Forum admiration and requested guidance

My day starts by reading the top post on this site while drinking my morning coffee. I have been a audio enthusiast since the early 1970’s, with my mother playing Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and The Supremes on vinyl every Saturday morning while growing up.

I’ve always had an analog system to play, and cherish my vinyl collection. It started with my first purchase in 1975 with Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy and expanded over the years.
Advance 47 years later and I’m finally in a point of my life to splurge. My wife and I put three children thru college and she has given the approval to spend a little money for my love of the audio hobby.

Today I have the following system and looking for advice on going up the ladder of sound quality improvement.

- VPI Scout with JMW 9” arm and Hana SL cartridge 
- Elac PPA-2 phono preamp
- Vincent SA-32 preamp
- Parasound A23
- Q Aqoustics 3050i

some of the biggest improvements since building this system have been in the interconnects. I went with the Mogami 2549 interconnects and Canare 4S11 speaker cables. These really opened up the soundstage and appealed to my ears.

My music room is modest at 10 x 18 with 9 foot ceilings. Please don’t advise to enjoy and buy more vinyl. I truly look up to your advise and suggestions on next steps to improve. My budget today is $10k, with an additional $10k in mid 2022.

Thank in advance to feedback from this outstanding group.

93ab3cef 513f 4d24 832d a306a3debbd7vette5451
What are your room treatments like so far?
I have built my own acoustic wall panels (24”x36”) on three walls and add curtains for the windows on fourth wall. I have also added an area rug for the hardwood floor.
Congratulations for getting to this point in life. Honestly, great time to splurge on something you love. I’m a bit older… but I upgraded a few years before retiring so I could really enjoy it. I did! Then I was really lucky to be able to make a couple big jumps after I retirement.

Looking at your system. The strong points are your TT, cartridge and amp.

I think, given your budget. I would blow this years budget on speakers… all of it. The $10K budget puts you into a whole new category. Look at slightly used. That will be a huge jump. I remember I went from $5K speakers to Sonus Faber Olympica 3 ($12K)… wow.

Then year two a used preamp and Phonostage ~$5K each, Audio Research, CJ… an audiophile unit. Will make a huge improvement. This could net you a preamp and phono stage of original cost of $7,500 to $10K each.

These changes would move you many steps up the ladder.

You could reverse the years. I think your amp is good.

I have been slowly upgrading my system since 1973. Things really started to get good when I purchased a VPI Aries, and various Audio Research Phono Stages and preamps. My current systems are shown under my UserID. Now retired I have a wonderful system to spend three or four hours a day. 

@vette5451 have you considered getting into streaming via a good all in one unit? I'm big into vinyl but over the last few years have gone this route and have discovered a lot of wonderful new music.

Thank you for your suggestion on the speakers. I’ve known for a while, the Q Acoustics would be a constraint on my evolution for improvement.
@vette5451- I guess I’d ask what you are looking for-- what do you think your present system lacks and what do you want to accomplish by upgrading and improving it?
In this post-Covid world, it may not be as easy to get seat time, but unless you’ve heard what really good systems are capable of reproducing, you have no reference (other than real music, but that’s been in short supply until recently for the same reason). If you aren’t in a city which is rich in audio at retail, that puts you into the realm of travel, and I gather air travel these days is suboptimal.
My point is to get your ears around some systems- usually the best way is other people’s homes where somebody has taken the time and care to put together a very good system. There are some known usual suspects here who are usually glad to accommodate.
There is a balance in working with a dealer- since they can range from awful to superb, but there’s a lot to be said for a dealer that delivers service, making the experience fun and not frustrating (providing loaners, helping troubleshoot, etc.).
It’s kind of hard to describe the sonic experience in words without sounding either overly simplistic or too effusive. The real deal is you in the room, listening to recordings-- as many different kinds as possible and not just audiophile spectaculars.
The other part of the equation is the room. Room treatment is often put into the same category as cables and other tweaks- not saying it isn’t necessary (I use bass traps in strategic places in my room), but you can get oversold on so many things. I’d start with the basic system and worry less about acoustic treatments and more about getting the system situated in the room to optimize performance, something that is part science and part art.
It took me some years to dial in my current system (core was revamped 2006-7 with upgrades along the way) but when I moved states (and in a different room and house), I was able to dial it in faster because I knew what the core system could and should do.
This is a fun thing. I would not get caught up in brand name battles right now-- the key, in my estimation, is exposure. Hear what some top dynamic speaker systems can do with big power; I use horns and SET amps which is a totally different path; and dipoles or planars are also a way to your goal.
I think one tends to focus on speaker first and that’s fine- as long as you are matching with appropriate amp that "synergizes" with the speaker. I’m in a place where if I upgrade at this point, I want to keep the amps I’ve been using in place and they are relatively low power (18watt) pieces, so I’m constrained to a degree by that--
Take your time and leave your wallet at home. Online sales are great, as is the ability to buy direct, but that puts you in the driver’s seat in terms of choices-- so long as you have the ability to return for a refund (possibly less a repack fee, but in any event from a reputable dealer).
I’ll stop now. :)


I am intrigued with the streaming direction, but not sure where to start. Any suggestions on that path?

Your "music room" isn't defined-living space with a stereo or a dedicated room that's been treated

If it's the former, you haven't heard your gear in their best light. That's your baseline.

Once the room is figured out, I'd get much nicer  phonostage and minimum 2 subs. Blow as much money you can tolerate on the BIGGEST set of floorstanders you can cram in the room.

Upgrade the rest as itch/funds dictate.

I'd avoid.... uh, never mind. 
tablejockey it’s an office that is dedicated to 2 channel listening. I meant to add that I do have one Rel subwoofer in the room.

nice to read your original post

i am basically with @ghdprentice on his thought to spend most of the budget on better speakers

my one add to that main thought is leave aside $1500 of it on a bluesound node and a modest, good sounding standalone dac to start streaming (and a tidal or qobuz subscription) -- there is so much joy in having all the world’s music at your instant beck and call...
Being used to vinyl and being in a dedicated room I have a hard time seeing you as anything but disappointed in streaming. It simply will not hold your attention. We had a group here sit rapt for 2 hours listening to vinyl, almost all walked out the minute we switched to digital. Way better digital than anything you will find streaming.  

I’ve always had an analog system to play, and cherish my vinyl collection. 

Your words, and yet people tell you to buy a streamer. Go figure. 

A room your size, a guy in love with vinyl, you can have an absolutely mesmerizing system. Budget it out for a new Origin Live table and arm, put your Hana on it, run it though a Decware ZP3. Replace your speakers with Tekton Perfect SET, use the Decware integrated, you will have hugely upgraded like you won't believe and after selling what you have now still be way under budget. Use the rest for cables and to tweak everything with Townshend Podiums and Pods, Synergistic PHT on the cartridge and HFT on speakers and walls.  

I have heard Tekton run on SET. Pure magic. This will be the kind of system you lose yourself in the music, and forget all the usual audiophile stuff simply because it sounds so freaking involving and fun.
vette5451 OP

40 posts



I am intrigued with the streaming direction, but not sure where to start. Any suggestions on that path?

i am always amazed when people are able to type, yet they evidently cannot read -- although i have heard that this is a strict requirement when some people only live in an alternate reality of their own making

op - forgive this sidebar...

For your comment about streaming. I was purely vinyl until I got a Bluesound. Yes it’s on the low end of good streaming, but it’s a great way to start and get comfortable with streaming. Start with on and  get to understand streaming. It’s easy to set up and easy to use, then easy to sell and it’ll make upgrading to something better if you get into it easy as you’ll understand streaming. And if you don’t get into streaming, it’s not a huge waste of time and money. 
True, It won’t sound like vinyl, but then nothing does, so does that mean don’t try it? Of course not. Just sharing my experience. 
As for upgrading your current system,  I’d agree with others who say speakers first. That will gain you the biggest bang for your buck. 
A good pair of speakers and a pair of good NON downward firing subs and some room treatment..

THEN look at a streamer.. I use an inexpensive Cocktail, BUT with wonderful build quality.. Good transport, good DAC, and a MM phono stage input. I don't use it.. All op amp balanced.. Swap a HD in two minutes add a raid in 10 minutes..

4-5K max. I like small planars. Subs anything but a downward firing NON slot loaded sub.. You cannot decouple that type of Jackhammer, sub..

I quit using that type of sub when I quit using HT sound effects.. 20+ years ago.. Great sound effect, the worst for stereo sound though..

It uses the FLOOR as the first reflection point of its passive bass system..
You got to be kidding me.. Vibrate the WHOLE house with that type of sub.. YUK.. Suspend them over the top of your pool they will break up Kidney Stones.. LOL

"  anything but a downward firing NON slot loaded sub.. You cannot decouple that type of Jackhammer, sub.."

 Excellent point!

 I remember a conversation w/ someone at Velodyne Acoustics, after the transition from their ULD series to F' series subs. He made the point that a "side firing" sub is the better sounding of the two.

"it’s an office that is dedicated to 2 channel listening."


This doesn't cost a thing except room real estate
It's not for everyone, but gives perspective and it's FREE!

Getting your existing and possibly future speakers out in the room to breath will be game changing. 4-6 feet out from the back wall, 3-4 from sides.

Consider  at least another sub. 4 is game over. Study the room treatment websites. Speaker placement, subs and room considerations are paramount.

Upgrading the existing VPI use can be  pushed out getting the $3-5K phonostage upgrade. It will make your Hana and future carts sing even more. I'm sure the Elac is a good unit, but the suggested  price point is entry into the next level. 

The Scout will sound like a new table.

I'm avoiding brand suggestion on anything. That's a new thread subject.
Tweaky doodads, additional cable madness and all the rest included.
I agree with spending most or all of this years budget on speakers. I recently stepped up to a brand new pair of Vandersteen Treo CT’s, which when I first got into this hobby around 4 years ago, was much more than I thought I ever wanted to spend. But it’s really paid off. The joy I get from them is immeasurable and they are sounding better every day. 
Seize the day my friend.  
VPI Scout with JMW 9” arm and Hana SL cartridge

Anyone who’s serious about vinyl must have several different cartridges.
Your Hana is an MC with aluminum cantilever and Shibata stylus, you can always find a better cartridge, especially if you did not try many (yet). Cartridge is the most important component in an analog chain and this is where you can hear the most noticeable changes in sound that primarily depend on a cartridge.

Cartridge design is very important, if you will look at some other cartridges you will see the obvious difference in Cantilever and Stylus tip, not to mention some other types of cartridges like Moving Iron or Moving Magnet.

Your Shibata stylus will be worn out after 1500 hrs, so you will have to change your MC cartridge anyway.

With MM or MI you can change the stylus yourself and keep using your cartridge forever.

My advice is to buy a different cartridge, not a LOMC.
It will not cost you much, probably $1k for something (MM or MI) much better than your Hana MC.

The upgrade will be in Cantilever (stiffness and weight) and in Stylus Profile (accuracy and life span), an MM cartridge is easier to drive by any phono stage and the output is high.

I use all types of cartridges (MM, MI, MF, LOMC, HOMC) check in my system

What modern MM cartridges under $1000, if any, do you recommend?

thank you for the advise pertaining to cartridges. I have used several different types and brands throughout the years. Prior to the Hana I had a Nagaoka MP-300 and various Ortofon and Grado cartilages. To my ears the Hana sounds best, although I am curious to advance up the cartridge chain.

What modern MM cartridges under $1000, if any, do you recommend?

This one is interesting if you ask for latest innovative design, but only if you can pay €12 000 , there is another model if you can pay more :)

I prefer NOS cartridges from the past, they are new, but they are old. 
Prior to the Hana I had a Nagaoka MP-300 and various Ortofon and Grado cartilages. To my ears the Hana sounds best, although I am curious to advance up the cartridge chain.

Probably because they are nothing special just like nearly all budget modern MM
Boy, are you ever going to have fun! 

It is the two ends that will give you the largest improvement. The middle stuff is clean up and basically depends on what you do at the ends. 

First is speakers and the room. Going for speakers with more directional behavior will make the room easier to deal with, horns or dipoles. If you were a loud rocker I would go with something like Klipsch Cornwalls and subwoofers. If you were a quieter guy who liked a larger more lifelike stage I would go with Magneplanar 3.7i's and subwoofers. The Magneplanars will require a more powerful amp in the end but your A23 will hold the fort. The Cornwalls with tear your head off with the A23. You will need to find and deaden first reflection points which you can do with $30.00 worth of foam acoustic tiles. 

Next I would upgrade your turntable. A Sota Sapphire with a Schroder CB arm would fit. It is the least expensive stable fully isolated table made. I think you can add Vacuum clamping, a big plus. Always get the dust cover. I have a CB arm and am very pleased with it. It's only down side is it does not have an arm rest. Mr Schroder does not like hanging things off his arms, they resonate. I made a locking arm rest for my table and solved that issue. Otherwise the arm is brilliant. The Kuzma 4 Point 9 is a great arm and will also fot

You mentioned the Decware ZP3 for the phono preamp. On their website it mentions a step up transformer for moving coil cartridges. I’m assuming the ZMC1 would have to be included if I chose to stick with the Hana (Low MC), correct?
Post removed 
I’ve read a lot of tips here regarding room treatment and it’s great advice.
I don’t live in the States but I happen to see several series of broadcasts in my country regarding renovations carried out in the States (Property Brothers, Flip or Flop etc.) and I am impressed to see how the walls are knocked down with a kick if is necessary a renovation because I see that they are hollow inside and built with light panels and supporting wood; they are not made of brick or reinforced concrete

I wonder if what I see on TV is all true and how bad an audio system can sound in rooms built that way with walls so light that they could resonate like a sound box; I am worried and horrified.
I am impressed to see how the walls are knocked down with a kick if is necessary a renovation because I see that they are hollow inside and built with light panels and supporting wood; they are not made of brick or reinforced concrete

Brick wall is the worst for sound.

I wonder if what I see on TV is all true and how bad an audio system can sound in rooms built that way with walls so light that they could resonate like a sound box; I am worried and horrified.

No walls are better, but lightweight walls can pass a low frequency through and it’s better than brick walls that can only reflect low frequency wave.

I’m talking about low frequency range because the bass is terrible problem for a small room with a typical 8 ft ceiling in the US and Canada.

You mentioned the Decware ZP3 for the phono preamp. On their website it mentions a step up transformer for moving coil cartridges. I’m assuming the ZMC1 would have to be included if I chose to stick with the Hana (Low MC), correct?

Right. I didn't run the numbers just sort of ball-parked the stuff I recommended would be well within your budget. That way you have room to upgrade to another cartridge like something high output from Soundsmith that won't need the SUT, or go with what you have and get the SUT. 

I don't normally btw recommend SUT. But that is because there are so many, they are all over the map cost and performance wise, the market is thin and so you can wind up taking a big hit on resale. In this case though Decware eliminates all that with their lifetime exchange. 

I have over the years come to favor companies that manufacture and sell direct. Not as some kind of magic pill, everything sold direct is not automatically wonderful. But they do eliminate a big chunk of dealer profit, a lot of which you wind up getting in product that would cost a lot more if sold retail. Search around, people with ZP3 are real happy.

Whatever you do, for synergy with vinyl and engagement factor try and stick with tubes. 
There are opportunities abound to receive similar impressions and impact that you experienced when exchanging Cables.
Equipment Changes will most likely offer noticeable improvements but your unique audible preferences must be catered for as well as any aesthetic requirements.
20K to be budgeted over a two year period is going to create a System that can reignite ones passion and encourage much desire to revisit the Album Collection.

Here is my take on the route to satisfaction.
If you are not wanting to purchase more Vinyl Media, the alternative to bring your already owned Vinyl Media into the preparations will be quite a valuable consideration.
A Vinyl LP being a Source Material can impact on how the upcoming system is going to impress. Taking a time out and following a Cleaning Method and Storage for the owned Vinyl will have quite an impact on the present replays, and more so on the replays in the upcoming system.

You are an individual and within this you have developed your own unique preferences for how a replay will impress you.
One individuals model that is to them an 'attractor' and recommendation can quite easily prove to be another individuals 'detractor'. 
To find ones own preferences can be done in two ways, the first being the quick route, trust to luck and throw money at purchases, hoping the end product hit a home run, or the other way is to arrange to meet and audition and receive demonstrations of equipment on a shortlist.
Arranging and Meeting can add time to the period allowed for the acquisitions, but the experience gathered, relationships formed, and the assurance that monies were wisely spent, is a big part of the continued long term satisfaction of the system when at home.
Dealers Premises, HiFi Shows and Enthusiast Shows are a great place to start, and the foot work might create a meting where like minded individuals are met from within the home community and friendships are starting.   
That has been my route and the one that has been the most enjoyed.     
How are we supposed to encourage young people to join us
in this hobby if they can buy an decent system after their
kids got Ph.D? 
@chakster , that is an interesting take on walls. I never thought about it that way. But if studded walls are not dampened wouldn't they keep going and pass the bass back into the room? Certainly, no walls is the best solution. The resonance of the wall will create a peak in the bass which can be handled partially by room control.  

It is academic as none of us have a choice other than to use 2 X 6 studs.
As far as I know nobody uses real masonry walls in the interior of residential homes and only on the exterior of large commercial buildings. The interior of these is aluminum studs which are way worse than wooden studs.

I was playing Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger yesterday at 95 dB. This record has some serious bass. They were using feedback in the low 20 Hz range. I went outside to grab some parsley out of the garden and happened to look up at the picture window adjacent to the left channel speaker. The sun was reflecting off it as it was doing this amazing dance. 
I wish I did not put a window there and I am seriously considering removing it.  
Nandric, some of us have priorities that exceed Hi Fi in importance. Once my kids hit school age we decided to send them to private school and my stereo hobby stalled out for at least 15 years until they graduated from college. Phillips Andover cost as much as most colleges. It is just now that I have started to make the upgrades I have been dreaming about for years.
Check out Charney In New Jersey. Buy the upgraded Maestro along with one of their amps.
Next year buy a better phono pre amp with some upgraded cartridges along with a SQ program to fine tune the end results. 
By the way do not discount the cleaning of your vinyl. Some here swear by ultrasonic process. 
Dear @vette5451 : Looking your audio system your very first up-grade should be the preamps.

Stay away from tubes, people that are tube followers were all ( me included till I learned. ) deceived by the corrupted AHEE where all of us are members too.

This is the preamp to go:

Change your cartridge for :

and next year your speakers. All these system up-grades will improve severely your today quality level performance and when you buy the new speakers these up-graded system not only will shines but you have to up-grade nothing else but maybe to check the treatment room/system and maybe too a second subwoofer.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,

The young people which I have in mind (those that don't
already have kids) should ask chakster for advice and
not Raul. chakaster somehow menage to own decent
system(s) with modest means.