Help a Newbie. Considering Usher Be 718's

I'm a newbie who finds it hard to justify spending a ton of money on hifi audio, so i'm trying to follow the adage, put most of your money into your speakers.

I started from near zilch (a Harman Kardon AVR 230 from 2004) and now have:

Panasonic 46PZ85 Viera
Harman Kardon AVR 230
Speaker cables, audio interconnects of decent quality (spent $70 for speaker cables and $35 for the interconnects)

and one pair of Ascend Sierra 1's ($760, got free shipping) just received last Tuesday (still within the 30 day trial period. I went to a local audio dealer who has offered me 30% off a pair of Usher Be 718 tiny dancers, so about 2K + state tax). These were my favorites that i auditioned.

There is a caveat. They are dealer demos and thus he can only really "reserve" them for me for about 10 days.

If i buy the Ushers, the MOST amount of money i will spend is about $400-$750 for an amp to hook up to my HK AVR 230 (about 60 watts per channel).

A few things about me:

1. Looking for 2 channel only, cannot afford to buy 5 speakers
2. Love audio quality
3. Live in an apartment, cannot play speakers too loud, nor use a subwoofer.
4. Own exactly 1 DVD, about 100 CD's, mostly alternative rock, some jazz, acoustic rock.
5. will likely purchase a DVD player (looking into a Denon 2910 about $200 used), a blu ray player (probably the Panny BD35 or possibly the upcoming Oppo), may look into buying a CD player (possibly Cambridge Audio around $200 used), all used (except blu ray) and will not spend more than $500 on any of the three.
6. Need to decide before the 30 day trial period ends (about 2-3 weeks from now) and would like to make a purchas eby then, if i don't keep the Sierras.

I've always heard the adage, put most of your money into your speakers, so that's what i'm trying to do, put all my money into my speakers while being very budget consious elsewhere.

Is it worth it to buy the Ushers considering the equipment i will have? To me the Sierras are great, but the Ushers are like WOW! However, they were playing on $15,000 worth of equipment.

In other words, will the Ushers be a justifiable upgrade/ sound like a great improvement over the Sierras given my low end equipment?

Also can someone reccomend a good amp for $400-$750 used here on Audiogon?

Finally, do my choices sound good? what would you do differently if you were me?

Am also considering Salk Songtowers (about same price as the Ushers), maybe Totem, but few are on sale on Audiogon.
I think if you like the Ushers they would be the right choice. I only heard them breifly at AKfest and did not like them. It could be much different in my own room though. I tend to agree with the idea of putting the most money you can into speakers. In my opinion, they make the most difference in a system. So, get the best you can afford now, and save up to get the rest of the system at a later date.

Regarding amplifiers in the under $750 range, I think the audio refinement complete should be at the top of the list. It's a little order now, but I've hard 6 of them, and have loved every minute with them
The Ushers are great speakers, IMHO. I have a set in my 2nd system and they really sing on the end of a Musical Fidelity A300 amp (150W/ch). I previously tried them on the end of a 50 watt tube amp (Cayin) and it just didn't work so well, bass became ponderous and muddy. So I think they need a good amount of power to sound at their best.
Very imformative starting thread. I like that when people posting up questions or gathering for inputs.

Indiesound, I'm sorry but I'd go the other way. I would invest a little more to Front End Electronics first before the speakers. To me, it's just like putting a nice set of high performance Z rated tires (150mph) in a Corrola. The Usher 718 took your heart away but THAT WAS AT THE STORE. I'm afraid you will not get that breath taking feeling AT HOME.

Sell your 5.1 avr-230 and get a good used HIGHER power wattage like Denon, Pioneer Elite, Onkyo, Sony, or HarmanKardon. They are 2ch receiver and will fall in your price range. I personally would look into for any entry level integrated amps.
But, in the end, so like me many years ago, you'd would aim straight to upgrading speakers for immedate changing in sounds. Right?

Note 1: In theory, it'll work just fine but I highly NOT recommend to hook-up your NEW AMP to your receiver and use the receiver as a pre-amp.

Note2: with your current front end electronics, I would probably looking for something that can cover the whole sound spectrum; a full FloorStander, perharps.

This is Just For Fun. To buy a good LowFi amps, we look for a Higher Wattage and lower distortion (THD). But for a good HiFi amp, we'd look for a more respected, well known name brand (the most talk about here at A'Gon), and a sky rocking higher price one. Hahaha, it's true.
Good luck and don't forget posting your updates.
I had the Tiny Dancers and the one thing they demand to sound good is plenty of current drive. To get that in tubes you will have to spend at least 3k. I tried them with an Onix sp3 and found that the the Ushers just sucked the bottom out of the amp. I got a good price on a set of Monarchy SM 70 Pros and they proved to be the ticket in the under 1k price range. They had plenty of current drive and controlled the bass drivers with an iron fist.
Nasaman or anyone else, can you expand upon why i shouldn't use my HK AVR 230 as a pre-amp?

Will the results be poor? How about the NAD C272 amp? It delivers 150w for 2 channels.

I read somewhere that the Tiny dancers will do better on solid state over tubes.

I realize that the Ushers need a lot of power. I can purchase a $500 amp (used or on clearance)

But will the sound be poor with my setup, or in other words, not much of an improvement over my Sierras?

I guess i could sell my HK reciever and spend up to about $500 used on a pre/pro or receiver.

But i'm not really willing to spend 2K or 3K on my electronics, as that would be more than the cost of the speakers itself.

Is the improvement really remarkable by spending a lot of money on high end seperates and by using tubes?

Any budget tube recommendations with enough power for the Ushers for under $750?

Thanks again.
The Pansonic Blu-ray player you cite will be just fine for a source. No need to spend any more at this point. You can add an external DAC down the road if you wish.

IMO, you are on the right track with spending more on speakers. I've not heard the Usher's, but they have a very good reputation. You might also consider these:

I think that most folks believe that an AV receiver will not make a very good music system preamp. If you don't need remote volume control, consider a passive volume control from NHT: and an amp from ATI like this one:

Another option is active speakers -- get the amps built into the speakers. This can be very cost effective. Consider the Focal Solo6 Be. There are plenty of active speakers from which to choose:
Yea buy them... You can get a good used Musical Fidelity integrated amp here on audiogon with $750(a major step up from the Harmon and Kardon).
Hi. Just in case you decide to spend a bit more on an amplifier, I could recommend the class D Wyred4Sound models. These are based on Bang & Olufsen ICEpower modules (Bel Canto amps use the same modules, but are much more expensive).

I've written an Audiogon review of the Usher Be718s when partnered to a Jadis low-powered integrated tube amp - not ideal. Since then I've purchased the speakers and teamed them to the Wyred4Sound ST1000 + an old ARC pre-amp (SP9MkIII). This combination sounds great. There are reviews of the Wyred4Sound products on the net, and they're uniformly positive. If you buy one, you may never need to "upgrade" - I'm not intending to.

The Ushers really do have an incredibly detailed and sweet top end. Obviously you've read the professional reviews, and it's hard to disagree with the praise.

I've experimented with stand height - at least in my room they need to be between 22" and 24" above the floor - lower than that and the bass became muddy. As with all speakers, they do need decent heavy stands - but if money's tight, then cinder blocks with blu-tak are effective (that's how I altered heights) - not pretty though.

If the above is too expensive, then I'd second the recommendation for a used Musical Fidelity amp.

Good luck with the project.

I started with an NAD based system and enjoyed it thoroughly. I think you are on the right track and driving the Ushers with an NAD through your HK will be fine and a big improvment from where you are now. Take time to enjoy that system and should you find aspects of the sound that you want to improve upon you can look at pre's at some point down the road. Take this in stages, enjoy each one and most importantly enjoy the music.Research a short list of amps you are considering and get the best quality you can afford. A search of any NAD model should yield plenty of results. Good luck.
Can you bring the Ushers home and try them out? That way, you won't need to guess what they sound like in your home before buying them. Most quality dealers will let you do this.
Goatwuss is right. See if you can bring them home so you can compare them to the Sierras and see how they sound in your room. If the Ushers sound better with your current equipment, then they can only get better as you upgrade your other components. I think it would be fine to use your HK as a preamp paired with a good power amp for now. It isn't ideal, but it is much cheaper than getting a new preamp and DAC.
Can someone explain amps to me?

There are pre-amps, pre/pro's which i think are basically like receivers without an amp? and amplifiers.

There's also integrated, solid state and tube amps. And there are tremendous price differences.

Which upgrades will offer the best bang for the buck in terms of audio quality? And which will be best matched with the Usher?

Maybe someone can explain in similar comparisons as going from a cassette tape to a CD, VHS to DVD, standard def to HD, HD cable to Blu ray, etc or Honda Accords vs BMW vs. Ferrari sound?

BTW, how much of an audio improvement is there with TrueHD with Bluray. Can i even take advantage of this with only two channel, and if so, how with a non-HDMI receiver?

If my current Sierra-1's w/HK receiver are like Honda Accord sound, will using my HK receiver with a NAD amp, with this be like Nissan Maxima, or Acura TL sound? And i'm guessing that with the dealer's equipment, i'd be getting BMW M3 sound?

Sorry for the crazy analogies, but i am complete newbie to amps, preamps, etc!! Thanks for the help!!
BTW what is a monoblock? Are they better to use? And i'm guessing i should buy a 2channel or stereo amp?

It sounds like Musical fidelity is the most musical, high quality audiophile amp for the money and i can get one used for around $750. But which one????

I looked on audiogon and i'm just confused.

What is Int-Tran as a subcategory? There are also listings for seemingly similar products for $800 and then for $2400.

I'm guessing i'll just need to google them for reviews??

Finally, how will i be limited by my HK receiver? Will this really limit the "potential" sound? Can one recommend a huge upgrade in sound for $600 used?

And is it better to buy an older pre/pro without stuff like HDMI with better sound, than a newer model with the ability to do TrueHD, room correction, video upconversion, etc?

My priority is audio quality, although i'd like to hear the true studio soundtracks when i watch blu rays.

Again thanks for your help.
Finally, ok the musical fidelity a3.5 seems to fit the bill.

Where else will there be the "weak link" in the system?

I will need to replace the HK receiver, anything from $500-$800 that is very musical and bring out the potential of the system? And how much improvement will this bring? I have no idea what to get.

Someone mentioned that the Panasonic BD-35 will be fine as a CD player. So what kind of improvement will there be in investing in say a musical fidelity cd player or a $199 Cambridge Audio CD Player or NAD CD player? And what improvement would an NAD be over the Panny?

And finally i hope that my cables aren't weak link. Mine are from Best deal cables and they seem pretty decent. The speaker pair retails for $160, got them for $64 for the pair. I'm not so concerned that i can get such a big improvement as much as i don't want to destroy the capabilities of a toptier system.

Thanks again!!!
The best way to realize an improvement vs. what you have now is to identify what you don't have in your current system. Start with 5-6 songs that you know well and switch it up with a mix of styles and male/female vocals within that 5-6. Listen to he Ushers, ya likes em ya buys em, then take a breath and let them settle in with your current system. Get used to haow those 5-6 (your mix) tracks sound at home then travel around and A/B with systems in various shops and see if you like things about those systems vs. yours. You will find numerous presentations of "your mix" that will allow you to establish a reference for how YOU like to hear your mix. In time you will find certain brands and types of gear are more appealing to you than others, you own mental M3 will begin taking shape, at that point you should start aquiring 1 piece at a time as you move toward a system that presents "your mix" in a way that is most appealing to you. Thats it at that point mission accomplished. Throwing a collection of gear together based on nameplates and price points DOES NOT assure you of any staisfaction, in fact you can go backwards!! Define a mix of you own a test disc, get used to it and use it to demo the crap out of all kinds of gear. The same gear will sound different in different rooms so be aware of that as well but gear that I like has more ofetn than not appealed to me regardless of where I auditioned it, the gears DNA shown through in most cases. FYI the initial buget system I had, I loved, traded it for a significantly more expensive collection of gear and hated it. I took my disk out until I found gear that gave me what I was missing in my home system and started rebuliding yet again. Today I have a system that I enjoy a great deal and that same disc I began with has helped get me to this point. I still go out on rare occasionsand listen to a different system or two at the local shops, there is gear that I think is great and I hear different presentations of my music but nothing yet has bettered it for me and I am very happy with what I have. Thats the goal get to a point where you can maximize the enjoymant of the music YOU enjoy, regardless of who makes it or what it costs. I hope that helps you, best of luck.
Take your sierras to the shop and play on the same equipment. With your current setup the differences at low volume will not be as noticable as you might think. What you are proposing is like a $500.00 car with $3K rims.
The NAD 272 used with your HK receiver would be a good (and affordable) way to go, but why not just ditch the HK and go the integrated route if you're sticking with 2 channel? The preamp in the HK would likely end up being your weakest link. The NAD C372 (150W) is a great buy, and I'm using one happily in a system with speakers that also need decent current and sit at about the same price point in proportion (Vandersteen 2CE Sig IIs). I loved the speakers and made a similar choice to invest in them and use a high-value amp for at least the time being. And I'm happy enough with the NAD that I'm in no hurry to change a thing. I've owned three other cheaper NAD amps over time and have always been happy with their quality, and the C372 is a leap above the lower models in sound.

This is an aside, but while you're deciding on a DVD/Blu-Ray player, pick up an old Sony Playstation 1 (the SCPH-1001 model) for all those CDs in your collection. It's not the most attractive solution, but it does sound great. I bought one as a place-holder, and it's fantastic. You can read a review on 6moons and a lot of comments in threads here. Plus, at $40 or less on e-bay, you'd be able to put more $$$ right now into music and the other gear.
Buy the Usher's. The fact that the Usher's are demos makes it just that much better because they're probably already broken in. At 30% off they're a steal. I own and love them. Everytime I change something, the Usher's respond like a champ. The better your system gets over time, the better the Usher's will sound.