Next upgrade?


Dear all,

In the pursue of the best possible sound - given a limited budget! - I am constantly thinking about the next upgrade (or mod) to my system. I’m sure I am not alone...

Right now I have the following :

- Monitor Audio Golden Reference 60 Speakers

- Primaluna Dialogue Premium Integrated Amp

- Cambridge Audio CXC CD Transport

- Border Patrol SE-i DAC

I like the system a lot, but I wonder what can I do next (excluding cables or power supply). What would be the place where I can get the most improvement from an (second hand) upgrade?

Thanks a lot for your suggestions!

Fab

sounasega

Your system looks great...relax and enjoy the music, my friend. 

Yes, you have a nice system. The next step up will not be cheap but you should start looking at loudspeakers over the next few years.

Does the DAC have All the upgrade available?. If not that' should be done. 

I like the system a lot, but I wonder what can I do next (excluding cables or power supply). What would be the place where I can get the most improvement from an (second hand) upgrade?

Got to love it. Don't know what to do- but please don't tell me what I really should do!

I'm nearing my last moves. I just got the dedicated power line and wow! I should have done it much sooner. Like a new component.

If your happy with the sound of your system then dial it in a little more with room treatments. If you don't have them already try absorption at the first reflection points as a starting point.

Along with room improvements (as stated by arch2 above), You may want to try:

- Cleaning up the power with a conditioner for the CD transport & DAC.

- Adding springs (of correct spring rate) under your components

 

+1 @artemus_5  Exactly my thought. Mod that DAC, baby.

DAC already upgraded with the Jupiter caps ;-)

Regarding power I have two separate direct lines from the main panel (10ft away) one for the amp and one for the dac and transport. 

@sounasega 

Your amp is your strongest component so no need to change.  Your transport is good enough for your current level and for a reasonable DAC upgrade so don't need to replace yet.

So it's either speaker upgrade or DAC upgrade.  Monitor Audio Silver line seems to be on sale nowadays.  

You have a nice system. I've never heard that combination, but it looks solid to me. If you like the sound your getting, but want an improvement in Sound Quality, I agree that room treatment and very tight corrections in speaker placement would be time and money well spent.

It seems that you only have CD as a source. Are you good with that? If you are interested id discovering new/different music, I would recommend you invest in some type of streamer and a high-res streaming service. I discover new/different music almost daily via streaming. My favorite streaming service, for content and a great user interface, is Spotify. However, it is not yet high-def. The SQ is not bad, but I'm guessing Qobuz is significantly better. I currently have a one year trial of Tidal, but I won't be renewing it.

If you are all digital (CD), a streamer, connected to your DAC, would provide you a nearly limitless catalog of music and sound about the same as CDs played via your transport and DAC.

Jim Smith's book - Get Better Sound

what tubes are you running in the primaluna?  input and power tubes...

I have stock 12au7 for the pre and genalex kt77 on the power stage. 
I alternate them with the stock el34, not much difference

@tomic601  thanks for the tip, I ordered the book

I too have an "all digital source" system and I've found that upgrading the AC power conditioner makes the DAC perform better.  I know you said you weren't interested in that upgrade, but it might be the best thing to make that excellent DAC of yours perform better.

@sounasega You sound like you’re in good shape. I really think that speaker, listening position, and room acoustics are the next step. I bought a Umik and downloaded REW software. Using that to analyze the tonality and reverberation in my room -- in conjunction with listening -- changed things dramatically. Dealing with room acoustics is time-consuming and laborious, but are magnitudes more effective at improving the sound. Perhaps those are all factors you can’t change and so an upgrade is your already best path, so I’ll just shut up now!

@sounasega

I have stock 12au7 for the pre and genalex kt77 on the power stage.
I alternate them with the stock el34, not much difference

most primaluna dialogue users find that replacing the two center small signal input tubes improve the sound of the unit

look for a quiet matching pair of old stock rca or ge 12au7’s, sylvania are a touch brighter but still very good, all are much more dimensional and sweet sounding than the rather lean and grim sounding chinese ’primaluna’ labeled au7’s the factory equips the unit with (you can also go with european ones but they are much more expensive and to my ear did not sound significantly better than the old stock usa ones, luckily 12au7’s are still fairly plentiful and reasonably priced unlike good old stock 12ax7's by now...)

brent jesse or andy at vintage tube services will sell you good ones (but andy won’t sell you ge’s he just hates them 😆)

https://www.primaluna-usa.com/tube-rolling

 

good luck

Good question. I always upgrade in steps to a plateau, enjoy until I am ready to get started on the next level.

In general, your equipment looks to be pretty compatible and on the same level, so there are a couple ways to go.

My rule of thumb is always upgrade a minimum of 2x in cost... so once you start, you want to slowly upgrade until you have all compatible equipment at that level.

Since it sounds like are going to be looking for better sound over the long term... make each new component at that new level.

 

Step one: Flesh out this level. As mentioned above get a high quality power conditioner. While it is remotely possible you have great power, most likely not. Get a good one so you don’t have to rebuy for a decade.

 

Also, get a high quality streamer. You get nearly infinite music for the price of a CD per month with as good or better sound than red book CD. Think used Aurender or Auralic... not just a Bluesound.

 

Step 2: This would be to start moving the whole system up a level.

1. Speakers used are fine go 2x or better 3x original cost... this will put your system in a whole new category.

 

2. DAC ... be carefull. You have a very warm one. This might be a tricky transition, but worthy of making.

 

I would imagine this would take a couple years. Then upgrade cables and interconnects, power cords and tweak. Enjoy for a few years before the bug bites again.

Buy some nice headphones, you have a headphone jack. Having headphones can be like having a second system.

You get the bigest bang for your buck by upgrading speaker first then                   front end,amp 

@jjss49 thanks for the tip - this is an easy one - tubes ordered already :-)

What kind of stand or rack do you use? What are using for couplers or feet under your gear and speakers?

Hey, this is not the same as cables or power...

Seriously, I would invest here and raise the level of all your components.

That book is $348 on amazon...

@wiscoguy  you can buy direct from him for 40 bucks. Google it

my two cents:

set up the REW and find out your room characteristics, you will see where to place your budget and time.

if the spectrum looks perfect, congrats. but still you can work on subsonic bandwidth which would make the sound change you may feel.

REW room eq wizard

"I like the system a lot..."

How long have you had it in it's current form?  Have you done anything to the space it's in?  What do you play on it that makes you want to fuss about with it?

Seems, as reubent comments, a 'solid system' as it stands...

What shortcomings seem to irk you?

(...just being the 'devils' advocate' tonight/this morning....because I can....;)....)

@sounasega

for other thoughts on how best to further upgrade i would encourage you to speak more about what you hear in the system today as it stands, what are its strengths and weaknesses as you hear the music, and what you would like to have improved via further attempts to upgrade the system

+1 on room treatments. 

@ghdprentice  makes many good points, as usual.  I also think you have a nice system and would enjoy it for a while, while working on room acoustics, inexpensive tweaks to assist even more. Like many, I think the Prima Luna is the strongest item right now.    Enjoy!

@jjss49 love the RCA nos tubes, warmer and smoother output 

@diezahlen ​​​​@hilde45  I assume REW calculates the digital filter to equalize the room. In my setup however I have no way to implement that. Or, how do you go about making changes to the room based on the measurements? Thanks!

REW can do many things. I use it to gauge where the frequencies are too high or missing and to gauge reflections. I don't hook it into a system as an equalizer or correction tool. 

 

SEE: 

 

@asvjerry @jjss49  very good questions. Problem is that I don’t know what my end goal is because I don’t have any memory of other systems I have heard in past. I can only use my current system as reference and discern why and how I like the results of changes on the same system. 

use REW to report the full range audio spectrum. This could be a good reference when you move the speakers around and decide the toe in angle.

To find the best performance of the existing equipment is a must before upgrade.

@sounasega ...Hmmm, I see your point...and what your concern may be.
If one doesn't discern an issue or a fault, it could cause a 'pause' as to 'what's Next to pursue and where to go with it all'....

Having 'grown up' (which some may argue That point *L*) with everything from a 'record player w/detachable speakers' to various collections of various components that varied from questionable quality to some 'nice' stuff....and listening to parents' polka music and Crosby, Sinatra. 'show tunes'....and Spike Jones for grins Then.

Coming of age in the '60s'>'70s' in SoCA, hairline buzzed, everything from Mitch Miller 'sing-alongs', jazz of the time, 'bubblegum' music, surf tunes, Zappa, The Fugs, symphonic, classical, at all manner of dB levels on various types of equipment, 'live' piano, outdoor and indoor concerts of everything from Bluegrass through The Dead to 'parody spoofs' of classical with PDQ Bach.... Lately, EDM, Fat Boy Slim, and 'acceptable/accessible' rapping....*sigh*

Most would say my taste is Toast. *LOL* 
That, and creating a 'run-on' sentence that basically verifies that.... ;)

I've developed for my own a-muse-ment an opinion of How and in what fashion and means employed to 'get There'.

hilde45 is correct, REW is not a way to Listen with; it's more of a testing app to determine how your system responds, source through speakers in the space you listen within.  A 'this is what Is' tool, the baseline of the total employed.

Granted, the laptop/desktop employed with a calibrated mic and the audio program/board onboard will 'have its' own input' as to the results you get.
But, it's a 'jumping off point' that can weigh in on wtf is going on.

I like basically to listen 'flat response' in the space; an inline eq, whether through my puter or any one (or more) of outboard eq's.
I've 2 programs and 4 outboard 'stand-alones', + 3 versions of outboard crossovers on hand.  But, when not Listening for just the sheer enjoyment of what I'm playing to enjoy self, I'm diy-ing omni speakers of a favorite variety and trying to keep a handle on what they're doing vs. how I've made them do it.

*G* There's more versions of 'esoterica' before one tweeks with cables, fuses, and elevating the speaker cables than you can shake a tonearm at....;) *L*

To shorten a long riff on it all....I attempt to make it sound like IRL, 'Live'.

As I remember it to be. as I think it should or can strive to be.

Your quest is just as valid as mine....or anyone else's in that matter.

Enjoy it, and enjoy where you are...'Be Here Now', as we used to say. *S*

Good luck, happy trails 'n trials. J

@diezahlen  is correct. This is a must before an upgrade.

@sounasega 

Problem is that I don’t know what my end goal is because I don’t have any memory of other systems I have heard in past. I can only use my current system as reference and discern why and how I like the results of changes on the same system. 

In REW, you're seeking a curve that doesn't go too much above or below 6db (to pick a very audible amount) of your input signal db (say 80db).

If it's 6db or more below, you are missing actual notes. Adjust the room, speakers, etc. to get them back in and you will here the presence of notes and other auditory phenomena that you didn't before. You don't need memory of another system to be able to say, e.g., "Hey, there's a tambourine at back left." Or, getting rid of a peak at 80 hz, you might say, "Ah, the strings and fretting of the bass are now clear; before, it was just a puff of bass-sound." 

Does that get you started? 

@hilde45 thanks a lot, yes this is great to get going. Essentially you want a flat frequesncy reponse at the point of listening. I like working towards that reference rather than my not super trained/experienced hear. This is is going to be a fun project :-)