You have really opened up the door to any and all possibilities, huh...
To get the most help out of this place, try to figure out what it is you really want or need...then focus on getting it..
Is your system too bright? warm? bass heavy? Boonmy?
What do you like about it? What do you not like about it?
If you can pin-point a little better for us what information you really want or need we can be more helpful....
But, considering the options you offered, I would start all over..find a pair of speakers you love and can afford, then build the rest of your system around them over the next XX years. Or, find the amp you love and can afford, and do the same...or the CDP....
But, just find one piece you absolutely beleive in and go from there...That is what I would do if I had to start all over. Doing it my way over the last 20 years was fun, but much too expensive.
Don in Tennessee,
Jb8312 has some good advice. I would improve your system one piece at a time, listening to and enjoying the new piece until you yearn for something new. I tend to think you want to start with the source first for two reasons:
1. you can't add information back that didn't get off the record or CD to start with, and
2. Technology has improved the most in CD players and turn tables over the last 20-30 years compared with amplifiers and speakers.
Your current receiver and speakers will do more with a better signal than a better amp and speakers will do with the HK and Dual IMO. So I would decide which you prefer to listen to the most, vinyl or CDs, and make a major investment there to start.
For a CD player, there are sort of three tiers in the sub $1000 range for new players: $300-$500, $500-$750, and $750-$1000.
In the $300-$500 range, I would look at the NAD 525BEE and 542C, the Cambridge Azur 340C and 540C Version 2, and the Music Hall C-25. These will all provide noticeable improvements over the HK multidisk changer. The Music Hall is probably the best bang for buck even if it is at the higher end of this range.
Moving up to the $500-$750 range, I would listen to the Cambridge Azur 640C Version 2, the Rotel RCD-1072, and the Arcam CD73. These players are a step up from the other batch in terms of resolution and timing, and start to take you into the edge of real hifi. Significant improvements generally cost a lot more...
Which takes us to the $750-$1000 range, where I recommend the Marantz SA8001 and the Rega Apollo. These are fairly sophisticated players that are probably starting to get to a point where their potential wont be fully appreciated with the amplification and speakers you currently have, but they will provide building blocks to carry you to the next level.
You will probably be able to find almost all of these players used on here or on ebay (at a steep discount) at some point in the near future, and that may be the best way to go, particularly if you live in an area where they are difficult to audition in a store.
No matter which unit you go with, I would invest in decent interconnects to hook it up to the Marantz, spending 10% to 20% of the value of the players on good wires - so, between about $50 and $150. people may tell you that you need an after market power cable too, but I would cross that bridge later.
For turntables there are great tables available new starting at about $350 and going up in basically continuous fashion to the price of a small house or tournament fishing boat (hey, its analog right?).
At the lower end (about $350-$450) for a table that will provide a significant step up in sound from the Dual, I would suggest a Pro-Ject basic or Debut III, a Rega P1 or Thorens TD158 or Music Hall MMF 2.2. These will probably come fitted for the asking price with an Ortofon or Goldring cartridge that will work very well.
The next jump up is to tables costing about $600 to $700 with cartridge mounted. Recommended models include the Rega P2 with a Rega cartidge, the Thorens TD190 with an Ortofon cartridge, and a Pro-Ject Expression III with a Sumiko cartridge. These will provide more of everything and cleaarly eclipse the Dual you are currently running in terms of quietness, timing and insight into the music.
The sub $1000 category is full of great tables that start to hint at everything the truly great audiophile tables can provide, but just giving you a little less of it in every area. As with the higher end budget CD players, these tables and cartridges will be overkill with the Marantz Receiver and the little Athenas, but they will make your current system sound much better, and hang in there as you upgrade other components over time around it.
-Music Hall MMF-5.1 w/ Goldring cartridge
-Rega P3-24 w/ Rega or Ortofon cartridge
-Project RM5 w/ Sumiko cartridge (HO MC cartridge, may not work well with Marantz)
You guys are so helpful and forthcoming with great information, thanks so much!John, you're right, and I've been asking myself do I spend first on new speakers or the amp. The Athenas seem to have a detailed presentation, minus some better low-end. Good speakers for $160 I think. But an upgrade to Rotel, Adcom, NAD etc would probably necessitate new speakers, so there you go with money, money money. And then there's the wife, but that's for another forum.
The idea of auditioning units is something I want to do. Here in Nashville there are just 2 higher end dealers, not sure of their brand offerings, but I'm afraid I might find the prices of NEW items, diconcerting, so I would probably have to go with used. Right now I'm watching a couple of items on ebay; Rotel RA971 60w Integrated Amplifier and Matching Rotel RT-935AX AM/FM Tuner; and anOther auction for NAD PRE AMPLIFIER 1130, POWER AMPLIFIER 2200, TUNER 4130(the uppercase letters are not mine; i pasted from the listing) Not really interested in the turners in either one of these offerings, but i'm happy to see from knownothing that the rotel or nad could be good considerations, but are these that i watching too old or lacking in some way that i should really take into account? BTW i'm not asking anyone here to be the salespeson for any brand or to make my decisions for me, just your opinions as you guys have listened to alot more different components and configurations than I have.
Don in Tennessee
Typically NAD has been all about delivering the best possible sound for the least possible money. As a result, they are not built all that tough and I think you are taking a risk that a used component might fail before perhaps another brand. There is plenty of older NAD stuff chugging away out there, but they had to cut corners somewhere to deliver the great sound per price point (their newer entry level amps have plastic face plates). You already own and NAD and so are familiar with the smooth and natural "house sound".
Cambridge Audio gear is probably only slightly more robust than NAD on average, although the new CA Azur line is physically imposing with thick aluminum face plates, solid chassis and "how did they do that for the price" circuitry. If you decide to buy a used CD player from this mark I would opt for the 540C and 640C Version 2's which are more musical and less noisy than the Version 1's, or get one of the older D500's. Their integrated amps have been uniformly good, providing a little more punchy sound than the NADs.
Rotel equipment has been considered a step up from the other two brands in terms of price and build quality, but not always sound quality. Their amps provide a neutral and very solid foundation for any system with conservative power ratings - a 60W rating should give you all of that and then some. Their CD players are OK, but sound a little dry to my ear. I would think Rotel's approach to overbuilding would serve well when looking at used gear.
Again good luck. If any city in the U.S. besides LA and NY were likely to have some decent stereo stores with clients and sales people who know and care about music production and reproduction, it would probably be Nashville. Take some of your favorite music to the stores in your area and listen to some expensive gear to get a frame of reference. Then listen to some the more affordable gear to get an idea of what you like, what you can expect at that price point, and what brands and models you prefer. My guess is that somebody carries NAD, Rotel and Rega.
Lastly, if you want to look into a new cartridge for your Dual, take a look at this site:
Sell off what you have and buy used as an upgrade. Don't buy anything new from a dealer, maybe demo's and b stock. Otherwise selling the old does not make sense.
Don in TN,
I'll "Volunteer" another opinion....
Looks like you've got mostly older stuff of reasonably good quality. I don't have any personnel experience with any of the equipment in either of your systems, except the Athenas. So, I'll start there.
The Athenas are good "bang for the buck speaker". Last I saw them, they were selling for $99/pr at AudioAdvisor before the were replaced by the newer Athena line. I previously owned a pair and they were OK speakers, but they could be greatly out performed by speakers that are well within your $500-$1000 budget.
Since it appears that you like monitors and already own stands, here's a potential solution that may pay huge sonic dividends: Buy a pair of Quad 12L Active monitors! The Quads are very attractive, very good sounding speakers and they have bi-amplification (60W-woofer, 40W-Tweeter) built into the speaker. So, the Quads would cover new speakers and amplification for $800 or less. If either of your current integrated amps have pre-outs, you could simply connect the Quads to your existing system and live with it. Or, you could buy a reasonably inexpensive pre-amp for use with the Quads. Either way, if you would sell off the components you replaced, this solution would easily fit into the top end of your budget and you could potentially even have money left over to use toward a new CD player or TT.
Spend as much as you possibly can on a pair of speakers that really work in your room and please your ears.
When you have additional funds, find an amp that matches the speakers well.
The balance will fall into place over time.
Thanks for "volunteering". Do the Quads require a sub?
In my system and for my taste, the Quads do not require a sub. I have a good sub in the room for my HT system and I could use it, but choose not to do so. BTW, my pair of Quads took a very long time to break-in. They did not sound very good out of the box, so I let them play over a 10 day vacation. When I got back home, they had transformed into a very nice sounding speaker, especially good at the price I paid.
Also, they do respond greatly to bass reinforcement as they are placed nearer the wall behind them. I found a happy medium at about 2 feet out from the wall. Closer, they get more bass reinforcement, but get a little boomy for my taste.
See y'all later......
TIC (Tom In Cincinnati, but still a Kentuckian at Heart)