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You are going to get a number of different opinions in response to your question, but in a situation like yours I usually advise people to upgrade their speakers first. Some people will advise starting at the "front end" with a new preamp or better source components, but if the speaker is the choke point you won't hear the improvements upstream. The Maggie 1.6's are a fine speaker, and are sufficiently revealing that they will reveal later improvements in your other components. After you upgrade your speakers, I think your very nice change should be to the preamp -- the Adcom GTP-500II was, at best, only an adequate preamp (certainly not up to the standard set of Adcom's GFP-565), and there are many better preamps on the market now for a reasonable price.
I would replace the speakers. I have noticed a trend in the Audio magazines which have recommended systems, they often have $1000 - $2000 integrated amps driving speakers that cost $3000 - $5000. The speakers (and how they integrate into your room) are still the weakest link in the stereo chain. Maybe this says something about the quality of todays amplifiers too but, I stand by my recommendation.
I would change the wire last.
I think you should buy a good turntable and some good records. Then, after you have improved the source, continue with upgrades down the chain, in the order of signal travel. I have heard some pretty low end speakers sound quite amazing when they are fed by a great front end. I have also heard some great speakers sound pretty crappy when fed by a poor front end. If you upgrade in the order of signal flow, you will achieve the best result. The source is the most important, as this is where the signal enters the system. At this time there is no better source than a good turntable. That is where you should start, if you are serious about better sound.
Get rid of that Preamp in a hurry... If you are happy with the sonic performance of your speakers...as far as the musical characteristics... then definately get a good preamp. Try an audio research, or if you dont want to break the bank... a good preamp for the money is a b and k
pro 10 mc....about 300.00... spend the rest on a nice dual mono amp... aragon, 8002 or 8008 bb this will only compliment your system.. provided that you want to stay 2 channel. Another nice amp that i have had is the Musical fidelity a3cr... about 1k used.. the classe ca 150 is nice and even the macintosh mc 122.. all nice pieces.
No component you buy is going to impact and define the sound of your system more than the speakers. While electronics are critical to getting the most out of your system, if your speakers aren't capable of resolving enough or don't produce music in a way that really moves you or connects you to the music, no level of electronics is going to make that happen. Get the speakers right and the rest will follow. I'd agree that the preamp should be next on your list. Best of luck.
This is a tough one. I believe if you do upgrade the speakers first, they will quickly reveal the shortcomings of your basically fine but still Mid-Fi preamp, amplifiers and CD source. Or you may pick the wrong speakers, for the same reason; basically that they sound good with your current electronics.
For $1500 you could get an excellent used preamp and power amp combination that would be a good base to upgrade the speakers later. You could always try to borrow some gear to see if you notice the improvement with your current speakers.
Since you mention tubes, you could pick up a something like a Conrad Johnson PV-10 preamp for around $600 and get a nice solid state amplifier and some good cables to link them together with the rest. Possible candidates for an amp would be a Conrad Johnson MF2100, or MF2300, or a McCormack DNA 0.5 or 1.0.
I disagree with Soix. I believe the amplifier is the key to any system good or bad. It's a shame that most amplifiers do much more to the signal than simply amplify it.
A great amp can make most any mediocre speaker sing wonderfully. But a great speaker will only sound mediocre if the amp is mediocre or an improper match for the speaker. Try it sometime.
With that said, the Odyssey Stratos is supposedly one of the better solid state amps at any price and can be had new for $995.
I have never heard this amp, but I know a few who own it. Based on what they've said and what I've read in reviews found at odysseyaudio.com, everybody had nothing but the very best to say about this amp.
I would highly recommend that you research this product. You could even purchase it with a 30 day satisfaction guaranteed or your money back. If you keep it, you get a 20 year warranty. It supposedly is powerful and fast. I ordered a pair of monoblock versions and then cancelled the order. Only because I found the only solid state amp that Peter Moncrief of International Audio Review rated higher than the Stratos. And bought it.
To give you an idea, IAR rated the Odyssey Stratos a class 1B but rated the SimAudio Moon W-5 class 1C. A step down. I've owned the Moon W-5 and it was a very nice amp and was everything IAR said it was. I now own what IAR rated in class 1A, the only SS amp in that class. IAR appears to be very accurate in it's description of this amp as well. Therefore, I doubt that IAR would accurately review the amps in classes 1A and 1C correct and then totally flub up on the review of the 2 amps in class 1B.
I would trash the whole thing and start over :) But since you can not do that and you get even more lost with all the opinions here, then flip a coin and then commit to one thing.
It has been my personal experience that the source will make the biggest difference, remember the theory " garbage in garbage out "
I disagree with those who recommend better speakers first. I have heard a $350 pair of JBL's sound really good hooked up to a $7000 system. And not heard that much of a difference when the system was hooked up to speakers costing 5 times as much.
I was very hesitant to post here, as I'm usually unsure which end of the chain (the TRANSDUCERS!) to change first. But I'm damned-sure it shouldn't be the amp! I'd lived with those same big NAD amps for 10 years, and borrowed an Audio Refinement Complete integrated to quickly compare. Well, the difference was substantial, but of course the big NAD had more headroom, which might be needed, depending upon the efficiency of the speakers I might have selected. NEVER buy an amp until you've finalized your speaker selection (sorry, KT88).
My upgrade process started with finding the best speakers I could afford that sounded great IN THE ROOM! This was the hardest, and LEAST predictable part! Once accomplished,
I soon heard MORE digital artifacts from the old Rotel 855 CDP, as well a lack of transparency from the NAD preamp.
The borrowed ARC Integrated smoothed things out, but lacked sufficient bottom end for the 4 ohm woofers in the selected speakers (Parsifal Encores).
I tried bigger power amps (Acurus) as well VAC tubes (WOEFULLY non-linear!), and finally settled on used Aleph 2 monos, which had great slam and an utterly beguiling midrange with the Encores. Next it was clear that the preamp was too veiled and dirty, and Alephs are a bit tricky to drive, so I chased a used Aleph P. What silence and soundstage! Now the amp/speaker chain was perfect! Nordost Red Dawn XLR and cables worked fine.
Of course the now GREATLY exposed digititis of the old Rotel 855 was overwhelming on most Redbook, so I performed a year-long set of comparos between the Rotel and: ADCOM (lacking musicality), ARCAM 9 (lacking PRAT), the ARC CDP (too rolled off up top), and the Bel Canto DAC (WAY too lean and white-hot up top!). This was getting exasperating. Then I followed a few suggestions and tried an EC EMC-1 MkII, and was astounded at the result! Everything then fell into place! After a while I decided the system was still a little too lean on MOST less-pristene
CDs, so an IC search filtered out the Red Dawn, HT Pro-Silway, Siltech, and finally found an ideal match with the Discovy Essence. Screwing around with dedicated AC and PCs lately has been nice, and maybe is giving me that last 1-2%. I'm not sure. Doesn't REALLY matter, although we all chase the holy grail, eh?
My point here is to note the upgrade path. Yours may mirror mine....
Knowing a bit about old ADS and Braun designs, I imagine that your speakers have a woeful "saddle" shaped curve, with an uneven, hot treble, and a loose, over-ripe bottom; your pre, as suggested earlier, is not really transparent; nor is the 2600, but it'll do for now; the CDP I don't know about, but probably sounds flat, hifi-ish, etc.
Changing ANY of these components first might give you a decent improvement, but you want to try to reduce the chance of having to change the same part more than once!
I NEVER would have known the bass slam of either the speakers nor the CDP if I had kept that ARC integrated, as nice as it was! If I had been satisfied with the ARCAM 9 because it had a great midrange and cleaner treble I would have never noticed it's two left-feet until the speaker/amp chain was installed.
I understand those that suggest you use the GIGO route and start with a new source. That would probably work.
Nonetheless the variability of speaker-transducer and room-loading permutations is VASTLY greater than that of sources , amps, or cables, so I have to recommend that you
start your hunt by finding much smoother, musical speakers that sound great IN YOUR ROOM! Don't worry TOO much about fine-tuning the damping until you get the other components in place, but do make sure you have a fairly even frequency response that pleases you. Yes, your pre and amp's shortcomings may come into blatant obviousness, as SURELY will your CDPs, but then you can do things in the order I suggest worked efficiently for me: find the amplification that makes that speaker really work best (it might be even a nice EC4 or a cheap ARC, or whatever separates you like) and THEN chase the most musical front end you can find. Finally use cables to
filter the spectral tilt to your liking. The odds are that you may then only replace one item again, and if you're luckier, like me, you'll get it right the first time.
It took me two years, but assembling a $30k system (for $17k used/demo) that I probably won't upgrade for at least a decade has been VERY satisfying. I'm grateful to the many A'goners and dealers who helped along the way.
Use your ears as the best judge, and take your time...especially with speaker selection. I know that lugging speakers home to set up listening sessions is a lot of work, but believe me there's no other way. The subsequent decisions can be just as difficult, as many artifacts will be more subtle as you go, but at least the demo-ing will require less weight-lifting!
Have fun, and continue to ask questions along the way.
It's Sunday, Tiger's on the tube, and I feel in the mood for writing a manifesto.
Ah, the classic divergence of opinion on how to best approach the upgrade situation has emerged here: Front end first? Amplification first? Or speakers first? As can be seen from the above posts, a seemingly good case can be made for all of these solutions. Front end: If this is not providing a high-quality source signal, nothing else that follows will be able to make good sound. Amplifier or Preamplifier: These are the heart of a system - if they are choking off the source or shortchanging the speakers, you'll never get the performance they may be capable of. Speakers: The most important, the most variable, and ultimately the most personal determinant of what kind of sound will be produced, they'll make the biggest change the most quickly. And you know what? All of these presumptions are absolutely true (and that's before even getting into cables)!
So what to do? The conundrum is, that although the whole ball of wax must work together as a system where each element is clearly important, you (and for the most part, all of us) can only upgrade one step at a time over an extended period for practical reasons. One implication that this "system paradigm" portends for the three approaches outlined above - and it is equally true for all of them - is that no one element that you may upgrade along the way is going to be able to give of its maximum improvement until the whole job is completed. And since that is so, then the arguments that go, "You must upgrade this before that, otherwise you won't get any benefit/be able to live with what you hear" become somewhat less than useful to contemplate, in that because they are substantially true in all of the examples, they are therefore by definition also fairly circular in nature.
So we need a better philosophy to guide us in how to proceed. Fortunately, there are some mitigating factors here that will work in our favor. Firstly, while it is true that a lone improvement may either show up a weakness somewhere else, or be largly masked by one, it is also quite unlikely that any legitimate upgrade will actually make the whole system perform worse overall. Secondly (and this contains the exception to the preceding rule that proves it), certain subsystems within the larger overall system are more important than others.
The subsystems, in order of importance: 1) The listener/family (if applicable)/dwelling space subsystem; 2) The listener's musical-sonic preferences/listening room size and layout/speaker type and size subsystem; 3) The speaker/amplifier/speaker cable subsystem. (More subsystems follow: 4) The amplifier/preamplifier/interconnect subsystem; and so on.)
The exception I referred to, which results directly from the ordering of these subsystems: You'll notice that each subsystem, in order, contains within it factors that exert a determining influence over the next ranked subsystem. (For instance, subsytem #1 contains "Who is the listener?", which determines the musical-sonic preferences contained in #2, as well as "What is the home like, and who lives in it?", which in turn determines the listening room factors also contained in #2, and so on.) You'll also notice that choice of hardware is subservient to higher-ranking factors in this hierarchy, and that subsystem #3's ranking implies that the interaction of the speakers with the amplifier (and their connecting cable) is the most universally important subsystem having to do strictly with hardware - which it is (it's always in play, and is the most highly interdependent). So the exception to the rule (about no supposed upgrade making the whole system worse) has to do with upsetting the overall hierarchy of importance of these subsystems, or violating compatability within a subsystem. (Some examples - Choosing: a listening room that interferes with one's family life; a speaker that isn't suitable for use in the room available; an amplifier that isn't suitable for the speaker chosen, etc.)
There is one other factor that makes a rational decision about how to proceed easier to arrive at. Since, in all liklihood, you are going to eventually want to upgrade every piece of gear in the system, it is wise to take into account the future need to be able to meaningfully audition components in your own home, within your own system context. This means that a clear and revealing window, through which one can view unobstructed prospective upgrades elsewhere in the chain, will be of great help in assembling the total system as it progresses. This, in turn, argues against heeding the "Don't choose downstream components that may reveal weaknesses upstream" cautionary warning. If your downstream components aren't capable of revealing the flaws of your upstream gear, how can they be of any help in auditioning new gear to correct those hidden flaws? (Again, a clearer downstream window is unlikely to make the musical experience worse overall, provided there is not a debilitating speaker/amplifier mismatch created, even if upstream flaws are made more clear along with the music.)
By now, anyone reading (who is still awake and following me!) should be able to tell where I am headed. If you combine the necessities created by properly observing the natural hierarchies (of the subsystems relating to lifestyle, musical-sonic preferences, and gear-interdependency) with the provision for auditioning future upgrades, then you will conclude, as I do, that the first choice to made is the speakers, followed by the amplifier (and cables) to drive them, and so on back to the source.
In the case of the original forum question above, I would assume that the #1 subsystem (listener/family/dwelling) has already determined which room is the listening room. The #2 subsystem (listener preferences/room specifics/speaker appropriateness) then comes into play, determining which speakers in general are consistent with both the room and the music that will be played in it. To take the case of the above-mentioned Maggies as a for-instance, the room would need to be large enough to place dipole radiating speakers well away from the walls, small children running through would not be advisable with large lightweight panels present so far out on the floor, and the listener might well be better off preferring chamber music or acoustic jazz to grunge or electronica. If, after narrowing down the choices at dealers or friends, and hopefully being able to audition some of the possibilities at home, the Maggies are indeed chosen, then subsystem #3 (speakers/amplifier/speaker cable) would be the next to receive attention. To promote harmony within the subsystem, the needs of the afore-chosen speakers would have to be catered to - in this case, a low-efficiency speaker mandating a higher-powered amplifier, which would probably mean solid state at the buyer's price point. Then, speaker cable could be auditioned to find the best synergy within the subsystem.
Now that these first steps have established the "clear window" needed to proceed with choosing the rest of an upgraded system, focus can be put on auditioning preamplifiers next, then maybe digital front end components (which form a subsystem of their own if separates are chosen), cables to connect each step, and so on. When a system that is an order of magnitude more revealing than what it replaced has been established, more productive attention can be paid to the various "tweaks" available, now that the tools exist to better evaluate their performance cost/benefit ratios within the system.
So, speakers first and work back from there, but not because speakers make the biggest difference - rather, because choosing them most directly involves the factors highest in my hierarchy (the home and the people who live in it, the music the listener prefers, the properties of the room the system is in), and because this ordering best facilitates making intelligent further system choices through auditioning down the road. (BTW, all of this does assume that the top factors - the home, the family, the preferences, or the room - will not be changing in relevent ways during the time the system upgrading is in progress. This is obviously not always the case, and could be a major cause of a total system reconfiguration.)
Ironically, Audiogon itself, which helps so many of us "live beyond our means" when it comes to improving our systems, can also be responsible for some interesting detours regarding system planning. I know there's been a couple of times I've deviated off point when a piece of gear I was going to look into later popped up on the 'Gon at a hot price. After beginning with my speakers in 1997 and slowly working my through three amps, two preamps, two rounds of cable upgrades, a new CD player and then a new digital separates front end to replace it, two new cartridges, a new standalone phonostage, a new tuner, a CD-R recorder, two new power conditioners, new headphones and an outboard amp to drive them, and different supports and racks, I'm getting near to beginning again at the speakers and amp, but have delayed that upgrade pending a move (while still jumping on a new remote preamp deal recently to audition against my older manual one). I've definitely found that this approach has aided in giving restraint, direction, consistency, and predictable results to my upgrading process, as well as permitting me to enjoy both my music and my gear buys the whole while. Best of luck!
P.S. - Of course, this baby took me so long to unload that now I see Subaruguru has gone and posted basically the same advice before me. As Gilda Radner once said, never mind...
How is going from NAD to Audio Refinement or Accurus even an upgrade?? These are all budget components and are not much of an upgrade at all. Since the electronics in these systems are hardly being upgraded, I can see why these posters think the speaker should be first.
If you spend $1500 on a used preamp and amplifier (like Conrad Johnson, Bryston, McCormack, Rogue, Blue Circle, etc, they will be at least two or three full steps above the NAD in quality; and you will then find your speakers are fine for now.
Sorry but I still disagree with you " speaker first " people. Since I am a experienced technician employed by the largest broadband company in the world. I can accurately tell you that " garbage in is definitely going to give you garbage out " It is quite obvious if you use the cable television signal as an analogy to the signal your speakers will get. If we receive a poor signal from our satellite, when then feed that poor signal into our head end equipment, them our head end needs to do more work to process and amplify a already poor signal. Then it is sent out to our fiber nodes, which sends it to our amplifiers. The poorer the signal the more work our amplifiers need to do, to give the appropriate amount of signal, which then travels to the customers tap. Which then goes through a splitter, and eventually ends up at the customers TV. I should also add that as signal travels it degrades, and loses strength. Hence the need of our amplifiers, and yours in your system for that matter.
Now, think of the cd or LP as the satellite sending the signal. Think of the head end as your source cdp or turntable. The preamp as your fiber node, the amp as our cable amplifiers and so on. If your following me then you know the end result of my analogy, your TV ( in my analogy ) is the same as your speakers in your stereo systems. If my cable signal at my TV sucks, it is not going to do me any good to go out and by a high end digital TV and expect my picture to improve drastically. In fact my new TV will only show me how bad my signal really is. So tell me, how is it possible to upgrade your speakers and expect a noticeable improvement in you system? If the rest of the system is garbage, you will only hear your garbage better.
I rest my case.............
Let's try a little example here. Given $3-$4k to spend on this system let's say you can put it into the source or the speakers. I don't care what source you put into this system, my contention is that I'd much rather hear this current system through a pair of Silverline Sonatinas or Vandy 3A sigs than the ADS speakers with an Ikemi or even a used Audio Aero(same would hold if the amp or pre were replaced instead). Get the speakers right and the rest will follow. Improving electronics will surely improve what you hear out of your speakers, but they cannot change the physical design and overall character of a speaker(hence the example above), which is why you should get that right first. Best of luck.
KT88 is repeating a well known, and logical, premise. In real life though, your system transformation will unfold much more rapidly if you buy first rate sensitive speakers first. Only by doing that will you understand the monstrously poor system you now own. I have $6,400 invested in a reference system. That is not much more than two year's allowance for you, Lance. Except for the cd player, I bought everything used, and everything but the cd player has made the Stereophile Class A short list (KT88 must be wincing).
After the amp pre/amp and speakers are near perfect, all the smallest nuances exhibited by various front ends come out loud and clear. Now, I know the cd player is my worst link (but not bad at all). To help in my search for a repacement, I just hosted a bring your own front end party, and this is what one contester had to write afterwards:
"Your system is by far the most neutral I've heard in a home. Any change to front end is so immediately noticed that I feel comfortable that the rest of the system is simply getting out of the way."
The moral is, listen to sensible advice offered by war weary audiophiles, and not sales people. Buy only afer careful thought, and audition in your home, if you can. That way you can avoid common audiophile pitfalls like, for instance, trying to fix an offending amp with expensive cable rolling.
Jolida 100 cd player ($900)
Pass Aleph P pre amp ($1,600)
Pass X150 amp ($2300)
Apogee Duetta Signature full range ribbon speakers ($1,600)
I want to make one additional point as to why, IMHO, I think an audiophile looking to upgrade everything should start at the speakers and work back from there (see my lengthy post above). Kt88 isn't incorrect in his GIGO argument (as I acknowledge above), it's just that a source-first approach, while maybe in some instances sheilding one's ears from stuff about your present system you'd rather not know, does not lend itself as well as the approach I'm advocating to the total process of system improvement. Above, I go into detail on two primary reasons why this is so, summarizable as: 1) The speakers chosen are going to have the most influence on, and the most interaction with, those elements of one's listening environment and listening preferences that are least amenable to errors in the selection, or least likely to undergo change during the system-building process, such as family considerations, the properties of the listening room, and types of music listened to; 2) Ideally, system-building will be best accomplished if one can perform meaningful auditions of gear under consideration in the context of one's own home listening environment and system, and this requires a "clear window" provided by revealing and resolving end-of-chain gear to aid in evaluating preceding components in the chain. I also stressed the importance of making a proper match between the speakers and the amplifier chosen to drive them as the most important subsystem within the chain when it comes to gear selection, with the speakers coming first, and then an appropriate amplifier chosen to complement them.
In response to the other suggestions about starting with sources, though, I'd like to point out one other advantage of my approach. An average system has, usually, just one end-of-chain subsystem (speakers, amplifier, speaker cable) and one middle-of-chain subsystem (amplifier, preamplifier, interconnects), but may have more than one source subsystem present (DAC, transport, interconnect) (phono preamp, cartridge, turntable, interconnect) (tuners) (A/V processors) (analog recorders) (digital recorders). Since an audiophile will basically always be listening through the same end-of-chain/middle-of-chain subsystems, it makes more sense to choose one's source components through auditioning that will account for the sonic traits of the rest of the system, rather than the other way around. If one began with the source subsystems individually, by the time the chain was completely upgraded to the end, the listener might well find that system synergy between the source subsystems chosen and the middle- and end-of-chain choices that followed was somewhat hit-or-miss. In other words, this ordering could promote good matching between, say, the CD subsystem and the rest of the system, but fail to accomplish the same with the analog vinyl subsystem - both source subsystems haven been already chosen prior to getting around to, say, the speakers. By starting at the end and working back, one is much more in control when it comes to selecting only gear that will ultimately create an equally synergistic balance between all subsystems present throughout the chain when completed.
I thank all of you for your input. Listening to all your suggestions is why I am have the next step problem trying to better my system. After all this I think I am heading toward doubling my budget $2000-3,000 used and buying speakers. Electrostatic most likely among the leading candidates Maggie 3.5-3.6. Then going to Pre-amp tube in the winter. Next summer the amp.
Keep the comments and suggestions coming, I am not firm on anything yet!
I thought it was interesting you happened to mention Maggies as a potential speaker choice as I couldn't think of a better example of why you should pick speakers first from a practical system building perspective. Ribbon speakers(which I believe the Maggies are--not electrostatic like Martin Logans) can present a very tough load for an amp, and if the amp isn't up to the task you'll never get the magic the Maggies can produce. It would be a shame if you flipped over the Maggies and found out the amp you just bought isn't suitable for power-hungry ribbon speakers(a lot of amps aren't)--your choice would then be sell your amp or forget the Maggies, neither of which is an attractive option. You just inadvertently pointed out one of the major reasons to choose speakers first(also one of Zaikesman's points above). Best of luck and have fun.
Zaikesman...thanks for your great elucidation of what I was clumsily delineating.
KT88...OF COURSE it's GIGO, but in absolute physical terms
(freq response, coherence, temporal/phase stuff) that are readily discerned, there is MUCH greater variability in the speaker-room coupling than in the sea of Redbook players.
And in the thread-head's case this is most apparent: his Nak CDP is in most ways much closer to supplying a musically-satisfying signal than his ADS boom-cha speakers are!
BowBow...the Acurus and ARC were recommended by NAD dealers as upgrades! Certainly the ARC sounded better, but the ACURUS was a gritty mess. The Alephs of course are another realm. I can't imagine that Lance's satisfaction with the ADS speakers will be improved with a more transparent amp!
Have you ever heard these speakers? And what if he buys a nice low-medium power high output impedence "sweety" and then tries it on the Maggies he just dropped on the thread?!
You really have to think of the speaker as a LOAD that must be properly DRIVEN. You don't build a car around a motor; you pick the motor appropriate to the load it must lug around, no?
Lance...if you try the Maggies then you WILL have to exercise care in setup and room-damping issues before you go preamp-hunting. I'm not sure I'd pick a tube pre next as the 2600 is colored enough to affect that decision too. As well impedence-matching issues may result in frequency response anomolies that could make your decision-making a bit complicated, and thus frustrating.
Get your speakers, then try to audition several pre/amp combos. If you're not sure, then at least try to use one you like long enough to audition several fine front ends.
The 2600 simply won't quite be transparent enough to make CDP comparos as easy as a great amp (and pre) will allow.
KT88's certainly correct here.
I'd focus on the amp chain as a WHOLE once you get the speakers selected. THEN get a real front end and your jaw will drop! Have fun.
All you who are saying if you were going to build a system you would start with the speakers are totally missing the point. The original poster just wants to do one upgrade; not completely rebuild the whole system.
We'll argee to disagree, Kt88, although I certainly acknowledge the possibility that you built a satisfying system in your own way - mine is not the only way (and mine is also definitely not the best system out there, and never will be!), but I do think it's the most logical and predictable way. Listen on, brother!
For the record in this thread, Magnepans are not electrostatic speakers, nor are they ribbons, in the case of the 1.6's. They are planar-magnetic speakers, combined with ribbon tweeters only in the models with the "R" suffix. The confusion tends to arise because all of these types are frequently (but not always) configured as boxless, dipole radiating, panel-type speakers, but they do employ different operating principles. (The Maggie models with the "QR" suffix are designated "Quasi-Ribbon" for the tweeter, which is roughly speaking like a cross between a planar-magnetic driver and a true ribbon driver.) The following is my admittedly non-expert attempt to explain these differences (corrections welcomed where needed).
In a true ribbon, the best-known examples of which (aside from the Maggie "R" tweeter) are probably the late, lamented Apogee's, the driven membrane is a metallicized film that is itself the conductive element of the driver, much as the voice-coil functions within a regular dynamic driver. In a planar-magnetic design, such as the mid and bass panels of all Maggies, a thin-film membrane is embedded with a wire running through it that functions as the conductive element. Both of these design types employ fixed magnets to drive the membrane when current is applied to the conductor, again much as in a dynamic driver. In an electrostatic design, like a Quad ESL, Martin-Logan, Sound-Lab, or InnerSound, no magnets are used. Instead, a thin-film membrane is suspended between two perforated (for sound propagation) conductive metal elements called stators. The speaker must be plugged into the wall AC, to supply power that is used to impart the membrane with an electrostatic charge when operating, which does not vary. The stators then carry opposite phases of the variable alternating music signal from the amplifier (after being converted from current to voltage by an integral speaker input transformer), which causes the stators to alternately attract and repel the statically charged membrane, producing the diver's motion.
For reasons that I don't fully understand, panel drivers of the planar-magnetic and ribbon varieties are typically not run full-range, but crossed over using separate, frequency range-optimized individual drivers to handle the complete spectrum, while electrostats are in principle single-driver, crossover-less, full-range transducers, but in actuality are often crossed over to a dynamic-cone bass-range driver for practical reasons having to do with maintaining a manageable panel size. Also, ribbon tweeters have often been employed to handle the treble range in box-type, otherwise dynamic speaker designs, such as many historical Infinity models that utilized their EMIT ribbon tweeters, or newer models from Piega or Red Rose, for example.
If you buy Maggies (and want to listen at realistic volumes to anything large scale) be ready to buy an amp with a ton of current and power. I think 200-300 watts will get you dynamic range and a lively sound. I love my 1.6's but have learned this thru trial and error.
And I still think speakers first is the best idea.
BTW, TV's do not interact with the room like speakers do (to whoever used the cable analogy)