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First System Advice & Suggestions

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I am wanting to start setting up my own system and as this will be my first time doing so I have some questions. I have been really interested in high end audio for about six months and have been doing a fair amount of research (reading topics on this forum and articles as well as recommended components lists on sites such as stereophile and InnerFidelity), but as there are so many options it would be appreciated if people have suggestions.I have had first hand experience as to how amazing a very good system can sound with many thanks to John for that.


I currently own the following components:

  • Amp - Pioneer SA-708
  • Speakers - Yamaha NS-30X
  • Headphones - Bose QC25 apple edition.
  • CD player - Panasonic VCR/DVD player.
  • Subwoofer - Yamaha YST-SW80 and a Jamo Sub300 i'm repairing. (will probably sell the Jamo)
  • Cables - Belden 5000 series cable with bluejeancables locking banana terminals on one end. (I am considering replacing the terminal block in the pioneer to run bananas)

For computers and related items:

  • File Server running Freenas which I will be getting 3 WD red 2tb drives for.
  • My main computer I built running Foobar2000 and spotify.
  • Enough stuff lying around to build another computer if needed.
  • Apple iPhone 5s.

All of my music is either in CD or on my computer a flacs from ripping the CD's with eac or from iTunes. I plan on getting more music I like from HDtracks or similar sites in high quality formats.


I am thinking about getting the following items, starting with a DAC.

  • DAC - Schiit Bitfrost AK4490
  • Headphones - Sennheiser HD650 or HD600
  • Headphone amp - Bottle Head Crack or Schiit Valhalla 2.
  • Speakers - Building Jim Holtz's "Finalists" from www,speakersdesignworks.com


  • it is currently set up in my bedroom but I may move the system into the lounge room. I will proved measurements in the morning.

I would like the system to have a neutral or slightly warm sound, similar to what you would get from a very good neutral tube power amp. I would like it to have a very large and open sound stage and I prefer a slightly air open sound over a darker sound.The highs must not be peaky although let me know if something may be like that as I may hear things differently. I am a student so I cannot go over the budget as I need to save up for other things

such as a car and therefor the system will be bought over time. I need something that is not tiring and a treat to listen to as this is what I will have until I go all out on upgrading later in my life. (think in about another 5 - 15 years before really upgrading).


I don't like classical or jazz music. My favorite songs and artists include (my absolutes underlined):

  • Billy Joel - Piano man, Leningrad, We didn't start the fire.
  • Bryan Adams - summer of '69.
  • Chris Jones - Long after you're gone.
  • Coldplay - Clocks
  • Carolina Lair - I'm not over.
  • Eagle-Eye Cherry - Save tonight.
  • Empire of the Sun - Walking on a dream.
  • Enrique - Don't turn off the lights, Hero.
  • Greenday.
  • Jimmy Barnes - Working class man.
  • Midnight oil.
  • Moog.
  • Nicholas Gunn - Bamboo.
  • The police - every breath you take.
  • Toto - Rosanna.
  • Queen - Bohemia Rhapsody.
  • Robbie Williams - Angles.
  • Red hot chilli's - Scar Tissue, Other side, Californiacation.
  • Silverchair - Strait Lines.
  • Tears for fears - shout, everybody wants to rule the world.
  • Temper trap - Sweet disposition.
  • Limp Bizkit - Behind blue eyes.


Now for the questions:


With a total system budget of about $1500 and absolute max of $2000 if there is a significant improvement for the higher total cost,

what would you recommend on me getting.

I am all for purchasing used items.

I am also okay with building DIY speakers, amps, etc if they provide better value.


What do you recommend for how much I should spend for each components? What will provide the most return for extra spent on it?

ie. would it be better if I kept my amp and built new speakers and got a bitfrost with the most being spent on the speakers.


What sort of a budget gives the best value for money? I want to get the best sound possible for the money.


I plan on testing the amp and speakers with a very good dac to see if the are good or not and will let you guys know but if you know how the amp and speakers sound let me know if I should replace them.


Do headphones or speakers provide the best value for money? If speakers can provide similar value for money as the HD650's I would be okay with leaving the headphones and headphone amp out out for higher quality speakers but they would need to be able to go very deep and sound as good a HD650's. Full range, 3 way speakers would be preferred. (When listening to Chris Jones's "Long after you're gone" they need to be able to produce the base notes well and reach down to at least the second lowest note with the lowest still being loud enough to be heard. 


I like the sound of the system I heard which included Sonus Faber speakers driven by an Audio research reference 150 

and a PS Audio direct stream dac. It was very open and nice and pleasantly airy sounding. The sound stage was huge and I could place where the singer was

and the detail was absolutely incredible while being natural sounding and not fatiguing in any way. The singers and acoustic guitars can alive and it had a nice very

slight warm sound to it. The bass didn't over power the system while being controlled and going plenty deep enough. And very importantly the highs did not stick out and blended with the sound.


Chris Jones's "Long after you're gone" was beyond words amazing. You could hear every little detail of the guitar, the bass instruments were played very well without over bearing the rest of the song

and went very deep with the very bottom note only slightly quieter than the rest but it was hard to tell if it was recorded that way or not because it did it in such a natural way.




Edited by N1TRO

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I'd go for something like this:


Yamaha R-S201 Stereo Receiver $349



Yamaha CD S300 $449



Schiit Audio Modi 2 Uber $279



Richter Merlin bookshelf speakers and stands $949



Total $2026


Awesome system. Yamaha and Richter go very well together. Nice warm sound. That's how I'd spend my money.



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You have given us lots of detail and you have done good research here and elsewhere.

The suggestions above are good

I think though that given the budget you are stretching yourself too thin.

You can build computers! Wow!

I'd go all digital with high sound quality downloads and rip CDs onto that system on the second computer which you build to audiophile specs

there are ppl here who can give advice< NOT ME

LAST WEEK THERE WAS SOME SIDE DISCUSSION IN New members introductions between ppl from Rockhampton who all thought they were only person there into hifi.

You could contact them to hear systems

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Thanks for the response guys, its really appreciated!. One of the new members from Rockhampton was me  :)


May ask what you mean by i'm stretching myself too thin?




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I'd go all digital with high sound quality downloads and rip CDs onto that system on the second computer which you build to audiophile specs



I think that is what I will do, on the really good system there was a very minor improvement when listening to the CD's over the burnt FLAC's but in my system there shouldn't be any noticeable difference. 

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