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Reference System


Godbero

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I want the best sound I can get for a reasonable price. I realize that can take a lot of research and decision making. To start the process I need to know the list of components. When I bought my first stereo the reference system was:

 

- a stereo receiver

- 2 stereo speakers

- a turntable

 

The stereo magazines would say if you have $500 to spend you should 60% on your speakers, 30% on your receiver and 10% on your turntable or some such advice. Later you would study what you would gain if you replaced your receiver with a preamp and amplifier, or should you spend that money on adding a tape deck.

 

I feel I need a reference system to understand what I need at a minimum to build a computer audiophile system and give me context for what is an extra or nice to have (is home theater like adding on a tape deck).

 

Is there a place here on the forum where you have spelled out a starter system and I missed it; or, am I the only one trying to conceptually map from my old stereo to the new world?

 

Thanks for any help. I've ripped my CD's based on advice from here, but I'm not sure how best to play them.

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I want the best sound I can get for a reasonable price. I realize that can take a lot of research and decision making. To start the process I need to know the list of components. When I bought my first stereo the reference system was:

 

- a stereo receiver

- 2 stereo speakers

- a turntable

 

The stereo magazines would say if you have $500 to spend you should 60% on your speakers, 30% on your receiver and 10% on your turntable or some such advice. Later you would study what you would gain if you replaced your receiver with a preamp and amplifier, or should you spend that money on adding a tape deck.

 

I feel I need a reference system to understand what I need at a minimum to build a computer audiophile system and give me context for what is an extra or nice to have (is home theater like adding on a tape deck).

 

Is there a place here on the forum where you have spelled out a starter system and I missed it; or, am I the only one trying to conceptually map from my old stereo to the new world?

 

Thanks for any help. I've ripped my CD's based on advice from here, but I'm not sure how best to play them.

 

You need a budget to start with. Way too many options at way too many price points to even begin to recommend without a ball park budget. Once you egt that then you can start to narrow your options down.

David

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Yes you do need a budget. Also stereo or multi-channel?

 

One thing not different is spending most of your money on speakers. They make the greatest difference by far. If anything the percentage is higher than it once was. Most other components perform better than ever and at a lower price than in the past.

 

Still you need budget of some sort. As there are also more options, more ways to skin the cat if you will than ever before in the past.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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Also do you have a wife, kids, dogs, cats, etc. Or do you have a dedicated music room? Everyone needs to feel comfortable around the system or you need to have a dedicated room.

 

"The function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought", Sir Thomas Beecham. 

 

 

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OP, you need to keep it simple if you are just starting out - buy an inexpensive USB DAC with RCA output connectors, hook it up to whatever amp/speakers you have and take it from there. Very easy to list a dozen configurations which might give you what you're looking for, but if you've been reading the magazines you probably have a thousand and one possibilities already. Anything where you can flip the gear you buy at minimal loss has to be a good option IMO and try to avoid the temptation to get in too deep too early. Good luck.

Just one more headphone and I know I can kick this nasty little habit !

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Or turn it all around - but a bit depending on what we call "a reference system";

 

When I read the title of the thread it slipped into my mind that I will have just that. Yea, says me. Fine. But at the moment you're not able to see (ahum) the difference between sound through loudspeakers and the guys and gals playing right in front of you, you must be pretty close. The cost of that in my situation ? 31.617 euros; I tried to count really all.

 

I want the best sound I can get for a reasonable price.

 

As others pointed out, that's the problem because what's a reasonable price ? My mentioned figure really is - for a "reference system". And still you may well say "ooooooooooooooops".

 

Peter

Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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I suggest that you set your budget then visit a dealer that stocks a wide variety of loudspeakers.

Choose a competent amplifier (avoid valve amplifiers when comparing speakers) and listen to a bunch of speakers that fit your budget.

Ask the dealer for a recommendation and try to listen to his "best" system as well; these and your current system will set the references.

Take your CD player along and compare the sound of the ripped files from PC+D/AC (make sure the PC is adequately setup and uses adequate playback sw) with that of the CDs from your player.

 

System building requires references, both of reproduced sound and of live sound (if your target is "natural" sound) and comparing what you are hearing with those same references.

It wouldn't be a bad idea to visit a few dealers and listen to their "best" systems.

The only caveat is that "best" is very much dependent on opinion (taste)...

 

Usually a good piece of equipment will highlight differences between recordings better (frequency range, tonal balance, mic positioning, dynamics, etc.), retain detail when playing at low levels and let you feel "comfortable" when playing loud; an "airy" and "detailed" sound usually comes from excessive high-mid/lower treble and will sound tyring on long listening sessions and avoid sepakers that only sound "warm" when played loud.

 

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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I want the best sound I can get for a reasonable price.

Your search will be easier if you drop the concept of "the best" and simply look for the sound that pleases you the most. There are many compromises to be made even at the top of the cost ladder, and only you can know which are most acceptable to you. Factors like frequency range and response, maximum comfortable SPL, sonic character, and interactions among components will conspire to make you love or hate some combinations and lump the rest into the middle. But there's no absolute reference, and some of us may love systems that you'd refuse as a gift.

 

I'm actually amazed at how good most of the commonly found components are today. Almost anything made with good design / construction / materials and supported by a few consistent good reviews will sound fine to many of us. Reading and seeking advice may guide you, but there's no substitute for listening - in friends' homes and at every available shop or other location where you spot audio equipment. I've asked restaurants if I could move their speakers and audition their systems with FLACs streamed from my iPhone, when I saw something I'd never heard before (e.g. the great little tube amp and speakers at a local coffee shop).

 

Use and trust your ears to establish your references.

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Take your CD player along and compare the sound of the ripped files from PC+D/AC (make sure the PC is adequately setup and uses adequate playback sw) with that of the CDs from your player.
Or, in the interest of restoring the balance, heavily tilted towards the computer + DAC tetherers of these forums, you can substitute the PC for a network audio player/ aka streamer / aka renderer. Advantage is that it's a straight box for box swap for the CD player, no 'fiddling' knowledge with PC setup & software player required (yes, you don't actually need a traditional computer to be a computer audiophile) and if the dealer is a good one (what are you doing there if not?) get his/her advice about decent streamers to try out.

 

BTW, if you're interested, us streamer users mostly 'hide out' in the Networking, Networked Audio and Streaming section.

We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

-- Jo Cox

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Or, in the interest of restoring the balance, heavily tilted towards the computer + DAC tetherers of these forums, you can substitute the PC for a network audio player/ aka streamer / aka renderer. Advantage is that it's a straight box for box swap for the CD player, no 'fiddling' knowledge with PC setup & software player required (yes, you don't actually need a traditional computer to be a computer audiophile) and if the dealer is a good one (what are you doing there if not?) get his/her advice about decent streamers to try out.

 

BTW, if you're interested, us streamer users mostly 'hide out' in the Networking, Networked Audio and Streaming section.

 

Cebolla-

You don't list your streamer, so I am not sure if this applies to you.

 

I was pretty much in the same quandary as the OP back in October. I was strictly an analog / cd player / integrated amp guy. So I wanted a simple one box solution / replacement for my CD.

 

What I found was that the stand alone streamers cost a fortune. So out of necessity I opted for the NAS > Rendu > W4S DAC and saved about $7,0000 dollars.

 

"The function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought", Sir Thomas Beecham. 

 

 

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I still use my trusty old reasonably good sounding though not so user friendly Pioneer N-50 streamer.

 

It certainly was the case that if you wanted both decent sound quality (from a well constructed box using decent components and hardware design) and a good user playback experience from the controller software, you had to go for the more expensive high-end devices, such as those made by Linn & Naim. Mainstream manufacturers tended to be good on hardware, but poor with their user interfaces.

 

I've learned to live without the N-50's lack of fast forward/back and use a mixture of controller apps to overcome playlist building and gapless playback support issues. However, I believe the latest Pioneer models (eg the top of the range N-70A ~£1000/$1500), which came out in November in Europe (so you probably just missed them, or may be were not available in the US), have no such problems and come with pretty decent internal DACs to boot. Another example is the latest Marantz NA-8005 streamer.

 

Of course, like a CD transport, the 'two box' solution is equally viable with a streamer and is especially useful for those that already have their ideal (standalone) DAC and have no wish to change it. So barring any technical difficulties, you should also be able to successfully attach a respectable external DAC to a decent streamer, such as a dedicated DAC-less streamer like your Sonore Rendu, the Auralic Aries, etc, or even attach one to a streamer that already has an internal DAC (assuming it has the appropriate outputs).

We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

-- Jo Cox

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