I'm putting this here because I'm not sure of where to put it. I have a very modest system.
-NAD C162 pre amp -Aragon 2004 amp -Emotiva XDA-1 DAC -Squeezebox Touch/Sonos pulling files off of an NAS -Silverline Minuet Supremes -Rel T3 sub, which I actually rarely use
I really like my system, but am kind of getting an itch to get something different. The speakers are pretty much here to stay for a while. So far, they're the best for me, considering my space/placement limitations.
I think I'm also going to stick with the SBT and Sonos. I really like the convenience of not having to deal with disks. I have grand kids.
So, given what I have for a pre, amp and DAC, what should I upgrade that will probably give me an appreciable improvement?
Find an interesting tube preamp. Various tube preamps around. Lots of new ones from China... Other used ones worth looking at. Older Conrad Johnson. Early VAC (later very expensive) middle Audio Research Sp-9 area Counterpoint SA2000 SA3000 (Counterpoint have a tendency to fail in the power supply. so see it it was upgraded)
I have owned a Counterpoint SA2000 and loved it. It broke and i sold it, sorry I did that. (used $800 a ways back in time) I still have and use a VAC Standard love it (used $1,400 was a bargain.) I also have an Audio research Sp-15 I like a lot. ($1,500 used, higher now like $2K)
I have always wanted a Conrad Johnson..
Anyway, A nice middle priced tube preamp is exacctly the ticket you could go for and be happy with some new ways to enjoy your music.
Thanks for the responses. I know that the Silverlines are going to be hard to beat without spending a whole lot more money, where I have to have them, anyway. I noted above that those were here to stay for a while. I only mentioned them for the sake of speculated system synergy.
I have been giving some thought to grabbing a tubed pre amp, but then also thought that my cheapie DAC might need upgrading. I wasn't sure, so posted this thread for some opinions.
I am a bang for the buck kind of guy, so I run all Blue Jeans cabling.
If you really like your system, perhaps you can just enjoy the music and not tinker with it - human beings have this psychological need to venture out and experience something new, and this can get costly in hifi real fast.
You know about the law of diminishing returns - higher you go, the less satisfying will be your returns, unless you spend much much more...
What I did, when i got the itch, is to get a new mini system for a different part of the apartment - gym area, kitchen, bed rooms, etc.
If you want to go this rout, might be interested in something like this - it has computer streaming capability + improves ipod sounds by using it's upgraded DAC on play back.
I really like my system, but am kind of getting an itch to get something different. So, given what I have for a pre, amp and DAC, what should I upgrade that will probably give me an appreciable improvement?
If you really like your system, perhaps you can just enjoy the music and not tinker with it - human beings have this psychological need to venture out and experience something new, and this can get costly in hifi real fast. You know about the law of diminishing returns - higher you go, the less satisfying will be your returns, unless you spend much much more... 06-03-13: Liquid-smooth
I'd say listen to Liquid-smooth. I agree, if you like your system, enjoy it. When you begin to tinker there are no guarantees of anything except that you'll be spending money. I've observed that upgraditis often occurs because of dissatisfaction with the system. You really like yours; be happy for a time.
"but then also thought that my cheapie DAC might need upgrading."
Actually, the XDA1 Emotiva dac is very good. I had one in my system for a year and replaced it with the 1,000.00 Wyred4Sound dac1. There is a difference for the better with the Wyred dac, but not very much better. I could have easily lived with the Emotiva. Replacing the dac won't give you very much bang for the buck. I would also look into a tube integrated and would lean towards the Prima Luna or Mystere integrated.
Guys, I do appreciate the responses. The comments that I got regarding the DAC kind of puts me at ease on that front. I think I just had it stuck in the back of my head that I might be able to get a good bit of an improvement if I replaced my $150 DAC. Yes, I got it when they were trying to clear the isles for the XDA-2 and feel like I just about got it for free.
After having gotten the XDA-1, I did compare it to quite a few other, more expensive, DACs and wound up keeping the XDA-1.
As far as the Minuets go, I won't try to say that they are the best speakers in the world, because they do have their limitations; but they truly are small marvels. They've sounded the best in my system/set up and I've tried up to $2K a pair speakers.
I haven't tried high passing the minuets. My pre doesn't have a sub out; and besides, my sub is a REL and I run it using the Nutrik connector on the high end.
I've gotta say, though, I've been running the Minuets full range and they've taken all that I've thrown at them. These little things go pretty deep for what they are and they do it cleanly.
I'm also sort of glad that no one had anything bad to say about my prehistoric Aragon amp. I think it's a pretty nice amp.
The preamp is what I was thinking that I might upgrade; and as luck would have it, I started getting what sounds like static out of the right speaker. After a bit of diagnosis, it looks like it's the pre amp. I guess I'll start looking for a tube pre and get ready to take the NAD to the doc.
I still say get a tube integrated amp, you will get more bang for the buck, which is especially important on the lower end of the money scale. At your price level (NAD, Aragon), an integrated amp would make the most sense. Do not dismiss integrated amps, I have heard a $6500 integrated amp outperform $20,000 separates.
I don't know anything about your DAC, but your speakers are good bang for the buck. Couple them with a tube integrated amp and you'll have a very nice little rig.
How much power would I need in a tubed integrated? I know that part of the hype regarding the Minuets is that they can be run on a low powered tube amp, but they really come into their own with some power behind them.
Ok, I was looking around for some tubed gear and came to the conclusion that tubes aren't for me. Not right now, anyway. All of my equipment has to go into the entertainment center. I'm guessing it's going to get hot in there.
As for what I want. I want it to sound better. I want it to sound more lifelike. I want it to bath me in rich tones.
Bob, I understand what you are saying about high passing the Minuets, but I'm kind of wondering if we are hearing the same thing out of the Minuets. When it comes to bass, the Minuets' only crime, as they say, is one of omission. I have yet to hear any distortion coming from the Minuets at any levels that I am comfortable with.
In any case, I will go to my local shop this weekend and see if they have an active crossover that I can borrow.
06-04-13: Tonyangel Ok, I was looking around for some tubed gear and came to the conclusion that tubes aren't for me. Not right now, anyway. All of my equipment has to go into the entertainment center. I'm guessing it's going to get hot in there.
As for what I want. I want it to sound better. I want it to sound more lifelike. I want it to bath me in rich tones.
Sorry, it appears as if you want two polar opposites. You want better sound, more lifelike, bathed in rich tones, but without tubes. That will be tough to do. I guess my other suggestion would be to get an analog front end. Tubes and vinyl will lead you towards a more lifelike sound, if you can't swing tubes, try an analog rig.
Or maybe, you could buy some Cardas Golden Cross cables that will help smooth out your harsh solid state/digital sound. Good luck!
A tube pre-amp might be the ticket if not too confined and cabinet can handle it. Much less heat than a tube power amp. You might be able to rig up some quite fan ventilation to help it out if needed.
I run a mhdt Paradisea single tube DAC in a tall cabinet without a problem. It has glass doors that I can close without a problem in front. I leave the rear cover off and rear of cabinet open to help with ventilation, but that one tube would probably not care if the cabinet were sealed as long as the room itself is not overtly hot otherwise.
I agree with the replies that upgrading your dac will not give you a significant improvement, or even much of a change, in sound quality.
I think Elizabeth's and others' suggestion of a tube preamp is probably the alteration in your system that would result in the most significant change in sound quality. I used this strategy about 7 yrs ago (pairing a tube preamp with an Aragon 4004 ss amp) and this made my system more lifelike, textured, 3 dimensional and a touch on the warm side of neutral; just what I wanted.
The heat produced by a tube preamp is low, nowhere near the heat of tube power amplifiers. However, you do need adequate ventilation space around and especially above the preamp for the heat to escape. Nothing should be stacked on top of the preamp. I leave my tube preamp on 24/7, and just replaced the 4 tubes recently after 7 yrs, but this is not required.
I wouldn't change your speakers. Your Silverline Minuets are very nice and you like their sound. For smaller speakers, they're not overly efficient. They have an 88.5 sensitivity rating which means they may benefit from more power. You may want to try a new/used tube preamp with a higher powered ss amp. From personal experience, I know that pairing a tube preamp with one of the newer class D ss amps produces excellent results.
The Minuets are rated at 100-300 watts for power handling. I think your Aragon 2004 is at the lower end of this range, somewhere around 100 watts. Doubling or tripling your power will result in several benefits. The music should sound more relaxed/flowing and the dynamic range should increase. A class D amp will not only give you the added power, it will be neutral and pass along the tube qualities of a the preamp unhindered. Since it produces very little heat, it is also better suited to the confines of an entertainment center (although nothing should be stacked directly above it, either).
I was thinking along the same lines that you are. I think that I could get away with a tubed pre for the reasons that you stated. I've always wanted something along the lines of an Audio Research piece. I just need to find one with remote control.
I am getting what you are saying; and the more I think about it, the more sense it makes, especially with that three way speaker analogy.
So...what sort of crossovers are there available? I looked into the NHT X2, but can't find one. What else should I be looking at/for?
Thanks for the information. I called my local guy and he does have a cross over that I could try, but he also said that if I like it, I'm SOL because he doesn't know where I can get a reasonably priced one that works well.
I have seen that Parasound has a classic pre amp with a bass management system built into it, but I don't know how this unit would compare to my NAD.
Oh, I just got back from my local shop and checked out an NAD integrated. I think that what I heard sort of convinced me that my amp is what I need to be looking at; although I am looking around for a cross over.
The problem is that there is no dealing with in-room response, in my system. My system is in the den and I have what I have, which is why I've had so much trouble finding just the right set of speakers to be able to make the most of what I have.
The Silverline Minuets have done an admirable job of "polishing a turd."
I'm still looking for a good deal on a decent crossover. That is my most immediate concern. I'm really curious to see how the Minuets behave when they are high passed.
I hear what you are saying. When I first took an interest in "better than average" gear, I spent a lot of time in my local high end shop. I auditioned all sorts of stuff. Spent a bit of money too. In the end, I just settled for the best sound that I could get in MY room.
I do, however, have to admit that most of that was speaker selection. I have the little Minuets now and they are hear to stay for a while. They are the most forgiving speaker that I've tried.
As for the Pre/Pro, it's funny that you mentioned that. I was actually thinking along those line too, not too long ago, when an NAD T162 came up for sale.