Please help newb put a system together

Hello all,

I have a quandary that I don’t have the experience or knowledge to solve. I’m hoping to get some help from the collective wisdom of the group and save myself some mis-steps.

Here is my situation.
I married into a stereo system that I’m haven’t been terribly fond of, but was what we had. It consisted of a low-end Denon AV receiver, Onkyo cd changer and Klipsch RF-7 speakers and Klipsch powered sub. As the speakers were the only part of the system with *any* quality, my plan was to use them and upgrade components. I should state that the goals are quite modest relative to what many here have, as my means are limited. My plan was to get a cheap Oppo universal player to use as a transport (which have done), and a Peachtree iNova. That way we’d be able to use a simple iPod full of lossless files for a “server” of sorts, and be able to play SACD/DVD-A on the Oppo—all using the DAC in the Peachtree for a significant upgrade in the quality of the digital stuff. (Analog is already set—I got a pretty good deal on a barely used Clearaudio Concept/Virtuoso wood setup and we’re delighted with that.)
The problem is that while waiting for the iNova to come out, I have been forced to come to grips with the fact that really don’t want to build a system based on the Klipschs. I simply don’t like their sound much. My Wonderful Wife likes them, and on some material they sound good, but more often, to me, they are brassy and harsh and fatiguing. I have some Kef 104/2s that I don’t love, but like better. WW doesn’t like them at all—boring and dull, says she. That is important, because while she may not be as far gone as I am, she is into it and we do a lot of listening together. We *both* have to like things. So I took a chance and picked up a used set of Sunfire CRM-2s. They seem pretty good. Surprisingly, WW likes them a lot. So, assuming the Sunfires work, my nice, simple plan is messed up. They need to be crossed over at 95 or higher, and they need more power than the iNova has. Now what do I do? How to do a crossover? (sub doesn’t have a high-pass output) So I came up with this idea. Get a big, older AV receiver of decent quality—probably a B&K 305 or 307, and the Peachtree iDAC. (I’m not stuck on Peachtree, but they do seem to have good stuff (well reviewed, anyway) and I do want to use the iPod for a high quality source (digital out), so options are very limited). I would be good with that, if it works. My question is, will it work—or more accurately, does it make any sense? Specifically, is there any point getting nice DAC? If I am using the B&K to do high pass duties, does that mean it is converting the analog signal to digital? (and then of course, back to analog). So I pay all this money for a DAC to get a nice analog signal and then send it to the receiver, is that a complete waste of the DAC? Would it be just the same as sending the digital output straight to the receiver, since it converts (I assume) to digital anyway?

Thanks very much for any help you can provide. I need to get this as good as I can on the first try.

Also, if even a higher end AV receiver seems like a bad way to try to get good sound, please make suggestions. I’m essentially starting with a turntable, a sub, and the CRM-2s. How to build a system that will cross over the CRM-2s, and get us “good” sounding digital?
Background info:
We listen to most everything. Sometimes we listen carefully to small ensemble/solo acoustic instruments or individual vocalists where we want to feel “there”, at others we rock out to Rush, AC/DC and the like and volume and dynamics are what matters.
Budget is around $2000. Lower would be better.

Thanks again everyone.

Well, given that the Sunfire sensitivity is 90db, and they don't go any lower than 95Hz, they should be an easy load on the iNova. So I see no reason to scrap the iNova plan. You might, however, consider upgrading your sub, in particular as the sub needs to cover a lot of ground up to 100Hz... and the quality of that will be crucial to your overall sound. I would recommend Gallo subs designed to work with small Gallo speakers.. or smaller REL subs.
Although recommended for higher SLPs, you don't have to use a crossover, the speakers cut off signal below 95Hz... and subs generally have adjustable crossover settings to integrate with the speakers.
A shot in the dark ... take a look at the Outlaw RR2150 receiver . It should do most or all of what you are looking to do. I have used one for 4 or 5 years now with Totem Mite monitor type speakers. Nice unit for the cash. Well reviewed in Stereophile .

Thanks for the responses.
Arni, are you sure about the crossover? Can you point me to a reference? The manual states "Your system should be designed so that the Cinema Ribbon loudspeakers receive only the range above 100Hz" I'm worried about damaging them.
Rar1, thanks for the tip. I'll check it out.
Cool to see that you and the WW listen together. Foster that time together any way you can! It looks like the i-nova has a filtered out to the sub and possible a HT bypass? That may not help though.
If the Carvers do need to be limited in low freq. input ( they DO ) then one possibility would be to hang a proper sized inductor on the positive input and attenuate the bass at the speakers and use the i-nova as planned. Decent inductors can be cheap and based on 100Hz as the X-over point, should also be small enough to hide behind the Carvers.
Problem Solved and now you can fee up some funds by selling the Klipsch sub and trying out a used REL or Paradigm Reference sub. Or keep the Klipsch and buy your wife something nice...... perhaps some AC/DC on 180 gram Vinyl.
This is the first time that I’ve heard anyone call the Kef 104.2s boring or dull. I wish you hadn’t pulled the plug on them so fast. I would be surprised if you couldn’t have made them work with better amplification, source, and maybe set-up.
No, I'm not sure, it applies to most satellites, but if the manual says so, take it seriously. That means you need a crossover. Man, you are in a pickle. Would you consider selling all 3 speakers + subwoofer to fund an exciting set of floorstanders?
take your wife to a good audio store and audition at least two or three well assembled systems (large-medium-small size wise and/or money wise).
then set a goal- immediate or long term. the important thing is, well two
important things- sound quality, and patience. in my case i took my time
and kept trading in and trading up. but i knew once i heard "b&w's" i knew
i wouldn't be happy until i was able to get a pair and then build a system
around those. (much) later on i started longing for a pair of sonus fabers
or eggleston's, which i finally was able to afford. AND to this day I still have not outgrown them (the eggleston andras).
mandd, if i understand your query, you're trying to get to a viable system with your existing speakers/sub, an ipod and a turntable. with those parameters, i'd get your used b&k 305/307, which has a good phono stage, amp section and inboard dac, as well as something like a wadia idoc, which'll bypass the dac in the ipod and make it sound better. the peachtree's a neat piece, but more-or-less duplicative of the avr's functions.
Thanks again to all.

Yes it is great to be able to share. We don’t see eye to eye on everything, but that’s okay. We have a lot of fun. WW was the one who got us into vinyl again. If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have gotten her a nicer turntable for Christmas, and realized how good analog sounds. We’ve been having a ball going to used record shops and buying tons of $1 albums. And some new ‘special’ pressings as well.

Compared to the very lively (in my opinion overly so) Klipschs, they do sound kind of soft. I’m sure that’s her reference point. But we seem to be able to find a middle ground on the CRM-2s, so it’s all good.

French Fries:
We did try that…sort of. But the prices of things *really* put her off. One thing we both liked was Magnepan 3.6s, but they are just too much. I was blown away by the difference between them and the 1.7. We probably only spent an hour in the store so didn’t listen a long time, but what a difference. And even though she is liking this, she is still a “wife.” (that means she still has common sense) So when things start to get out of line for our budget she say ‘no way’ instead of ‘hmmmmmm…’ And when we look at something the size of the 3.6s she also says ‘no way.’ But we are at the beginning. I’m trying to put together a system that will keep us happy for a while (years, not months). And who knows…

Yes, you understand me perfectly.
Do you have a sense of the quality of the inboard dac vs a nice external like the latest Peachtree, Eastern Electric or Wyred4Sound? One thing that having a nice(-ish) turntable has done is reveal to us the bad side of digital sound. But most of our music is on CDs and/or iPods. So we are committed to that. But I want to make it better than what a cheap cd player sounds like. Right now we have an iPod with the iMod (modification to the circuits by Red Wine Audio—only for iPods with the Wolfson dac), and it sounds better than cds played on our players. It is smoother and more pleasant. I am counting on a decent dac to be another notch better. That’s my where my concern with the AV receiver comes in. I don’t want the harshness of a cheap dac.

Thanks again for all the help. I really appreciate it.
mandd: i haven't a/b'd the inboard dac on the b&k with the well-regarded external dacs you've listed, although i'd surmise that the external dacs, being more modern standalone units, will sound better. however, (a) as a former b&k owner i can assure you that the b&k is a very good sounding piece, esp. at its current used price, and (b) as a frugal bastard the looming question is whether the improvement one seeks is worth the cost. ergo, if i was you, i'd move in steps rather than trying to achieve sonic nirvana all at once. conceivably, you'll find that running you ipod directly to the b&k avr may genuinely satisfy you and the mrs., in which case you've saved some dough. if not, you can always add pieces--dacs, external amps, etc.--until you're happy. alot of the fun is in the journey.