looking for upgrade suggestions - 12,000 to spend

I am looking to upgrade my current system. I have $12,000 to spend BUT don't know what the most substatial/practical upgrade would be for the $$$.

Rowland model 10 amp
Rowland synergy I pre-amp
Levinson #39 cd player
Dunlavy SC-IV speakers
synergistic des. ref and FIM cables/power cords
2 ASC 16" tube traps - in the corners behind speakers
room size 12.5 ft wide X 18 feet long X 8.5 ft tall

I was thinking new speakers (Avalon, eggleston, kharma,talon,dunlavy)OR using the #39 as a trasnport and getting a DAC??

Can anybody make some suggestions OR point me in the right direction??
Thanks - Chris
I would place a bet on Avalons They're a bit hard to drive but not with Jeff Rowland (a true full range speaker is always hard to drive for what I believe)
i've seen eidelons (used or demos) going for close to $12k. yummy.
Lucky you... Give a listen to B&W 800 too. They sound great!
Hi, Chris. You already have a very fine system that many would envy, so any changes to equipment will be primarily, I suspect, a matter of taste (for example, you might find you like the sound of Burmester products better than Rowland, or prefer tubes to solid state). At the level of your investment, buying more expensive gear may simply prove to be a matter of gilding the lily. My best suggestion is to give further thought to your listening area. Although you have some tube traps, you may, for example, want to try a digital room correction process, such as that offered by the TacT RCS. The listening room / environment is so often overlooked, and improving the acoustics or correcting for room variations can make as much or more difference than buying more expensive gear. With your budget, spend $1000 and hire a good -- read independent and objective -- audio consultant with expertise in room design and get their opinion before you start on the upgrade path. Think of your room as a major component in your system, and invest accordingly. I've sold high-end audio equipment and listened to many fine systems, and my experience tells me that improvements to your room will probably yield benefits that far exceed buying ever-more expensive equipment.
Chris, listen to Sdcampbell, his reply to your question is excellent. Your existing system is so good that your budget of $12k spent on speakers or source components is not sufficient to take your system to a higher level. Sure, some of the speakers you mentioned will be an improvement over the SC-IVs, but the differences are not in keeping with the cost it will take to make the change. Large dollars spent for a small sound improvement. A DSP room EQ will substantially improve your system.

If you decide to go with the TACT or its equivalent, then I would also recommend you upgrade and add the Dunlavy subwoofers. Somewhat paradoxically, the added headroom in the bass pays big benefits throughout the frequency. spectrum.
I agree with Sdcampbell and Onhwy61. The speaker room interface is of paramount importance, and optimizing it will likely yield greater significant sonic improvements than any kind of component upgrade would. You already have a very nice system.

I've also become a big believer in a high quality dedicated AC system to include excellent receptacles and good power cords that suit your taste. Good Luck, and Cheers. Craig.
So the analogue bug hasn't bitten you, eh!? For 12K, you can buy a first class analogue rig and really get the best sound from your already world-class gear.

Here's my suggestion:

Eurolab Premiere: $2100
Morch DP-6: 2300
Shelter 901: 1500
Krell KPE Reference: 2200

Note: Prices are approximate.

Good luck,
Chris, I would say upgrade by adding a turntable to your system. 12,000 smackers could get you a great turntable and LOTS of records. This is, of course, just my opinion.
Please listen to Professor Campbell! Oh, and raise the ceiling to 10'. (That should finish off the funds.)
Look Boss it's the "ROOM" Tweak the room and electrical. This is the biggest bang for the buck. Period! Your equipment is at such a high level of performance, that anything else would be small improvements as compaired to the "ROOM"

Good Luck
Great posts. I just finished wiring up four dedicated AC lines using cheap 10AWG for the monos and Belden 83802 for the digital and pre/tuner low current ones. WHAT A DIFFERENCE in treble purity and low-level dynamics!
A cheap no-brainer while you squeeze the room around....
Those Dunalvys either need to be replaced or modified. These speakers in stock form are NOT the "ULTRA" high resolution speakers that many audiophiles think they are. "ULTRA" high resolution will only be achieved with the best drivers and crossover components, and unfortunately, this is where Dunlavy skimps in his designs. I know of quite a few Dunlavy owners with SC-IVa's, SC-V's and Althenas. All of their speakers have been substantially improved by putting individualized zobel networks across each driver (a very cheap but effective mod, at less than $30.00 per speaker). Stan Warren of Supermods actually started this trend. Others have gone steps further by replacing that cheapo tweeter with a world class tweeter like the Morel MDT-33. (Shame on you Dunlavy for using such a meager cheapo tweeter!). You can also swap out those average Coils and Capacitors with some high quality parts. All of the above changes yield a much improved speaker that will have you wondering why Dunlavy has not implemented any of these no-brainer improvements himself. Once these changes are implemented, the speaker goes to a completely different level in musicality and listenability. We are talking about serious improvements here!
I agree with Ikarus. B&W800's are fantastic!....especially if you actively bi-amp them with the Krell KBX electronic crossover. If you have any questions about the fantastic speaker, fell free to contact me.

Buy a Kora Hermes upgraded DAC for the 39 and a pair of Gershman Avantgarde or Eggleston Andras. The Kora was the best upgrade I have done in a long time being in this hobby.
Wouldn't it be wiser to invest that money in the stock market, and enjoy the world-class stereo that you already have? I know, I know, stupid me; upgrading is always the way to go, right? It was just a thought...
There is no doubt that the room is one of the most overlooked aspects of an audio system. There is a product used in furnaces called spinglass that comes in 2x4 sheets 1, 1.5, 2 inch thick. They also have round tubes from 8 inch to 20 and 6 ft tall these make great acoustical room treatments. Yes you can hire some one but this stuff is so inexpensive and so easy to use that after a little trial and error you can get your room just fine. Once you get the spinglass you purchase material and wrap it with U pins a very easy process and then you use T pins to attach to the drywall. Anyone can do this and you will save a fortune. If you want an idea of what it looks like go to Stereophile page 174 and look at the ad by American Acoustic they sell essentially the same product except that they cover it for you.
After the room do not forget that everything starts at the wall. You seem to have decent powercords but you do not mention a good line conditioner like a Hydra, sound application, etc.
Also great audio racks and resonance control make a massive difference. One of the largest effects on my system was adding Zoethecus racks with the Z shelves. Yes they look awesome but the sonics are amazing.
What improvement would you like over what you're getting now?

I sell a speaker that would work well in your room and does some things better than the Dunlavy's, and some things not as well. This is the Sound Lab Millennium-2, a full-range electrostatic. Sound Labs excel at reproducing the natural timbre of voices and instruments. They do inner harmonic nuance and texture extremely well, and are consistently described as extremely relaxing and non-fatiguing (I could explain some of the acoustic and human auditory system factors behind this if you'd like). And unlike most full-range planar speakers, Sound Labs really do have bass. Your Dunlavy's will go deeper, but the Sound Lab M-2's will do 30 Hz and have better pitch definition (I know that's probably hard to believe).

On the other side of the coin, the Sound Labs are an inefficient, difficult load. In your room they would like to be on the short wall, and about five or six feet out into the room. And they're pretty big - about 6 feet tall and two and a half feet wide.

I'm suggesting here the M-2's instead of the larger M-1's for two reasons: First, the wider M-1's wouldn't give you quite as wide a soundstage in your room as the M-2's because they couldn't be spaced quite as far apart; and second the big ones would stretch your budget a bit.

Your Rowland amp might not give you the dynamics you'd like - but there are options that would allow you to stay within your budget if you sold or traded in the Rowland.

Among conventional speakers, the Kharma Ceramique 1.0 is voiced rather similar to the Sound Labs, if you'd like a reference point.

I don't know exactly what improvements you're looking for, and since the Kharmas were on your list I figured the Sound Labs might be a possibility. By the way, I like all the speakers on your list. I'll admit that the Sound Labs are a rather radical departure from the conventional, and I'd be more than happy to answer any questions you might have.

Best of luck to you in your quest!
1. Soundlabs, ditto. If the Electro idea scares you - it shouldn't given where you are at - Eidelons.
2. Bigger Rowland amp with amp/speaker sale in order to drive Soundlabs.
3. PC and current conditioning: NBS Staement I PC at $500 for digital, Electraglide PC for amp, Bybee Pro conditioning used at $900.

This operating on my assumption that you will be a patient used buyer and throw in, eventually, a bit more - like we all do...


Basis vacuum TT, Graham 2.2 revised, Koetsu cartridge, loads of vinyl, save some more for Soundlabs, then forget about audio forever...
Buy a pair of Legacy Audio Whipsers, may cost a hair more than 12K, but you will never look back. I owned the talon Khours (NOT the X version) and they are notanywhere close to the Whispers. The Whispers are more like live musinc than ANY and ALL the other high end (speakers costing sometimes more than 6X as much as the Whispers) speakers I have ever heard.

Do not sell your speakers.I am 100% with Ehider...mod it.
To start, I would use the No. 39 as a transport and add a DAC, such as the Dodson. I did just that myself and I feel it is a big step up. After you do that, explore the TacT RCS to work on the room. The Dodson (or other high quality outboard DAC) will outperform the TacT's DA module, which is why I suggest you do the DAC upgrade before adding the room correction, but you could reverse the order. Unfortunately, you cannot insert the TacT or similar device between the transport and DA sections of the No. 39. -Dan
Get rid of the Dunlavys. You can buy far fine speakers. Eidolon, Magnepan 20.1, etc.
Don't sell the speakers and DO NOT modify them. While the changes suggested in a previous post (tweeter, X-Over,etc) will certainly change the Dunlavy's, the kind of improvement you MAY get (or just as likely, screwing up the sound) will be miniscule in comparison to fixing the room (Tact or SigTech).

I also agree with the idea of buying a good turntable and lots of used records. For $12,000 you can buy a great used TNT or Basis with arm and cartridge and a LOT of LP's.
Hey Audioguy!

I'm curious about what experience you may have with modifying Dunlavy's products, and why you are stating: "DO NOT modify them."

My particular modification advice is directly supported by some VERY respectable and experienced high end audio designers. In particualar, both Stan Warren, and the original designer of the Spica TC-50 speaker (which was considered a ground breaking design in both driver integration and time coherence) support these suggestions. Additionaly, Dunlavy owners that I know who have implemented any (or all) of these changes are VERY happy they did so. None of them ended up "screwing up the sound" as you surmise.

In both my opinoin and many others, the suggested changes that I outlined are electrically sound, and only ENHANCE Dunlavy's original design intentions.
My recommendation of not modifying Dunlavy's (I own SC-VI's) is based upon the Dunlavy approach to speaker design.

He carefully tests and matches his drivers to obtain what he belives are the correct results (impulse, frequency (plus or minus 1db), step, etc) and ANY driver repalcement which does not meet his criteria, by definition, creates a new and different speaker...and I would suggest that it might not measure as well.

That said, I know that not everyone likes John's idea of accurate and is certainly free (as you did) to modify the product.

I do know someone who performed similar (may or may not be exactly the same) mods on a pair of SC-VI's and, IMO, sounded far inferior than the speaker before it was modified.

I know Stan Warren has a great reputation for amp mods, and there is no doubt some folks will like his mods for the Dunlavy's.

I am curious. If these changes only enhance the Dunlavy's design, and offer the improvements that you and others have heard, why has John not implemented them. It doesn't sound as though they would add much to the cost? Have you ever asked John what he thinks about these changes?
Audioguy, I am also curious about why Dunlavy does not consider using individualized Zobel networks on each of his drivers. This makes PERFECT electrical sense and is nothing more than correcting the inherent phase vector that is part of every driver's voice coil inductance.

Indeed, this particuar way of eliminating the inherent phase vector of a driver's inductance should be utilized by EVERY speaker manufacturer! I know of someone with a pair of Pipedream speakers that is doing the same modification to his speakers, and this company is as stubborn as Dunlavy regarding this simple and effective enhancement. (BTW: There are a couple of Dunlavy owners that hope to get "the ear" of the new company that just took over Dunlavy regarding the Zobel enhancement).

In terms of suggesting "drop in" coil, capacitor replacements, this also is not as extrmeme as some may think it is. Anyone who has studied the crossover topology of a "cost no object" speaker will find much better coils and caps than Dunlavy uses. A direct drop in replacement of the same value but higher quality component DOES NOT change the speaker's intended electrical charactaristics. It will only improve the ability of the crossover to have improved charactaristics between each driver. No one ever argued with the idea of "blueprinting" an engine for an automobile. This is the same comcept.

In terms of changing the silk dome tweeter with a better silk dome drop in replacement that has a better magnet structure, lower inherent surface resonance, faster rise times and more, this is also a no brainer. All you have to make sure of is that the tweeter that you choose is the same size, has the same dispersion charactaristics and has the same output (or is padded down with resistors to acheive the same output as the original tweeter). Dunlavy himself has put better silk dome tweeters in his speakers as he improved his speakers over the years. Why would my silk dome tweeter recommendation be any different? He just has refused to use any of the more expensive tweeters such as the Scan Speak Revelator or the Morel MDT-33. Most who have experience with speaker design will tell you that these tweeters "smoke" the meager tweeter that Dunlavy uses in his speakers. Better materials, faster rise times, tighter tolerances, bettter magnets and exotic rear magnet resonant chambers all lead to a tweeter that is more detailed and sound more real. There is NO secret to why the above aformentioned tweeters sound better. They also cost 300% + more than the tweeter employed by Dunlavy.

As an Electrical Engineer myself, who has studied numerous speaker and amplifier topologies, I can tell you that MANY of the so-called high end companies are missing a detail or two, here and there in their designs. Many audiophiles are fooling themselves if they think that most high end companies have covered every single detail in their designs. THIS IS VERY RARE INDEED AND TYPICALLY JUST AIN'T SO!
Just got rid of my Dunlavy V's and purchased the Piega 10's. A major upgrade.Now would be a good time to unload the Dunlavy's with the uncertainty of their future
I would suggest talking to wkendenvir@aol.com He is a great guy and just sent out his newsletter with some good buys. The Talon speakers and Valhalla cables are two thoughts. I don't know what size room you have but you might consider the Dunlavy V's. If you like the Dunlavy sound as I do, it's going to be tough to find a pleasing replacement.
Whatever you do, don't sell the Synergy Preamp. For a reasonable price, you can have it upgrade to II status and maybe even to i status. I had mine upgraded from I to II and it was well worth it. Also, don't let anyone try to talk you into selling the Model 10. I have 12 monoblocks in a bigger room, but used the 10 for a long time and it is great.

If you don't already have the FIM replacement umbilical cords for the Synergy and Model 10, try them out. Big improvement on my system.

Look for a used Audiologic 2400 DAC for 2k to 2.5k on Audiogon and use the Levinson as a tranport. You'll love it.

I'll leave speaker recommendations to others, as I am an unbending Vandersteen fan and don't want to become a broken record. However, the Vandersteen 3A Sig with Purenote Epsilon interconects and speaker wire would sure be a sweet match in your room for the Model 10.

If you go the analog upgrade route, the Rowland Cadence is wonderful and will run off the Synergy power supply. If you buy a table I highly recommend any Basis, because you can always upgrade with full credit for your old table and they are incredibly easy to set up and sound glorious. Graham 2.2 is the perfect match for Basis, but the RB-250 is also quite good, especially with the mod from that British company (name escapes me even though I had one - the mind is always the second thing to go).

Happy Listening
One more thing I forgot to mention. The PS Audio high power Ultimate Outlet really does great things for my Rowland Twelves (I actually use one for each amp as well as one each for the subwoofer amps on my Vandersteen Fives). You'll need to replace the stock power cord that comes with the UO, preferably the same kind you will use to run from the UO to the amp.
The talons go great with rowland stuff. I hear that Rowland voices his stuff using talon speakers. Not just Talon speakers but they are one of his reference speakers. The new version of the Khorus Xs that should be coming out just around now are amazing and are much much better than the original ones reviewed in stereo times etc. Its a night and day difference. I am not familiar at all with Dunalvy so i cant help you with that. If i were you i would talk to wkendenvir@aol.com like Jadem6 said. He knows what he is doing and is presently selling new equipment for used prices. The best of both worlds !!!! Whatever you do i suggest you listen to what you buy first as what you have is already so good things you buy may not prove be an upgrade.
Ehider, has anyone you know of had any success changing the wire in their Dunlavy speakers? I've wondered if conecting my ultra expensive speaker cables to a five way binding post that then uses cheap wire inside the speaker is logical. Wouldn't I expect a huge improvement if I was using the same wiring inside the speaker?
Jadem6. I am not going to quantify this particular type of mod as a "success", because NOW WE ARE talking about potentially changing the "voicing" of John's original design intentions. Therefore "success" regarding this particular mod is "in the eyes of the beholder".

The only mods that I unequivocally support are mods that improve on Dunlavy's original design intentions, without any detrimental sonic aberrations. After all, I do think Dunlavy is one of the best speaker designers out there (are you hearing me Audioguy?).

I know of NO other speaker designer that has assembled such worthy sounding speakers from average low cost midrange and tweeter drivers. Every other highly regarded speaker manufacturer has to use much better drivers just in order to sonically surpass Dunlavy's speakers. Dulavy's design facilities are some of the best in the business, and so are his measurement techniques and quality sorting conventions.

Now if we could just convince Dunlavy to use really excellent drivers, coils, caps, etc.. I've always said to many of my friends: "If I ever win the lottery, I'm going to pay Dunlavy a ridiculous amount of money to build a pair of SC-VI's with top of the line drivers and crossover components". (I'd probably also have the cabinet made from something much more dense and inert, than the cabinets that he currently uses).

Note: If you look at Montana's line of speakers (which have received many glowing reviews), you'll see something very similar to what I would have Dunlavy build. If I didn't know better, I'd swear that they just copied Dunlavy's original design parameters and used much better drivers, cabinets and crossover parts.

Sorry I couldn't answer your question with a definite "yes" or "no", but I DO NOT want to be part of the "potential mis-information, based on a subjective opinion" crowd. There's enough of that already!
I have done simular mods that Ehider mentions. I replaced the Vifa tweeter with Scan Speak 2900, the revelator is not a direct drop in for the 4,as. I also replaced those CHEAP sand resistors John uses with Ohmite,s and all the caps with Zen and others along with bypassing on the tweeter.
These mods get rid of the congestion in the mid to high region, the bass has better definition. These mods give the Dunlavys mutch better resolution thrugh out the frequentcy range. I brought these mods up early last year with no response.

What? Rowland voices his stuff with Talon? Also, At the NY Stereophile show, the Talon Xs sounded the same as the old ones to me.

What? Rowland voices his stuff with Talon? Also, At the NY Stereophile show, the Talon Xs sounded the same as the old ones to me.
My first observation;before reading any of the posters, was loose the plane jane 4's;-- dated. A guy who thinks in terms of 200 dollar ic's and like runs of speaker wire gives me a problem,--as in we would not be on the sme page-- and such a guy using lesser parts within the speaker -- well, to me, they go hand-in-hand.No,I don't have John's expertise;--nor that of many of the posters,even!!-- Just ears.