What should I upgrade first?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Slimwhit33, Oct 10, 2017.

  1. Slimwhit33

    Slimwhit33 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Orange County NY
    In the last 6 months, I have set up a music listening room in my house, and started to put together a dedicated system for that sole purpose. I used a leftover AV Receiver to start.

    I listen to mostly vinyl, but have now also mixed in CD's. I initially expected to listen 90% of the time on headphones, but it has turned out just the opposite. I listen to mostly classic rock type music, with some R&B mixed in.

    My current setup is as follows:

    Denon AVR-S920R
    U Turn Turntable with Ortofone Blue
    Onkyo C-7030 CD Player
    Vincent PHO-8 Phono Pre Amp
    Little Dot MKII Headphone Amp
    Polk Signature S20 bookshelves
    Dual Polk PSW 111 Subs
    Seinheisser HD650's

    If you had this setup, and $1000 budget, what would you change first, and to what?

    I have been looking at either 2 channel receivers or integrated amps, because to me that seems like the logical thing to change first. But figured you all might have some ideas for me.

    Should I get the Integrated Amp (Yamaha A-S801, Cambridge CXA80, Marantz 7005 or TEAC AI-503 ) or speakers (Wharfdale Diamond 240, Elac F6, or Monitor Bronze 5)?
  2. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 District Champ

    Yes, as a long time denon avr user I would say that is an excellent place to start. But....speakers and amps need to match so you need and idea of what you are going to ultimately settle on. Upgrading from Polk bookshelves to some floor standers would also be a a very big deal.

    For $1000 in used equipment you could beat what you are currently running in amps and speakers.

    On your current list I would go marantz and Elac
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  3. Guitarded

    Guitarded Forum Resident


    ...and maybe Speaker Wire and Cabling. Depending on what you are currently using. Good interconnects, speaker wire and some decent power cables (where applicable) will go a long way.

    * - Given your choices.
  4. Slimwhit33

    Slimwhit33 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Orange County NY
    Thanks for the insight! I have a $1000 Crutchfield gift card, so that’s where I will be buying from.

    If you could only do one of those, either the Matantz integrated or the Elac speakers?

    I do have quality cords and interconnects.
    Guitarded likes this.
  5. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 District Champ

    Well then I say blow it all on speakers
  6. Guitarded

    Guitarded Forum Resident

    Friends who have the Elac Bookshelfs swear by them (and I would trust them) though, I haven't listened to the F6.


    If you are happy with the sound of the Denon Amp, then I would look at speakers. Those seem to be the most obvious upgrade in your system.

    I got a pair of super clean (demo models) Focal 918s for right around $850 about 16 months ago and I am in love with them. Prior to that I was running the equivalent Monitors (908).

    I would imagine those Elacs would elicit a similar result.
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  7. Villorejo81

    Villorejo81 Member

    Juat to through something in the mix I have an audiolab 8300a amp and kef ls50 and I’m very happy with this setup. The speakers are great (A graded by stereophile) and look also very nice.
    Before buying any speakers please go and tedt some speakers in your price range each of us have a different idea of what good sounds like so very personal.
    Slimwhit33 likes this.
  8. Clonesteak

    Clonesteak Forum Resident

    Kalamazoo, MI
    I have myself a Marantz SR4023 and Elac B6 and love the combination listening in a small room in near field listening. Highly recommend and I am on board with the Marantz and Elac suggestion Dennis0675 :righton:
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  9. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    SF Bay Area, USA
    Someone on the forum just sold a really nice pair of Monitor Audio Silver 8 floor standing speakers for $900 shipped, great deal. I don't know how dear $1000 is to you, so hard to advise, speakers are very personal and highly room dependent. I would normally suggest picking one part of the system and upgrading it now to the point you want your system to be someday, be it speakers, or turntable, or cartridge, or phono preamp, or line preamp, or amplifier, or whatever. But I would do it piece by piece as funds allow, and try to avoid the upgrade ladder on components, which can get very expensive very quickly. I just buy stuff now that makes me happy.

    So what do you think is the weak point right now? If you want to stay with bookshelf size speakers, you can get some very nice used Kef LS50 speakers for under $1000.That might be an endgame type speaker that you can live with for years to come. I recently picked up a pair of near mint Monitor Audio Gold GX100 speakers for around that price, beautiful monitors in bubinga wood. But like I said, speakers are very personal. There's some great deals around on the Focal Aria line of speakers right now too, including the little 905 for just $500. For that $1000 you can get some very nice tables on the used market too, recent or vintage. I probably wouldn't put that much into a cartridge unless I had a better table, but you could easily dump that into a nice preamp or amp. Lots of ways to go.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2017
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  10. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    I think the Yamaha A-S801 is the class of the field - power, definition, control, musicality, and a good internal DAC. It’s versatile, good looking, powerful and sounds great. IMO, Yamaha hit a homerun with the A-S series of integrated amps. The built-in headphone amp is very good.

    The Marantz PM7005 seems to exist in a mid-point in the Marantz lineup. I personally like it, and it has a lot of features and functions, as well as great connectivity. But I personally don’t like its sound as much as the Yamaha and the Teac.

    I’ve auditioned the Cambridge CXA60 and CXA80 and just didn’t like either one for an office system driving a pair of Harbeth P3ESR speakers. The CXA80 offers plenty of power, but IMO it’s just not in the same audio class as the Yamaha, Teac and Marantz models.

    The Teac is less powerful, but it’s very versatile and, IMO, sounds great too. The little Teac AI-503DA replaces the excellent AI-501DA which was an absolute winner. I’ve got a AI-501 myself, and I think it’s terrific. If you are regularly pounding out rock and R&B at head-splitting volume, the Teac will run out of steam. But if you’re not listening at hearing-killing volume, the Teac will work really well. It’s built-in headphone amp is very good.

    If I were choosing speakers instead, I’d go for the either the Wharfedale Diamond 250 or the Wharfedale Reva 4. I think the Reva - at least from auditions at two different dealers - are very, very nice speakers. Great sound. The reliable and familiar design and sound of the Diamond series is a value leader, no doubt, but the Reva 4 is better all around. Ignore the specs because bass depth and definition from the Reva 4 is audibly better than the slightly better spec’d Diamond 250. The Reva 4 midrange is cleaner and more natural too, which is especially noticeable with voices.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2017
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  11. Ron Scubadiver

    Ron Scubadiver Forum Resident

    Houston TX
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  12. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    Just posted this recommendation in another speaker thread.

    As @head_unit already mentioned;

    The Polk Audio Monitor 70's Series II are nice speakers for the price. NewEgg has them currently on sale (sale ends in 6-days) for $167.99/ea.. They have the slightly smaller Monitor 60's Series II for $114.99/ea..

    I own both of these speakers and think they are excellent sounding speakers, and hard to find better speakers for the price.

    They are also offering a Polk Audio RTiA5's for $239.97/ea. These are a much better speaker than the Monitor series. While the Monitor series is covered in a nice vinyl, the RTi series have real wood veneer's.

    Both the Monitor series and the RTi series are also available in cherry. On the Monitor's, the cherry is a vinyl finish but on the RTi series, they are finished in a real cherry wood veneer.

    The cherry wood finish is furniture grade. I have a pair of the larger RTiA9's, which can easily fill a fairly large room with sound. These would be perfect for a room your size, more than enough.

    There is also the RTiA7's, which are also 40% off at $299.97.

    The RTi series can also be purchased from Polk directly, from their web site, which is what I would recommend.

    The RTiA7's have two 7" sub-bass woofers, one 6 1/2" midrange driver and a tweeter. Their lower -3dB limit is 35-Hz, but they can play down to 20-cycles. For just $60 additional, over the A5's, you will have no need for a sub.

    The RTiA5's have a 6 1/2" sub, a 6 1/2" mid-woofer, and a tweeter. Their lower -3dB limit is 40-Hz, but they can play down to 30-cycles.

    There is a dramatic increase in quality overall with the RTi series over the Monitor series.
    head_unit and vinylvin like this.
  13. irender

    irender Forum Resident

    I am enjoying a Yamaha AS-801 with Wharfedale Dentons. The Yamaha AS-501 and Dentons would set you back 1048.00 + tax.
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  14. mds

    mds Forum Resident

    You are forced with the first upgrade going with what Crutchfield offers so I would purchase an integrated amplifier there and then have more freedom for the next upgrade which would be speakers. This is a more critical purchase and you may want a larger field to select from.

    You could go Cambridge Audio Integrated CXA80 or Marantz Integrated PM7005 both $999.00, right in your price range and 80 watts per channel. Yes you would be force to buy a phone preamp with the Cambridge. Purchase an inexpensive one knowing you will upgrade it in the future.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2017
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  15. timind

    timind Don't blame me

    Westfield, IN USA
  16. head_unit

    head_unit Forum Resident

    Los Angeles CA USA
    I'm not familiar with the Seinheisser brand ;)
    Ah, if I had $1000...Sennheiser HD800s. Heard these with a...Vostok I believe DAC/amp, fed from a high res DSD server. oh WOW best sound I've ever heard from anything. SO easy breathing and natural.

    OTOH, I feel your subs, even dual, are really the weak link. Start another thread asking how to upgrade them and see what folks say. Hsu, JL, um the other big hitters are escaping me, but REAL subwoofers are like >$500 and 12"/500 watts or more. And I'd experiment with blocking the ports on your S20s to smooth the transition to the subwoofer. I'd do that first if you basically like the sound of the S20s. You might like the other models you mentioned better, but you might not, and the bass will show a dramatic change with a better sub.

    Are the S20s on shelves? If they are on stands, changing to towers can also ease the acoustic transition to a sub.
  17. Brother_Rael

    Brother_Rael Forum Resident

    Scottish Borders
    Mackie HR624
    Yamaha HS7
    Tannoy 502
    Focal Alpha 65 or 80

    All of the above are active speakers, which broadly means that each driver has its own amplifier within the speaker housing and a different type of crossover to that found in regular passive speakers.

    If your amp has preout connections, then it can act as a preamp. You'd need to see if Crutchfield stocks any of the above (or other actives) if you're at on buying there. Please note, prices for active speakers are sometimes given as single speaker.
  18. mds

    mds Forum Resident

    ...And I'd experiment with blocking the ports on your S20s to smooth the transition to the subwoofer. I'd do that first if you basically like the sound of the S20s. You might like the other models you mentioned better, but you might not, and the bass will show a dramatic change with a better sub.

    Interesting idea about blocking the port tubes, is this something that is recommended typically? I had tried a pair of subs with my three way stand mounts that have a rear port and it seemed to exaggerate the kick drum and certain up right bass strings notes. Maybe it was the port that was creating this?
  19. mds

    mds Forum Resident

    I think that the OP has a gift card to Crutchfield he wants to spend so recommending anything that Crutchfield does not carry is a wasted effort as it concerns this specific post. The recommendations however might be good for his next move but not this first one.
  20. Claude Benshaul

    Claude Benshaul Forum Resident

    Perhaps I missed something but is there anything irritating or wrong with your current system that push you to upgrade it? Because if you are really one of the lucky to have a dedicated music room, perhaps investing in acoustic treatment or buying more music will do the trick?
    mds likes this.
  21. mds

    mds Forum Resident

    I agree that room treatments is a great first step once having a basic system that satisfies. The treatments will improve the sound of the existing system.

    However as I tried to point out the OP has a GIFT CERTIFICATE to Crutchfield not a grand in his pocket so it appears he is limited in his selection. Not sure if Crutchfield sells room treatments.
    Claude Benshaul likes this.
  22. Claude Benshaul

    Claude Benshaul Forum Resident

    Another case where I'm guilty of selective reading.

    In this case I would suggest spending it all on speakers. A good set of speakers will last several equipment changes.
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  23. Slimwhit33

    Slimwhit33 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Orange County NY
    Thank you all for your responses. After much deliberation, and a stretching of the original $1000 budget (which was a gift card to Crutchfield) here is where I went:

    With the gift card I got a Yamaha R-N803 Stereo Receiver.

    I then decided to get a pair of SVS Ultra Bookshelves and an SVS SB-2000 sub out of pocket. It was a stretch, but will be offset by selling my Denon AVR, the Polks and the old subs..

    Looking forward to hearing what this setup will bring. The room treatments are crucial, and I have built some sound deadening panels that have been placed in the room. Going forward, I see myself tinkering with placements for a few weeks! lol
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  24. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 District Champ

    Report back on those speakers, I've read very good things about them.
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  25. Slimwhit33

    Slimwhit33 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Orange County NY
    Will do.. they have a great return policy in case they aren't what I'm looking for, but all reveiws I have read have been pretty glowing.
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