewer and get your speakers for free.

That's hilarious.
Anatomically incorrect, but hilarious.
 

Wes

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Anatomically correct if his head is a certain position.
 

Jim Matthews

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I meant, the source of this "liquid gold".

Mebbe there's something different on this year's model.

There was a hit written on the same topic my Wife won't permit in the car while we're hauling kids around.
 

charleski

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Another important consideration is that you really want to plan your upgrades as a long-term series of goals. You're not going to be able to do everything at once, so go in stages and upgrade stuff as your budget allows. You also want to minimise waste and make sure you don't have to go back and replace something you bought earlier.

Unfortunately active (self-powered) speakers will be difficult to use with either your Onkyo or Kenwood receivers - the Onkyo doesn't have a preamp out and I doubt the Kenwood does either. So you're really looking at finding a pair of standmount passive speakers, and would probably need to look hard to find something much better than the ELAC DBR62 new in this price range. Just remember to budget for a decent pair of stands as well, if you don't have those already. The ELACs have limited vertical dispersion around 2kHz, so you really want to make sure they're at the right height and aligned with your ears when sitting.

It's definitely worth keeping an eye on the classifieds in your area, but I'd be wary of any speaker that hasn't had some sort of independent measurement done. Proper spinorama tests are the best, but you can find a lot of quasi-anechoic measurements on sites like Stereophile and elsewhere. Even if you go round to the seller's house and listen before buying, it's easy to play the right tracks that will make a speaker sound impressive and mask any problems it has, problems that only appear later on when listening to a range of different music. The audiophile press makes a big deal about 'trusting your ears', but my ears are the last thing I'd trust, especially when there's a seller breathing down my neck anxious to get them sold.
 

Colonel7

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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!
Welcome to ASR. Great advice so far. Go out and listen and if you can audition a number of speakers and keep the ones you like best.

I was in a similar situation to you last year. What do I wish I would have done differently now? I wouldn't have bought 2-channel. Just go with the AVR that has EQ abilities and sub outs/pre-outs (bass management!), and the Denon you listed would do nicely. Get the best speakers you can afford (comfortably and within your budget so no couch sleeping). Enjoy! When you get further funds maybe add sub(s) and/or a 3way center like an Emotiva C1+ or Infinity RC263 when they have a frequent firesale.

Transducers are the biggest difference which means speakers. Then the recording which again has transducers on the microphone end. Amps are largely solved as long as you have enough power and the noise and distortion are clean enough. DACs have their place for conversion but are fetishized here and other places for some strange reason. Streamers are a commodity. If streaming comes with an AVR great, if not there's a million ways to do it for anywhere from $30 to $80 added.

Longer version, there are a few schools of thought at ASR. First is go active. You'll have connectivity issues and figuring out how to get the system to accommodate them with what you have and a turntable, which will be added cost. Some people are sensitive to the hiss when they're not playing or in quiet passages. That said, I'd guess St. Louis has a Guitar Center which has generous return policies and often used gear for sale. Pick up 3 monitors in your budget that wouldn't feel underpowered in your family room: JBL 308, Adam TV7, Kali LP-6 or LP-8. See if active's for you.

Second school of thought which is where you are: Audition 3 sets of passives in your budget that have different design philosophies. Right off you'll likely find that 25 watts from the Kenwood will be limiting, so also check them out with the Onkyo. Bearing that in mind, 3 examples to audition are the Elac DBR62s, KEF Q150s or 350s, and JBL A170 or A180 floorstanders. Don't worry, the KEFs and JBLs are very often on sale throughout the year and in your budget.

3rd school of thought is whatever you do, budget for at least 2 subwoofers to get right off, which can be a can of worms. With an AVR and a couple Dayton 10s or 12s, it's a heck of a lot easier. You can even get a minidsp 2x4 HD (or even the 2x4) and make them work.

If you're not hurting for funds for your initial purposes, keep the Kenwood and Bose and use them as a 2nd system somewhere in your house. You can use the Bose as surrounds for movies for awhile too. Or just sell them or gift them. Or keep the Kenwood in the family room when you're feeling all liquid gold.

Tubes and TTs are another discussion that I'm fortunately not part of! Good luck!
 
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