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Which component to upgrade next for improved sound quality

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#1
Im hopping to get "newbie" pointers from the forum, though the equipment I have indicates more of me being an old dog.

I drive a couple of fully renovated Carlsson OA-12 (Swedish speaker from mid 70:s) with a Nad 302 in good renovated condition (Slightly upgraded version from 1995 of the iconic 3020) pumping out a 25wpc continuous (peak 75wpc). As source I mainly use a Chromecast audio streaming Spotify.
The speakers match my room both in terms of sound and look, they will remain. And the amp provides enough power to drive them loud enough for me, though they should be able to handle 200W.

I have given myself some budget (Not fixed, but in the 500$ ballpark) to upgrade the system and I have ended up in either a DAC using a computer as source (looking an topping E30 or SMSL M500), or a new amp (potentially a ncore NC122MC/NC252MP based )

Not being sure what would give me the biggest boost for the money in terms of total sound quality.
Any input or proposals?
 
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Thread Starter #3
I know that is the standard reply. Not very helpful though.

With that reasoning all amps and sources are equal. And if they are, this site is kind of pointless.
 

Wes

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#4
few modern amps will differ in SQ if they can drive the impedance load connected

if sources means different recordings/masterings, those can differ a lot

do whatever you want - you can always buy based on aesthetics or ergonomics, and I started threads on that
 
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Thread Starter #5
Not sure about the reasons for your replying "do whatever you want." Of course I will do that, but I am also asking for advice for my specific case. I am genuinely asking a quite precise question at a newbie part of this forum. My impression so far is that even Stackoverflow has a more n00b friendly userbase.
 

solderdude

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#6
Im hopping to get "newbie" pointers from the forum, though the equipment I have indicates more of me being an old dog.

I drive a couple of fully renovated Carlsson OA-12 (Swedish speaker from mid 70:s) with a Nad 302 in good renovated condition (Slightly upgraded version from 1995 of the iconic 3020) pumping out a 25wpc continuous (peak 75wpc). As source I mainly use a Chromecast audio streaming Spotify.
The speakers match my room both in terms of sound and look, they will remain. And the amp provides enough power to drive them loud enough for me, though they should be able to handle 200W.

I have given myself some budget (Not fixed, but in the 500$ ballpark) to upgrade the system and I have ended up in either a DAC using a computer as source (looking an topping E30 or SMSL M500), or a new amp (potentially a ncore NC122MC/NC252MP based )

Not being sure what would give me the biggest boost for the money in terms of total sound quality.
Any input or proposals?
The OA12 is probably around 88 dB 2.83V/1m and can handle 150W cont. 210W music power.
I would say up with the power and get louder = more impressive sound.
8 Ohm is really easy to drive so any amp able to deliver that power in 8 Ohm should be fine.
At louder listening levels more power will improve the sound (because less soft clipping). It will probably be only about 6dB louder though.
At 'normal' listening levels there won't be an improved sound quality.
 
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3125b

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#7
@Wes is absolutely right though.
1) You're never gonna be able to hear a difference between two decent DACs, pretty much regardless of amp and speakers used.
2) Your amp is decent, as long as it is not clipping, buying another one is not gonna make an audible difference. It has very limitied power output though, so a more powerful one might be worth it.
3) The speakers are certainly the limiting factor here, as they are most of the time. You don't want to hear it, but your 500$ would be best spent replacing those. If you want to keep them, get a more powerful amp. Class D is very efficient, so you can get a good amount of power in a compact package for a good price. If you want something "cool", you can always scour the used market. Don't rush that, wait for a good deal. A friend of mine bought a Rotel combo of RC-980BX and RB-991 for 280€, something in that ballpark could be an option.
 
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Thread Starter #8
I might have gotten caught in the "Carlsson cultists" grasp and I will explore other speaker options a bit further.
Are you familiar with the OA-12 speakers, @3125b ? They might be old, but I have not heard any modern speakers in the ~10-15K range compare to them when fitted with modern drivers.
 

AnalogSteph

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#9
Sonabs are basically omnis, so I suspect they should have many of the same virtues and vices. Little tonality shift from anechoic to a lively room (which is a feat that otherwise takes rather large speakers and/or cardioid DSP wonders), but since the room is always maximally involved, portraying the acoustics of a recording space accurately is likely to be quite hopeless.

What sort of listening distance, room size and room acoustics are we looking at?

In any case, variety is the spice of life, as they say. You could basically get a whole alternate system within your budget that follows very different design paradigms (while leaving your existing system as-is for the time being):
1x audio interface - e.g. Focusrite Scarlett Solo, $119 (if you're intending to use a computer anyway, you might as well make use of that, right? plus, bonus XLR mic input complete with phantom power)
2x active monitors - depending on distance:
nearfield (<= 1 m), perhaps Mackie MR524 or KRK RP5 G4
medium distances (~1-1.5 m), perhaps Kali LP-6, ADAM T5V, Behringer B2030A
more HiFi-like distances (1.5-2.5 m), perhaps Behringer B2031A
(all ca. $150-200 each)
2x TRS --> XLR (male) cables (ca. $10-$20 each should do fine)
stands or other mounting options (variable)

Being an old dog may work out to your advantage given that several of the above monitors are known to emanate a certain amount of hiss (while being fantastic speakers for the money otherwise - the Kalis come to mind). The B2031A also seems to exhibit some treble response irregularities related to its protective grille that you may not care a great deal about either (lots of oomph and great dispersion for the price though, and its beefy 8" woofer seems to hold up better than the 6.5" in the B2030A which seems to take much less abuse).
 

JSmith

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#10
they should be able to handle 200W
Please get a new amp with those vintage speakers... you may find with more headroom that they sound a bit more open, less restricted.

Plenty of good A/B amps, however D class amps are amazing now. I'm currently looking at Purifi and Ncore based amps, I'd suggest a 250w x 2 or at least a 125w x 2.

I'd get an external DAC too... otherwise look at an integrated amp with built in DAC, making sure it measures well and does what it is supposed to do.

Any interest in getting into DSP/EQ?



JSmith
 

Mnyb

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#11
If you combine more amp power with a new source like a PC combined with a very good USB DAC and a measurement microphone you could try to use EQ ( plenty of free eq resources on pc ) to even out some room modes in the bass ?
And generally tweak the tonality.

If you eq you may need more power than without hence the headroom is nice to have.
 

gags11

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#12
answer is always speakers or room tmts.

you want to keep your speakers for looks so buy a Umik-1 mic and see what's up
I certainly agree with you that speakers are a huge factor. I also know that room can be an even bigger factor, sometimes helping, but most times hurting.

In my limited experience, in an average room, I’ve noticed suck outs at around 40hz, 90-110hz and 170-200hz. What specific room treatments one can suggest to address these common issues?

PS: as an example, I moved my speakers from a 30x25 ft room with 20 foot ceiling into a 20x30ft room with 10ft ceiling. It was hard to believe this was the same exact system. It sounded so much worse. With measurements I found the larger room slightly exaggerated the 90-110 & 170-200hz region, while the smaller room created a suck out in these same regions. So tonality was way off.
 
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Old Listener

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#13
Not sure about the reasons for your replying "do whatever you want." Of course I will do that, but I am also asking for advice for my specific case. I am genuinely asking a quite precise question at a newbie part of this forum. My impression so far is that even Stackoverflow has a more n00b friendly userbase.
You got honest replies from several people. Many more on this forum would agree with that advice. You apparently don't want to hear it. That is your problem.

You can find lots of audiophile sites that will help you spend money foolishly.
 

JSmith

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#14
You apparently don't want to hear it. That is your problem.
OP never said that, the reply was rather curt and uninformative... oh and stop shaking your fist at clouds. ;)

Not every new member is a troll from another forum, OP seems quite genuine in seeking assistance here.



JSmith
 
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Thread Starter #15
"Not every new member is a troll from another forum, OP seems quite genuine in seeking assistance here."
@JSmith I am very genuine in my question. And I did get a few decent answers.

Still I get a bit disappointed in the discussion when I say that I currently have A, B and C. A will not change for a few reasons. I do have X budget for B and/or C. And the replies state "You should change A".
 

Koeitje

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#16
Speakers, but I would also upgrade the amplifier eventually. Or just get active loudspeakers and get a doubly whammy.
 

Mnyb

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#17
"Not every new member is a troll from another forum, OP seems quite genuine in seeking assistance here."
@JSmith I am very genuine in my question. And I did get a few decent answers.

Still I get a bit disappointed in the discussion when I say that I currently have A, B and C. A will not change for a few reasons. I do have X budget for B and/or C. And the replies state "You should change A".
You also stated that you want to improve sound quality maybe changing A is the only thing that really do that :)

Hence i suggested a more power + EQ ?
 

Frank Dernie

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#18
With that reasoning all amps and sources are equal. And if they are, this site is kind of pointless.
I would not agree it is pointless.
It has shown beyond reasonable doubt that all the electronics tested so far, with a tiny number of exceptions, have sufficiently low distortion to be inaudible and a wide enough dynamic range to play all music recordings.
Some people may be surprised by this, that is why the site is so valuable.
The limiting devices are transducers, so pickup cartridges if you still play records (and other parts of the record player design effecting what the cartridge picks up, of course) and loudspeakers (and very much their position in the listening room and the listening position) makes a profound difference to the sound.
 

3125b

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#19
Are you familiar with the OA-12 speakers, @3125b ?
Not at all, never even seen one from afar. However I have seen measurements of some of them - the FR is always bad, be it in-room or anechoic.
Having said that, you can do something about it. Get a more powerful amp and a measurement microphone, use your PC was the source, and with REW and EqualizerAPO you can use two great, free programs to correct that.
On top of that you could optimize your room (since these omni-directional speakers interact with it a lot) and maybe one or two subs for better bass extension.
 
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Thread Starter #20
As I understand is implied by @Mnyb
You also stated that you want to improve sound quality maybe changing A is the only thing that really do that :)
Hence i suggested a more power + EQ ?
And @Frank Dernie
The limiting devices are transducers, so pickup cartridges if you still play records (and other parts of the record player design effecting what the cartridge picks up, of course) and loudspeakers (and very much their position in the listening room and the listening position) makes a profound difference to the sound.
Maybe I have an as good as possible system as any electronics can support from a SQ perspective (Not taking features into account here). And that the only thing I can do to improve SQ are speakers, positioning of them and room treatment. The speakers sound really good with modern drivers and filters. Not sure if everyone commenting in the thread is familiar with the model/general design, or just claim them to be the limiting factor due to them being an old design and rather unknown in the US.

And I am pretty satisfied with the system and its overall performance right now. Just looking for a way to potentially squeeze out some more. And I am still happy to get input that goes beyond replacing the speakers. But If there are no other way I still will be satisfied with my current setup.
 
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