Where to go from here...


Hi all,

First time poster here but long time lurker.  Just a bit history, then my questions.  Like many, I've re-kindled an old interest in audio and over the past decade been purchasing (and reselling) a lot of gear and having a lot of fun.  Started with vintage receivers, then separates, then some more modern gear, and now modernish tube gear.  Have about 5 systems running now (my kids love me they have nice gear in their rooms).

My main system consists of the following:
Sonos ZP90 (streaming flac files from NAS, online music, etc)
VPI Aries (JMW 12.5, Ortofon Cadenza Black)
McIntosh C2300
McIntosh MEN220
Bob Carver LLC Black Beauty 305 monoblocks
JBL 250ti
Audeze LCD-XC headphones
full set of BJC cables

I ran into WAF issues on room treatments, and thus the MEN220 which I really like even though it's a big digital computer.  Music is mostly classic rock with some acoustic folk.  Volume moderate to occasional high.  50/50 digital/analog as source.  Room is approx. 18X35X10, one of those big kitchen/dining/family room things that are so popular today.  No video here, just music.

I'm pretty happy with this system and like the sound.  It sounds a lot clearer than my best vintage system (Pioneer SX-1280 with JBL L-220s) which sounds pretty good itself.  I hear things in the music I've never heard before.  I have a few friends who like audio, but they are pretty scarce in my social circles and while I have heard some good systems I've not heard anything outside a showroom that really sounded better than mine.  That probably says more about my social circles than my system though.

I posted in speakers but I'm really open to broader opinions.  What is the weakest link(s) here?  I understand that audio is subjective and no one else has this exact system. I suspect my Sonos needs some attention at some point as digital source, that is on my radar.  The only upgrade I've done that yielded no benefit I could hear was the BJC copper.  The cables are prettier but I can't hear anything different.   While I love the JBLs, they are the only vintage components left and I've heard improvements in most situations when I either switched to more modern gear or rebuilt old gear.

I've thought about looking for modern speakers and subs, and using the MEN as crossover.  The Carvers and JBLs sure do rock though so   Am I (gasp) done? :)

I work for a living so money is a constraint.

Thanks!
dpgaloot
If you run into WAF issues(speaking of weakest link), send your wife to kitchen and remind her what she's suppose to do there. If she disagrees, give her some circular saw, drill and hammer to fix floor on your porch.


Uh, my wife has many great qualities but cooking isn't on the list.  And I don't know your wife, but pissing my wife off and giving her a power saw doesn't seem wise.  I'd definitely need new speakers then, and my "fixed porch" would have 14" holes where the woofers used to be. 
My 2nd wife is titled athlete in martial arts, excellent cook and rather devoted to my electronic and vintage toys than rejects them. The only problem she does not drive well, but hopefully will improve. My 1st one thought I'm dog on leash... I'm happy with my current upgrade.

dpgaloot, Thanks, I can't stop laughing, and believe me, I know where you're coming from! Good luck with the audio stuff, your bound to get some worthwhile help here.

"Good luck with the audio stuff, your bound to get some worthwhile help here."


Looks like he's already received it from czarivey.
Martial arts? Nah, try Dim Mak - death touch.
Inna, relax neither of us assassins. 
Athletics are peaceful in most cases.
Dim Mak is first of all a healing approach.
Sorry now to have jumped on this tangent.  Can someone offer the OP some helpful advice....jeez, it's his first post!
speakers first (naturally).  but if rock/pop is what you love the most, maybe not.  the recordings aren't that good (for the most part) anyway.
but if you LOVE Blue-Note jazz, or string quartets, etc. then yes, that's a good place to start.  Try listening to Eggleston Andra speakers (ver.1, 2, or 3) or similar speakers (Joseph Audio, Aerial Acoustics, B&W, many others) and hear much more going on as well as a better integration between the different drivers.  If you have the space and DON'T need POW-POW (dynamics), Magniplanars are ridiculously good speakers.
French_fries has made some good suggestions, hopefully others will chime in. I see that your vintage JBL's have a lot of devotees and seem to be particularly suited to your listening tastes. You have some great gear, maybe you are done.
Lurker... welp, right at home.
Whether you are done or in the very beginning depends on many elements including cost. How can we advise without knowing anything? You work for a living or steal for a living or print money - this doesn't matter here, in this respect we accomodate anyone.
Thanks for the responses.  French_fries I made some notes, you mentioned some gear I had not heard of before.  I did some googling and will continue to follow up.  I'm planning on attending Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in October (my first ever event like this) and hope to go in with some good questions and things to look for.

Inna I'd have thought I gave too much information, not inadequate information.  My budget is flexible in the league I'm in, let's say I could spend $12-15K on speakers, new or used.  I could also budget $2-4K for a better digital source.  My question is really about what would fit with my overall system and listening habits.  I'm not going to replace the entire system, and I doubt I'll ever have over $30-40K in it (I bought it all used).  Wilson Audio is just down the road from me, I've heard their gear but I don't know that even if I could lay my hands on a pair of their $150K speakers that my system would do them justice.  I also doubt that given my listening habits that their gear would be right for me regardless of price, but I've only listened to it in environments where cranking up Boston would not exactly fly. 

French_fries brings up an issue that is at the heart of my question, my music choices.  I completely agree that the quality of source material in three chord rock is not the same quality as in other genres, and given that rock is most of what I listen to I don't want a system that isn't well suited.  I don't want a Porsche to get the kids from soccer, so to speak.  Nothing against 8W amps and big horns, I've heard some that sound great.  But not when playing "Gone Away" by The Offspring. :)  I read about these $100K+ systems that sound amazing, but I wonder if they are being built for different music.  I wasn't being flippant when I asked if I am done, I really wonder if my source material becomes my weakest link at some point.  I can't fix that.

I can arrange to hear the  Magniplanars  and B&W locally through friends of friends.  I'll go do that.  Thanks again for the direction.

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dpgaloot


sorry, i didn't check the spelling- MAGNEPLANARS (E not I).
but maybe not for rock and roll.  However, sound wise, they will knock you on your keesterbangers though.  Try listening to a Joni Mitchell album on them, or Ricki Lee Jones, etc.  
Having owned a pair of Maggie 3.6R's for a while before life swung Reference 3A de Capo BE's my way, followed by Acoustic Zen Adagios, I can say the Maggies presented such a beautiful and deep soundstage. Well produced and well-mic'd recordings were simply authentic and actual through them.
I found out that pets LOVE Maggies especially cats! They could climb on the very top of panel and if not tipping it over go back down! Also they're very loved by crawling or just about to walk toddlers as well!
Shipping these may run into the near-same price as they're already priced to keep them SAFE. 

I have enjoyed reading the posts on this thread, some very funny and at the same time, informative posts! Having bought and sold a lot of equipment and having gone through a lot of speakers brands, I can make this suggestion: take your time in making your decision and listen to as any speakers as you can first. And if that means waiting until October until you go to the audio show before you make up your mind, that's okay too. You have a large budget and there are so many options for you it will blow your mind! Good Luck!
Mike
dpgaloot:  The single most important thing you could tell uss appears missing from this thread:  What don't you like about your system?  Is there a specific aspect of performance, ergonomics or functionality that you would like to improve upon?  I am posting as one is, if not quite done, pretty darn close to it.  I am down to tweaks, room treatments and wire upgrades.  This is the result of a combination of limited funds and some fortuitous system synergy.  So, please tell us what you hope to gain by spending your hard-earned cash.  Thanks. 
First of all thanks for all the input here!  This is exactly what I was hoping to get!

Michaela, I agree completely on not rushing and am looking forward to the show in Denver.  I took Stereo Review as a kid in the 70s and 80s, and was proud of my system back then (big JVC receiver, Cerwin Vega speakers, you get the idea).  I always coveted the McIntosh/JBL combo from the Dead's "wall of sound", but it was out of my league back then.  Not surprising that is what I ended up with now, but I really didn't and don't know much about high end gear.  I'm anxious to hear such a variety of equipment all in once place.  In the end, I'm happy with what I listen to today so being patient isn't hard.

Bondmanp, your question about what I want to improve is excellent.  Let me take a shot at answering it.  First thing, I know my digital source needs work.  I regularly do a demo where I queue up an mp3, CD, and LP of the same song and then switch between them on my preamp (it allows me to adjust level per source so I can compensate for differing loudness).  The mp3 is terrible, and the LP almost always wins.  However, I don't think putting my Sonos DAC up against my VPI/Ortofon is a fair fight.  The Sonos just isn't as musical, even with a good recording.  With a bad one it can be harsh.  I'm considering an Oppo 105 right now, but want to do more homework here before I jump.  Perhaps just a DAC and keeping the Sonos (I really like the user interface).  So digital source is first.

Speakers are more subjective.  The first "nice" speakers I chased down were a pair of Polk Audio SDA SRS 1.2tl's.  Some here may scoff at them, but those who remember ads from the 80s with Matthew Polk in his white lab coat standing next to them will understand why the latent teenager in me had to have them.  I still love the soundstage they have.  I swear that when I listen to them I can hear sounds coming from behind me, especially with the right recording.  Whatever you think of SDA trickery, to me it works.  I run the JBLs because of the improved clarity they have over the Polks.  When I play something like "More Than Life" by Whitley the JBLs clearly win.  But if I could have the clarity of the JBLs and soundstage of the Polks I'd be even happier.  I've even considered modifying/modernizing the Polks or JBLs, and that is still an option I may consider.  I'd be curious what this forum thought of comparing modified vintage to newer generation speakers.

It's also interesting to compare my headphones to my speakers.  There is a clarity and realism with the Audeze headphones that the JBLs are lacking.  I can hear more detail and more "openness".  The headphones lack the in-your-face presence and punch of the speakers, especially at volume, but I'd love to get more of that detail and openness in the speakers.

I just got a copy of "Get Better Sound" by Jim Smith and I'm anxious to dig into that.  After french_fries comment, I spent about 3-4 hours this weekend listening to different types of music than my usual.  I started with Joni Mitchell and ended up with Loreena McKennitt.  Surprising to me at least how much I enjoyed music I wouldn't normally "like" when it was played on a good system.

Thanks again...

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dpgaloot