Amp recommendation and setup advice please


Hello,

I love music and I adore quality sound - I cannot listen to music on ordinary speakers/devices.

I have been trying to do my research on sound systems/speakers/amps etc.. and learn/understand the whole shebang, but I'm not that much of a tech head. 

I want to buy the Klipsch RF-7 II tower speakers (I think they are passive, hence requiring an amp). 

I want them for both my new TV and also the vinyl/turntable setup I am going for, which is as follows:

Turntable - ProJect Debut Carbon Premium with Ortofon 2M RED (cartridge)
Phono (pre-amp) - ProJect Phono Box DS
Speakers - as above
Subwoofer - thinking either Klipsch R-12SW or R112SW
Amp - ??

I have a few questions:

1. Am I on the right tracks for having all the essentials?
2. Can someone recommend a good amp to power my speakers and sub please, and does the sub need powering or does it have it's own amp? 
3. Do I need a DAC for TV and connection to laptop? If so can you recommend a good one please? I was thinking of Audioengine D1 Premium 24 bit DAC Interface Connector.
4. Please suggest any alternative products if any of the stuff I mentioned are no good or don't fit together that well.
5. How would I set all of this up? Do I need anything else?
6. Do I need more speakers? I'm worried that the sub may be too much bass and drown out the tower speakers. 

I apologise for my lack of knowledge - I've just signed up here because I read that I could get advice and guidance from enthusiasts and experts. I know that my questions and post may frustrate some of you as I may have made some rookie mistakes, and perhaps this type of post has been done a 100 or so times but wasn't sure how to get answers/help. 

Many kind thanks in advance!

Mo
laher

First thought is that I would not worry about buying a sub “for now”. I think it would be better to take that money and put more into a high-current amplifier for the RF-7 tower speakers. The Klipsch speakers are very efficient, which means you don’t need a lot of power to get loud volume. However, with two 10” woofers, a low powered amp will be weak in the bass/midbass area. A really good high-current amplifier will be able to push the 10” woofers much better and you may end up feeling like you don’t need a subwoofer at all. Please let me know your intended budget for an amplifier and I can help advise with some options.

Second thought. I see you have a “phono preamp” on your list, which is definitely required for the turntable. However, you still need a “normal preamp” to run the signal through and control volume – as well as be able to select from different audio sources (such as DAC or dvd/bluray or computer). That ProJect Phono Box DS might be a good option, but it uses an external switching power supply adapter. It would be much better to buy an additional external linear power supply, but this is obviously more money.

Third thought. That Audioengine D1 is really a very poor option for a DAC. It’s great for what it does (a cheap usb to analog convertor for computer desktop speakers). However, it is powered by USB cable and it is going to suffer greatly on sound quality when compared to other DACs.

Based on these thoughts and requirements, if you look at the bargain basement home theater processors, you can get a real gem. The HT Processors really don’t keep their value at all because of the perception that you need the latest and greatest digital decoding / HDMI2.0 / Atmos, room correction, etc. etc. As a result, the value drops like crazy the older they get (this is not like 2-channel audio!!!) The older HT processors can be used as an extraordinary preamp for the money

I think I have found an option that might be good for you. There’s an Integra DHC-60.5 home theater processor on ebay now for $439 from a seller that has 100% positive feedback (csdsl2000). Original retail was $2,000. Try making an offer for $400 – he’ll probably take it. Shipping is FREE on this one. This will work as a DAC and a preamp for any source. Even though it is a multi-channel home theater processor, it can be setup to only use 2-channel left/right speakers. It will allow you to grow if you want to add more speakers (such as a center channel or surrounds or a powered subwoofer). Coincidentally, it also has a phono/turntable input, so you would not need to buy that “ProJect Phono Box DS”. It is fairly recent and has HDMI inputs, so you can hookup a low-cost bluray player (such as a Sony) to play CD / DVD / Bluray stuff. It also has component and composite video inputs. Video outputs include HDMI / component / composite, so you will be able to hookup any television to it. The only caveat is that this processor does not have a “true analog pass through” mode, so any analog source (such as turntable) will be converted to digital and then converted back to analog. It does have a “Direct” mode, which limits the digital processing. In your situation, I don’t think you are at the level where “true analog pass through” will be beneficial. The amount of benefits/features this processor gives will outweigh this tiny detriment. It’s pretty much an “all in one” unit for DAC, audio/video processing, phono turntable preamp and general preamp. It has a really excellent linear power supply (for sound quality) and a whole lot of other options (network streaming for Spotify, Pandora, etc., video processing/upscaling, iphone/ipad remote app, etc.). I think it would be really hard to beat this for the price.

There are other cheaper options for older HT processors, such as Rotel RSP-1066/1098, B&K Ref 50, Proceed AVP, Krell Showcase. These will not have HDMI inputs, but some might have better sound quality. They all differ in sonic signature. B&K will have a very warm/rich sound. Krell will be very detailed and fast. Rotel will be on the detailed/fast side also. They will probably not have a phono input, so you may still have to buy the “ProJect Phono Box DS”. They are also much older and will probably not have the longevity of the Integra. You can also look at more expensive processors in the $500-1000 area. It depends on your budget.

As far as connecting a computer, your best option is to look for a USB-to-SPDIF converter. They can range anywhere from $50 on up to $5,000. It depends on your budget. The Wyred 4 Sound uLink is a very nice one for the money, but you can go cheaper in the beginning if you wish. Get the Blue Jean Cable Beldon 1694A for a SPDIF coax cable. It is the absolute best “for the money”. However, if you are just using a computer to play CDs, you are better off getting a low cost bluray player (such as Sony BDP-6700 for $99).

My approach would be different. I would ask myself some questions about "what I want in a hi-if or audio system?". After which deciding upon the room you will be listening will help pick speaker size and how much power you might need. My neighbor asked me to help him with an audio system. He wanted convenience and the ability to entertain people outside on his deck and inside his home in two rooms. We found the Sonos system was perfect for him and he luvs it. For serious listening, many here think one should audition speakers first, since everyone has a different coloration they like. Warm sound, dark and clinical, etc. Some brand speakers sound very good with vocals, acoustic and jazz. Others are better for rock or pop. Knowing this for yourself can help pick the RIGHT speakers for you. Take some music and visit some dealers to demo gear. This is very important because they can really help educate you and pinpoint your kind of system. Forums like this are just one part of this process. We all can educate you on different kinds of equipment and configurations, but you really need to LISTEN to audio gear too. In the end, trust your ears, not any hyped brand or model.
BTW when I started my audio journey for the second time in my life I wanted a Home Theater and hi-if system both rolled into one. Now I have found that building two separate systems is better for ME. I have a budget HT system in my main living room and a dedicated room and audio system for hi-fi.
Post removed 
What is your budget?

How did you come to make your speaker choice? There are so many in that price range.

if music was the priority, I would purchase a quality (within budget) integrated amplifier (preamp + amp). Many come with an internal phonostage with pre or sub outs. Some have HT pass through to allow use of a video processor for your TV. 

If support for video is a priority then the suggestion for searching out a used high end HT processor is another route. 
If you're sticking with those speakers, I'd recommend a class D amplifier. There are loads of brands to choose from. I have a pair of class D monoblocks that I purchased here for $600. They put out 500 w into 4 Ohms, which is the stated impedance of my speakers. My speakers both have side firing 12" drivers and my amps control them just fine. I haven't found the need for a sub yet.

+1 on what @auxinput says about needing a preamp. I don't know if I'd go the HT processor route, as I prefer to keep everything stereo and analog, but a preamp is necessary. Unless, of course, you buy an integrated amp, which combines the amp and preamp into one chassis. You could even find an integrated with a built in phono preamp and get rid of the need for another box. And there are plenty of class D integrated amps to choose from...
Thank you all for your input. 

Okay, no sub for now - 1 less thing to worry about. 

I initially was only trying to get a setup for my turntable, but then my father was looking for a soundbar or speakers for the new TV we have in the lounge area so I thought of extending my setup to include the TV. 

But if it's easier to purchase some average active speakers with DAC for the TV and then focus on my setup purely for music (vinyl on the turntable, and occasional iPhone/iPod/laptop connection) then I'll do that instead. 

If this is a better approach then please recommend a good pair of active speakers and DAC - I was looking at the Audioengine A5+, any good?

Okay, so for my music setup, integrated amp (preamp + amp) or high end HT processor? I guess if no TV is in the mix then the integrated amp would be a better approach right? And I would still need a DAC if ever I wanted to plug in laptop for example, right? Any recommendations here? Unless of course you guys tell me that it's still a good option to try to incorporate the TV for my father and I should go down the HT processor route?

As for budget, I don't know how much I should be spending on an amp or HT processor. I want good quality, I like to have the best or close to. I know in this game the best could cost $25,000 for example, and I'm not going to pay that. But let's say $1,500 max, but of course if there are ones in the 400-800 area for example that will bring out the best of the speakers then great! I'll leave it up to you guys for recommending a few in different price categories with pros and cons. 

Can you also please recommend a good phone preamp if the one I was looking at is no good? 

I am interested in the Klipsch RF-7 II speakers based on some research and some reviews but I'm open to alternatives. I have a few others on the list that I was considering - PSB Image T6, Wharfedale Diamond 11.5, Aperion Audio Intimus 6T, Dali Zensor 7. 

I guess, I'm open to any suggestions for both setup and type of devices, as well as the devices themselves. 

Everything l came up with was all based on my research and knowledge but it clearly shows that I have a lot more to learn. Hopefully I'll get there and over time be able to experiment with different products and setups to one day contribute as you guys do :)

Many kind thanks once again, nice to know that there are audiophiles out there who are willing to share the wealth!
Besides being nice and tidy, what other benefits does an integrated amp (preamp + amp + phono preamp) have? Do you have any recommendations based the budget I mentioned? I don't know too many makes/models. 

Does anyone have any reasons why I shouldn't go with the RF-7 II speakers?

How about DAC? Thoughts and recommendations please?

What sources do you have for the TV?  Satellite?  Bluray/DVD?  Powered speakers are cheap, but you might still have to get some sort of HT Processor to handle the audio/video.  It may be best just to look for an inexpensive AV Receiver and pair with some good but economical speakers.  The ELAC B6 booshelf speakers (designed by Andrew Jones) have been known to be very excellent.  Then pair with a used AV Receiver.  You are still pushing $600-800 for this.

As far as the turntable system, one item that comes to mind is the Parasound Halo Integrated.  Obviously, it is a preamp/amplifier combination, but it also has both a DAC and a phono preamp built in.  The unit has a USB input for the DAC, so you can connect your computer directly to it.  I think used ones typically come up for around $1600-1800.  There's a new-in-box one on ebay for $1999.  Just search for "parasound halo integrated".  It also has an analog crossover and subwoofer output that would allow you to add a powered sub at anytime.  It's very versatile.

There are other great integrateds, such as Hegel.  Some of them will have a DAC built in.  Almost none will have a phono preamp.  You can definitely get better sound quality by having a separate DAC and phono preamp, but it can get expensive.  You should probably post questions in other forums.  Use the Analog forum for phono preamp questions.  Use the Digital forum for DAC questions.

One DAC that comes to mind is the Gustard X20 Pro, with USB input for $869.  This has been known to be a really excellent DAC for the money and will match DACs that are much more expensive.

As far as speakers, this is very personal as everyone has a different idea of what they like.  I would recommend just going out and listening to different speakers to get an idea of the "kind of sound" you like.  Certain brands have their own sonic signature and it will help to dial in the type of sound you are looking for.  Speakers sound very different.

Check out Peachtree audio. They make some very solid integrated amps that have a built in DAC as well, though I can't remember if they have a built in phono too.. but they look great and apparently sound lovely. They utilize class D amps..
I believe you are on the right track keeping the TV and music systems separate.  One option, check out the Yamaha 801 integrated amp. It has phonostage and DAC, has subwoofer output, at 100wpc will drive most an speaker in your price range. Retail is under $1000. 

As auxinput posted, speaker choice is very subjective. You need to audition a few and make your own decision.  
Thanks again all for your input. 

auxinput:
The sources for TV will just be satellite, no Bluray or DVD. Those Elac B6 speakers seem like a great choice, and I assume you mention them because they are better than the Audioengine A5+ speakers? Could you also recommend a good AV receiver to go with them please?

Thanks for the advice on posting in other forums. I'll do that for the phono preamp and DAC. But thanks for recommending the Gustard X20 Pro. Before I move the phone preamp to another forum, I'd appreciate your recommendation on a good one to suit.

I know speakers are personal and everyone says I should go and listen, but I don't know of any decent hi-fi store that has these types of speakers and equipment to check out. 

toddverone:
Those Peachtree Audio amps look amazing. I'll take a deeper look to see if any have built in phono preamp. Thanks for suggesting. 

mesch:
Thanks for the integrated amp recommendation. And yes I have definitely decided to keep the TV and music systems separate. How does the Yahama 801 compare to the Parasound Halo? 

auxinput, same question to you?

If the sources for the TV will be satellite only, then you don't necessarily need an HDMI processor/receiver.  Satellite will always be compressed dolby digital, so you can go old-school.  Even if you add on DVD/bluray, old-school digital COAX is still excellent.

The ELAC are excellent speakers for the money.  They are passive speakers (require amplifier).  The AudioEngine A5+ are powered speakers (amp built in).  I don’t know anything about that product.  However, if you are looking at powered speakers, I would recommend taking a look at the Emotiva AirMotive series.  The AirMotive 5s are $499 (only 100 dollars more).  They have better amplifiers (2x50 watts for each speaker instead of 1x50).  The two internal amps power the woofer and tweeter individually.  The tweeter is a ribbon driver, which will be cleaner and less bright/harsh than other tweeters.  If you are interested, call Emotiva and ask if they have any “warehouse seconds”.  These are typically items that are returned within 30 days by customers who are just “trying them out” – and they come with 1 year warranty.  Even if they don’t, for $500 I don’t think you can buy better.

Then just look for a bargain basement HT processor, or a 2-channel preamp/DAC.  An HT processor will provide you the ability to grow if you want to add a center channel or sub.  Examples are B&K Ref 20 (if you want a warm sonic signature). Or Krell Showcase.

You can try to find a used 2-channel preamp with a built in DAC, but it’s likely to be much more expensive.  Although I did look at Audio-GD.  You can get an Audio-GD NFB-11.28 DAC/preamp for $330 plus shipping (probably about $50 to USA).  The Audio-GD have been around for a long time and have always been very high sound quality.  The ELAC + receiver combination is not going to be anywhere the level of sound quality that an Airmotive 5s + Audio-GD NFB-11.28 combination.  The Emotiva/Audio-GD is going to be very high resolution and excellent.  You would have to spend a lot more on a receiver to be able to match the Emotiva/Audio-GD level, and at that point you are going to be way over the $1,000 mark and it still may not even be as good (there’s just so much more you have to pay for in a receiver and it’s not worth the money if you’re not going to use it – such as 8-11 extra channels, room correction, HDMI, etc.).  You should be able to configure your satellite receiver to output 2-channel stereo audio through the digital connection and then get a Blue Jean Cable Beldon 1694A 6 foot digital cable to connect them ($20).  Another good thing about this combination is that both items will be new/newish and you will have good longevity (when compared to buying really old stuff).

Relating to my DAC recommendation.  Just to let you know, I have spent the last several years, as a hobby, doing extensive R&D on DAC/preamp circuits.  Modifying and rebuilding circuits, I/V, gain stages, power supplies.  I have gone through many iterations to determine what works and what doesn’t (i.e. cap choice, negative feeback, I/V, power supply, op amp choice, etc. etc.).  The Gustard X20 pro does many things “right”.  Separate linear power supplies for digital and analog (where many others use switching power supply for digital sections – BAD).  Metal walls to shield sections from EMI/RF.  Excellent choice of caps and layout/design.  Fully discrete analog output stage.  Excellent digital clock (looks like a TXCO clock, maybe even an OXCO clock).  Fully balanced/differential from the DAC chip.  For $869, this DAC competes with others in the $2,000-3,000 level.  You can read tons of forum feedback on this DAC.  You will probably get a lot of other opinions for “best DAC”, but I think this is an excellent choice.  I was actually planning on getting one of these next year for my next project because it is such an excellent platform/design, but I found a much better DAC to work with.  I plan to get the LKS MH-DA004 which is twice as expensive at $1599 with USB (but it looks like a giant killer that will compete in the $3,000-5,000 area).  Actually, the LKS is about 95% close as to how I would design something if I had the capability to do it from the ground-up.  The Gustard is second at about 80% maybe.

---

I took a quick look at the Yamaha 801.  It’s pretty good.  However, remember you are comparing a $799 retail integrated to a $2495 retail integrated.  The Parasound is just going to be in another league.  I do agree that the Yamaha would be a good choice if you are at that budget level.  It looks like you can get a used one for around $475.  The Parasound transformer and power supply look to be beefier.  The Parasound is also going to use much higher quality internal components.  The Parasound is just going to sound much more refined and could have a lot more brute force for bass punch/muscle.

As far as the Peachtree, I have listened to Class D stuff and I have decided that it is not for me.  Many others love the Class D.  When I listen, I can agree that it is extremely clean sounding.  However, it just does not have that “organic” feel – there is no emotional connection for me to the music, also not as much high frequency “air”.  Many others love the Class D, so I’m not attacking the technology.  However, there are a couple companies that are putting a discrete Class A input stage on the amplifiers that make it sound sweeter and livelier.  The two examples I know of are the PS Audio S300/M700 amps and the Nord “One Up” series (I would recommend the Sparkos opamp option over the Sonic Imagery if you are looking at one of these).  I haven’t heard them, but I would think they would sound less “sterile” than the other Class D offerings.

If you are considering an external DAC like the Gustard, then there are probably better integrateds than the Parasound Halo.  Especially if you are also looking at an external phono preamp.  It really depends on your budget.

I do know someone who has excellent results with the PS Audio Nuwave phono preamp.  Like I said, I have no experience with phono preamps, so I could not advise.

Speakers – this is difficult. If you post a question like “what is the best speaker for $1300”, you will get 15 different opinions and “everyone is right”, lol.  And the recommendations will be all over the board, just making you more confused.  Do you have a Best Buy / Magnolia Hi-Fi near you?  It’s a good place to start.  Just go in and ask to listen.  It will at least give you an idea of basic B&W, Martin Logan, Definitive Technology sounds.  Then you can post a question like “I like the sound of the B&W xx model speaker.  Is there a better choice given the type of sound that the B&W provides”.  Then you can get into a discussion on how one speaker is different from another speaker.  Without a baseline, it’s almost like asking a blind man to describe what “seeing” is like.

Oh, mesch might have been recommending the Yamaha integrated for your TV system.  So, looking at this:

Yamaha 801 + ELAC B6 bookshelves

Audio GD NFB--11.28 + Emotiva Airmotiv 5s powered monitors

The Yamaha/ELAC combination will have the ability to connect many analog sources as well as several digital sources.  Plus have the ability to connect a subwoofer if you choose.

The Audio-GD/Emotiva combination will have superior sound quality.  However, only 3 digital inputs (one COAX, one Toslink, one USB).

Cost will be somewhat similar.

Auxinput has been very generous in his provision of extensive and excellent advice. Most certainly the Parasound Halo is better built than the Yamaha at 2.5 times the price. 

My recommendations were to pertain to the music system as I would prefer to spend most of my dollars there. I don't believe in spending to much to augment the TV experience. For that I would purchase a used AVR and set up a LRC 3 channel system.

I recommended the Yamaha as it is a quality product that, was within budget (as I understood it), and it made for a simpler system, having a DAC, phonostage likely as good as the Project that was proposed, and has the possibility of adding a subwoofer. 

Laher, could you please provide a better read on your budget for the two systems? 
Okay seems we are getting somewhere :)

For my father's TV setup it can look something like this:
- Emotiva AirMotive 5s (powered speakers, i.e. built in amp)
- HT processor (Krell Showcase or B&K Ref 20) OR 2 channel preamp/DAC (Audio-GD NFB-11.28)
-  configure satellite receiver to output 2-channel stereo audio through the digital connection and get a Blue Jean Cable Beldon 1694A 6 foot digital cable to connect them

Questions: do I need a preamp for powered speakers? do the HT processors you suggested have built in DAC and/or preamp? 

---

For my vinyl setup it can look something like this:

- tower speakers (passive, make and model TBD)
- integrated amp such as Parasound Halo (phono preamp, preamp, amp, DAC) OR integrated amp (one that does not have DAC) + external DAC ( Gustard X20 pro or LKS MH-DA004)
- turntable (still thinking about the ProJect Debut Carbon Premium with Ortofon 2M RED cartridge)

Questions: do I need to consider anything else in this setup? what type of cables do I use? If I do go with the external DAC, please suggest a better integrated amp (as you mentioned). If this doesn't include phone preamp then I could consider the  PS Audio Nuwave phono preamp, but perhaps it's better to have an integrated amp that does include this and just have the external DAC, what do you think? perhaps there are even better integrated amps for the money that don't have phono preamps and then I get both DAC and phono preamps as external. 

---

I totally appreciate your comments about speakers, and I know how difficult it is to give advice without a foundation to build upon. I live in the UK and just moved to a new city and I have not been able to find a decent hi-fi store, they all seem to be commercial shops that sell the standard sony, panasonic, samsung type speakers that non audiophiles will buy. 

I'm not sure if this helps but my vinyls are mainly jazz, blues, soul, but if and when I do plug in iPod/iPhone or laptop then I will play music with more bass and more of a punch like hip hop, house, rock, RnB. 

Thanks Mesch for the consideration against my original mentioned product for the same budget, it's good to know that I have a good option (Yamaha 801) for around that price bracket. And I agree in not spending too much on the TV setup, my father isn't that interested in having the best, but I will also be watching and listening on this setup so I'd like it to be decent enough. 

I guess to answer everyone's question about budget (which is difficult because I hadn't really considered it and set any limit):

For the TV setup - maybe betwen $1000-1,500 but of course if it's possible to go lower than great.
For Vinyl setup - anywhere between $3000-5000 but this is for me to so willing to go higher as necessary. 

If it helps in providing amp recommendations, I don't think I'll want to add a sub to the TV setup but may want to on my vinyl setup but earlier comments said that with the right amp and setup, the types of tower speakers I was considering will have enough bass, so this is fine for me. So it's not an essential to have that option for my vinyl setup. 

Thanks again all for your knowledgeable expertise and insights and for your patience with me as a newbie. 
Your budget is greater than I anticipated.

Though I certainly understand the interest in powered speakers, I prefer ownership of a separate amplifier and speakers. This allows one greater flexibility to change out speakers. Given this preference, for the TV system I would consider the purchase of an integrated amplifier w/DAC and a set of speakers. I also am more inclined to use a subwoofer with video than with audio. As a FYI, there is a Yamaha A-801S amplifier being offered here on AG. Not trying to push you in that direction, just believe it to be one quality full service integrated for your budget. There are others.

Regarding a vinyl/digital based system with emphasis toward vinyl, within a $5000 budget, it might serve you to start a separate thread asking for advice for the turntable/arm/cartridge for such a system. One could easily be justified in placing the same budget towards the TT as the speakers in such a system.

I would strongly consider searching the used market for speakers as well as an integrated amp, DAC, and phonostage however packaged. Your speaker choice will establish the need for amplification power. Stay away from speakers that are hard to drive. Seek out quality over quantity power.  

Wow, you’re in UK?  That does make things a lot more difficult because most sellers in USA will not ship to UK.

 

Okay for your TV setup, I would nix the idea of an HT Processor because it is going to be hard to find something that can ship to you within your budget.  So:

- Emotiva AirMotiv 5s - $499 USD (check with Emotiva to see if they will ship this to UK)

- Audio-GD NFB-11.28 $330 USD plus shipping (they will ship to UK)

 

Alternatively, you could move up the DAC/preamp to an Audio-GD NFB-29.28.  It is twice as much at $638 USD.  However, it is a better DAC/preamp and it also has more inputs (for both analog and digital), just in case you need to expand.  It depends if you want to spend the extra money. 

Or you could do like mesch says and get a very low-cost integrated with some ELAC B6 speakers.

In addition, you will also need that digital cable (Blue Jean Beldon) and a set of RCA audio cables that are long enough to reach the AirMotivs (maybe something like 6 feet?).  You can start with cheap cables initial if you want.  Or buy something like the Audioquest solid-core interconnects.

-----

Regarding your vinyl/dac system, the challenge here is that the availability/shipping AND the UK exchange rate is going to kill you.  For local stuff, you can try looking on the Ebay “UK” site (https://www.ebay.co.uk/).  I see several integrated amps from Ebay “UK” that I would put on a list:

 

HEGEL H200 Integrated Amplifier USED - £1,499.00 / $1,969 USD. This is only an integrated amp with no additional phono or DAC.  It is the most powerful of this short list and the Hegel is known to be very refined sounding.  The Hegel will likely be the best out of this list, but you would have to buy both an external DAC and phono preamp.

 

Parasound Halo Stereo Integrated Amplifier DEMO - £2,195.00 / $2,884 USD.  This has everything built into it already.  Parasound is known to have a lot of punch/slam (maybe even more than Hegel?).  It’s a great starter platform, but you can always expand/improve by adding external DAC or phono preamp.  This DEMO on Ebay UK is actually more than USD Retail, so if you were interested in this one, I would just buy a new one from Audio Advisor in the USA (they will ship to UK as long as they ship to your credit card address).  It may be hard to find a used one that will ship to UK.

 

- Arcam FMJ A39 Stereo Integrated Amplifier NEW - £1,699.99 / $2,232 USD

- Arcam FMJ A39 Integrated Amplifier USED - £849.00 / $1,115 USD

I included two, one used and one new, so that you can see a range.  The Arcam will be very sweet sounding and easy to listen to (it is biased into Class A to 20 watts, but will output up to 120 watts per channel).  It will not have the slam/punch as the Parasound/Hegel.  This includes a phono preamp.

 

Marantz PM-14S1 Integrated Stereo Amplifier-Gold USED - £1,799.00 / $2,363 USD.  The Marants is voiced to be warm sounding, warm rich.  People love the musicality of it.  The jazz type music does very well on all types of equipment, but since you do like to listen to hip hop / rock / R&B, the Marantz will probably not be fast enough for the punch/slam you want (it will be slower and more laid back).  This includes a phono preamp.

 

Buying an external phono preamp (such as PS Audio Nuwave) or an external DAC (Gustard/LKS) will always sound better than what is included in these integrated amplifiers.  It all depends on your budget.  I would probably lean towards an external DAC because the ability for a DAC to generate a more “analog” sound requires much better equipment.  The DAC included in the Parasound is okay, but nothing extraordinary.

 

I can give you a starting points for speakers (listed on Ebay UK):

New... Monitor Audio Silver 10 3 way 250w floorstanding speakers in Black Oak NEW - £1,150.00 / $1,510 USD.  The Monitor Audio has been known to be a very clean sounding and detailed speaker.  This one has two 8” woofers which will give you good bass punch (as long as you have enough amplifier power).  The C-CAM tweeter is based on ceramic and is very nice.  If you look at other Monitor Audio speakers, it’s important to know that the ribbon type tweeters can sound more laid back (which may not be what you want if you listen to hip-hop / R&B).

Cables are a whole new conversation. Lol.  The opinions will always be all over the board, but in my experience solid-core conductors always win in my tests.  I would avoid anything silver (my own opinion), but rhodium plated are excellent.  If it were me and I was starting out, I would look at the best Audioquest interconnects that still have gold-plated RCA plugs (avoid silver-plated in general).  The Wire World cables that have copper conductors and silver-clad RCA plugs are also very excellent (such as Eclipse 7).

Thanks again auxinput!

I have contacted Emotiva’s UK distributor and they said they are finalising shipping details as it’s been a nightmare trying to keep the costs down. Once they sort this they will bring over a load of Airmotiv’s.

I was checking out the 6s, they seem bigger and better than the 5s and only $100 more. If I went for the Airmotiv 6s instead of the 5s would the Audio-GD NFB-11.28 still be sufficient enough? Or would I need to consider the 29.28?

Thanks for the cable recommendations, I’ll probably jump straight in and get the good ones as per your selection. 

- - -

So if I were to do it right first time round for the vinyl setup then I should go with the Hegel integrated amp, the Gustard DAC, and the PS Audio Nuwave phono preamp. Is this regardless of which speakers and turntable I choose?

Thanks for the cable guidance, I’ll be sure to keep it in mind when I get them.

Those speakers sound great! I guess I’d be silly to ask if they are powerful enough. l’m definitely looking for clean, warm, and detailed speakers for my jazz and blues vinyls but I also need that deep and crisp punch from the lows to compliment the more modern music that I sometimes listen to (ie. hip hop, house, rock). Will the Hegel bring that out in these speakers?

I’m familiar with dome tweeters and also ribbon tweeters but what are C-CAM tweeters? How does the sound differ to the other two? 

In case I have trouble finding these, could you recommend another tower speaker for me to consider please?


Thanks mesch. So you think I need a sub for the TV setup or will the built in amp and external preamp/DAC bring out enough bass in the Airmotiv 6s? 

The Yamaha is better than the Hegel?

Emotiva 6s.  For $100 more you get larger drivers, twice as much power, twice as much weight in the cabinet.  The 6s will play lower (bass) and will have a more refined sound in comparison, so it is definitely better.  I was just trying to play in your budget sandbox and the 5s was already more than what you were looking at with the Audioengine A5+.  I also threw the more expensive NFB-29.28 out there as an idea because the cheaper 11.28 had limited inputs (only 3 digital inputs and no analog inputs).  The more expensive NFB-29.28 also has two sets of RCA outputs – you could use one of these sets to connect to a subwoofer in the future to help fill in the very low bass.

You could upgrade either the Airmotiv or the Audio-GD DAC and get better sound – or upgrade both.  It all depends on your budget and what you really want.  The 6s will definitely be an improvement in sound experience (but punch/bass for TV).  I think the cheaper NFB-11.28 will be totally fine for your situation.  Just know that you are limited on expandability.

CABLES: I make all my cables by hand.  They use Furutech Rhodium Carbon Fiber XLR connectors and 20awg solid-core OCC copper conductors in a double-braided configuration (making a 17awg interconnect).  The cost would be about $800 for me to make a 1-meter pair for someone.  This has been the best sounding cable with the most resolution I have heard to date.  I have had the opportunity to compare it to the Wire World Eclipse 7 XLR cable at $450 for 1-meter (NOT the Silver Eclipse).  The sound was very similar and the Wire World was an excellent cable.  All the detail was there, but the Wire World was just slightly softer / laid-back in comparison.  The Wireworld design is not quite solid-core (all the conductors are set side-by-side like a ribbon cable), but it is not nearly as bad as stranded conductors either.  For the money, it is an awesome able.

IMPORTANT: On another note, one more thing you should be aware of is the A/C voltage.  I know 220V is usually normal in Europe, where US is 120V.  Some equipment can be configured/switched to use different voltages, some equipment will automatically sense and adjust.  Some equipment will need to be send to manufacture to be modified internally.  You might was to make sure from the seller if a non-adjustable item is configured for your local A/C voltage.

So if I were to do it right first time round for the vinyl setup then I should go with the Hegel integrated amp, the Gustard DAC, and the PS Audio Nuwave phono preamp. Is this regardless of which speakers and turntable I choose?

Yeah, this would be a very fine setup regardless of turntable.  There could be other good choices for phono preamp, and it is obviously based on what you can get shipped to you.

 

There are a couple Silver 10 available on UK Ebay site.  Hopefully, these links come across:

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/New-Monitor-Audio-Silver-10-3-way-250w-floorstanding-speakers-in-Black-Oak-/382244206068?epid=1824988012&hash=item58ff87b5f4:g:iowAAOSwojxZlxtn

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Monitor-Audio-Silver-10-Speakers-Pair-Walnut-/332406853482?hash=item4d64fe0f6a:g:HcEAAOSwEIFZ272G

 

The Monitor Audio would definitely have the combination of warm/detail and low end punch that you want and still be in your budget.  They are 4 ohm speakers, so the Hegel would probably be the best integrated out of the list, since it has the largest power supply (critical for low impedance speakers).

There are some B&W CM8 or CM9 speakers on UK Ebay.  The B&W will have a warm/full midrange due to the Kevlar midrange driver.  The Kevlar does have a breakup issue where the midrange is somewhat smeared, but it is still very nice sounding.  However, these B&W speakers will not have the low-end punch that the Monitor Silver 10 has. The B&W’s have very small 5” or 6.5” drivers in comparison to the two 8” drivers in the Silver 10.

I would avoid Tannoy speakers.  In my listening tests, I did not like them because they were so laid back.  I have also heard that Sonus Faber is laid back as well.

Older tweeters were typically soft-dome (which is a synthetic material) or metal dome (such as aluminum or titanium dome).  The soft-dome were very nice sounding and did not have breakup/resonance issues, but they did not have quite as much resolution.  The metal dome tweeters help with resolution, but the metal material would breakup/flex/resonate are the tweeter frequencies and this caused the sound to be very bright/harsh.  The ribbon tweeters do not have this breakup problem, but they also sound laid back and are not as exciting.  The C-CAM tweeters are based on ceramic material, which is an excellent and stiff material. The newer ceramic / beryllium / diamond tweeters have better performance, but they can be a lot more expensive. 

I was using B&W Diamond (D2) series speakers, which I find to be excellent (but they are wayyy out of your price budget).  I was looking to upgrade and the Monitor Audio Platinum was on my list, but I decided to go with B&W D3 because of the diamond tweeters.  The Monitor ribbon tweeters were noted to be not exciting (but still extremely smooth and nice sounding).  I am very happy with the B&W D2 and D3 series.  I put the Silver 10 as a recommendation because it does use the C-CAM tweeter.  For your budget, I can’t think of another speaker I would recommend.  I will say that I am not well versed in speakers and there are a lot of other options out there.

----

Regarding your question on sub.  A subwoofer is usually needed when the listener wants extreme bass response in movies/tv.  I’m talking about earthquakes, explosions, massive bass thumps.  It’s a matter of taste.  If you just want to watch “general TV”, the Airmotiv/Audio-GD is fine.  If you were really concerned, you could get the more expensive NFB-29.28 and add a sub.  The Airmotiv will play “full range” and the subwoofer crossover would be set low at about 40-50hz to fill in the very low bass.

The Yamaha is better than the Hegel?

No Way.  This must be a joke! Lol.

Ah found it:

C-CAM—a thin, light, and rigid alloy of aluminum and magnesium with a ceramic (alumina) layer


Read more at https://www.soundandvision.com/content/monitor-audio-silver-10-speaker-system-1#iPmjhjbLRtu2OmEk.99

hopefully this helps.

As auxinput stated, use of a  subwoofer is not a necessity. Depends on type of main speakers and desires regarding movie augmentation. No way I believe the Yamaha to be better than the Hegel. I do believe it would serve well in your TV system and for anyone considering a $2000-$3000 budget one. The A-xxxS series represent great value for full function integrateds IMO.

Wishing you the best on your quest!  Looking forward to hearing of the results. 


Awesome response as always auxinput, you always explain things and provide good detail, thanks!

Thanks to your interest in my projects I now have everything I need to set the wheels in motion.

However, one last thing: I’m a little confused on the cables. And by the way, it’s so cool that you make your own, fascinating stuff!

For the TV setup (preamp/DAC and speakers, plus TV/Satellite), what cables do I need? Can you recommend some good quality ones (make and model)?

Same for the vinyl setup please (turntable, phono preamp, integrated amp, speakers).

I know you’ve mentioned a little bit about RCA cables and also a digital cable. But I guess just wanting to understand more so that I can confidently go out and buy them. When I searched the ones you suggested there seemed to be so many different types. Plus it would help to know what cables go where in the connection process. 

Mesch, thanks for the good wishes and also for your interest in my projects and helping me out. I’ll keep you updated for sure!

FOR TV SYSTEM:

To connect satellite to Audio-GD:  Blue Jean Cable Beldon 1694A – 6 feet. I always recommend 6 feet even if the satellite receiver is right next to the DAC. A digital cable that is too short will have signal reflections internally and will smear the sound.

To connect Audio-GD to AirMotivs: you could pick one of the gold-plated Audioquest cables, such as Tower / Evergreen / Golden Gate / Big Sur.  It depends on how much you want to spend on your TV setup.  The more expensive Audioquest cables have better copper conductors and the high-end ones have a NDS electric shield.  The Airmotiv speakers are likely to be placed further away from the Audio-GD so the cables are likely to be 6-9 feet long (or 2-3 meters).  These Audioquest are probably what I would recommend because longer RCA cables will increase the cost.  It’s not worth it to get something like Wire World Eclipse 7 for this TV system (which would be $700 USD for 2 meters)

 

 

FOR YOUR MAIN TURNTABLE SYSTEM:

To connect an iPhone/iPod, you will need an Apple Lighting to USB camera adapter and then a normal USB cable:

https://www.apple.com/shop/product/MD821AM/A/lightning-to-usb-camera-adapter

Keep in mind that this only supports the latest generation iPod (iPod Touch 5th/6th generation).  That page has a "compatability" section that shows the iPhone/iPad/iPod devices that are supported.  It would connect like this:

iPhone ==> Lightning-to-usb-adapter ==> normal USB cable ==> Gustard DAC USB input

I have read that some DACs do not play well with iphone iOS in recent updates.  You can google around if you are interested. For laptop, you just need to connect the laptop directly to the DAC with a normal USB cable (6 foot length of course).  In fact, you can just unplug/plug the same cable between your laptop and your iPhone/iPod.

Probably the best way to play music on the DAC is just use a laptop with media player software such as JRiver or other.  This will also allow you to play hi-res and DSD files to the Gustard DAC.

You can get better more expensive USB cables if you want, but to start out I would just use the basic cheap USB cable and see how you feel.  The better ones are made from silver/silver-plated conductors and they charge/discharge electrical signals faster which is more accurate for the high-speed digital signal.

 

To connect the rest of your sources to the Hegel, you will either need “single-ended” RCA or “balanced” XLR cables.  I will always recommend going with XLR if you can.  For example if you bought the Hegel and the Gustard, you could connect them using XLR interconnect cables.

The Hegel integrated has one set of XLR inputs (some integrateds, like the Arcam, do not have XLR inputs at all).  If you look at the Gustard DAC and the PS Audio Nuwave phono preamp, they both have XLR outputs, so you would have to decide which one got to use the XLR inputs on the Hegel.  You can use RCA cables for the other device.  Since you said that you only “occasionally” listen to digital music, maybe the better choice would be to put RCA on the Gustard DAC (unless you bought a phono preamp that did not use XLR).

So:

Laptop ==> USB Cable ==> Gustard DAC ==>  RCA/XLR Cable ==> Hegel

Turntable ==> RCA cable ==> phono preamp ==>  RCA/XLR Cable ==> Hegel

 

There are a ton of different RCA/XLR cables and tons of different opinions.  I generally avoid silver/silver-plated conductors for audio interconnects because I have found silver will tend to push upper mids/highs and be lean on bass.  It also imparts an artificial character to the sound (making it less real or natural).  There are many who love silver and silver cables could be good in some systems.  They would not be good in this system.  That being said, the Wire World silver-clad plugs are really not that bad and they do not forcibly introduce so much of that “silver” sound.

So, my recommendations are the same for either RCA or XLR cables (big surprise):

Less expensive gold-plated Audioquest cables, such as Tower / Evergreen / Golden Gate / Big Sur

More Expensive Wire World Eclipse 7 

The Eclipse 7 also makes an excellent cable for your turntable, unless the turntable already has a cable built into it).  The Wire World will have more resolution in the sound (better details / attack) and will likely have tighter and punchier bass.  It is significantly more expensive, so it entirely depends on your budget.  It is perfectly fine to mix Audioquest and Wire World cables in your system, or different models of Audioquest.  Once again, it all depends on your budget.

 

You will also need speaker cables to connect the Hegel to speakers.  You can start out with normal 12awg stranded Oxygen Free Copper (OFC) speaker wire if you want.  This stuff is extremely cheap, like 50 feet for less than $20.  It’s really not that bad, but better speaker cable will definitely sound better.  If you were interested, I would start looking at the Audioquest Rocket 33 / Rocket 44+ / Rocket 88.  You can sometimes get used Audioquest speaker cable, but I would make sure it does not have any silver elements (like silver-plated connectors).

If you got the Monitor Silver 10 speakers, try to look for a speaker cable that has “bi-wire” on one end so that you don’t have to use a jumper.  On the Audioquest Bi-Wire, make sure the high-frequency connectors are connected to the top binding posts.  The Audioqest speaker cable uses variable gauge solid-core conductors.  It will use larger gauge wire for bass and smaller gauge wire for mid/tweeter.

You should probably read this:

https://www.musicservertips.com/how-to-articles/iphone-digital-audio-output/

It appears that iPhone/iPod will not allow digital connection with some DACs.  You can try this with the Gustard, but honestly I think the best solution would be a laptop or desktop running media software such as JRiver.  JRiver has an excellent app (JRemote) that you can install on iPhone/iPad to remote control the JRiver on the computer (as long as you have a wireless computer network).  With JRemote you can view the music library in JRiver and play anything.

So, laptop/desktop is best solution (as I said you can always try the Lightning USB with Gustard).  Desktop will have a much better power supply and a better USB circuit.  Desktop computer is a LOT bigger and requires external monitor, but you can get a really good USB card to connect to the DAC, such as the SOTM, PPA (Paul Pang) or JCAT:

https://www.computeraudiophile.com/forums/topic/29199-would-you-recomemnd-an-audiophile-usb-card/

----

I thought of another thing.  If you really wanted to use XLR cable for both DAC and phono preamp, you would have to get a separate preamp and amplifier (instead of an integrated).  Some preamps will XLR inputs for two sources (though many will only have one or none).  This will drive the cost up a lot more and you will also need another XLR cable between preamp/amp.  I think we are already way over the $5,000 USD point with the system we are discussion.  Doing a separate preamp/amp could potentially push the cost up to the $8,000-9,000 point.  As you said, since you only "occasionally" listen to digital music, it may not be worth it.  The Wire World RCA cables for Gustard will still be very excellent (unless your phono preamp doesn't use XLR).

The SOTM would probably be best if you used the stock computer power supply, with the JCAT being second. The Paul Pang really needs an external linear power supply, but it is likely to be the best if you use a linear power supply.

---

Please note that I am going to extremes here.  In your situation, I would just start out using a basic laptop for digital music to the Gustard -- you may be perfectly happy with this.  If you feel this sounds "weak" or "grainy" or "dirty", you can always upgrade to a desktop and/or USB card in the future.

Once again you have received great advice from auxinput.

With cables I would encourage you to start out taking a basic (budget) approach throughout.  Many quality used (or discontinued new) digital coax, RCA or XLR interconnects, speaker cables can be purchased on E-bay for reasonable cost.

As an example I have purchased Audioquest cables this way for several applications:
     VDM-3 digital coax
     Diamondback and King Cobra ICs both RCA and XLR
     Type 4 and Rocket 33 bi-wire speaker 

Other brands may be more available in the UK. 

Another approach for a good starter speaker cable is to purchase Canare 4S11 by the foot and terminate amp end single and speaker end bi-wire. A great starter cable on a budget.





@laher – Some more information.  PS Audio is discontinuing the Nuwave Phono Premp and selling it at a big discount (about 48% off) for $999 USD.  If you are interested, you could contact them to see about shipping to UK and to make sure it is configured internally to support your local AC voltage (either 110V or 220V):

http://www.psaudio.com/products/nuwave-phono-converter/

A good review here:

http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/ps-audio-nuwave-phono-converter/?page=3

It appears that the PS audio Phono is highly configurable to match up with a lot of different turntables (maybe not all of them).  Another feature is that it has an analog-to-digital converter.  This allows you to connect it to your DAC to play the audio.  I have heard this is a very detailed sound, but maybe not quite as “analog”.  It’s just another option for you to work with.

------

This was an email I sent to another friend advising on a turntable RCA cable.  He actually bought the Equinox and says it sounds excellent as a turntable cable.

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/man-this-is-frustrating

teo_audio has some very interesting thoughts on turntable cable burn-in. He says that turntable cable never burns in because the voltage levels never reach proper heights. Interesting.

Almarg also says that that it’s critical to have as low as capacitance as possible in a phono/tonearm cable. I remember reading once a long time ago that phono cables should be very small gauge (like 28awg). This could be why.

Based on that, it seems to me that one cable I would consider for this would be the Wireworld Equinox 7 RCA. It uses very small 31awg OCC copper strands. It is not quite solid-core. The strands are grouped into collections of 5 strands, which are all side-by-side (like a ribbon cable). It’s not a fully stranded cable, but it’s not fully solid-core either. It uses 10 strands for each conductor, making it a 21awg cable. The small strands give you the low capacitance (good for tonearm) and the collection for 21awg lowers the resistance and would open up the sound.  It’s important to note that the more expensive Eclipse 7 cable would not work as well because the copper strands are little bit larger 29awg.

@laher - keep us informed your progress and any decisions that you make.  We would also love to know your opinion of any results. :)

Thanks again for fantastic guidance auxinput. It’s all so very exciting and I can’t wait for everything to come together :)

 

I will focus on the TV setup first because my father’s TV has arrived and the satellite will be installed in 2 weeks.

 

I contacted Audio-GD about the NFD-29.28 and they sent me an order form. It seems that the brand is Chinese, is that right? Have you ordered off their website before or know anyone who has?

 

http://www.audio-gd.com/En%20audio-gd.htm

 

If all seems legit then I will go ahead and order one. I do not know any other online shop that sells them. Do you?

Do I need to tell them about AC Voltage for the UK?

 

I think I will buy the Big Sur Audioquest cables, I found them on eBay. Do I need a particular length like with the digital cable? Or is it just determined based on how far I want the speakers to reach?

I can’t seem to find any online shop that sells the Blue Jean Belden cable, do you?

 

What is the price of the Monitor Audio Silver 10, and the PS Audio NuWave Phono Converter brand new? I found both on eBay UK for what looks like good prices. Are you able to have a look for me and tell me if they look like good buys? Is there anything particular I should be asking before purchasing?

 

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Monitor-Audio-Silver-10-Speakers-Pair-Walnut/332406853482?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/PS-Audio-NuWave-Phono-Converter-Silver/122746561273?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649

 

I know I said I want to focus on TV first but I don’t want to miss out on good savings if these are good buys.

Also, I found the Hegel H200 and the Gustard DAC-X20 Pro on eBay UK too but they look like they’re being sold from new.

 

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/HEGEL-H200-Integrated-Amplifier/152733904987?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/New-GUSTARD-DAC-X20-PRO-HIFI-DAC-2xES9018-XMOS-USB-384KHZ-DSD64-128-256/282396178689?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649

 

What are the price of both of these brand new?

 

For the Vinyl setup, I thought about it and I will not use iPod/iPhone, only laptop. So if there are no complications with this approach then I will stick to integrated amp as it is cheaper and easier. Will the Gustard still be the right DAC for me? Do I need to consider a USB card for the laptop or does that only apply to desktop (which I don't have).

 

What is JRiver? I have not heard of this software before but it sounds interesting.

 

Thanks for all the cable and setup advice, I will follow up on these in time to come. I want to get the TV stuff sorted first and then slowly (due to the wife, not budget haha) start on the Vinyl stuff :)

The Audio-GD site is legit and you have to order direct from China.  I have not ordered any of their items, but many others have and you can search the forums if you want.

The NFB-29.28 is offered in two version:

Version 1: 100-120V  AC 50/60 Hz

Version 2:  220-240V  AC 50/60 Hz

You need to pick the one that matches your local AC voltage. (You need to determine this on your own)

 

 

Blue Jean Beldon Cable:

https://www.bluejeanscable.com/store/shopbycable/1694A.htm

 

Big Sur Audioquest RCA cables – you just need to determine the length based on how far away the speakers are.

 

Monitor Audio Silver 10 retail for a pair is £2110 /  $2800 USD

That Oak version on ebay is a nice one and a good price.

 

The PS Audio Nuwave Phono retail new price is currently about £750 / $999 USD because PS Audio is discounting it almost 50% off.  They are discontinuing the model.  That ebay one is £600 (cheaper), so it’s up to you if it’s worth saving a little money.

 

That Hegel 200 on ebay is used. It was original retail for £3313 /  $4400 USD.

Here is a better place to buy Gustard if you are interested.  It is rarely on the used market. Make sure to get the USB version:

https://www.shenzhenaudio.com/gustard-dac-x20-pro-super-ultimate-2-x-es9028-xmos-hifi-dac-384khz-dsd-dop-decoder.html

 

If you have a laptop, you do not need a USB card.  I would try the laptop out first and see if the sound is good enough for you.  If not, you can look at getting a USB Reclocker such as the Wyred 4 Sound Recovery.  Or buy a Windows PC Desktop and an audiophile USB card, but I would try the laptop out first.

 

JRiver is media player software that can be used to play all different types of media and sound files:

https://www.jriver.com/

oh, to follow up on a couple questions:

Here is a good review and discussion of the Audio-GD NFB-28 (which is exactly the same as the NFB-29 except it has XLR inputs/outputs, which you do not need for TV):

http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/audio-gd-nfb-28-review-w-jot-mimby-comparison.3533/

In my opinion, the Gustard is a really excellent DAC for what you pay for it.  I don't think you will get better unless you spend a lot more (like twice as much or more).  Here is a 12 page discussion on the Gustard X20 pro:

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/gustard-x20pro-dac-es9028pro.824593/

Hope this gives you a little better feeling about these products.

I came across this thread talking about the NFB 29 (which is what you are considering):

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/audio-gd-nfb-29-single-ended-master-race-lol.732157/

Interestingly enough, he is using it through some AirMotiv speakers! lol.  Lot's of good feedback on this NFB 29.  One of the comments that stood out to me:

The nfb11 has some harshness to it in the treble regions that the nfb29 doesn't have... The 29 is more dynamic, more detailed and overall better. Much bigger sound stage, much better separation and imaging.

Though, if you spend more you get something better, obviously.

Hi auxinput, apologies I've been on travels. Thanks again for all the responses.

I have spoken with Emotiva and they don't ship to the European market unfortunately and their UK distributor hasn't agreed a delivery contract with them yet. 

Are you able to recommend an alternative speaker that's equal or even better than the Airmotiv 6s please?

I am ready to buy the NFB-29.28 but need to either find the Airmotiv 6s or another speaker. 

I am going to complete this project first as my father now has his new TV and satellite all setup. 

Then I can start on my baby :)

If you want powered monitors, I actually use Yamaha HS80m monitors for my computer speakers. They are actually not bad. There are a couple used on UK Ebay:

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Yamaha-HS80M-studio-near-field-reference-monitors-PAIRED-BOXED-free-stands/172900963242?hash=item2841b353aa:g:bAcAAOSwEvhZ0k1p

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Yamaha-HS80M-Powered-Monitor-Speakers-PAIR-In-Boxes-WITH-FREE-STANDS/253206255141?hash=item3af444d625:g:w8EAAOSwH4xZ4IPA

Or you can try to find the newer Yamaha HS8 monitors, but will be even more than the Emotivas. Not sure if these will be better than the Emotiva. Emotiva has a lot more power and will probably be more laid back sounding than the Yamaha. The Yamaha are very neutral, but also very revealing. They have a larger 8" woofer so they would play a lot lower than either of the Emotiva monitors.

Thanks for finding them on UK eBay auxinput. 

How do the HS80M compare to the HS8s? I may buy the one in the second link you provided but wanted to understand if there's a big difference between old and new. Do they handle detailed songs well?

Also, what's your opinion on the following:

- JBL LSR 305
- Neumann KH 310
- Adam Audio A7X
- Mackie HR824mk2
- KRK RP6G3 Rokit 6

These are way out of budget for this particular project but have you seen the Emotiva Stealth 8s? 

Googling around:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCiLSOZXaQo

It could be small differences, but the new HS8 doesn't push the midbass as much and is a little clearer in the midrange.  Not sure if you would really notice.

I don't have experience with any of the other monitors.  Some have Class D amps, which I have found to be very extremely clean sounding but lack engaging music.  With Class D, there is just no emotional engagement with the music for me.  Recording engineers are using these Class D amps a lot because it helps them hear the mix much clearer, but it may not be what you want for home listening. 

I have been seriously considering upgrading to the Stealth 8 for a  couple years now, but other things have been higher priority.

I’m going to pick the HS80M speakers up tomorrow, only an hour drive from me. Agreed £350 with the seller :)

I’m also going to purchase the NFB and cables later on today. 

Then I just need to hook it all up and test it out - I’ll keep you posted with updates/feedback. 

And then probably in the new year I will start with my turntable project :)

You may want to consider the NFB 28.28 instead.  It has balanced XLR outputs as well as RCA.  The Yamaha studio monitors have both balanced XLR and a 1/4" TRS plug inputs.  They do NOT have standard RCA inputs, so if you chose the 29.28, you would need special RCA-to-TRS or RCA-to-XLR cables.

If you get the NFB 28.28, you can use standard XLR cables, which are available from Audioquest.

I bought the HS80Ms (the second eBay link you sent me).
I was able to hear them and I was thoroughly pleased :)
The seller had them plugged into a sound card and that into a laptop.
What benefits/differences will a preamp provide? Same question about the integrated DAC element of the NFB that I’m buying?

How much of a problem will it be if I buy the 29.28? Are those type of cables easy to find in the same quality as the Audioquest ones you recommended?

Let’s look at the Audio-GD models:

NFB-29.28 : RCA output only 

NFB-28.28 : RCA + XLR outputs

Internally, these two models are almost exactly the same.  The “28” model output stage is engineered to work for XLR balanced output.  This means that the “29” RCA-only model is a tiny bit better when using RCA cables.  In your situations, this is pretty much splitting hairs and I don’t think you would really notice the difference.  You would be better off getting the “28” RCA+XLR model so that you could support both types of cables if you wanted.

As I said, the Yamaha HS80M only has XLR and 1/4" TRS inputs.  You can get special RCA-to-TRS cables on ebay and other places.  These are typically pro-audio cables and are made by vendors such as HOSA or Mogami.  They will NOT be as good as Audioquest cables.  HOSA cables are cheap.  Mogami can be pretty okay (probably good enough for your situation).

None of the audiophile cable makers will have special RCA-to-TRS cables.  You could always have somebody chop the ends and wire them into TRS connectors, but it’s more labor and money obviously.  I think it’s better just to get the “28” model so that you can get audiophile level XLR cables to connect to the Yamaha monitors.

If you ended up already ordering the “29” model and cannot change the order, you can try to get some Mogami RCA-to-TRS cables.  Or something on UK Ebay such as:

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Pseudo-Balanced-RCA-Phono-to-TRS-Jack-Lead-PAIR-Van-Damme-Starquad-Cable/172382399235?hash=item2822caab03:m:mTnMtSg5Z26b_pog38jH39g

----

As far as your preamp question, the NFB-29.28 or NFB-28.28 are already preamps that have a DAC built-in.  We call it a “preamp” because it has the ability to adjust the volume up/down via the front panel knob or remote.  You can get a separate preamp if you wanted, but you don’t need to.  It would just be another element in the audio chain to affect/mold the sound.

There are some Audio-GD models that are considered a DAC only because the output level is fixed (non-adjustable).

Given your amp only has XLR inputs, I would purchase the model that has XLR outputs. Given that the DACs are also preamps, I would try them in my system directly into the amp prior to considering the purchase of a separate pre. Otherwise I would purchase a DAC with fixed output. It may be that the Pre/DACs you are considering cn be switch to fixed output.
Thanks for the clarification auxinput - I have ordered the NFB-28.28. 
I imagine it will take some time to arrive considering it's coming from China. 

Apologies, maybe I didn't ask the right question(s) or phrase them very well. 

My current understanding of a preamp is that it will clean up the signal and boost/prepare the signal to be strong enough for further processing. Is this a correct summary? I was trying to get your technical input on what the preamp will actually do for me considering that there is already an amplifier in the speakers. What would the sound be like without the preamp?

My understanding of a DAC is that it converts the signal from digital (1s and 0s) to analogue (wave form) which is the preferred format for speakers as well as analogue being the original format of the recorded sound. Again, is this correct? What will the sound be like without a DAC? Is the integrated DAC in the NFB powerful? 

We previously discussed cables: the Bluejean cable is a coaxial cable right? Do I plug this into the TV or the Satellite box? Also, the link that you provided for the Belden 1694A Bluejean cable has different application/channel/boot colour options - what options should I be selecting to place my order?
https://www.bluejeanscable.com/store/shopbycable/1694A.htm

Is a coaxial cable the best cable/connection for the preamp and TV/Satellite? Perhaps it's the only option? The reason I ask is because I'm just wondering what would I need to do if there is no coaxial input (that's spare) on the TV or Satellite box?


Essentially, a preamp is used for several things:

- As a way to switch between multiple sound sources (i.e. CD player, tape, etc.)

- Be able to provide a way to adjust volume

- Contains a circuit that has enough current to drive certain amps (sometimes digital sources do not have enough current in the analog output circuits).

 

You can add a preamp into the mix, but it is not really needed with the NFB-28.28.  The NFB already has a volume control.  You can attached multiple digital sources to the unit as well as one analog source (the IN5 RCA inputs).  The current in the NFB should be fine to drive any amp you attach.  The Yamaha studio monitors will have a preamp type circuit inside because it needs an active analog circuit for the crossover to separate the woofer amp and the tweeter amp.  In your situation, the only reason to add a preamp is if you felt the NFB was lacking in some way.  For example, if you had a CD player that was very bright/harsh sounding, you could get a tube preamp or a warm-sounding preamp to put in between.  This would further modify the analog waveforms from the DAC to calm down the sound.

Honestly, I think the sound quality of the Audio-GD is high enough that you would have to spend a lot of money on a preamp to get something better than what is already output from the NFB (like $2,000 or more).

You are correct in the understanding that a DAC converts digital data (0s and 1s) to an analog waveform.  Anything coming from satellite TV or CD or bluray is going to be transmitted in digital format, so there has to be a DAC somewhere.  Many satellite receivers have a DAC inside because you will usually see left/right analog RCA outputs, but the quality is going to be poor compared to Audio-GD.  The conversion from digital to an analog waveform is where the sound quality of the Audio-GD is superior.  The power supply and DAC / analog circuits are significantly better.  You can always get better than the NFB, but it will cost more.  Just look at the NFB-27.77.  The chassis is twice as large.  Three separate power supplies (one for digital and two for analog).  Fully balanced analog circuits.  Over twice as expensive.

It’s not that the DAC chip should be described as powerful.  You want to get a DAC that is clean/accurate.  Large capacity linear power supply, fully discrete analog circuits, good design approach, etc.

On the Blue Jean 1694A, select “Digital Audio” for the application for sure.  They use specific RCA connectors and the RCA connectors are different for other purposes (such as subwoofer, stereo, etc.).  The cable color doesn’t really matter.  I usually just get black, but you can get anything you want.  Obviously, get the “RCA/RCA” connectors.  Remember, 6 feet long (to avoid short cable signal reflections).

There might be a small chance that the satellite receive does not have COAX.  In that case, you will probably need to use a toslink digital cable.  The lifatec toslink cables are the best for the money that I know of.  The length doesn’t matter.

http://www.lifatec.com/toslink2.html

Hopefully, I’ve answered everything.

Thanks, makes sense about the preamp/DAC. Looking forward to seeing what the NFB will do. 

I checked the back of the TV and the back of the Satellite box.

The Satellite box only has two USB ports and 1 optical out. The HDMI and 2 Satellite ins are being used. 

The TV has 2 USB ports, 4 HDMI ports, 1 Satellite in, 1 optical digital audio out, and 2 ports which I’m not sure what they are - 1 says audio out/ H/P and the other says RS-232C (SVC only).

The Lifatec Toslink is an optical digital cable? It seems like this is the cable I will have to buy right? And I think it would be better to plug it into the TV as the TV is also used for Netflix not just the Satellite. 
Also, which audioquest cables should I be looking at? I don’t mean Big Sur vs Golden Gate for example, I mean the type of connectors on the end of the cable? I can’t seem to find the right type. 

The HS80M has XLR and 1/4” TRS jack. I should use XLR right? And then the other end would also be XLR (going into the NFB)?

Do you have a link for the right cable please?

Well, initially you only said satellite.  Including the Netflix stuff may cause some difficulty.  You could try connecting a toslink from the TV, but you have to make sure that it can be setup to ouput a stereo digital signal (Netflix will have stuff like multi-channel Dolby Digital Plus). 

The Lifatec toslink is an optical digital cable.

For Yamaha, you should look for Audioquest XLR cables.  You may need to look around for a UK Audioquest distributor, maybe something like this:

https://www.audiodestination.co.uk/cables/interconnects/audioquest-red-river-interconnects-pair

There can be others.  Or you can try ordering from a USA distributor, like Audio Advisor.

Apologies, I didn’t realise that the TV has a built in Netflix app. 

Okay so XLR cables from speaker to NFB and the the optical digital cable from NFB to either the TV or the Satellite box. 
Do I need to worry about a particular length of cables like before with the bluejean? 

On the back of the speakers there are controls for level, mid EQ, room control, high trim, and low cut.
Would you mind please explaining what these functions do and how I would used them?

The length of toslink doesn't matter like COAX.  As I said, you could try using the toslink output from the TV, but it's likely that it won't work with a 2-channel DAC like the Audio-GD.  You may have to get a cheap Sony bluray player to stream Netflix.  These have an setting in the Audio section for "Downmix: stereo".  It will output a 2-channel digital signal for the Audio-GD DAC and you can use the bluejean 1694A for this.  Then just use a standard toslink for the satellite.  It's important to go into the satellite receiver menu and make sure that "Dolby Digital" is disabled so that it sends a stereo digital signal through toslink.

The back of the Yamaha has switch settings.  These are basically EQ settings to boost/cut certain areas (such as bass / midrange / treble).  It is best just to set these at "0" or "Flat" to start with.

Would HDMI cable work from TV to NFB for getting 2 channel audio on Netflix?

What about 3.5mm audio jack to RCA cable, would that work?

Okay I’ll leave the EQ settings at zero. What about room control, what does this do? Does it have something to do with how close my speakers are to a wall for example?

No, it would not work.

Please re-read this entire thread very carefully.  We have already covered the ideas of an HT Receiver or HT Processor.  This is what you would need for HDMI stuff.  During our discussions, the direction went towards a high-end 2-channel DAC.