Upgrading the Source.

I've slowly built a two channel system from the time I was 16. First starting with a simple Yamaha/psb combo till now...some 10years later to a SimAudio Moon i-5080, Polk Audio LSi 9 speakers and NAD 541i CDP. The Moon was the last upgrade and thus the NAD 541i, even only a year old, is the weakest link. I've come to the conclusion that small upgrades will cost me more down the road.

I'm an avid reader of UHF magazine and I relate to the importance of source first. What I need is some opinions on possible upgrades. Arcam, Musical Fidelity, Naim, NAD silver, Rotel, Shanling, Linn the list seems endless.

What I can tell you is that I could see myself one day, getting that final Intergrated amp like the SimAudio i-5. Possibly 3 years from now, no earlier then 2. The CDP I need should come up to the standards of the associated gear I'm using now, and also allow for further growth with speakers. I DO however feel this will be my last CD player, untill a higher res formatt like SACD takes off. Perhaps the Shanling S200 with the Chris Johnson upgrade?

I even wonder if higher priced players then the one I have now like the Rotel 1070 are even worth the bother. Again, I'm very happy with the Polk Audio LSi 9 speakers (some of the most underrated speakers on the market, and rightly so from a big market speaker company) I want the jump UP to count. Please help steer me into a narrower path.
If you're into underdog and underrated stuffs, then try the Nad S500i CDP. There is one on sale on Audiogon for 775.00. I still don't understand why this cdp doesn't get the attention that it deserves. Actually, it does receive some good press in the UK but over in the states, it is virtually unknown. Perhaps it is not the most hyperdetail machines that most people are looking for, but extremely musical and sweet. I used to own an older version nad s500 and it made me forget there was a cdp in the room.
"worth the bother?" That all depends on your tympanics. I would upgrade your system, firstly, by ditching other things, rather than your Rotel. If you think your Rotel is the end all in source material, you gots some serious listening to do. peace, warren
Warrenh, his CDP is an NAD.

Being your final CDP, I would consider those CDPs you can audition in your system and more importantly in a system that is more and quite revealing without a monetary penalty. The pain of the source-first approach is that the CDP is going to "hide" under your current rig more than an upgraded one. In addition, the differences between CDPs can come across as subtle enough to ignore, but day-in-day-out, those differences become important and become more overt as you upgrade. Kind of obvious, but laying out for you to consider.

Personally, I like my Cary 303-100. Its a very non-offensive CDP due it nice tone and rolled off highs, but has good detail. I believe it is "undervalued" ($3k msrp v. sub $1k used) in the used market because of its replacement, the 303-200, and the 308s. You may not like in your system, though.
Ohala, thanks for the clarification. I misread his post. I'm sure the Cary would sound lovely in my system, but the Audio Aero Prima is the best kept secret in audiodom. Talk about value? The Prima is listed at about $2.5K and sounds, to my ears, better than, or equal to, players costing more than twice the price. If you like the Cary, you'll love the Prima. It's 90% of its' big bother, and that's a $8k plus cdp. peace, warren
Just Curious Warrenh, what parts would you ditch first before the CD player? Have you heard the other mentioned speakers and amp?
Ohlala corrected me about your Rotel comments. Knowing that, I , wouldn't do a darn thing. Once you seriously upgrade any one of your components, that will begin the audiophoolish world of total system change over. We all suffer from this disorder. I started with an Audio Magic power conditioner. That lead to a complete change of everything (down to ICs and power cords, as well) in my system, and even came full circle to replacing my AM Stealth with an AM Eclipse. Go figure. Enjoy your tunes. A serious upgrade in a cdp will leave you disappointed, unless you're ready to go the whole 9. just a little fwiw....peace, warren
Warrenh, I believe the Cary was among the some of the earlier generation of analogue-like CPDs, which rolled off the highs. My understanding is that the AA doesn't have that drawback. I bet its good, and I should note here that for a reason too complex to get in to here, the Cary is the only "high end" player I have heard in my system.
Warrenh - I have been upgrading for some time, and will continue to do so. Right now the CDP imho is the weakest link. The Polk LSi speakers and SimAudio amp should get me through for a bit longer. The CDP from NAD is replaceable. Down the road I could see myself with an i-5 as my intergrated. And god knows what for speakers. But that is the direction I'm headed in. If you wouldn't upgrade the CDP then what would you upgrade first?
Everybody has their own way. I believe that if you make a serious upgrade of any component it will just show up, as a rule, the inherent weaknesses of your other components. That has been my experience. I don't have a clue to your budget. That is, certainly, a major factor. That being said, I usually start with the speakers and go from their. Starting with the source is probably sounder advice, but I have never gone that way.
I understand your logic. But I'll still always start with the source. As for right now, the budget would be around $1500-2k CDN for the new CDP. The small bookshelve speakers I'm using retail for $1500 CDN factoring in another $500 that the stands cost, the jump in price for performance really begins to leap. The Polk's outperformed most of the other bookshelves I auditioned, Energy Veritas, PSB stratus, Paradigm Studio's, Monitor Audio. I even liked them better then a couple pairs of Totems I've heard. So for right now, I'm still thinking CDP. The money spent on suitable upgrades from the set I'm using right now would be well into the $2500-3K mark CDN. And that's a Jump I really only want to make down the road (2 years)

Right now a CDP jump from $700-$1500 makes more sense. But I'm always willing to not only listen with my ears but advice from others.
As you're looking at redbook only, I would search for a small local (CDN) manufacturer of cdp. (there are some such, but I can't remember them -- maybe UHF can help.) Such a product should be well designed and offer very good sound cheaper than a known brand. On the down side, few would know about it -- but who cares...
Otherwise, save up a bit & get a sacd/cd player at least
Bottom line always ends up with your speakers. Where is your new, quality source material going to go? Into a less than integrated, then onto less than speakers. I'm not a Polk fan. Never met a Polk that I was crazy about.
Bookself speakers? I'd start with a pair of Revel M20s, or of that ilk, and go from their. Now we're talking. What you have, now, will not do a source upgrade justice. Like I said, we all have our own way, even though mine is better. lol peace, warren
I second the comment about only seriously considering cdp's that you can demo in your system. It seems as if you are very dileberate in your approach, and you don't want to make any big mistakes. If this is the case then the only way to not regret your big purchase is to try it out in your system, or a system you are very familar with, before you buy it.

I have not always done this myself but everytime I have, I have been rewarded tremednously by the fact that that gear tends to stay in my system a long time.
If you take your present system and added a $10k plus cdp, the sound would not be even close (if you canned the Polks) to what the addition of a $3K (maybe less) pair of monitors or floorstanders would do. Speaker upgrade will give you the biggest bang for the buck.

Just out of curiosity; have you heard the Polk LSi9's?? I ask you because if you're thinking polk sound from Circuit City, then you're off. This speakers are another beast altogether and are very, VERY good sounding speakers. If you're dissing them just because of the "Polk name" I think you might be missing the big picture. Polk is a big company with resources that small speaker manufacturers could only dream about. If they put their minds into it, they can create good things because of those resources...and that's precisely what they attempted with their LSi line.

I have listened to the LSi9s and LSi15s and let me tell you; they are a screaming bargain at the price. The LSi9s are revealing speakers, with a very natural sounding midrange, and very extended, sweet highs. By the way, they use one of the best tweeters availables, Vifa's Dual Ring Radiator Tweeter(also used in Krell speakers, AudioPhysics, and some Sonus Faber's more expensive speakers). I think pbawcutt would do fine in changing his source, and his speakers will reveal how good the new source is.

I would suggest, if you haven't, you give those speakers a listen(hint: you won't find them in Circuit City) preferably on a good rig. Try to be objective, and forget about you "not being a fan" of Polk...

If you want to read some GLOWING reviews go to:

http://www.soundstage.com/revequip/polk_lsi9.htm here Doug Schneider of Soundstage.com! reviewed the lsi9, or you can go t:


where Wes Philips raves about the Lsi15s and even gave them the product of the year award for 2002.
I am not saying that Polks are poor speakers. I'm saying that they are not my cup of tea. No big deal. Those Polks are nice little speakers. Product of the year? Great. They are no Revel M20s, Nautilus 805, Jmlab Utopia Be, Harmonic Precision Caravelles and oodles more. Anyone of these speakers added to his system, will do more for the system than adding an Audio Aero Capitole. His amp wouldn't know what to do with an AA signal. That being said, after the speakers, a better source etc. etc. etc. down to ICs and power cords will sing through those speakers.

P.S. I know a Polk from a Circuit City Polk. My post, still, stands....
Well Warrenh I'll take your input with a little grain of salt. I guess I have a totally different approach to music and the gear that makes me enjoy it. I couldn't ever recommend a person using a speaker with a source that was 1/7th its price before he upgraded his source first. My CDP is less then half of what my Speakers cost me (excluding stands) , and a third of what my amp cost me. Going further with my speakers just doesn't make sense to me. I have done my own comparisons with source vs speakers and source always wins. A pair of $200 speakers will always sound better with a better source then vice versa. There have been numerous written demonstrations. The one that sticks out in my mind is the PSB Alpha speakers hooked up to a LINN CD12 and having people call it a reference system.

A speaker can not add anything missing up the chain. If it is, then it is coloring the music. I'm sure you're aware of this so I'll leave it at that.

I have done my own little tests and have also come to the conclusion that source is the foundation upon you build. Regardless of budget. I guess that is where you and I differ. And fair enough.

I almost had a chance to audition the Jmlabs you were talking about. It is funny you mentioned the Nautilus 805's because most people that I talk too that have had a chance to listen to the LSi's have said how they are totally different sounding and for the most part much further ahead then the brighter Nautilus you're talking about. Aside from the difference in tonal character the B&W are just that, B&W and most people can't honestly say they have auditioned the LSi's.

The LSi's are not a perfect speaker, then again no speaker is. The way sound is reproduced will always make it impossible. But when it comes time for the next upgrade in speakers I have a few ideas. Right now I'm more interested in timing, melody and rythem. And I'm pretty sure those are things that can be corrected by upgrading from an entry level CDP to something more upscale that will not only mate better with my current system but also my plans to build around it with a better intergrated amp and speakers down the road.
Obviously I don't know what you have, but maybe get an effective rack for that new CDP. They are key players in the rhythm section.
I have the perfect monitor, BTW. To me, at least...and I've done a lot of listening....peace, warren

There is no disputing taste. You like(love maybe?) your monitors so of course, they are perfect for you. That doesn't make pbawcutt option of Polk's LSi9s any less valid. I'll repeat what I said earlier though, if you get a chance, listen to those speakers without any prejudice and you'll see they are very impressive.

I think you're right in upgrading your source. Since you already have a Simaudio integrated, why don't you try one of their CD Players like the Moon Nova or Moon Equinox. That Rotel player you talked about has gotten some good reviews, and is creating a bit of a buzz, so maybe you should check it out. Your LSi9 speakers will reveal changes made upstream, and will only get better as your surrounding equipment gets better.

One thing about the LSi speakers is; they like power. Their impedance is a bit low, so they like amplifiers with high current capability and a high damping factor(very low output impedance).

I now run a system that among other things uses a pair of Polk LSi15s, Perreaux R200i integrated, and a Simaudio Moon Nova LE CD Player. By audiophile standards, I'm nuts(which is why I'm not an audiophile but a music lover). You see, no audiophile would ever consider mating over $7500 of electronics to a pair of $1500 speakers, but guess what?? I am extremely happy with it.

I may(or may not) upgrade my speakers eventually, but believe me, I've gone through several amplifier, source, and cables upgrades already without touching my speakers. In fact, right now I'm actually considering a power conditioner solution more so than I'm considering a speaker change.

Hope this helps...
Ffontan, you're right on that: You're "nuts." Hey, you said it yourself. The Polks are a nice little speaker, for sure. Hook-up your electronics to Revel M20s, JmlabMicro BEs, Nautilus 805s, or the Caravelles (the Caravelles are the only monitor, here, that do not require a sub)--then talk to me about tympanic happiness. You have no idea. You may find out that your system is capable of a lot more with different speakers. I have no doubt. fwiw, warren
Warren, Please describe for me if you can,technically, why your Caravelle's do not require a sub woofer - what is their -3db point, 32hz, 40hz, 60hz? I'm sure you must have the manufacturer's spec's. How can one get that much bass from a small speaker - this seems to defy the normal design limitations of small box speakers.
Why not look into one of the many excellent used DACs on the website? Modwrighted Perp Tech P3A, Bel Canto, Musical Fidelity, MSB Nelson or Gold version, etc. Most of these will get you damn close to current "state of the art" redbook CD reproduction. Do not get on the dead end SACD/DVD-A bandwagon.
It does defy all mini monitor standards. I, do, however, use my subwoofer that I had with my Revel M20s. I have it crossed over at 40 Hz, but ran the speakers for months without it and was very content. I, still, prefer to use the sub woofer, though rarely required, for those recordings that can push the limits of any monitor or floorstander, for that fact. I would be will to bet that many audiophools wouldn't require a sub. If I didn't own one, already, I would probably, still, be listening to my Caravelles without a sub. My Caravelles with their stands are absolutely ridiculous. Every day I listen I'm still amazed what comes out of these babies. It's all in the crossover. Fabulous, Phase coherence like nothing I've ever heard. Rember I said "that I ever heard." The Jmlab Utopia Bes were the best darn monitor, by far, I'd ever listened to, until the Caravelles. Want to know more about the speaker? Go to audiopoints.com/ Starsound Technologies website.
peace, warren
I think Ffontan's point Warrenh is that he can get more out of $7500 and a stellar performer like the LSi then spending $7500 on speakers with bad electronics.

I wont defend the LSi's anymore. At the same token I'm sure you personally have not heard them, so the point is moot.
Look, I'm not knocking your LSi's. I know you love them and they obviously do the job for you. . I'm just saying, from my listening experiences, there are much better choices, as far as monitors go, that I would pursue. True, I've never heard your monitors, but I have heard much more expensive Polks, that couldn't go tete at tete with any of the monitors I mentioned. Great source,amp, cables, ICs the like? All that "great" stuff needs a great forum--....and dat be the speakers. I've beaten this to death...happy listening warren
I have only heard Revel speakers in two dealerships but one had them in dedicated single speaker room. A souless musical presentation is what I say. I was bored and irritated within 5 min. They are a technologial achievement but are in no way a musical transducer.

You said: "True, I've never heard your monitors, but I have heard much more expensive Polks, that couldn't go tete at tete with any of the monitors I mentioned."

That right there, says it all...I don't mean to knock on you, but like a friend of mine said once: "If you don't know, you don't know".

Until you listen to those monitors in particular, you really can't judge. You can't judge their sound from what you heard of other Polk models from the past, no matter how expensive they were, because they are different. Technology evolves, so does speaker building knowledge. The LSi line is quite possibly the best line of speakers Polk has ever built, regardless of what previous models costed.

I'll tell you what something. I've never listened to your monitors, but I've listened to the Revel M20s, for all their virtues(and they have many), to my ears they seem clinical. I've listened to the B&W N805, and I prefer the Polks...That doesn't mean I haven't heard speakers I didn't like more than the Polks. I heard a pair of Thiel CS2.4 at a friend's house, and those are DAMN impressive speakers. But even those, are not without drawbacks.

And ultimately that's what we're talking about here, preference and taste. Like I said before, there is no arguing matters of taste. Taste(preference) needs no justification, it is what it is...

You like your monitors, God bless you for that. Listen and enjoy them. Now, THAT doesn't make anyone else's choice any less valid. Nor does it necessarily makes your speakers or any of the ones you mentioned any better than the Polks. They are different, and they appeal to different tastes.

Some audiophiles love tube amps and swear by them...as of right now, I wouldn't spend a dime on a tube amp. That's me, that's my choice, but it doesn't make tube amps invalid, or bad choices. Just not my cup of tea. I'm just an engineer who hates putting up with inconvenience...and I'm not an audiophile, just a music lover.
One more thing Warrenh...

About me being nuts, I know it was tongue in cheek and all so I wasn't offended. But I'll tell you something. Your power conditioner, costs almost twice as much as your CD Player, and as much as your integrated amp. By your own line of thinking, that would be a wrong choice, you should have spent more money on your digital source(and amp), improving it as much as you could(maybe get an Audio Aero Capitole) before addressing the power conditioning solution.

By audiophile standards, that's nuts too. "Adiophile wisdom" says: you should have all of your components in order before addressing power conditioning.

Nevertheless, you're extremely happy with your system. So who's to say you're wrong?? Not me, that's for sure. Hell, I'm happy that you've found audio nirvana. I'm the guy that has over $7500 worth of electronics hooked up to a pair of $1500 speakers...I don't follow "Audiophile Wisdom"...I just buy what my ears like.

Again, is all a matter of preferences...
WOW! Tom, you are the first for that musical review of the Revels: "no way a musical transducer?" Man, we must have been listening to different Revels. Never met a Revel I didn't like/love. Live and learn...

Add me to that list...The Revels(the M20s anyway) are technologically impressive, and have many virtues to them, but they were clinical, to my ears. Again, its all a matter of preference and not about whether or not one is absolutely better than the other.
You state that they are "technologically impressive." Would you care to elaborate? You, also, said they "have many virtures". The operative words are many and virtues. Care to elaborate? I'm just wondering where you get the "clinical" from? I'm wondering a lot from this thread. You are right about preference, not which is better. The Revels are very unforgiving, because they are that good. Great speakers, I find, are not forgiving, and will show up the inherent weaknesses in one's system. Hey, we all have different ears. MY ears, for two, like I said, haven't heard a Polk that tittilates my tympanies. No big deal. Just thoughts from a resident audiophool. Trust your ears and go with whatca love. I do. peace,warren

Some things in life defie explanation...taste being one of those things. The Revels are great speakers, and are perfect for people who demand their sound. Great detail, great imaging, very revealing...

Obviously there is a lot of technology going into them. Floyd Toole, head of research at Revel is considered by many people one of the greatest researchers in speaker building. He was head of Canada's NRC, and those people have produced more technical, VALIDATED data about speakers than anybody else...Anyway Revel designs its own drivers, crossovers, etc...

After all is said and done, they don't appeal to me. I respect them and I think they are great speakers, just not my cup of tea...and I certainly don't think that all those virtues make them automatically better than something like The Amphion Argons2, the Von Schweikert VR-1, or the Polk LSi9s...nor the fact that I like those speakers more than the Revels, make them better. They are different.

I'll give you a car analogy...

Mercedes Benz, fine cars, great technology, great engineering...for whatever reason, they don't move me, and that's that. I respect them and I appreciate what they offer, I can see why people love them so much, but they are still not my cup of tea.

Having said all that, I stand by what I said, if you haven't heard the Polk LSi9s then you can't really judge them, because they are not like Polk speakers of the past...

In fact you should listen to them, without any Polk prejudice and WITH a good choice of electronics.

I'm sorry about the delayed and so general response, but work's been kicking my in the rear end all day...
I like the M.B. reference. I have test driven a number of the smaller cars over the years and nothing has ever got my juices going. However, I don't think I've ever driven a VW that wasn't just plain enjoyable and for whatever reason I really enjoy the new Saab 9.3 Aero and Lexus IS300 SportDesign (have never found any excitement in any other Lexus). Also love the new Mazda RX8. I just love a good manual gearbox and a willing car to go with it.

Anyway, I think there are basically two types of us audiophile people - Krell or Cary, Revel or Spendor (or ProAc or Harbeth, etc.). I fall into the ProAc camp and absolutely love my Resonse 2.5s driven by my AirTight 300B amp. I have had this combo for three years and have no intention of checking anything else out. I use an REL sub to augment and this system is so good it just calls out my name anytime I'm home. I spend my money now primarily on CDs and am listening every night until my wife forces me to bed.

By the way, I think Audio Research belongs in the Krell/Revel camp which is not a bad thing, just the other side of the coin for me. This has nothing to do with so-called accuracy, neutrality, etc. Just has to do with enjoyment of music.

I got your email. I'm sorry I hadn't responded yet, I was on travel and didn't get to read your email until tuesday. To make matters worse my computer at home has been acting up big time, freezing on me, which is weird because I've never seen that happen with Windows XP. I believe is my video card(cause ever since I installed it, I've been having trouble with it). Anyway I'll try fixing it tonight and responding to your email.

I'll tell you though, first I don't take any of these discussions too seriously, so don't think by any chance I was offended or bothered, or anything like that by you disagreeing with me. Hell, I enjoy a spirited, respectful discussion as much as the next guy.

My whole point about this hobby, is that there is a certain level of performance, where taste starts to become more important than whether or not a piece of gear is "better or worse" than anotherone. I believe the LSi9s approach that level of performance. Like I said, this hobby is about enjoying the music, and the choice of gear is a matter of preference...and there is no arguing preference.

I agree with you on some of the things you mentioned on the email, specially the speakers stands issue. Oh...and no I don't own the LSi9s, but I've auditioned them extensively. I do own the LSi15s which are floorstanding speakers.

Anyway have a good day. I'll try emailing you back later today.
I found this thread I started a long long time ago. Well Ffontan I still use the LSi9's althought they might be replaced with LSi15's or I might upgrade to a better Monitor Dynaudio 1.3SE's or Reference 3A MM De Capos...

Oh and Warrenh, I upgraded my source. I use a Museatex DAC/Transport Combo modded by John Wright now. The Transport was actually John's who sold me his personal one. The impact this change made was not slight or small. It was only a month after I auditioned it I found out that it was one of the best DAC/transport combo's money could buy. At anyrate I have a first rate digital end that has made great strides in making all discs musical in ways I really can't describe. The Moray James power and digital cables really improved things as well.

On to new speakers or perhaps a better intergrated.
you're on your way. enjoy..peace, warren