Confused: Should I Upgrade Cables or Amp first?


I currently have very long runs of Audio Art SC-5 speaker cable (about 20 feet) that, due to WAF issues, are routed through holes in the floor, under the house. I use MIT AVT speaker interfaces, in an attempt to compensate for resistance.

Speakers: Silverline 17.5 monitors. Components: modded Jolida JD100 tube cdp and modded Jolida JD302 tube (EL34) integrated. 

I can afford to put $2500 into the system at this point. I could re-route cables through a wall and relocate components into another room, thereby dramatically shortening cable runs to 10-12 feet and enabling bi-wiring. I could also afford to upgrade all cables. OR, I could leave cables alone and upgrade amp.

Which is likely to produce biggest improvement? 
stuartk

I have 22 foot runs of Groneberg Quattro Reference speaker cables that go under the floor in my main rig.  I have never experienced any problems with the sound in the 10 years they have been in the system.  I spoke to the cable manufacturer and was told anything less than 50 feet is a moot point.  I never felt they were hindering my system in any way.

I would look elsewhere to upgrade as you will NOT hear any difference with a shorter speaker cable.

stuartk-

you have a nice, simple system. I would keep the Jadis gear together.
I love cables/cords, and am a "cable" guy first.

Whichever way you go, audition/demo any gear and/or cabling prior to any purchase. Keep me posted and Happy Listening!
stereo5: thank you for your valuable input! I'm expecting delivery of a Parasound Halo Integrated soon from Audio Advisor, so I will focus on amps. 
@jafant , Jadis? Where do you see Jadis? He has Jolida, not Jadis.

I would ask first, what do you feel you are missing?
If you are happy with the sound, then just enjoy the music and spend the money on software, a vacation, or maybe a turntable.
TY- jmc.
Jolida -corrected.

I would like to read more about the modded integrated amp.
In looking at the system as is, I don't see any glaring weak points.  The Parasound has 150 wpc, and to my ear is on the warm side, at least the A21 and P7 combo I have is.  The speaker cable is 14 gauge, so I suppose could be improved upon by shortening the 20 foot run.  

Either way, please report back on your impressions of the Parasound Integrated.  I'm guessing the Jolida has about 50 wpc?  
Yes-- 213runnin--Jolida has 50 wpc. I'm curious to hear how the Silverlines respond to more power, for one thing. 

TY-jmc-- both amp and cdp were modded by Mitch Singerman who's been Jolida's West Coast repair guy for quite awhile-- he knows the gear inside and out.  I don't recall the specs for the amp mod-- it was 8 years ago or so, and as it's no longer in the Jolida line, there's no description of the mod on the Affordable Audio website. Here is the parts list for the level 1 mod description for the cdp; "Hovland Musicaps for the coupling stage. Auricap and Solen for coupling and bypass. Caddock film resistors. Mills power resistors. International Rectifier Hexfreds".  Pretty sure some of these parts were also used for the integrated mod. The cdp mod was a more (to my ear), dramatic improvement in my system. Very much worth the price! 
TY- stuartk.
I’m with Jmcgrogan2, the system seems well put together. I think $2500 is too much for cables for this system. One idea is to sell the speakers, add the $2500 to the proceeds, and buy a 2nd hand speaker at the next level up in performance. The source and the speakers are usually the most important. If you are happy with your CD player, and the Jolida amp sounds good, perhaps a larger Silverline speaker that has more range such as this one https://www.audiogon.com/listings/full-range-silverline-audio-sonatina-mk-iv-demo-2016-05-10-speaker... is a worthy thought.

Another thought is to focus on the source. You might consider selling the CD player, rip your CDs, go file based and invest in a top quality modern DAC.

$2500 is also a nice budget to get into vinyl. You can spend $2k on hardware and $500 on records and see where that takes you!

i think the cable upgrade idea or the amp upgrade are both worthy ideas, but I think you will get more changes in the source or the speakers. If you do go cables, I would lower the budget and save some cash for the next upgrade down the road. On the amp side, I would probably spend the entire budget, plus the proceeds from selling the Joloda integrated, and look at something like this: https://www.audiogon.com/listings/tube-balanced-audio-technology-bat-vk300x-se-2016-05-08-integrated...

Good luck!
Hope my 2 cents are worth more than just $0.02!!

marktomaras-- thanks for your input. The reason I have monitors is that I don't have the luxury of a dedicated audio space, and as a result, I needed to raise drivers above furniture in the livingroom.  Pardon my ignorance, but would the 50 watt Jolida sufficiently drive the 91db Silverline 3-way floor-standers? RE: source, I can't yet face the prospect of the time and monotony involved in ripping my cds. While I don't have a huge collection, it's definitely not small.  What about adding a DAC, instead?

Stuartk:  I have a Parasound Halo Integrated in my secondary system with Audio Art SC-5 speaker cables.  They are connected to Golden Ear Triton 2 speakers.  I listen to this system 90% of the time because it is in my home office.  It's a great match.

Previously I was using a Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum tube integrated and for my taste, I like the Halo Integrated much better.

91 dB sensitivity is quite efficient, so if your room is not huge and you listen at moderate volume levels, the Jolida 50 watt should be fine. If you have a largish room and want to be the memorex guy in the chair, you will probably need more power.

ripping CDs is really easy. If you did just 10 per evening and a few extras on the weekends (which is barely any effort at all), you'd burn through a good sized collection in a month.  Once you set up your settings and get the software doing its job, really all you do is put the disc in and press go.  Walk away, and when you remember to check in on it, the rip is done and you swap the disc.

You can add a DAC, but better to free up CD player funds and get either a better DAC with those additional dollars, or recycle some of that gear budget.

I can't tell you how liberated I felt when I sold my CDs to the used record store!  You can't beat your collection on a hard drive, plus a subscription to Tidal hifi, which streams 4 million albums at full cd quality, all tied together with a good music app like Roon, played through a high quality DAC.  

I really think that digital change or an upgrade in speakers will add the most bump to your system.  Or, perhaps not changing the speakers, but adding a high quality subwoofer to give you a fuller range experience, also possible to do very well with your budget.

Cables react differently connected to different components.  Finalize your system then experiment with cables.
@stuartk 50 wpc should be plenty of power for a 91 db speaker, assuming that the room is not unusually large and/or listening levels unusually loud.

Maybe what you are missing is a little bass? Maybe adding a subwoofer to the mix?
Otherwise I think your system seems fairly well balanced. Sure, you could get better speakers, then that usually drives you to get better sources, amps, cables, etc. The merry-go-round never ends for some.

If you are relatively happy, just enjoy the tunes and spend the money elsewhere.
jmcgrogan2-- yes, more bass would indeed be nice. The bass I have is well defined and relatively quick; it just doesn't extend down very far, as you have no doubt surmised.  Finding a place for a sub in our livingroom is the hard part (WAF). I get what you mean about the merry-go-round. Fortunately or unfortunately, the reality is; I lack the funds to indulge in that particular life-path!  The downside is that when I do have a little money for upgrades, I feel a great deal of pressure to make the most of my investment. No doubt this is a familiar enough scenario for other Audiogon members.

marktomaras-- my impression is that when it comes to DACs, the technology is changing rapidly. Schiit's DACs are, apparently upgradeable. Unfortunately, they charge a 10% restocking fee should one elect to return a component; this has, so far, kept me from ordering one to try. I have two friends with expensive systems who both have the PS Audio DAC that sells for $ 1200 (don't recall the name). I tried it in my system and it did wonders for female vocals but otherwise, it didn't blow me away. Also, it accentuated differences in recording/mastering quality from one CD to another. As I am more of a music lover than an audiophile, I'd rather have a system that's more on the forgiving side, even if I lose resolution.
marktomaras-- thanks for your encouragement re: going disc-less. I will probably be compelled in time to follow your advice but I guess I'm old fashioned... OK-- maybe just old, as in an old dog and new audio tricks. 
Adding a quality DAC would be the easiest thing to incorporate into my room at this point. 
stereo5-- I welcome your positive remarks about the Halo, especially in comparison to a tube amp. I have come across many recommendations for the Cronus as a step up from the Jolida. I've never owned a Stereophile class-A-rated component and having read many enthusiastic reviews of the Halo, I'm excited to check it out, even though I know there's no guarantee it'll be the proverbial cat's pajamas. in my system. If it's not, I will, no doubt, be back here, asking for recommendations for DACs and Subs. 
jmcgrogan2-- yes, more bass would indeed be nice. The bass I have is well defined and relatively quick; it just doesn't extend down very far, as you have no doubt surmised.  Finding a place for a sub in our livingroom is the hard part (WAF).

A subwoofer doesn't have to be large, they make small ones too. And placement can be less stressful than regular speakers, since lower frequency notes are not an easily detectable source.

I had my wife accept a new "end table" in our living room. It's a larger subwoofer ((2) 12 inch woofers), but it is just basic black box. It is placed between our chairs, and has a cloth doily on top with a lamp and books. No one knows it is a subwoofer unless I tell them.
 I've seen subwoofers that have just one 8 inch woofer, they should be able to be easily hidden.
This post is getting more and more interesting!  From cables to amp to speakers to DAC to subwoofer!  You have a stack of cash set aside for a considerable upgrade, and all of the options and opinions on this thread hold water.  Very tough to decide indeed.

This is a very exciting position to be in for a music enthusiast, especially as you say that you want to avoid the merry go round.  Now more than ever when reading the posts of my fellow audiogon members, I am wracking my brain, what would I do if I were in his shoes right now? What if I had to decide at this very moment?

As I re-read the post, I would eliminate a cable upgrade at this point. As you want the most significant change for the dollar, I think you will be better served in another department at this point.

A subwoofer will no doubt make a large difference in the sound. My previous speakers were monitors, and I added a sub to accompany them, with excellent results.  I dialed it in so that I could barely notice it was there, until I powered it off, and the difference was subtle but dramatic, if that makes sense despite the contradiction in terms.  I used a Wisdom SCS sub, which is thin, can be placed in unconventional locations, and is within your budget (the dealer I traded it to may still have it if you're interested).

DAC technology changes fast, and I don't see that changing anytime soon! Imagine when the iPhone will stop being upgraded on an annual basis... Probably never!  That said, you seem reluctant to upgrade your digital, and seem pleased with your CD player.

Unless your room is large or you play your music very loud, I'm not sure an amp upgrade will make a considerable difference in your listening experience with your speakers.  Of course there will be a change and of course it will be different, but the speakers don't have huge bass drivers and are pretty sensitive so the tube power you do have probably sounds pretty darned nice.

Whats left for that big upgrade?!  Speakers, being the end of the chain probably make the most difference, speakers and the source.  I would see what your monitors are worth, add that to the stack of cash, and evaluate what that sum can purchase in the used market.  See if there is a 3-way speaker with high-ish sensitivity of exceptional quality, at or above the quality of your monitors, and, one that fits in your space.  This research will allow you to decide if the speakers are the correct path.

if not, and the subwoofer idea is not exciting you, that eliminates quite a bit!  But, we left something out.  You mentioned CDs, but did not talk about any other sources.  One of the biggest things I have added to my system of late was a subscription to Tidal hifi.  4 million albums at uncompressed cd quality. It is unreal.  I can read music reviews and then immediately listen to all of the new music in the world as if I had all of the CDs!  It is very significant.  Perhaps you will consider adding a component such as the blue sound node 2 for $500, and getting a subscription to Tidal hifi.  That will be a very Very noticeable change!  It has an on board DAC for now and the ability to use an outboard DAC should you go that way.  You can still play your CDs on the Jolida and play Tidal on the node.  If you adore the experience, you may upgrade to a stand alone DAC in the future, and you will still have funds set aside to do so, perhaps even a tube DAC.

If you have any vinyl aspirations, $2500 is a fine entry, and I can tell you that I love spinning my vinyl more than my digital.  I love the experience and the sound - the analog in my system sounds better than digital. 

So, to sum up, I would be looking at a speaker upgrade, adding a sub, or adding Tidal via Bluesound Node 2 (or similar).  You should be able to add a sub and Bluesound / Tidal.  If you have any vinyl  thoughts, I'd be happy to lend my two cents there, as I believe an addition of an analog rig would also add a lot of addional musical enjoyment!




marktomaras--
Wow... a lot to digest. Very kind of you to take the time to lay it all out.
I will have two amps to try, first, and it will no doubt become apparent soon enough whether they'll make much of a difference. BTW, I'm not at all opposed to trying a stand-alone DAC but I do find the reviews very intimidating, as I know so little about the technology and understand none of the terminology. The Parasound Halo has an internal DAC but  I have no idea how advanced it is or even if it can be bypassed in favor of an additional stand-alone unit in future. More research/education is required.
As for speakers, a "merry go round" friend had the Acoustic Zen Adagios for awhile, which I liked. Maybe the Adagio Juniors would be a possibility for me or a Zu. Subs-- I'm not familiar with the Wisdom SCS-- I will check it out. The above are options I feel most comfortable with exploring first. Thanks again for your kind assistance! 

stuartk:

Lots of ways to spend money and improve systems but first  priority is to have everyone happy in the house. If you have not done so, I suggest upgrading the wall outlets and fuses to your music source and amplifier.

The Synergistic Research Black fuses and their  wall outlets come with a 30 day trial. It is a fun audio experiment to do, and for many the price performance gain is very good.

David Pritchard

David; my wall outlet is upgraded, although it was done many years ago and so I do not recall what brand/type was installed. I will check out Synergistic. Thanks.  
stuartk, have you tried experimenting with the streaming services yet?

You can get a Bluesound Node 2 from Best Buy and you get 2 weeks of no questions asked returns for a full refund.  I recommend buying one to try it out for free, and you will likely want to keep it.

If you haven't tried this yet, hook up a node 2, get the trial of Tidal HiFi for $15 per month, hook up the node to your amp, and control the node with your smartphone.  

Super super cool.  If you like it, when you eventually rip your CDs, you put them on a network hard drive, and they stream to the node.  It has a built in DAC as I mentioned, but you can also use a higher end DAC.  I have a similar setup, but I am using a mac mini computer, external hard drive connected to my DAC. 
marktomaras;
You are evidently much more comfortable with these newer technologies than I am. I have no idea what a "node" is! 
Stuart,

So in order to take advantage of one of the music streaming services, and there are several of them, you need a way to get the music streaming to your integrated amplifier.  One way is to have a computer hooked up to a DAC, and connect that to the amplifier.  The newer way, which is less complicated than using an entire computer, is to use what they are calling a streamer.  A streamer is a small component that connects to your internet at home and to the amplifier or preamplifier. It then connects to your online account with the source of the streaming music (I use Tidal HiFi, but there are others).

The "Node 2" is a model name of one of these streamers from a company called Bluesound.  There are others on the market as well, from fancy companies like Naim for thousands of dollars, and newer companies such as Auralic, which has entry level all the way on up.

I like the idea of the Bluesound Node 2.  It seems easy to use.  You can connect it to an external DAC or use the onboard DAC.  It is reasonably priced.  You control the thing with a smart phone or a tablet.

So for $500 you get a very interesting product that connects you to 4 million full cd quality albums on Tidal HiFi.  It may be a little leap of faith if you are not up to speed on the latest digital stuff, but talk about making a change in your system!  

Too often we are always talking about squeezing an extra droplet of performance from our already good sounding systems, and often for big money.  A move like this gets you nearly all of the music you could ever want.  Imagine going to a huge CD store and think, ah yes, I already have 90% of these CDs!

Precisely since you are not fully into all of the contemporary digital developments, I highly recommend this to you.  Purchase a Bluesound Node 2 from a place like Best Buy or Crutchfiled, a store that will give you a long trial period with a full refund possible.  Spend that $500, and let the other $2K sit idle for the moment.  Get a trial account for Tidal HiFi (the $15 per month one that gives you fully uncompressed CD quality music).  Plug the Node 2 into your amplifier, and connect it to your home internet.  Link it to your Tidal HiFI account, grab your smart phone and sit in the sweet spot.  Prepare to be amazed.

If you don't like it, send it back, and call it a free learning experience.  If you do like it, sit back and play music, and then decide the next move.  That next move could be a subwoofer, or whatever.  You may like this so much that you rip your CD collection, and play them through the Node as well, selling the CD player and getting a great DAC.  Who knows?

I am super curious to see what you do.  Even if you upgrade the amp, I think this is a great experiment to try...
marktomaras;
 Thanks for the explanation. I'm expecting the Parasound Halo to arrive from Audioadvisor on Thursday, so my plan is to first evaluate its effect on the system, then take it from there. I will bear in mind the possibilities you've kindly detailed. 
Wrap-up: I ended up sending back the Parasound Halo. I wasn't willing to keep it in my system for 150 hours to see if I would like it in the long run. Frankly, my current Jolida tube integrated, tube CDP and Silverline speakers all sounded very good to my ears right out of the box and only improved with break-in, whereas the Halo sounded very thin and generally unappealing to me. It's garnered many enthusiastic pro reviews, so I'm not going to pass judgement on it-- it simply wasn't a good match for my expectations and patience level. Another factor was that I borrowed  Margules hybrid integrated that was nearly new, and liked it  so much better than the Halo. The combination of muscularity and smoothness wrought by more power and a tubed pre-amp section was truly seductive. More power is good ! The Margules demonstrated convincingly just how much an amp can improve my system's sound. My wife prefers the pure tube sound, though, so I've decided to demo a Jolida 3502S-- a hot-rodded version of my current integrated that has the flexibility to use EL34's, 6550's, KT88's, KT120's, or KT150's.  The Jolida with KT150's would boost the power from 50 to 85 watts and based on my familiarity with the Jolida sound, it should satisfy both of us. So, in the end, I've answered my original question; I'm going with an amp. Thanks for everyone's input!
I drive a pair of Silverline Preludes (supposedly 91db efficiency but measured more like 89 in a Stereophile review…Silverline exaggerates their specs a bit it would seem, including the silly 35 hz bass claims for my speakers…35hz with the Preludes is just silly…I've measured it ) with a "factory upgraded"  Jolida 502p that puts out maybe 65 watts or so per side, and it kicks butt. My speaker cable runs are AQ 10' Type 8 that sound amazing, and likely would work at 20 feet if they had to. Great cable. Based on my experience with Jolida I bet the 3502 that appears to replace the 502 in the Jolida lineup is a GREAT amp. The only thing wrong with Jolida is they're relatively inexpensive so amp snobs diss 'em. Meh…(my 502 has been abused daily for years and works like new…I've compared it to much more expensive stuff and it shames some well regarded amps that cost 5 times as much). Over the last few years I've scored two excellent REL subs on Ebay at different times for around 200 bucks each…from the same era…a Q150e and a Q108e II, and they take up very little space but provide a much more realistic full range sound that I can't imagine not hearing now that I have these things (well, I can imagine it as I sometimes turn 'em off just to see what's what…and turn them back on immediately!).  REL 108s show up online fairly often and if you don't have room for one of those you simply have too much furniture.
At least the Parasound experiment was an easy one to decide, hopefully the KT150 will be all you need.  I've been chasing that last 5% of audio bliss, and am realizing that it's just not worth the trouble.  Get a sound that you like and enjoy your music!
wolf_garcia: Yeah, I sure hope it's "amazing"!  The 3502S is upgraded from the stock model 3502, which is just as well, as I'm used to listening to a modded 302. A rel sub is definitely something I'm keeping in mind for the future, but for now, I'm chasing more power. BTW-- did you find the Rels very "picky" in terms of location? Can't wait to hear what the KT150's do in my system.  I/m also contemplating sending my long speaker cables to Audio Art for cutting in half and upgrading to SC-5 SE level and moving the components into another room. This'll also free up bookshelf space for more CDs!  213runnin-- I hear what you're saying about the "last 5%" ... it's wise to recognize that accepting what we've got is often more supportive of peace of mind that obsessive consumerism. Kudos to you!