I got my stereo back after almost 20 years!

As the subject says; I got my stereo back after almost 20 years.

The short story is that my mother in law came to visit and didn't leave until last October.  As she aged she started taking over the house.  My reading chair became hers and the family room was where she watched TV.  I've been listening to music on my computer, (with small stacked Bostons and a pawn shop sub) for almost 20 years.  It finally dawned on me that I could buy another stereo.  So for the past 5 months I've been cobbling together a system.

I bought a pair of Quad 2805s as I love the planer/esl sound and listen mainly to jazz.  They arrived with only one speaker working so I had them completely rebuilt and upgraded by Kent at Electrostatic Solutions.  My system currently is:

Quad 2805 speakers
Prima Luna Dialogue HP
Cambridge Audio CD transport
DacMagic 100

I ripped all my CDs to a Macbook using DBpoweramp and stream with Spotify.

So here's the dilemma;

I really can't hear much of a difference between Spotify, my ripped music on my Macbook or the transport.

I realize that the weakest links are the front end.

Here are my questions I need help with:

1. Should I buy a new DAC?  Something like the Schiit Gungiar (sp?) or PS Audio NU Wave?  Or would I be better off getting a network player that can also stream?  I do like running things off the Mac.

2.  I'm 64 and my hearing is obviously not what it once was.  If I upgraded would I hear any difference?  The downside of being 64 is not hearing as well but it may also be an upside as I could save considerable dollars!

3. I'm also 250-275 miles away from the nearest dealers and that presents a problem auditioning gear.  Also most dealers don't carry Quads. 

4.  And finally I am comfortable spending around $2000 plus or minus. 

Any suggestions?  I live in the SE corner of Washington State and would gladly pm my telephone number if you'd like to call and walk me through some ideas.

Thanks in advance,

Just curious, what type of file did you rip your CDs to?

I used aiff. 

And now you got me worried I made the wrong choice!

No, AIFF is fully uncompressed with zero loss, you made the correct choice. You're in a good position, DAC technology changes fast, which means they depreciate faster than speakers, amps, and analog gear.  If you have a budget in the neighborhood of $2k, you can get a lot for it.

i cannot speak for all the myriad DACs out there, but I can speak with confidence about my setup, which is excellent.

PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC mk II
($4,000 new, $1350-$1450 used)

Mac mini, external hard disk, $90, basic but high quality Transparent USB cable.

CDs ripped in AIFF, some high res music files in various better than CD resolutions, subscription to Tidal HiFi with full CD quality streaming, music control software by Roon.

this seems to all be within your budget.  This setup sounds absolutely outstanding. I'm sure there are several ways to get better sound, but this keeps fairly close pace with my analog rig worth $7k!

I very highly recommend Roon software.  Simply amazing.  I also recommend dropping Spotify in favor of Tidal Hifi; you can't beat uncompressed!

hope this is useful info, enjoy!
Congratulations on getting your house back, and on surviving twenty years of living with your mother-in-law. Damn!
"I really can't hear much of a difference between Spotify, my ripped music on my Macbook or the transport."

jzzmusician -Your unselfishness and charity towards your MinL is to be commended.  Glad you are getting back to listening as you want.  Is your above statement a bad thing?  Maybe not.  I certainly can't tell you with any certainty spending on a new DAC or upgrading your front end is going to make a huge difference to your listening enjoyment.  Seems like you already have some good gear. Maybe consider upgrading your cabling? (interconnects, speaker cables, & power cords)  I've been very happy with Pangea PCs, Morrow Audio ICs (MA-4) and Morrow Audio SP-4 speaker cables.  Clear Day double shotgun speaker wire was also VERY good but I give a slight edge in clarity to the Morrow SP-4.  I used to think "wire is wire" but when someone loaned me some different speaker cables to compare to the JPS Labs wire I had been using (and having replaced old Monster cable with the JPS Labs wire before that), there was no denying the difference better wire made.  

FWIW, we are a similar age and my system is listed.  I have a Schiit Gungnir w/V-Link 192 for Macbook Air/USB playback of CDs ripped to external HD using ALAC into iTunes.  I went back and forth when first starting out comparing ALAC vs WAV.  I couldn't hear a difference so went with ALAC  given the convenient metadata management it allows.  Playback is via BitPerfect.  I use the Gungnir for listening to Spotify Premium as well.  While I can hear differences between CD playback and Spotify, I would not call them huge.  I'd also note the quality of recordings on Spotify are not all the same - some Spotify recordings sound way better than others. Maybe just a reflection of the quality of the original material???  Of 3 playback options, however (direct CD playback, ripped CD, Spotify) my preference is my ripped files.    I do tend to buy CDs of music I really like that was discovered on Spotify.  

Schiit allows an in home trial period for the Gungnir.  There are other on-line sellers that allow in home trials as well:  Audio Advisor and Music Direct, for example.  Regarding wire, check out The Cable Company.  They have a cable lending library.  Morrow has a good in-home trial program.  You can also save a ton buying used there.  Paul Laudati at Clear Day is a gem and great to do business with.  

I doubt anyone can predict what YOUR ears will hear but unless you've already done it, my suggestion is consider spending your upgrade $ on better wire.  Have fun, enjoy the music and let us know what you like to listen to. 

You mention that you've been working on your current setup for 5 months.  How long has it been stable (complete) and you have you been sitting and listening to it?  In addition to possible break-in issues (especially with rebuilt speakers), after so many years away from a high-resolution system, it may take some time for your ears to become readjusted.  It's possible that as you become attuned to the new system's sound, you will begin to notice differences you didn't before.  I'd let things settle in before I spent significant money.  Dick
I have the Schiit Bifrost and am loving it. I think think price wise it is a better move than the PS (which I have heard great things about). As mentioned before, they have a return policy. The nice thing about the Bifrost is that it is upgradable (according to Schiit).
My hearing, too, is compromised by age, so I am not going to split hairs when it comes to sound- I'll leave it to the yung'uns and those with lots of discretionary income.
Have you heard something better that makes you think the three all sounding the same is a problem?

based on my experiences with various digital sources in recent years multiple good quality digital sources going through the same DAC and system may very well all sound similar. That’s not a bad thing in off itself. Only if that sound you are getting is deficient to you in some way.

Its not uncommon I have found for an inferior digital source like a low res internet station or stream to sound worse than other sources that are CD quality or even reasonably close for some lesser recordings.
Another consideration would be the Sony HAP1ZES. I own one and have paired with the PrimaLuna HP.  Very happy with the sound and the convenience of the Sony. Good luck
Congrats on getting back into it...*G*

As for "when I'm 64...", welcome to the club.  As for your hearing not being as it was when you were younger, that comes with age and abuse of whatever you've been about before and in the interm.  Mine isn't either, but I can still hear what I like and don't.  You're obviously able to discern that as well, so just go with it.

And I'll leave you to the tender and tended mercies of those 'deeper into it' than yours truly.  My tastes tend to the unusual..

Good luck and enjoy. *S*
Thank you all for your kind and at times, humorous comments.

A lot of very good points and observations and I’m really liking the different perspective you all have.

Ghosthouse: very good point on the difference in recording quality. When I first hooked up Spotify I wandered around for awhile and then listened to a live recording of David Crosby singing "Somebody Home." It was beyond good. The first 30 second were so real it was unnerving. Other recordings make my rig seem like a big AM radio.

djohnson54 - You’re absolutely right. I need to give my system some time. I just took delivery of the Primaluna four weeks ago and it is still breaking in, as are the speaker cables. Nordost purple. (couldn’t bring myself to spend the really big bucks)

Mapman - another excellent observation. If I read your comment correctly you inferred that different digital sources will more or less sound the same through the same dac. Your comment resonated with me and I think I will try the Gungnir and see if it makes a significant difference. The DacMagic 100 I have was purchased just to get the system running and I was not intending it to be a long term purchase. However.....if it turns out that there is little difference I’d save some bucks. My 64 year old ears may not be able to discern an improvement.

To all of you...

I’m a jazz musician first, funk, blues and rock and roll further down the line. I also played for several years in our local symphony. I am not a pro, rather an amateur hack that has been lucky enough to share the stage with some really good players.

I’m the grade school kid that wanted records for my birthday and Christmas. I’m also the kid that listened to music nonstop and would sneak my dad’s jazz records into my room.

I’m also the guy that now after almost 20 years of no real music in my house has it back and if I didn’t do another thing with my current rig I’d still be happy. It is so, so very wonderful to begin and end my day with music. So wonderful I don’t have the words to describe how I feel.

I guess that as long as I’m here and feeling like typing let me share with you why I purchased the Quad 2805 speakers.

The last Quads I heard were about 23 years ago or so at Definitive Audio in Seattle.

At the time I had Martin Logan Monolith 3s with the active crossover. They were bi-amped with Manley 350’s on top and a pair of Krell KMA 160s on the bottom. A CAT preamp, Linn turntable, 3000 records and some power conditioning. I forget the cartridge or arm and don’t remember the cables.

It was a large system, played loud and soft and threw a huge soundstage. It was pretty damn fine and I spent a lot of hours in our basement listening. Oh yeah, I even had some dedicated power outlets.

I stopped in at Definitive one day had they had some Quad 63 US monitors with Goldmund electronics playing. Mark invited me for a listen. Some sort of jazz was playing and I was sucked in. In a lot of ways, that system didn’t do anything as well as mine but the music was better. Let me repeat; the music was better.  But why? It was much smaller, had 1/4 the power and cost less. I sat there, alone for about an hour getting lost in the music, went home and listened some more. At the end of the day I found that the Quads gave me a much better musical experience than my rig did.

They still do.

When I began building my current system I only had one thought and one goal; "I just wanna listen to music."

Thank you all again, I’ll keep you posted. Going to mess around a bit this weekend with speaker placement.

-- Bob
I also have the PS Audio PWDII, and really like it.  Better than their fancy new award-winning Directstream DAC actually.  I think it's a good bargain.  Haven't compared it to any other high-quality non-PS Audio DACs though, so take my suggestion with a grain of salt.

jzz, I can entirely relate to you. I have been without a real stereo for almost 20 years, too.-Mostly related to starting my own business as opposed to a MIL.
I, too, remembered my experience hearing Vandersteen's in my youth.
Fast forward to 2016, Vandy's are not only still available, but are still highly regarded.  I guess my ears weren't fooling me. In any case, you can guess what speakers are in my system today.
I hope you enjoy listening to music as much as I do. Again.
Bob:   You should get a hold of me in Lewiston, Id.......If your in south east ,Washington ......Hi-Fi is my hobby, and I'm constantly working on and building  tube electronics ....Will
Hi Jzzmusician
I am sorry to hear about your misfortune,I dislike my mother in law too.
I was wondering after 20 years long visit,I understand she came in walking but did she exit walking or horizontally in a coffin. I am sorry for my black humor in advance.

I wasn't that I disliked her.  She is a terrific person and it was wonderful for my kids to have their grandmother at the house for so many years.  The difficulty was that I was essentially living with my mother in law's daughter and not my wife.  Knowhatimean, Vern?  I gave up a lot of my space and it's sort of nice to have it back.

She moved to a retirement home nearby, complete with visits from us.  And, get this; she's got a new boyfriend!

My mother in law has Krell amps and Wilson speakers!  You should have seen the look on my face when I visited her house for the first time.  I knew we would get along well (and we do)!
jzzmusician, you must be a really nice guy. I think your kids probably had a better childhood because of her-nothing like the continuity of generations in a household. In any case, now you can stream music through the internet and listen to anything you want with the click of the keyboard. This was something I didn't even consider when I got back into hifi, but, boy am I loving it.
These stories were a great read. I've been without my beloved system for 10 years. 10 years, what was I thinking. I recently began to build another system merging analog and digital. I'm so happy again and I think it's doing wonders for my blood pressure !