Sold my luxury car and traded it for an economy car this year. Also sold some other stuff. I used the proceeds to fund purchases of major upgrades to my home system. Here is the list and my assessment of the impact the upgrade made:
Speakers (Impact Level: Very High): I wanted to upgrade my 803 D2 B&W speakers to more align with my existing Gryphon Diablo 300 amp, which I would recommend to almost anyone. I have the DAC and phono modules installed in my amp as well. After testing many premium speakers worth up to $40k, I couldn’t find any I liked for all ranges of music I listen to. I decided to upgrade within the D2 range and buy used. I’m very happy with the result and found that clarity, scale, soundstage depth, imaging, and realism have all improved.
Power Cords (Impact: Medium): Tested mid to top models from Audioquest and Shunyata, and Nordost. Ended up with Audioquest Dragon to power my amp and my Torus Power transformer, and Hurricane Source cords for the rest. Vs mid-level cables, I found the Dragon cords full fleshed out instruments and voices within a 3D space, with more air and more fully formed, tangible tones. I was concerned I would find top-end cords to be too revealing and potentially too lean sounding, vs mid-level cords. I was happy to find that was not the case, at all.
Speaker Cable (Impact: High): Moving to Nordost Valhalla 2’s from the excellent Clarus Crimson Biwire cables was a revelation. The degree of detail and transparency with soundstage depth that was coming through, with perfect tonal balance, was stunning. And the pace of these cables are lightning quick. I also tested top speaker cables from Audioquest and Transparent and didn’t take to them. However my system with this upgrade became resolving enough that for the first time I realized my system sounded better after midnight than during the day, due to noise on the AC power coming into my home.
USB Reclocker (Impact: Medium-High): Added the Innuos PhoenixUSB high-precision reclocker for my Innuos Zenith Mk 3, after reading the 100% positive reviews. After breakin, and only with a good cord and usb cable (Audioquest Hurricane power cord and Diamond USB), this device added clarity and focus to the sound. I did note that my system sounded better with the reclocker than without, but there was a "hi-fi" quality now that was a slight detractor.
Ethernet Isolation Switch (Impact: Medium-High): The Innuous PhoenixNET, when paired with Audioquest Diamond Ethernet cables, and an Audioquest Hurricane power cord, is a perfect addition to remove the "HiFi" qualities that I didn’t like that the PhoenixUSB reclocker added. The PhoenixNET perfectly balances out the PhoenixUSB be adding a warm, musical, solid, and engaging overall sound.
Dedicated 20 AC Circuits (Impact: Medium High): After finding that my system sounded better after midnight following the addition of the Nordost Valhalla 2 speaker cables, I realized that my speaker cable upgrade had exposed AC issues. My dealer suggested dedicated 20A lines and said "you won’t know what hit you" . Completed it and have burned one of the new lines in over two weeks. Sound is more expansive now (I can directly compare with the old shared line which still exists), with bigger bass and more up-front mids. Very glad I did this. I also added Shunyata SR-Z1 outlets to the two dedicated channels.
Torus Power Isolation Transformer (Impact: Medium): After testing the Audioquest Niagara 5000 and finding that the unit buzzed with my AC lines, and finding that I didn’t take to the admittedly mild tonal impact it made on the sound (VERY slightly boosted upper mid frequency, leading to treble sounding closed in), I gambled on buying a Torus RM-20 isolation transformer to connect everything into. I borrowed the Niagara 5000 again from my dealer and compared, and clearly preferred the Torus for it’s lifting of the mid and high frequencies out of the mud, but doing so perfectly evenly without raising or lowering any particular tones.
Before the upgrades I enjoyed my system but I never had thought that my system had reached the level of being worthy of the "HiFi" moniker. That has totally changed with these upgrades.
My advice would be to focus the least amount of funds on the highest degree of impact for your upgrades. For me, that turned out to be buying a used set of mint condition speakers that were a higher calibre than my old speakers. For the thing that made the highest impact, I saved 10’s of thousands over what I was planning to spend and that opened up funds for other upgrades.
- B&W 803 D2 UPGRADED to 802 D2
- Gryphon Diablo 300 with DAC and phono modules
- Innuos Zenith Mk 3 streamer
- Clarus Crimson Biwire UPGRADED to Nordost Valhalla 2 speaker cables, plus Valhalla 2 jumpers.
- UPGRADED, added Innuos PhoenixUSB reclocker
- UPGRADED, added Innuos PhoenixNET Ethernet isolation switch
- UPGRADED, added Torus RM-20 Isolation transformer
- 1 Audioquest Hurricane High Current UPGRADED to two Audioquest high current Dragon cords (amp and Torus)
- 3 Audioquest Hurricane Source cords (Innuos streamer, reclocker, and isolation switch)
- Audioquest Diamond Ethernet and USB cables (two of each for the streamer, reclocker, and isolation switch)
- UPGRADED, added dedicated 20a AC circuits (although one is powering everything through my Torus now.
Likely Future Upgrades, Budget Permitting:
- Upgrade to Dragon Source power cords for my source equipment
- Addition of a VPI Prime Signature turntable.
- Upgrade to Nordost Odin 2 speaker cable (this is NOT likely to happen due to budget, but I can imagine the improvement this would make.. I expect even more detail, and even more of a natural, open, and fast presentation of mids and highs. It’s ALMOST worth considering forgoing the turntable in favour of having what I’d think would be the ultimate cable configuration for my amp and speakers. Hmmm...)