What have I missed in the last 12 years?


I was really in to audio in my early 20s.  Starting in 2005 though, things got in the way.  I kind of lost track of where things went in the industry; got bored of reading about $1,000+ cables etc.  Married, two kids, four moves and three jobs later and now things have settled down and I'm rediscovering the joy of my stereo.  Current system:

Audio Physic Tempo
McIntosh MC202 Amp
McIntosh C15 pre-amp
Marantz CD-6005 CD Player (bought last year when my ~2000 CDP's transport went wonky)
Project Debut TT
Sansui TU-717 Tuner (rarely used)

Most (95%) of my listening is CDs, a broad mix of jazz/rock/folk/piano/vocal.  I love the vinyl sound, but don't have the collection of records to really make it the focus of my listening.  I see now that a lot more vinyl is available than in 2005.  Current room is 18' x 15' but the house is "open" floorplan so the room is more or less open to the rest of the house.  That's good and bad; good because I effectively have a much bigger "room" but bad because it limits volumes when the little ones are sleeping.

So, audiophiles--Catch me up!  When I left the hobby streaming was a joke, and most people were of the mind that (at least for reasonable prices) all-in-one CDPs were the way to go.  Fewer cables, synced clock rates etc.  Now I see lots of lower cost DACs out there.

Things I like about my current system?  Imaging is good, tonal balance is good.  What it lacks?  Not the most involving at lower SPLs, lacks low end punch.  A bit of a haze and lack of transparency.  Could use more "bloom"?

I'm thinking of resetting the whole system and going with low power tubes and high efficiency single drivers.  Thinking that with my SPL limits, might give me what I'm looking for.  
rhum_runner
I'm thinking of resetting the whole system and going with low power tubes and high efficiency single drivers.  Thinking that with my SPL limits, might give me what I'm looking for.
Good idea, although I would not limit myself just to single drivers.  Ref 3 makes great high efficiency speakers with a very simple crossover.  If you budget will allow, Hornings are high efficiency with a wider band than most single drivers.  Good lower power tube amps can be had for a reasonable price from Atma-sphere, RM Labs, and lots of others.  Just remember that SETs make more distortion as their output goes up, so if you go that route, make sure you account for the peak power demands of your listening habits and material. 

On the digital route, developments have been dramatic with respect to computer audio and dacs.  Not sure an investment in a high end CDP makes sense any more.  Ripping a large CD collection is a project, but if you get a music server that auto-rips, you can do it while you watch TV or do other chores.  Lots of good info @ computeraudio.com. 
The main stay of my system has been vinyl although I collected a fair amount of cd's in the 90's. About a year ago I bought a Zdac hooked that up to an old cd player & was amazed at the improvement this little inexpensive device made. Since you mostly listen to digital, you may want to think about buying a newer DAC to see what that does for your system. 
i had a 202 and C15 running Vandersteen 3A-Signature for years..
you will be pleasantly suprised what they are still worth outright or in trade. The C15 the rarer of the two, hyper quiet and has a great MM section.
but i understand the allure of tubes..
you might consider Aesthetix Romulus a fine dac and cd player in one box...also upgradeable and a smoking deal used.
only downside is no plan as far as i can tell for MQA
have fun re entry is fun



Digital streaming technology has come a long way.

Amps come in smaller packages and deliver more clean power and current for less.

That's mostly it.
I'm a fan of streamcasting since local radio is *meh*.  Connection speeds are up, so there's less dropouts now.  But that'll depend on your wire...

The 'connection/wire wars' continue unabated, as do discussions on most anything else.  Tweek as you wish or can afford. ;)

Digital enhancements fall into the same conundrum.

That's the Cliff's Notes version, but that's MHO.

Sounds like you've got a good stack in the meantime. *S*  I'd lurk around for awhile and get your feet wet....education is free, mistakes get costly and frustrating.

And, of course, remember the old saw about 'opinions'....;)
The Rum Runner is the name of the night club where Duran Duran got their break. Black sabbath played regularly at that club too. The owner mortgaged his home to finance five young kids....
Be prepared for sticker shock. Sorry but that is a fact these days. Good luck.
@rhum_runner,

You picked a very good time to take 12 years off from the hobby. I think a lot of concepts have solidified over that time and consequently you are likely to have saved a lot of money that you may have otherwise wasted.

So, here we go......

First, it's confirmed. Vinyl is here to stay, at least for the near future. Keep your record collection and add to it when you feel like it. There are lots more new releases, re-releases, re-masters, etc now than there was 12 years ago. Go enjoy National Record Store Day next spring and go enjoy searching through the bins at one or more of the new record stores that have likely popped up in your city.

Second, digital music streaming has become mainstream and quality digital music hardware has exploded. It is available at all price-points. Decent sounding USB DACs can be had for as little as $99, but you can also pay 10's of thousands of dollars for top-tear DACs. Digital streamers, like the $499 Bluesound Node 2 can be used to stream your music that you rip to a hard drive or NAS, as well as stream from a service like Tidal, Dweezer, Spotify, etc. For $20 a month on Tidal you can stream unlimited high bitrate digital audio. There's no way you could have ever bought as much music for only $20 a month 12 years ago, and the streams sound good.

BTW, your existing system is perfectly fine and it will be costly to get anything better. Just do some homework on streaming and ripping digital audio and add to your current system. After you've done that, decide if it's important to upgrade/change your hardware and decide how much of an investment it is worth to you. 

It's a really good time to be an audiophile or music lover. Enjoy your newly re-found hobby and ENJOY THE MUSIC. And get those kids involved.........
With both embracers and detractors; Class D amplification has gone from an audiophile novelty to fairly common with a variety of manufacturers to choose from.
Get some Tekton Design speakers, and an Yggdrasil dac. They will change your world for the better.
Roon...
my solution to similar needs: $ 12,000-13,I000, state of the art (not counting computer for itunes)
1. rip all your cds into itunes using apple lossles format with error correction during the rip
(this should give you a bit perfect copy of the cd but the manageablility of i tunes to instantly access any cd at any time with 1 second effort
2. Chord dave DAC ($7000-8000 used)
this is state of the art dac and will take your bit perfect itunes filed cd info and output as close to perfect analog signal as is available at this time in history
3. focal utopia headphones--$4000 (pretty much best available sound through earphones)--I find it the equal of my 2 Cary single ended amps + two sub woofers computer tuned to room + a pair sonus faber guarneri speakers speakers--this lets you listen to blastingly loud music with unbelievable emotion in the middle of the night without disturbing your family

works for me

Jeff

 
I was going to say class D, but I'm late to the game. So I second that! Love my class D amps with a tube pre... Power and efficiency all day!
....a %3000 increase in price for the same 40 year old tech 
that's all. 
My recent discovery is that I can now purchase a David Berning designed amplifier at significantly lower prices from Linear Tube Audio. The clear transformerless sound is addictive. I second the idea of listening to Tekton design speakers.

i am listening to monsterous tower speakers (Double Impacts) that are 98db sensitive and I'm using a 1 watt LTA Micro ZOTL. Holy crap this sounds good and huge bang for the buck. My use of NOS tubes have brought to another level.
rhum runner-You may find simply cleaning the ends of your interconnects and playing with speaker placement might give you a very inexpensive upgrade. The system you have already would be a step up for some. Happy listening!
Thats a pretty good system even today.  I had a C15,  nice pre and one of those items I wish I'd had kept....  I would start with new source components.  Maybe a good DAC and a universal player that can use a streaming stick and access media on your network or a hard drive.  Thats still a really good rig, start with your sources.