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Contemplating a +/- $4000 HIFI setup. Suggestions?


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I've almost fully decided to save up $4000 and buy a proper HIFI. It'll take me 10-12 months to put that kind of money together. I thought that since you folks are so knowledgeable this would be a good forum too post and see what kind of suggestions I get.

 

What I would like:

 

-Floorstanding speakers

-Computer as main source (willing to build a cheap and cheerful CAPS system for a few hundred dollars if necessary)

-Detailed high resolution revealing sound. I want to hear as much of the recording as possible.

 

Basically I am trying to re-capture the glory of a greate HIFI my uncle used to have when I was a kid. My favorite thing to listen to on it was Paul Simon's "Graceland" album, particularly the title track. No system I have listened to this song on since has delivered the depth and detail my uncle's old system had. I want to recapture this sound. I have no idea what components he had and given that it was 20 years ago odds are he doesn't remember either.

 

Please keep in mind that I am in Canada where prices average 20-30% higher than in the USA. The two HIFI stores near me that I know of are Whitby Audio-Video and Bay-Bloor Radio.

 

Is a proper HI-FI with a computer as the main source even possible for $4000 CDN? Do I need to alter my budget?

 

Please give responses with as much detail as possible.

 

Thank you

 

And Happy Mother's Day.

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20 years ago, were you playing an LP version of the song or a CD? Great song by the way, I still have a fond spot in my heart for it.

Silver Circle Audio | Roon | Devialet | Synology | Vivid Audio | Stillpoint Aperture | Auralic | DH Labs

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Well fortunately both your Uncle and Paul are still around.

 

I don't have a recommendation at this time, however I am sure folks will ask the following:

 

How large is your room?

 

Do you need a computer, DAC, integrated amp (receiver) and speakers? In other words are you starting from zero?

 

Are you ok buying used?

 

Do you believe bits are bits? ( Ok, pulling your leg on this one )

Silver Circle Audio | Roon | Devialet | Synology | Vivid Audio | Stillpoint Aperture | Auralic | DH Labs

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I have a computer, but I'm sure you guys will tell me that it is inadequate for driving a system of this caliber. The computer is:

 

Pentium G3258, ASRock Z97 Anniversary, 2X2GB Gskill Ripjaws DDR3 1600 C9, EVGA 500B (this is a crap power supply and I am willing to swap it out). The system has a CPU fan, and 2 case fans. Running fanless is not an option given that the chip is 53W TDP stock. I could pull off a fanless heatsink on the CPU but without case fans I'd run into heat issues. That's why I said I was willing to build a machine from scratch but I'd prefer to avoid it so I can put more budget into other components.

 

Other than the PC, I need everything. Or if you guys think I need a new PC, I need everything AND a PC. So ya, Speakers, Amp/receiver, DAC... I need the whole shabang.

 

What do you guys think of PSB's floor standers or Klipsch reference series floor standers?

 

The room is quite large. It is approximately 30x20 feet. The only place the lady of the house will let me put the hifi setup is near a corner along the one of the 30 foot walls, so the speakers would have 20 feet to project sound before hitting a wall. The sound would also be hitting a wall/sliding glass door to the side.

 

I should mention- I live in an condo building, and I own, not rent...but I hate my neighbors, so I'm ok with this decision. I have an evil lady downstairs who complains about everything and I have the most rambunxious kids in the world upstairs so anything I can do to "putear" them as we say in Spanish, the better.

 

I would like to avoid a sub-woofer though. I never said I was a good neighbor, but I'm not Hitler either.

 

I don't imagine getting away with pushing the system past a volume of 75ish dB without being lynched. But I'm ok with that.

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Nice size room, that should allow for some wonderful sound. Given you already have a PC, if it was me, I would invest in all the other stuff first. I think everyone is out tonight, celebrating Mothers Day, I am sure you will get more responses tomorrow. I must admit I don't miss having neighbors above and below me.

Silver Circle Audio | Roon | Devialet | Synology | Vivid Audio | Stillpoint Aperture | Auralic | DH Labs

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Nice size room, that should allow for some wonderful sound. Given you already have a PC, if it was me, I would invest in all the other stuff first. I think everyone is out tonight, celebrating Mothers Day, I am sure you will get more responses tomorrow. I must admit I don't miss having neighbors above and below me.

 

I hate living in a building, man. We were forced out of our old neighborhood by a bedbug pandemic. It had also become infested with undesirable scumbags of every kind. I saw one too many SWAT teams kicking doors in at 3am in my neighborhood. Once I was walking my dog at 3am and a swat team literally rolled up beside me and ran single file towards the house I was walking past. Another time I was walking my dog at 3am again and a group of cops ran by me with their guns out and down an alleyway after somebody. They found a guy in a shopping cart chopped up into pieces in the park 200 feet from my front door. There was prostitution... I would walk to the grocery store late at night and a guy out front would open his jacket and offer me steak at half price that he had just stolen from inside... My chinese food delivery guy told me a story about how he had been robbed for his money and food at gunpoint (with a desert eagle .50 cal no less) at a building like 500 yards away from my house. We had enough. Housing prices in 10 years tripled in the city and we couldn't afford another house, so we had to move into a building. It was a tragic set of circumstances. On the bright side I live in an area with very few undesirables in the suburbs now and I can rest easy at night knowing I'm not going to get stabbed or jumped because I want to go for one of my late night walks. And the supermarket doesn't have armed security. Good changes. Downside? I have upstairs and downstairs neighbors... And they're jerks.

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Well, all in all it sounds like a change for the better, save those neighbors. Is all this happening in California or somewhere else?

 

Reminds me of my days living on Avenue C in NYC, save every other building was burnt out. And 75% of the folks in my building had been mugged or worse.

Silver Circle Audio | Roon | Devialet | Synology | Vivid Audio | Stillpoint Aperture | Auralic | DH Labs

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Well, all in all it sounds like a change for the better, save those neighbors. Is all this happening in California or somewhere else?

 

Reminds me of my days living on Avenue C in NYC, save every other building was burnt out. And 75% of the folks in my building had been mugged or worse.

 

Oh sorry I should have been more clear. I'm in Canada. I was originally in Toronto now I'm in Pickering.

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You should simplify the system, split it between two most important components Speakers + Amplifier...

 

Something like this:

 

AMP - HEGEL H160 (150 W @ 8 Ohms + good USB DAC)

SPEAKERS - Acoustic Energy Radiance 2 (I'm fond of English speakers, but you can't go wrong with PSBs as you live in Canada)

CABLES - You need only speaker + USB cable (If you don't want your PC to be near HiFi setup, you can use Supra Cables USB cable with 15m distance guarantee).

 

Later you can upgrade to external DAC or replace PC with something like Aurender N100 or Auralic Aries...

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mistersprinkles,

 

I think you and I got off on the wrong with your first few posts.

 

I like Music Matters suggestions.

 

Now this will echo something I said earlier. Speakers are the most important. Further I think now and in the near future powered speakers will become close to the norm for high quality music systems. So maybe look to some of DigiPete's suggestions about Genelec powered monitors (DigiPete is a user here on CA). All you would need for a pair in your budget range is a digital source.

 

For something really wild, but good contemplate this (a pair would be in your budget):

 

Computer Audiophile - Devialet Unleashes Phantom

 

The Devialet Phantom is a new frontier, best of CES 2015 | DAR

 

I haven't heard this and hesitate making recommendations that way. But these look like something good, and forward thinking and also would be all you need with a digital source.

 

You also would want to make sure either choice will do your room justice. Large rooms are a big boon to sound quality. So don't go too small.

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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I'm curious as to what system your old uncle had. :-) The computer is probably fine, you can upgrade that later. A good USB DAC can be had for c. $US500. I use an ARCAM irDAC and I love it. But there are lots of good options. Don't worry about that too much. I have a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, about $150 at Guitar Center, and it's remarkably good, totally liveable for three times the money.

 

Think about decent bookshelf monitors with good stands, that can save you a lot and give you more flexibility. Believe me or don't, but if you can find an old pair of ProAc Response 2's, you'll never regret it. (They'll pry mine from my cold dead hands.) They are incredibly musical, throw a huge soundstage and need as little as 5-6 Watts of power. The Response "S" series are nice too, but want a little more power. A pair of older Spendors would also be nice. (You might guess that I'm as old as your uncle!)

 

Find yourself a nice little integrated amp like an ARCAM or something similar and enjoy. Some of the Chinese 300B amps you can find on eBay would also be a treat.

 

You will upgrade constantly as you go, but focus on speakers and a decent DAC and you will do well. Speakers are the core of your system, get those right and everything else will fall int place eventually.

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Your $4000 CAD equates to around £2500 GBP which is (IMO) more than adequate to get a good "entry level" HiFi.

 

The first thing I would suggest to you is visiting your two local dealers and talking to them. Be upfront and tell them your budget and ask what they will suggest - they both gives you a starting point and can start a relationship with a dealer which can be important (though many people just buy offline these days and take the risk and advice of others on forums).

 

Spend around 50% even 60% on some good speakers will stand you in good stead and will leave you a decent amount for computer (if needed); DAC and amplifier. I'm not really going to suggest brands here as what is available will depend on your dealers and nothing suits everyone; but things like Bowers and Wilkins 683s2; Monitor Audio Silver 8 and KEF Q900 would be in the sweet spot with then a small step up to things like Spender A3; Bowers and Wilkins CM8s2; KEF Q500 still fitting in that budget and all good speakers but different as they have different compromises. There are many more just that was a selection.

 

At the £1250 - £1500 price bracket I was looking the interesting thing is you find the top of the brands lower range and then the lower end of their step up range - you need to listen to both and decide which suits you best. You can just go and buy whatever is suggested, but I really recommend you listen to a few as the choice is between (and this is a bit of a clumsy way of putting it) more power from the bigger speakers but of a lesser quality; or less power but higher quality.

 

Once you have the speakers sorted, then the electronics. As bplexco said I would stick with your current PC - its something you can easily replace later if you find the fan noise, etc a issue.

 

One question you need to decide - are you purely interested in computer audio playback, or are you also wanting other sources such as BluRay and off air TV?

 

So for DACs again there is a large selection but £2-400 would be a good target amount. If you are simply looking for computer audio then the go-to DACs around that price at are from iFi - either the Nano if you have a smaller budget or step up to the Micro. The issue with these is the handling of multiple sources - they do have SPDIF input but its not always simple to use and there is only a single input. For multiple sources I would look at Arcam irDAC; AudioLab Q-DAC or perhaps another step up and the new Pioneer U-05-S (please bear with me on the Pioneer).

 

Finally you will need a amplifier. Again you need to ask if you are looking at a single source, or multi-source. So far we've spent around £2000 of the £500 budget I am working with so we're looking at around £500 for a amplifier. Now if you're happy to look at second hand, then you have an even wider field but I'll stick with new. You've got a good budget and things like Arcam A19; Yamaha A-S701 and Creak Evo50 should all be just about affordable, as would NAD. Finally if you chose the Pioneer or AudioLab DAC (and less so the iFi) you could look at a simpler power amp rather than buying an integrated.

 

And after I've written all that, the other alternative is (as people have suggested) a good DAC and then a set of active speakers such as the Genelec or Focal or Dynaudio.

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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That's a big space. The good, it gives the speakers plenty of room to breath. The bad, at least in my opinion, is it's going to take some big speakers to provide good sound.

 

I looked at the sites for both stores you mention. Bay Bloor Radio carries the Golden Ear speaker line, which I believe you will find quite impressive. Unfortunately, the Golden Ear Two, which I think will be the best match for your space, is $3900 (CA) which takes up most of your budget. You could pair them with a Yamaha integrated amp, the AS801, which is a sweet looking unit and includes a built in DAC, should provide more than enough power for the Golden Ear speakers. The Yamaha is $999, also Canadian. I'm sure you could work them on price a little, certainly get the speaker wires thrown in.

 

If you really can't go up to that the Golden Ear Seven's are a pretty sweet little speaker in their own right, maybe even more musical, but at the expense of all that bass you'd get with the Twos.

 

Both the shops you mention have great gear, I think your best bet would be go to them, find a salesman or saleswoman who you think is trustworthy, and talk to them about your space, desires and budget. I think for $4000 Canadian you'll definitely be able to put together a really nice system.

 

I'd definitely use your current computer for now.

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Speakers, speakers, speakers - find the speakers you want to build around then you can figure out what works best with them. Personally I don't know how you could do better than a pair of Acoustic Zen Adagio's slightly used. They will fill up that room nicely and are close enough to full range you do not need a sub - especially the newer model. A pair of Red Dragon amps pair very well with these spaekers - very similar to Bel Canto at half the price or less. Then all you need is your favorite DAC with volume control.

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I'd go with an Oppo 105d player (will play music over network from your PC, from a thumbdrive or CD/SACD and has built in pre amp), a modest power amp with balanced inputs, and a pair of Klipsch Heresy 3 speakers. Not too up on US prices but might be do-able for under $4k.

It'll sound great and the Heresy's might just bring your neighbours to the negotiating table...(joke)

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I'm with the crowd that says you should listen to as many speakers as possible, pick the ones in your budget (say, 40%-60% of the total) that you like best, and then figure out what you need to go with them.

 

--David

Listening Room: Mac mini (Roon Core) > iMac (HQP) > exaSound PlayPoint (as NAA) > exaSound e32 > W4S STP-SE > Benchmark AHB2 > Wilson Sophia Series 2 (Details)

Office: Mac Pro >  AudioQuest DragonFly Red > JBL LSR305

Mobile: iPhone 6S > AudioQuest DragonFly Black > JH Audio JH5

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Whatever you think you want to buy in 12 months will completely change quite a few times well before those 12 months are up.

 

+1

 

(Also agree with all the comments on going and listening to as many speakers as you can. There are quite a few very good speakers in that $2500-$3000 range that would be a fantastic anchor for a super hifi. Vandersteen 2's would be a great place to start).

David

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Everyone is saying "Go listen to the speakers" so I think that is what I will do. I'm the kind of person who doesn't mind stretching it out another 3 months to save another $1000 if that'll make a difference. I was actually thinking of the PSB "T" towers from Bay Bloor Radio. Those had good reviews. I don't want anything that's going to dip much below 40Hz or so because I do live in a building at the end of the day.

 

I will write a more detailed response shortly. I'm feeling sick today. Please don't take my lack of involvement with this thread today as lack of interest. Just not feeling well.

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When dealing with difficult neighbors, above and below, no less, my first thought would be to put together a headphone based system. That's certainly workable given your budget, and would out perform a speakers based system several times that cost, if done right. It sounds like you're already thinking about having to make compromises "I don't want anything that's going to dip much below 40Hz or so because I do live in a building at the end of the day.", and a headphone based system would eliminate any of those concerns.

 

JC

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When dealing with difficult neighbors, above and below, no less, my first thought would be to put together a headphone based system. That's certainly workable given your budget, and would out perform a speakers based system several times that cost, if done right. It sounds like you're already thinking about having to make compromises "I don't want anything that's going to dip much below 40Hz or so because I do live in a building at the end of the day.", and a headphone based system would eliminate any of those concerns.

 

JC

 

Huge +1 on this. Below 40Hz has nothing to do with it- depending on your apartment/building style, music can travel very easily between units to the point where your neighbors might complain even when you don't think you're listening loudly at all. I had this happen when I was demoing bookshelf speakers with no sub in an apartment, away from the walls, on a top floor unit- people started complaining almost instantly.

 

I would not want someone to go through the process of buying a speaker setup only to have it be hamstrung from the minute you install it. $4,000 will get you amazing performance in a headphone setup for sure as TubeLover pointed out, without the potential problem of dealing with neighbors.

Office: iPod classic/iPad -> Shure SE425 IEM Home: Oppo BDP-83/Synology DS211j -> Integra DTR-7.8 -> Revel speakers

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I'd go with an Oppo 105d player (will play music over network from your PC, from a thumbdrive or CD/SACD and has built in pre amp), a modest power amp with balanced inputs, and a pair of Klipsch Heresy 3 speakers. Not too up on US prices but might be do-able for under $4k.

It'll sound great and the Heresy's might just bring your neighbours to the negotiating table...(joke)

 

I hate the look of those speakers. Are they so good I'll come to love them like an ugly child?

 

That's a big space. The good, it gives the speakers plenty of room to breath. The bad, at least in my opinion, is it's going to take some big speakers to provide good sound.

 

I looked at the sites for both stores you mention. Bay Bloor Radio carries the Golden Ear speaker line, which I believe you will find quite impressive. Unfortunately, the Golden Ear Two, which I think will be the best match for your space, is $3900 (CA) which takes up most of your budget. You could pair them with a Yamaha integrated amp, the AS801, which is a sweet looking unit and includes a built in DAC, should provide more than enough power for the Golden Ear speakers. The Yamaha is $999, also Canadian. I'm sure you could work them on price a little, certainly get the speaker wires thrown in.

 

If you really can't go up to that the Golden Ear Seven's are a pretty sweet little speaker in their own right, maybe even more musical, but at the expense of all that bass you'd get with the Twos.

 

Both the shops you mention have great gear, I think your best bet would be go to them, find a salesman or saleswoman who you think is trustworthy, and talk to them about your space, desires and budget. I think for $4000 Canadian you'll definitely be able to put together a really nice system.

 

I'd definitely use your current computer for now.

 

I'm already going to Whitby Audio Video in a few days to pick up a cable so I will look at their HIFI stuff while I'm there. Bay Bloor is a little harder for me to get to but I will try to get out there this week or next week.

 

I'm curious as to what system your old uncle had. :-) The computer is probably fine, you can upgrade that later. A good USB DAC can be had for c. $US500. I use an ARCAM irDAC and I love it. But there are lots of good options. Don't worry about that too much. I have a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, about $150 at Guitar Center, and it's remarkably good, totally liveable for three times the money.

 

Think about decent bookshelf monitors with good stands, that can save you a lot and give you more flexibility. Believe me or don't, but if you can find an old pair of ProAc Response 2's, you'll never regret it. (They'll pry mine from my cold dead hands.) They are incredibly musical, throw a huge soundstage and need as little as 5-6 Watts of power. The Response "S" series are nice too, but want a little more power. A pair of older Spendors would also be nice. (You might guess that I'm as old as your uncle!)

 

Find yourself a nice little integrated amp like an ARCAM or something similar and enjoy. Some of the Chinese 300B amps you can find on eBay would also be a treat.

 

You will upgrade constantly as you go, but focus on speakers and a decent DAC and you will do well. Speakers are the core of your system, get those right and everything else will fall int place eventually.

 

What DAC/AMP/SPEAKERS do you suggest personally? I'd like to get as many opinions as possible. I'd prefer people choose from stuff thats available at Bay Bloor Radio or Whiby Audio/Video

 

mistersprinkles,

 

I think you and I got off on the wrong with your first few posts.

 

I like Music Matters suggestions.

 

Now this will echo something I said earlier. Speakers are the most important. Further I think now and in the near future powered speakers will become close to the norm for high quality music systems. So maybe look to some of DigiPete's suggestions about Genelec powered monitors (DigiPete is a user here on CA). All you would need for a pair in your budget range is a digital source.

 

For something really wild, but good contemplate this (a pair would be in your budget):

 

Computer Audiophile - Devialet Unleashes Phantom

 

The Devialet Phantom is a new frontier, best of CES 2015 | DAR

 

I haven't heard this and hesitate making recommendations that way. But these look like something good, and forward thinking and also would be all you need with a digital source.

 

You also would want to make sure either choice will do your room justice. Large rooms are a big boon to sound quality. So don't go too small.

 

I don't want to use powered monitors. I want passive speakers so I have the option to upgrade them later at a lower cost.

 

You should simplify the system, split it between two most important components Speakers + Amplifier...

 

Something like this:

 

AMP - HEGEL H160 (150 W @ 8 Ohms + good USB DAC)

SPEAKERS - Acoustic Energy Radiance 2 (I'm fond of English speakers, but you can't go wrong with PSBs as you live in Canada)

CABLES - You need only speaker + USB cable (If you don't want your PC to be near HiFi setup, you can use Supra Cables USB cable with 15m distance guarantee).

 

Later you can upgrade to external DAC or replace PC with something like Aurender N100 or Auralic Aries...

 

I'll look into those parts. Thanks.

 

To address a very important topic- "Can I get away with this?" That's iffy. Right now I play music LOUD on my 6.5" studio monitors which have quite a lot of bass in my office. I don't plan on playing music any louder on the HIFI but that will be in the living room. I imagine that, like me, my neighbors spend most of their day in the living room, so having music playing there and going straigh thru the ceiling/floor might be more bothersome to them than me playing in my office which is one of 3 bedrooms. All the units above and below me are identical.

 

If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say I can get away with it in this building. The people here aren't massive douche bags. My aunt has a setup in her office with a subwoofer which she has turned up ridiculously high and nobody has ever complained. She also used to use a HIFI in her living room which consisted of a pair of PSB bookshelves and a 12" sub. No complaints.

 

Why don't I go with a headphone setup? I realize that spending $2000 on headphones is like spending $15,000 on speakers, but I just don't LIKE headphones. I never have. They bother me. It doesn't sound natural to me. I've listened to Sennheiser HD800's hooked up to a proper setup before. It sounded good, but honestly I'll take $2500 speakers over $1500 headphones. No, the fidelity is not as high, but at the end of the day, headphones just bother me. You can't "feel" the music. You just hear it. I don't like that. Also, you can't share the headphone experience with friends and family. You can't have a party and say "hey, let's put some music on" and start passing headphones around like they're a joint or something. I just don't like them.

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