Looking to upgrade

Hello, I'm looking to upgrade my home theater system and was trying to figure out where to start. I was thinking starting with an old Lexicon DC processor and 5 channel amp. I don't want to spend an arm and a leg, but want to improve the overall sound over my setup which includes:

Original KEF 105's mains
KEF C100 center channel
NHT VT-3 surrounds
SVS PB12-ISD subwoofer
Marantz SR-18 receiver
PS3 for Blueray/DVD

Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Since you already are familiar with Marantz, you may want to consider one of their new A-V Receivers. They are affordable and are jam packed with features and power. I have the SR5600 which is about 1 year old now driving a 5.1 channel system with B&W loudspeakers (90 watts continuous x 7). I think this particular model is discontinued but they have newer ones to replace it but for the money, they are a great purchase. I love the B&W sound with their tapered tube loaded nautilus tweeter technology which absorbs soundwaves from the rear of the tweeter. This technology can be found in their 600 series and higher as well as in the smaller M-1 mini-theater monitors. Clean sounding is an understatement!! Go to www.bowers-wilkins.com. Just my opinion.
It really helps to know your price range, but I will assume a moderate budget. Regardless of what you have to spend, start with the source. BlueRay is stunning on the PS3 (when I was able to get it to work - I have since returned two of them in frustration) and if that is all you watch your in good shape. But if you watch mostly regular DVDs invest in a used Arcam DV 78 for around $500. You will be amazed at what this thing does for the price. It will be MUCH better for straight DVDs than the PS3.

After that, I would go for an Arcam AVR 350 receiver. Then I also would get a Furman line conditioner that is in your price range. You can find this on Audio Advisor if you don't have a local dealer.

After all this, if you still have money, look at upgrading your speakers.
if you're comfortable with used and already thinking Lexicon DC - I'd endorse the DC-1 which I'm using. I also recommend B&K 5 channel amps. I had a AV5125 which sounded wonderful (have since gone to monoblocks - much more $). the DC-1 and B&K AV5125 can probably be found for $1100-1300. Make sure the DC-1 has version 3 or better SW, preferably version 4. Better still, the DC-2 is a little more $ and has more digital inputs. I don't think you can touch the sound quality of this combo with a receiver.
Nice system. However, DPL II and newer DAC's will make a nice difference. To improve upon sound, you will either need a pricey receiver or go to seperates. The other option is to get a nice DVD like the arcam suggested above and let it do all of the decoding for you.
Hard to suggest what without a budget. I like Anthem and Sunfire...definitely a step above marantz.
Do you have a line conditioner? Even an inexpensive one will make a difference.
Better cables? better video?
Thanks for the suggestions. Elevick, can you recommend an inexpensive line conditioner? I think I'm going to pick up a Lexicon DC and also take a look at B&K amp. Regarding price range, around $2000.00 to upgrade. Is it best to spend the money on processor and amp, or should I be looking to change speakers. BTW, 100% of my system is dedicated to TV/Movie surround sound. I never listen to 2 channel stereo.
I wouldn't change electronics at all. I would consider swapping the KEF for NHTs - either the Evolution 5 or 6.


I would not spend any money on a power conditioner, but I would invest in a good surge protection system. Look at either ZeroSurge or SurgeX (licensed technology from ZeroSurge).

http://www.surgex.com/ Look at model SA1810.
I agree with Teslaroadsters, changing your speakers will make the biggest difference. Try to match them all, or at least the same series (where usually the only difference is the size of the woofers).
Bob, if I upgrade to Evolution 5 or 6 do my NHT VT-3 still work okay as surrounds or do those need to be upgraded as well? Thanks
Bob, if I upgrade to Evolution 5 or 6 do my NHT VT-3 still work okay as surrounds or do those need to be upgraded as well? Thanks

My hunch is that if you are OK with them in a KEF dominated system, then you'd be OK with them using NHT front speakers. You could always upgrade the surrounds at a much later date.

I would suggest using the NHT subwoofer system - U1. Again, you wouldn't have to do it immediately, but (since NHT speakers and subs are designed to work together) I'd do it sooner than later.

The NHT T6 towers (which the M6 is a part) made the Class A category in the most recent Stereophile recommended components. Here's the review:


You could do far worse for a lot more money.

Good luck,
I disagree with the above. Your speakers are fine for now, and if you try to upgrade them it may take up your entire budget.

But if you insist on upgrading speakers, be aware that in a home theater system the speakers used should all come from the same manufacturer and line. Ideally, except for the center channel, they should all be the exact same model and make of speaker (front and surround) to give a more realistic experience. Still you can ignore this last part so long as they are from the same manufacturer and same line.

But I still say go with electronics first. I hold to my recommendation of an Arcam AVR 350 (used) given your price constraints. If you want to try separates, I second the vote for a Linn AV 5125 for your amplification - it is awesome for the price. This runs around $1400 used.

For a good price on a line conditioner (I hope the link works):


At this price, you will be making a very cost effective upgrade to your system, at least if you buy a Furman. I have to confess outside of the Furman lines, I have yet to find a line conditioner that I would put in my system.
The KEF 105 are great speakers. They are much more musical than NHT. I used to own a pair for a short period in 1980. Don't change them if they are in good shape. But I would suggest you find someone to rebuild the crossovers. After so many years, the capacitors must have been deteriorated and that will change the crossover point and degrade performance. Without a properly working crossover, you have no idea how good they can be.

As repeated in the thread already, I don't have a budget with which I can work with. But given the setup that you already have, I'll start with the DVD Player first. If it's a BlueRay player that you must have, then I would start with Sony's BDP-S1. It was a $1,000.00 Player when it was introduced last year. But given that it is a year old, the price has recently began dropping. You should be able to score one for about $800.00. If that is too much, then Sony has also came out with a less expensive version of the BDP-S1. It is called the BDP-S300. It is not available at retail just yet. But if you are patient, then you should be able to get one for somewhere in the $500.00 to $600.00 range. Otherwise, if you're not ready to experiment with BlueRay just yet, then I would go with a Redbook DVD Player, in which case, I would go with something like a Denon DVD-3910, DVD-5910 or a used Arcam DV-78 or DV-79.

As for amplification???? With your speakers, like the others have already said here, and I concur with them, I would either shoot for high-end receiver like a used B&K or a used Arcam AVR-300 (the AVR-350 is too new and current to be consider used right now). If you prefer separates, then I like your choice in the Lexicons, but I would also consider a Rotel set as well (meaning a RSP-1068 mated to a RMB-1095).

I like your main front speakers in the KEF Reference 105's. I wouldn't change those. What I would do is try to find a compatible center channel and some compatible surrounds as well. If you're unsuccessful in doing so, then and only then, I would go ahead and change the speakers as well (I would go with either an entire KEF Reference Setup (you should DEFINITELY consider the USED route in this regard, as an entirely matching KEF Reference Setup would be prohibitly expensive if you try to get these brand new), or an entire NHT Evolution Setup).

Just out of curiosity, what kind of display would you be using with this setup??? Would be a LCoS RPTV??? A slimmed down RPTV HDTV??? Or would it be an LCD or Plasma Flat Panel???

Good Luck and Happy Shopping......

I'm now totally confused :). Charles, I currently have a PS3 so Blueray player is covered. Last PS3 firmware update added upscaling to DVD's as well so I'm quite pleased with this solution. Regarding my display, I have a Pioneer Elite RPTV that I bought about 4 years ago. Great TV but it's big (about 300 lbs). I'll look into the AVR-300, Rotel, and Linn. I think separates are right for me, I'm not sure if the receivers mentioned would be much better than my current Marantz receiver.
Quick clarification on the Arcam AVR 350 recommendation. Charles is right it would take patience and luck to find one used, but people do buy and decide to upgrade quickly if they get the bug. The reason you need to have the AVR 350 is that the AVR 300 and AVR 250 do not have HDMI switching. You have to have this to run BlueRay through the receiver. The new Arcam AVR 280 also has HDMI switching. I'm not sure the price, but should be around $1700 or so.
Yes, it's confusing when folks make completely different suggestions. The fact is that there might actually be a sonic difference between your Marantz receiver and an Arcam receiver. No one has any idea whether you could detect it in a level matched comparison. Well designed electronics are going to sound much more alike than different.

Speakers on the other hand directly interact with the acoustic space and based on dispersion and frequency response characteristics do have a much greater chance of sounding different.

Saying that one speaker is more musical than another is worthless, because of different rooms and different preferences.

If you are looking to effect a change in sonics, a change in speakers will most likely do that. I suggested the NHT M6 because they measure well, JA liked them enough to give them a class A rating and they are priced very reasonably.
There is a hierarchy in audio/video reproduction, and speakers are not at the top of that hierarchy (indeed, just the opposite). They are very important, as is everything in the chain, but they can only play back the signal and reproduce that amount of musical information that they receive. Indeed the relative importance of speaker quality increases as the quality of electronics involved increases. I suspect if people think there are only modest differences between electronics (digital sources, preamps, processors, amps) they haven't had the opportunity to spend much time with truly good electronics.

There was a great awakening in Audio in the 1970's and 1980's. It was realized that the old thinking of speakers being first and sources/electronics being comparatively unimportant was exactly wrong. People sometimes refer to this as the "source first" philosophy. It remains acknowledged in its basic tenets today by nearly all audio writers I have read. It also remains one of the most fundamental but difficult concepts for people coming into the hobby to accept. I certainly didn't until personal listening experience demonstrated over and over again to my stubborn mind that it is unequivocally true. (That is of course, so long as you don't take it to silly extremes of equipment mismatching).

Now, as to the comparison between the Arcam and the Marantz receiver specifically, as Bob suggests, that can really only be settled by the purchaser doing a direct A/B comparison between the two, preferably in his own system. As to upgrading electronics first before replacing the speakers in question (which to do properly is going to cost more than the total budget anyway), I feel very strongly about that wisdom.
Newmanoc, what electronics would you recommend for a proper upgrade?
There is a hierarchy in audio/video reproduction, and speakers are not at the top of that hierarchy (indeed, just the opposite). They are very important, as is everything in the chain, but they can only play back the signal and reproduce that amount of musical information that they receive.

When you consider the distortion produced by the various components in the audio chain, speakers quickly climb to the top of the list since the very best produce orders of magnitude more distortion than decent electronics.

The old "garbage-in-garbage-out" argument just doesn't hold up, because, unless you are using poorly designed tube gear, there isn't any garbage-in. Electronics are simply not an issue any more -- acoustics (i.e., speakers) are.

I suspect if people think there are only modest differences between electronics (digital sources, preamps, processors, amps) they haven't had the opportunity to spend much time with truly good electronics.

By definition (for me), truly good electronics will sound more alike than different. If one piece sounds obviously different in a level matched comparison it is either designed to draw attention to itself (so to be perceived as better?) or broken.

I guess the first responses I have to your question are a few more questions. I hope they don't sound pedantic. To start with, what do you find dissatisfying about your current system? and, what are your ultimate goals?

It is important to ask these sorts of things in any system upgrade. Most fundamentally the question is what is it about audio/ home theater that makes it important to you? There are many different motivations. I don't presume to say any of them are wrong - they are just different.

Some people are enticed by the idea working to build something up - to make it of higher and higher quality. Others, when they really think about it, actually are quite happy with what they have, but somehow have settled on upgrading because that is what they think they are supposed to do. Finally, some become enthralled with the emotional connection (or involvement) that they feel to music when played through a good system, and they seek better and better equipment to make this connection fuller and stronger (that is up until a point that they decide the increased expenditures really are no longer increasing their joy in the music).

If you are someone who truly is dissatisfied with his system, but see only moderate future expenditures after this next upgrade, then I stick with the suggestion you go with an Arcam AVR Receiver that allows HDMI switching. You need to choose whether you listen to enough music or watch enough regular DVDs (as opposed to BlueRay) to optimize this playback (e.g. with a DV 78, which is also a very good CD player) rather than relying on your PS3. Later, upgrade your speakers as money allows and you see fit, then hold firm. You then will have built a solid home theater system on a solid foundation, and it will reward you well. But mind you, what you have may already be rewarding you well. Just because an upgraded system would be better doesn’t mean it would be more important * to you *.

If you are someone who envisions building his system up to be better and better over time - either out of a passion for more emotional connection with the music/movie experience, out of a drive to build a system up to be better for its own sake, or some combination of the two, then you are better off with separates. I can't speak to what processor will be best in this price range – I simply don’t have experience with it. (But be sure it has HDMI switching or it will be useless to you with BlueRay. ) I can tell you that you will be extremely hard pressed to find a better 5 channel amp for the money than the Linn 5125. But as always you must be aware that my opinion is based on my taste, and it is always possible that over time you will disagree. Still, for now, I can't see a better place to start with amplification.

In kindness, I am puzzled why you are posting on this forum. You are of course as fully welcome here as any of us are, but if you maintain there is no meaningful sonic difference between say a Rega Apollo playing through an Arcam A65 integrated (both certainly well designed electronics at their price points) and a CD 12 playing through a Klimax Kontrol preamp/ Klimax monoblock pairing, you really are in the wrong place. I can only conclude you are making your arguments from theory and conjecture, and not from actual listening experience. There is absolutely no one I have met who actually listens to Hi-Fi who would agree with you.

These are not intended as insults, though I know they probably rankle. And, please, don’t take my word on the subject. Go out and do serious comparative listening at Hi-Fi shops. Borrow gear, take it home and put in your system, and listen.

But if you are going to go on and insist here that there are no meaningful differences in digital sources and other electronics, I need to request you list exactly what equipment you have auditioned that leads you to this conclusion. This is only fair so that others new to the forum can judge the value of your opinion.
Even an Adcom ACE series for $100 bucks is better than just having a surge protector. Rotel, richard gray and others make nice ones too. I don't care for monster.
Newmanoc, I take no offense to your comments at all. They form the belief system of the status quo. I've been there. I understand it.

There is a fundamental difference between "serious comparative listening at Hi-Fi shops" and conducting a level matched experiment (sighted or not). One has a chance of being useful and the other simply promotes the myths.

I currently have an Arcam FMJ CD23T and a Denon 3910. By simply shuffling discs between them, they sound different to me and I tend to prefer the Arcam. When I make the effort to match the voltage output level to with in 0.1dB, they sound indistinguishable to me.

But all of that is meaningless. The point I was trying to make by posting in this thread is the relative importance of acoustic components versus electronic ones. So even if I still believed that there exists obvious differences in electronics, they will be dwarfed by the acoustic differences. It matters not that you agreee with me or not, the physics is what it is.

If it makes any difference to you or anyone else, I've owned integrated amps from Rotel, Jolida, Krell and NAD; amps from Decware, ATI and Bryston; preamps from Pass Labs and Bryston; digital sources from Rotel, Cambridge Audio, Pioneer, Denon and Arcam; speakers from B&W, Meadowlark, Spendor and M&K; cables from AudioQuest, Kimber, Cardas, PS Audio, DH Labs and Belden; power conditioner or surge protection from Monster and SurgeX. Over the last decade or so, I've heard many others in various audio stores.

Best regards,

Thank you for you graceful response to my post. I'm afraid our beliefs are irreconcilable.

It is interesting that you say you used to hold the sort of views that I do, but now have moved on to your current position. I am just the opposite - I used to hold your views, quite tenaciously, until listening experience forced me to relinquish them.

There is nothing that is mythical about the differences I and so many others hear. Likewise, there is apparently nothing convincing to you in what you hear. I suppose the good news for you is that you save money on electronics. The good news for me is that I am able to hear more music with better gear, music that stirs my soul.

Advice from someone who has been there... upgrade your amplification . It will give you the biggest bang for the buck and a noticable improvement . Buy used and get seperates . Receivers just don't have the power to get the most out of decent speakers . If you are on a budget , start with a good 5 channel amp and use your receiver as the processor .

Good luck .