Newbie System Question sort of long, sorry

Hi all,
I'm new to Audiogon and also an audiophile novice so let me start by saying I appreciate your patience in sharing your knowledge. Right know I'm like an "art idiot", I don't know what "Hi Fi" is but I know it(and feel it) when I hear it.

1. Recomended Reading Suggestions

2. Help in identifying my systems weakest link
My current system is: Creek 4330 Int. Amp, Rotel RCD-02 CDP,
NAD C440 tuner, JM Labs Micron Carat Speakers fed through a Brick Wall surge protector on dedicated line. I listen to a very wide range of music styles.

3. Components order of importance, i.e. in creating my "for life" system how do I divy up the budget?

Hi. I would recommend getting a book called "The Complete Guide to High-end Audio", I'm pretty sure that you can purchase it from Music Direct ( As far as a system weakness, take a good look at your cables. Cables are something that are often overlooked, especially power cables. Start by upgrading your cables before you go looking to upgrade your components. Good Luck.
Welcome to Audiogon and the high end audio world Jetson!

It's good that you know HIFI when you hear it, but the main thing is do you ENJOY HIFI when you hear it? The reason I ask this question is because in my opinion it's the goal of this hobby to assemble a system that you enjoy regardless of anyone else's opinion. Some people will tell you that an accurate system is the best and others that a musical system is better. But those ideals or descriptions are vague and really relative to the person listening. Other people can tell you what's good, but we all hear things differently, have different listening environments and varying budgets, so it really comes down to pleasing your own ears and wallet.

That being said, I still think it's a good idea to read magazines and online reviews to get an idea of whether a certain component might work in your system. And if in the article or review a comparison is made between two or three different speakers for example, it can give you an idea of how they sound relative to each other. Also, this forum is a great place to ask others that have experience with gear you're contemplating buying.

Looking at your system you sure don't look like a newbie. Before I'd go spending money on new gear I'd make sure both your listening environment and your speaker placement is optimized. I've certainly made the mistake of buying over and over again when it wasn't necessary. Make sure everything is set up as best as you can, then evaluate it. You'd be surprised what a little acoustic treatment or proper speaker placing might do for your system.

But the main question is, "how do you like the way your system sounds right now, and how would you like it to sound?" Once that question is addressed I think you'll get a lot of useful suggestions from the forum members here.

Good luck and enjoy!
Let me answer your second question. I think the weakest link in your current set up is your source (ie: Rotel cd player). Garbage in, garbage out - that's not to say though that your Rotel is garbage. Your integrated and speakers are actually quite good; if you are thinking of changing your cd player, I would recommend a Rotel RCD 971 or a first generation Rega Planet. Both sell at around $350-$400 in the used market. I wouldn't spend a lot of money on cables if I were you. A Kimber PBJ interconnect or an Audioquest Ruby would do you just fine. Speaker cables would be right along these brands too. Good luck!
Jetson, I posted a similar question last year when I got into HiFi. Here are the links:

Thread 1
Thread 2
Thanks for the quick and informative responses.
Zspradlin: I'll put that on my x-mas list.

Gunbei: Yes, I enjoy it very, very much. More than my wife; that's why I started with the speakers I've got and why they are placed where they are since she is the decorator and is only beginning to appreciate the value of better sound quality. My speakers are placed in the "long side" corners of a 12.5' x 25' living room. AFAIK they would be better placed on the "short side" corners but that's where the "decorating decisions are competing.
I've got Kimber Kable 8PR speaker and PJB interconnect wires.

My current preferences would be to have better lows and sound envelopment than notice the speaker locations at lower volume levels.(insert correct jargon here)

Gemini: Bummer learning on the Rotel player, that's my newest component, but I still appreciate your input. I've always been wary of buying used.
Thanks Buckingham. Glad to avoid everyone re-typing stuff, I know newbie questions get old.
Actually, your speakers are probably in a good place being on the long wall, as long as your listening chair is postioned in the sweet spot and several feet away, but do you have them set up properly on speaker stands, out from the wall a couple of feet or so? Overall, it sounds like it's a nice little system, but I tend to think that Gemini might be correct as to the next component you look at to upgrade (however, digital upgrades can be subtle and hard to identify at first, especially through modest speakers), and Zspradlin and he are right on the money concerning cables. If and when you want to take things up a level, you'll probably eventually replace everything, but if this is the type of system (and budget) you enjoy and have no gripes with it, then I would say well done. Remember, we all suspect there is something better out there, and almost all of us are right, but the key is in enjoying what you have and focusing on your music. Your system is probably more faithful to the music than 99% of what's in out there in the world. But when you talk about assembling a system "for life", be aware that most of us audiophools don't allow ourselves that contented a position, forever fiddling as we are wont to do. About the budget divvying and order of importance, I'm of the school that says start with the speakers, but you'll find plenty of spirited dissent from that (you can find my detailed arguments in my answers if you care to). In any case, welcome and happy listening!
Zaikesman: Thanks for the comments and compliment. I understand what you mean about always fiddling, I already do that with my car. I'm satisfied with this system, but I know I would enjoy better, to me it's a compromise between what I want and what I could get and keep my marital bliss. I guess what I mean for a "life system" is one built on a larger budget than my wife would understand before this system was put together. A lot smaller than what many of Audiogon's subscribers would probably spend but about 3-4 times that of my existing system.
I haven't read all the responses, so sorry if this is a repeat, but I'd get rid of the surge suppressor. Either get into a high end line conditioner (something that your sure will not choke power to your amps) or run straight off the dedicated line.

Just my $.02

Mdomnick: Wow, that surprises me, but as I said I'm a novice so I'm hear to learn from you all. I'll do a search on it but I don't think the brick wall will choke power for my amp. The 4330 has a peak Power Amp Slew Rate of >40 V per uS and the surge suppressor doesn't kick in until maximum of 100 volts per microsecond (1 volt per 10ns). Thanks for the heads up.
My thoughts from a vet.

If you are not afraid of buying from the audiogon crowd.....

1. Get away from integrated equip! They do fine and I had the Krell 300i and was class A rated, but class B components killed the 300i. Plus you can mix and match for "your sound". Used equip. I would def. recomm. would be an Adcom GFP-750 pre, Meridian 518 pre/proc, VTL 2.5tl pre, any BAT pre........Adcom and Meridian you can find from 600-900$$ not bad........ AMPS ? more power is almost always better! Even if you had 300watts into 8ohms, who said you have to use them. The stage and more control always benefit from power plus if you upgrade to big ineff. speaks you still have the juice---- Adcom gfa-5802, C-J MF2500(a), Krell kav-250a, Bryston 4b-st, rotel rb-1090 or 1080 maybe..........

2. Cables: watch used also....MIT 750 bi's or straight can find for $450 or less.....I feel that the 750 range is the most user friendly...or Kimber or van den Hul
IC's : like those mentioned above......Kimber or MIT can find whatever you want......PBJ, HERO, Silver Streak(my pref.) or a MIT of those will do ya. Of course if you can find some Transparent for good $$$....

3. I think you can work with your RCD-02.....good reviews here and there.......or try a 971 or 991 used....even a Rega Planet(2000). Better YET!!! An ARCAM 7se, 9se or CD72 and above- great machines!! Those Arcams win most contests...check out What Hi-fi....

4. Speaks: not fam. with them but I believe they are pretty work with them too. Or try some PSB Stratus series, Paradigm Ref., Monitor Audio Silver S, Aeriel, Vienna Acoutics, Sonus...increase in $ after Monitor Audio....

5. Careful with surge protectors.....can limit power and alter natural sound. Like my friends say, you have house ins. right.....plug her into the wall until you can get a Ult. Outlet from PS Audio or similar for the $$.

Sorry to get long winded but you may be where I was many years ago and blew a lot of $$$ not knowing better. Used is the way to go if you have trust in others selling. BUT, listening at a dealer and getting their help is huge and it's tough to not give them a sale even if it costs you more. It will cost you more to buy used without knowing the equip, and then not liking it, to spending more at your fav. dealer and loving the for thought.

All of the equip needs to work together to get a nice sound, I don't know if % for each component is the way to go about setting up your system. It has its place, but use your ears and go with recomm. stuff

My experience is with:

Most BAT pre's and thier Integrated.
All VTL - very nice sound if you groove tubes.
Some Rotel, like your CD and the rb-1080.....
Classe - nearly full line......not too bad.
Bel Canto - very nice, and very efficient....
PS Audio - most of their pwr toys. not their amps, pre's yet
Hovland - nice, but goofy pre's and VTL has more pwr for < $$
MIT Cables- just a great cable in the upper $$...go used.
Nordost - nice, but really need to be matched!!! No joke.
Krell - good, but seperates are the best for here and need to
listen....can be metal sounding.....better $$ spent
with one of the above companies.
PSB - good bang for $, but need pwr!!
Monitor - good, but lively and forward....careful matching.
B&W - Nautilus - just awesome!! N803 and N802.
Verity Audio - amazing for size....$$$ though
Electrocompaniet - nice.
Arcam - best CD players around for fair $$ 7se to CD23
Meridian - anything together is nice....esp. CD players.

A few others but that is enough for anyone to pick a kickin system........... My Favs are the VTL and Bel Canto stuff with MIT 750 or above cables and PS Audio something or other UO or P300/p600, going into the N802 or Verity.

Want to try Vienna Acoutics and possibly Silverline stuff to see what that sounds like...........Have fun... Batman
Without delving into technical conjecture, you could just try listening to the system with the Brickwall removed and find out if you can hear any differences in an A/B test. It could always be that Mdomnick might be correct assuming a higher-powered and more resolving system, yet it may have no effect on your system. Only one way to know whether or not.
Of course your right Zaikesman - the only real test equipment is ears not calculators.
Jetson, I hope you don't end up like Buckingham because he certainly went from newbie to diehard in a few short months. Heheh. Did you happen to take a look at his virtual system? A lot of time, research, money and labor went in to it.

OK, so you're looking for better lows and more sound envelopment. Actually, I've been on that very same trek myself. A few years ago I used Kimber PBJ interconnect and with the equipment I was using at the time felt it was a bit thin overall and tizzy up top. Changing to another inexpensive cable the Cardas Microtwin, transformed the character quite a bit. Highs became smoother and slightly rolled off, midrange and bass became fuller albeit a bit sloppy. I'm not sure if this is a move you'd like to make, but it's possible to affect the sound by changing an $80 interconnect.

If you're happy with the overall balance of the sound but want to add lower octaves maybe consider adding a sub. It does however entail more cost than replacing the PBJ and you also have the Wife Acceptance Factor to consider.

As far as sound envelopment I'd say experiment with speaker placement in relation to your listening position. Hopefully, if you can get it sounding better to the point your wife agrees, maybe she won't hassle you too much about the speakers being too obtrusive.
Jetson, I have a Brick Wall conditioner (which I no longer use in my main system)... I think it works fine with low-level components (CD players, preamps, etc.) but not so well with power amps (and hence, perhaps not so well with your integrated amp). You might try using the Brick Wall only with your CDP and tuner, and listen to whether the bass is stronger than before. In any case, if you haven't already done so, you might add a hospital-grade outlet (e.g., Hubbell) to your dedicated line. (And kudos for having a dedicated line!)
Zaikes is correct. I could be assuming the worst, and as we all know, assuming is bad. I use an Anthem Amp2, and do find it to sound more open without a LC. I think a listening test is in order. What I do is keep my favorite cds in and listen as much as possible for a week, make my change, then listen again for a week. I can usually pick up on changes right away, but find it takes time to interpret weather or not the changes are for the better or worse. I recently purchased a Monster AVS2000 and find things to be sharper when running through it. But hey, that's just my gear!!!

Good luck Jetson. Let us know what you find.
Jetson, IMO, you have chosen your audio gear with a budget and an excellent ear. The only thing I have not heard is your speakers. I can't help but think they must also be very good by the rest of your gear. I could improve on your system like others who think you need to spend $1000s more than you are probably not willing to do at this time. I am not a big fan of surge protectors, line conditioners, and so on. That has only been my experience. Gunbei has given you as much help as one can give. If you have a few extra $$$ to spend, I'm sure there is room for improvement. IMO, you have done a great job putting together a very musical system. If a few $$ comes your way, try some isolation devices. You may be surprized what improvement they can bring. Best to you in search for the love of music you are looking for.