For me, the analog part of your system could be significantly upgraded with a $2000 budget. Any number of turntables and phonostages out there could do you significantly better than the Technics/Black Cube combo, especially if you listen to alot of acoustic music, and value such things as soundstage and imaging. If not, then you will get many other fine suggestions I am sure.
Id up-grade my Audience Adept aR6 to the T version.
Hard to say.
Tell us more about the room the gear is in and how that might be affecting the sound and your listening habits?
I think I'd explore other cartridges first. Not that the Stanton is bad -- I don't know anything about it -- it just takes some trial and error to find a cartridge that's "just right". One rately gets it on the first try.
If I had $5k, I'd upgrade the table, arm and cart. You might be able to make a significant upgrade to the table and arm for $2-3k if you can find some good deals.
no knock on totem, which i've owned and admired, but your forests are relatively small and limited at the low end--i'd think they only go to 40hz or so--and probably don't throw as big a soundstage as others. i'd look at replacing them with something beefier--there's innumerable threads recommending speakers in the <$5k range.
Agree with most others - the sources are your weak link. Both your TT and digital could use some attention. Depends on which you focus on/use most. Others have assumed the TT. The Denon/MF combo is entry level at best as well.
Thanks for the (mostly) helpful replies. For Mapman I'm in a 15' x 13' alcove. Speakers along the long wall 3' from the wall behind them. Open side to the right. Left wall has pocket door kept open. Left speaker is ~3' from side wall. I listen about 7-8' away and speakers are about that distance apart (a little less). Listening area is well damped with DIY treatments. I don't think I'm suffering too much from room limitations. But ignorance is bliss I guess. Upcoming remodel of the already finished basement will likely get me out into a larger space.
I've been thinking about upgrading the Lehman (it must be getting on 15-20 yrs old). Improvements to the Technics might be possible. I believe (not 100% sure) it can be fitted for a better arm. Kevin at KAB is really helpful and I wouldn't hesitate to send it to him for that kind of a mod if it were possible but aligning a new conventional cart makes me a little nervous. No such problem with an integrated.
I do recognize the Forests have their limitations (though I'm pretty sure they'll get down into the 30Hz range). On the other hand for much of what I listen to (and given my current level of aural education) I really like them. A speaker change seems the riskiest path to me in terms of potential buyer's remorse.
Thanks again for the input. Anyone with any first hand experience going from Black Cube to something else, please advise. My previous questions on this topic pointed to Heed Quasar. Still a good idea?
Maybe add a powered sub to fill in the low end and flush out much of what you seek further.
How is your digital compared to vinyl.?
The Totem Forests are quite good speakers, but they'll be more satisfying IMHO if you add a decent subwoofer. A quality subwoofer is well within your budget. You might also consider that your amplification may be on the low-powered side for loudspeakers rated at 87dB and that this is another good reason to go for bass help with a subwoofer. With a well-chosen and carefully placed subwoofer, you'll also likely experience improvements across the board, including soundstage and imaging. Good luck and let us know how it turns out.
Thanks once again. MP- until recently, analog definitely lagged behind digital. Just installed a new KAB mod'd cart (Stanton integrated w/nuded D22E stylus). Really surprised by the improvement over the previous Stanton w/nuded stereohedron stylus. Much more lively. Now think I'm hearing why so many prefer vinyl and am listening to a lot more vinyl -and not 180g audiophile stuff either. Old stuff I've had for years sounds better than ever. Re comments about sources. Well yes, closer to entry than not but if you haven't heard the actual pieces don't under-estimate them simply because of "brand". I think all represent high value to price. But improvement is why I've asked. If there are specific hi value pieces that would take things to the next level source-wise, do please advise. Suggestions re subwoofer(s?) duly noted. Thanks to all.
Other than maybe a sub, assuming you have source material to justify for both, to make the best progress, always focus on getting the lesser source to match or exceed the other in general.
Sounds like digital is the lesser currently.
One can get both to sound very close but likely never exactly the same. That's OK. When you find yourself enjoying and always looking forward to listening to the next favorite on either without concern for the sound of the format, you are done.
You may well not have to drop the entire $2000 for the first enhancement/tweak. A lot can be achieved with digital sources or subs for under $1000 Keep the funds around as best as possible so you have them if/when the next tweak is needed. Take smaller well researched but inexpensive steps rather than drop the budget in one shot and take a chance on an expensive new device that may or may not help and will depreciate considerably as soon as you buy it.
Also be sure to always work to keep the setup in th e room optimized for best performance there (sounds like you do that already) before taking the next step.
With what you have, I would get a Dodd phono preamp. I think that would be the biggest change in sound that you could get for the money.
Good advice MP (don't plunk all of it down on one spin of the wheel). Got a bee in my bonnet for trying a new phono stage. Used is OK but leaning towards the Heed Quasar. Subs (which have the benefit of letting me keep the Forests - so less at risk there) might wait until I get into the new listening area. BTW - are you by any chance a cartographer?
"BTW - are you by any chance a cartographer? "
I've studied and taught some digital cartography classes back in grad school and also have a lot of experience with Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing.
I work as a software/systems engineer these days.
Rsimms/Bob - thanks for your specific recommendation. It is appreciated. Will check into the Dodd. Would you recommend Dodd over Heed?
Sorry, I havent heard the Heed. I have compared it to the Minimax and the Ear. It was much superior. Just for fun I tried it today with my Dennon low output moving coil and was surprised that it worked. I guess the battery power helps keep the noise level down. The sound reminded me of the best that I heard at the RMAF.
I'd switch out the V-DAC, personally. Regardless of my personal preference opinions, it's very good for the money. But IMO it can't compete with $1k DACs. There are a ton of DACs at that range, and the best is all about what flavor you like.
I've heard the V-DAC in my system, and it's flat out not in the same class as the $1k DACs I auditioned in my system. I bought and love the Rega DAC.
Not a shot at the V-DAC at all. It's quite good for the money. People tend to get worked up when I give that opinion. No idea why.
Kbark- Not offended. Thanks for the input. Right now, I really only use the V-dac&link for streaming Pandora generally as background music while doing something else (e.g. cleaning vinyl). If I ever get serious about computer audio or decide to upgrade CD playback -maybe that is when to invest in a much better DAC. Use Denon as transport or get something else. Will keep your comment about Rega in mind.
I agree with the above posters re: the digital front end, IF you listen a lot to digital sources. No experience on the TT or phono stage (though Black Cube has decent reviews it seems). At under $1k, maybe something like the Rega DAC, a MiniMax DAC? Above $1k, I'd look at Wyred4Sound or Antelope Zodiac.
I also think a sub might help out here if you are listening to music that could benefit from a bit more in the bottom end. Big fan of REL subs. Integrate very nicely with speakers using the speaker level connector.
I would also recommend looking into a power conditioner upgrade. I love my Running Springs Haley, but there are also great products from Shunyata and others. Power conditioners are very system dependent IME, so try a couple out in your system if possible. But most of the big names will be a significant improvement over APC.
So at the low end of what you mentioned, I'd try to upgrade those three things.
At the $5k end of things, I'd start thinking about new speakers or taking a big jump up in terms of your most-used/most-valued source. Maybe a table like a Well Tempered Amadeus (which I own and love) or Simplex? And if vinyl is a priority, check out the Jasmine phono stage. Folks seem to love it. The Dynavector P75 is another phono stage I have liked (for MM and now especially in PE mode with a low impedance LOMC).
Thanks to all for your generous giving of time and ideas. Feedback has definitely helped me understand how I would structure upgrades. I'm thinking analog first (phono stage right now), speakers next (subs because I do love the Forests), digital last (things really sound great even now). I guess it's an iterative process. Totally new CDP or transport/DAC would be easiest (lowest risk from my perspective). Totally new speakers (higher efficiency but still 2 way??) or new TT/cart seem more prone to buyer's remorse. These would be further down the road if ever.
Funny - when I first started posting on A'gon I thought I knew something about audio. I certainly had (and still have) a lot to learn. Thanks for all the help in my education.
Funny how we all forget about the room.
I could only imagine how different the same gear would sound in
basement suite with cement walls
above with carpeted floors
hardwood floors ect.
As Alan Parsons said,pro audio guys prioritize the room,where the HiFi world prioritizes the gear,brand names.
I had done the same,gear first,components cables ect.
For me the hugest difference was treating the room,starting with basstraps in the corners really tightened up the bottom end thus cleaning up everything above.
I believe Two grand in room acoustics would make a major change for the better than any component,cable ect.
Just something else to think about as I've been down that road over and over again.
The room is so big compared to our gear that we can't see it
even though it's bigger than anything else.
Kinda like wearing horse blinders,we just see or hear what's in front of us and not around us.
good luck on the hunt.
Drummer - Thanks for your input but really haven't forgotten the room. Have spent a lot of time experimenting with speaker placement trying to optimize in an admittedly not ideal room. Also, see comments to Mapman. Will likely get more serious about "store bought" acoustic treatment if/when I move into a larger listening area. Am hoping to incorporate acoustic prep during the actual rennovation of that space.
FWIW - just pulled the trigger on a HEED QUASAR phono pre-amp.
Thanks for the update. Please let us know how it works out. Inquiring minds want to know. ;)
Rsimms - I certainly will though I'll only be able provide a comparison to the Lehmann BC I've been using. I did contact Dodd and Gary was very responsive. At this time, I decided to stay with solid state. I'm already running tubed pre-amp and tubed mono-blocks (something like 17 tubes). I didn't feel like dealing with more. So that's why I went HEED though other SS candidates were F-117 Night Hawk and Musical Surroundings Phenonmenon Nova. Hopeing the HEED sounds good right out of the box. Ciao.
I have shipped the Heed Quasar demo phono-stage back to Overture in Wilmington, DE. They have ordered me a new unit for purchase. I don't have all the "audiophile lingo" down but relative to the Lehmann BC which I liked very much (and still do) the Heed is more neutral with bassthat seems extended (to my ear) by another octave (some hyperbole here). On listening for the first time, however, I thought the Heed was bass shy (while extending deeper, lower frequencies were not necessarily louder than the Lehmann). The Lehmann seems a little warmer but I suspect that is due to frequency response deviation from neutral on the part of the Lehmann which might also explain the differences in how bass sounds. Plus my Lehmann is way old and I have no idea how aging solid state components affect sonics. It has been my experience that on first listening, upgrades often come across as brighter and more detailed. Over time as my ear becomes acclimated (or as equipment settles in) this initial impression of "brightness" gives way to a sense of greater musicality. The Heed is definitely more resolving with wider (and deeper) soundstage than the Lehmann. I think I now also understand what people mean when they use the descriptor, "articulate bass". In addition, on loud, complex passages the music from the Heed seems clearer. I'm hearing details I did not hear before. I really like this phono-stage. I've been listening to mostly vinyl since I got it. I'll keep the Lehmann as a back up. Hope this is of some use to the A'gon. community.