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Thresholds of diminishing returns for various components

FrantzM

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#1
Hi
This came to me as I am pondering on my next move for an endgame system:

I recently build a satisfying 5.3 HT based on inexpensive components. Total cost was in the vicinity of $4000:
3 JBL LSR 308 ................ $600
2 JBL LSR 305 ..................$250
3 Parts Express Subs....... $600
Denon AVR.........................$700
Some 12 feet Screen .....$500
BenQ HT2050 PJ .........$700
miniDSP 2x4 .................$100
UMIK ................................$100
Nordost (:D) Cables ......$300
REW ...................................$0
Reading, learning and frustration .... Can't put a number of these yet :) perhaps the price for enjoyment and great results..


The HT system can blast anybody's hearing, doing at the listening position over 110 dB.... anywhere from 20~20,000 Hz . The PQ was already good out of the box tweaked a bit by some fora reading, it is marginally better. ... My nitpicks : I would have wished for OLED black levels, 4K stunning picture and HDR visual impact...on the UAdio side, I find the JBL a bit "raw", for the lack of a better terms, on some part of the Audio range, I think the midbass could be better and the treble too :facepalm:.. else my friends, my family and I are having a blast ...

Same with headphones. I started a regular audiophile, piling up even more expensive headphones .. Denon 2000, then HiFiman 400 then Stax ESl SR-009, then Audeze LCD2 then HifiMan 560 ... Same with DACs, myTEK then Luxman DAC/Amp then one DAC I can't remember which retailed at about $5000 (acquire dit for a fraction which will not be revealed) then headphone amps including a Woo tube unit .. then Luxman unit then ... I derive most of my listening pleasure from the HifiMan HE-560 driven by am iFi iDSD thing DA/Amp ($500~600. It has batteries built-in a powerful Amp and a DAC that is capable of any rate one care to find anywhere I believe up to 384 ...) While I find the Stax to be the best headphones I have heard, I prefer listening music on the HE-560 which I bought a while back for about $900. It hovers now around $400 ... so this headphones system cost $900 and it is my favorite ... The Stax stack cost over $6000 ...

My questions:
What would be the threshold for various components? Anchoring products woudl help. For example .. The JDS Atom shows what can be gotten for $100 .. over that what is one really buying? Performance? In your mind. Looks ? That one is important to some ( to me to a certain extent).
DAC
Speakers...
Subs ...
Headphones
Cables :D? My pet peeve ... ;)

Wanting for your input people and a hearty discussion,
 

cjfrbw

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#2
It's always hard to say. The first 90-95 percent of anything electronic or mechanical is not too hard to get to. In scientific instruments, the greater the precision, of course, the greater the cost and the more delicate the conditions under which you can use them.

In audio, I would think that precision reaches a rapid peak with good components and careful construction. Whether there is an extra 5 to 10 percent of artisan craftsmanship and attention to detail that warrants prices that are tens to hundreds times the cost is the real question.
 

Old Listener

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#3
My questions:
What would be the threshold for various components? Anchoring products woudl help. For example .. The JDS Atom shows what can be gotten for $100 .. over that what is one really buying? Performance? In your mind. Looks ? That one is important to some ( to me to a certain extent).
DAC
Speakers...
Subs ...
Headphones
Cables :D? My pet peeve ... ;)

Wanting for your input people and a hearty discussion,
 

Old Listener

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#4
DAC: sub $ 100 buys a competent USB powered DAC. I might pay $ 200 for one. I might have to pay $ 500 for a DAC with its own power supply and real balanced outputs.

Powered Speakers for near field use: ~ $ 750/pair max, more likely $ 600 or less

Powered speakers for use with TV: as for near field use.

Powered Speakers for main system use: less than $ 2500/pair

Subs: I don't use them. No recent experience.

Headphones for listening on walks: $ 20. Also used when watching streaming video on a tablet.

wireless Headphones for TV watching: < $ 100

Cables: whatever Monoprice or Amazon or B&H Photo charge. A 12 foot XLR to XLR cable bought from Amazon last year cost $ 12.
 

Blumlein 88

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#5
Are we talking stereo or multi-channel? Either way, I say always start system building with speakers. They cost the most usually, and are obviously different sounding from one another.

I have some LSR305's used for nearfield monitoring of recordings I've done and for center and surrounds in an AV system. I hear what you describe. At elevated levels they don't quite have the poise or polish or elan of more capable speakers. I think it probably is the internal amps, but don't know that. I've some of the old Revel F12 passive speakers which do have the elan of pricey speakers with a solid amp powering them.

So I'd say pick your speakers, the rest can be pretty easy these days. I do like the idea of powered speakers. But there is a gap between the LSR series and more capable larger powered speakers. I'd probably say look at the Revel F36 ($2k/pr) and spend some money on an appropriate amp. I prefer balanced connections, but they aren't a requirement for good sound.

Other than that, most other parts are available which mostly will differ in features, interface, convenience. If you stream lots of music, maybe some good streamer could do everything else you need.

As for the projector, I don't think you'll get OLED blacks. Projectors without spending big you'll have to choose which part to let go of to some extent. I've a BenQ HT3050 myself. I overall prefer DLP in the lower price range. I wish low levels were better done, but prefer them to LCD types all things considered.
 

RayDunzl

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#6
I find the JBL a bit "raw", for the lack of a better terms, on some part of the Audio range, I think the midbass could be better and the treble too

The JBLs (at least mine) begin to audibly distort on a sine at not terribly loud levels used as room speakers. They get used for everyday listening here, and without subs.

82dB at the listening position - 10 feet, probably both speakers playing, so maybe 76dB if only one:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...s/speakers-distortion.5920/page-2#post-132562

I find them good for what they are. No subs, a little EQ, Sky TV Documentary on Venezuela via Roku box:

1557105439094.png





88 piano frequencies - each note is like -39dBFs, too low to excite the harmonic distortions shown above. If not, there would be more filling of the gaps, and spikes past 4kHz.

Same volume level as TV watching, with EQ

1557106450727.png


Hmm... Need to remeasure and refilter to address that peak in the lows. It's been a while. They must have broken in some more.

Without EQ:

1557106481747.png


Piano notes source:

1557107020534.png


1557107317527.png
 
Last edited:

RayDunzl

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#7
Diminishing returns?

$2000

1557104447218.png


$100

1557104508524.png


Similar measured performance on the test bench.

Different feature set.

You decide.
 
Last edited:

Old Listener

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#8
Hi
This came to me as I am pondering on my next move for an endgame system:

I recently build a satisfying 5.3 HT based on inexpensive components. Total cost was in the vicinity of $4000:
3 JBL LSR 308 ................ $600
2 JBL LSR 305 ..................$250
3 Parts Express Subs....... $600
Denon AVR.........................$700
Some 12 feet Screen .....$500
BenQ HT2050 PJ .........$700
miniDSP 2x4 .................$100
UMIK ................................$100
Nordost (:D) Cables ......$300
REW ...................................$0
Reading, learning and frustration .... Can't put a number of these yet :) perhaps the price for enjoyment and great results..

...

My questions:
What would be the threshold for various components? Anchoring products woudl help. For example .. The JDS Atom shows what can be gotten for $100 .. over that what is one really buying? Performance? In your mind. Looks ? That one is important to some ( to me to a certain extent).
It is easy and not expensive to get good enough sound quality for my needs. I also consider features that make a component really fit my use. Examples:


In our Home office system for near field listening (and watching videos) we have powered (but not active) speakers which have a single power switch and volume control for both speakers. The volume knob on the front of the left speakers is very convenient for quick volume adjustments. Active pro audio monitors would not provide there features. The speakers have two unbalanced audio inputs ( RCA phono and 3.5mm) which is useful for ad hoc connections of a second source.

In our TV system, another pair of powered but not active speakers are connected to the the via a Toslink cable. That allows use of the DAC in the speakers instead of the one in the TV. The Toslink connection also provides electrical isolation between the TV and the speakers. The speakers came with a remote control that controls volume from my listening position. That's is invaluable. A single on-off for both speakers is very convenient too.

I also use wireless headphones for TV sound when I don't want to disturb my wife. The base unit connects to a TV audio output and a power outlet. After listening, I place the headphones on the base unit and they get recharged. No messing around with cables or removing and recharging batteries.

The pro audio monitors that I use in my main system have class D amps inside. The monitors have a standby mode with < 1/2 watt energy use per speaker. I just leave them on in standby mode all the time. The NUC PC in that room is always on too. I just sit down, wake up the tablet and select music. I also control volume through that tablet.

I have moved toward minimal systems for years. I want every component that I use to fill its role fully.
 

LTig

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#9
Are we talking stereo or multi-channel? Either way, I say always start system building with speakers. They cost the most usually, and are obviously different sounding from one another.

I have some LSR305's used for nearfield monitoring of recordings I've done and for center and surrounds in an AV system. I hear what you describe. At elevated levels they don't quite have the poise or polish or elan of more capable speakers. I think it probably is the internal amps, but don't know that. I've some of the old Revel F12 passive speakers which do have the elan of pricey speakers with a solid amp powering them.

So I'd say pick your speakers, the rest can be pretty easy these days. I do like the idea of powered speakers. But there is a gap between the LSR series and more capable larger powered speakers. I'd probably say look at the Revel F36 ($2k/pr) and spend some money on an appropriate amp. I prefer balanced connections, but they aren't a requirement for good sound.
I second that, and just want to throw in Genelec and Neumann as alternative active speakers. Both companies offer a range of different sized speakers which share a similar neutral sound but differ in max SPL and bass of course.
As for the projector, I don't think you'll get OLED blacks. Projectors without spending big you'll have to choose which part to let go of to some extent. I've a BenQ HT3050 myself. I overall prefer DLP in the lower price range. I wish low levels were better done, but prefer them to LCD types all things considered.
I do also prefer DLP (have one). The reflective LCDs were much more expensive when I bought it, and this has not changed AFAIK.
 
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#10
Interesting question for the general audio industry which is what I think your original idea was?
 

Neddy

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#11
So many variables! Music preferences, room size, music vs. video/surround priorities, etc etc.
But I feel your 'pain'...endless research and investments for small improvements is frustrating...hence, ASR!

I can say that getting to 'revealing' speakers (if that's what you want) is a good place to start.

I have 2 pairs of 305s, as well as 'vintage' JBLs that I've upgraded and bi-amped (4367 woofers now), and am just astonished at how much 'more and better' I hear from them as compared to the 305s (which are fine for TV speakers). Definitely in the 'revealing' category now.

For surrounds, I'm just (patiently) waiting for WISA to get cheap enough to go wireless for all of those.

For a sub, I have a monster 4645C, which is immensely powerful, but does not go any deeper than the upgraded mains (again, that 2216ND1 woofer!)...so not really sure it's needed with really good full (20hz) range mains. (Movies, yah, no question, though.)
I now feel I have 'good enough' reproduction at the speaker/amp end to start looking at improving the source end of things (OktoDAC, where are you?).
So. Based on my (amateur) experience, I'd start with upgraded speakers (mains, at least...the 308s could be re-purposed to get to 7.1?) so you can actually hear any other improvements.
Me - if $ were not a huge concern - I'd start with Revels and JBL M2 or 4367s....:)
Oh, and follow ASR closely to weed out the verbiage from the 'honest' electrons pushers!
 

Hypnotoad

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#12
Diminishing returns?

Speaker cables that cost over $2,500.00 a foot.
 

AnalogSteph

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#13
I can say that getting to 'revealing' speakers (if that's what you want) is a good place to start.

I have 2 pairs of 305s, as well as 'vintage' JBLs that I've upgraded and bi-amped (4367 woofers now), and am just astonished at how much 'more and better' I hear from them as compared to the 305s (which are fine for TV speakers). Definitely in the 'revealing' category now.
If you have the kind of room and listening distance to accommodate speakers with 15" woofers, I'm not particularly surprised that those are working out better than the little 305s which undoubtedly have much wider dispersion and not anywhere near the same kind of level handling. For a fair comparison, one would have to set up both at appropriate distances, which are likely to differ by a factor of 2 or even 3.
 
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FrantzM

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Thread Starter #15
Bumping this thread..
The thread about the Abyss prompted me to.

I have a Stax ESL and 2 HifiMan (HE6, HE560) I will not get rid of the Stax.. My goto phone is the HE560. My favorite headphones is the HE6. It is driven by the Atom to good levels .. subjectively I think it may require more, perhaps a dedicated speaker amplifier.
I don't see myself spending much over $1500 for headphones ...
This is Christmas time. I am getting myself a gift for having been nice the entire year. Do I go for a dedicated amp for the HE6? Which one then? Or acquire new headphones around $1500? OR even less. Any headphone would be driven by my current reference (ASR Special= JDS Atom + Khadas Tone Board). I am itching a bit for a Focal or a Sennheiser . I need a pair of headphones that is better by all metrics to the HE6 IOW... The Stax may be in the mid and top .. In over all music reproduction it is not , in my opinion. Or do I keep most of the money and build a DIY headphone amp for half the budget? Or? Diminishing returns it is , I have no real need for a new headphone or amplifier.. Just a desire to splurge a bit. This may pass too ;)
 
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