Debate on a whole front end change

I am currently in a debate with my old man on selling a portion of his front end setup and use the savings to buy a new pair of speakers and also get an improvement in sound at the same time from the benefit of better speakers and better front end.

The benefit of better speakers is no dispute, but he considers my recommended setup as a strong downgrade.

He currently has a Denon "cost-is-no object" top loading CD Player (don't recall the exact model), Theta Gen VIII v2 preamp, Jeff Rowland Model 7 mono amps, ML Descent-I sub x2 and ML CLS speakers conditioned with PS audio PPP x2 and Kimber Select cabling throughout

The sound is intoxicating and the noise floor is pitch black. Any time I get a chance to visit I am always impressed how well his front end makes the CLS shine.

My recommendation is the following setup:

PS Audio PWD = 3000
PS Bridge = 800
Ethernet cable = 100 (for a good one)
2TB NAS hard drive = 200
Ipod remote/play list controller = 200
PnP app for ipod = 9.95

4309.95 Total

Beside the money that could be used to upgrade your speakers "SIGNIFICANTLY" this setup would benefit your setup in several ways:

1) 7,000.00 - 11,000.00 SAVINGS!!!
2) Less AC draw
3) Consolidated CD library via NAS hard drive
4) Playlist creation ability and not need to switch discs EVER the above mentioned are just conveniences that do not affect sound.

5) Native sampling = RAW 100% uncompressed data with no error correction = the ability to use the DAC 192/32 Khz if so desired. No jitter and less information lost via cd to IC to preamp.

So at this point he disagrees without explanation suffice to say that this is a downgrade. I am not avid audiophile and therefore cannot explain anything scientifically to him and I know just how good his front end products are but feel the change would be for the better.

Would like to know the thoughts of the community.


Hi Joshua:

Your father has an incredible set-up. 3 guesses ... #1 - he does not believe that a hard drive with an iPod front end as a source can replace discs that he can hold in his hands. #2 - if he has already paid for his equipment, there is no savings, per se. It's more of an opportunity cost. #3 - he really like what he has.

I am probably near to your dad's age (53). I would feel the same way.

Mind your own business!!! :)
Agree you are sticking your nose in it and now you have major "Brown Nose Disease" so go wash your face and don't forget to scrub behind your ears like a good boy.
No spanking tonight, but you do have to send yourself to bed with NO SUPPER.
A person's stereo is a sacred item. Even more so if it is your dads'. Your intended interference is very, very bad.
You also need to beg forgiveness of the audio gods.
If MY kid tried to tell me something like that... I'd kick thier a$$ out the door in a New York Minute.
Wow. I didn't think to have to put a disclaimer to keep childish responses out the picture.

If you read the title we are debating the subject, hence it was a topic already on the floor.
I am looking to upgrade my speakers next year so he brought up how he would like to upgrade as well, but the cost involved would require selling part of his front end and sacrificing some sound quality on that end. I proposed the media/hard drive as an improvement while still improving speaker quality as well. Hardly brown nose disease.

Looking for genuine feedback. If you're bored and need something fun to do please choose another topic.

@ Rich.....You are right on all 3 accounts. However he has an open mind and has evolved with the times. As my recommendation to him promotes making another change we are both running the tradional setup but being of the younger generation I am more welcoming and excited for this new technology.

Linn sells 3 versions of this setup for as much as 20k!! if PS Audio can provide equivalent performance at 1/4 the cost is worth looking into.
Masongsong- here's my 2 cents worth.

I have no idea about your Dad's Denon, but moving to the PWD, fed uncompressed files would likely yield a noticeable improvement in resolution. Further, once you've controlled a digital front end with an iTouch or the like it's hard to deny it's contribution to listening enjoyment due to easy access to your library. I'm an old (53) purist myself, but I moved from an Exemplar CD unit to a Mac Mini, using a great Dac, and I found greater resolution, greater convenience, and more musical enjoyment.

Having said all that, it's hard to argue that it's ones job to "enlighten" a man who is already happy with the music his system delivers.

Whatever your Dad decides to do, you sound like a great son and I'm sure he enjoys the debate with you- so keep it up.

Have fun!
Hello Joshua,

1.- I´m sorry, but I don´t follow your maths in order to get a 7.000 to 11.000 savings just selling the Denon CD-player and switching the CLS speakers vs. spending 4.309,95 on the new front end. Your talking of a selling range of 11.309,95 to 15.309,95. It looks quite something these critical times.

2.- I quote your words: "Any time I get a chance to visit I am always impressed how well his front end makes the CLS shine."

So why change it for a non yet mature front end trend when the most software (music) is going to be played in 16/44? This is what I always ask myself and the answer is: Don´t touch it if you are happy with your current cetup.


@ Danlib1 - That is the kind of positive response I was hoping to hear. Since this has the DAC built in w/ option for Native streaming I hope that it will sound even better. I myself am waiting for the finishing touches on the development before taking the plunge.
@ Daniel -

1) The Theta Gen 8 v.2 is listed between 7-8k alone on the used market + Denon + Kimber Select and you can see where the price adds up just going off used prices at the going rate on Agon.

2) As good as they make the CLS's sound all ML struggles in the higher frquencies and with classical music. All of the family owns ML's of different models and we all struggle with the same issues.

He has been through 7 neck surgeries and music are his painkillers. The conveniece of the system alone is worth selling to him, but I know that he will not compromise sound for convenience. That is why I am hoping this will be a better sound than his current setup. I hope some more people with first hand experience like Danlib1 will give some feedback

"The sound is intoxicating and the noise floor is pitch black. Any time I get a chance to visit I am always impressed how well his front end makes the CLS shine."

If you were my son, I would appreciate your input and the reason you beleive for doing it,but if you spent your own money and got the set up you recommend yourself and it was that good I would be going over to your house to hear it and descide if your quote above applies to your own recommendation. Just my 10 dollars worth (2 cents adjusted to inflation). Cheers

You know I am in agreement with you.

While Pops is currently no wanting, if he follows your advice he will likely be amazed at how much he has taught you about becoming an Audiophile.

Good luck.

See you next month.
1. You do some funny accounting?
2. You did not mention what speakers you would replace the Martin Logans with (which is a good idea anyway,imo)
3. I don't know how much $$$$ you would get from selling a Denon CD tranport - even if it is POA series and I dont see to many takers for an older hi price DAC/preamp like the Theta - might as well keep it. Im glad i can recoup most of my $$$$ when I trade in my older digital gear for the PS Audio PWT/PWD.
@Has2be - He lives in CA and I live in UT. His neck wouldn't do well fly or drive so if/when I buy the proposed gear he would just have to take my word for it.
Hey John :)
Hi Joshua:

Something to consider ... you mentioned your dad's 7 neck surgeries. It sounds like some kind of spine fusion. I have had 13 surgeries and my spine is fused from T8 to S2 (shoulder blades to backside). As important as sound quality is to me, so is the ability to listen outside a speaker's sweet spot. Quite frankly, there is no comfortable listening position for me. It's also good practice to get up and about every 30 minutes or so ... keep moving. Any system component that permits long uninterrupted listening in one position is probably not a good thing for your dad.

I think it's great that you and your dad share a common passion for good music and gear. I'd suggest that he do things in stages.. I think the thing to change first would be the transport. The Denon is OK but I think the improvement in getting the PS Audio PWT would be the place to start. I have a PWD and I'll bet the Theta is at the very least as good and maybe better. But the PWT will I think trounce the Denon. Start there.
There are 2 issues here - the sound and the convenience. Let's start with sound.

Is the Denon the DP-S1 - a landmark product? If I remember correctly, it is a transport. I believe that the Theta you are referring to is actually a DAC + preamp. The DAC already supports 24/192 inputs. So, I believe you have a transport plus a DAC in the system. Replacing a DAC can make a dramatic change to the sound of a system. The PWD is a fine product, but it may have a significantly different sound. You need to be careful with that.

A NAS based system with a GUI is a very flexible system. But it also means that someone needs to rip the files, which is not a hard task for common CDs (although it can be time consuming), but can be a challege for more off-beat CDs and for many classical CDs. Is that a task your father wants to take on? And, what type of music does he listen to? Is there a good set of high rez files that he would be interested in?

How about going at this slowly by setting up a trial system by just replacing the transport. If he has a laptop he can use that as a front end. If not, a $300 netbook is a decent start. Then he needs a USB to SPDIF converter so you can feed the Theta. Something like the m2tech Hi-face is only $125. Add a software player (I like J River Media Center) and you have a trial front end for not much money. then he can rip some CDs and he is off and running. If you can set up a trial system like that, he could get an idea if that type of front end makes sense for him. This may well not be the final front end, but it is a way to test the process for not much money, especially if he has an existing PC he can use.

Getting a PC type front end set up is relatively easy. But it is more than just hooking things up. You have to be very careful with the sound and with the total ease of use, including ripping.

My advise - take it slow.

@Rich - The sweet spot is actuall been increased since the last time I had the pleasure. He picked up some Sound Traps to increase the range of the room
@Erikminer - Replacing the cd player for another cd player is a moot point since his player is already a high quality play. Got the model from him (Denon DP-QS1). Unless he wants to buy a Meridian there really isn't much benefit to upgrading and the convenience with same or better quality sound using a media server with the DAC built in is why I was exploring the topic with him
@Dtc - You are correct, the Theta is a Pre/DAC in one and that is the big concern is that while both have DAC of similar performance like an amp has similiar wattage the big concern is the change in sound from the different technology used in both.

-Is there a difference in how to rip music to a regular external hard drive vs the NAS? All I know is about the NAS is that it uses a ethernet cable instead of a USB.

He is retired/disabled so he is up to the task if it pays the dividends of the effort. He has a large variety of music preference and there are many high -rez files he would be willing to download.

As easy as that kind of a setup would be for me he wouldn't invest ANY money without prior knowledge it sounds the same (for less) or better.

We pretty much have finialized that since I am going this route he might make the trip to UT to hear how it sounds and demo my future setup and take the step if it performs as well as I hope.

Thanks for all he feedback

It sounds like your father knows what he is doing. The CLS is an amazing speaker. I still regret selling mine. I too thought I was going to get much better sound since I replaced them with a much more expensive speaker. I was wrong and I'm still kicking myself. So, is it the front end making the CLS shine or is it the other way around?

Call me old fashioned, but my two channel stereo system is sacred and I will never incorporate a computer or HT with that system. I don't want my music stored on a hard drive and I will never own an ipod. That's for kids to listen to with headphones.

You admitted yourself how amazing your father's system sounds. Why fix something that isn't broke? It may never be the same.
@Rrog - No matter how good your front end is a lousy speaker will sound lousy. Many audiophiles like yourself know that this was an advanced speaker for it's time that still kicks butt even today. Between the two the clear winner is the front end. As much detail and midrange the CLS delivers it still has issues (as all ML's do) of playing classical and matching the dynamics of a full range loudspeaker. Not to mention needed a separate sub and most don't compare.

Too bad old school mentality is still running through your veins. Why don't you stop using the internet and go back to pen, paper, and dialing the operator....? LOL! The comparison of not embracing this new tech is no different. You will eventually :)
This topic has been debated here many times and most audiophiles believe the speaker is more important than the source. However, I am not one of them.
I agree the CLS has its share of problems and all speakers do. I learned a long time ago there is not a single speaker for every type of music.

Old school mentality is in fact running through my veins. There have been many times I wished I could go back to pen and paper and I will never embrace the new technology for music.

You need to learn a little more before you realize how much you don't know.