So what would you recommend for my next upgrade?


I'd be interested in your thoughtful recommendations for my little system. With some recent help on "tuning" the speakers, it's beginning to sound very nice. But, you know, there's always room to grow . . . or spend money. Equipment list is as follows. So what's my next step . . . uh I mean investment?

Analog Front End:
Rega Planar 3 turntable
Sumiko Blue Point Special cartridge
Connection to phono amp: MIT cables (ancient, no network box)
NAD PP 2i phono preamp
Connectors out: MIT MI-330 Plus interconnects

Digital Front End:
Rega Planet
MIT MI-330 Plus output interconnects

Amp:
Bryston B-60 integrated
Bottlehead Foreplay preamp is available
Zu Julian speaker cables - 12' (can go to 6' now)

Speakers:
Thiel 1.5s

Notes:
Own 4000+ vinyl records and growing continuously
Own 100 CDs and growing slowly
Set up for near field listening
Room under construction - will tune it when that is done

Thanks!
dancub
If you are happy with your Thiels then I would get a new phono preamp and/or a speed control for your Rega 3.
Zd542 - thanks...what phono amp would you think would be synergistic in my system?
I'd add computer audio and see if your digital music starts growing faster.
A record cleaning machine might be something to consider.

Regards,
-- Al
Used MAGICO!!
+1 Zd & Al. I would get shorter speaker cables also. Would not make any other significant changes until room is finished and tuned to your liking.
That system is very nice and unless you do some major upgrades for large costs, I wouldn't do much unless something in your opinion is missing from the sound. Suggestions that come to mind; I used MIT 330 cables and they were nice. I upgraded to Transparent audio cables and experienced a noticeable improvement in sound without major costs. I purchased the cables used to save money. If you can borrow cables, try them before purchasing. The transparent cables are quite nice and you can find used cables fairly easily and they aren't expensive. They were an improvement over my MIT 330 cables. Noticeable improvement. Next would be to borrow a decent used external DAC and listen to CDs through the rega as a transport only. But again, you have a nice system and it would take some major cash to really see improvements, other than cables and decent (but not stupidly expensive) DAC.

enjoy
Well, if you listen to a lot of vinyl, definitely make sure it is always as clean as can be first before judging anything else.

I clean mine manually but I would listen to vinyl more often probably if I had a reliable and low maintenance record cleaning machine of some sort. The ones I would want do not come cheap though.

After that, I suspect you can do better than the Blue Point Special for similar cost even these days, so that might be worth consideration. NEver a bad idea to have a backup cart around, so adding a new one should not be a big decision point for most vinyl lovers I would think. I always keep 3 or 4 around just in case.
Are you using any isolation tweeks in your system? Footers, cones, TT Isolation systems do improve sonics.
phono pre
With all that vinyl, getting a record cleaning machine should be a priority. Next.. a tube phono pre would be nice in your system.
OK, just got out of the real world and OMG, lots of opportunity here! So to summarize:'

- Czarivey - yeah, I know, digial's the future. I do have plenty of storage (~6 TB), a fast connection and the itch but I'm a little hesitant to jump into another SW medium. Stand by.

- Almarg - got a cleaning machine...my wife surprised me with it one Christmas...isn't that cool? 'course it has to stay in the basement...like me.

- Donno what MAGICO is . . . should I care?

- Mesch - Oh really? OK, I don't recall much about the Zu wires from when I bought them . . . but I take it they are acceptable. Ordered a set of (don't gasp) short Blue Jeans just for fun today. And, yep, the room is going to get trashed over the next 90 days, so I'm bidding (sp?) my time. But plan to do adjustments by ear, not with some sort of room analysis device/software....more fun.

- Minorl - OK, that's really interesting. The MIT's seem really OK but are a major structural pain-in-the-arse. I'd love to pare down the system physically so something without the big "network" boxes would be nice. The Transparent audio cables are something I will look into. Since I have Thiel ("take no prisoners") speakers, it's hard to know what might work with them. On CDs, hard to borrow around here in sophisticated New Hampshire but I'll see. And I'm not keen on buy and return...seems dishonest. Not sure how to explore that...of if I want to chase CDs, yet.

- Mapman - Ah Mapman, great to hear from you again. I do have a record vac but tend to be lazy about using it. Also, the fluid I've bought in the past evaporated. When I Googled (a verb!) DIY stuff...the recommendations read more like some sort of secret chemical weapon.

Now (once again), I never thought of a backup cartridge. What a great excuse. Could use some recommendations! Has the advantage of coming in a small package that my "significant other" would spot as above my pay grade...unlike a set of Thiel 2.3s.

- Lowrider57 - uh, only use isolution stuff on the turntable but it seems so expensive for such little hardware. I just built a custom table for the system - kinda like what the reviewer 6moons has - so isolators would be a logical next step. Any recommendations on what and where to buy?

- Tbromgard - kinda a big field "phono pre"...any more specific...and why?

Thanks everyone, as always.
Dancub, nice to see you are open to new ideas.

I recommend Herbie's Audio Lab.
http://herbiesaudiolab.net/footers.htm

He makes all kinds of isolation devices for everything in the system. Even makes a very nice TT mat; I use one and noticed better dynamics and a more focused sound. (He will also offer advice).

I use Big Tall Tenderfeet under every component. Not expensive for the many benefits they provide. You should defintiely use an isolation footer under the CDP and preamp. Also for an integrated in your case.

And there's nothing wrong with Blue Jeans cable. Sounds better than many expensive ICs. They're cheap so use them until you're ready to upgrade.
At the risk of being cast out for Blasphemy...

Have you considered an Analog to Digital Convertor, such as the Ayre QA9?

If you're more adventurous, and want to remain in the analog world, another upgrade to consider would be a quality reel-to-reel. To paraphrase, vinyl is nice, but nothing else quite sounds like tape...

Hope that helps.
so isolators would be a logical next step. Any recommendations on what and where to buy? by Dancub

Mi-Roller is cheap and easiest isolation (and vibration energy dissipating) device to use. Rollers will not change the tone and color of the sound. With roller isolation, the sound will be more focused, clearer, and musical. If the custom TT table is firm, the vibration from a room and speakers is more intense. You have a little risk to try Mi-Rollers since 100% satisfaction guaranty or return for full refund with return shipping paid by a seller.
http://www.wavetouchaudio.com/roller.html

Alex
Wavetouch Audio
Gslone - got a vac cleaner so am starting to use.

Courant - I do have a couple ADCs but not sure what to do with them. The records I want to transcribe are, so far, limited. Don't know what if anything else they buy me.....?

No one's suggested an alternative to my NAD phono pre yet ... ?
I really like your system, but I think it could use some warmth.. A tube phono preamp should get you a little of that. Try researching something used from Audio Research, Conrad Johnson, EAR, Quicksilver, Jolida. With your system I think you'll really enjoy a phono pre with tubes.
I moved into a dedicated audio room ~ 1 year ago. Made my own sound panels using supplies from ATS Acoustics. I also tune by ear, as I agree, more fun. It is an ongoing process. Seems I have a tendency to over treat then remove treatment until I get it right.

No problem with the Blue Jeans. Based from what I have heard from others a good place to start. Cable upgrades and other tweeks can be added after you have dealt with room treatment and speaker placement.

I am hesitant to recommend a phono pre as I have only owned 3 recent ones. A Jolida JD-9, NAD PP3i, and now a Lounge. The Jolida was the best of the three and very flexible. I would look into Music Direct and Needle Doctor online. They have several models available. I think you would benefit from more gain than the NAD provides (36dB i believe). I also have the Bluepoint. The Bluepoint outputs 2.5 mV which is at the low end of the HOMC/MM range. Sumiko recommends a capacitive loading of 50 pF at 47K resistance.

Good luck on development of your listening room.
Have you considered the hand built Audiomods tone arms?

They start at around $750 + shipping + duty - so budget around $850-$900 for the Classic without the micrometer VTA

The base model has a locking VTA included which is easy to adjust at setup- if you don't make a habbit of changing cartridges frequently.

I have the Classic with a Denon DL 103 and a friend has the Series V with a Van den Hul Colibri - both arms perform extremely well and are very easy to install on Rega's

Jeff (Mr. Audiomods) now offers Eichmann Silver Bullet rca's on their silver continuous loom for superb details.

The bead-blast finish is very nice and with the gold plated counter weight providing a nice contrast.

It will elevate your Rega to a whole new level of performance - looks great too :-)

Drop Jeff a line to see if it is a good match to your cartridge - he's very responsive and knowledeable about cartridges and can tune the arm mass somewhat to your cartridge

Regards - Steve
So Mensch & Williewonka, thanks.

Looks like I've got some work/play to do here. I'm not sure if I can do justice to your suggestions until our construction project is done (90 days) but once that's in place, it will certainly be worth the effort.

Of course, my near term upgrade budget is a bit less than the sum of what you recommend. I assume that will always be the case . . . Oh well.
It time to try a new cartridge.
I have a Bottlehead pre that has some hum to it. Sounds like its time to get out the soldering iron and fix it. At least before I make a major commitment.
different amp and phono preamp.
I think that the Audiomods and the phono pre are great suggestions here. What phono pre will depend on your budget.
Dancub - just curious, but I'm interested to know if your amp drives your speakers with ease or if the B-60 is being challenged with a little workout by the Thiel's. The Bryston B-60 is a little power house, but the 1.5's (if I'm not mistaken) with sensitivity of 86db, and 4ohms, can be a difficult load with some amps. It does look like a fun little combination though!
It can drive them OK. But, if you really wanna knock your socks off, a bigger amp (another Bryston or other make) would be a plus, imo. In the Bryston line up, I would go with a 4B with those Thiels.
I would upgrade the speakers. The Thiels need more power/current to perform at there best. IMO the 1.5's don't justify spending more money on an amp/pre or even a larger Bryston intergrated. Since you like the Thiel sound think outside the box(lol)and consider a Martin Logan-ElectroMotion.
I am not sure what your budget is for making changes, but based on my experience I would recommend you make fewer changes and take bigger steps, that is instead of spending on a bunch of tweaks, make significant component changes.

I would start with your analog front end given that you have 4,000 records.

My former turntable was a Rega P-25, which is a good record player. You have a Rega Planar 3 which is worth about $500 on the used market. I would sell it and buy a used Basis 2000 or 2001 with a Basis/Rega arm or if possible a Basis Vector arm. this will cost about $1,300 with the Rega arm or $2,400 with a Basis Vector arm. If you buy the Rega arm TT you can watch for a Basis Vector arm and upgrade later.

You could also upgrade your cartridge and phono pre first. Liberty, Lehman, and many others make a good phono pre in the $1,000 - $2000 range.

Cartridge is a matter of system matching and personal preference, so while suggestions are great you really need to hear it in your system to decide.

So overall I would take the front end of the system to an overall higher performance level, before tweaking the performance. Changing my TT and especially the tonearm made a very significant difference in my system.

Have fun finishing and fine tuning your system
Upgrade everything BIG TIME!!
Jperry - well "bigger steps" is an understatement. Hold on a minute while I catch my breath...:8) Not to be timid (I suddenly am) but TT + arm + cart + phono pre are probably well past my courage level not to mention my near term investment limit.

However, the cart + pre was, in fact, my thinking recently. But the challenge for me is how the heck do you do system matching with cartridges & preamps? There's very little in the way of shops up here in NH so component tryouts are really a challenge. Any reputable online places that will do business that way?
Dancud, I was not sure of your budget so I was clearly a bit high.

My suggestion with regard to a phono preamp and cartridge is the Ray Samuels Nighthawk F-117 (about $500 - $550 used) and the Dynavector 17D3 (about $500 used). I own both and they are great performers and high value items.

The Dynavector should work on the P-3 with no VTA adjustment. It worked fine on my P-25

They both are seen occasionally on Audiogon and sell quickly, especially the F-117.

I would buy the phono preamp first to make sure you have enough gain for a low output moving coil cartridge

No free trial, but if you buy at the right price you should be able to sell for about the same and only be out shipping.

Good luck with your search and have fun.
Dancud, I was not sure of your budget so I was clearly a bit high.

My suggestion with regard to a phono preamp and cartridge is the Ray Samuels Nighthawk F-117 (about $500 - $550 used) and the Dynavector 17D3 (about $500 used). I own both and they are great performers and high value items.

The Dynavector should work on the P-3 with no VTA adjustment. It worked fine on my P-25

They both are seen occasionally on Audiogon and sell quickly, especially the F-117.

I would buy the phono preamp first to make sure you have enough gain for a low output moving coil cartridge

No free trial, but if you buy at the right price you should be able to sell for about the same and only be out shipping.

Good luck with your search and have fun.
I would upgrade the speakers. The Thiels need more power/current to perform at there best. IMO the 1.5's don't justify spending more money on an amp/pre or even a larger Bryston intergrated. Since you like the Thiel sound think outside the box(lol)and consider a Martin Logan-ElectroMotion.

Not a bad idea...however, if he's content with the Thiels, I would suggest auditioning (not buying) a larger, more powerful amp.
A couple of you have asked about my current amp (Bryston B60) or suggested something more powerful would be worth pursuing. I had, for a while, their bigger amp (3b) using it with several well regarded preamps. It never really floated my boat as it were. That may have been set up and room tuning, not sure. I don't listen loud very often. Like most people, I enjoy some lower end richness but recently - with my new near field setup - both the sparkle I'm hearing and the almost magical sound staging have been a real pleasure. I'm curious what, if anything, a more powerful amp might bring to the party. As always, thanks for the wisdom....
Dancub, Given all that is presented above, it remains my opinion that your weak link is the phono stage. You have a quality $1000 TT and $400 cartridge (provided it is in good condition) mated to a good, however budget, phono stage. I also believe that a phono stage upgrade will provide you the greatest sonic improvement/dollar spent. Again I would encourage you, as a start, to call NeedleDoctor and Music Direct and ask to talk to a salesperson most knowledgable on phono stage offerings. I will say that the Jolida JD-9 I owned would make a good upgrade and is very flexible as to loading. Sold by both the aforementioned retailers. The latest version retails at $600. The original (which I owned) for $450-$500. It is rare to find one used. There are many others that could be recommended.
Hmm...which 3B model, and which preamp. It might have been a mismatch.
There seems to be a growing consensus about the opportunity I have in my analog setup and I agree. I did a quick comparison this afternoon using an identical CD & vinyl of an recording I know well and was surprised to discover the CD sounded better. (I also inserted my Bottlehead pre into the system for a couple hours - it was a quiet day - and when I switched back to all SS, I was again surprised, it hadn't added much to mix.)

Given that and my continuing aquisition of records (& all your comments), I'm going to go after both a new cartridge and phono pre, the latter first. Mesch has intuited the price point I can stand so that's where I'll be looking. I appreciate the suggestions and any others folks might have (with associated "why"s). I sense there are also lots of new players in the business since I last looked a few years ago.

Thanks again for your recommendations!
What is your complete tube compliment?
Rolling tubes are your easiest and most bang for the buck upgrade.
If your budget doesn't allow for NOS tubes, I would go SS, with one of Nelson Pass'es designs.
Hidden weaknesses: RCA plugs and jacks, poor pots, cheap coupling caps.
Too much metal and all man-made dielectrics. Stick with natural silk or organic cotton. Any plated wire or terminators. Copper is difficult to maintain in humid climates. When copper oxidizes it produces copper sulfate, a non conductor.
When silver oxides it produces silver oxide, which is a better conductor than pure silver.
Ws_trader - Currently my only tube unit is the Bottlehead pre. While I have a variety of tubes for it, my A/B comparisons (versus the SS Bryston) have not been very impressive. I do have a tube phono preamp on order and just upgraded my speakers so things are improving rapidly. I am thinking a next step is a cartridge that will complement my vinyl enrichment goals.
May I ask which speakers and phono stage did you purchase?
The older MIT cables sound like sandpaper compared to the newer versions. upgrading cables is not recommended-it's essential. You may end up very happy with the improved sound and have money for more "software". Good luck.
Mesch - I upgraded my Thiel 1.5s (which I loved) to 1.6s. frankly, I was shocked at the richer sound. Didn't anticipate it to be so distinct. I have some high freq hearing loss so the border line brightness that Thiels have is, for me, just right...at least that's my theory. And on the suggestion of several folks here, I'm trying out a Jolida phono pre. Hoping it will be a clear step up from my NAD. It arrives Friday. Oh yes, I also checked the set up on my TT and found it off quite a bit (level & stylus pressure). Sounded markedly better...duh.
Ptss - I did replace my older MITs with inexpensive Blue Jeans cables which made for a much easier routing scheme...but there wasn't much difference in the sound. As I've mentioned before the MITs are a real pain in my set up.

My Tonearm was rewired with Cardas a few years ago. I'm wondering if I should be considering using Cardas from the TT to the phono amp for consistency?
Congrats. I also have some high Freq loss. Make many speakers that sound overly extended to some sound fine to me. I have liked the Thiels I have heard.
I think you will enjoy the Jolida. Many gain/ load options for your Bluepoint. After some experimentation, please let us know what you think.
Mesch, thanks for all your help. The Jolida was supposed to arrive today but the weather here in NH is . . . well, the weather. Spent the day cleaning records. Excited I am.
There is no such thing as an investment in this crazy hobby.. If you need to upgrade, fatten your wallet...the good stuff is expensive. If you make minor upgrades to this and that, you will never be satisfied, and spend way more money...exactly what I did.