What should my next upgrade be? Your best experience
I have the itch to upgrade my system now that I've been in it for a moment. I mostly stream (Deezer) or listen to CD/SACD content. I occasionally play vinyl but rarely, I'm sure I will continue to grow into it but am not looking to improve the TT now. I listen to mostly Classic Rock, Jazz, Blues, and Indie music. I'm listening to Talking Heads (live acoustic) as I write this. The Marantz PM-11s3 has zero issues pushing the Monitor Audio Silver 8s, it actually is a little over kill for them I think, as it has complete control of them, never losing its composure. So there is zero chance the PM-11s3 is up for replacement at this point. The room is 14'x40' with 12' ceilings. The system has no issue filling every inch and at high volumes so no issue there.
The obvious direction, it seems to me, is speakers? But am I missing something? Would upgrading to a real audio quality conditioner with an upgraded power cable give me something more and set me in the right direction for future upgrades? Or am I not where I need to be with cables? Can I make a sonic improvement by upgrading speaker cables and/or interconnects while again getting myself in a good position for future upgrades? I have to admit that this is the best system I've had and I do love every minute of listening to it.... Its fast, accurate, and punchy yet it has great sound stage and its not clinical. It has that Marantz sound/charm (warm but not clouded). I know posts like this are common and beaten to death but my system is unique as it is mine and probably not exactly like anybody else's... Never-the-less, I know I'm nowhere near where most of you are! And I know for a fact I have much less knowledge than most of you. I'd like to keep bettering my system, moving towards the personal listening nirvana if you will. So what direction would you head in if you were in my shoes?
If everything sounds fine to you, I would consider the system complete and wouldn't touch it. When you are ready to take the sound to a much higher level you would have to start with speakers or the source and follow up with the rest. I am in a similar situation with a very different system. I just need to replace one pair of interconnects and maybe two power cords, and that's it for now.
Changing speakers will make the greatest change in the sound of your system but you need to find a pair of speakers that really knock you out. Since you don't mention a budget it is very hard to recommend anything to you. I personally love Magnepan and Magico speakers Alan
Thank you Alan and Inna.... I thought as much and will be looking at speakers first I guess? Budget.... Hmmm, well I guess I could get something out of the Monitor Silver 8s? Though I doubt much. The Silver 8s were 2K and well reviewed. I would want to move into the range of the cost of the PM-11s3 which was 5K...
Your best and biggest change would be speakers. Right now on this site for sale are a pair of Vandersteen Quatro Wood's. At about half-price they are a MAJOR bargain! The seller is asking $5390 and might take less! So check them out!
Nice system, your weakest link is Sonos Connect especially if you’re listening through its analog outputs. Before you spend a cent on anything else, I would either upgrade to another streamer or add an external DAC.
I own Sonos Connect and RCA output is pretty lifeless compared to its SPDIF output. Since digital streaming is a big part of your listening, i highly recommend adding an external DAC to improve the sound.
I can really argue about replacing your speakers (the other changes are really 'fine tuning' changes which make a can make a difference, but not necessarily enough). The caveat to acquisition of different speakers - make sure that these speakers and your amp are sonically as well as electronically, well mated or you will be buying another amp which you clearly do not want (nor need) to do. Try not to buy speakers you have not heard in your room.
Take a look at the Bluesound products. They can stream Tidal MQA files. Not starting a war here, some think the sound is tremendous and really hi-res, some hate MQA. But if you really like your system, cannot afford something like the Vandy Quatro speakers, try the Node 2. I think you might find it is a major step up from the Sonos in sound quality.
I agree that the Sonos's dac and analog output might be the weakest link. But it looks like your UD7007 can also function as a streamer and dac. You might want to try that option (if you haven't already) before spending a dime.
Great input guys! I should have thought about the Sonos myself but that’s why I have you all lol I’m not at home, so a quick question for the Sonos owners here. Can I bypass the Sonos DAC and use the UD7007s?
OK, so I finally got home and have answered some questions myself with the Sonos I'm not sure why I didn't identify it as the weak link much earlier? Maybe because it is so easy? Maybe because Deezer streams at much better quality than most other content sites and really does sound pretty good? Here is some of Deezer's propaganda
"Deezer Elite lets you stream music at CD-quality 1411 kbps in your home (compared to the standard 320kbps), but only on a Sonos system"
So, being true to this thread, I came home and put on some good old Red Book CD through the Marantz UD7007.... Talking Heads - OPUS Collection, 2009 Rhino Recordings (for Starbucks) I think their best non-live disc I played the OPUS CD through the Marantz song by song against the Sonos streaming Deezer's Talking Heads content. Again I'm still surprised that the Sonos with Deezer even showed up against the Red Book CD and the Marantz, which it kind of did on some remastered recordings, to a certain extent. But even the best of the Deezer streaming was no match for the Marantz! It was enjoyable but it lacked in every way! So now, because of the fact that I do stream a lot of Deezer through the Sonos, I looked to see if I could connect better to my system. Sadly the Marantz just has a Ethernet in? Where the Sonos has RCA or a SPDIF dig out. So I'm kind of stuck here! I guess I need to figure out how to upgrade my Sonos connection, maybe bypass the Sonos DAC in the process so I can use the UD7007's DAC, or find another streaming system to use with Deezer? One last question, a hail mary really lol Do you think upgrading the RCA interconnects between the Sonos and the PM-11s3 will help?
If there is a sonic difference it may come from a better DAC in your Marantz. However, other causes may be differences in signal level (louder sounds better) or because you may not be playing the same masterings (from what I understand you compared cd and streaming - they may be from different mastering). So it may not be quite so obvious that the Sonos DAC is the culprit. From what I understand you can wire the Sonos into your ethernet network. That way you would be sending a digital signal to the Marantz and not use the Sonos' DAC.
Coming back to your original question, I think the best upgrade would be to look into the room. Buy yourself a calibrated measurement microphone, download REW into your computer, and have a look at the in room frequency response. You may be horrified by the low frequency response. You can create an equalization curve in REW and apply that to your computer with something like Equalizer APO (a no cost option), and if you like the improvement, download it into a mini DSP so you can also use it with other sources. Obviously bass traps and the like are another option, but more costly and ugly.
I have a Sonos Connect in second system and the sound quality is not very good. For main system I use Wyred 4 Sound modified Sonos Connect and Exogal Comet Plus DAC and it sounds great. Wyred will modify your Sonos.
Several approaches in and around a DAC upgrade today. If one you like does not support some file types or bit rates, another streaming device may be in order, like Aurender, Micro Rendu, etc.
Sifting thru Power Cords with a new DAC could be interesting and an area I would recommend exploring, with any new DAC.. actually, with any new anything.
Avoiding the device upgrades, getting into cabling ‘alone’ may help you massage the already engaging system but that’s all it will do given your input on its present level of enjoyment. You’ll merely explor various kinds of ‘different’. Perhaps better, but mostly ‘different’.
Apart from the DAC proposal, speakers seem the most obvious choice, and the most expensive occasionally.
If its new speakers, merely keep the electronics matching now existing with your amp equivalent to or better than what your current speakers enjoy and all should be quite well. Naturally, you can simply forget about the elec pairing and buy whatever speakers, but that will ordinarily send you right back to the amp treadmill.
I think it is a pretty nicely balanced system without obvious weaknesses. You should investigate properly before assuming that the Sonos is the weakest link. And if it is, you can, I think, redirect its digital output to your Marantz. That digital output will be bitperfect, and hence cannot be improved upon. A higher resolution than what the Sonos can deliver is impossible with current streaming bitrates so that does not argue for discarding the Sonos either. Apart from the equalization suggestion that I made earlier, and given the size of the room, you might also consider adding subwoofers. It made quite a difference in my system. Go for at least two, and perhaps even four, like the Audiokinesis Swarm system. If you do, also apply room eq like the Antimode 8033. The room is the weakest link in any system.
I do not know why, but in older threads audioengineer and others said Sonos has very high jitter...I just know it sounded better with a Parasound Zdac but not much better with otherwise much better sounding DAC's
I'm with wiilem on looking into room treatment/system setup if you haven't already. Sorting out reflection points, resonance issues and bass nodes will help a lot. Like, a whole lot. Going from untreated/minimal setup to treated and properly setup can sound like a whole new, upgraded system. I'd do that before working with cabling. Then you'd be able to hear differences in cabling/components more easily.
As for the Sonos.. not sure what to do there. Looks like the advice is all over the place.
As a Vandersteen Quatro CT owner, I can tell you that they are amazing. One of hte best values in high end audio I personally have owned. That works in my room with my gear.
What size room again? What budget? Speakers make huge difference of course, but a top pre amp is important as is the source you feed it. Cables to me are the last thing to think about. ..What do you really want to change first? Do you have a complete system in mind for hte end game? That's important IMHO. I buy a system rather than top rated gear and put it together. Synergy is so important. Heck, I've heard Vandy Treo's driven by an inexpensive NAD integrated sound better than a twice as expensive speaker from a top name maker sound worse when run with very expensive top rated electronics. Just was a terrible match up. JMHO
Teh nice thing about room treatment can mean a well placed quilt or two on the wall, a couple of large plants (real or fake) in between teh speakers or in the corners of the room. Lot's of inexpensive and nice looking elements that will help the sound of the room. Also a rug in front of the speakers if you don't have carpet is most probably a need too. Just thoughts.
Garbage in garbage out. Start with upgrading the source not the output. You listen to digital so make it better. The Sonos upgrade feeding an outboard DAC will make your speakers sound better. Digital components are very sensitive to AC power gremlins. A better power conditioner should help clean up the digital signals. If you can get a dealer to allow you to demo a Denali you will be amazed,
I am not convinced about the Sonos' inferiority. You produce no data to substantiate that its output would be garbage. Also, there is as yet no solid evidence that the difference with the sound from the Marantz is due to a problem with the Sonos, even if it is obvious that the Marantz is very good. Rather than buy yet another DAC when you already have an excellent one in the Marantz, the simplest solution would be to direct the digital output from the Sonos to the network connected Marantz (but it may be tricky getting that to work). Also, I am not so convinced that digital components have particular power supply isues if they are well designed.
It all depends on what your budget is and what level you are able and want to play on. Digital is highly sensitive to power issues. It doesn't matter if it's a 500 Chord Mojo (I own one) that's battery run or my Ayre QX5 that has a power conditioner built into it and has built in optical isolation etc.... I have friends who own the Bricasti DAC/amp as well as the Davinci mk 2.....all of them need the proper filtering and power cord. Digital still has inherent problems and that's why a decent TT combo will still sound more musical and more natural than any digital out there. There are some areas where digital can be outstanding and with better clocking and design, they are getting jitter to where it needs to be so timing isn't off as much.
There are outstanding value DACs as well as good sources, but you must try them all together. Digital is so finicky. You can't just say source A is great for the money and DAC A is also great for the money and assume they can sound good together. Too many things will play into that like your rooms power, connections between the two, the way they both are engineered and which connections are max'd by each product. Then you take into account your wifi if you stream that way (hard wired is always best), which ethernet cable are you using and what type of isolation are you using if any, both internally or externally.
Just too many variables in play here. I personally buy systems. That's what I'v always done and I usually don't buy that often. I will make some changes if I feel they are worth the money and if I have the money at the time (just upgraded from Vandy Treo's to Quatro CT as I felt they were THAT much better for me).
When I help someone put together a system, I usually take the budget and figure out the best source for them and then look at speakers they may like to get an idea and then fill in with the amplification. Pre amps to me are SOOOO important.
Garbage in = garbage out is true, but a great source can be ruined by a DAC, amplification, mods, accessories, cables and or speakers. Same with anything else in the chain that is down stream. That's why so many folks audition speakers and fill in from there. I've heard better sound, personally, from GREAT speakers, good amplification and a decent source. Conversely, I've heard not so great sound from a wonderful source feeding world class amps run through average speakers. Again, JMHO
I agree a good high resolution capable DAC will likely help here. But the best upgrade I've done, short of replacing speakers, is to add left and right REL subwoofers. Improved every aspect of sound quality including vocals.
Hello and thank you everybody! I have learned a lot from all of your posts and I have taken the time to reflect in what everyone has said, as I take all of your replies seriously. I also know they come with not only the passion we all have for Audio but the experience this passion comes with! It seems to me a general consensus that I need to upgrade the streaming I have. It looks like I unfortunately cannot use the DAC in the UD7007 (which I’d love to do) because it does not have the correct inputs sadly..... But you know what does?!?! A Marantz NA-11s1!!! lol I guess I’ll just dive in! Here is the review for it and it does have both a Digital and Optical input but also a network that will rout the Sonos stream direct to its DAC, which by all means seems to be a pretty good unit?
Now, I’ve also heard the thoughts that I should look at the listening room. And I should and will! It is a A/V or should I say TV Room lol But I can see multiple areas that I can improve on, even if they are just small improvements they will improve the room never the less.
Now to the Sub suggestions.... I think I’ll wait on adding any subs to the system. I can honestly not say if and how much of an improvement adding Sub Woofers to the system will add? What I will say is that the PM-11s3 is VERY underrated at 100wpc into 8ohms and that it will double down. The Silver 8s are a 4ohm speaker that are getting just bullied by it and they play both loud and low. I’d describe them as a bottom up speaker. With the Silver 8s placed 20" or so off the back wall they provide very good bass. And very good bass at low volumes. This bass is fast, tight, and deep. I’m throughly happy with it! It shakes the floors 30’ away lol
Anyway, please let me know if you think looking to add a NA-11s1 is the right or wrong move as I appreciate your thoughts!
Hi Charles, I sympathize with your predicament. I'm wondering if you are considering the Marantz NA-11S1 because you really like the brand or something else? The technical stats seem a little anemic for 2017, not that anything is really future proof this day and age. Or is the 24/192 more than sufficient for Deezer? (I've not used that particular service) For those dollars you could get something like a PS Audio DirectStream Junior DAC for instance?
What is your budget? That's the most important thing in recommendations. I personally will have friends get the Codex DAC/headphone amp and have them run it directly to the amp unit they can afford a good preamp. The Chord Hugo 2 is another good DAC, but costs more than the Codex which is 1800 list. The Marantz is about 2800 online. You can get a nice streamer for 500 or so. Digital is changing so much and that's why i personally go for separate units so you can upgrade as needed or as you want and not get clobbered as used digital usually goes down in value much quicker than anything.
I agree that the Marantz unit isn't up to the same speed as newer DACs'.
That said, do you even have music that is more than 24/192? I highly doubt that you do or will during the life cycle of this product. It will do native DSD, which you may or may not have, but it doesn't list the specs. I'm sure it's the lesser of the playback specs though.
For the money of the Marantz, I personally feel that you can get much better quality, but it will be in a couple of boxes. YMMV
All things to think about.... I do really like the Marantz Reference sound and do believe in product synergy. I would have to believe that a NA-11s1 paired with a PM-11s3 would be very musical? And as it is a few years old now I'm sure the NA-11s1 does not have the same top end specs as some of the new units but it's still very close and maybe better in the range I listen to which as I said before is SACD and streaming service in that area. Having said that I'm not that incredibly rigid I won't go take a listen and demo before making a decision. PS Audio is here in Colorado so I can start there and see where the search takes me. I will say one last thing though that I like about the Marantz but I'm not sure that it matters in a DAC or not? But it's the build quality! Looking at its build, it looks to be in a much better class than the others in the same price point? There is something to be said for that and that does transfer into superior sound quality am I correct?
To be precise, I never said the Sonos is perfect. All I said was that to be sure the Sonos is the culprit, you have to dig a bit deeper for a properly done comparison. After all, the test data are excellent, and this is only redbook cd level. Without at least carefully matched levels (to within 0.2 dB) and near instantaneous comparison any conclusion is invalid.
Actually you ask if better build quality equates to better SQ. Not always. most of the products will be very well built in this price range. As I said, it's still all about synergy with your system which folks dont' seem to want to discuss. You have lot's of good price options from Marantz to PS Audio to Schitt to Mytek to Chord. It will all depend on what will sound best together as a system. Digital is just very tricky.