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Article: Keeping It Simple - Finding Great Values In Great Sound

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Very interested in this. We moved from a place with a very open first floor plan, and a wide open photo studio (with 16 foot ceilings)/printing shop in the basement. Two systems covered two floors. Our two offices were small nearfield systems that got relatively little use since we were often on Skype or other video calls. One of the office nearfield systems did "good enough" for the master bedroom it was attached to. Now we're in a more chopped up space with a different living pattern, since we're not working much at home or elsewhere. We need a few small systems that can fill a small to mid-sized room with super engaging sound. We tried various ways to use smart speakers, including wiring them into good quality integrated amps - which just made the crap louder.

 

I'm also getting a lot of questions about audio systems from my daughter's friends, when they visit and hear our main system. They're at the "just starting out" stage with godawful student loan burdens. A few of the reviews here were useful in helping them out. I will say this... audio has made HUGE leaps forward in sound quality per dollar. A $2000 all in system we put together for one of her friends sounds better than many $2000 systems I heard growing up (when $2000 would buy a car.)

 

Seeing the start of this series... I think we're going to slow roll the decisions in the hopes of some food for thought.

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As ednaz mentioned, this will be important information for answering those "what should I get?" questions.   When the question comes from a millennial who doesn't have many resources, I don't really have a helpful response.  It seems their generation has made the case for vinyl and turntables, which I haven't had in a very long time.  Helping these folks would help our hobby.  A wonderful and interesting generation!


Roon / Mola Mola Tambaqui / Kubala-Sosna XLR / Mola Mola Kaluga / KS biwire / B&W 803 D3

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I'll repeat what I've said before: good sound is cheaper than ever before. You can get serious audiophillic/high end type sound for very little. What do you give up? Bass below about 40hz, and the ability to play loudly - fill  a largeish room. 
If those aren't really necessary for you, $1000 gets you a excellent setup. You can get that even for less if you shop well or buy second hand.

 

Last night I ran a redbook file to my Kii Three's ($15k) directly with no external file manipulation and compared the same data stream when upsampled to DSD 256 and run  through an iFi iOne DAC (cost me $130 new)  to a Schiit Freya pre ($700) in tube output mode, and then to the analog input of the Kiis (the Kii converts the stream back to digital). 

Did the 2 sound different? Yes. The "analog" stream from the DSD sounded like you would expect DSD over tubes to sound, and had a less clarity/instrument separation than the file sent right to the Kiis. Was it a night and day difference? Not at all. In fact, when volume matched the difference wasn't that big. You had to be paying attention to notice it. Both sounded very good. I preferred the straight digital, but not by that much. 

What's the conclusion? a) The very cheap DAC does a good job; b) so does the pre; c) the ADC of the Kii is top notch; d) today, even very moderately priced components are very good - that phrase "90+% of the sound quality and functionality of “the best” for about 10% of the cost" is correct. That $130 DAC and moderately priced pre made high end sound and didn't embarrass themselves at all.  I could definitely have them as the heart of a system and be pretty happy with the sound.

 

I will get in the near future a pair of these wireless powered speakers that are of the "lifestyle" variety but also intended to be used as a sound system for real listening.  Supposedly reproduce  45-20,000hz. They retail for $300 each, $600 for a pair. They will be connected to a Raspberry Pi with an add-on DAC board. Will be interesting to see how this complete system for $850 stacks up. I'm betting pretty well. 


Main listening (small home office):

Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>CAPS IV Pipeline Server + Sonore 12V PS>Kii Control>Audiolense DRC>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.
 

Secondary Listening: CAPS Pipeline>IFi iOne DAC>Schiit Freya>Kii Three . Also an SBT and a RB Pi 3B+ running piCorePlayer as an SBT emulator. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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Michael Lavorgna argues that, "Computer Audio Is Dead. And Streaming Has Killed It." That's especially true when budget considerations are a listener's highest priority. As a modest system is unlikely to have the resolution to reveal clear differences in source material. 

 

LOTS of choices out there, here's one possible budget/quality system:

Used Blusound Node 2 - $350.00

ADAM Audio T7V 7" Powered Studio Monitor ( Nearfield) - $500.00 pair 

Frequency Response: 39 Hz - 25 kHz 

Definitive Technology ProSub 800 - High Output Compact 300W Powered Subwoofer  

Black- $278.00 - White - $219.00 - 76% buyers give it a five star recommendation, gets down into the 20s. Tight, impactful bass...

 

Tidal or Qobuz subscription: $20. a month...

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Talk about whiplash! Here's an option to the Adam Audio nearfield monitors I highlighted above; Morel Audio's Hogtatare Powered speaker - $199.00 (single) $369.00 (pair) indiegogo early bird special. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/hogtalare-true-hifi-wireless-sound-for-everyone#/ ---- https://ideaing.com/ideas/hogtalare-speaker/

 

Pair these with the Node 2 and a sub and you'd have an impressive budget system. Lots of fine quality, budget priced cables out there too.

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I'm definitely interested in this.  I'm basically a newbie regarding computer audio.  I've ripped my vinyl, CDs, and cassettes to my NAS in FLAC and ALAC format, and I'm using a laptop running Windows 10 with Foobar to access/play my music.  I'm about to start a trial of JRiver.  The ADC I used to rip my music also can function as a DAC, so I'm using it as a cheap DAC to connect to my Denon AVR-2106.  I hope future articles in the series will help with a DAC decision.  I'm also thinking about a system for my office/den that doesn't have a lot of space.

 

The land of confusion for me is network streamers/music players and music streamers.  I don't know where they would fit in (if at all), if I need them, and how I would use them.  I've read a little about them and still don't understand how I would use them.  Hopefully the series will be of help to me.

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2 hours ago, Geoffrey said:

Talk about whiplash! Here's an option to the Adam Audio nearfield monitors I highlighted above; Morel Audio's Hogtatare Powered speaker - $199.00 (single) $369.00 (pair) indiegogo early bird special. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/hogtalare-true-hifi-wireless-sound-for-everyone#/ ---- https://ideaing.com/ideas/hogtalare-speaker/

 

Pair these with the Node 2 and a sub and you'd have an impressive budget system. Lots of fine quality, budget priced cables out there too.

There's always something cheaper. 


Founder of Audiophile Style

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45 minutes ago, JJinPDX said:

Okay, I've got to chime in. I don't normally post on this forum, but the topic is timely for my current angst. 

 

I love this hobby; I love music (mostly classical, jazz, some pop, some world, even some rock); I've soldered and built my own systems starting in high school, etc. I've carefully auditioned probably hundreds of combinations of gear; and I've finally settled on a NOS MA6600 integrated from McIntosh, Dynaudio Focus 140's, Bryston BDA-2 DAC, Zuma running Win10, clocking handled by a W4S Recovery, cables by known vendors (but always used), music ripped to FLAC or downloaded in a minimum of 24/96 and stored on a Synology NAS. So, you know, typical mid-fi and not bad, not totally over the top from a price perspective. However, I very much enjoy listening to Mahler on it when the mood happens, or some good jazz vocals. Or a violin concerto. Sweet. I also get a big kick out of when people come over for a party and sit in front of the system that more than one jaw has landed on the floor, mainly because most folks haven't heard audiophile quality playback. 

 

Lately though I have run into a problem, which I think is relevant to the current thread. I'm now living with the woman of my dreams who happens to love her Sonos. I have been trying very very hard to like the Sonos as well. Happy lady, happy guy. I've even purchased more Play 1's to place on the deck, etc. I've even voiced out loud that maybe I should sell my gear and buy another Play 5 for the main listening room, make a stereo pair and be done with it. (We have a Sonos Playbar + sub, 2 Play 1's, 2 Play 3's and a reconditioned Play 5, all in various rooms). So, last night I set up the two Play 3's in stereo mode and put on Mahler's 2nd. No comparison. My system easily won the "contest." So, I put the Play 5 into the fray, and even though it wasn't in stereo, it too could not handle the Mahler, although it didn't do badly with Mark Knopfler's Marbletown. But the violins and guitars even for that hurt my ears compared to my system. 

 

You could have the two Play 5's and the sub for, what, $1,700 retail? That would make a very decent system and it would be 40% less than my amp alone, let alone everything else. Heck, you could get a very good Sonos system using the Play 1's for $238 (reconditioned from Sonos) and the sub for $938, and that would be a good system for many people. One couple I know who could afford anything audiophile put in such a system and loves it. It doesn't sound at all bad, really.

 

I've been trying to decide if should sell my system and go with the Sonos and just be happy. However, when auditioned side by side, it would be incredibly difficult for me to do so. A cello on my system sounds to me like a cello played in my living room. There's a sense of air around the instrument, and sense of vibrancy to the strings, a sense of depth to the notes, a stage presence that just isn't there with the Sonos. Am I trying to make my system better just because I've got dollars invested and years of mixing and matching? I don't think so. It's certainly a sound I love, and others might love the sound of Sonos, but I do think that there is a qualitative difference as you get into these more expensive brands and combinations. So, I'm not going to give up my system (I might have to buy a Sonos Connect so we can integrate mine into the whole house thing....). 

 

Having said all this, I do agree that you can get 90% of the way there spending 15% of the dollars. Equipment just keeps getting better and better, and what we need to push for is to get more and more folks involved in high quality music, both recorded and live! To me that's the goal, and I absolutely love this current thread, but I also love the hobby and the forever search for satisfying reproduction. Cost is critical, but sound is more so, in my opinion. 

 

John J

 

Orchestral music, especially something like Mahler, is a serious driver of the need for more expensive systems. You need a pretty powerful, dynamic system, with near full range frequency response to give you any kind of "real illusion" of orchestral music, especially crescendos and the like. With Rock, Jazz, and Chamber Music you can come a lot closer to an illusion of the band with a more modest system.

My increasing tendency to listen to orchestral music was one of the motivators for me moving from a  very good conventional system to the one I have now. Listening in a smallish room, the Kii Threes were one of the few solutions that could give a convincing illusion of a Mahler symphony (I auditioned them with the Mahler 6th, among other music) provide the dynamics needed to get there, and still sound good in a smallish room. 
You can't really do quality volume, dynamics, and low bass on a limited budget. 
 

Specifically for your situation, what's the setup of the dwelling? You can't have a room with your audiophile rig and Sonos units everywere else - or even also in the room with your rig?  You could then make your woman happy and still listen to your dream system at times. 


Main listening (small home office):

Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>CAPS IV Pipeline Server + Sonore 12V PS>Kii Control>Audiolense DRC>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.
 

Secondary Listening: CAPS Pipeline>IFi iOne DAC>Schiit Freya>Kii Three . Also an SBT and a RB Pi 3B+ running piCorePlayer as an SBT emulator. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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John J,

 

Clearly, in this area, your dream woman and you have different priorities. Sonos is known for their simple, intuitive interface, that's what she loves about her Sonos. You, as an audiophile, place SQ as your highest priority. She will never be happy with a more cumbersome interface. You will never be happy with Sonos' at best mid-fi reproduction. Your mission is to find a much higher fidelity alternative to Sonos, one that makes you both happy. Anything less will ultimately, leave you both unhappy and at worst, resentful. Sooner or later, that alternative will appear, indeed it may already exist.

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2 hours ago, JJinPDX said:

Okay, I've got to chime in. I don't normally post on this forum, but the topic is timely for my current angst. 

 

I love this hobby; I love music (mostly classical, jazz, some pop, some world, even some rock); I've soldered and built my own systems starting in high school, etc. I've carefully auditioned probably hundreds of combinations of gear; and I've finally settled on a NOS MA6600 integrated from McIntosh, Dynaudio Focus 140's, Bryston BDA-2 DAC, Zuma running Win10, clocking handled by a W4S Recovery, cables by known vendors (but always used), music ripped to FLAC or downloaded in a minimum of 24/96 and stored on a Synology NAS. So, you know, typical mid-fi and not bad, not totally over the top from a price perspective. However, I very much enjoy listening to Mahler on it when the mood happens, or some good jazz vocals. Or a violin concerto. Sweet. I also get a big kick out of when people come over for a party and sit in front of the system that more than one jaw has landed on the floor, mainly because most folks haven't heard audiophile quality playback. 

 

Lately though I have run into a problem, which I think is relevant to the current thread. I'm now living with the woman of my dreams who happens to love her Sonos. I have been trying very very hard to like the Sonos as well. Happy lady, happy guy. I've even purchased more Play 1's to place on the deck, etc. I've even voiced out loud that maybe I should sell my gear and buy another Play 5 for the main listening room, make a stereo pair and be done with it. (We have a Sonos Playbar + sub, 2 Play 1's, 2 Play 3's and a reconditioned Play 5, all in various rooms). So, last night I set up the two Play 3's in stereo mode and put on Mahler's 2nd. No comparison. My system easily won the "contest." So, I put the Play 5 into the fray, and even though it wasn't in stereo, it too could not handle the Mahler, although it didn't do badly with Mark Knopfler's Marbletown. But the violins and guitars even for that hurt my ears compared to my system. 

 

You could have the two Play 5's and the sub for, what, $1,700 retail? That would make a very decent system and it would be 40% less than my amp alone, let alone everything else. Heck, you could get a very good Sonos system using the Play 1's for $238 (reconditioned from Sonos) and the sub for $938, and that would be a good system for many people. One couple I know who could afford anything audiophile put in such a system and loves it. It doesn't sound at all bad, really.

 

I've been trying to decide if should sell my system and go with the Sonos and just be happy. However, when auditioned side by side, it would be incredibly difficult for me to do so. A cello on my system sounds to me like a cello played in my living room. There's a sense of air around the instrument, and sense of vibrancy to the strings, a sense of depth to the notes, a stage presence that just isn't there with the Sonos. Am I trying to make my system better just because I've got dollars invested and years of mixing and matching? I don't think so. It's certainly a sound I love, and others might love the sound of Sonos, but I do think that there is a qualitative difference as you get into these more expensive brands and combinations. So, I'm not going to give up my system (I might have to buy a Sonos Connect so we can integrate mine into the whole house thing....). 

 

Having said all this, I do agree that you can get 90% of the way there spending 15% of the dollars. Equipment just keeps getting better and better, and what we need to push for is to get more and more folks involved in high quality music, both recorded and live! To me that's the goal, and I absolutely love this current thread, but I also love the hobby and the forever search for satisfying reproduction. Cost is critical, but sound is more so, in my opinion. 

 

John J

Speakers are what matter.  A higher percentage of a system budget should go into those as everything else is better at much less cost than in the past.  Speakers, a good enough amp.  The rest can be skimped on heavily without exacting a big toll on the end result. 

 

Look forward to future installments of this series.  Should be interesting.  For one thing there are so many offerings available I bet we all can learn about some useful gear we didn't even know existed.  


To paraphrase Rick James, "sighted listening is a helluva drug".

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Agreed.  I also suspect we are moving into an era where instead of spending roughly half the budget on the speaker, one should spend 3/4...


"The overwhelming majority [of audiophiles] have very little knowledge, if any, about the most basic principles and operating characteristics of audio equipment. They often base their purchasing decisions on hearsay, and the preaching of media sages. Unfortunately, because of commercial considerations, much information is rooted in increasing revenue, not in assisting the audiophile. It seems as if the only requirements for becoming an "authority" in the world of audio is a keyboard."

-- Bruce Rozenblit of Transcendent Sound

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53 minutes ago, JJinPDX said:

Okay, I've got to chime in. I don't normally post on this forum, but the topic is timely for my current angst. 

 

I love this hobby; I love music (mostly classical, jazz, some pop, some world, even some rock); I've soldered and built my own systems starting in high school, etc. I've carefully auditioned probably hundreds of combinations of gear; and I've finally settled on a NOS MA6600 integrated from McIntosh, Dynaudio Focus 140's, Bryston BDA-2 DAC, Zuma running Win10, clocking handled by a W4S Recovery, cables by known vendors (but always used), music ripped to FLAC or downloaded in a minimum of 24/96 and stored on a Synology NAS. So, you know, typical mid-fi and not bad...

 

I'm now living with the woman of my dreams who happens to love her Sonos. I have been trying very very hard to like the Sonos as well. Happy lady, happy guy. I've even purchased more Play 1's to place on the deck, etc. I've even voiced out loud that maybe I should sell my gear and buy another Play 5 for the main listening room, make a stereo pair and be done with it. (We have a Sonos Playbar + sub, 2 Play 1's, 2 Play 3's and a reconditioned Play 5, all in various rooms). So, last night I set up the two Play 3's in stereo mode and put on Mahler's 2nd. No comparison. My system easily won the "contest." So, I put the Play 5 into the fray, and even though it wasn't in stereo, it too could not handle the Mahler, although it didn't do badly with Mark Knopfler's Marbletown. But the violins and guitars even for that hurt my ears compared to my system...

 

Having said all this, I do agree that you can get 90% of the way there spending 15% of the dollars. Equipment just keeps getting better and better, and what we need to push for is to get more and more folks involved in high quality music, both recorded and live! To me that's the goal, and I absolutely love this current thread, but I also love the hobby and the forever search for satisfying reproduction. Cost is critical, but sound is more so, in my opinion. 

 

John J

 

There's a concept in economics called price elasticity of demand, John - it's a measure of change in demand for something if nothing about it changes except the price.  The other relevant economic concept here is that of substitutes, which are simply goods that can replace each other in the same use.  A substitute good with positive cross-elasticity of demand will be bought preferentially if its price is lower than the alternatives.  And the demand for any good drops when a true substitute is introduced at a lower price. 

 

The simple truth is that there are now many less costly substitutes for the vast majority of products in what you've chosen to call the mid-fi market.  Innovation, technology, and globalization have ganged up on all those 4 and 5 figure source players, amplifiers and DACs because the same sound quality is now available at a fraction of the cost in smaller and more flexible forms and products.  Part of that flexibility is being able to direct your music to systems of varying quality and complexity at the same time.  Once you decide what you want to do with and for the woman of your dreams, you have a world of choice.

 

 

Why not just put a second Play5 in your main listening room and leave your system as it is? She can play Sonos to her heart's content when you're not there with her, and you can both listen together on your main system. 

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1 hour ago, firedog said:

 

Orchestral music, especially something like Mahler, is a serious driver of the need for more expensive systems. You need a pretty powerful, dynamic system, with near full range frequency response to give you any kind of "real illusion" of orchestral music, especially crescendos and the like. With Rock, Jazz, and Chamber Music you can come a lot closer to an illusion of the band with a more modest system.

 

True 'dat, as they say in NOLA. As we mark time on a good sounding system for our living room, we're making do with a FoxL little blue tooth speaker. Rock, jazz, sound only OK, not really good enough for me to want to play it... but chamber music, where the lowest note is from a cello, there are only four instruments? It sounds pretty damn good, for background volume levels. Solo harpsichord? Good stuff. Even solo piano, like "Well Tempered Clavier" is good enough to enjoy, at admittedly background listening levels.

 

I do take a little issue with having to spend a lot of money to get satisfying orchestral sound, as long as you're smart in the used market. A neighbor of mine on a really tight budget (young and house poor) bought my M-Audio BX-8 powered studio monitors from me, used. A couple hundred dollars. Bought an iFi mini black (loaned her mine so she could try it before purchasing one). For well under a thousand dollars, she's got big orchestral sound that thumps your chest when the tympani play. She's a piano buff, and we listened to a couple different concerto with full orchestra cuts, and it was really very satisfying. We had to futz around with speaker placement quite a bit to tame the bass levels.

 

For everything new, I'm not sure she could have gotten the satisfying big sound she wanted at the price she could afford.

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1 hour ago, Geoffrey said:

John J,

 

Clearly, in this area, your dream woman and you have different priorities. Sonos is known for their simple, intuitive interface, that's what she loves about her Sonos. You, as an audiophile, place SQ as your highest priority. She will never be happy with a more cumbersome interface. You will never be happy with Sonos' at best mid-fi reproduction. Your mission is to find a much higher fidelity alternative to Sonos, one that makes you both happy. Anything less will ultimately, leave you both unhappy and at worst, resentful. Sooner or later, that alternative will appear, indeed it may already exist.

 

I have a couple of friends who could afford systems made with all new components at the highest end... and you'll never get them torn away from their Sonos. Company did a marvelous job on the UI.

 

One of them did get itchy after listening to my main system, and I helped him pick some good powered speakers that he could hook up to the Sonos Connect. It ended up sounding so much better than anything else he had, he's now changing his setups in a few more rooms to be Sonos Connect with powered speakers.

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3 hours ago, JJinPDX said:

Okay, I've got to chime in. I don't normally post on this forum, but the topic is timely for my current angst. 

 

I love this hobby; I love music (mostly classical, jazz, some pop, some world, even some rock); I've soldered and built my own systems starting in high school, etc. I've carefully auditioned probably hundreds of combinations of gear; and I've finally settled on a NOS MA6600 integrated from McIntosh, Dynaudio Focus 140's, Bryston BDA-2 DAC, Zuma running Win10, clocking handled by a W4S Recovery, cables by known vendors (but always used), music ripped to FLAC or downloaded in a minimum of 24/96 and stored on a Synology NAS. So, you know, typical mid-fi and not bad...

 

I'm now living with the woman of my dreams who happens to love her Sonos. I have been trying very very hard to like the Sonos as well. Happy lady, happy guy. I've even purchased more Play 1's to place on the deck, etc. I've even voiced out loud that maybe I should sell my gear and buy another Play 5 for the main listening room, make a stereo pair and be done with it. (We have a Sonos Playbar + sub, 2 Play 1's, 2 Play 3's and a reconditioned Play 5, all in various rooms). So, last night I set up the two Play 3's in stereo mode and put on Mahler's 2nd. No comparison. My system easily won the "contest." So, I put the Play 5 into the fray, and even though it wasn't in stereo, it too could not handle the Mahler, although it didn't do badly with Mark Knopfler's Marbletown. But the violins and guitars even for that hurt my ears compared to my system...

 

Having said all this, I do agree that you can get 90% of the way there spending 15% of the dollars. Equipment just keeps getting better and better, and what we need to push for is to get more and more folks involved in high quality music, both recorded and live! To me that's the goal, and I absolutely love this current thread, but I also love the hobby and the forever search for satisfying reproduction. Cost is critical, but sound is more so, in my opinion. 

 

John J

 

[WHOOPS - somehow this got partially posted above.  Sorry!!]

 

There's a concept in economics called price elasticity of demand, John - it's a measure of change in demand for something if nothing about it changes except the price.  The other relevant economic concept here is that of substitutes, which are simply goods that can replace each other in the same use.  A substitute good with positive cross-elasticity of demand will be bought preferentially if its price is lower than the alternatives.  And the demand for any good drops when a true substitute is introduced at a lower price. 


The simple truth is that there are now many less costly substitutes for the vast majority of products in what you've chosen to call the mid-fi market.  Innovation, technology, and globalization have ganged up on all those huge, heavy 4 and 5 figure source players, amplifiers and DACs because the same or better sound quality is now available at a fraction of the cost in smaller and more flexible forms and products.  Once you decide what you want to do with and for the woman of your dreams, you have a world of choice.  Supply of substitutes for those expensive monsters of old is high and growing, thanks to cross-elasticity of demand.

 

I assume you've already set up Sonos to access your NAS - if you haven't, do it now.  One simple alternative is to put a second Play5 in your main listening room and leave your big system as it is. The WOYD can play Sonos to her heart's content when you're not there with her, and you can both listen together to the same source material on your main system to alleviate your suffering.  You'd just have to tolerate lesser SQ elsewhere in the house, but that's probably a lot easier than finding another WOYD :) 

 

You could certainly sell your current stuff and put a wonderful new system together for what you get.  Your Mac is probably still worth well over $3k if it's in good shape and you still have the remote. You can get equal or better SQ (at least, in my opinion and experience) for what you'd get for the Mac from a NuPrime IDA-16 (about $1700) or any of a number of integrated amps from Arcam, Peachtree, NAD, Yamaha etc. Even the $600 PS Audio Sprout 100 is a seriously fine amp.  As good as your Bryston DAC is, you might want to get into higher res.  Pieces like the Sprout and the NuPrime IDA-16 are all digital (i.e. the DAC is pat of the device) and they do DSD.  I can't honestly say that DSD itself is a life changer. but the new recordings now available in native DSD seem to me to be better conceived, engineered, made, and produced than many remastered releases of commercial recordings.  And excellent classical releases abound.

 

By Zuma, I assume that you mean a C.A.P.S. Zuma, which is still a good source.  But you could make yourself a simple renderer / streamer / player from a Raspberry Pi for under $100 total and see how it compares to the Zuma - if it's as good or better, sell the Zuma too.  I have multiple Raspberry Pis with different players driving systems throughout our living space, and they're all excellent.  For my server, I built a NUC running Roon ROCK - and it's simply stellar.  And I'm currently running DACs from Ifi (DSD - $135), SMSL (DSD - $250), Emotiva (24/192 - $500), and Pioneer Elite (MC 24/192 in a 7.1 receiver).

 

Cost certainly remains a critical factor in decision support for audiophiles - but it's now a fraction of its former self and SQ is better than ever.  The above suggestions barely scratch the surface of the bold new world that awaits you.  Enjoy!!!

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3 hours ago, firedog said:

Specifically for your situation, what's the setup of the dwelling? You can't have a room with your audiophile rig and Sonos units everywere else - or even also in the room with your rig?  You could then make your woman happy and still listen to your dream system at times. 

 

Firedog, we are in a condo where there is absolutely no room that lends itself to a dedicated listening space, as there was in my former house. My system is below the TV and is used for TV sound in a room which is open to the kitchen, which is open to the dinning space, which is open to the piano/living room. Beautiful condo, but not great for a dedicated music room. This was my first struggle. I've even lost my listening chair to a couch, but that's okay. We have a Sonos of some type in every room except the kitchen. There are speakers in the master bedroom, master bath, guest bedroom/office, living room, TV room.

 

As background music, I believe the Sonos is just fine. The UI is easy. The streaming selections are fine. Nothing wrong with it. I just think the SQ of my system is more to my taste. She actually prefers my system too. She just isn't the type of person to sit and listen, and thus the value, both of the music and the hobby is not there for her. As I suspect it isn't for many many others either. This is what is so appealing to many about Sonos, really. Plug it in. Download the app. Sign up for a streaming service. Done! Easy to use. Good enough. Music everywhere. 

 

And that's what I like about it. Let us get good music to more people for less money. That's why I like this thread. 

 

John J


JJinPDX

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1 hour ago, ednaz said:

 

I have a couple of friends who could afford systems made with all new components at the highest end... and you'll never get them torn away from their Sonos. Company did a marvelous job on the UI.

 

One of them did get itchy after listening to my main system, and I helped him pick some good powered speakers that he could hook up to the Sonos Connect. It ended up sounding so much better than anything else he had, he's now changing his setups in a few more rooms to be Sonos Connect with powered speakers.

 

Ednaz, I couldn't agree more. Many of my friends who could afford anything audiophile love their Sonos. 

 

I am interested in the Connect. I see that W4S has a Connect they modified. I'm going to check out what they've done. I'd like to be able to play all my hi-rez music and not have to dumb them down. 

 

John J


JJinPDX

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3 hours ago, Geoffrey said:

John J,

 

Clearly, in this area, your dream woman and you have different priorities. Sonos is known for their simple, intuitive interface, that's what she loves about her Sonos. You, as an audiophile, place SQ as your highest priority. She will never be happy with a more cumbersome interface. You will never be happy with Sonos' at best mid-fi reproduction. Your mission is to find a much higher fidelity alternative to Sonos, one that makes you both happy. Anything less will ultimately, leave you both unhappy and at worst, resentful. Sooner or later, that alternative will appear, indeed it may already exist.

 

Geoffrey, another local audiophile friend of mine who's system is worth north of six figures laments the fact that it's too complicated for his wife. If everything is working, then she can get to her music, but horrors if something were to have a hiccup. Pride of ownership and SQ are what's important to him, not really ease of use or slick UI. For this thread I hope that it's not just cost that is considered; it's also ease of use. I've been trying for several years now to figure out how to make mine idiot proof. Maybe I'm the idiot. 

 

John J


JJinPDX

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Bluesman, I'm not quite sure how to break up your response using this interface for specific replies (thank you, btw, for the time and effort you put into the response!), so I'll just cut and paste. 

 

Quote

There's a concept in economics called price elasticity of demand, John - it's a measure of change in demand for something if nothing about it changes except the price. Etc.....

 

Yes, I do know about price elasticity, etc. And I do realize that we are benefiting from wonderful technical developments, as well as price benefits. That really wasn't what I was addressing, but the point is well taken. 

 

Quote

I assume you've already set up Sonos to access your NAS

 

Yes I have. Works okay, but the condo is basically a Faraday cage, so I've had to stand on my head to get the data from the office to the Sonos such that the buffer is full. Sometimes it's iffy. But that's another topic.....

 

Quote

One simple alternative is to put a second Play5 in your main listening room...

 

Exactly. The other is to get a Sonos Connect and use my system in conjunction with all the other Sonos speakers when we just want background music. Isolate my system when I want to zone out on Mahler. 

 

Quote

By Zuma, I assume that you mean a C.A.P.S. Zuma, which is still a good source.  But you could make yourself a simple renderer / streamer / player from a Raspberry Pi for under $100 total and see how it compares to the Zuma - if it's as good or better, sell the Zuma too.  I have multiple Raspberry Pis with different players driving systems throughout our living space, and they're all excellent.  For my server, I built a NUC running Roon ROCK - and it's simply stellar.  And I'm currently running DACs from Ifi (DSD - $135), SMSL (DSD - $250), Emotiva (24/192 - $500), and Pioneer Elite (MC 24/192 in a 7.1 receiver).

 

Ahh, the hobby kicks in!

 

Yes, the Zuma is a C.A.P.S. build. I've seriously thought of moving it to my hangar and getting something like a NUC with Roon on it. What I want is something that, if the power goes down it boots up by itself and all is fine. No more logging in to Win10. It just works. Perhaps the microRendu or ultraRendu is the answer. All the other suggestions are great. I've tried several DACs, from Schitt, Ifi, D100 from McIntosh and others. The Bryston works fine and is rock solid. I use it to switch inputs rather than the MA6600. But the point you're making about very good DACs for less than a 10th of the price is well taken. It's amazing how good the new DACs are for the price point. 

 

I brought up my Sonos "issue" only to raise a point about SQ differences that I've noticed relative to price points. It is possible that today's electronics can easily compete with the standard AB amps out there that are far more expensive. And as someone else said, speakers are very important, and with many you don't need massive power to gain the dynamics that are possible. I do agree that there's a whole new audio world out there that matches traditional audiophile SQ at a fraction of the cost, and I applaud the progression. 

 

Thanks for everyone's input. Keep the music coming!

 

John J

 

 


JJinPDX

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1 hour ago, JJinPDX said:

I've seriously thought of moving it to my hangar and getting something like a NUC with Roon on it. What I want is something that, if the power goes down it boots up by itself and all is fine. No more logging in to Win10. It just works.

 

That's exactly what the NUC with ROCK does - I haven't touched it since I set it up about 6 months ago.  Unlike my Win10 PC, it updates itself in the background without letting me know about it. I couldn't recommend this more highly.

 

I brought up elasticity of price largely to point out the vulnerability of pieces like your Mac (and many items on my closet shelf) to the growing availability of better stuff for less money.  Even now, its resale value is more dependent on buyers' love of Macintosh than on its sound quality.  Similarly, Sonos can get their price for what you and I agree is marginal SQ because of the convenience and relative simplicity they offer.  Many friends have house-wide Sonos and love it.  

 

My wife is like your friend's wife - she has never put on our sound systems for herself in 47 years of marriage.  I recently set up Alexa to do this for her by adding the House Band skill, so we can say "Alexa - call house band; play XXX in zone Y" and JRMC plays what is asked in the requested room(s).  I don't know how to make it any easier than that :) 

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19 hours ago, bluesman said:

 

That's exactly what the NUC with ROCK does - I haven't touched it since I set it up about 6 months ago.  Unlike my Win10 PC, it updates itself in the background without letting me know about it. I couldn't recommend this more highly.

....

My wife is like your friend's wife - she has never put on our sound systems for herself in 47 years of marriage.  I recently set up Alexa to do this for her by adding the House Band skill, so we can say "Alexa - call house band; play XXX in zone Y" and JRMC plays what is asked in the requested room(s).  I don't know how to make it any easier than that :) 

 

My main system DAC is from Exasound, and it requires a particular implementation of ASIO, and they only provide ASIO for Windows and Mac OS. (They WERE going to supply a Linux ASIO driver but... didn't.) So my media system is a Win10 computer that I built, running Roon. Exasound now has a streaming endpoint with ASIO built in which will free me to try to move to a simpler "set and forget" server, like your Rock/NUC. 

 

Are you running both JRiver and Roon on the NUC? I looked at House Band and it doesn't say it works with Roon. (I've never had any luck with both Roon and JRiver live at the same time... they get into arguments about controlling output to my main system.) I see on Roon that several people have built their own Alexa voice control for Roon, including turning their entire system on and off, while Roon officially claims it's too hard to do.

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