Looking to upgrade from my Audioengine A5, needs opinions.

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by SongAndDanceMan, Oct 18, 2020 at 3:38 PM.

  1. SongAndDanceMan

    SongAndDanceMan Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vancouver
    Hello all,

    Been itching to upgrade my set up recently. Right now I have:

    Hitachi PS48 turntable w/ AT440MLA cartridge
    AudioEngine A5 powered speakers
    Cambridge Audio 551p phono preamp
    Vita Series 50 Subwoofer

    I think the best upgrade I can do at this point is to get some passive tower speakers and a good amp.
    I have a small room and a flatmate so I don't need anything to knock the house down. I like the Audioengine's but i'm looking for improvements across the board, and especially stereo imaging.

    I'm basically limiting myself to second hand local market (Craiglist, Marketplace) as I feel that is where you can get most for your money. What i'm considering are:
    EPOS M15 - $450CAD
    Boston Acoustics VR950 - $200CAD

    I'm leaning more towards the EPOS M15 as they seem higher end but it's hard to tell and i'm a speaker noob. I had a couple others I was considering but I can't find them at the moment.

    Note that I can probably offer them slightly lower than the above asking price.

    Any advice or people with experience with these brands is appreciated.
     
  2. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    Location:
    Westfield, IN USA
    Ro-Go likes this.
  3. SongAndDanceMan

    SongAndDanceMan Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vancouver
  4. SongAndDanceMan

    SongAndDanceMan Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vancouver
    Ok now I'm thinking about overshooting my budget a bit and for $1000 CAD looking at a pair of Totem Arro's with a Harmon Kardon (HK3480) amp included. I want a vintage amp but this one could be good just as a starter as I don't have an amp at the moment. I've looked at a videos and people seem to praise these speakers (and they go for $2000CAD + tax for the set retail), anyone have any first hand knowledge? How would they stack up to AudioEngine A5?
     
  5. Rick58

    Rick58 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dublin, CA, USA
    hey, that combo seems pretty good! SoundStage! Equipment Review Totem Acoustic Arro Loudspeakers and Performance HK receiver ... I can't tell you specifics but these SHOULD sound better than your A5s ... look into speaker setup for best stereo imaging/soundstaging tho, this will make a HUGE difference if you currently just have speakers stuck in corners or against walls (unless the Arro is designed for against-wall placement, I don't know). Check out: Cardas Room Setup Guide

    If soundstaging is your thing/Holy Grail (as it is mine) set things up in a nearfield listening manner, with the speakers well out into the room, away from walls. Add a sub if needed to fill in the low bass, as the main speakers won't get 'reinforcement' from being placed near walls (but the imaging MIGHT be WAY better). Cardas Room Setup: Near Field Listening Don't forget to experiment with 'toe-in' to get best center fill and widest soundstage ...

    And if the Arros aren't filled already, check out filling the bases with sand or 'shot' as described in the review. This should make them more stable and possibly even better sounding.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2020 at 3:09 AM
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  6. Rick58

    Rick58 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dublin, CA, USA
    and if the soundstaging/imaging/depth isn't that good or you want more ... possibly get a tube amplifier at some point. Or tube preamp + SS amp ... tubes can impart a more organic sound and allow the depth (if it's contained in the recording) to come thru. Some folks claim tubes are higher distortion (yes, but ...), and 'depth' is a distortion (no way! but if every recording sounds the same, maybe something's wrong). If the HK amp has a 'preamp out' (but don't use the 'tape out' since the volume control won't work) you can use a separate amplifier instead of the built-in one.

    I had an Audio Analogue Puccini SE which sounded great, but I wanted to get (back) into tubes, so used it as a preamp for my 300B SET amps. Worked great until I got a dedicated preamp.

    PS/edit: this is NOT to say that SS can't do depth and space. Some can and do! but tubes seem to be a little more 'geared' toward that aspect of sound. I think modern SS has probably caught up in this regard though ... for some designs and gear anyway.

    PPS: from Performance HK receiver review "The HK 3480 also features stereo subwoofer outputs along with pre-out and main-in connectors that offer an upgrade path or the use of a higher-power separate power amplifier." So it seems to me like a GREAT unit to have, which should bring instant satisfaction and allow for future experimentation. You would have the option of using it as a preamp into a different (tube or SS) power amp, or use a (tube or SS) dedicated preamp into the HK as a power amp. Win win win!
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2020 at 12:53 PM
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  7. SongAndDanceMan

    SongAndDanceMan Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vancouver
    Thanks for all the effort and info. I feel like im learning. What I love most about switching to passive speakers is I'll have the chance to upgrade my amp over time instead over just accepting the amp in my speakers.
    Update: I also have the chance to buy the Totem Sttaf for much cheaper than the Arro's, although without any extras like the amp. I read that it's a different sound but certainly also much better than my Audioengines. I think the Sttaf's might have retailed for a bit more but it's hard to find info on that since they discontinued or renamed them it seems. Still, the $400 I would save would go into a great amp. My heart was already with the Arro's but it seems I might pursue the Sttaf's.

    Basically it's Totem Arro mint condition with base and Harman Kardon amp for $1000, or
    Totem Sttaf with some very light wear for $550 (not sure if it comes with any base)
     
  8. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    One of the best combinations of solid amplification and superb speakers is the Rega Brio integrated amp driving a pair of Totem Sttaf speaker. It is the Sttaf that has collected most of the plaudits in the moderate-priced part of the Totem lineup. The Arro are good, but the Sttaf really dazzle. Driven by the newer Rega Brio 2 or a vintage Marantz receiver (e.g., a 2245 or 2250B) or a vintage Pioneer receiver (e.g., an SX-737 or SX-838) or a new NAD D3020, you'll never look back.
     
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  9. Rick58

    Rick58 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dublin, CA, USA
    not to throw a wrench into the proceedings but Totem Arro vs Totem Sttaf. Which one image better? | Audiogon Discussion Forum ... of course they are all ONLY opinions etc..

    I still like the HK + Arro just because it seems to offer more flexibility moving forward (the preamp out / power amp in jacks). YMMV of course, and I can't tell anyone what to do.

    Staaf + Brio 2 could be just the ticket! but seems to not have other options except selling one or the other if you want a change. But of course maybe the combo will sound better than the HK + Arro from the get-go ... (PS/edit: What's a "Brio 2" ...? Seems like I see 'Brio 3' but even that is from 2007 ... see Rega Brio integrated amplifier Rega Brio 3, March 2007 ... but he references the 'Brio 2' which seems to be the one originally reviewed in 2005.)

    PPS: WTF ???? I see Brio, Brio 2, Brio 3, Brio R ... don't mind me, figure it out yourself! :D

    Vintage receiver? could sound great with the Staaf, I have no idea. Vintage brings up other questions tho (whether the amp is really in good condition etc.). Vintage + restoration/upgrading can = $$$ of course ... but could offer another path to audio nirvana ...
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2020 at 9:43 PM
  10. Ro-Go

    Ro-Go Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hudson Valley
    I have listened to the H/K 3480/85/90 extensively (I still own 3 units, one in constant use, two for spares); was my first foray into HiFi. I have thrown big outdoor film viewings on my property (2+ acres, naturally an amphitheater) running the 3480 quadrophonically. To 95+db levels. With Paradigm (not as good as Totem Arro and of an older vintage) speakers. What a killer sound. These receivers are legitimately good. High current amplification. Wonky potentiometer (or digital pot, whatever), but simply won't break up loud. Great connectivity. You won't get truly "HiFi" sound, but it will best the A5-- I run those as computer monitors and have heard them sound awesome, but not as good as the HK, in house or outside. Totem + HK at $1k is good. Offer $800. Don't look back.
     
  11. SongAndDanceMan

    SongAndDanceMan Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vancouver
    Sorry for not responding to everything, been a bit busy. So I went and bought those Sttaf's for $550CAD. Came with grills and the base. Seems like that's less than the going rate. Still need an amp though. I think I am going to choose a near mint, just cleaned and restored Sansui 4000, everyone seems to love them online and say they perform better than Marantz at twice the price (aka the Marantz tax)
     

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