I am brand new to the site and I am in audio geek heaven, even though I really don't know much of anything. I used to be a entry-fi nut and ended up with a set of AMC 2445 amps/ AV81HT pre and some Snell Type J IIIs. Well I'm at a point now where I can spend some more dough and I'd like to up the ante so to speak. I'm looking at either monoblocking a pair of Rotel 1080's or getting a Bryston 4B ST. I've heard the Bryston and its amazing, I love it and I'd love to build my system around one. Would the 1080's even be close to the 4B ST if they were monoblocked? I've got about $3500-$4000 to spend on a new amp/pre and speakers. I'd like to spend $1500 on the amp, $800 on the pre, and a $1200 on the speakers, with a little left over for cabling. I really love the Bryston, but would love a complimentary pre, or some good suggestions. I'd also like some speakers that sound stage very well. I've been scouring the site, but I seem to get more and more confused. Any opinions would be greatly appreciated.
Have you considered active speakers? This is the most recent trend in high quality low distortion designs (since the early 90's active speakers have gained popularity over passive speakers for discerning applications such as mix and mastering).
Dedicated amplifiers for each speaker driver with electronic crossovers that have precise phase control etc. over the crossover region. IMD distortion is reduced dramatically since IMD distortion from each amp/driver is restricted and does not pollute the whole audio spectrum. Effective SPL ouput is also increased by about 3 db compared to equivalent passive systems. Audiophiles stress the merits of proper synergy between components and an active speaker is just that; precisely engineered synergy by a designer often rigorously tested in their labs.
Only drawback is that you may miss out on the fun of "creating" your own sound. So it depends on your main audiophile objective; is it mainly music or the fun of trying out different combinations of gear.
I've got a few minutes and will respond substantively to your questions.
Rotel is very respectable for the money, but has some mid-fi "grain" in the mids and highs. The Bryston sounds better in most systems and has great resale value due to its twenty-year transferrible warranty. It is not as powerful as its wattage rating suggests, however, as its power supplies are an obvious reflection of its price point. On the whole, however, the Bryston is better.
The Audio Research LS-3 preamp pairs very well with the 4B-ST. One of my dealers swore by the combo, and, after having owned it and moved on to much higher end equipment, I really can admire what that combo does at its price point. LS-3's tend to go for $550-$650 used.
If, however, I were getting into the game on your budget and wanted the very best sounding system I could assemble (soundstages really well, is highly resolving, is dynamic, and most importantly, is natural-sounding, i.e., sounds like live music), I would buy a pair of Meadlowlark Heron speakers (the "i" version) and a Sonic Frontiers Power 1 tube amp. The combo is supurb, and used prices on both are very low because both companies folded. That should not be offputting, however, because the Power 1 is really well built and won't break, and even if it did, PartsConnexion, which is owned by the principals of Sonic Frontiers, services all Sonic Frontiers gear. The Power 1 is constructed with the same types of parts as the $10k Power 3, but now goes for $1,000-$1,100 because people just don't know what these amps are. Meadowlark was a superb speaker builder and they are very serviceable in the event there would ever be a problem (in this regard, it really should be said that most warranties in high-end audio are nothing but a wish given the incredibly high failure rate of audio companies).
There are a number of options for preamp to mate with a Power 1, depending upon whether you need a remote, phono capability, etc.
Cabling is a complex question that would require additional information from you about your source components, listening room, etc.
There are an almost infinite number of possible combinations you could choose, but if you value naturalness and bang for the buck, the above suggestion is, I respectfully submit, a very good one.
I've owned the Bryston 4B ST and I will say it is a superb amp. Unbeatable warranty. Presently using an older dual-mono RB-960BX Rotel amp which is just fanastic especially for the price used. I'd personally plan to spend a little more for the spks. Bill
If I were to consider going with Rotel for amplification, I would opt for the older 970, 971, 980 or 991 amplifiers. The newer Rotels have lost that little bit of transient speed that separated them from the other British stuff. I don't know what they changed, but they clearly altered their amplifiers and are no longer the David vs Goliath overachievers. They don't sound bad by any means, they just lost the magic.
OK thanks for the responses. I appreciate it. Now that I've looked around the site a little, it looks like I can get a Classe CA-200 or an Ayre V3 for about the same price as the Bryston. Any opinions? How are these different than the Bryston? Any speaker recommendations? Thanks in advance for any advice/opinions.
I don't know how long you owned your Snell loudspeakers, but you made a very fine choice! Those spks., if they sound anything like the J-IV/E-III's, have a warm balance w/good bass. They probably use Vifa drivers. Not knowing your tastes, but some spks. sound analytical and others sound musical. The amp, pre-amp, room and a world of other factors influence the sound. Its really a very costly and complex process finding the right synergy. I'd first found the right spk. and build around that spk. However, the spk. you presently own is very good. A few tweeks might really improve your present/future system/s. I hope this helps somewhat. Bill.
The Ayre V3 is one of the better sounding solid state amps. IMHO, it will give you more natural sounding midrange and treble vs. the Bryston, and more details than the Classe. Relatively speaking, the Bryston is known mostly for its dynamic drive and bass; the Classe for its slightly warm, friendly balance and the Ayre for a bit of both with more refinement. Cheers, Spencer
I'd personally plan to spend a little more for the spks. Bill
I concur with Bill.
Mike, it seems you are bent on a splashing out on a big brawny amplifier...just remember that amplifier specifications are several orders of magnitude lower in distortion compared to even the very best speakers! Finding great quality speakers for your tastes and then eventually upgrading to a suitable amplifier would be my recommended path - not the other way round.
Perfect! Thanks guys! SO if I'm looking at spending $900-$1200 on a used pair of speakers that soundstage well and are good at resolving detail, am I going to find anything better than my Snell JIII's or would I just be spinning my wheels? I do like the silk tweeters, and I am nervous about going to some form of metal (too harsh?). By the way, I'm pretty sure that the J's have a mod on the crossover. The guy who owned them before me was quite the audiophile.
SO if I'm looking at spending $900-$1200 on a used pair of speakers that soundstage well and are good at resolving detail, am I going to find anything better than my Snell JIII's or would I just be spinning my wheels?
I'd like to spend $1500 on the amp, $800 on the pre
IMHO, budgeting close to double what you spend on the speaker for amplification is slightly unbalanced. Try spending about the same amount or more for the speakers. I think it will get you further. Speakers are where the rubber hits the road so to speak. Differences between speakers are usually more marked than between different types of SS electronics.
The drivers in most $1500 to $3000 retail speakers cost under $100 for each speaker and are mass produced by third parties for use in many designs. Above about $3000 retail the drivers tend to improve dramatically as the labour, cabinetry, shipping and other basic raw costs flatten out and more $ is available to use better drivers. Essentially a lot of the first $1500 in construction cost goes into cabinetry and elegant veneers/finishes, which are especially expensive/time consuming but have a large impact on the look of the speaker, the perceived quality and sales. A good cabinet is of course extremely important in speaker design as is the choice of crossover but as the saying goes "you can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear".
Ok, thanks for the info everyone, I appreciate it.
After looking around and expanding my price range a bit, I've decided that I am now even more confused than before. I'm looking for somewhere to start. How about the ProAc 2.5 or Ref 8 sig? What about Audio Physic Spark or Yara? Totem Mani's? Again I'm looking for resolution of detail and soundstaging. I will be playing CD's only. I also need a relatively small, narrow profile speaker to keep the wife happy. :) Thanks again!
Thanks for the response. But why would someone buy an ACTIVE speaker? Doesn't it limit your overall set of options when it comes to upgrades and finding the right sound? I think I have decided to go with the ProAc 150's. Thanks.