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OFS's picture
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New system question
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Greetings everyone!

I'd like to request help from people in the forum since I am an absolute HiFi newbie.

I've been listening to music on my computer (for convenience) for way to long. I've decide to build a budget system, mainly for listening to my ripped CD collection and music bought online through iTunes, meaning I wish to keep using my great Samsung laptop as the music source. For this purpose, I've gathered that the best option is to use a DAC and a decent amplifier / speaker pair.

After reading several articles and reviews from WhatHiFi, and since in Portugal where I live, I don't have the luxury to try most of the reviewed systems, I went mostly for the best buy options in WhatHiFi guides. So I'd like to hear your views between these two options (or different ones as long as the budget doesn't differ a lot):

1) Rotel RA-10 Amp +  HRT Microstreamer + Q Acoustics 2050i

2) Rotel RA-12 + Q Acoustics 2050i

 

Are these good options? Can't wait to hear your answers!

 

Thanks,

Miguel

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RE: New system question

Olá Miguel! 

 

Welcome to the Forum! Bem vindo ao forum!

i'm from Portugal as well, where you are from?

 

abraço

Rega RP6/Goldring Elite>Clearaudio Basic Plus

Synology NAS>Rega DAC>Pathos Classic One MKIII>Dynaudio Excite X12

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RE: New system question

Well, I don't think you will hate your system if you buy that - far from it - but I would probably make different choices.

HRT streamer is a great idea - keep that. It's good enough for what you are doing and allows for an upgrade someday. It's a solid product.

The Rotel amp, I think, is a poor idea. I am a bit influenced by the fact that I am not a fan of the Rotel 'house sound,' which is rhythmic but I think sounds edgy and lacks detail. But that is a matter of taste not quality. But more to the point, it has a phono stage which you don't need and it's a bit underpowered.

I have zero against the sound of Q Acoustics speakers, but I would advise against the 2050i idea. Why? Because they are too big for the money and number of watts you intend to throw at them. There are some people who want big speakers and some of them are not rich, so sure enough, the market segment exists. If I wanted to squeeze every bit of sound quality out of a modest system, I would probably buy smaller speakers but try to get something higher quality. It will ask less of your amp and move you further upmarket.

I think, in terms of amps, that the NAD 326Bee is a much better buy than the Rotel (unless you have a turntable, mind you). I think Yamaha blows away Rotel on almost every device at almost every price level. In both cases I should add, depending on the speakers. Any one of these brands can sound like the winner with a particular pair of speakers. Don't place too much stock in the star ratings or the award winners - they are attempts to evaluate a product at its price point, but they are generic - maybe the Rotel is better value than another amp because of that phono stage, that doesn't help you (OTOH, the NAD has a remote, which might matter to you very much, but not figure highly in the star ratings). Or again, maybe it isn't the house sound of Rotel and Arcam that I don't like - maybe they are just suited to speakers that aren't my cup of tea or that I simply never have tried.

For speakers, what about Acoustic Energy 301s, or KEF Q300s, or any of the smaller well-reviewed Tannoys? For a few quid extra, and a scaling down of your ambition for big boxes, you could have sound that is a lot better, if slightly less bassy (or boomy?).

It's hard getting into audio because everything you want to do someone will advise you against. But one thing I can guarantee: if you make this decision based on reviews and ratings, you will not maximise your money. Synergy between your amp and speakers is more important than either item on its own. It's a cliche, but if you are just getting into audio, you need to find a decent shop that is willing to let you listen to some of this stuff, or better yet, let you buy it with a few weeks to return it. Hear how the stuff sounds together! I have heard my NAD amp sound positively incredible with one set of speakers, way over its price. With other speakers, it was grating and thick. All you see in the review is 4 stars, which although it may be fair, doesn't really give you the information you need. A sales guy may be biased towards his brands, but armed with the WHF reviews as background, you can pick a shop with the brands you want to hear. The sales guy will add value mainly by offering advice on combinations - which is exactly what you are missing.

Best of luck! This may be a budget system, but what you are spending is still enough to have some top sound if you proceed carefully.

 

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RE: New system question

PS - I reread your OP and I see that there probably isn't a shop like that in your area. But there are decent online shops. I am living in France, but I've had things shipped to me from retailers that are willing to take returns and give advice on the telephone. Audio Affair in Birmingham and Digitec-Derouet in Paris are two retailers that combine huge website inventories with a willingness to spend time with customers on the phone and arrange remote auditions. I am sure there are many others.

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RE: New system question

OFS wrote:

So I'd like to hear your views between these two options (or different ones as long as the budget doesn't differ a lot):

 

 

Cambridge Audio DACMagic Plus and a pair of Mackie HR624s or ADAM A7s would be my suggestion, so get along to a pro audio shop to have a listen. Smile

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RE: New system question

SpursGator, why would smaller speakers ask less of the OP's amp? They are generally less efficient. 

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RE: New system question

I'd suggest trying to audition some Cambridge Audio stuff (651A, DAC Magic Smile as a strong alternative to the Rotels.  If you don't mind standmounters instead of floorstanders I'd also suggest trying the new Focal Chorus 705 speakers, which I briefly heard sounding really beautiful with the 651A the other day.

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RE: New system question

BenLaw wrote:

SpursGator, why would smaller speakers ask less of the OP's amp? They are generally less efficient. 

 

Yeah that's true and in fact the QAc 2050i is a quite sensitive speaker so it isn't like it's going to push the amp too hard - you're right. When I wrote that I was thinking about two things - the fact that they are two-and-a-half-way speakers and thus will have a lower impedence, and the size of the cabinets, with two big drivers, makes me wonder about the bass grip of such a small amp, even with the lightweight polyprop drivers.

Perhaps the first concern is no big deal. The impedence of the 2050i's is 4 ohms where it matters most, and the Rotel can almost double it's useable power into 4 ohms. Few modern solid state amps will have problems with 4 ohms.

My concern is more general. A mini amp driving a big pair of very inexpensive 2 1/2-way floorstanders is not usually a receipe for great sound. I am sure, given the great reviews of these speakers, that it will sound pretty good. But crank up the volume on the Rotel into a 4-ohm load, two bass drivers, and a lot of air in the box, then turn it up...it will be loud, I am sure, but I just can't believe that the bass grip will be there.

BUT - I have not heard the speakers. My concern is about the general setup. It would be interesting, if there is a sales guy or reviewer reading this thread who has actually heard these speakers, to hear what amp they would recommend. If you really love the Q speakers, I suspect that something like the Yamaha A-S700 or 500 would be a better match. And if you love the Rotel, I suspect that something from KEF or Monitor might match up better. But you just never know until you hear it, this is pure speculation, and that's the most important point.

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RE: New system question

SpursGator wrote:

...And if you love the Rotel, I suspect that something from KEF or Monitor might match up better. But you just never know until you hear it, this is pure speculation, and that's the most important point.

Spot on SG...I have an RA-11 and found that the Q300s matched best (to my ears) when I auditioned a number of speakers...but as you say, very wisely, it is all down to the ear of the beholder...auditioning is a MUST.

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RE: New system question

Baldrick1 wrote:

.I have an RA-11 and found that the Q300s matched best (to my ears) when I auditioned a number of speakers...

I was itching to recommend the Q300s but I was trying to restrain myself, since I have not heard any newer KEFs (and haven't heard a Tannoy in ages, so I have not really formally auditioned at this price level in awhile). But I spent a really enjoyable time with my Q300s, and I sold them to a close (single) friend and so I still hear them all the time. They are fantastic speakers and I appreciate their virtues more as time goes on - the concentric tweeter arrangement gives a remarkable stereo image. The cones are stiffer than your average poly drivers, too - the detail is amazing for the price. They were really impressive with the Pathos Logos and you would never guess that the speakers in that system cost £450.

I've been blathering on but to give a straight recommendation: If I were in the OP's shoes I would probably start by buying a used Roksan Kandy or Naim Nait online, then drag it around to electronic shops and find speakers that sound the way you like. Even in Portugal you can do that. In France you can hear KEF Q300s at Boulanger, a superstore that sells washing machines. Other French chains like FNAC carry Q Acoustic and other mid-market British brands. It isn't like he's trying to audition Wharfedale SFBs...surely the better chains in Portuguese cities have some of this stuff he could listen to.

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RE: New system question

Hi SG

Agreed too re. what you say about the Tannoys...I auditioned a pair of Revolution DC6 (also a concentric design...so a really great sound stage presentation IMHO) but rear ported and given placement constraints that I had that is what put me off them...even when bunged...but in the right position they are a great speaker too.  Roughly the same price as the KEFs...and definitely worth the OP including them for a demo...if a suitable outlet stocks them.

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RE: New system question

Hi everyone!

Thanks a lot for your answers. I have been busy this last few days so I haven't given your posts the proper attention, but I will in the next couple of days and I'm sure I'll have more questions!

Thanks again.

 

Miguel

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RE: New system question

Hi everyone.

Finally I managed to find some time to check all your helpful answers (I'm a musician/music teacher and the end of the school term the work is hectic, so I apologise for the big delay).

From what I gather, specially from SpursGator very detailed answer (thanks!), my approach to choosing the system components based on magazine reviews is not the most efficient, and only through pairing the amp with the speakers do I get a real sense of what I'm going to get.

The problem, as I said in my first question, is that it's nearly impossible to pair the amp with the speakers in the portuguese stores. In fact I tried three stores today and they only have in stock compact all-in-one systems. Most of them, even if they announce a certain brand, don't keep items in stock because they sell very little (you all probably know the sorry state of my country at this time...), and you can only order them if you're going to buy the items. There are a few FNAC's that are a bit better, but the two I visited don't have any of the amp/speakers pairing that you suggested. I still have another two FNAC's to visit in my area, so maybe I'll get lucky with those...

Given this situation, I would like to ask you guys to suggest a few good amp/speaker pairings that you have tried and that suit your particular taste (yes, I know it's risky but I feel that it's closer to the listening tests that you suggested than simply following the magazine reviews for individual products) for a budget of 1100€ (935 GBP).

Also, contrary to my first post, I have a large vinyl collection that is starting to itch me a bit... So, if the amps considered have a phono stage that allowed me to acquire a turntable later on, I'd prefer it.

One thing that SpursGator said that got me thinking was the floorstander/standmount debate. If I had to choose, in abstract terms, I'd prefer to buy floorstanders (probably safer with a 5 year old running around...), but let's say I'd like to stick with the Q Acoustics 2050i, for example. What amp would SpursGator suggest that has enough power to properly drive these speakers?

I should probably mention that my tastes in music lean a lot towards acoustic Jazz but also to a lot of rock music (specially, but not only, stuff from the 70's through 90's). I don't care about modern pop or dance music at all, so the big (exagerated?) bottom end is on no interest to me.

Also, Overdose suggested Mackie HR624s or ADAM A7s for speakers but these are studio monitors optimized for recording (in fact, in my own studio I have a pair of A7's). Are these really used for HiFi purposes?

Finally, in answer to my fellow countryman Hi-FiOutlaw, yes I'm from Portugal, I live in Amadora. Where are you from???

Once again everyone, thanks for all your help and sorry for my delay in answering.

Regards,

Miguel

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RE: New system question

All good advise, As we all know it is all down to what you like not a review, but if you cant audition before you buy it is tricky, I would have to disagree about the Rotel Amp, I have a RA05SE  similar to the new RA 10,, i have to say i auditioned my rotel amp against a NAD, I found the Rotel had more Detail and Timing, The NAD Is powerfull but overwhelming at times The Rotel more controlled, And for the Record The 40 w Rotel is plenty, It is not just down to the spec, a good quality power supply will always deliver power when needed, The tec figures do not truly garantee power, look at car stereos 4 x 50 w ect its not true in the real world. iv also owned a NAD C352 amp, But again it is down to choice, we all like different music and thats the same for sound.

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RE: New system question

The Q Acoustics look very nice and response is certainly more than decent. I suggest a listen of course in person.  Go with your ears every time regardless of what the reviews say. The idea of bringing an amp with you is a good one. One amp (I'm not sure of your budget) is the Rega Brio R. More than enough power to drive most speakers, gets a lot of positive reviews.  I have heard it myself through Rega speakers and ProAc towers and it sounded very good on both occasions. Keep the HRT.  That's all you would need.  :cheers:

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RE: New system question

OFS wrote:

Hi everyone.

Finally I managed to find some time to check all your helpful answers (I'm a musician/music teacher and the end of the school term the work is hectic, so I apologise for the big delay).

From what I gather, specially from SpursGator very detailed answer (thanks!), my approach to choosing the system components based on magazine reviews is not the most efficient, and only through pairing the amp with the speakers do I get a real sense of what I'm going to get.

The problem, as I said in my first question, is that it's nearly impossible to pair the amp with the speakers in the portuguese stores. In fact I tried three stores today and they only have in stock compact all-in-one systems. Most of them, even if they announce a certain brand, don't keep items in stock because they sell very little (you all probably know the sorry state of my country at this time...), and you can only order them if you're going to buy the items. There are a few FNAC's that are a bit better, but the two I visited don't have any of the amp/speakers pairing that you suggested. I still have another two FNAC's to visit in my area, so maybe I'll get lucky with those...

Given this situation, I would like to ask you guys to suggest a few good amp/speaker pairings that you have tried and that suit your particular taste (yes, I know it's risky but I feel that it's closer to the listening tests that you suggested than simply following the magazine reviews for individual products) for a budget of 1100€ (935 GBP).

Also, contrary to my first post, I have a large vinyl collection that is starting to itch me a bit... So, if the amps considered have a phono stage that allowed me to acquire a turntable later on, I'd prefer it.

One thing that SpursGator said that got me thinking was the floorstander/standmount debate. If I had to choose, in abstract terms, I'd prefer to buy floorstanders (probably safer with a 5 year old running around...), but let's say I'd like to stick with the Q Acoustics 2050i, for example. What amp would SpursGator suggest that has enough power to properly drive these speakers?

I should probably mention that my tastes in music lean a lot towards acoustic Jazz but also to a lot of rock music (specially, but not only, stuff from the 70's through 90's). I don't care about modern pop or dance music at all, so the big (exagerated?) bottom end is on no interest to me.

Also, Overdose suggested Mackie HR624s or ADAM A7s for speakers but these are studio monitors optimized for recording (in fact, in my own studio I have a pair of A7's). Are these really used for HiFi purposes?

Finally, in answer to my fellow countryman Hi-FiOutlaw, yes I'm from Portugal, I live in Amadora. Where are you from???

Once again everyone, thanks for all your help and sorry for my delay in answering.

Regards,

Miguel

The most important part of a system is the speakers, so head down to your local stores (FNAC) and do some auditioning, preferably with your own cds. Once you have found some you like, look at the amp - NAD are usually a safe bet. The specificatios of the speakers will tell you the range of power they're meant to work well with, so choose an amp in that range.

As to active speakers, personally I find them still to forward, but, more to the point, if you're looking at using more than one source you are looking at buying a preamp, and those aren't cheap. A turntable may also need a phono preamp if your amp doesn't have one, which is another consideration. Overall, I think you'll get more vfm sticking to the traditional system, which is much more flexible.

Hope that helps.

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