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Two and a half systems later... What did I learn?

curiouspeter

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I started with a surround system with 2 Sonos Amps, a pair of PSB Alpha T20, and ceiling speakers. Then I wanted "hi-res" with Roon so I added a Gustard X16, a Raspberry Pi, and a Teac AX-505, which shares the T20s with the Sonos using a speaker-level switch.

Later, for another home, I decided to go for simplicity. I got a 2021 Bluesound Powernode hooked up to a pair of KEF LS50 Meta.

What did I learn?
  • Usability is very important. It is frustrating to fiddle with various switches just to get some music playing.
  • Form port plugs are included for a reason. It pays to experiment with them.
  • Room correction is the most underrated audio technology under the Sun. It actually produces audible results. REW and Roon are cheap enough.
  • The difference between an excellent DAC and a so-so one is tiny. One should shop for features.
  • Amplification is important but spending too much money here is counterproductive.
  • Speaker cables need to be of good quality. However, anything that does not fall apart is probably good enough. $100/pair is plenty.
  • Again, check for room modes and find ways to correct acoustically or digitally. The LS50s sounded terrible until I put in the full plugs and cut 9 decibels at 50 Hz. Then they became awesome.
  • Separates will satisfy the audiophile urges but they become annoying quickly. The ideal setup for most people is a Roon Ready integrated amplifier with HDMI and built-in correction.
  • Ethernet is much more stable than wi-fi.
 

escksu

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The difference between an excellent DAC and a so-so one is tiny. One should shop for features.

REgarding this, one thing I wanted to experiement but did not is switching the op-amps. I still wondering what kind of differences it will produce.
 

atsmusic

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Even thought the difference is tiny, those of us looking for that extra 5% better sound will often pay a lot for it. Just saying, a tiny difference means more to certain people than others.
 

DanielT

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REgarding this, one thing I wanted to experiement but did not is switching the op-amps. I still wondering what kind of differences it will produce.

If you want to hear a difference, you will probably hear a difference. It is way of deceiving yourself, although it is a cheap way to deceive yourself, so test if you feel for it. . If you do not have time for doing something better.:)

 
Last edited:

DanielT

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Good summary Curiouspeter.! :)

I would add:
Think about whether Hifi fits aesthetically in a combined listening, living room. Are those speakers that meesure so well a good fit with the rest of the furniture. In addition, WAF
 

Sgt. Ear Ache

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Even thought the difference is tiny, those of us looking for that extra 5% better sound will often pay a lot for it. Just saying, a tiny difference means more to certain people than others.

Most audiophiles chasing that magical 5% end up spending a lot of money and achieving 0% better sound.
 

ahofer

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I started with a surround system with 2 Sonos Amps, a pair of PSB Alpha T20, and ceiling speakers. Then I wanted "hi-res" with Roon so I added a Gustard X16, a Raspberry Pi, and a Teac AX-505, which shares the T20s with the Sonos using a speaker-level switch.

Later, for another home, I decided to go for simplicity. I got a 2021 Bluesound Powernode hooked up to a pair of KEF LS50 Meta.

What did I learn?
  • Usability is very important. It is frustrating to fiddle with various switches just to get some music playing.
  • Form port plugs are included for a reason. It pays to experiment with them.
  • Room correction is the most underrated audio technology under the Sun. It actually produces audible results. REW and Roon are cheap enough.
  • The difference between an excellent DAC and a so-so one is tiny. One should shop for features.
  • Amplification is important but spending too much money here is counterproductive.
  • Speaker cables need to be of good quality. However, anything that does not fall apart is probably good enough. $100/pair is plenty.
  • Again, check for room modes and find ways to correct acoustically or digitally. The LS50s sounded terrible until I put in the full plugs and cut 9 decibels at 50 Hz. Then they became awesome.
  • Separates will satisfy the audiophile urges but they become annoying quickly. The ideal setup for most people is a Roon Ready integrated amplifier with HDMI and built-in correction.
  • Ethernet is much more stable than wi-fi.
Since the LS50W is Roon-ready, one could get those and not bother with the bluesound.
 

ahofer

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Even thought the difference is tiny, those of us looking for that extra 5% better sound will often pay a lot for it. Just saying, a tiny difference means more to certain people than others.
And yet, weirdly, people who think they are getting 5% better sound from a piece of wire or expensive DAC will eschew digital room correction.
 

BDWoody

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Sgt. Ear Ache

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I agree with much of the OP but I think the process is even simpler than that.

1 - 320kb or better source. Whatever you want as long as it's 320kb or better.
2 - A dac. It almost doesn't matter which one. Spend $150 on a Topping D10 or E30 or whatever. Done.
3 - An amp. 80db or better SINAD. Flat frequency (aka "neutral" "uncolored" whatever). Low THD. Enough power to drive your chosen speakers to your desired SPL with headroom to spare.
5 - Speakers. Good, balanced sound (aka "good anechoic measurements") with power output suitable for desired SPL in your listening room. Maybe a sub if you want.
6 - Room correction. EQ. (<----significant!)

Once those 6 steps are accomplished, there's no 5% improvement in SQ to be had. It can easily be achieved for under $2000. Really, under $1000 depending on the source device and the room size of course.
 

audio2design

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Even thought the difference is tiny, those of us looking for that extra 5% better sound will often pay a lot for it. Just saying, a tiny difference means more to certain people than others.

Squirrel!
 

audio2design

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Once those 6 steps are accomplished, there's no 5% improvement in SQ to be had. It can easily be achieved for under $2000. Really, under $1000 depending on the source device and the room size of course.

Sorry, but you are wrong.

EQ does not fix room acoustics. If you have not fixed the room, you are leaving far more than 5% on the table.
 

Sgt. Ear Ache

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Sorry, but you are wrong.

EQ does not fix room acoustics. If you have not fixed the room, you are leaving far more than 5% on the table.

Possibly true, but I'd say for most listeners fixing room acoustics isn't really going to happen beyond putting a rug on the floor (and speaker positioning of course). Most of us aren't turning our living rooms into studios. Room correction and EQ is going to get most of us as close as gear will allow.
 

audio2design

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Possibly true, but I'd say for most listeners fixing room acoustics isn't really going to happen beyond putting a rug on the floor (and speaker positioning of course). Most of us aren't turning our living rooms into studios. Room correction and EQ is going to get most of us as close as gear will allow.

Multiple subs to even out bass nodes is not turning your room into a studio. I would argue the odd well placed architectural panel is not either ... but that is me.
 

Sgt. Ear Ache

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Multiple subs to even out bass nodes is not turning your room into a studio. I would argue the odd well placed architectural panel is not either ... but that is me.

Fair enough. I did mention subs in my list there. I mean sure there's things that can be done to the room if it's something one has an interest in pursuing. I'd say limiting ambient noise could be big too. But as far as gear is concerned...
 

BostonJack

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I agree with much of the OP but I think the process is even simpler than that.

1 - 320kb or better source. Whatever you want as long as it's 320kb or better.
2 - A dac. It almost doesn't matter which one. Spend $150 on a Topping D10 or E30 or whatever. Done.
3 - An amp. 80db or better SINAD. Flat frequency (aka "neutral" "uncolored" whatever). Low THD. Enough power to drive your chosen speakers to your desired SPL with headroom to spare.
5 - Speakers. Good, balanced sound (aka "good anechoic measurements") with power output suitable for desired SPL in your listening room. Maybe a sub if you want.
6 - Room correction. EQ. (<----significant!)

Once those 6 steps are accomplished, there's no 5% improvement in SQ to be had. It can easily be achieved for under $2000. Really, under $1000 depending on the source device and the room size of course.
Pretty good summary. I would put the top item as: speakers. Reasonable budget/performance decisions on the electronics and source are relatively easy. Speaker decisions are harder. Budget generously for the speakers and make the rest work would be my advice.
 

xaviescacs

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Great list! I would also add that ones mood, stress level and hours slept in the previous days are far more important than anything else! My speakers sound great the good days and awful the bad ones. Just for the record, I have the rug and played with speaker position, specially angle, which helped to get important improvements and helped me to understand what are these people talking about. I still have to find time to try with room correction...
 
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