Thanks for the recommendation Roundhead, am glad to hear someone is quite happy with their similar set-up!
When giving a useful reply on here, it is often hard to know the level of knowledge a person has, or how well they have thought the thing through and know what they want.
In your case, I can see you know exactly where you want to head, so I'll throw out a few more thoughts, which might (or might not) be more relevant.
- I would look at your budget as a combined Music / AV budget, putting the money where it has the most effect....which in itself depends on your priorities.
- IMO. Two Channel is harder to get right than AV, and I'm certainly fussier about it.
- IME. The two most important speakers in AV, are the Centre (most important) and the Sub.
- For the AV system, I would consider R100s for Front L&R, as the Sub will deal with the low stuff....and put the savings into other areas.
- I agree with you about the R300s, whose bass can become too much. It can be mostly sorted with a little breathing space, the use of the two-part bung system and an amp with enough current to keep them under control.
- With very few exceptions, I have always found modest 2 channel amps sound better than much pricier AV amps (though not all agree). One of those exceptions is Arcam (also Pathos and Primare). My AVR600 has seen off amps like M6i, Moon i7 and Coda CSI, just for sheer enjoyment.. I used to have an AVR350, which was a fair bit better than the AVR200, very serviceable for music, but completely outclassed by the 600.
- To bi-amp, all you do is use the 2 spare rear channels into your Front L&R speakers (provided they have 4 terminals on the back - ie. remove the links) and choose the bi-amp setting in the amp menu. Doing this usually exerts more control over the speakers, often tightening the bass and making them sound cleaner and more detailed, with better imaging. The improvements are usually marginal, but noticeable and worthwhile.
- Given you're a musician, I completely understand what you are looking for (I used to play an instrument (badly) in a school orchestra, and my Mum was a professionally trained singer)......I was so impressed with the LS50s that I bought a pair. They have the gift of looking deeply into the recording, without becoming clinical or analytical.....but they don't have the scale and impact of a floorstander. To get a floorstander with their speed, accuracy and insight, is expensive.
- After getting out of Vinyl, I was a CD Player diehard......until I heard what a Linn DS could do. You still buy your CDs as normal, but rip them onto a NAS. You can then access them with all manner of iThingys, PDAs and laptops. IMO. The Sneaky sounds like a highend CDP (it sounds better than my Linn Karik / Numerik, which was fairly expensive in the 90s), and is superb with the type of music you listen to. I would never go back, and almost never play CDs.
All I'm suggesting doing, is finding a Linn Dealer that does LS50s, and hear them with a Sneaky DS, before spending any money.
- Be careful with Focal, as they can become tiring over a period, though they will do a lot of what you are looking for......you might also try Tannoy, which like Kef, have the tweeter inside the mid-range (Dual Concentric). They are cleaner and leaner than the R Series, but not as forward as the Focals.
- One unusual, but great value speaker brand I have come across recently is Taga Harmony, so it might be worth seeing if you have access to them.....though they are rare and hard to find. I wrote about them here: http://www.whathifi.com/forum/hi-fi/taga-possibly-the-best-affordable-speakers-youve-never-heard-of
"We should no more let numbers define audio quality than we should let chemical analysis be the arbiter of fine wines." Nelson Pass
For music a pair of LS50's partnered with a KK DXD 808 sub and you will be in heaven.
Yeah I have just dicovered how much harder the 2 channel is than the AV.
I today demo'd som 2 channel speakers, the Focal 726V and 826W, KEF r500 and r900 and B&W CM9, initially on a cambridge audio 651, then a Musical Fidelity M3 (except for the R900 which was on an 851). The initial result seemed like a walk-over for the focals, which go really well with the cambridge, though surprisingly 726 in many ways had a better balance than the 826 for much of the music I listenned to, and it was slightly easier on the ear - thus teaching me that going up in a companies range doesnt nesessarily mean better!. However after about 25mins, and a comment that I wasnt so impressed by the CM9, the dealer swapped to the M3 which suited the CM9 much better. Actually this was at a similar time to me beginning to notice how aggressive the focals were, they were wonderfully clear, but punchy and aggressive, they demanded your ears, and after that initial wow, were noticeably tiresome. So much so that when switching back to the KEF or CM9 during any given tune, it felt like a palpable relief!!
I could see why on short demo, or for the sheer exciting sound of the focals, why they are a very inviting choice, but after an hour and a half of demo's I had almost gone right off them.
I will be going back there soon actually to listen to the new Focal 926 when it comes in, that is meant to be much better according to teh dealer, next to the others. I'm also hoping for an R700, I felt the R500 lacked clarity, thuogh had a lovely balance and warmth. The R900 was beautifully clear, but lacked excitement. The CM9 however by the end of the test seemed the best overall balance for me - though I want more testing still, especially with some alternative amps, and am curious how the slightly cheaper CM8 would react.
Anyway... back onto topic, unfortunately I didnt get to re-test the R300 or LS50 today, nor any of the AV amps that I had wanted to try. However I do now completely agree that Av will be much easier to choose. With a little research it turns out the LX86 isn't available at the price I had seen afterall, but I can get the following:
Pioneer SC-LX76 for about £775 (I like the price, and think the 76 wont be much worse than the 86 in sound, so am very tempted for the features)
Anthem MRX 500 for about £840 - a crazy price at a shop in france not too dramatic a drive on a weekend (if I get a spare saturday again!)
Arcam AVR400 for about £1100
In terms of the Av speakers, as I say at the moment I plan still to save on the sub, and keep what I have, I dislike using subs too much simply as I DO disturb the neighbours. Over here the disparioty between R100 and R300 in price isnt as much as the UK, the R100 being about £550 and the R300 being about £830. With the reserach on cheaper amps, I am happy enough to spend the little extra on the r300, to give me more versatility in the long term, given that I may well in another year or two upgrade that system furethr (with a sub and rears perhaps).
I'm going to try to demo the Anthem and Pioneer if at all possible, though thinnk it may be difficult, the price difference lends me to go toward these two over the arcam, as well as being keen on the better cinema sound as opposed to music, given that I am going for a separate stereo. Really thuogh now, the stereo is the true difficulty!
One thing about ripping onto a NAS for a linn though - firstly a NAS is itself an extra cost, and secondly, I am faaar too lazy to rip all my CD's... nah, I realy need the CD player to make use of the system, besides being prematurely old fashioned as I am, I still quite like the tactile nature of CD's. Maybe a Linn will be something to look at in another year or two as an addition, but I think I need to experiment more with streaming really before I take that sort of leap - the pioneer would be perfect for that step too, should I take it.
I'm delighted that you are getting stuck in, and listening to a variety of different combinations.....and as you have discovered, synergy between amp and speakers is key.
Your description of what you heard, sits right with me. I like MF amps which I find "musical", but some find they (M Series) lack a little "bite". I also find your comment on the R500s as having "a lovely balance and warmth", to be insightful. FWIW. I think the R700s are the sweet spot of the Floorstanders....as speakers get bigger, they can lose the speed and imaging that makes a good Standmount so beguiling.
I have also found, that with some speakers that are less "showy", you need to live with them for a week (or more) to fully appreciate their talents. I have personally found that upfront, forward sounding systems, while exciting at first, often become grating after a period. Generally, a system will end up being a compromise, either towards the smoother side, or the brighter more analytical one.....more money can get you closer to the real thing, but it is certainly not a given.
Speakers that have a presentation between Focal and Kef might be - Tannoy, Taga Platinum F-100S, PMC Twenty Series, GamuT, Triangle, Usher, Mark and Daniels.
Given the price difference, you are right to go for the R300s.....with me, the difference is £400.
Going the streaming route is a big mental hurdle for some (it was for me), so I quite understand......but I'm happy that it's on your radar for future investigation. For a CDP, Audiolab is a good choice, and I'd also throw in Rega as well.
Amps are also a bit of a minefield, and a lot of the good ones need to be sniffed out. ie. Brands like Bel Canto, Pathos, Sugden, Electrocompaniet, Creek, Croft and Lavardin.
Class A / Valves sound great, but is pretty "un-green", but Class D is much less power hungry and is getting better and better, with (very expensive) brands like Devialet showing what can be done......Nad are doing good work here as well, along with the previously mentioned Bel Canto.
I have been exactly where you are at the moment, so am very happy to help where I can. I will never tell you what to buy, only throw out suggestions that you might otherwise have not known about
Yes and excelent to be able to bounce things of you Cno! Much appreciated indeed.
Without answering everything fully this time (as only have a quick minute) I must admit, I heard the standmounters agility and clear presentation, and was surprised how in some cases the floorstanders can exacerbate background noise. Yes they sound fuller, but... I have had the thought of whether there is standmounter out there which truly has performance to nearly match a florostander, whilst retaining that agility - or am I just dreaming? Maybe worth spending more time to look at the b&w PSM1?
I also considered whether there was something I could find somewhere in the middle, like a large bookshelf, or small floorstander. Only found the Dali Fazon F5 so far... any good? something worth considering does anyone know?
RLCCM wrote:Yes and excelent to be able to bounce things of you Cno! Much appreciated indeed.Without answering everything fully this time (as only have a quick minute) I must admit, I heard the standmounters agility and clear presentation, and was surprised how in some cases the floorstanders can exacerbate background noise. Yes they sound fuller, but... I have had the thought of whether there is standmounter out there which truly has performance to nearly match a florostander, whilst retaining that agility - or am I just dreaming? Maybe worth spending more time to look at the b&w PSM1?I also considered whether there was something I could find somewhere in the middle, like a large bookshelf, or small floorstander. Only found the Dali Fazon F5 so far... any good? something worth considering does anyone know?
OPPO 105EU, Arcam AVR450, Boston Acoustics M340. Dac: Musical fedility V90.
- I have never heard a Dali speaker, but they have a great reputation.
- The PM1s are £2000 (£2400 including stands).........so make sure they are worth the extra over the LS50s,
- For clean sounding Floorstanders, look at the PMC Twenty Series, Kef Reference, Tannoy....along with others I listed.
Given the cost of making a Floorstander vs a Standmount (and the technical obstacles that need to be overcome), it's no wonder that you pay a premium for a really good one. There are people who just cannot look past a good Standmount, and conversely, people like me, who would miss the scale and impact of a Floorstander. Hifi is a game of compromises.
If you can get to hear Taga Platinum F-100SE which I wrote about here (they are hard to find), they might just fit the bill: http://www.whathifi.com/forum/hi-fi/taga-possibly-the-best-affordable-speakers-youve-never-heard-of
Thanks for the recommendation of the boston accoustics, they certainly look smart, I'll try to get a demo of them, am in the UK this weekend and am hoping to demo a few things in London.
Taga however I certainly can't find anywhere that I know of unfortunately.
I heard the PM1 actually, and they sounded good, though something was missing I felt. I need to listen again and for longer to put a finger on exactly what, but they didnt particularly outperform the R300's ar LS50 at all considering the price difference.
That's why the Dali Fazon F5 look like they could be an interesting middle ground, smaller than most floorstanders so perhaps they have some of that standmount agility, and bigger than most standmounters so hopefully some of the better bass and open sound of the floorstander.... though that could just be an ideal world! To actually get to listen to a pair could be very difficult indeed!
Will report after this weekends testing!
Marantz sr7007 is definetly worth an audition too, it can be had at amazon uk for £729.00. If looking around it might even be available cheaper elsewhere.
So another weekend passes, unfortunately my test didnt go too well as the shop was poorly prepared.
But i did get to listen to the A19 on the cm9 and R700 (finally) also very bruefly with m340 from boston accoustics.
I like the kef, but find they lack a little clarity/agility which bothers me. Their midrange is great though.
The CM9 is good but there is something missing, struggling to put my finger on it, but i think its cohesion between the top and bottom.
The M340 were better in this respect and quite enjoyable, but didnt quite have the sheer spund quality somehow, they sounded slightly cheaper, even if more cohesive and possibly enjoyable than the B&W. Maybe i was being harsh, and my demo was quite limited though to be fair, as the BA's certainly madw some case for themselves.
Actually though the KEF is very distinctive in its sound, and indeed the best sweetspot of its range, i am slightly disappointed with the lack of clarity in these floorstanders, though if i could team it up with a bright amp and maybe some eq adjustments, it could well be the bestfor me - i really need to continye testing!
The A19, though a very competent budget amp, is the minimum that should be used.
IMO.The R700s are exceedingly good, and would not be out of place on the end of a £3k two channel amp (or more).
They also need a good source.......BTW. What was used?
Remember, the better the speakers, the more they shine in a good system, but the more they show up a cheaper one.......if you want to hear what they can do, try them connected (if poss bi-amped) to an Arcam AVR750 using Stereo Direct and something like a Linn Majik DS as a source.
Hey, glad to hear your findings You may need to do more demo. I aslo demoed the kefs when buying my M340s. But it was the smaller brother KER r500s. I noticed the same aspect of the midrange not being as focused at the M340s. But I have to say the kefs were not biamped... suppose to sound better that way.. On the other hand the the boston acoustics got only one set off speaker inputs with very good crossovers. I suppose it all boils dwn to the kind of sound your looking for.. The boston's have got the fasted response I have hear in a speaker so far & this includes the bass.
I listen to a lot of Jazz so they suite me well. I must say the KEFS had a bit more of an open sound to them, but the M340s sounded more natural.
Anyway would like to know your final decision.
All the best.
Definately try the Anthem 510 - I tried many amps and got one of the first MRX 700 - just wish Iid got the 710!
A few remarks on the above notes:
I like the KEF R700, but am not entirely happy with their clarity in the upper/lower range. They have a very focussed sound, and very warm, but lack the agility that i think I reall yam looking for, though perhaps withthe right partner equipment that can be fixed. I tested it with Arcam A19 and CD17 source (and my own CD's).
With regards to the Arcam, I felt it a relatively safe bet when i heard it, it didnt do anythnig badly. The shop i was in said it was "the best" for whatever range... but I dont entirely trust the guy there, he seemed to be quoting word for word whathifi at least half the time, and killed a few of my suggestions with "the arcam is better" I don't need huge volume, but at the same time, you on here, and another shop have told me the A19 is slightly underpowered. I don't mind spending a little more in that case on the amp to get somethnig more powerful if needed, but nothing really has jumped out at me as yet, that is actually more powerful. Any suggestions?
With regards to the M340, I loved them for the clarity and agility, and were well balanced I felt, but.... maybe due to partnering equipment, but they had a slightly cheaper sound to them i felt, slightly tinny perhaps? they sounded like extremely good versions of my PC speakers (a cheap out of the box creative labs 5.1 set).
Honestly I'm not entirely happy with any of the three options, each of them misses the mark for me just slightly, and none of them compare to my parents 40 year old Tandberg cabinets! Anything shorter and fatter perhaps? Otherwise I am hopnig that I can eiter find smoe PMC or the Dali Fazon F5 to test. I have high hopes for the Dali, hopng it has the Boston Accoustics agility due to its also smaller size.