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Thread: Amplifier + Speakers

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    Senior Member bassClef's Avatar
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    Default Amplifier + Speakers

    I'm now very happy with the top end of my hi-fi setup - squeezebox touch and Marantz CD player feeding a Beresford Bushmaster DAC (which is superb by the way) - I may upgrade the CD player in time but 90% of the time I listen to my digitised collection through the squeezebox.

    I'm also happy with my bottom-end solution through headphones: the Beresford DAC has a great on-board headphone amp (plus I have a Heed Canamp though currently I can't tell the difference between the two) - feeding my BeyerDynamic cans.

    Now it's time to turn my attention to the lower end route to external speakers - I think I need to upgrade - the focus is on classical music. Currently I have a Marantz PM4001 amp (highly rated in its day 6 or 7 years ago but still very much a budget amp) and Mordaunt Short 904i floor-standing speakers (a step up from the amp but still in the budget category).

    I have about £300 to spend on each - I know this is still in the "budget" category in hi-fi terms, but I think I might explore the second-hand market so can look for amps & speakers that retailed for double that a few years back. Well looked after there's no reason these can't last decades.

    So, any recommendations on either new amps and speakers in this price range, or second-hand from up to 10 years ago that I might (with luck) pick up for this price? I need a good partnering of amp+speaker for classical music, to bring out the delicacy of a Debussy etude, and to blow me away with the power of Stravinsky's Rite (timpani, bass drum and brass to the fore!).

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    You have arrived at the place where the room has great influence. The room and the speakers have a symbiotic relationship. So... no conscientious adviser can guide you without knowing about your room.
    I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people don't like me anyway.

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    Senior Member bassClef's Avatar
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    Ah well my room now might now be the same as in 10 months when we plan to move, but it will most likely be similar : a medium to large square-ish sitting room with some soft furnishings and carpet (though may be floorboards but not laminate), hopefully with room enough to site the speakers a couple of feet away from the walls if necessary.

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    Well, I've been looking for something similar and was all set on buying Tannoy V4 floorstanders. The hi-fi shop I went into said, yes, they're good and they have some available, but when I told him about my current system (Monitor Audio BR1 speakers, Sony CDP-XE370 CD player and Marantz PM6002 amp) he said I should upgrade the CD Player first. He recommended the Marantz CD6004.

    Now, of course, I want to upgrade both!

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bassClef View Post
    Ah well my room now might now be the same as in 10 months when we plan to move, but it will most likely be similar : a medium to large square-ish sitting room with some soft furnishings and carpet (though may be floorboards but not laminate), hopefully with room enough to site the speakers a couple of feet away from the walls if necessary.
    The next part of the process involves the question: Will you obtain speakers that 'fit' your room, or will you modify your room to 'fit' the speakers. Actually you will probably do both, though the extent of room modifications may require spousal input. I am only willing to say that the room treatment needs to minimize standing waves, and combine with the speakers to make brightness controllable.

    Speaker selection is a very personal thing. I am partial to the Ohm-Walsh configuration, but not everyone is - and £600 won't cover that option anyway.

    Good luck with the project, bassClef. The process can be fun.
    I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people don't like me anyway.

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    Senior Member bassClef's Avatar
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    Yeah I'm enjoying browsing hi-fi separates on ebay, looking at those ending each day, hoping to pick up a classic British amp worth £500+ for a under £200! It hasn't worked yet, but it's fun
    Last edited by bassClef; Nov-02-2012 at 20:21.

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacLeod View Post
    Well, I've been looking for something similar and was all set on buying Tannoy V4 floorstanders. The hi-fi shop I went into said, yes, they're good and they have some available, but when I told him about my current system (Monitor Audio BR1 speakers, Sony CDP-XE370 CD player and Marantz PM6002 amp) he said I should upgrade the CD Player first. He recommended the Marantz CD6004.

    Now, of course, I want to upgrade both!
    That particular Sony player (I once owned one) is sort of an anomaly in your system. I have a grudge against Sony CD/DVD players anyway, because they are reluctant to play CD-R/DVD-R discs. The Marantz line is probably a little overpriced, but I've no complaints with the single disc players; the changers are another story.
    I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people don't like me anyway.

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    I've spent a few decades building a system that totally kicks *** with classical music, and I can offer a few tips that might save you a lot of money.

    Putting money into fancy wires and CD players and DACs offer no real advantage when it comes to sound quality. A $100 bluray player by Sony has the exact same sound quality and plays any kind of format you throw at it... CD, SACD, DVD, Bluray, surround formats. Save your money and spend it elsewhere where it gets you something. Buy the most recent model of player you can so it covers all formats. New players have no problems with DVDRs or CDRs.

    When it comes to amps, again sound quality isn't an issue with most midrange solid state amps. All that matters is power. If it can push your speakers, it's fine. There are bargains to be had with second hand amps, but you can box yourself in going that route. Multichannel sound is becoming more and more important, and DSP technology has exploded in the past couple of years. You may say "I'll never go 5:1" but all it will take is hearing a really good 5:1 setup and you'll want to make the leap.

    Surround sound is as much of a breakthrough as stereo was back in the early 60s. It makes a HUGE difference in sound quality, even with two channel CDs. I didn't believe this until I got a 5:1 system myself, but I never run straight two channel any more.

    Now for the expensive part... Speakers. You can't spend too much on speakers. I have custom JBL studio monitors, JBL towers and a top of the line Sunfire sub. Old school 70s cabinet speakers sound best. Satellite speaker systems suck and bookshelves are a compromise. If you want a sub, make sure it's a "musical" one, not one for honking deep home theater use. If you have to cheap out do it on the rear channels. Bookshelves are fine there. The center channel needs to be reasonably good. Set up your speakers correctly for the room and leave a bit of open space so the sound can mesh properly.

    Here is the BIG secret... Equalization. No speaker system sounds good without EQ. The most balanced speakers in the world will become unbalanced as soon as you drop them into your living room. Make sure you get an amp with a good built in equalizer and use it. It will do more to improve your sound than anything else. EQ makes all speakers- cheap or expensive- sound better.

    Anyone in the LA area is free to PM me and arrange to visit and hear my system. It's a killer.
    Last edited by bigshot; Nov-02-2012 at 21:26.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MacLeod View Post
    The hi-fi shop I went into said, yes, they're good and they have some available, but when I told him about my current system (Monitor Audio BR1 speakers, Sony CDP-XE370 CD player and Marantz PM6002 amp) he said I should upgrade the CD Player first. He recommended the Marantz CD6004.
    Welcome to the wonderful world of upsell. It's been my experience that stereo store salesmen are the absolute worst advisors when it comes to advice on putting together a stereo. They are worse than lawyers and politicians when it comes to lying, and I have had a couple of them secretly change tone settings in the middle of a listening test to push me to buy the model they got the biggest commission on. Beware.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
    Welcome to the wonderful world of upsell. It's been my experience that stereo store salesmen are the absolute worst advisors when it comes to advice on putting together a stereo. They are worse than lawyers and politicians when it comes to lying, and I have had a couple of them secretly change tone settings in the middle of a listening test to push me to buy the model they got the biggest commission on. Beware.
    Jeez, yeah, I was born yesterday!

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    Here's a fun little story... I was buying speakers, and I wanted to test them with a few of my CDs. The speaker room had dozens, so I picked up a yellow pad and warned the salesman that it would probably take me a while. He said he was happy to help. I had him set bass and treble at the center detent. I pointed to the first set of speakers and he set the switcher. I listened for a couple of minutes, then asked for the next set. HUGE difference. I asked him to switch back to the first set. He switched and turned his back to the amp with his hands behind his back. I saw his shoulder move oddly. So I walked over and looked at the bass control. It was turned way down. He had been goosing the bass on the speakers he wanted me to buy. I calmly reached behind him and said, "This is going to take forever if this doesn't stay put" and turned the bass back to the center detent. He gave me a dirty look and just walked away. Never spoke to me again.

    I've come to the conclusion that salesmen and sales literature not only don't help the process of shopping smart for stereo gear, they are a detriment to it.
    Last edited by bigshot; Nov-03-2012 at 02:44.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilltroll72 View Post
    That particular Sony player (I once owned one) is sort of an anomaly in your system.
    That's because I can only afford to upgrade one piece at a time. Although it's the oldest thing in the set, I'd wondered whether my speakers were the limiting factor. There used to be a standard battle between those who said that the source was the most important part, and those who said that the output is the most important. The salesman said that's not the case any longer - everyone agrees it's the source. Now, of course, salesmen might well have their own agenda, but asking and hearing what he had to say was better than not asking. I mean, I can't be an expert in everything - like I have to trust the car mechanic and the dentist - so I'll put what he says in against what I already know, and what I've read etc. On one count at least I could trust him. The speakers would have been a more expensive buy than the CD player, so he wasn't directly after my money. The Marantz CD player, well-reviewed, is a logical choice given that I have a Marantz amp. What he said seemed to make reasonable sense.

    I've not bought either yet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MacLeod View Post
    That's because I can only afford to upgrade one piece at a time. Although it's the oldest thing in the set, I'd wondered whether my speakers were the limiting factor. There used to be a standard battle between those who said that the source was the most important part, and those who said that the output is the most important. The salesman said that's not the case any longer - everyone agrees it's the source. Now, of course, salesmen might well have their own agenda, but asking and hearing what he had to say was better than not asking. I mean, I can't be an expert in everything - like I have to trust the car mechanic and the dentist - so I'll put what he says in against what I already know, and what I've read etc. On one count at least I could trust him. The speakers would have been a more expensive buy than the CD player, so he wasn't directly after my money. The Marantz CD player, well-reviewed, is a logical choice given that I have a Marantz amp. What he said seemed to make reasonable sense.

    I've not bought either yet.
    My immediate reaction is that the salesman is wrong. In the context of immediate, obvious change, the speakers are way more significant than the CD player. It is often easy to hear subjectively significant differences in A-B comparisons between speakers that are objectively similar in quality (and price). On the other hand, differences in sound quality between CD players (and most other up-stream components) are apt to be very subtle.

    In the salesman's 'defense', he may be used to dealing with audiophiles and audio-fanatics. Those folks already have 'quality' speakers, and can even agree (sometimes) that the desirability of their differences in output are a matter of personal preference.

    It would be foolish of me to offer any specific recommendations. My hearing is quite a bit less than audiophile quality, and so is my bank balance.
    I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people don't like me anyway.

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    Senior Member bassClef's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
    I've spent a few decades building a system that totally kicks *** with classical music, and I can offer a few tips that might save you a lot of money.

    Putting money into fancy wires and CD players and DACs offer no real advantage when it comes to sound quality. A $100 bluray player by Sony has the exact same sound quality and plays any kind of format you throw at it... CD, SACD, DVD, Bluray, surround formats. Save your money and spend it elsewhere where it gets you something. Buy the most recent model of player you can so it covers all formats. New players have no problems with DVDRs or CDRs.

    When it comes to amps, again sound quality isn't an issue with most midrange solid state amps. All that matters is power. If it can push your speakers, it's fine. There are bargains to be had with second hand amps, but you can box yourself in going that route. Multichannel sound is becoming more and more important, and DSP technology has exploded in the past couple of years. You may say "I'll never go 5:1" but all it will take is hearing a really good 5:1 setup and you'll want to make the leap.

    Surround sound is as much of a breakthrough as stereo was back in the early 60s. It makes a HUGE difference in sound quality, even with two channel CDs. I didn't believe this until I got a 5:1 system myself, but I never run straight two channel any more.

    Now for the expensive part... Speakers. You can't spend too much on speakers. I have custom JBL studio monitors, JBL towers and a top of the line Sunfire sub. Old school 70s cabinet speakers sound best. Satellite speaker systems suck and bookshelves are a compromise. If you want a sub, make sure it's a "musical" one, not one for honking deep home theater use. If you have to cheap out do it on the rear channels. Bookshelves are fine there. The center channel needs to be reasonably good. Set up your speakers correctly for the room and leave a bit of open space so the sound can mesh properly.

    Here is the BIG secret... Equalization. No speaker system sounds good without EQ. The most balanced speakers in the world will become unbalanced as soon as you drop them into your living room. Make sure you get an amp with a good built in equalizer and use it. It will do more to improve your sound than anything else. EQ makes all speakers- cheap or expensive- sound better.

    Anyone in the LA area is free to PM me and arrange to visit and hear my system. It's a killer.
    I've never heard regular stereo CD input through a 5:1 surround sound amp/speaker system - I have some misgivings, does it actually try to send different fequenciess to forward and rear or is it simply mirroring? I'd have to hear the result before investing in this type of setup I suppose. Even then I'd have some misgivings about trailing wires all round my listening room, which will probably have to be the family living room. A thought-provoking perspective though - thanks.
    Last edited by bassClef; Nov-03-2012 at 17:36.

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bassClef View Post
    I've never heard regular stereo CD input through a 5:1 surround sound amp/speaker system - I have some misgivings, does it actually try to send different fequenciess to forward and rear or is it simply mirroring? I'd have to hear the result before investing in this type of setup I suppose. Even then I'd have some misgivings about trailing wires all round my listening room, which will probably have to be the family living room. A thought-provoking perspective though - thanks.
    I have a 5.1 setup in my living room. I ran the wires to the rear speakers at the wall-ceiling interface, which means they are out of my way, but visible. Depending on your room setup, you may catch more flac fom the better half about speaker placement. My Pioneer receiver has several options for providing signals to the rear speakers from stereo CDs; they all seem to be near 'mirroring'.
    I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people don't like me anyway.

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