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J.D.

Downsizing - starting from scratch

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Posted (edited)

Hi all,

 

Sorry but this is going to be a long post.

 

After a number of major life changes recently, I have to downsize everything and unfortunately, that includes my stereo system.

 

My existing system is one I bought from Penny Lane in Melbourne over 30 years ago. While everything is in immaculate condition, it's gotta go.

 

The turntable, which is a REGA Planar 3 with an Ortofon MC10 Super cartridge, will not be replaced, though I'm keeping my vinyl. I just don't play vinyl any more.

 

The amplifier is a NAD 3020B which has been an absolute trooper and will be sadly missed.

 

The speakers...aah, the speakers. These are Carlsson OA50, recently refoamed by Open Ear Audio and sounding as good as they ever did.

 

I don't play loud. I think I only ever ran at a constant 1 watt on the amp once and that was too loud for me.

 

The next system will have to fit into a bedroom so the only candidates are bookshelf speakers and a small sub.

 

I hadn't really listened to this system for a few years because the speakers needed fixing so I was confined to a set of Sennheiser HD600 headphones which I like but don't love. In fact the other thing that's driving this is my need to relax and headphones are too claustrophobia-inducing for me. The sound is also rather artificial and properly-placed stereo speakers have a better soundstage for my liking.

 

Since getting the Carlssons refoamed, I have discovered two things: 1) I seriously need music in my life right now so that I can zone out and 2) those speakers are going to be very hard to replace. But unfortunately, they take up too much floor space and are a bit uncompromising when it comes to position. Small bookshelf speakers and a small sub are much easier to accommodate.

 

Of course. all of this will depend on where I end up but the likely set up will be in a bedroom.

 

I should also add that my hearing is not very good. I'm much more interested in musicality and engagement so I'm not very good at auditioning. I lack patience but I definitely know what I like.

 

So far, I have listened to B&W 685 and 686, Dynaudio Emit 10 and Emit 20, Canton Chrono 512 DC and 513 DC, Monitor Audio Silver 2 and Castle Richmond Anniversary. On the list but yet to hear are Tannoy Revolution XT6 and Elac Uni-Fi UB5. Of those I liked both B&Ws and both Dynaudios. I thought the Castles were good but not stunning for the money. The Monitor Audios left me less than completely satisfied and the Cantons, while beautifully made, had no mid-range worth speaking of.

 

Amps have been Arcam A19, REGA Brio-R, AMC (don't know which model) and a couple of compact units, such as the Cambridge Audio ONE and the Marantz 611. Still on the list to be heard are Yamaha U671, NAD C 338 and some of the other very small class D amps like the Pro-Ject Maia, the NAD D3020 and the Yamaha WXA50. The Arcam was nice but not stellar. I think it had a bit more in the tank. The REGA Brio-R wasn't as good as expected and the AMC wasn't too bad but it was rather large. I was even less impressed with the REGA after I saw what is inside. IMHO, it's not a well-designed amp, putting an unshielded toroidal transformer in the middle. I'd love a Marantz 6006 or Yamaha 501. Those guys really know how to design stuff but they don't know what "small" means.

 

I have considered the Yamaha MCR N670 bookshelf system but I would definitely be looking to upgrade the speakers.

 

So my budget - while contingent on what I can get for my existing stuff (which I really don't want to part with) - is up to $2K for a speaker package - which may have to include a small sub, - and about $1K for the amp. The subs I'm considering are the B&W 608 and the Dynaudio 250 II. I'm not looking for floor thumping bass. I just want music. I have an old Blu-ray player I'm using as a CD player at the moment. It's not very musical but it will do for now.

 

I play mostly classical music from Gregorian chant through pipe organ music to symphonies and concerti but I like 60s - 80s rock (Pink Floyd, The Who, Deep Purple, etc.), a bit of jazz here and there and even some electronic. The existing system does all that extremely well and with a fabulous soundstage.

 

So, if you've been kind enough to stick with me this far, I'm interested in your opinions. Fundamentally, I'm looking for something so that I can listen to the music with all the nuances. I don't want to be distracted by equipment.

Edited by J.D.

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Hi good luck, i had to get new small speakers at the start of this year, id try out the Quad S-2, they have them at AudioTrends which i really liked but WAF wasnt high enough. Ended up with Triangle Titus Ez, in gloss white. Sounds great but may need a sub if you like bass. Im happy with them running straight from the Rega Elex

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Thanks for that.  I haven't heard Quad for a number of years. The problem is going to be the price, though I'm pretty good at bargaining. Triangle is another brand I've yet to hear and I've heard good things about the Titus EZ. I think Tivoli have them and I know Carlton AV do. I assume I'm allowed to talk about dealers...? You can probably guess where I've been looking anyway!

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If space is at a premium, perhaps you should consider active speakers? 

KEF LS50 Wireless seem to be all the rage. I don't have any personal experience with these, but it looks like you wouldn't even need a preamp with them, and the reviews I've seen were very encouraging. 

 

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Have considered it but they won't be LS50s. Last time I checked, the active ones were about $3,500.

 

My budget is about half that price.

 

Thanks anyway.

Edited by J.D.

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Keep your eye out for (and perhaps do a search) for the kef ...there was a pair at $1200 this past week and i’ve Seen a few pairs the past 6 months. They may be the wired versions, but still!!!!

 

i started with the Nad 3020d, great sound, enough for a bed room (though it wasn’t enough for a dining room) but the controls were awful. Great sound and the price was awesome!

 

would love to hear a C338.

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Seriously consider the Legend Kurre, it may be a little bit more than your budget but will outperform what you have listened to so far. Add the Marantz or Yamaha. I wouldn't buy the amp on size. (If you must, Len Wallis in Sydney have an offer on a Peachtree on their website that would come into budget.) Save for a decent sub later on and you'll appreciate it more.

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I can't do anything about the size. It will have to fit into a cabinet which is only 350mm deep and the Marantz is 370mm. The Yamaha is even bigger at 387mm.

 

Haven't been looking at Peachtree because I didn't realise there was one I could afford. Thanks for the tip. I'm in Melbourne but I think there is at least one dealer here who carries it. Would also like to test drive a Denon PMA-50 and its matching DCD50 CD player.

 

Have yet to audition either NAD - the C338 or the D3020.

Edited by J.D.

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Try and get to the Hi-fi show in a few weeks and you'll get to listen to a lot of different standmounts! I assume Osborn will have a room and I highly recommend you try and listen to their Eos standmounts - very fine sounding speakers and under the $2k buying direct. You could add a sub to suit later on of you felt you wanted more bass but they go surprisingly deep on their own and may be all you need in a bedroom setup. They're also quite sensitive so don't require a huge amount of power but they need an amp that can drive a 4 Ohm load.

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Definitely going to the HiFi show. One of the benefits of being a member here: that's how I found out about it.

 

Thanks for the tip on the Osborns.

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On 10/10/2017 at 7:54 PM, J.D. said:

Have considered it but they won't be LS50s. Last time I checked, the active ones were about $3,500.

 

My budget is about half that price.

 

Thanks anyway.

I thought you were looking at $2k for speakers and $1k for an amplifier? The active ls50 are both speaker and amplifier.

It also has a DAC and network streamer built in and can adjust the volume.

You could connect your blue ray player to it either via analogue or digital connections.

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 I think you have the process sorted in a very logical fashion.  A couple of points- I don't think you'll find much difference in the sound of amps in that price range.  In fact, spend as little as you can on the amp.  Speakers are where the real action is. Spend a bit more and buy what sounds good to you.

Second-hand is good, particularly for amps for the above reason.  A "Wanted To Buy" in this little forum may net you a choice bargain.  With speakers, auditioning 2nd hand examples adds a layer of complexity.

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The 3020 was a love it/hate it proposition, so if you love it, why change? IIRC it's not very big and I enjoyed my daughter's very much. Maybe get it serviced?

 

Most bookshelf speakers won't match the Carlssons, and honestly, aren't suitable for sitting on a bookshelf. They do need stands, and usually some room behind them.

 

The Carlssons aren't very big and it may well be worth trying different placements to see if something can't be arranged when you know the final environment. I lived with an old pair of Sonab speakers (same designer) for a month and liked them a lot.

 

If all really has to be replaced, then a digital source and some powered speakers could be satisfactory. I have the small Audioengine 2s sitting at the computer, and both these and their larger brothers got very good reviews in Stereophile. The A5+ should be under $A600.

 

Good luck.

 

Greg

 

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All good

1 hour ago, GregWormald said:

The 3020 was a love it/hate it proposition, so if you love it, why change? IIRC it's not very big and I enjoyed my daughter's very much. Maybe get it serviced?

 

Most bookshelf speakers won't match the Carlssons, and honestly, aren't suitable for sitting on a bookshelf. They do need stands, and usually some room behind them.

 

The Carlssons aren't very big and it may well be worth trying different placements to see if something can't be arranged when you know the final environment. I lived with an old pair of Sonab speakers (same designer) for a month and liked them a lot.

 

If all really has to be replaced, then a digital source and some powered speakers could be satisfactory. I have the small Audioengine 2s sitting at the computer, and both these and their larger brothers got very good reviews in Stereophile. The A5+ should be under $A600.

 

Good luck.

 

Greg

 

All good points, though I'm not sure that the Audioengines are that good. And speakers like the Carlssons are very room dependent.

 

My Osborns are massive and tall, but effectively take up no more floor space in the room than the Quadral standmounts they replaced - actually less "usable" space, since the front of the speaker is actually a couple of centimetres closer to the wall! Small speakers only really take up less space if they are wall mounted or the rare genuine bookshelf speakers, compared to close-ish to the wall floorstanding speakers.

 

And you also need to budget for the stands with standmount speakers.

 

In a few cases the cheapest floorstander in a range can cost less than the standmount by the time you get the right stands (and something to fill the stands as needed). So a conventional floorstander shouldn't necessarily be ruled out either - though maybe on grounds of looking out of place, of course.

 

The B&W 600 series being front ported and already liked, perhaps an option would be to use 683s with the 3020? They are front ported and should work close to a wall, just like the smaller models on a stand.

 

Edited by Eggcup The Daft

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Some excellent and interesting point gents. Thanks.

 

@audio_file Yeah, I know but I'd prefer not to do it that way. I considered using the NADs pre amp with actives - and the KEFs would be very high on that list were I to go that way - but I would still want a sub. There just isn't anything out there in bookshelf speakers which can do what I want them to do, bass-wise.

 

@RoHo This was a very interesting suggestion. I was already starting to back away from the Arcam/REGA bracket anyway, though the NAD C338 is still in the hunt. I wondered about the Rotel A10 but it's too big for the cabinet it will most likely have to fit into. There were a few other Class D amps I wanted to check out. The NAD D3020, the Yamaha WXA50. I heard a Denon Heos the other day and was pretty impressed with the sound but I'm never going to buy it. I am very familiar with streaming videos via a server and Kodi box but I don't do it for music. It's just not me and the amount of time the sales guy had to spend messing around with the app put me off for good. Remote control: yes. App: no way. Never going to happen.

 

There is, however, another Denon called the PMA-50 which I would like to hear. I also has a dedicated CD player but it's pretty pricey. For the moment though, the CD player is not a major concern.

 

@GregWormald All good points but this is kind of decided. The Carlssons are more position dependent than room dependent and mine have been in a few rooms! The next move will be a bridge too far for them. Believe me: I don't want to sell these things, especially now that they are sounding so good again. The most likely outcome is that I will end up with a sub-sat system. As far as the NAD is concerned, well, I don't really want to sell that either but the set up for a subwoofer is more complicated than for the others, especially considering it might not be ideally positioned and might even require the cable to go under a rug or something. I'm not going the go down the Bluetooth route.

 

The NAD runs very well: no pops or crackles and given that it will accept a moving coil cartridge, like what's already in the turntable, I think it would be better sold as a "job lot".

 

@Eggcup The Daft The most likely room will be a small bedroom, hence the need for bookshelf speakers like the B&W 686 and a small sub. I have considered some floor standers but they're not really practical and I think the furnishings would eat the bass. The current environment for the NAD/Carlssons is very active. The next one will probably be acoustically dead.

 

As far as stands are concerned, I'm more than happy to build my own.

 

Thanks again guys. This is all good food for thought.

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34 minutes ago, J.D. said:

but I would still want a sub. There just isn't anything out there in bookshelf speakers which can do what I want them to do, bass-wise.

What exactly do you want them to do? A sub woofer in a small room sounds like it would do the same as putting some rear ported Dynaudios against a back wall.

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29 minutes ago, J.D. said:

Wouldn't I get more control from a sub?

I doubt it, the only advantage I can think of is low end extension.

The small woofers on stand mount speakers are likely to be more controlled IMO given good amplification.

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Low end extension is what I want. Bookshelf speakers on their own don't have enough. They get close (Dynaudio Emit 20) but they would still benefit from a subwoofer, IMHO.

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26 minutes ago, J.D. said:

Low end extension is what I want. Bookshelf speakers on their own don't have enough. They get close (Dynaudio Emit 20) but they would still benefit from a subwoofer, IMHO.

What kind of music do you listen to that go that low?

My ATC SCM 19s reach to maybe around 50Hz in my room and they're alright with at least 95% of my songs.

My Dynaudio Contour S1.4 LEs play all information in all my songs, at least in my room. I'd estimate they reach to at least 40Hz in my room.

My room is 6.5m by 3.3m.

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Orchestral etc.

 

The room will be a small bedroom and I play at low volumes so as not to annoy the neighbours.

 

I will be moving to a one-bedroom apartment.

 

It certainly won't be as big as the room you are using.

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The smaller the room, the more bass energy you'll get out of the speakers. This also amplifies more the closer they are to a back wall and also the closer your head is to the wall behind you.

I'd think it would be best without a sub woofer, but of course I could be wrong.

So I suggest you try to borrow some stand mount speakers and hear them in a small room as an experiment, using your music.

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15 hours ago, J.D. said:

Low end extension is what I want. Bookshelf speakers on their own don't have enough. They get close (Dynaudio Emit 20) but they would still benefit from a subwoofer, IMHO.

Hm. 50Hz isn't so low, and the Emit 20 is one of those rear ported speakers that has to be well out into the room, or at least that's what I've been told. Of the two brands you liked, the B&Ws are front ported and while there's a small chance you may get noise from the ports, they will work better if pushed closer to a wall.

(Note that it is possible to have a rear ported speaker closer to the back wall - it has to be designed for it, though).

 

14 hours ago, audio_file said:

What kind of music do you listen to that go that low?

My ATC SCM 19s reach to maybe around 50Hz in my room and they're alright with at least 95% of my songs.

My Dynaudio Contour S1.4 LEs play all information in all my songs, at least in my room. I'd estimate they reach to at least 40Hz in my room.

My room is 6.5m by 3.3m.

The lowest note on a standard bass guitar is around 41Hz and drums can be lower, even for a rock band. You can get down to 35 Hz for a full orchestra at standard pitch.

Anyway, I take note of such figures, but they are a minimum requirement - there's more, as I found when I got (close to) full range speakers and discovered the recorded acoustic, which is particularly valuable with good orchestral recordings. Music comes much more believable with those low frequencies, believe me.

Even for speakers that only work down to 40-50Hz, I found when auditioning floorstanders that the bass can still sound more realistic and extended than a small standmount speaker offering the same measured frequency response.

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2 minutes ago, Eggcup The Daft said:

The lowest note on a standard bass guitar is around 41Hz and drums can be lower, even for a rock band. You can get down to 35 Hz for a full orchestra at standard pitch.

Anyway, I take note of such figures, but they are a minimum requirement - there's more, as I found when I got (close to) full range speakers and discovered the recorded acoustic, which is particularly valuable with good orchestral recordings. Music comes much more believable with those low frequencies, believe me.

Even for speakers that only work down to 40-50Hz, I found when auditioning floorstanders that the bass can still sound more realistic and extended than a small standmount speaker offering the same measured frequency response.

Yeah, but my speakers still play them. The 50 and 40 I mentioned were at the same level as the average level. They play 35Hz, just softer.

I think it comes down (at least partially) to the tonal balance perhaps.

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1 hour ago, audio_file said:

Yeah, but my speakers still play them. The 50 and 40 I mentioned were at the same level as the average level. They play 35Hz, just softer.

I think it comes down (at least partially) to the tonal balance perhaps.

They will be well down by 35Hz. You may or may not get an audible fundamental  with the Dynaudios but most of what you'll hear with musical instrument sound will be harmonics. There may be nothing wrong with that. I Iived with that level of bass for most of my life and still enjoyed the music. It's still better with the lower bass (and without the mid bass hump that is put into some floorstanders for good measure)!

Edited by Eggcup The Daft

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