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Upgrade strategy
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:help:

I've been really interested in the thread 'Supposing you were to start again [with £5000]'. My situation is different in two ways. I plan to spend up to £10K, and I'm not sure how to proceed -- beyond the obvious advice to demo the kit thoroughly and find a system that gels.

I want to replace my very old and drab main system over the next 3 to 4 years, one piece at a time. (My reasons for upgrading one piece at a time have to do with domestic harmony.) 

I have two questions about how I should proceed.

1. I assume I should replace the kit in this order: 1st source, 2nd amp, 3rd speakers. So I'd replace the source now, the amp a year or two later, and the speakers a year or two after that. One reason for upgrading in this order is that when I finally come to replace the speakers, I'll be able to give them a realistic demo at home on the end of the 'final' system. The question is: are there any strong reasons for proceeding in a different order, e.g. speakers first?

2. Given that I'm going to be auditioning one part of the new system (whether it's the source, amp or speakers) before the others, what kit should I audition the first part with? My first thought was that it'd make most sense to audition at home in my study (see details of my study system in the signature below) on the grounds that I'm familiar with this sound and like it. On the other hand, I plan to spend about 3 times as much on the new system. So would it make more sense to demo the source chez the dealers, using their kit in the price range I'm aiming for?

All opinions/criticisms welcome.


 

lindsayt's picture
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RE: Upgrade strategy

£10k is enough to get you a system that sounds as good as any on the planet - if that's what you want.

 

Don't accept 2nd best for any components that you buy from now on. Only buy and keep something that leaves you absolutely delighted.

 

If I was starting from your systems I'd change the speakers first as I think that's the component that will give you your biggest single improvement. Depending on the speakers that you buy, you may then decide that your source and amps are perfectly good enough and that there's no need to change them. Or it's possible that you might go for the icing on the cake and the cherry on top with an amp and source change. You might also want to decide at an early stage if your eventual dream system will feature valve power amplification or not - as this may push you down a route to speakers that are either efficient or can be actively amped (valves on the midrange, solid state for bass).

 

I'd try to do any demos with all of your existing system. The idea being that the challenger has to knock the existing component off top spot in your system. Use your music and your normal listening levels too.

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RE: Upgrade strategy

If any component is worthy of a home audition, it is the speakers. These will (unfortunately) be interacting with your room, unlike the amplifier or source. These components can be compared in a dealer's demo room - as long as the rest of the system is constant, a source can quite easily be chosen. As long as the source is decent enough quality and isn't outshone by the rest of the system, I've never really come across any compatibility issues between these and amplifiers.

The important pairing is the amplifier and speakers. The amplifier needs to be able to comfortably supply what (you and) the speaker demands - if it can't, it doesn't matter how much you spend on speakers - you're going to feel shortchanged. 

Initially, its a case of visiting a few dealers and hearing a few types of different systems. Call ahead and book your demo - ask the dealer to set up the best system he can for say, £5k. Once you've had a listen, ask the dealer what he would change to improve the system if you were to double the budget - if he can demonstrate a worthy system for the extra budget, fine. If not, then you don't need to spend the extra cash.

DavidF @FrankHarveyHiFi, Coventry.

"Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to light"

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RE: Upgrade strategy

All good advice.

If you haven't already, I would get in my mind what brands/models of each component

I'd like to demo and at the same time decide whether I want SS/pre/power/solid state or valve amplification

With regards a source, I see you like to stream music, so something like a Linn DS would be high on my demo list and for speakers decide whether you want stand mount/floor standing.

Once you have done all that

start arranging some demos... home if possible.

 

With 10K to spend you should end up with a fine system.

Good luck and let us know how you get on.

Mac

Electrocompaniet EMC1UP, Accuphase E350, Harbeth SHL5 Siltech 25th anniversary 33i XLR, Auditorium 23 SC, HiFi Racks Podium Reference rack.

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RE: Upgrade strategy

We have no idea of yr room/layout & I know nothing. However, I believe that not only does the room make a huge difference but it soon becomes a limiting factor when better kit will fail to yield any benefit whatsoever. The best orchestra in the world would not sound good in my garage! I would earmark some budget to get a good room before buying anything. Just my two penneth but I am sure you have already considered this.

Yamaha V2065. MS Mezzo 5.1 Panasonic 42. Sony BD. Garrard 86SB. WD Live TV. SkyHD.

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RE: Upgrade strategy

You need to consider the various manufacturer's reputations for ongoing support of all the components in the new system.

The length of your upgrade plan alone (3 to 4 years) is longer than many people keep an entire system before changing it.

Think of dealers who give 3 year guarantees and manufacturers who give 5 year (or lifetime) support to their products.

I am assuming £10K still buys a 'system for life' and it's going to be a bit silly if some bit of fashionable 'exotica' conks out a few months after the manufacturer has sunk without trace. (Or decided to make motorbikes instead!)  You also don't want conversations like ... "sure buddy we can fix it, just send it to us" ... about some American muscle amp the size of a suitcase and weighing 50kgs.

It also helps if the manufacturer's gear has an excellent history of high resale values. (You never know when life might bite you on the bum and you don't want to find you can only get the price of a mini system back five years down the line.)

"We are currently awaiting the loading of our complement of small lemon-soaked paper napkins for your comfort, refreshment and hygiene during the journey."

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RE: Upgrade strategy

I would second the suggestion to look at the Linn DS range as a source, the Majik DS being the obvious choice. This could easily be used in your existing system while you demo amp and speaker options.

I would suggest demoing amp and speaker options together, and David's suggestion of asking a couple of dealers to set up their best combos for a little less than your budget is a good one. This may well expose you to some options that you may have otherwise not considered.

 

is this new system to replace the one in your study, or the living room? If it is the study, does it need to be bookshelves rather than floorstanders?

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RE: Upgrade strategy

The room can have a big impact on the sound, try try out different demo rooms at hi-fi dealers, unless your study is the same size and shape as your linving room I would not bother. You may want to consider some other type of systems like active speakers, quite a few loudspeakers man. make them like PMC. As for the order that is difficult as speakers will probably hav ethe largest impact on the sound. IS it purely for music or will you be playing dvds through it? If you are renovating your living room you may want to consider some treatment to improve the sound quality.

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RE: Upgrade strategy

 

Many thanks for all the helpful comments so far. :clap: The points re. getting the best out of dealers, long-term future of kit/resale value, and the character of the listening room are well made and duly noted. The  new system will replace the Arcam/KEF system in the living room. The room is  3m x 5m, with 3m high ceiling. It's not exactly rectangular: two corners of the room have diagonal bites out of them. Some room conditioning will be necessary, esp as the windows have shutters, not curtains, and the floor is wood over a  1m high void. I see a major challenge will be finding speakers that can give their best in this space. The speakers will be on a short wall. Floorstanders and standmounts are both viable.  The music is currently stored in ALAC on a NAS. This is streamed by Sonos (in five rooms and counting) over cat5 cable. The idea of a Linn Majik DS is intriguing. Aside from the Majik's ability to play hi-res music (which is of negligible relevance to me), would the streaming part of the Majik represent a significant advance on my Sonos? (I'm not referring to the Majik's DAC and amplification, which would be far superior to my Arcam kit; I just want to get a sense of whether it's worth paying Mr Linn in order to replace the Sonos on streaming duties.)

 

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RE: Upgrade strategy

I agree with earlier posts about starting with the speakers first, then the amp and finally the source. But at the time of purchase of the speakers, you should preferably have already identified the amp you would eventually pair them with.

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RE: Upgrade strategy

matthewgbell wrote:
The music is currently stored in ALAC on a NAS. This is streamed by Sonos (in five rooms and counting) over cat5 cable. The idea of a Linn Majik DS is intriguing. Aside from the Majik's ability to play hi-res music (which is of negligible relevance to me), would the streaming part of the Majik represent a significant advance on my Sonos?

No, it wouldn't, not in any sense, Sonos does plain streaming better than any other device and nothing else comes close for multi-room capability. Save your money.
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RE: Upgrade strategy

In my humble opinion I would seek to get the room acoustics spot on before wasting 10k. I may be wrong but hopefully those here with more top end experience will better inform than I. Keep us all up to date tho. Smile

Yamaha V2065. MS Mezzo 5.1 Panasonic 42. Sony BD. Garrard 86SB. WD Live TV. SkyHD.

http://www.whathifi.com/forum/home-cinema/lounge-hc-signature-update-bass-traps

 

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RE: Upgrade strategy

My thoughts would go something like this:

- Understand how you like your music ie. Clean / neutral / forward / (more) analytical or Smooth / musical / detailed....and select your shortlist accordingly.

- Have your "end system" in mind when selecting your components, otherwise you could snooker yourself further down the line.

- There is no "right way" to go about this.....I would probably start with the amp, as it's the heart of the system, but it's not set in stone. You need to try different Classes of amp (A, B, AB, D), as well as Valve, Hybrid and Solid State. The type of amp you choose may effect the speaker choice....and vica versa.

- As has been stated, it's sensible to see amp and speakers as a matched pair, that work well together.....even if they are bought at different times.

- A Linn MDS is a big step up over a Sonos (imo).

"We should no more let numbers define audio quality than we should let chemical analysis be the arbiter of fine wines."  Nelson Pass

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RE: Upgrade strategy

RobinKidderminster wrote:
The best orchestra in the world would not sound good in my garage! .
I bet it would Blum 3
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RE: Upgrade strategy

GSB wrote:

RobinKidderminster wrote:
The best orchestra in the world would not sound good in my garage! .
I bet it would Blum 3

 

Must be a very big garage. Most garages would sound awful.

Anonymous
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RE: Upgrade strategy RE: Upgrade strategy

RobinKidderminster wrote:
In my humble opinion I would seek to get the room acoustics spot on before wasting 10k.

The point is well made, and the words 'wasting 10k' are pretty sobering. While I'm demoing kit I clearly need to find out if bass resonance is going to be a problem. 

 

CnoEvil wrote:

- Understand how you like your music ie. Clean / neutral / forward / (more) analytical or Smooth / musical / detailed....and select your shortlist accordingly.

I like my music not too forward and tending more towards the smooth and relaxing. Of course it ought to be possible to get both detail and smoothness within my budget. Gievn that the source will be digital, it's going to come down to how the amp and speakers get on together. My study system works (I think) because the lushness of the speakers tames the analytical amp.

Here some discipline is needed, as it's easy to be wowed by bright-sounding kit in a demo. Apologies if I make another analogy with wine tasting. It's well known that wines which impress in tastings -- i.e. in small quantities and over a relatively short time span -- can be tiring to live with at home. So too hifi ...

CnoEvil wrote:

- A Linn MDS is a big step up over a Sonos (imo).

Can you put your finger on what it is about the Linn's streaming capability (and I'm expressly excluding its DAC and amplification) that makes it better? If I pump my Sonos via a digital interconnect into a high quality outboard DAC and thence into high quality pre/power amps, so bypassing the DAC and amplification in the Sonos, won't I potentially (and depending of course on how much cash I throw at the DAC and amp) get just as good a result as with the Linn Majik DS?

 

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