It looks like amplification is your weak link, not your loudspeakers. The B&Ws need some power and maybe a little more warmth and musicality. I’m thinking a Rogue Pharaoh II Integrated Amplifier.
Good day all. I am looking for some upgrade guidance. I want to upgrade my speakers, and based on what I have been reading as a lurker on AG for a couple of years, I know there a lot of differing thoughts and opinions here which would be most appreciated.
I am in the process of upgrading my 2-channel system which has not been used much in the past 15 years due to kids, work, and life in general. While music never left my life it was relegated to my iPhone/air pods and my car. When the pandemic started, I found myself looking for better ways to enjoy music that would not affect the rest of the family as we all worked from home, so I went down the headphone rabbit hole. While I absolutely love my headphone rig I realized I miss sitting and listening to speakers, so I am off on another journey, and this is where I am seeking advice.
I am very lucky that my wife asked if I would like to take one of our unused bedrooms, 11’4”x15’, and make it my dedicated listening room. Of course, I jumped on the opportunity and am patiently working on how to maximize the music with the gear I currently have as well as upgrade possibilities. I have my old 2-channel system gear as well as one of my headphone rigs in my new listening room currently.
I currently have 3 different audio set ups in my home, and they are the following:
- Naim Uniti Atom HE
- Focal Stellia Headphones
- Roon - Windos PC
- Music Fidelity MX DAC
- Focal Arche Amp
- Focal Clear Headphones
- Headphone Rig
- Sonnet Hermes Streamer
- Sonnet Morpheus DAC
- Custom Tube Hybrid Amp - 10W into 8ohm, 5.5W into 30 ohm, 2.5W into 80ohm, 0.6W into 300ohm. Amp has speaker taps.
- Meze Elite, Sony MDR-Z1R, and VMF Verite Closed Headphones
- Sony 707ES CD Player
- Harmon Kardon Turntable – model slips my mind at the moment
- Sonnet Hermes Streamer
- Sonnet Morpheus DAC
- Forte Model Forty Four preamp
- Meridian 605 monobloc amps
- B&W Matrix 804 Speakers
When I had my 2-channel system set up years ago I used to bi-wire the speakers using Kimber 8TC cables, issue is I gave a set to a fiend years ago and the speakers do not sound the same using one set of speaker cables to either pair of binding posts on the B&Ws. I purchased a pair of jumpers to use, and while the sound improved using the Meridian Amps, it is still not the same as it was when I bi-wired the speakers. I currently have the speakers hooked up to my hybrid tube amp using the jumpers but the music sounds “thin” to me. I like the overall sound using the tube amp over the Meridians, but I am not sure what direction to go. In speaking with the amp maker, he said that my amp is a relatively low powered amp when it comes to powering speakers, so I'll want to look for speakers with very high efficiency to pair with it. 95dB/watt at 8+ ohms is good, and if I can find speakers that are 98dB/watt at 8+ ohms or even higher sensitivity that would be even better.
There are several routes to take, these are a few my of my options that I am considering but I am open to others as well.
- Buy another pair of speaker cables and bi-wire my speakers again using my old 2-channel gear.
- If I go this route, I will upgrade my pre-amp as this is a weak link in the chain IMO.
- Upgrade my speakers so that I can use my tube amp, this is my desired path as I am really liking the warmth of tubes.
- Purchase a new amp for my speakers and upgrade my preamp.
- Purchase a new integrated amp and sell my Meridian amps and preamp.
- Setting up my turntable at this time is not a priority for me.
I have very eclectic taste in music: Grateful Dead to Nine Inch Nails, John Coltrane to Johnny Cash, Opera to Blues, you name it I will mostly listen to it. I have found myself exploring music more now than before and listen to music that sounds good, Roon has been a game changer in my music discovery. Listening to my ZMF headphones I cannot get enough vocals, the Sony’s are great for EDM, the Elites make jazz and classical come alive. I am not a critical listener and I sometimes have a hard time verbalizing what I am hearing or looking for. I just love great recorded music at all volumes. I like warm sound, a large soundstage, and instrument separation. I enjoy detail but am not obsessed with micro detail. A warm engaging sound where I can get lost in the music is what I am ultimately searching for.
My budget is $5,000 for whatever upgrade route I decide to go. I am leaning towards upgrading my speakers so I am looking for some recommendations that would work well and sound amazing with my current set up that I can audition. I have a few nice high end audio shops in my area where I can audition new gear, some will allow me to take pieces home to listen to in my system. I am also open to other ideas if there is a better way to improve the sound of my system.
I know there is a lot of information here and I thank you for your time and help if you managed to get this far. Be well.