The question is for suggestions. (I was rushed)
31 responses Add your response
Before you do any upgrade/downgrade, ask yourself few questions:
1) What's missing in the system? Imaging? Tonal balance? pace? frequency response?
2) Have you try all the possible tweak to your current setup? tube rolling, speaker position, speaker stand height and damping.
3) Pin point the weak link. This is harder to do but the weak link may not be what you think it is. You need to compare your equipment in someone else's system to see if you get consistant result.
4) Budget vs Passion. What's more important: Sound or cost. What are the possible alternatives you can live with?
IMHO, I would consider replace the amp with low power amp
like the push-pull EL84s like the Scott 299Bs or 12Watt 300B SET or 8W 2A3s.
Excellent responses. Sugarbrie- I'm not downgrading too far but want to free up some cash for a great deal on a SET amp and I'm thinking of replacing the speaker cables with Sonoran cables so they should still be good enough for my system. S23Chang- Your last suggestion is exactly what I am planning to do. I am planning to try out an integrated 15Watt 300B set that a friend of mine is selling. It's not so much that anything is "missing" but to do this I need to free up some money and like I said, I think the cables can be replaced with a less expensive cable and still keep the strengths alive. My room is truly the weak link but there's nothing I can do about that right now. Maybe I'm wrong to switch cables but I figure there's really only one way to find out.
If I understand your question, try replacing the expensive interconnects with the direct marketed interconnect design for tube components sold by firstname.lastname@example.org. For $120 (less, if you beg,) expect an audible interconnect upgrade, even though you just saved money. Gregg offers a home trial, so there is no risk. After you hear the audible upgrade of your entire system, then you can decide whether to spend more money on your amp, or just enjoy your improved sound for a while. His interconnects revealed the capabilities of a system of mine with its vintage Cary SLA-70Sig amplifier.
YES. Not all cheap cable can do top job.
Congrads Stuartbranson! You have a decent enough system that you can tell the difference.
There is a certain limitation with what money can buy. If you're looking for something that is same level as the YAM5000 then I would expect you to pay $250 to $300 regardless used or new. The other alternative is to build the cable yourself with quality materials and the right method.
Don't even bother with home grown audio because it is not the same class.
Therefore, how much can you really save by switching to the cheaper alternatives?
Same price range apply to speaker cablest too.
S23...liked your first post a lot...but not the knee-jerk assessment of tight correlation between price and quality of reproduction of the cable market your second supports. Have you ever tried the cheap Canare starquad cables all the pro recording engineers use? I suggest Stuart spend $20 for a pair of these while rescaling his system. Remember, he wants a slightly warmish cable...probably not the Nordost SPM I use nor another $$$ rare-metal snakeset....
Subaruguru, I know you can make a good cables yourself fore relatively cheap in material cost (I can too.) However, for the same quality as what he already had doesn't come cheap for finished product. He just want to downgrade in price not performance. Btw, I'm only referring to signal cables and speaker cables and not power cords. If it power cord, I would only recommend the Volex 14-3 computer cord which is $7 for the 6ft cord. And that my friend, money doesn't buy you much more in terms of performance increase. You don't need to mention your own Canare Starquad either because there are a lot of better cables out there than that.
I've now been switching between the Sonorans and the Yamamuras, the Cary amp and a Vaic 300B SET. Basically I want a good quality less expensive cable but I'm inclined to agree with S23chang to some degree that I will likely be sacrificing quality with the money saved. It's also such a synergy thing that it's really gonna be alot of trial and evaluation and in this respect Ernie has a very valid point. Merci bien and thanks for all your thoughts. I've never had the luxury of two nice amps to show how the cheaper can have strengths the more expensive lacks and vice-versa. The Sonorans don't even sound that bad with the Cary SLI-80. OF course the Vaic with the 302B's is quite revealing but it's bass is less defined than the Cary with the quad of KT-88's. Again anyone familiar with any of my gear, I'd like to hear what you're using and thanks. BTW it is mainly the speaker cables and IC's(to a lesser extent) that I am talking about and not power cables at all.
Most of SETs will sound less bass than push and pulls you already own. However, people will sacrifice bass with more transparent, fuller sound of the SETs. SETs are not for everyone. The Jadis 300B amps can sound really great but sinking $6000 to $7000 in used gear is not a great investment. The other times I have audition Sun Audio 2A3 SETs with JBL horn systems which is also quite impressive. For this SET 2a3 amp, large efficient speakers required.
Back to your system, a better speaker cables and preamp to amp ICs definitely can help in the bass dept. To what degree I really don't know. Also, a solid stand can also help in the bass dept. I'm using Target R4s for my monitor speakers on carpet floor and it was not giving enough defined bass until I modified the stand with addition of solid aluminium blocks underneath the stand. A good separation from the floor can also improve the bass.
Keep it closer to backwall can also improve the bass.
Yes, Ernie, I've already done enough home work on cables and in terms of time and $$$ spend and DIYs. The star-quad version is not a refined cable but it is better than some monster & kimber cables.
Again, this is just MHO from real life experience ( not some threads I read ), your own tweaking is required.
Chang, You're all over the place, so it's hard to follow you. Try decaf.... I never mentioned power cords (The Volex IS low-performance) nor that the Canare star-quad are MY cables. It's just that the Canare StarQuads are purchased by the MILE for serious PRO recording use. I just ran 40 ft XLR pairs from Earthwork omnis on my Steinway B to an Alesis Masterlink, through my Aleph P/Aleph2/Parsifal Encores system (in the same room), all set up by the head prof of recording engineering at Berklee College of Music, and we both agreed that in some ways (lack of room splatter), the recorded sound betters the live!
It was an interesting decision when hooking the Masterlink into the Aleph P: does one continue with 1m of the Canare again ($20), or do a brain-side Pro-to-audiophool switch and go to the Nordost SPM I use throughout the playback end ?! Ha! Much more important to practice the piano....
So let's just help this thread-head out. He should start with a good, cheap well-referenced set of ICs, then play from there if necessary. Yes, speaker placement/treatment tweaks are almost always more important that cables, but let's keep this on topic, eh?
My favorites are the Harm Tech Truthlink for warmth, Nordost Blue Heaven for zip on budget, or SPM, but I always have buddies start with Canares to establish the system in the room in a fine, neutral way. Only if the room is overdamped, they're suffering from too much hearing loss, or the front end is SUPERB do we then trot out the lucid Nordosts.
I have borrowed and now bought a Mastersound/Vaic 300b SE, 15w SET integrated amp. Much more revealing of cable differences and now I feel that my choices are much harder. In fact I have no idea how to choose anymore. It's my first foray into the low watts class A amps and though I love the midrange, I find the bass definition a little lacking. I know it's a stretch to use cables to help out a system but just before I sent off the Yamamuras I did an A/B with the Sonoran Deserts I also borrowed. Made me wish I hadn't sold the Yamamuras. The Sonorans kind of undid some of the beauty the SET imparted to the music. Brought everything forward and cut the depth considerably. I guess I prefer the warm side of neutral, or so I assume considering my choices, but now I am looking for the depth again. All the comments about my room are not usefull, though I appreciate them and the importance, but I cannot do anything about it considering my current living situation. Speaker placement is about as good as I can do and the stands are filled with sand to about 70lbs a piece. I think I am going to have to bite the bullet and spend some money because I just can't settle for the sound I have now. Signal Cables, Verastarr? Any of these even worth the effort or am I going to have to buy another set of Yamamuras or P.A.D. Colossus (I like the IC), or Audience Au24s. Can't really audition any around here especially since I have no intention of buying new from a dealer. Any other ideas. Ernie, I have had Nordost Blue Heavens in the past but found them thin, but then again, my system has no common components since I owned them. I too have fond memories of the HT Truthlink.
Don't really know your price range, but I have used 47 Labs OTA speaker cable and IC's with two SET based systems.
I downgraded from an Audion 300B SET amp to Bottlehead kit SET amps and their preamp, but kept the OTA cable.
It has worked well with all of my gear (vintage Pilot 232 6bq5 push/pull amp, vintage SE 6bq5 amps, etc.).
The cable kit runs $600 and will make up 3 pairs of IC's plus speaker cable (50 meters of cable is supplied).
Well my price range has changed. I started this looking for a $200 cable(used) that would replace the $450-500 Yamamuras (used). I was hopeful that someone would know my gear or the type of sound I would like and give me some avenues for research. I've gotten many ideas but after my latest experiments(YamM5000,SonoranDesert/XLO pro1200) I admit that I am leery of dropping the $200 because I realize that my expectations were, likely, unrealistic. I know there's alot of overpriced cables but some are expensive AND good and some are moderate and good. I'm starting to wonder about the cheap and good. So maybe my budget is going back up to the $600(used) mark because it'll be worth it if I hear what I know is there.
Downgrading cable is a courageous move, Stuartbranson! One which I happen to applaud. I know(yes know, not think) that you will end up with as much performance as you can get from the expensive stuff via carefully selecting what you move to.
My own personal experience has shown me that a good, inexpensive cable can bring just as much satisfaction to a system. I will say that moving away from the likes of what most cheap cables are(Radio Shack and the AR or Monster found in the big box shops) allows you to find the knee in the curve. I have tried megabucks cabling, just to see if the hype was warranted. It is not. I do not use low grade cable, but I have very good cable in my system. Like you would like to do, I sold the expensive cable to fund the purchase of more traditional components. To say that I made the right move would be an understatement.
In the end, I am of the opinion that you do not need to spend more than $300 for ANY interconnect to be able to enjoy the best. I haven't tried everything out there, but here is an informal list of what I consider to be reference grade interconnect on a budget:
1) Homemade cabling. Perhaps the best overall option. Excellent wire is available through OrcaDesign, HomeGrown Audio, and VampireWire.
The VampireWire CCC is the same product as Neotech OCC(Ohno Continuous Cast) copper, which in manufactured in Taiwan by Wang Lung Industries. This wire is cast, not drawn, and it's crystal structure is unique. Instead of many, many, many crystals per foot, there is one crystal per 125 - 250 feet. This material is used in Acoustic Zen and Harmonic Technology products, and I am not at all suprised by how much people love them. However, when you see how much you can buy the raw material for, you will not believe your eyes. Yes, it's eyepoppingly low.
You can also look into Neotech, but I have had a harder time sourcing here in the USA(probably my own stupidity). I have bought from the UK with success. You can buy assembled OCC silver interconnect from UK for not much money.
HomeGrown Audio's silver is simply fantastic.
Plugs can be had in many places. I would like to say that I cannot recommend the Neutrik RCA connectors, as I had a problem with one breaking and getting stuck in my RCA jack. Others have commisertated with me that was also their unfortune.
2) HomeGrown Audio Super Silver($89). Kimber KCAG, with solid silver(sounds better to me than the Kimber stranded), at an entry level price. If you want a fast, detailed cable which works great in a rich sounding tube system, like your Cary, it's worth a try. Excellent clarity.
3) Phoenix Gold, using the OCC copper($89-$99?). Yes, it's true! Just make 100% sure you take the one which uses the OCC(Platinum Series?), as most of their stuff uses OFC instead.
4) Millersound($149?, but usually can be had for 1/3 less). The same(yes, the SAME) cable as a very highly regarded product which sells for 10X the price. A very punchy mid-upper bass, with a nice smooth sound, not agressive treble.
5) VampireWire OCC($149?). Another OCC interconnect, have Vampire assemble it for you if you prefer not to buy the raw material.
6) HomeGrown Audio SilverLace($189). Silver cable with a more full sound, excellent weight in the bass. Me and an audiophile friend have yet to hear anything better it in our systems.
7) Musical Fidelity NuVista($275). Discontinued, but using OCC silver. Fast, clear cable, can be a bit zippy in the wrong system.
8) Coincident CST($299). Another reference quality cable that fits in the budget.
9) Ridge Street Audio($300?). Note: I HAVE NEVER TRIED THIS CABLE so I cannot describe its sound. But, from all of the people who seem happy with it, it seems like something that should make it to my list here. The owner probably hates me for ranting about cable being overpriced, but he seems like a nice guy.
10) Analysis Plus Single Crystal Copper($300). OCC?
As far as speaker cable goes, I like Analysis Plus, Coincident CST(CST1 is better, but you will NOT believe how good CST 0.5 sounds at $200/8 feet), and whatever else you can find for under $500 that works for you.
Power cords - it's probably a great idea to talk to Ernie, as he seems to be the man there.
Thanks for all the sources! I have ordered a set of speaker cables from Gregg Straley as recommended from Listener57's post. We had a good correspondance so I thought I'd try his DIY design for 8' pair of sp. cable for $175 with a 1m pr. of IC's tuned for tube gear for $90 all on money back guarantee. Should be arriving in a couple days. If successful, I will continue my "downgrades". Thinking of selling my Audio Magic Stealth and going for a balanced power unit from Transcendent Sound. BTW. I don't have the Cary amp any more. Now have the Mastersound/Vaic 300b SE, 15w SET integrated.
I bought the cables recommended in by "Listener57" and I am very pleased. As much as memory serves they turned out to be every bit as good as my Yamamuras. Very detailed, clean and precise sound. No etchiness or harshness at all. Very musical. Sucessful experiment I'd say. Not thinking I'll ever need to replace these.