• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required. There are many reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

where should I look to upgrade?

heboil

Member
Joined
Jan 25, 2024
Messages
57
Likes
14
Hi everyone -

Long-time reader, first post.

I have a dedicated home theater that I also use for my 2-channel (as well as SACD). I am looking at doing something (to be determined) to upgrade my audio-listening experience. Most of my listening is 2-channel (75% vinyl, 25% digital). My vinyl/CD collection is in the neighborhood of 600. I have a collection of SACD numbering in the 40s. My room is decently treated for acoustics (walls, ceiling, carpet etc). My audio experience in my room is actually quite good. I have the room tuned well and things sound good across the board. I am not unhappy with anything in particular. I am more interested in taking it up a notch. I hadn't upgraded anything in almost a decade, but I recently got a new cartridge and phono stage and I have the bug again.

A friend of mine owns a local hifi shop and he is telling me that my natural upgrade path would be to get a Musical Fidelity M5si (through him), run it in HT bypass and plug my phono and digital sources into it for music. Now, I think I can use my main sub in both systems, but that would take a little digging to figure that out. But, if I were to go this route, I would lose my in-room Audyssey processing and HEOS. As these potential upgrades are just on paper, that trade-off doesn't seem like something I would want.

My thoughts are AMPS to replace my Marantz SR8001, a different DAC to enhance my digital audio listening, the aforementioned HT bypass, or other. I really like my TT and I don't want to upgrade that. Even though my SUB#1 doesn't play as low as some others today, I am happy with SUB#1. My acoustic treatments are pretty good and serve their purpose (perhaps I could look to adding some corner bass traps). My budget is in the ballpark of $2000 USD... for which I don't know what I want to do.

So... I'm reaching out to a community that I have been a reader of for a good while, but never posted before.

My gear is as follows:
  • JM Lab 816S, CC 800, SR800, PSB Alpha 3 for rears
  • Denon AVR-X3600h (disabled mains)
  • Marantz SR-8001 (power to LCR from Denon pre-out)
  • Paradigm PW2200 sub
  • Polk PSW10 sub#2
  • Technics SL1210M5K (Nagaoka MP-200)
  • iFi ZEN phono stage
  • Sony UBP-X800M2/CA Bluray
  • USB stick in Denon via HEOS for FLAC playback

Thoughts or questions welcome! TIA!
 

GXAlan

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 15, 2020
Messages
3,912
Likes
6,039
The Sony Blu-Ray players actually do a good job of DSD to PCM conversion.

The best use of your money is ALWAYS putting it toward better speakers.
 

HarmonicTHD

Major Contributor
Joined
Mar 18, 2022
Messages
3,326
Likes
4,834
Your friend gave you very bad advice. Sorry to say.

DAC and Amps have the least influence on sound by literally orders of magnitude.

Don’t loose room EQ because next to speakers it has the most influence.

In your case either be happy as is or look into speakers. Forget about the rest.
 

GXAlan

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 15, 2020
Messages
3,912
Likes
6,039
Ok, I had more time to review

The X3600H is a pretty decent preamp, so getting Audyssey MultEQ-X is a good option or certainly the iOS app to control Audyssey. The SR8001 is a little better by the specs, so it’s reasonable as long as you know what unity gain is. For some of these, it’s not +0 dB but maybe -2.5 dB. The assumption you are making is that while the SR8001 is better than the X3600H from the amp section is that the preamp section isn’t adding noise or causing a ground loop somehow.

Buying a E1DA Cosmos ADC lets you make your own measurements.

The Cobalt 816S is a nice speaker that is similar to the https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/focal-chora-816-speaker-review.42988/

If you can swing a bit more than $2k, this would be an easy upgrade. Sell the Cobalt 816s and SR8001 and put this in
 
OP
H

heboil

Member
Joined
Jan 25, 2024
Messages
57
Likes
14
I had toyed with the idea of speakers... as per the general readings on the site. But unfortunately, I'm in Canada. Great deals generally don't exist here. So I'm at roughly $3k CAD. Then exchange and duty to get stuff across the border. The deals generally need to be North of the border to catch the savings.

As a side note, I'm hesitant to break up the LCR speakers. I have a good tonal match around the horn. So getting two speakers doesn't seem the the right thing. Getting three or five/seven puts me way above my $3k Canadian to take a step up (even with the sale of existing JM Labs).

One piece I'm not clear on, is the unity gain. I get the concept, but in general, from everything I have read on this forum, I thought prevailing thought was to use the Denon with the two front channels disabled and using an external amp. I liked the sound of the Marantz over the Denon when I brought the Denon home to try. So I figured I was getting the best of both worlds. Have I been doing it wrong?
 

JSmith

Master Contributor
Joined
Feb 8, 2021
Messages
5,212
Likes
13,426
Location
Algol Perseus
Speakers, REW, EQ.
I'm in Canada.
This may assist, created by our good member @sweetchaos.
That said, your mains seem reasonable according to this;
post-5440-0-40046700-1357638846.jpg



JSmith
 

GXAlan

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 15, 2020
Messages
3,912
Likes
6,039
I had toyed with the idea of speakers... as per the general readings on the site. But unfortunately, I'm in Canada. Great deals generally don't exist here. So I'm at roughly $3k CAD. Then exchange and duty to get stuff across the border. The deals generally need to be North of the border to catch the savings.
Not a lot of options on Canuck Audio Mart right now.

One piece I'm not clear on, is the unity gain. I get the concept, but in general, from everything I have read on this forum, I thought prevailing thought was to use the Denon with the two front channels disabled and using an external amp. I liked the sound of the Marantz over the Denon when I brought the Denon home to try. So I figured I was getting the best of both worlds. Have I been doing it wrong?

The SR8001 is an old AVR right? Maybe unity gain isn’t right, but suppose you setup your SR8001 for 0 dB so whatever voltage you feed the Marantz input is what it uses to output.

So the X3600H can output 1V, the Marantz input sees 1V and then amplifies it.

What happens if you put your Marantz at -3 dB?

Now, when you calibrate, your x3600H is outputting 1.4V, and then the Marantz is attenuating that down to 1V which then gets amplified.

The question is if the increase in SINAD at the DAC stage going from 1 to 1.4V is offset by your preamp running at -3 dB instead of 0 dB? If your Marantz has a lot of residual noise independent of volume, then your SNR goes down as your volume goes down. On the other hand, if your Marantz’s noise goes down as the preamp is attenuated, then you will have improved your overall SNR at the level you are listening too.

What you give up is that before, if you fed 2V to the Marantz and the Marantz kept it at 2V, your +29 dB gain would reach 56V but your now that your Marantz is -3dB, it only hits 40V. But wait, 40V into 8 ohms is 200 watts so you are already clipping.

In theory, you might want to have 2V from the Marantz to hit 125W into 8 ohms. 31.6V.

So maybe what you want is the Marantz amplifier to see 1V at the most.

So maybe, what will work best is to set your Marantz at -6 dB so it is exactly that. The maximum output from the X3600H in SINAD at 2V will also give you the maximum amplifier performance in theory.

But hold on. You’re not listening to max volume. 125W into 8 ohms. At 10 ft that’s 102 dB for your 91 dB efficient speakers. So at 72 dB, your X3600H is only outputting 0.06V.

If you only need 100 dB peaks, you now put your Marantz at -8 dB. So to achieve 72 dB at your speakers, the X3600h is now outputting 0.08V which will have higher SINAD.

What you don’t know is if you keep dropping the preamp input if you actually start to lose performance because you are no longer operating in the target range.

How do you figure this all out? You can measure your own gear. That’s why the E1DA Cosmos ADC can be a powerful tool.
 

KenA

Member
Joined
Feb 18, 2023
Messages
59
Likes
236
Location
New Zealand
It’s obvious. $2k power cable. Your prayers answered.

Joking!

I’m with HarminicTHD advice above - look for a speaker improvement spending as much as you are willing and with a good shop-around for best deal, and hold onto EQ If you can.
 
OP
H

heboil

Member
Joined
Jan 25, 2024
Messages
57
Likes
14
Not a lot of options on Canuck Audio Mart right now.



The SR8001 is an old AVR right? Maybe unity gain isn’t right, but suppose you setup your SR8001 for 0 dB so whatever voltage you feed the Marantz input is what it uses to output.

So the X3600H can output 1V, the Marantz input sees 1V and then amplifies it.

What happens if you put your Marantz at -3 dB?

Now, when you calibrate, your x3600H is outputting 1.4V, and then the Marantz is attenuating that down to 1V which then gets amplified.

The question is if the increase in SINAD at the DAC stage going from 1 to 1.4V is offset by your preamp running at -3 dB instead of 0 dB? If your Marantz has a lot of residual noise independent of volume, then your SNR goes down as your volume goes down. On the other hand, if your Marantz’s noise goes down as the preamp is attenuated, then you will have improved your overall SNR at the level you are listening too.

What you give up is that before, if you fed 2V to the Marantz and the Marantz kept it at 2V, your +29 dB gain would reach 56V but your now that your Marantz is -3dB, it only hits 40V. But wait, 40V into 8 ohms is 200 watts so you are already clipping.

In theory, you might want to have 2V from the Marantz to hit 125W into 8 ohms. 31.6V.

So maybe what you want is the Marantz amplifier to see 1V at the most.

So maybe, what will work best is to set your Marantz at -6 dB so it is exactly that. The maximum output from the X3600H in SINAD at 2V will also give you the maximum amplifier performance in theory.

But hold on. You’re not listening to max volume. 125W into 8 ohms. At 10 ft that’s 102 dB for your 91 dB efficient speakers. So at 72 dB, your X3600H is only outputting 0.06V.

If you only need 100 dB peaks, you now put your Marantz at -8 dB. So to achieve 72 dB at your speakers, the X3600h is now outputting 0.08V which will have higher SINAD.

What you don’t know is if you keep dropping the preamp input if you actually start to lose performance because you are no longer operating in the target range.

How do you figure this all out? You can measure your own gear. That’s why the E1DA Cosmos ADC can be a powerful tool.

For this one... I need to go back to University... or High School o_O.
 

GXAlan

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 15, 2020
Messages
3,912
Likes
6,039
For this one... I need to go back to University... or High School o_O.

Try running Audyssey calibration with your Marantz at +0 vs -10 dB to see if there is any obvious difference.
 

Anton D

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Mar 17, 2021
Messages
854
Likes
974
It seems we have not been privy to the best upgrade until now:

"I site turntables on IKEA Aptitlig bamboo boards, an industry secret no more! These boards typically make the sound airier without adding to or deadening or hyping the music in any way."


(Sarcasm font, in case anyone thought this post was an endorsement.)
 
OP
H

heboil

Member
Joined
Jan 25, 2024
Messages
57
Likes
14
Does this measurement from my Marantz shed any light for anyone?

Input Sensitivity/Impedance ...............168 mV/ 47 Kohms
 

Chrispy

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 7, 2020
Messages
7,938
Likes
6,092
Location
PNW
Does this measurement from my Marantz shed any light for anyone?

Input Sensitivity/Impedance ...............168 mV/ 47 Kohms
Shed light in what way, what's the question? That it's saying your input level should be that much to take full advantage of the amp?

Another vote for not following the hifi sales guy's advice and changing integrated amp (or using one at all, rather I'd just get more powerful external amps via the pre-outs). OTOH it sounds like you're relatively happy. If anything as mentioned pay attention to room/setup, or perhaps change speakers if you want some changes.
 

radix

Major Contributor
Joined
Aug 1, 2021
Messages
1,397
Likes
1,335
Have you measured the room with REW or similar? I'd always start with measurements. That would also give you an idea of the reverb and noise and modes. I'd always try to fix the biggest problem first based on the measurements. Maybe it's sub placement or gain or crossover, maybe the center could have better intelligability, etc.

The room, the speakers, the room correction are always the biggest. So long as the amps are sufficient for your volume level and don't put out hiss or noise, the electronics are likely the least gain for upgrading.

Changing the speakers will likely make a noticeable difference -- good or bad is hard to say. Speakers are so position dependent and one speaker might be OK in a spot and another speaker needs to be moved a little or toe in/out.
 
Top Bottom