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Tony@melb

How do we upgrade a system?

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I love music and have been using relatively economical hi-fi gear.  I currently own a pair of Celestion A2 speakers paired with AudioLab monoblocks, PrimaLuna preamp and Chord Electronics DAC.  I am interested in finding out how to systematically improve the sound quality by replacing one component at a time. Are there any systematic ways to approach this problem?  or do we just randomly test out different components and combinations to hear if it is better?  How can one tell what is deficient in a system and what the weak link is?

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excellent question, I don't know but am very interested to know if people have worked out any systematic or methodical approach's to this.

 

Watching with anticipation.  

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That's a very good question, Tony - I thought you would've had several responses by now.  :)

 

If your Celestion A2s are a difficult load to drive then maybe a different amp would improve your sound?  Although the 250w into 8 ohms / 400w into 4 ohms spec suggest the AudioLabs are adequate.

 

In which case, I would suggest trying a new DAC.  Topping D70 sounds good IMO - yes, probably cheaper than your Chord ... but that means nothing.  :)

 

Andy

 

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Changes to speakers and room acoustics will make the biggest changes.

The rest is just (relative) small fry.

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I found the Audiolab 'sound' to be a bit flat, but not heard yours obviously.

 

See if you can have a GTG at your place with the aim of guests bringing along an item to swap out in your system, e.g. a DAC GTG.

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front end is the start of the process, but as @andyr said, it's not always the most expensive that sounds the best, the synergy of all components, to your ears, is what it's all about, make the process of upgrading challenging, read reviews, see what music is used to review components, if you have , or get same tracks, and try to understand what the reviewer is hearing, and how this is related to the sound you want/like to hear/listen to, let the journey begin......................

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Do you know what it is you’re trying achieve once you’ve finished upgrading? 

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Thank you for all the comments. Honestly I don't have specific ideas what would be ideal. If I did I would only be able to describe that in the most general terms. I recently borrowed a Trigon preamp and it produces more details than my Prima Luna valve preamp. So musical details are desirable. However, it doesn't have the warmth when playing some classical music and classical guitar music. So I conclude that it would be nice to have musical details as well as the warmth, using what I have experienced as a baseline.

 

I am thinking of upgrading my power amps but I am not too sure what a "better" or high-end monoblock would do to my system.  I read that some people recommend selecting a "good" pair of speakers first, but then again, all the other components and cables matter too. It seems that the trick is to change one thing at a time. Hence the upgrade process is somewhat confusing. Having said that, I am very pleased with the Chord Electronic DAC. It reproduces more details than my previous DAC. It's a worthy addition.

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Theoretically better/more expensive system should have more details, better dynamics and micro dynamics and better over musicality.  

 

Unfortunately there is always a catch. 

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Another vote for synergy being important mostly between amp and spkrs. One approach would be to identify the weakest component (source,, amp, spkrs,,) and upgrade that. This shold give you incremental improvement however it's often a trap where you go round in circles and spend lots for little gain. A better approach would be to listen to other peoples systems, certainly go to the hifi shows to listen to the high end gear and identify the sound characteristics you want.

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It comes back to personal experience 🙂   The more systems and components one listens to, the more one could decipher their characteristics. Some of the hi-fi shops are willing to lend their gear for trial to see if there is synergy. I have tried that several times and found that sometimes more expensive amp do not work well with my existing speakers. Also, I found that I don't have enough experience to tell what I like best. Only someone who has listened to many different systems playing the same music can tell the subtle differences, and if his/her memory is good, can then say I like that because ....

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after reading a few quick reviews of your gear, the component that stands out is the Prima Luna preamp, i have heard a couple and have thought they were "ok", maybe this could be a starting point, also depends on the music you listen to, in one review they state your speakers are not for classical music? always a personal opinion, but may give a clue, also tweater can be bright, and at the wrong height, this may not be relevant to your speaker placement, but another consideration, tweaking your gear and room treatment and placement may yeild greater change/improvement than changing gear

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Will give your suggestions a try. Thank you.

I incline to think that upgrading the pre-amp is my next step. We would like the music to have better clarity and the warmth. When I tried the Trigon pre-amps, the clarity and the soundstage improved greatly, but the warmth of our Prima Luna Prologue Premium was not as pronounced in strings and guitar music. A similar test was done with Bryston but with unconvincing results. As such, I am currently considering PS Audio BHK preamp or Prima Luna EVO 400 preamp. They both have valve elements. Hopefully the clarity of the music would be as good as the Trigon whilst retaining the warmth.

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