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Interesting experience this afternoon

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Jame5's picture
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Thought I'd share this.  Picked up my second system from Richers yesterday: Denon DM39 and Q Acoustic 2020i.  Set it up for a first listen this afternoon.  While I was terminating the speaker cables I listened to main system Music Streamer II+-->DM39 --> B&W CM8s.  Just listening at what I would call sociable levels (10 on the Denon's display).  I was surprised at how well the DM39 coped with these reportedlly hard-to-drive speakers, but didn't sit down for a decent listen, so observations were limited.  This got me thinking that I should listen to the new system against my main one, so I set it up with the 2020i speakers placed on top of the CM8s.  Thats a £2,000 system vs a £350 one.  Listening the Blue by Joni Mitchell and switching between the systems (using iphone as digital source for new system) I perceived some differences.  Obviously the bass was more audible and deeper with the CM8s, although not by as much as I expected (clearly this album is not the definitive bass test album, but it was what I fancied listening to).  JM's voice sounded more prominent on the new system - I put this down to a brighter sound.  I thought her voice was also slightly less clear and detailed but this was fairly marginal.  Overall the difference was not the night and day one I was expecting.

Then the interesting thing happened.  I went off to make a cuppa and left one of the systems playing.  By the time I came back I had completely forgotten which system it was.  River had just begun playing.  Oooh, a blind test I thought (yeah, I don't care that it's not scientific and that I might have subconsciously know which I had left running - I honestly didn't know consciously).  I sat down closed my eyes and listened.  I was surprised to realise that I could not tell which was playing.  I listened to the last three tracks on the album, and it was great fun not knowing which system the music was playing on.  By the time The Last Time I saw Richard had finished, I had decided that I thought it was the new system playing, but I wouldn't have put money on it and, I thought, if I was right then I'd reconsider the value of spending large amounts on kit, particularly as I felt I was guessing on the basis of tonal balance rather that outright fidelity/transparency.

I opened my eyes, and found that I happened to be right.  I'd like to think that if I'd been blind switching between the two I'd have had no doubt, but that experience of listening without the benefit of comparison and being in considerable doubt about whether this was a budget or a good midrange system (with which I am familiar) tells me that the weakest link in my system is probably my auditory senses.  That doesn't mean that I'm about to sell the HRT/Naim/B&W.  I love knowing that the sound is in fact superior, even if it's not night and day, and I suspect that some of the quality is felt as enjoyment of the music rather than in objective perception of greater detail.

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Main system: PC --> HRT Music Streamer II+ --> Naim Nait 5i --> B&W CM8

Second system: iPhone --> Denon DM39 --> Q Acoustics 2020i

Pete68's picture
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RE: Interesting experience this afternoon

Interesting. Have you tried it with the Naim driving the Q-Acoustics?

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Jame5's picture
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RE: Interesting experience this afternoon

12Desings: Just having a listen now.  Will let you know what I think.

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Main system: PC --> HRT Music Streamer II+ --> Naim Nait 5i --> B&W CM8

Second system: iPhone --> Denon DM39 --> Q Acoustics 2020i

CnoEvil's picture
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RE: Interesting experience this afternoon

Thank you for sharing your experience.

The one thing I've discovered about hifi, is that throwing money at a system does not guarantee satisfaction; unless you know exactly what you like and the brands that will give it to you.......and then spend time demoing the options (preferably trying the best of them at home).

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Jame5's picture
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RE: Interesting experience this afternoon

12Designs wrote:

Interesting. Have you tried it with the Naim driving the Q-Acoustics?

 

Ok, the Q-Acoustics are really impressive with the naim, listening to Black Cow by Steely Dan.  In particular the bass was well controlled.  Not massively extended but a better balanced sound than with the DM39 I think.  The bass performance of these speakers seems to be a real achievement at the price point. Then back to Blue by Joni Mitchell and I thought the Q Acoustics didn't quite have the clarity and detail in her voice, leaving it slighty (only slightly mind you) thinner in comparison with the CM8s - the CM8s seem to do voices particularly well - reviews say so, as do my ears and this is one of the main reasons I bought them.  However, again, given that the CM8s cost about 6 times the price of the Q Acoustics, I am really impressed at how Q Acoustics stand up against the more expensive speakers.  At the top of the sonic range I couldn't detect a huge difference between the two.  Both nice and crisp sounding, but not harsh.

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Main system: PC --> HRT Music Streamer II+ --> Naim Nait 5i --> B&W CM8

Second system: iPhone --> Denon DM39 --> Q Acoustics 2020i

Jame5's picture
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RE: Interesting experience this afternoon

CnoEvil wrote:

Thank you for sharing your experience.

The one thing I've discovered about hifi, is that throwing money at a system does not guarantee satisfaction; unless you know exactly what you like and the brands that will give it to you.......and then spend time demoing the options (preferably trying the best of them at home).

My pleasure.  This is really the first time I have spent time comparing and mixing and matching kit at home and the thing that stikes me is that it takes ages to form impressions using a range of music!  This reason alone would suggest to me that home demos are the way forwards if you have the patience and time.  My shop demo experiences so far have involved a lot of wishing that the salesman would leave me alone and stop turning it up to 11.

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Main system: PC --> HRT Music Streamer II+ --> Naim Nait 5i --> B&W CM8

Second system: iPhone --> Denon DM39 --> Q Acoustics 2020i

CnoEvil's picture
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RE: Interesting experience this afternoon

Jame5 wrote:

CnoEvil wrote:

Thank you for sharing your experience.

The one thing I've discovered about hifi, is that throwing money at a system does not guarantee satisfaction; unless you know exactly what you like and the brands that will give it to you.......and then spend time demoing the options (preferably trying the best of them at home).

My pleasure.  This is really the first time I have spent time comparing and mixing and matching kit at home and the thing that stikes me is that it takes ages to form impressions using a range of music!  This reason alone would suggest to me that home demos are the way forwards if you have the patience and time.  My shop demo experiences so far have involved a lot of wishing that the salesman would leave me alone and stop turning it up to 11.

IMO.As well as looking at the "usual suspects" when the upgrade bug hits, it's also worth looking over the parapet and checking out the lesser trod path ie. Brands like Electrocompaniet, Sugden, Pathos, Unison Research, Icon Audio, Sonus Faber, Epos, Vienna Acoustics, Spendor, Croft, Bel Canto, Primare, Creek, Denson, Peachtree. Pure Sound, Audio Analogue etc.

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Pete68's picture
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RE: Interesting experience this afternoon

Thanks for sharing that.

I have thought up until recently that speakers were always the biggest upgrade and this is where you should spend your money in a budget system. Last year I put a pair of MA BX2s on the end of my Arcam amps and got very positive results. Now hearing that you have also got good results with even better amplification and budget speakers I think that maybe it is budget amplifiers that are often the weak point in a budget system.

Like I said, thanks for sharing and enjoy the music!

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Jame5's picture
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RE: Interesting experience this afternoon

I think it's worth spending a bit more on speakers generally.  The Q Acoustics sound good on the end of the Nait, but it would be interesting to do a blind comparison against a well reviewed budget 2 channel amp with the same power rating.

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Main system: PC --> HRT Music Streamer II+ --> Naim Nait 5i --> B&W CM8

Second system: iPhone --> Denon DM39 --> Q Acoustics 2020i

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RE: Interesting experience this afternoon

Hmmmmmm....naaaah!

I have the Denon 38dab - well its my daughters and I've put it on my Mission 782se speakers for the hell of it - it could hardly drive them, it has a volume hike from 10 to 11 on the dial and this only highlighted distortion. took it off before it damaged the speakers

Meanwhile my amp stuffs the budget speakers (JPW monitors from the last century) in her system made them sing too. but still very limited compared to the missions.

If you claim the difference between your main amp and this mini are comparable I'd say maybe your not set up right to get the most from your kit.

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RE: Interesting experience this afternoon

Sometimes it is very easy to get caught up in the whole equipment thing and it can be quite revelatory to realise that you could actually enjoy the music on a good quality budget set-up.  It doesn't mean your main system isn't superior to the new set-up, but it is a salutory lesson that I think we all need to be reminded of every now and then.

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Jame5's picture
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RE: Interesting experience this afternoon

Thompsonuxb wrote:

Hmmmmmm....naaaah!

I have the Denon 38dab - well its my daughters and I've put it on my Mission 782se speakers for the hell of it - it could hardly drive them, it has a volume hike from 10 to 11 on the dial and this only highlighted distortion. took it off before it damaged the speakers

Meanwhile my amp stuffs the budget speakers (JPW monitors from the last century) in her system made them sing too. but still very limited compared to the missions.

If you claim the difference between your main amp and this mini are comparable I'd say maybe your not set up right to get the most from your kit.

I'm saying, on the basis of an admittedly short and not very scientific test, that the difference between one system and the other wasn't as obvious as I expected, so that without side by side comparison I was not particularly confident about saying which I was listening to.  In a blind switching comparison, I'm pretty confident I'd be able to pick out my main system consistently.  I'm quite sure the system is set up properly.

When I tried switching the amps with the Q Acoustics, there was a difference, but, again, not as great as I was expecting.  It's all subjective and I'm fairly open minded.  If I was expecting a night and day difference I'd probably have heard it due to expectation bias.

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Main system: PC --> HRT Music Streamer II+ --> Naim Nait 5i --> B&W CM8

Second system: iPhone --> Denon DM39 --> Q Acoustics 2020i

GMK
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RE: Interesting experience this afternoon

The second best I've ever heard music was playing my Talisman II's through a JVC mini system. Everything just sounded so musical, so right. I would have happily had that system for the long term but eventually the system died (I guess as a result of the load). While it was working though, perfect

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RE: Interesting experience this afternoon

Jame5 wrote:

I opened my eyes, and found that I happened to be right.  I'd like to think that if I'd been blind switching between the two I'd have had no doubt, but that experience of listening without the benefit of comparison and being in considerable doubt about whether this was a budget or a good midrange system (with which I am familiar) tells me that the weakest link in my system is probably my auditory senses.  That doesn't mean that I'm about to sell the HRT/Naim/B&W.  I love knowing that the sound is in fact superior, even if it's not night and day, and I suspect that some of the quality is felt as enjoyment of the music rather than in objective perception of greater detail.

Good post.

I think it highlights how subtle the differences between equipment can be, regardless of cost and more importantly perhaps, just how competent budget equipment is.

 

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moon's picture
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RE: Interesting experience this afternoon

The fact is that: very good active / passive systems can be had for well under a grand. Is it worth spending much more than this on a system?

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bluedroog's picture
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RE: Interesting experience this afternoon

I had a very different experience listening to the two together, I thought it sounded weak, recessed and lacking clarity or drive. It actually struck me how bad it sounded and couldn't believe a hifi shop were prepared to have it playing, that said it wasn't ideally set up and I only listening briefly.

 

that said I've heard both the speakers and denon independently and they sounded great. I don't think the denon has the guts to get the Qs singing. I herd the Denon (39?) driving more efficient speakers and it sounded very acceptable for the price and I'd happily recommend it. Likewise I've heard the Q speakers on the end of a powerful amp with decent watts and current and they really impressed, like a different beast altogether. 

 

I would love to hear the 20s and new concept 20s side by side, or the concept at all.