Need help selecting a system with Tidal streaming (Maybe MQA) and speakers for around $1k.


Need some help getting this temp system purchased. In about 2 weeks will be moving to a small home in SoCal, then in 6 months back to Pacific NW apartment most likely for 5 months. My room sizes will be small to medium, 10x12-14ft. This will be my system for these two moves then possibly relegated to a bedroom/listed on this site once I get to a permanent location.

My main goal is to limit my expenditure (as I will need to upgrade my old system once I have a permanent place) and spend around $1k for this system. I’m new to digital but streaming seems the way to go so I don’t have to drag around CDs or LPs and I don’t have any high rate digital files, nor do I plan on purchasing many during my traversing the West Coast. I plan on streaming Tidal and was hoping MQA if that fits in the budget and the system is able to perform well enough to discern the MQA difference. I know I could use a computer as a source for this but don’t currently own one and there goes the budget if I purchase a new laptop.

I understand the $1k can be quite limiting and could stretch it a bit but would really like to stay in that ballpark. I started looking at powered speakers, Vanatoo One, Paradigm Shift A2, Audioengine A2+, A5+, HD6 and passives like HDP6, Elac B6, QAcousics 3020, Kef Q150, Monitor Audio Bronze 2, Warfedale Diamond 220 and Focal Aria 905 all because of size, price and recommendation. I haven’t listened to any of these except the Elacs. Not having the time now to listen to some/all these I am asking for some experienced, sage advice on the speakers and whole system direction. I am aware that stand mounted/bookshelf speakers will be a sacrifice in the deep bass( not a bass head anyway) but would like to have some accuracy and a good wide soundstage if possible.

That brings me to the source and I understand it’s based on if I go the powered vs passive speaker route. I’m not sure if it’s possible to go the passive speaker route and still get Tidal streaming and integrated amp for the budget stated. This is where I get stuck, so please respond with your ideas even if it’s to say it can’t be done for the budget I have.

BTW, I listen to mostly rock, jazz, blues, and classical in that order if that helps. Any suggestions greatly appreciated.

Thanks greatly for your input. Please let me know if this is in the wrong category, since it was about speakers and source wasn’t sure where to post.

You could buy a receiver that has everything built in, and then buy some nice passive book self speakers like those Elac’s. Outlaw Audio makes a new awesome receiver RR2160 $799 with built in DAC and Phono mm/mc, FM/AM... Too many things to list check it out here under products tab.

If you need a Great streamer/source try Oppo’s new Sonica. This would pair well with some self powered speakers.

Matt M
Thanks Matt I Will look at those links. I assume you use Oppo's app to access Tidal?

I have been in a similar predicament because my research sometimes takes me abroad for a semester or more. These days, streaming is the way to go, and the easiest way to do that now is to use a Chromecast Audio (if you have decent wifi). Its analogue output is more than good enough for a modest system, but it also has an optical digital output.
On the amplification side, any amplifier in the 2x50 watt range from mainstream manufacturers like Pioneer, Yamaha, Denon etc will be fine. Try to spend as little as possible on electronics, although digital inputs may be attractive in the long run. One thing that I have found attractive in a bedroom system is an auto on/off function. Not many amplifiers have it, but with it you don’t have to get out of bed to turn it on or off, and you can leave it somewhere out of sight. A class D amp usually runs cooler, and is lighter to transport. Here, active speakers often have an advantage as well.
Leave as much as possible for the speakers, as these are the part that actually defines the sound quality. Years ago I bought a pair a Rogers LS3/5a speakers for this purpose, but they were too heavy when I had to take them on a plane, so I later bought a pair of much lighter Wharfedale Diamond 9.0’s. My last fellowship was in Princeton, and these days you can only take one rather than two suitcases on such intercontinental flights (I am Dutch), so I had to downgrade again: I took my little Tivoli Audio Radio Two, plus a Behringer UCA 202 usb DAC connected to my laptop, and playing TuneIn internet radio and Spotify. Of course that was not audiophile quality, but much better than nothing, and quite enjoyable.
I would lean towards the powered speaker option with an all-in one DAC/pre/amp streaming device. I will be looking forward to seeing the recommendations for one. 

I must say that a laptop computer into a pair of powered speakers serves your situation nicely. Afterthought, some powered speakers have an internal DAC. 
Maybe a PS Audio Sprout with Elac B6s? Well under budget ($799 for the whole setup including speaker cables) and should be extremely easy to transport. Both get rave reviews for the price. You can just bluetooth from your phone or add a chromecast audio and still be well under budget...or add a better streamer like the bluesound node 2 or auralic mini and be a bit over. From everything I've read the Sprout would be great for a bedroom or office system down the line too, but I admit I haven't heard one myself yet.

If you go powered, I've had great luck with Audioengine and they have a 30 day return policy if you don't end up happy with how it sounds. If you go for the HD6, you have built in bluetooth or about the same money left for a separate streamer as the option phono input for down the line setups if you're into vinyl but they'd probably also be great for a secondary system if you don't need that or have a separate phono amp.

Another difference that may or may not matter to you is the HD6s have a remote...the Sprout does not.

The Outlaw (plus a chromecast) or new Yamaha integrated amps/receivers (i.e. R-N803 or A-S701) would work great. More powerful and more connections available but not quite as portable...Go farther down the yamaha lineup and more can be spent on speakers but the sweet spot in that balance is up to you. Did you like the Elacs when you heard them?
iPad + Camera Connection Kit + Powered USB Hub + Meridian Explorer 2 and headphones
Sony STR DH 130 for a 2x100 watt rms budget receiver from a major brand for only $150. Add a $35 Chromecast audio and some basic cables and you have $800 left for pretty decent speakers. Not very transportable, of course.
The measurements may not be good, but that article was a glowing review and stereophile went on to include it on their list of recommended components.

In trying to build a complete and easily portable system for the OP’s price point, I think it is at least worthy of consideration. Regardless of the measurements, it’s gotten great reviews and several awards so it must sound pretty decent. I’m not saying it is THE solution, only that it is worth checking out...especially if the speaker the OP auditioned was well liked.

NAD D3020 would be a similar option.
Thanks to all responders for your input. I will look at the Chromecast. Any other suggestions for a DAC/pre/amp streaming Tidal would be appreciated.

@mattmiller Will definitely look at the Outlaw receiver and Sonica. Stereophile Dec 2017 just reviewed it and gave it a "highly recommended".

@willemj  Thanks for the on/off tip, especially if this ends up in a small bedroom. I will look into the Behringer DAC, hadn't heard of this one. Luckily I will be traveling by car so while not as tight as flying I still would need to have something on the transportable size, especially if it's eventually going into a smaller bedroom.

@mesch  I am definitely leaning toward powered speakers to eliminate the amp/pre purchase. My concern is that they won't sound as good as similarly priced passive speakers. I am eager to see the recommendations for a DAC/pre/amp streamer too.

@ethos123 I will look at the Sprout and thanks for the Bluesound suggestion, I have looked at the Powernode 2 and Node 2 but didn't think of the Auralic mini. As for the Elac B6s, they sounded better playing louder than a background level, fit an finish were less than thrilling but for the price something I could live with but not powered.

@shadorne Interesting suggestion but definitely need speakers as wife isn't into headphones, I certainly am though. I already have an older iPad w/IOS 9 so that might work as the front end.

Dedicated streamers have the problem that you need an app for every service you want to listen to. If there is none, you are stuck (as with many smart tv's). Devices like the Chromecast are so common that no service can afford not to provide an app.
A Sonos Connect/Amp is a very small and clean looking alternative, with 2x55 watt output. It is not that cheap, however, and you are stuck inside their ecosystem.
Re: Speakers. I had my heart set on the Q150s and they’ve been everything I could have asked for. Plus, they’re small, look cool, a winner in every sense. 

Before that, I auditioned the B6s for two weeks. Fine speakers, not quite up to the KEFs, but at half the price, why should they be? I still have them. (Long story.) Brand new and yours for $200 plus shipping from NYC. 
elac f6 + bluesound node + signal cable Analog One interconnects +  SignalCable Classic Speaker Cables + vincent audio sv500

ok, so that would be 2k.  
If you can swing it I would just go straight to the Blue sound node (updating my prior post here). Although, do check to see how many titles are available in MQA in the genre you listen to.

I am not moving to MQA quite yet because I don’t know if any of the stuff I like will be in MQA, ever. But I feel like MQA is not going away and if you are starting from scratch it would be smart to give yourself that option.

If you have to save money, IMHO invest in speakers and MQA streaming and go with a vintage serviced receiver for a couple hundred in the interim.

Right now, I use chromecast to stream tidal hifi into my yamaha as2100 amp and totem forest speakers. For a while, I used the analog out of the CC and it was fine I guess (I didn’t know any better at the time). Recently I bought a schiit modi multibit and ifi purifier and it was better, even to me, the ultimate skeptic.

If I had to do it all over I would have gone with the bluesound from the get go and then I would have MQA right now for basically the same price as my chromecast/dac setup.

I will be selling the schitt/ifi setup soon here and upgrading to a lumin d1 which will solve all my problems in one go. But they are a lot more.

If you find you want to stream other things in the future that are not in the bluesound app, just buy a chromecast for that if you really need to, they are cheap as chips.

I have not heard the Elac F6, but I read many great things.

I have heard the Cambridge audio aero 2 bookshelves and they were phenomenal for their price. Not harsh at all and bass to 40hz. Would be hard to be disappointed with those I would say...if you need bookshelves. Tad large though and more on the forgiving side rather than the detailed side.

My musical tastes lean towards electronic, jazz and folk (i.e. four tet, caribou, rural alberta advantage, boards of canada, go go penguin, the bad plus, neutral milk hotel, bon iver, rival consoles, nils frahm), to put my ears in perspective here. Although, this, of course, does not matter as you should obviously listen with your own :).

@willemj Good suggestion but prefer not to stuck with Sonos ecosystem.

@paul6001 I'm gonna try and listen to the Q150s before I'd pull the trigger on Elacs, plus shipping coast to coast might put me right back up to the $279 cost. Thanks really appreciate the offer though.

@gravis82 Yep it quickly adds up, trouble is that's 2x what I was looking to spend. Keeping my eye out on Agon as I don't mind buying used if it's  a good buy in good condition.
@gravis82. Thanks for the update. Yeah that's where I actually started with the Bluesound vault because I have quite a few Redbook CDs . Then I realized my time available to feed and convert them to flac could be better spent listening to the same titles in higher res. Might circle back to see what total cost would be for power node vs receiver and node or some variant of that. Not familiar with the m-lore or Aero 2 but will research them both. Thanks again.

If you want to pass on the MQA for now consider the onkyo TX lineup.  A friend of mine just bought it after looking at all the airplay amp alternatives out there.  I think its the cheapest and the smallest traditional amplifier out there with the least amount of sacrifices in terms of performance/specs. 

Only $399 and  comes with integrated chromecast and airplay.

MQA may not be such a breakthrough:
Beyond that, I want to repeat that some $200 will buy the necessary electronics. The speakers are where the sound quality resides.
However, since you are essentially looking for a bedroom system that will temporarily serve as a main system, select you system based on that criterion, even if it stays well below your $1000 budget. Alternatively, and depending on your ambitions for a future main system, you may want to consider a more ambitious amplifier like the $500+ 2x100 watt or so Yamahas with digital inputs (to go with a Chromecast), and just get some small and modest speakers for now. In a year's time you can add some really nice main speakers like Harbeth (the Yamaha's wil drive them fine as long as the room will not be huge), relegate the small speakers to the bedroom, and buy a $150 amp to drive them.

one question I have is do you really need MQA in a Budget system that’s only temp? could save some there if you skip the MQA requirement.

Also no one seems to think out side the box here and pairing a streamer like the Oppo and a quality vintage receiver or integrated with some good new’er / used speakers you may get better sound then you think.

 I'd at least look in your area if there is an audio shop that caters to the used ie; vintage equipment. you may be surprised what is out there for reasonable money.

if your thinking new, good friend just got a set of Monitor Audio Bronze ( I believe) book shelf speakers, a Mies Audio integrated 50wch ( A/B) and that little integrated sound quite good and even has a descent MM phono section. with plenty of $ room for a streamer for under a grand.

Let's start at the source, forgetting MQA, what inexpensive devices will stream Tidal and other networks into a DAC? 

While I agree that MQA is still not quite solidified as 'better', some of the information in that link completely misses the point of MQA in my opinion.   It is not necessarily a replacement for hi-res and a good DAC, but a replacement for lower quality internet streams.  

I get kind of annoyed when I read comparisons of how MQA is no different than standard hi-res or things like that.  Of course it's not, when you get up to that level of resolution any differences are splitting hairs anyway.  That holds true for MQA vs existing hi-res as well as between different hi-res formats.  

The comparison that people should be making, which is the purpose of MQA to begin with, is, "does it sound better than a flac stream over tidal".  There are also a lot of people who choose not to stream flac because they cant hear a difference between 320 and flac.  So another relevant question is, "does MQA sound better than 320k"? 

So if MQA sounds no different than hi-res as is stated in your link, and hi-res is miles better than 320K (which I think we can all agree on), then by induction MQA will sound way better than 320K. 

And if it does sound way better then 320k, then 20 dollars a month get you access to an incredible number of hi-res files and the cost of entry for your component is.....600 dollars. 

If you already have all the files and the DACs and the gear, then yes, it might not make sense to get an additional MQA component.  But that person is not really the market here.  Reviewers having an existing hi-res setup concluding that MQA makes no sense are doing a bit of disservice to new hifi-ers that are starting to build a system for the first time in my opinion.

I just don't see how it makes sense to not go MQA if the plan is to stream tidal hifi...and especially considering that an MQA component will also let you do everything a non-MQA component will.

For those who think MQA might go away here is a list of companies backing the technology by offering it in their audio equipment....
BTW I would try to get a Node 2 and whatever power and speakers you choose.
-100 for the SONOS, complete junk! I thought this was a high end forum?

Matt M
It is not complete junk. It is a bit on the expensive side for what it is, but it is stylish and convenient, and tests have shown that within its limitations it performs rather well. As for high end, well here is somebody asking a very sensible question about a budget system that ultimately may end up in a bedroom. So what would you recommend for a streaming based 1K system?
@willemj  Thanks for the link on MQA. I completely agree with your last comment on why not MQA if it also does everything else non-MQA component will do. 
@glennewedick I just spotted a pair of Monitor Audio Bronze 2 but have never heard them. Have you compared them against any other monitors? The Miesaudio looks affordable at $399!
@mesch You have any suggestions MQA/non-MQA streamer for the budget?
@2psyop Thanks for that link!

So looks like I have the following suggestion/by inference equipment:

Speakers: Elac B6, Monitor Audio Bronze 2, Wharfedale Diamond 9.0’s., Audioengine HD6, Kef Q150, Cambridge Audio Aero 2,..powered speaker(no brand specified)

Dac/streamer: Bluesound Node2, Behringer UCA 202, OPPO Sonica, Outlawaudio RR2160 receiver /DAC, ChromeCast Audio, Auralic mini, 

Amps/receiver: Onkyo, Yamaha, Denon, Mies, Vincent Audio's SV-500, Sprout, Sonos Connect

Ignoring the possible subsequent bedroom use I would suggest to try to spend as little as possible on electronics (let alone cables) and devote as much as possible to the speakers because they are what produces the difference in sound quality.
The Chromecast Audio is the cheapest and most versatile streaming option and the analogue output is more than good enough for a system at this level. The Sony receiver that I mentioned is similarly good enough at this level, and a real bargain. There are similar amplifiers from the other major Japanese brands and these represent the best value for money. Speakers are a matter of taste - none will be perfect. Here, the US market is quite different from Europe with different brands and different relative prices, so it is hard for me to make a specific recommendation. Over here, I would have said the Wharfedale Diamond series is always very good value for speakers that have few weaknesses. I particularly like the Wharfedale 220, but there may be good alternatives in the US, I don’t know. A few years ago I bought some Tannoy DC6 standmounts for my daughter, and they sounded even beter (at a higher price). But it is a volatile market.
If you audiotion, make sure to listen at equalized level: the human brain will interpret the loudest speaker as the best speaker.
Another very simple and compact option would be the recently discontinued Quad 9AS active speakers. If you can still find a pair at a discount price, they would be worth it. They have three digital inputs, so if you add a Chromecast Audio via its optical digital output you are all set for maybe half your planned budget. Use the coax input for your tv and you will also have far better tv sound. See here, e.g.:
I know there are many options for a streamer, however I use my Macbook for streaming, which I don't do much of and therefore can't offer much advice. If looking for one I would likely look towards the Bluesound Node 2. It has it's own DAC and seems to be highly regarded. Cost is $500.

Stereophile has a review of the Outlaw RR2160 in the latest issue. I have not read it yet, just received. 

It seems to me that you must first decide between amplification and speakers vs. powered speakers.  Them focus on the source. 
A system is simpler with powered speakers, however provides less flexibility than separate amp. Though I recall suggesting powered speakers, after further thought, placing myself in your shoes, I think I would purchase a used integrated amplifier and speakers. Then search for a streamer with internal DAC. This gives the greatest flexibility in placement of system into rooms you don't yet live in, and best accommodates use of the components in a secondary system down the road. 

Good luck in your search.

The outlaw is a receiver with a DAC but is not itself a the price, a chromecast audio is the only one leaving any room in the budget for speakers

I think you’ve gotten lots of good advice but there seem to be a few divergent paths. To summarize:

1) super simple system: streamer + powered speakers —> the advantage here is portability and ease of placement in unknown rooms down the line.

—For this a Node 2 plus the best powered speakers you can get is probably a solid option and I doubt you’d ever have trouble finding a home somewhere in your home for both purchases down the road. A chromecast audio plus speakers lets you have more money for speakers and is even tinier for moving around but you’d lose MQA. 

2) simple “separates”: integrated amp + passive speakers + chromecast audio
    a) better amp with cheaper speakers
    b) cheaper amp with better speakers
    c) middle ground for both

— disadvantage here is no MQA, which you’ve expressed an interest in and there’s a better chance you’ll be unhappy with at least part of your system and just get rid of something later rather than keeping it. Also, some of the integrated amps are larger to move around than others but since you aren’t flying it’s probably not a dealbreaker. One advantage may be flexibility down the line and another is significantly better connectivity options down the line since most integrated amps have more inputs than most powered speakers and some integrated amps will have built in phono inputs. Depending on the components in the “old system” you want to upgrade after this year of moving around, it’s possible at least one component might stick around for the main rig...if that’s the case, perhaps you can stretch the budget farther but only you can decide if and how far. 
@ethos123 Thanks for the summary that's pretty much what I've distilled down the input to be. I'll be going to a local shop that sells new and used equipment to see if any good used separates are available.  

Went to a shop today that recommended a Brio-r with Sonos connect and music fidelity DAC + passive speakers. Even if I get all that used is blows the budget. 

I am leaning toward the Bluesound and powered speaker route though. What I'm hesitant about is will the powered speakers be good enough to warrant worrying about MQA.

Again thanks for the input, greatly appreciated.

@revreed What's the "old system" you're comparing this to and considering upgrading down the line? If your old system's speakers aren't super resolving, then you might not miss lacking MQA anyway since this may sound just as good or better. If your old system is awesome but doesn't have streaming or has an outdated streamer, you can move the Bluesound to it and get a simple chromecast audio for the powered speakers when you're settled for good. You could also start with the chromecast audio and try it on the old system to see what it's capable of before getting anything else (just make sure to change it onto the higher-res setting because that does make a difference)...worst case scenario you're only out $35.

It's good that you're able to visit some shops but a shame they didn't really listen to what your goals were...that kind of advice never happens on this forum :P (I guess I'll forego telling you to forget everything I've said before and get a set of LS50W for $2200). Keep in mind that lots of online and brick & mortar stores have pretty decent return policies so be sure to know what it is for any place you is a hassle to return stuff but better than being stuck with something you aren't happy with. Should be lots of sales over the next few weeks so it's a good time to buy. Best of luck and hope you'll let us know your thoughts once you get everything set up.
One consideration worth noting. Once the decision is made to stream via Tidal, that is a $20 a month expense (discount for students or military). One should ask if it is important to explore all the music available, because that is one of the best advantages of a streaming service.....having a very, very big library of music to explore that keeps growing (MQA titles too). 
@ethos123, Old system is Dahlquist DQ-10 speakers, two Phase Linear 400 amps, Mitsubishi dual monural preamp, sans turntable ( gave to my son), NAD CD, no streamer.

Thanks for the tip on hi-res setting I didn't realize it had that option I assume it's 96/24.
@2psyop yes I have factored in the cost of Tidal and the 2 reasons for just streaming is the exploration of there catalog plus all my lps and CDs are in storage.