My Sunday morning musings as Rigoletto plays on System #2 (Prima Luna tube integrated, Rega Apollo CD player, Castle Isis monitors)
There are a lot of variables involved from what you listen to, to how loud you listen to it, to how your room is set up, etc. Accepting all that as a given, this is what I have experienced in almost 40 years in this hobby ...
1. You have to start by identifying what is it that you want to change, don't like, etc. Not enough detail ... too much detail ... too analytic sounding ... too warm sounding. Learn what it is that you like in sound and what it should sound like. Horns have bite and edge to them, flutes have purity, etc.
2. Start slow. When you make a change, live with it for awhile. Notice how your hearing changes and evolves.
3. I noticed a huge positive difference in sound when I went from a solid state receiver to solid state separates. I noticed an even bigger positive difference when I went from solid state separates to tubes. In my case, it was a Pioneer 636 receiver to an ADCOM 545/GTP II pre/power combo. After 13 years with the ADCOM, I upgraded to a Musical Fidelity integrated for a few years which was a good, solid move. When I graduated from the MF integrated to Prima Luna tube amplifiers three years ago, I not only noticed the biggest positive difference, but I also felt that I finally arrived and I have felt no desire to upgrade since.
Take away from this, if you are using your current system for music only, consider acquiring a tube integrated like the Prima Luna 1 or 2.
4. Buy the best speakers that you can afford. Don't skimp on speakers, given that this is what you actually hear. I do not know the PSB stratus gold line. Do you like the sound? Anything missing? What would you change about the sound?
If you live in NYC, I would say to go CD shopping at J&R Music. They have several different make speakers playing the same music in the same room at the same time. It is very instructive listening to how the sound changes (and rarely for the better) as you go from the A's to the M's in the stacks.
Take away from this, don't do laterals when you make changes. Go for very real upgrades.
5. Don't get overly fixated with interconnects, speaker cable, power cords, etc. It is very easy to get lost in this forest and and pay for invented perceived differences. Get good enough, as it usually is.
6. You usually get what you pay for.
Synergistic Research Tesla D3 digital cable. This cable has made more of a sound change (enhanced) than ANY component change I have ever done. I took the "Tesla Challenge" in order to hear it in my system. No hype, no stories-flat out the best sound to ever come out of my system!.
Best addition for me was a dac. From that point on, everything sounded better.
I would look into changing out the receiver for either seperates or an int. amp./tuner. I would not change the cables. You have very nice spks. that need better amplification. Recently, I changed out the stock spk. binding posts on my Rega Brio 3 Int. amp. to BP Hex's. The Brio sounded superb before but now the sound is absolutely better. Smoother, warmer, less grain, more detail w/o any brightness. I just noticed in today's listing that two NOS Rega int. amps are being offered. I would definately give them some serious consideration. Best Regards, Bill.
Going from an Acurus preamp to a Classe preamp.
Maybe think about going compter audio and build up you music library. Your system seems nicely balanced and you might have to spend a lot more money to make a small difference in sound. With all your cd's available at the touch of a mouse it will make you listening time more fun.
Adding a subwoofer has without question made the largest improvement in several systems.
How are you using your Pioneer Elite receiver? Are you using it to power a 2-channel system, or are the PSB Stratus Golds part of a 5- or 5.1 channel surround system?
What kind of disc player do you have? What year is it from?
Are you reasonably satisfied with the PSBs' tonal balance and how they fill the room?
If you are using the Elite receiver in a 2-channel system, can you re-route the channels to bi-amp the PSBs?
Here's what I'm getting at: From what you've described, your PSB Stratus Golds are the best component in your system. The Pioneer Elite was a very good surround receiver when it came out, and Pioneer Elite stuff tends to be well built and sounds good, but your Stratus Golds could perform to a higher level with the right amplification behind them.
I found the specs on your receiver, and the power is rated down to 6 ohms, but the PSBs are spec'd as 4 ohm speakers. I have heard the PSB Stratus Golds in an extensive audition, and I have long (12 years) experience as owner of another large, floorstanding ported loudspeaker, the Mirage M5si.
Although the Stratus Gold is spec'd at 87dB, the Stereophile review
measured them at 84dB. When you combine this low sensitivity, low impedance, and port-loaded 10" woofer, you need a wide bandwidth, high wattage, high current amp with high damping factor and very low output impedance to bring out the best in your speakers. Or a pair of such amps, since they are bi-wirable. I noticed an improvement in clarity, dynamics, and transparency when I biamped my Mirages.
If you go with a single amp, I recommend something that puts out 250 to 300 watts/channel into 4 ohms, and is comfortable at running into low impedance loads for long periods. I have heard really good things about a reasonably priced line of amps from the Pro Audio industry (provided you give them 120 hours of break-in). I have not personally heard the ART Audio SLA4
, but it looks like it might be an economical approach to get an amp that elevates the performance of the PSBs. The SLA4 is a 4-channel amp that would puts out 140 wpc x 4 into 4 ohms. Or one of the high-powered, high current Parasound power amps would work well with these speakers.
From there, you would want to pick a preamp that is a good match to your amplification, and a disc player that provides the best sound you can afford to the downstream components. Instead of spending a lot on a disc player, you might want to get an Oppo DV-980H or DV-983H and feed the digital stream to a Benchmark DAC1 or LavryBlack DA10
. The Benchmark is supposedly immune to incoming jitter. The Lavry website has several pdf whitepapers about Lavry's design philosophy, including a paper that describes his approach to jitter reduction and control.
Best addition to my system: 700 LPs for $500.
You wouldn't believe how much enjoyment in listening I get ;)
A high quality tube amp. For me it was my Rogue Stereo 90.
What is your budget now and over time?
Flyin2jz, from where you are today you might consider any of the following as next steps:
1. Dedicated AC lines from your circuit breaker to your equipment, if you have an option to do this. I'd definitely do this before spending money on any power conditioner.
2. Experiment with your speaker room placement to make sure you are getting the best sound from them of which they are capable of delivering. If you have them back against the wall, try moving them out into the room. If you have something large in between them, try clearing out that center space. Watch for room symmetry and listen for reflections and seating location. Do some reading about speaker and room positioning, but experimenting is most important.
3. Pay attention to your cabling and try to position them so you don't have cables tangled with each other and don't have electrical cords in parallel with signal carrying cables. Check and clean all of your contacts (electrical and audio); isopropyl alcohol from the drug store (92% or more pure, with no additives) works very well.
3. Consider a separate amplifier, while continuing to use your receiver as the control unit (preamp) for your system. Keep in mind that amps and speakers should always be considered jointly with each other, so either match to your current speakers of be sure what you choose will match well to future speakers you're likely to consider.
4. Pay attention to your own listening priorities and make changes only a little at a time, staying true to your priorities. Work always towards neutrality with any component you add, being careful not to start buying equipment based on balancing colorations against each other (warmer, cooler, brighter, not as bright).
5. Listen to other people's systems. Listen to the systems as a whole to develop a better and better idea of what is important to you. Use complex music for listening, not just single instrument or small ensemble or a singer. Read Lloyd Walker's article
on listening and the evaluation process.
6. Have fun.
Cant single one thing out when you are talking about a system but the Coda pre amp works out perfectly.
The best addition I have made to my system was buying a Pair of SP Technology speakers.
Evaluate your listening enviorment and begin educating yourself about room treatments. I recently moved into a dedicated listening room and the addition of GIK room treatments and Echobusters in the ceiling corners make BY FAR a bigger difference than any single piece of gear. Go to their websites and that will get you started. The untreated room is reflective with a confused soundstage and is harsh to the point of being unlistenable. The treated enviornment has brought the musicians into the room for a listening experience I find difficult to pull myself away from. The frequency range is balanced, soundstage wide and deep, yet precise. NO harshness just natural sounding music that I can enjoy for hours. The importance of room treatments cannot be overstated, only after that you will be able to truly appreciate any equipment upgrades you make. Good luck and remember to have fun.
Start smart with a good foundation and install some dedicated lines.
how do u bi amp without a amp? i am using the 39tx as 2 channel only. the sound doesnt fill the room at all. just sound loud. i have the psb silver i speakers now am picking up the golds next week. hoping to help a bit. i have a pioneer elite dv 37 dvd player for my cdp. have a nad c541 coming this week. im so confused it seems like i a ok equipment just sounds like a boom box. my local shops are snobby and if you dont show them the black card they look at u like ur stupid. please help thanx for the replies.
Boom box sounds like a better description of an untreated room than the one I gave you in the above response. Do yourself a favor and contact gikacoustics.com. Tame the room reflections or any money you spend will be wasted.
ok i looked up bi wiring. it looks like i need to also hook up the b side on the speaker outputs. i have a second set ok wireworld wires. does this have any bad effects on my reciever? seems like it would be hard on the amp in the reciever. i pick up the golds on friday so i will wait to biamp them until i hear from some guys on here. have no idea on how to pick a amp. thanks
a wife that understands....my addiction to HiFi... WAF!
Heavy padding under a big rug, and 20 bass traps.
The rooms response is at least as important as the gear.
Move speakers at least! two feet from back wall and three feet from side walls. Put bookshelf in the corner or along side the wall by the speakers and maybe some heavy big pillows in the other.
The NAD may help a little however I would invest in a better / more powerfull integrated for the Gold i's, maybe 100 watts. Here on Agon for $1000 or a bit more sometimes less you can get a good sounding integrated that has decent bass control and overall good sound. Arcam, BelCanto, Musical fidelity are brands that consistently make pretty good stuff.
I went through many pairs of speakers thinking they were sloppy in the bass dept and one dimensional untill I upgraded and went from a reciever to a good integrated.
Then I got a good CD player and impoved things even more..
Then I got better speakers, then better amp, then better CD player then better speakers then amp then cd player then better speakers.
then I finally found music I liked.
Switching from solid state to tubes . That made the music come alive !
Flyin2jz; ditch the receiver and get an integrated amplifier . An integrated amp is a receiver minus the radio and usually of higher quality , especially in the power supply (quite important) and amp portions of the unit . Then work on your speaker and listening positions .
Good luck .
Upgraded my old NBS cables to the IV series.....major improvement....thanks Walter.
The best auditioned I ve ever enjoyed ,hooking up, my
bose radio cd player with the pc audience, believe me
my bedroom is in audio heaven.Those who have the cd
and pc ,try it.The audience pc has been with the bose
for 2 years now.
What do you think would make the biggest difference for you?
In terms of something that can in general add the most to essentially any system, a DBX 3bx Dynamic Range Enhancer/processor.
My major upgrades were Torus power isolation component and
Bryston BCD-1.The Torus makes a HUGE difference and they have different models to hopefully suit your budget.
A Running Springs Haley or any of their conditioners will be easilty noticed.
Sorry guys,I misread the word audition,I think the best
addition is my ref4 DCCA power cord.It brought all the
music out of my system.
what other systems or components have you listened to;and what did you like about it?
Each item below changed the sound of my system tremendously for the better.
1. Sansui TU-X1 tuner
2. Audio Research Ref3 tube preamp
3. Audio Research CD7
4. Marantz BD-8002 dvd Blu Ray player
Best thing to come down the pike in a long time has been a Mcintosh MR77.Now if this dang town had any jazz stations.....
If you have a broadband internet connection, pick up a Roku Soundbridge for internet radio. You'll be rolling in better than FM sounding Jazz and anything else your interested in from around the world. Use an Audioquest G Snake stereo mini to dual phono IC to upgrade the sound considerably from the stock wire.
Usblues .....I have a SqueezeBox. Similar to the unit Mapman above just mentioned, the Squeezebox operates via wired or wireless broadband connection. I get jazz stations from all over the USA and the rest of the world. I listen to great jazz stations in Denver, Los Angeles, Switzerland, Germany and Japan in superb sound quality.
I own the highly regarded Sansui TU-X1 tuner and I rarely play it any more because of the SqueezeBox. The Sansui can get only local stations....the SqueezeBox gives me access to jazz all over the world.
FM tuners on high end stereo systems are obsolete now I believe as a result of high fidelity digital music devices like the Roku and Squuezebox. I'd keep a good portable or tabletop FM radio around though.
But beware, you can spend hours just surfing from channel to channel with these abulous devices rather than listening to the music (or talk, news, sports programing, nostalgia radio broadcasts or whatever from around the world).
Other things possible with Roku and I believe also Squeezebox beyond excellent sounding Internet radio and thousands of stations to choose from:
1) rip CDs in loss less format to a WiFI networked computer anywhere in your house and play these via wireless connection on your stereo system in another room.
2) run digital output from the Roku or Squeezebox to a outboard DAC or direct to digital input on some newer amps for even better sound.