advice needed on 1st real stereo system

Hi everyone,

I am a 1st time "real" stereo buyer and would really appreciate some advice from a community of experts. I am looking for a system for my living room (about 20x20), for a wide range of music (jazz, classical, rock) and tv/movies etc.

1. I am looking at the Peachtree Decco/Nova amps. I get that the Nova has more power, but will the Decco suffice at 65 w per channel? I will not be blasting music at full volume, but does wattage also improve sound at low/moderate levels?

2. I am looking at a pair of Totem Rainmaker speakers, any thoughts on these or others?

3. Do expensive speaker cables make a difference?

Thanks so much in advance for your advice!
I would go with the Nova over the Decca. You are correct that added power helps with dynamics especially with you liking classical music. Also looking at the ohm power ratings of the two the Nova being more powerful comes much closer to doubling its power into 4 ohms. This generally means that the power supply is a little more robust. As far as totems Inhabe not heard them but they generally receive good reviews. I wouldn't bother with cables until all your other componets are a little closer to being topped out. While cables do make a difference it's nothing comparable to upgrading your speakers.
Hello NG1 and welcome. I would try and listen to as many systems as I could before making a decision. If you could get to a show that would be ideal. Systems tend to have characteristics that some like, some don't. You will hear terms like "musical", "analytical", "warm", "bright", etc to describe components and systems.
As far as cables, component isolation, etc. remember that a system can only be as good as it's weakest link. You don't have to spend foolishly but all parts of the system should be addressed. If you stay focused on great music and ht and forget about the bling you should be ok.
The Totems are pretty efficient. I would think that 65 watts/ch. would be more than sufficient...

Give us some more information. What are your goals for the system? What's your budget? Do you intend to play LP records? Are you aiming at a multi-channel system for video/TV or 2-channel for mostly audio? In any case, if you go with the Totems a subwoofer is going to be necessary.
Will you planning on buying used here on audiogon(or other places) or from dealers in your area?
I also agree with Goheelz's advice above as well.
More power is generally better at all volume levels. Wattage ratings can give some indication of an amplifier's capability, but an amplifier capable of higher current levels will help to eliminate distortion when the amplifier needs to reproduce sudden bursts of power. Speaker efficiency, room volume, decibel level, and other factors determine just how much power is enough.

Expensive speaker cables DO make a difference (mostly in your bank account!). There are, however, some excellent cable designs that are worth the higher price. You don't need to spend thousands of dollars on cables to get good performance, though.
Know your total budget, know your room, begin with speakers.
make sure you love your speakers first and that they will work in your room second and that the amplifier will work with them third

I like the idea of an easy to drive speaker (like Zu or Audio Note) so you can save on amplifier cost in the long run

I recommend finding some lesser costing cables that still sound good, the expensive cable obsession is one of diminishing returns
I agree with Philiojet. If you play rock/jazz/classical like I do and you have the right room for it Audio Note speakers-- AN-E's or J's play all types of music. The E-s like tube amps. 8-20 watts is all you need. Just be sure to hear them first. Seems like folks either love em or don't.
My first good stereo was a KLH Model 20...I only mention this because it makes me happy to think about it. Note that a tubed integrated can be had relatively cheaply and they're fun to look at (Jolida, Primaluna), and great sounding cables can be found used for a huge discount over new stuff and are often in great shape. I bet that new hybrid Rogue integrated amp (tubes and a class D) sounds great and it seems inexpensive.
thanks everyone for the insights - very helpful for a 1st timer.

I am looking to spend <3k. I am planning to use as a 2 channel to cover all my audio needs, including digital music on my mac, TV, and perhaps a record player later on. Hopefully an "all things to all people" kind of system. Hence the peachtree was recommended.

I was pretty impressed w/ the totem rainmakers without subwoof. However, my guess is that $300 cables aren't that important.

The biggest question for me is how much better sound do i get from Decco (65 watts / channel) vs. Nova (125 watts/channel). Unfortunately could not demo the Decco at the store...

Any thoughts?

Thanks again for all the help.
When playing music at moderate levels, only a few watts of power are being used. (at low levels it may be less than a watt!)
the power needs are not a linear function. so the power needs go up very fast with the increase in loudless.
If you never, ever want to play loud.. 65 watts is all you need. If you have any thought to cranking it up, say a party, with a room full of guests, then get the higher powered amp.
As for speaker cables. For a beginner, buying ordinary 18 gauge lamp zip cord is FINE. if you want to splurge, get some cheap zip cord speaker wire at Radio Shack.
After you have had your system for a year or so, then think about trying some wire. By then you will be able to hear if it sounds better, or not. Which is the ONLY reason to buy any. If it does nto sound better, then return it.
For interconnects, plenty of low cost Under $100 a pair interconnects around. I would say use what the dealer can give you free.
Or Mogami.
Save yourself a lot of grief, buy a Bose something.
Take a listen to the new 1295 Rogue Sphinx tube hybrid Integrated amp offers flexibility headphone section ,phono ready it is a real nice machine.
You mentioned ( looking for your first real system.)
In a world filled with sizzle, these are the steak Vandersteen 2CE Sig 2
These full range form following function speakers offer in my opinion a far better attempt at reproducing the venue. Both Rogue and Vandersteen are made in USA if that's important to you.
Dealer for both Johnnyr
Welcome Newguy1:
With inefficient (low-sensitivity) speakers, a tube hybrid integrated amp is a good way to go. Also, rear-ported speakers should sit at least one yard away from the wall to avoid boom in the bass.
Go with the amp that sounds the best. 3db is all you're going to gain by doubling the power. As Elizabeth noted, we typically listen in watts and milliwatts, not tens and hundreds of watts. That first watt is the largest increase in spl you will ever experience no matter how powerful the amp is. In fact, a 1000 watt amp is only about twice as loud as a 100 watt amp. Smaller amps of quality tend to be better than their big brothers in terms of overall performance imo. They're quieter, faster, with more resolution.
My advice would be to slow down; don't make the mistake that I made and rush into everything. Second, the nova would be a far better choice in my oppinion. I just helped my brother put together a system and was looking first at the inova (80 watts into 6 ohms), then we thought about a nova 125 because of the superior power output. He ended up going with a nova pre and a peachtree 220 watt amp (paid $1800 for both from burt at seattld hifi). He bought a pair of kef qx5's for $900 so he put together a nice set-up for right at $3k.

Like I said, research it alot first. I only recommended peachtree to my brother because he's all about aesthetics. For $3k, there are a ton of options out there for you. Imo, all speakers sound better with more power, even at lower volumes. Also, imo, totems need alot of power to come alive.

Cables are important, but at first get some decent cables at the inexpensive end. I'd say $80-$100 on speaker cables, $50-$75 for interconnects. Think about some acoustic panels too. You can get 4, gik 244 acoustic panels for $375 at your door.

Look into jolida integrated amps and ZU audio speakers also. Blue jeans belden 10 guage speaker wire with no bananas, just raw wire, is a good speaker cable to start off with and can be had for around $50. They make some decent interconnects also for very little money.

Last, start searching here on agon for used speakers, integrateds, seperates (amp and pre amp) and dacs. Find something that you think might be cool then research it here in the forums section and also on line and see what the reviews say about it. Educate yourself and you'll be happier with your system in the end :-)

Good luck and have fun!!
Everybody is giving you good advise. As a first timer, system set-up ; particularly getting the right speakers positioned correctly; is going to be your most challenging task. If you don’t have an experienced friend to help you, then a qualified dealer, who will spend the time necessary to see the installation through, will be worth the extra expense of buying new.
Thanks again everyone - hugely helpful all around.

Today I listened to a Rotel RA-12 vs Peachtree Decco with BW CM1s. Slightly preferred the Decco (fuller, richer sound), but then the Decco started smoking! It was pretty crazy...

We were playing the system pretty loud so I asked if the amp blew out, but store guy said the speakers would have blown out first, so didn't know what happened. I am now very hesitant to buy the Peachtree despite the great sound...
I would check the archives on the Peachtree quality also check for dealer support in the archives if both are good I would not worry about a single incident (but that is a weird one - even though the B&W CM1 is 84db and 5.1 min imp that should not happen)
Always keep an extra set of tubes.
A 20 X 20 room is going to be a bit of a challenge. Choose your speakers carefully, and you might want to consider some room treatment. With all due respect to the other posters, while highly efficient speakers with their lower power requirements might at first seem like a good idea, please keep in mind that often that efficiency comes at the cost of reduced bass output, which in turn might have one looking at the added expense of a subwoofer(s). While I'm not against the notion of a speaker with high efficiency, I've yet to be satisfied with what's been offered. Low powered tube amps tend to cost as much if not more than higher powered ss amps. Again, choose your speakers first, then select the appropriate amplification for those speakers.
Do not obsess over cables. Get high quality, well engineered, inexpensive stuff like those made by Blue Jeans Cables.

If you want to play the exotic cable game, sure. But some exotic cables cost more than components, and your money would likely be better spent on acoustic treatments for your room, or even better components.

That's just my opinion. There's quite a vocal group that believes cables make all the difference. Me, I strain to hear any difference at all.
Again, buy used (or better, "recently discontinued")...plenty of upgraders are dyin' to unload their stuff on you, and this approach really works. Most of my gear, be it pro audio, guitar playing items, or hifi things in great condition have been relatively easy to find if you look around some. A couple of examples: A friend had a pair of Silverline Preludes bought new for $1200 or so, combined with a new small REL sub costing maybe $500. I thought that combo sounded sweet (and my speakers had "issues") so within a couple of weeks found the Silverlines for $400, and an older REL for $200. Just bought a new but discontinued Taylor guitar for $1000 less than the model that's now replacing it. Do this, and you will be happy.
Thanks- Has anyone looked at the naim unitiqute? Also seems to be a great system for digital. However, I am concerned about the low wattage (30 per channel).
One more time, choose your speakers, then your amp!
Forgot to say I'm going w the totem rainmakers
The Naim probably won't be able to drive the rainmakers to satisfying levels. Rather than getting an "all in one" dac and integrated lifestyle combo, I would recommend purchasing the dac separately. This will open up many more options for integrated amps at your price point which are made with fewer compromises to the amplification section. Digital technology is also evolving much faster than amplifier technology which means you can upgrade the dac in the future without throwing the baby out with the bathwater (I know, it's a terrible cliche but it seemed to fit here).
I don't have the unitiqute, but I do have the 5i.
Power ratings are very misleading. The 5i is (conservatively) rated at 50 watts, but it punches well above its rating

Best thing to do is try to get a dealer that has the amp and speaker combo you desire to allow you to audition them or buy the speakers and take them to the dealer to audition.

Couple of things with naim...
1. Use naim speaker cable or a brand like Van den Hul - the amps like low capacitance speaker cables - others may make the amp sound less than optimal
2. Any non-naim source connected to them should have a grounded power lead OR you may have to ground the case/chassis of the source component yourself, otherwise a hum may result

On the good side - these amps are fantastic and tend to have more power than required. They are incredibly dynamic, detailed and smooth.

My listening tastes are quite diverse and this little amp delivers every time without fatigue, no matter what genre I'm listening to

They do respond very well to good leads - like
- stagger silver solid interconnects
- furitech or DH labs power cables + Vanguard plugs/iec gold on copper

For more details see

With the right components and cables they present a very spacious sound stage that exceeds the physical limits of the room.

Probably be the last amp I'll ever buy :-)
I've only heard the Totem Rainmakers briefly at shows, I can't really comment on them, but these measurements from Stereophile:
should offer some insight.
I have to wonder if they're big enough for your room, and if a low/medium powered tube integrated is the way to go with them?