Weakest Link? Your honest opinions.

Before I spend any more on audio equipment, I'd like some opinions on my current vinyl rig:

Nagaoka MP200 Cartridge (this I will be upgrading to a Zephyr as soon as possible)>

VPI Classic 1>

Blue Jeans BJC LC-1 RCA Cables>

Jolida JD9 Phono Stage>

Monster RCA Cables>

Marantz PM-68 Int Amp>

Canare 4S11 Star Quad Speaker Cable>

Kef Q55 Speakers (bi-wired)

Everything aside from the turntable/cartridge I've had for 5 to 6 years, and are my first foray into HiFi audio.

Just bought the Classic 1 recently, and I'm loving it so far, but I feel a better cartridge will really improve the sound. The Nagaoka was used previously on my Rega P1 (which I'm using in my office rig). I'm saving up to buy the Zephyr, but does anyone notice any other obvious faults in my system?

I feel like the Marantz and Kefs could be replaced at some point, but I wouldn't want to make a purchase unless I know it's going to make a significant improvement over what I already have.

Also, does anyone think some part of my rig might prevent the Zephyr from performing as well as it should?
Well, you're the one who lives with it, what do you think is the weakest link?

Secondly, have you tried making your room as good as it can be? Waaayyyy too often folks throw money at equipment purchases when tweaking the room would pay much better dividends.

The speaker/room interface and source materials are the two biggest arbiters of overall sound quality. Unless you have those dialed-in, throwing money at equipment is really just a waste...

You are the weakest link, get a better job and buy some real audio.
Not very slik, Ric.
We can't all be the 2% like you Ric. Lighten up.
The best thing to do is think over what you like, or dislike about various equipment you have heard. That is the way they sound.
For example: I am crazy crazy about perfect upper midrange to highs.So if the vilins and sopranos sound great.. I am very happy. I do not need much bass beyond clean.
So I worked at finding equipment which did what i wanted most.
Now my stuff while perfect in respect of what I want, might be lacking to someone else for whon slam was very important.
If you KNOW what you like most.. it gets easier to find stuff which will please YOU.
Buying some stuff which pleased some guy whose needs are opposite yours is certainly the wrong way to buy equipment.
And for those who say buy the stuff which sounds real.. yeah, but if you are on a budget.. then the absolute sound is out of the price range..
So figure out what YOU like about what you have now. and what you would like MORE OF..
Good luck.

If you want a blanket what I think you could use..try a power conditioner...
nice slikric-dick
I think that you have a very nice rig and I hope that you are enjoying it. Since you don't mention power delivery at all, I will be an ass and assume that you have not attended to it. A Hubbell HI8300 outlet can be purchased for around $15.00 and will improve the sound over many older outlets. Likewise some modestly priced power cables would help, or better yet, build some yourself and save some money.

If you want to spend money on a component, the Marantz is what I would replace. Why? Electronic distortions are, to me much more irritating than the distortions in loudspeakers or analog gear, and having heard the Marantz, this is where I would start.

Good luck with the hunt and the quest, but most of all, enjoy your music on the way.
I'm with Elizabeth, especially with her recommendation for a power conditioner as a starter.
Hey slikric keep your stupid comments to your ignorant self. A member asked a reasonable question. If you can't help then do us a favor please don't respond.
Hey ric doesn't look like you're setting the world on fire
Why the crass comment Ric?
There may be an ounce of truth to Ric's comment. Never satisfied, how many of us have made purchases that we later could only attribute to an impulsive listening session, hearsay, vanity or whatever? Yes, we all may be the weakest link in our systems!
Really? Who is he to tell someone to get a better job.Smug,rude and unnecessary.
I would replace the speakers. Surely you will hear the difference.

And better speakers will help you appreciate the difference when you upgrade the amp later. (Versus -- you might not hear a real difference replacing the amp first.)
So hard to give any advice without hearing a system. switching out certain pieces one at a time from friends or dealers may help. I don't think anyone can answer this question.
As far as you go Slikric3000, it is never good to put down the system of another, no matter what you own, but you are certainly in no position to do so.
Have you upgraded the tubes in your JD9, it makes a big difference.
ric, wake up on the wrong side of the bed? That was a mean spirited remark.
I’m not familiar with any of your equipment or know your tastes to make any specific recommendations. I will say that component “upgrades” are not always the road to better sound. It’s my personal belief that the foundation of a high performing system (notice I didn’t say expensive) is careful attention to room acoustics and speaker placement, vibration control, clean power and for systems with an analogue front end, cartridge alignment/ table setup. Most of these can be improved upon fairly cheaply with a bit of patience. Learning how to ring all the performance your equipment is capable of is a skill that will serve you well going forward.
I'd second the speaker upgrade. Those were never a favorite of mine. I think you can see a big improvement for a modest investment. And speakers will be by far the most noticable change you can make.
Hey 3000 get a better job and buy a real power supply.

Monster Cable HTS 5000 ($699)


Get a real job and buy some real IC's!

Review: Cardas Reference Series Golden & Neutral Ref, Golden Pres. Interconnect
I use the NR all the way around. Some day I may upgrade to the GR.
Slikric3000 01-05-09

You owe the OP an I am sorry for being a DH!
As sbrown says, look at accessories first. Maximise what you have got, before a big outlay on new kit. The turntable in particular, needs good isolation. A wall shelf on a solid, not partition wall, perhaps with some borrowed stillpoints. Is the rest of the kit on a good solid rack, perhaps with some more basic footers, such as the excellent range from Herbies lab.

You mention cables, not power cables. I was dubious, but they really have an effect, even on turntable power supplies. You can get loaners from your local dealer or the Cable Company.

When you've done all you can with accessories and room treatment, then I would loike at the amp or speakers, good though both are.
First, the typically hyper-reactive moderators didn't scrub dickrick's remark. Stunning. A completely needless and tasteless remark.

Second, Elizibeth didn't use this to (as always) shill for Pangea powercords? What's this world coming to?

Anyway, to the OP - sorry for the rick-dick remark, and probably the most early cost effective change is to ensure you maximize your room's potential.
Get the book or DVD " Get Better Sound" by Jim Smith. Read/listen the whole book/DVD.

You can be surprise by the result if you follows the tips that Jim Smith provide.

The base is always the room and you go from there.
Narticus - In a similar vein to Elizabeth's post, you might also try to identify what you dislike about your system as a whole first, then methodically determine which component (or maybe the room) is causing it, or at least emphasizing it.

For example, years ago, I used a mid-fi AVR for both HT and 2-channel audio. Based on how little real power many mid-fi AVRs put out, I bought a power amp to connect to the AVR, bypassing the internal amp of the AVR for the front three channels. The improvement was barely noticeable. I learned the hard way that the lackluster sonics I was hearing was from the preamp section of the AVR. Once I upgraded to a better pre-pro, the difference was huge. I have come to believe that the preamp in a system is a very critical link that can make or break the whole system, but YMMV.

Try whatever you can: If you can borrow different cables, an amplifer, a preamp, speakers, etc. Swap only one item at a time, of course. Does the swapped item make a positive difference? Negative? None? If you have a good local dealer, discuss this with him and see if he will let you borrow display models over night for this purpose.

The sad truth is that, in most cases, there will always be some weak link in an audio system. Fix one, and another becomes apparent. That's what drives many audiophiles to upgrade. I am currently taking a break (forced on me by economics), but thankfully, I am doing so with a system that I really enjoy listening to. Could it be better? Is there a weak link? Yes and yes, but after years of upgrades, I can enjoy my system as is for while.
I've jumped off the cable dance train by going to Mogami RCA (2549) and speaker wire (2921). I use the Neutrik Pro-Fi RCA connectors and Audioquest BFAs to terminate the speaker wire in a biwire config. I really like the transparent sound of these and the price. Various pro shops sell this cable and I got my RCA's made up by Pro Audio LA (not affiliated).

I also really like my Tekton 6.5t monitors and have read many great reviews of Eric's larger / full range speakers (Lore?).

After that, maybe an Exposure or Audio Refinement integrated?

The Jasmine LP2 mkII is a very nice phono stage if you want to go all solid state...
Hit post a little too soon. The reason why I mention going solid state in the phono stage is that I had tubes also for that component and while the Pro-ject phono tube box II was good, the Jasmine was better, warmer (dare I say more tube like), really tightened up the bass and quieter. I posted a review comparing the Jasmine, the Pro-ject and the Vincent Pho-8.

Speaking of tubes, I also tried a Rogue Cronus Magnum in place of my Audio Refinement preamp and amp. Again, the solid state beat out the tubes with the same winning characteristics. The Audio Refinement gear was better, warmer (dare I say more tube like), really tightened up the bass and quieter.
And one more note about power conditioners. I've tried a PS Audio UPC-200 and currently have a basic Furman M-8x2 Merit X series. Both are good, but both reduced the fidelity of my power amp (especially the highs) when I had that component plugged into the conditioner. I wish I tried the PS Audio without my amp going through it before I sold it. I have my amp plugged directly into a Porter Port along with the Furman plugged into the same plug.

The reason why I mention is, that you currently have an integrated and if you stay with that config you might run into the same problem of reducing your fidelity. Maybe try the same Furman I got ($50 on ebay) and plug everything into besides the integrated?
the best thing to do is borrow (get a loaner) pair of "better" speakers from an audio shop or friend and live with them for a few days and see if the speaker swap takes you where you want to go. AND borrow a better integrated... and again live with it a few days (utilizing your old speakers). In isolating and then testing one variable at a time, you can get to this quickly. FWIW... your cables and turntable are very unlikely to be the weakest link. Though the cartridge upgrade and perhaps the phono stage are two other variables to isolate and check.
Shilling for Pangea is over.. I still like the Pangea power cables. And all my detachable powercords are Pangea.. but the Pangea prices went up over time. (though not nearly as much as most other companies)
And the word is out there about Pangea.
I liked Pangea as they were cheap AND I could hear a positive difference with them... that combo is hard to complain about.
Cheap and worthwhile is great anytime.!!
So I never was a shill for the company. I just like the product a LOT. And I let others know about Pangea powercords.
So if YOU want a nice powercord that can make a real difference AND is not too expensive try a Pangea.

Pangea has an exclusive deal to be sold only by Audio Advisor. And they rarely show up used either..
Personally i would not bother with a Pangea AC14. go straight for the AC14SE. Both the bigger cords have uses and sound different, So the AC9 and AC9SE can be great,

So thanks Snofun3 for giving me a good excuse to praise my favorite powercord. (For all those skeptical types.. I bet you think Snofun3 and I are in the game together...LOL)

They are letting us ,the members here , have at 3000 for being a DH. I kind of like that. I am sure 3000 will not be heard of again on this thread. Well done members LOL.
I am with Elizabeth all the way about this. I bought the power cord for my amp at full price, and loved it right away. (SE model) I later bought 2 component cords (SE model) at 75% off. Scary 1 week break-in period, but after that, excellent. They are well made, and a no-brainer at the price. So if Liz is a shill, so am I. The Audio Advisor sale may still be going on.
Have you filled out any applications yet ??

Your system needs a few!! Have you upgraded you Monster yet LOL?

Cheese Wizzz dude.
I suggest we ignore ric, as you would a child misbehaving for attention.
Ok 3000 you asked for it.

Member of the 'Gon. I have been here for some 10+ years and I say maybe we can help 3000 out. Let's do it. Click on his system and his threads started and see this

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Slikric3000 (System | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

we got your back Narticus!

fwiw I have a Monster IC (M850I) and it has terrible bass and the mids are 'splashy' - decent tone but terrible imaging and washed out.

I am not so sure about the Blue Jean cable but I recently tried some Signal Cable (which often is recommended as well as Blue Jean) and it was better than the Monster for dirt cheap but still not very detailed (even their silver Res).

I would try new cables first.

and good luck with lurking idiots....

Try the Mogami cable i mentioned above with the neutrk golds for $25 a pair. U will like them and it is what the music studios use.

I agree the Mogami is good for cheap, I use the 2536 with Neutrik Pro Fi ends as well for about $58 from Pro Audio LA
Rlwainwright - I believe the weakest links are the Kefs and the Marantz. But I started the thread to see what other people thought.

Sbrown - I listen primarily to rock, metal, country, bluegrass, and jazz. I love acoustic music, but I also get off to loud distorted guitars. But I'd say 9 times out of 10, I'm listening to something guitar driven.

Tbromgard - I plan on upgrading the JD9 soon. Any tubes you can recommend?

Sbrownnw - I will be looking into these Mogami cables for sure. Cables of all kinds are something I haven't put much thought into.

Elizabeth - I'll look into the Pangea cords, AudioAdvisor does seem to have a sale on them.

Thank you all for your thoughts and suggestions, and for keeping the bully at bay. It's funny Sliktinydic3000 talks about getting a better job, since that's what I just did.

Fresh out of college, I purchased my first rig (the Marantz, Kefs, and a Marantz CD player)through craigslist for 300 bucks.

Now that I have a better job, I'm making upgrades, hence the purchase of the Classic 1 and soon enough, the Zephyr. I bought the Jolida for $350 through Craigslist about 3 months ago.

As for speaker placement and cartridge set up, I feel I have researched both very thoroughly and have them close to as good as they're going to sound in the room. I've bought DVDs, watched youtube videos, read countless articles, and experimented a bunch on both procedures. I'm sure a professional could make it sound better, but I feel like I've done a pretty good job.

So the next step for me is to upgrade.

After reading through your suggestions, I have a few questions:

Re: the Hubbell HI8300 outlet -- How hard is it to replace an outlet? Also, because I live in an old apartment, I need to wire my rig through an extension cord. I realize this isn't ideal, but I really have no choice in the matter. This is the only possible way to set up the living room. Do you guys think this degrades the sound? Are there any audiophile extension chords you'd recommend?

Re: Power conditioner. Any of those you can recommend?
Rethinking my power conditioner remark, I haven't listened to KEFs in ages, but if they are tube friendly it would be, given your love of vinyl, a wonderful way to go; particulary SET if they are sensitive enough. If I were a vinyl guy, I would be looking SET and speakers in the upper 90dbs. There is not a cartridge out there that will culitvate your love life with vinyl better than some tubes.
I'd ask your landlord to get permission to put a dedicated 20amp line in if it is minimal work for an electrician. I know older places can be tricky, especially with grounds. Hopefully you can get one in without major work. The Porter Ports are good for an outlet and the Furnan I mentioned above makes a good basic line conditioner.
Warrenh- What is SET?
Looking at the Focal Electra's right now. Musicdirect has them 40% off. I'm not going to be able to afford them for a few months, by then the sale will probably be over.

Sbrownnw- Is it easy enough to test to see if I have a 20amp line right now? I'd like to do that first before asking my landlord.
Also, what's with these Anti-cables on Audiogon, does anyone have experience with them?
Single Ended Triode....you're going to get some tech info about this before the sunrise. This is a VERY signifcant change to your rig. Very. Forget about all the other stuff for now, if you're $ ready. Nothing in your rig will make a dent compared to this. What is the sensitivity of your KEFS? 20amp line? 20 amps? Not a problem.
Here's some Kef Q55 specs from Audioreview: 2&1/2 way design, 150W, 6ohm, 91dB/W/m, floorstanding
Check the fuse box and see which breaker turns off your stereo. Recommend the dedicated line for cleaner power since there would be only stereo components on it plus you could then ditch the extension cord.

Before you buy tubes, especially in the preamp / amp stage, make sure you listen to them carefully. They can be noisy (I tried a Rogue Cronus Magnum and I had a Pro-ject phono tube box II). My Audio Refinement and Jasmine beat the tubes hands down.
Haven't upgraded my outlet yet, but I did purchase the following:

Pangea AC14SE - for my turntable
Pangea AC14 - for my preamp
Audioquest Black Mamba II - used between turntable and preamp
Audioquest Sidewinder - between preamp and integrated amp.
VPI/Soundsmith Zephyr Cartridge

The Zephyr, of course, made the most noticeable change. The old Nagaoka was a great sounding cartridge for the price, and on my P1, but this is clearly a huge step up. I find it hard to stop listening to records now.

I still need to A/B the cable upgrades. An improvement wasn't immediately noticeable, but if I changed back to my monster or bjc, it would probably be very apparent. I'll give it a shot tonight and report back.
Hmm you know....I have heard those Kefs and for the price I quite liked them. I heard them being driven with a Rotel integrated amp. So I don't think the speakers are the weakest link at all in your system to be honest. I would say change out the integrated and i am not saying the Marantz is a bad unit either but having heard your speakers with the Rotel I was quite impressed with the KEFS. Have you changed out the stock tubes out of the Jolida? What come with the unit? Probably stock Chinese or Russian 12AX7's. Lots of audio enthusiasts like the Mullards and of course the Telefunkens. These 2 for sure will give you great improvement in overall sonics.
Good to hear you enjoyed the Kefs.

Not sure what tubes are in the Jolida now, but they're definitely stock. I'm going to look into replacement tubes and opamps for it.

On the integrated end, I've been eyeing tube amps primarily. Icon Audios seem nice.