What to upgrade next.


This is my first foray into the forum other than reading other's post. I hope respondents will be kind! I am at the very low end of audiophile equipment and many of you may not think I am there yet when I list my equipment. The economy has become better for myself and I am looking to upgrade but not exactly sure where to go from here. I am sure I will receive many different suggestions so I plan on taking the one suggestion that I receive the most and employing it. My equipment is as follows: Denon AVRx 3500H as my integrated amp which is boosted by a Bob Carver Cinema Grand 5 which pushes 200wpc. This powers my Polk Audio RTiA7's which are my music floorstanders. When I started upgrading I chose the Polk's as they seem to punch above their weight. After months on this site I am unaware of many people who extol the virtues of the Polks so I am thinking this may receive the most as far as recommendations. I stream most of my music from my desktop and laptop. The desktop sounds like an airplane waiting to take off. I am not independently wealthy but am looking to spend between 2-3 thousand if necessary. The one thing that gives me the biggest headache at this point is music delivery as computers have glitches and my angina acts up when the music cuts out in the middle of Alex Lifeson shredding his axe. My music files range from bad copies of MP3s which are slowly being replaced to HD Audio files. Thank you for any suggestions.
dadork
It seems like you already have a good idea about how to start the upgrade. For $2-3k, if I were you, I’d improve the speakers, get a decent streamer, and an external DAC. Many specific product suggestions are possible, but to limn a max budget: $1600 on speakers, $800 on DAC, $600 on Streamer.  (E.g.Dynaudio, Denafrips, Node 2i). My two cents.
I would invest in a good streamer and external DAC. The Node 2i is a good place to start for a streamer. I really can’t recommend the right DAC as I have just started out on the external DAC journey. What I am using now,I’m sure won’t still be in my systems next year. 

     I would get your streaming situation figured out first,this way you have a better idea of the speaker synergy,and go from there. 
 
      Enjoy the hunt!
What is your main focus? Music? Movies? Both?

Your Denon is for home theater, movies so if your emphasis is on music you will have to do something about that.

Your ordinary desktops are not the best for streaming music unless you have a linear power supply, good hdmi cable. Computers can produce a lot of noise and like you said you have a lot of fan noise.
How are you streaming, wireless or cable?

That being said I use a Intel Nuc running Plex as a music server, though I have not done it yet I can get a linear ps and good hdmi cable for it which will make a significant difference.
I do not know why you are having the Windows glitches, I am running Win 10 with Plex and have no issues.

Your bad copies of MP3s are definitely a sticking point. And what do you mean being replaced to HD audio files? Replaced how? With what?
I rip all my music to FLAC from CDs, the MP3s that I do have I am replacing with CDs.

Will
1st, Others here know about quality streaming, I haven’t a clue.

2nd, Signal

No matter what you change/add, you already know you need to solve your signal. Is your internet erratic due to your location, or can you upgrade to FIOS? Are you using wired or wireless? Wireless today, starting with a good signal can be very good, however, wired is faster, used to be 10X signal strength. So if marginal, try wired. There are also routers with signal boosters using house wiring and dual antennas, the receiver near your device(s) location.

3rd, I think you are talking about using your Home Theater audio system for 2 channel music, correct? Please clarify that for us.

I do know about music thru my small home theater, for many years. I watch a lot of music video 5.1 and 2 channel, via my home theater. 2 or 5.1 Channel DVD concerts, TV shows like the Voice, XFactor, Songland, YouTube... Hard Drive with 3D Movies, ... Netflix, Prime, Hulu, Viki and some limited music streaming via Pandora.

I used a dedicated PC to my AV receiver for many years. Fanless via 5.1 audio on motherboard to avoid heat of separate audio card. And selected for quiet hard drive.

Small wireless chicklet keyboard is very helpful doing this. Originally PC for unlimited internet access, early smart tv’s browsers were very limited.
Now mostly a modern Smart TV, the PC remains for it’s disc drive and hard drive, I don’t but they can connect to home network to access other pcs).

Much content is 2 channel, I often find the cable company/av receiver creates un-natural surround, so I often force 2 channel and find improvement. The point is, when in 2 channel, it is your front, no center, and, depending on your circuit, sub(s) might be on or off. Therefore, go for the best full range mains your physical setup allows, and if sub(s) for more bass, keep them in the system even for 2 channel.

2 channel, no center speaker active, the mains need to be positioned to create/locate a phantom center, specific enough for imaging.

There is a separate thread about great speakers may not be best if too close or using great speakers in too small a room.

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/just-spoke-to-an-old-client-of-mine-avantgarde-owner





I take it you like your speakers. I suggest you upgrade your source and also replace the Denon AVR and and possibly the amplifier. That would improve what you are getting from them.

I would start with the purchase of a streamer. The Bluesound Node is within budget. They run $500. The internal DAC is OK, however many replace it with an external DAC of choice.  This you could also consider after getting familiar with the Node.

The 1st question I have, are we talking about a 2 channel system for music?. I believe your Denon and Carver amp are meant for theater use. If so, I would consider selling both the Denon and Carver and purchasing an 2-channel integrated amplifier. An integrated is much easier on the budget than separates. However, you could also just replace the Denon with a preamp and continue to use the Carver amp if it works well with your speakers.

There are many threads here on AG concerning streamers, many specific to the Node, as well as integrated amplifiers. I would be inclined to search these threads.  I would recommend considering the the used market for amplification.  

Good luck in your quest.

 
I agree with @mesch -- if you like your speakers, changing amps, or at least introducing a better preamp, would be very effective. And, as others posted, all of *those* choices depend on your goals and preferences. Ends first, then means.
@flrun I use it for both but and want to keep the ability to do both but I love music more and would sacrifice on the home theater side. I have two handicaps that I am willing to overcome with a little help from my friends. The first is this- While looking to break into audiophile class it is on a limited budget. Ultimately I'm hoping in the $10K range at the end system. I know from the used equipment sites and the forums this is barely floor level for a single component but alas! I am but a poor man! The second handicap and perhaps the most detrimental is I am a caveman when it comes to a lot of the newer technology. I am streaming using HEOS from my desktop and laptop, wireless. I am slowly replacing mp3s with downloaded FLAC files and when I can afford it I replace special albums with 192 kHz 24 bit albums which I also download.
@mesch  I do not know if I like my speakers or not. I know for me they are the best I have owned but I know they aren't the greatest either. As with anything when you've had good and good isn't good enough anymore! The amplifier at this point I think I am happy with but willing to be taught if not as long as I can understand where I'm losing anything with the Carver. It is by all accounts a well reviewed and well performing. As far as my Denon I'm all ears as to why I should upgrade. If the Carver is supplying the juice when I am 2.1 or 5.1 then doesn't the Denon act as a pre amp and basically tell what to do what? I have but a child's understanding of these things. What would an upgrade in a pre-amp benefit me? I will definitely have to research the streamer recommendation. It is just out of my field of knowledge exactly what they are as I thought it was basically a computer program that allowed me to share to another device. If at this time I was going to spend the money on one component what would you suggest? Obviously getting the music supplied to the system in the best manner is of utmost importance but it sounds as though I wouldn't have to drop 2-3k to resolve that. Thanks!
@hilde45 While the idea of addressing three or four issues with one fell swoop has it’s appeal I think in the long run I may be repeating the process again in the future if I divvy up the money in such a manner. I am willing to admit I might be wrong however! Does it make more sense to spend 2-3k on a single fairly good component or have three mediocre components that I will have to upgrade again in short order?
If I look at myself, I must really really like what I buy or else it’ll get replaced in the future. So better pay a little more on one component instead of not thinking it through enough and regret after.
Since you like both music and movies you could keep what you have and perhaps try different speakers, get a streamer like people have mentioned.

You could also look at a preamp with Home Theater bypass. I have a full home theater setup for movies but like music just as much. I was considering getting a additional system just for 2 channel music but another option would be a preamp with HT bypass. That way I can combine both systems.

If you are able you might try connecting your receiver and computer via network cable and then try your music through HEOS, you might notice a improvement in sound quality.

Also I would personally try one new component at a time, that way you will be able to see how much of a difference it makes. That is a little hard to do when adding 2-3 new items at a time.

Will
At least start with the 2i. It has a serviceable DAC aboard that you can play it through until you can upgrade. They are $549 plus tax. You can put whatever files you have on a USB flash drive or SSD and play 'em on it.  You will find the sound and control via their app on your phone to be far superior to PC sound. Down the road you can shop for amp/speaker synergy.
Many preamps (and integrateds) now have HT (home theater) pass through so you can keep the avr for surround video.
Good luck.
Thanks @fuzztone. This seems to be the consensus as far as the streamer. This step will leave some meat on the bone as far as the money goes and I can wait a bit to get something much better in the pre-amp or speaker department which is what I think I am weak in right now. I suppose I should have mentioned in the OP that I am using a sub and it too I think a weak link. I am using a Klipsch 10" ABC Warehouse special.
@flrun Wouldn't Zone 2 setting be considered a pre-amp bypass? I am definitely committed now to getting the streamer as I think I am getting a clearer view of what it is and does. I should have mentioned in the OP that I am running 2.1 and 5.1 with my sub as another weak spot. It is an ABC Warehouse Klipsch 10" . Thanks for your help!
Dadork,
You may consider the route I took, buy use. I have 6 systems, 5 of which I listen to on a regular basis.  Other than the one I bought in 1984 all equipment was bought used. I enjoy all of them , some more than others. All told I have less than your  budget invested ( not counting the 1984 purchase ) I suggest that you use a good streaming service ( Qubuz,  Deezer, Tidal ) and as already mentioned, improve your internet. A wired connection sounds the best to me.
My up grades would be a better streamer & dac ( currently a Yamaha WXC-50 ) & room treatment .

Dadork, have you considered a three or four steps to audio heaven?  A streamer, yes.  The rest....Besides the streamer, a two channel pre, with the best specs you can afford.  There are a couple of Meridian 2chan audiophile pres on Ebay at 1200 and more.  Use the Carver for a basic biamp on the speakers.  Next step a dedicated stereo amp.  Then replace your speakers, mine are Martin Logan or Magnepan.  By starting with the electronics first, you will know how your system synergy sounds prior to adding the big variable new speakers.  You could eventually use the Carver to power 4 or 5 swarm subs.
Try using a TV streamer like Apple TV or the others to download Tidal.  I stream Tidal from an Apple TV via HDMI into a decent AVR and an external 2ch amp drives LR speakers. But the Tidal service was a real revelation to me a few years ago.  For me the Bluesound Node 2i is next on my list.  I encourage liberal use of stores’ return policies.  
Hi Dadork,

Because you’re operating your system for both music and movies, my advice will diverge from the stereo purists here.

1. Buy a leviton hospital grade 20A electrical outlet. $10

2. Buy a video streamer that will allow you to cast from your phone over WiFi--either the Chromecast Ultra or Nvidia Shield TV (which has chromecast built in). Both of these video streamers will allow you to cast movies and music from your phone. In addition to your personal HD tracks, I recommend subscribing to either Tidal or Qobuz to get CD quality and higher recordings. I use Qobuz and a chromecast ultra in my home theater. I also have a separate stereo system in the main room that I cast to.

3. Buy a low noise power supply for your video streamer. iFi has a variety of options to meet many voltage and amperage requirements.

These recommendations are super affordable, should increase sound quality, and will also level up your experience. These building blocks will also give you a good benchmark from which to judge future streamer/home theater bypass upgrades. 
A streamer and a good dac would do a lot. I don’t think it would be a waste. 
another streamer  and a separate dac!
I would think a good DAC would be a great place to start. The Musical Fidelity V-90 is a real value for $299 new. And since you mention your desktop is noisy, you might look for a Software-based fan controller. My iMac In my listening room was very loud. Mac’s Fan Control lets you choose the RPM that cools while holding down the noise. I assume there’s something similar for PCs.
@dadork
Welcome to the club. My general advice to you is to do a lot of research before you buy. When you finally do, buy second hand. Some of us are further up the chain than you are, but the feeling to upgrade is universal in this hobby. So take advantage of that. Keep in mind that price is not always proportional with sound quality although unfortunately it often is. So good luck, have fun and try to spend more time in front of your equipment than behind it. 
I would begin with a separate 2- channel preamp with HT Bypass. Run all your music sources through it and the L/R preouts from your AVR into the bypass input. Used preamps on Audiomart from Rogue, Odyssey, VTL, etc. can be quite affordable and will get you going. Ditto on Node 2i for streaming. This assumes the Denon has L/R preouts. If not replace it with one that does 
Hi,
First of all, if you have an Apple computer get Channel D's Pure Music program. If you have a PC get J River's program. If you do not have one already get a good USB DAC, there are many on the market. You are already getting rid of the MP3 files. I generally use HDTracks for down loads. Next sell the Polks and get a pair of Klipsh Cornwall IV's This will make you VERY happy for a while. When more money comes in down the line get either a DEQX Premate or Anthem STR . These are digital preamplifiers with huge power. Next comes an amplifier. With the Cornwalls you only need 100 watts/ch and I would recommend a tube amp such as a Carver, Manley or Mcintosh. Finally, two subwoofers. You would already have the best crossovers in the preamps plus room control so all your need is a passive sub. If you are handy, building a sub from Parts Express would be tops and very cost effective. Now you can just collect music:)
Well given you are now considering a 10K system the 'plot thickens'. A very good system can be had at this price level.

I have a couple questions that will help in providing advise.
What is the room size where this system is to be placed?
What is the timeframe for completing this system?
What computer and file type are you using?

There are many ways one can approach this. I also started towards a 10K system, spent 8-9K and ended up with a 15Kish one. Bought used or dealer demo equipment, made my own room treatments, did much research. Now working towards 25K. As I have a system that truly satisfies, I started my upgrade path with the source. I believe in your situation this approach would serve you well also. In my case I felt the need to get a DAC and transport for CD playback in addition to using MAC computers as servers. I also have a DVD player for movies, however playback is via 2-channel sound only. I not much into multichannel playback for movies as I don't wish to build a theater room. I find 2-channel for movies to be quite satisfactory in my music room. 

I have and still use a Macbook Pro and a MAC Mini as a server and streamer. As a server I rip CDs as AIFF files (equivalent to WAV)  and play back using the Channel D Pure Music program. As a streamer I only have used Pandora or Spotify as I stream to find new music and purchase the CD. I play back CDs via transport and DAC. There are other streaming sources , Tidal and Qobuz are popular, that stream CD quality or higher rez music. I would advise that you research servers and streamers under the digital topic here on AG. I think what you will ultimately want is a server for file playback that also serves to stream. 

My advise to you is to 1st research the use of server/streamers as your primary music source as that seems to be your interest. I would bank most of your 2-3K while researching this and in the meantime purchase a used  budget DAC to play into your Denon AVR. Knowing more about your computer and flies would help here. 

Following that I would get out and listen to as many speaker amp combinations to get a feel for what truly moves you. Keep in mind that speakers play into a room. Pairing them to your room, and treating the room as much as possible to play well with the speakers goes along way towards getting the most out of your system. Following that your amplifier must mate well with your speakers. I would look for speakers that are at least 87dB sensitive and not difficult impedance wise. Another area to research.

Save your money and be positioned to purchase the right product at the right price that fits your predetermined audio scheme. Having an understanding of what your want is paramount to getting it.

Again enjoy your quest. Let's keep the dialog going.





Buy a good turntable and 25 of your favorite albums and you’ll be in analog heaven. 
+100 @mesch who was so helpful as my $9k system went to $13k, but brand new would have cost about $16k because I found a lot of good used deals. The key is to listen and be patient as you learn to hear more. And for the bigger items, such as preamps and amps and speakers, used is very much a good path to go, if you know what you're looking for.
Dadork - here is my 2 cents:

a 10 K budget can go a long way. Your Source is critical - most people under estimate the benefit of a Streamer DAC combined. I have used LUMIN as my source for over 6 years. Very happy with quality and durability- their entry level unit is the LUMIN D2 at $2300.
I use it in my second system - it has to be hard wired to my router for best quality - has the Wolfson DAC - I stream Tidal HiFi with MQA. This source is so good - I retired my turntable.

For amplification - this is dictated by your speaker demands. I push Magnapans - the 1.7i to be specific - and they only cost $2300 new. . I use Krell integrated amps to push both systems but they are expensive (Krell S 550i bought used for $2900 and the new Krell K300i for $7000). The Maggie’s are very inefficient but sound amazing if given enough power. I have enough power. Your speakers are much more efficient - so your power demands are much less stringent. A good used Integrated amp is the way to go - look for one here on Audiogon. Bryston, Marantz (Ruby) and Luxman make great integrateds. A ‘box speaker ‘ I like is made by LSA - I have a set in my bedroom - Living Sound Audio. They can be had used - got mine at $750 for the pair at Audiomart.

my two channel set up works great for my movies, so I have never gone multichannel.

just my two cents!

Happy Listening!
 Tom @tom8999 I am sure now because of all of the comments that Source as you said is the biggest issue. I have committed to buying the Bluesound Node2i as my first priority. I have just enrolled in Tidal HiFi. For the time being I will stick to my Carver Sunfire Cinema for amp so I guess that leaves pre-amp integrated amp and speakers to upgrade. Thanks!
@mesch I am committed to buying the Bluesound Node2i and getting the Tidal subscription. I think Tidal will relieve a lot of my headaches I have with my music files and give me a much better file to boot as far as Hi Fi or Hi Res. I think now I am getting a clearer picture too as why I need a pre amp as opposed to an integrated. Tell me if I'm on the right track. Seeing I have a power source for all 5 channels when in HT and of course in 2 channel for music I don't need the integrated because I am bypassing the amplification provided by the Denon integrated. If I understand the theory right I am running my music through something that muddies it up. If I just get a good pre amp that doesn't add the amplification it keeps my music files cleaner.Will it still have thew video processing or passthrough and all of the HT features that I currently enjoy?
@spenav Thanks! I know already that this pool might be a little deeper than I thought. I do however have to set my limits and I think landing around the $10K range is a system I can be happy with and know that I am hearing everything to be heard. I do plan on buying used equipment , especially on AG. Thanks for the advice.
@mesch  You brought up room size and configuration. My living- listening room is 11'5" x 25'. It is an odd config as the only place to put the speakers ( On short wall)leaves my right channel open to the right into the dining room. The left channel is set next to the long wall which has an 8' long window. I have heavy drapes which I can close to block reflection but not sure what's best. I have run it through the Audyssey and I leave the Dynamic EQ off as well as the Dynamic Volume Control. I listen in 2.1, as I mentioned my sub is sub par. Listening now through the Tidal certainly improves things quite a bit. My wife thinks I'm obsessed, which I guess is true. I'm constantly moving by speakers by inches always keeping with the directives of similar placement ie. distance from back wall, side wall and toe in. My listening perch is a sound sucking, sound blocking overstuffed recliner placed 14 feet from front of speakers with the speakers having 10' between them. I have done the sub crawl and somebody might be laughing another sucker fell for it but so what. Right! I live in the far north boonies of Michigan before you cross into the wilderness of Da U P. This means places to audition higher end equipment is more than sparse. Reviews and advice are my best tools at present so I am more than willing to talk and learn. I don't know a lot about treatments but I do know of them. Not sure on specifics as far as placement.
Good move on Tidal subscription. I would get it as well if I had better internet connection. I think the Node will serve you well. May want to get a external DAC as an upgrade down the road. 

Given your system is for audio and video, I think your next move might be to purchase a preamp with HT passthrough. You can use the pre into 2 channels of your amp for  R and L and pass signal to the Denon for the center and rear channels when watching movies. Provided the right connection are provided on the Denon. I once owned a Jolida Fusion tube preamp that had this function. Did not use the HT feature but it was a nice unit which sold retail at $1350. Sold it here on AG recently for $750. Ran it with a SS amplifier.  You are wise to take advantage of the AG marketplace. I have used it extensively over the past 9 years. Made some friends along the way.

One thing I should have suggested from the start is to recommend the book "The Complete Guide to High End Audio' by Robert Harley. Great reference book. Runs about $50.

Stay safe, continue your homework, and enjoy the ride. 


  
Audio Advisor has the Node 2i for $100 off, now at $449.
I've seen rumors that there will soon be a Node 3 or equivalent and that perhaps prices on the 2i will drop then or Node 3 might be worth waiting for. Just rumors AFAIK.
dadork, you remind me of where I started, about 10 years ago, having a Marantz AVR/Polk home theater (with RT12s bought int he late 90s) in the basement rec room that we and our kids greatly enjoyed for movies and video games.  Kids moved along and I started to get back into music, first thing purchased was an Oppo universal player to spin those old cds that had been boxed up for years - lots of fun and mysteriously it made Netflix etc sound better too.  Next was speakers, my brother's unused Maggies, which in turn deserved more power, so in came a used 150wpc amp.  This was getting fun!  But then I moved, different sized listening room, and I wanted to try streaming, so got Tidal, then Roon, and a PS Audio PWD DAC and then their bridge.  Each step was as good or better than the last, but the Maggies never sounded right in my new tunnel of a room (11.5' x 20' vs old room which was 16' x 24') so on to the third set of speakers.  I could go on, but two things - buy used (everything mentioned so far was used) and have a plan and budget - you will be amazed at what you can do for $2-3k, I know bc I have done it.  Don't ever get overwhelmed by all the super high-end posters out here in Audiogon land, you can have great sounding audio and theater system for not too many $ if you research, plan, and buy used.  

Sounds like this posting has you off and running with a good plan.  Like mentioned a few times above, preamp with HT bypass will serve you well.  Also I can honestly say that at some point, look at and research room treatments - these will likely be your highest value ($/delta in SQ) you will get once you get to a $3-5k system.  When you get serious about speakers, and knowing demoing is not easy for you, really think about how best to describe what you'd like to hear more of, less of in your system, and what you don't want to lose, then read lots of speaker reviews and if possible call a few experts or visit a shop or two when you visit civilization (I think there's a great store in Ann Arbor?) - there are people out there who are happy to help a budding audiophile with their journey.

And never forget, it's about the music!  
As you are finding out, your source/streamer are going to rid you of glitches ! Then if you find one that has preamp function there you have tackled a second issue. Also buying used cds and converting them (DP Power) is far less expensive 4-6$ each on Ebay. So one smart purchase USED will get you well on your way. Then better speakers will help you hear the differences as you look to future updates! Buying used speakers will be limiting as shipping will kill the deal unless you are going stand mount. But then you can take day trips to audition speakers, which is a lot of fun and you get to meet like minded friends.
Oopwah - Has a good point. I believe you are referring to Dbpoweramp which is what I use to rip my CDs to computer.

I only buy CDs, I only download music if I just cannot find it on CD. Dbpoweramp converts it to FLAC, so I have a lossless copy and I have the CDs as backups.

Then Plex is my player, nothing like browsing music on a large screen TV. Select what I want and play. I occasionally use DLNA from my Oppo or preamp as well.

Will
@richbutters My God Man! My wife would kill me! Six systems? She doesn't fight me hard but even I couldn't justify six systems. Unless of course I hit the Mega Million and we all know how likely that is to happen. Hopefully I can make some wise and lucky picks and arrive at my destination without so many steps.
@thosb Thanks for your response. Most insightful. I am as you may be able to tell, very new to the subscription music service business. The move to Tidal my first ever as a matter of fact. So a couple of questions about your response. If I have Tidal and it's running through a Node 2i and I have the Hi-Fi subscription what would be the purpose of also having Roon or any of the other services? I can look up any artist I can imagine and pretty much listen to anything they've ever recorded right? It's already in FLAC so are there services that offer even higher definition? I've got a very few albums from HDTracks in 24Bit/194?kHz. I'm enjoying the simplicity of grabbing my phone and dialing up whatever I want without getting out a CD or pulling it up on my Laptop. Sans possible internet interruptions right now I'm in heaven. I need to learn a lot more about DACs I think. I know what they are just not why some are better and so much more expensive than others. The Node 2i is supposed to have a good DAC but I don't know what that means nor what the metrics are that differentiate. My Denon has a 32 Bit DAC . The Node is supposed to be better but then I have people who say I need to add an even better external DAC to that. How would an audio processor make the bass more distinct and punchy as some claim? Almost as if it's adding watts? I go through adds for speakers on this site and others (used of course) then go online and read user reviews then the online mag reviews. I've read reviews for speakers that range up to 200K which just boggles the mind. I was very impressed with reviews for the Silverline Sonatinas. They sound like everything I'm looking for. Of course I have no idea at all if they'd fit in with my system! I am really trying to figure out if I need to do some rethinking on the pros and cons of floorstanders or really good bookshelfs. Fidelity is the most important consideration. As I stated in an earlier post I am in an 11.5 x25' room. I like to be able to feel it as well sometimes and can't quite imagine bookshelfs being able to deliver that. Thanks for any more input!
@oopwah Already loving the Tidal subscription and hoping to buy the streamer this weekend. Are there CDs that are better definition than FLAC? My Denon does have the pre outs for 5 channels which are all hooked to the Carver supplying 200wpc. When in Main Zone it is set for 5.1 but Zone 2 is 2.1. I will be doing a little experimenting  tomorrow going sub free. Not sure the Polks are up to the task but I do think they sound better by themselves handling the bass duties as well rather than my sub par sub.
I was referring to buying used regular redbook cds (3-5$ on ebay and Amazon) and converting them to FLAC files with dbPower software. Which for my experience is just as good as 75% of the FLAC files that I have purchased through the two top sites that sell downloads! Some recordings are better buying the downloads (about 25%) but most that I have bought used cds and use the converter software and directly compared to the HI-REZ downloads that I have bought There is hardly any difference ( my system is well into the high end arena). I also must disclose that I am only speaking about classic rock material. You are going to miss the bass! As you move along in your quest , later replace the sub find a used REL sub that will suit you budget at that time. Save some money 12.99-17.99 for most downloads compared to 4-5$ for used and an inexpensive software to covert thousands of cds. Then use a NAS or look at the optional server/ storage of the streamer that people are pushing you towards. I personally have over 1,100 ripped cds and 50 Hi-REZ downloads, so I do not use a streaming service as I can usually find a sample of most any music and decide whether I want the music or not, and then if I do the cd will usually turn up used.
@mesch Thanks for your inputs so far. I did buy the book you mentioned on ebay for a substantially reduced price and have read quite a bit of it. So many things to learn! Not being able to go to a lot of different dealers to hear the differences in amp configurations ie. tube v SS or the single diode low watt amps and such is a hindrance for sure so lots and lots of reading for me over the winter. Haven't done any room treatments yet but will be investigated and deploying in near future. I mentioned my odd room config the other day. I have the polks toed in and they do provide a very nice sound stage. The other day listening when I knew there would be no distractions I was near Nirvana , my walls and speakers disappeared and I was enveloped in a field of music. My appetite has been whetted to know there is better. I can see where this could be a very expensive hobby. I'm a house painting contractor and while I keep busy money is not unlimited so I have to set some realistic sights. All of the help I am getting here is really appreciated as I know it will save me grief and dollars. I have been somewhat surprised no one has mentioned sub woofers. Do most listen in 2 chan only? I guess if their speakers are of high caliber they wouldn't need a sub except perhaps in a HT scheme. With the Tidal my sound quality has improved quite a bit already and can only imagine what it will be when I get the Node 2, fingers crossed this week. Thanks once again.
@oopwah Since the world altering revelation for me of the music services out there and finally checking into it I had to weigh my options. The Tidal subscription is worth it to me as I'm getting access to FLAC files from any artist I can imagine. It also has the added benefit of suggesting artist I like but may not have recalled from the distant past. I think cost wise it's going to be a wash as opposed to downloading or buying CDs whether new or used and without the headache that goes with ripping and the associated cost of the equipment to do it good. If I like an artist I am of the type who generally will get everything they have. This gives me the ability to listen to whatever they have without buying it and then not really caring for it. I don't know how many times I've downloaded only to find a file has been tagged incorrectly and my server is populated by a jillion artist. If I ever have an aneurism this will be the likely cause.

















Oopwah - Sounds like we do the same thing, buy CDs and rip to flac using the same software. The computer with Dbpoweramp is currently packed up since I am moving, do you know what bit rate it converts CDs to flac? I know you can also choose the compression level but I can't look at the settings right now with it being packed up. I am curious what the rate is compared to what Dadork is downloading.

I run into the same thing by the way as far as so much content and I do not have as many CDs as you have. Fortunately it is so nice being able to scroll in Plex to view your music, plus I have 15 Play lists I created.
I listen to the radio all the time in my car, so that is how I come across new music.

Dadork - With all your downloaded music you need to make sure you are backing it up to an external if you are not already. The benefit with CDs is that is our backup, even though I also backup to an external. But if my drive with all my Flac on it were to go poof, I still have all the CDs.

As far as 2 channel. I believe when someone refers to their 2 channel system they may also have a sub, maybe someone else can clarify that. That being said I rarely listen with my subs to music in 2 channel, I just find my fronts have plenty of bass on their own.

Concerning Tidal I don't think that would be cheaper than $3-5 for CDs, you have a monthly subscription or if they offer a life time. Or the cost if your purchase and download somewhere else. Either way. Like Oopwah said for CDs all you need is a computer which you already have, external drive,  Dbpoweramp software. The software once you have it setup which doesn't take long, its done. I literally put the CD in, click Rip/convert and 3-5 mins later its done and I am playing it.

At the end of the day though it is preference, do what you feel the most comfortable with. But don't be opposed to trying something different especially if there is a difference in quality for less or equal cost.

Will
@flrun The Tidal subscription is 20 bucks a month. With it comes CD quality files PLUS MQA Hi Res for many albums. When I bought one album from HD Tracks, the 96kHz/24 bit I would spend between 18 and 27 per album.  If I were to buy 4 or 5 CDs per month I would hit that cost easily and when I think of even a couple hundred albums plus the time to rip them it is definitely more cost effective IMO. Plus it has the benefit of providing thousands of artist and their whole discography, live albums, compilations and collaborations. It's all very new to me but compared to doing it the old fashioned way as I was is like going from black and white TV to Universal Color.
@flrun Also I have just discovered Amazon Music is 13 bucks a month if you are a Amazon Prime member and thats with Hi Res 192kHz/24 bit files.








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Dadork,

I have prime, it comes with Amazon music unless you mean the next level up for music.

I occasionally download a song but I prefer buying CD Albums over a single or downloading a album. Could be a ocd thing.