Ideas on how to improve setup please


Hi guys -- it's been awhile since I last checked in here as I've been using the same setup for a few years now and was wondering what suggestions I could get for improving the overall sound quality on my system. I think my best options may be to get the Blue Ortofon and KT88s - but wanted to see if there are any more thoughts on this or my wires and/or anything else. All components of my setup listed below:

Totem Staaf speakers
PrimaLuna ProLogue Classic Integrated (w/EL34s)
Bluesound Node 2
Pro-Ject Carbon Espirit  (with Red Ortofon)
Cambridge Audio Azur 651P Moving Magnet MM Moving Coil MC Phono Preamp
Affinity™ Premium 12AWG Hi-Fi Speaker Cable with Solid Brass Interchangeable Terminals
Premium 2 RCA Plug/2 RCA Plug M/M 22AWG Cable

Any questions/clarifications please let me know -- thanks very much for your time!

Matt
mrmittens
acoustics in room ? treatment

Plenty of room for massive improvements with better wire. All of it. Your speaker "cable" is basically fancy hookup wire. Ditto your "interconnects"- yikes! Are you still using freebie rubber power cords?! ANYTHING will be a massive improvement. Over all of it. All that "awg" stuff is a waste. Real quality wire is every bit as important and every bit as worthy of serious investment as any other component in your system.

The latest bargain value may be something like Black Cat, but that's just based on some reliable guys here never tried em myself. But like I said, anything will be massively better. Not baby steps. Like every bit as big as going from some dirt cheap amp to your Prima Luna.  

Another big one, especially high value for money, is to get all your components especially the speakers and integrated on springs. The best are Townshend Pods. https://www.audiogon.com/products/townshend-audio-seismic-isolation-pods  Expensive but worth every penny. Another option still very good, not nearly as good as Pods but crazy good for the money are Nobsound springs. https://www.amazon.com/Nobsound-Aluminum-Speakers-Isolation-Amplifiers/dp/B07K9ZYP84/ref=pd_sim_1?pd... 

I have both in my system, and have tried a lot of other stuff over the years. Townshend is easily the best, while Nobsound is not that level but way better than you would ever expect for the price, and beats a lot of much more expensive footers.

Once you get quality cables then it will be worth using something like Cable Elevators to get them up off the floor. Probably hard to hear the difference now but after doing the stuff above your system will be so much more clear and detailed and natural sounding you won't believe it, and then the difference the Cable Elevators make will be obvious. People are amazed when they hear the difference in my system. Read Deborah's comments on my System page https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/8367 

There's more great ideas on my system page- Synergistic Research PHT, ECT, HFT, all will make a huge improvement. Outlets, sand box for the turntable, acoustic panels for the room, check it out. Do all this stuff and you will not believe how good your system will sound!
Ok this is awesome — thank you so much for the response, I really struggled trying to figure out speaker cables/wires when I set this up and read a wirecutter article saying they weren’t worth investing too much in so thought I had it covered (this is the article: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/the-best-speaker-cable/amp/ ) ...Excuse my ignorance but could you give me an exact link for the speaker cable you would suggest for my setup? If Black Cat or some other brand have something on Amazon that would be great, otherwise any place will do. Thank you so much for the help here, I had a feeling my wires were not great — just no idea what to replace it with.

The pods sound awesome too — will definitely look to get something to support my speakers, thanks very much for the links there.

Really great stuff, may hold off on the blue ortofon and larger tubes until I get these other pieces you mention in place first.

Thanks!!

Matt
Matt,

I don't know what you budget is but here's a link to a few cable companies just to give you a sense of things. If you browse or do a topic search through the Cable Forum you'll find others

Here's the link to Black Cat since mc mentioned it as an option some folks like

https://blackcatcable.com/collections/all
You'll also see under the cable forum that a number of folks seem to like Audio Envyhttps://audioenvy.com/store/
Audio Art Cable
https://audioartcable.com/

Raven Audio

www.ravenaudio.com

No voodoo bs just great cables power, speaker, XLR and RCA that perform and do not promise fairies and pixie dust.

I have all their cables, Blackhawk Integrated and CeLest Towers.

Simply wonderful as is my Pathos system.
Your system is good but your speakers are holding you back. Better speakers would move your whole system to another level.
Yeah, unfortunately wires do matter. Good ones mentioned above, and I’ll add Cullen Cable that sells direct so offers good value and offers an in-home trial period. Is there anything you’ve identified that you’d like to improve upon over what you’re hearing now?

I’m a little surprised you don’t find your Totems a little underpowered unless you have a small room or listen at fairly low volume levels. But other than that, and if it’s me, I’d look to upgrade the phono pre and DAC (assuming you’re using the one in the Node) along with the cartridge. I think each one of those upgrades can make significant improvements to your overall system sound.

I tend to disagree that the speakers may be holding you back assuming they are adequately powered. But the Hawks obviously have their limits, so possibly one of the biggest improvements you can make to your system on an absolute basis would be to add a couple small subs — something like a pair of SVS SB1000s ($1000 new with long trial period) will not only fill in the bottom octaves but also expand your soundstage significantly while potentially decreasing the load on your amp. 

Anyway, if I had your system those are the things I’d be thinking about. Hope this helps, and best of luck.
"...But the Hawks obviously have their limits..."  

He says he has Staafs not Hawks. 
Once you get fairly decent components then its generally better to get the most out of them before upgrading to more expensive components. Right now its almost like you have no wire at all, so that's first on the list. But then before say a new cartridge you should improve what you have with Synergistic PHT, fO.q tape, springs, and a solid shelf or sand box. These will cost about the same or probably much less than a cartridge, but be at least as big an improvement. Unlike the cart that wears out the PHT, Pods, etc are used pretty much forever. 

My standard for years has been Synergistic and I still think they are a safe bet and solid value. But enough guys here who seem reliable have compared directly and prefer Black Cat- even though they are a lot less money, which is a huge plus.

You can't judge quality by price but the gear you have puts you in the $3-500 and up range for speaker cable, power cords, interconnect. Each. Won't believe the difference. Night and day.
Ok this is great stuff, thanks everyone for your input...

I will tackle better speaker cables first:

-I have emailed Cullen about cables
-Raven Audio is looking the most straight forward, 2 meter pair for 184.00
-AudioEnvy has two options SP6 and SP9 (which one?) and can choose banana or spades and length, seems pretty good option
-Black Cat looks the most expensive - the 3232 1.5mpr for 649.00 - is that for a pair and what mpr should I be ordering?
-just way too many options on audio art cable to figure out which ones to get

Leaning towards Raven Audio or AudioEnvy as such if anyone can help clarify the above questions...

Thanks!

Then guess its RCA cables (guess will order from whichever company I get the speaker cables from) a new amp power cord (I cant believe a power cord actually makes a difference!) - then onto improving the DAC and phono preamp (what is the DAC and phono suggestion?)...and then some of the other stuff mentioned...this is very exciting, looking forward to improving things!
Hard to know without hearing side by side of course but when the price differential is that great you will in general find the more expensive one is indeed quite a bit better. There's an awful lot of nonsense out there about wire, the worst being the stuff that tries to give the impression "its just wire" when in fact it is every bit as much a component as any other. And yes that includes the power cord too! 

Rather than cross your fingers and buy, and instead of asking here which amounts to crossing your fingers hoping the right guy replies, I would go search for already existing comments. That's what I always do. Started off many years ago never buying anything I hadn't compared at home. But that was long ago. Now every single thing in my system was bought purely off on-line research. https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/8367 Yes every single one of these.  

A good example is Black Cat. New enough I never heard of until this week. Soon as someone halfway credible said something good I went and did a search. In no time flat this turned up threads with solid comments and eventually finding ones directly useful as they compared head to head with stuff I was familiar with.  

This is the way you go about it. If you want to do well, and not just spend money. Everyone here happy to help you spend money. I seem to be the only one saying whoa, slow down hoss, think man think.

The good news is its hard to go wrong. You can do this stuff in just about any order. Its just usually better in the long run to tackle the worst stuff first. In your case wire. All the wire.  

But then where almost everyone messes up is they ignore the advice of guys like me and mahgister and instead of tweaking the most out of what they have immediately start running the upgrade hamster wheel.  

If you think power cords are hard to believe, try a couple of these. https://www.amazon.com/Generator-Schumann-Ultra-low-Frequency-Resonator/dp/B07WWD17FV/ref=sr_1_15?dc...   One worked, two were better, and I kept adding more and now up to 7. Mahgister uses 9. The two most notoriously cheap audiophiles on the site aren't recommending stuff like this just to be spending money. We use it because it works. Another one I learned about not by asking questions but by reading, following up on comments, and doing my own research.
Black Cat Coppertone Flatwave is a fine IC.  Competitive with those other brands.  The problem is choosing.
Ok cool about to pull trigger on the first upgrade based on the input here:

Raven Audio Soniquil -- speaker, RCA and power cables

Will be back for more after this has been recd and setup...

Thanks very much guys!
One easy quick way to improve your sound is a quad of Genalex Gold Lion KT77 repro's the best current EL34 variant by a mile.
Thanks @russ69 — Staafs are not Hawks.  Duh, not sure how I managed to mess that up.  And yeah, that does knock speakers up a peg on needing replacement but if you add the subs it’s obviously a bit less of an issue.  Anyway, there’s plenty of stuff for OP to chew on already.  Happy New Year A’gonners!
Hopefully new cables come next week and can report back on change and then take it from there...

kt77 over kt88?
Def seems I have some work to do around vibration control next...
To me yes KT77 over KT88.
I've been skeptical of the difference power cords can make, but after trying the Soniquil cable that came with my Raven Blackhawk on my prior Rogue amp, darn if I didn't hear an improvement. Looking forward to your thoughts on their other cables.