Would like advice on upgrading entry level system


Hey everyone,

So I’ve finally gotten to the point that I’m ready to upgrade my entry level audio system and I’m here for some advice. 

To give you some background, 3 years ago I had a home theater setup in a medium sized loft in my home using Definitive Technology for the front stage and Atlantic Technology dipoles for surround duty all being powered by a mid level Onkyo receiver. Then downstairs in the living room I had a 2.1 setup using a Velodyne sub and Martin Logan Motion 35XTs powered by a Marantz SR5011 receiver. That system also incorporated a Parasound Z Phono preamp and a vintage Denon direct drive turntable with a Adcom HO MC cartridge that was purchased by my father-in-law when he was in college 40+ years ago. He’s extremely OCD so it was in beautiful condition with no issues or imperfections at all. That was the first system I spent any real money on, though it probably wasn’t much over $3k total even with everything being brand new other than the TT and sub.  A year went by, I got divorced and moved into a small apartment. I sold the HT setup and obviously the ex took the TT with her (along with the preamp).  Within the following year I started dating a woman that had a one year old son which was a completely new experience for me. As much as I loved having a legit stereo setup I came to the realization that it may be hard to do that with a little guy that just started walking being in the mix. All he wanted to do was go around and touch and poke stuff or push on it or climb, etc. I sold the Marantz, put the ML 35XTs in the closet and decided I would probably have to live with a sound bar until he got older. However, after trying several I just couldn’t do it. Lol. I decided to compromise and ended up settling on a Sonos Amp (which integrated well with my other Sonos speakers) and the ELAC UniFi UB5s. At only $350 for the pair I wasn’t going to be heartbroken if they got knocked over or scratched or something. It honestly worked out pretty well. 

Now fast forward to present day and I am single again. I sold the ELACs a couple months ago and currently have the Sonos Amp running the MLs. During the KEF sale I finally picked up a pair of the Black Edition LS50s. I’ve wanted to own those since hearing them back in 2014 at AXPONA. They were extremely impressive and totally obtainable from a cost perspective. Picking them up now for $900 seems like robbery. I truly can’t wait to hear them in my room. Also during the holiday sales events I picked up a SVS sub so I can get back to 2.1, which sounds like the way to go for a lot of people using the LS50s. My goal with that will just be to spend the time to integrate the two properly so they sound as good as they can in my room.  At some point I’m sure I’ll be asking for advice on achieving that. But the main thing I need right now is to figure out what integrated amp or separates to pair with the LS50s given my wants/needs and budget. I live in a smaller apartment and have a tendency to move often (about 6-7 times in the past 8 years) so simplicity and ease of transport is a huge asset. That’s one reason a stereo receiver or integrated seems quite appealing.  I need something with a digital input for my TV, which has HDMI or optical, so I can use the system for 2 channel home theater also. I will probably want to integrate this system with my Sonos network using the Sonos Connect so I’ll need a analog input for that. Also, I’ll definitely be picking up a turntable at some point this year so I’ll need a phono preamp input or another analog in. If I can find something with a built-in phono preamp that is pretty good I would much prefer that. Again, the simpler the better. However, I’m not opposed to running an external phono preamp if necessary. I haven’t gotten into streaming much other than using Air Play 2 with Apple Music, which I do use all the time. I wouldn’t mind exploring Qobuz or Tidal or Amazon HD at some point so a DAC would be nice as well. Same thing goes, where a good built-in DAC would be ideal but I’m not opposed to running an external if I have to. I have also been looking into DSP and I like the idea of trying that out for the first time. Using Dirac Live with the DDRC-24 from miniDSP seems like one of the easiest options. So, having a Preamp Out/Main In connection would probably be ideal although there may be other ways to incorporate it. If not, I can stick to room treatments and doing the best I can with speaker placement. I don’t necessarily want to compromise too much just to use DSP. Obviously whatever I get needs to have plenty of power to run the LS50s well and I want something that does them justice regarding sound quality. I realize I will probably never reach their full potential given budget and room/setup limitations but I want something to partner with them that they deserve.  

My budget at this time is probably no more than $2k for the integrated or separates gear. The sources will be a turntable (probably in the $500-$600 range), streaming services running on a iPad Pro, a Sonos Connect, and 2 channel home theater.  Some of the options I’ve considered are the Outlaw RR2160, NuPrime IDA-8, PS Audio Sprout 100, Rogue Audio Sphinx v3, NAD C388, Cambridge Azur 851A, Yamaha A-S801, Musical Fidelity M5si, and some of the separates gear from Emotiva and Parasound. But there are many other options, especially if I look at buying used equipment. 

Wow, I realize that was perhaps too much information but I wanted to give everyone enough detail to assist them in making good recommendations. I research a lot online within the different forums and I read the industry magazines. I’m definitely not uninformed or a newbie in the 2 channel world.  But there aren’t a ton of places to properly demo gear I’m interested in  where I live (Indianapolis) and I haven’t had anywhere near the personal experience with many of the brands that members on here have. So I definitely appreciate the help and I look forward to seeing what suggestions you all have. Thanks so much in advance and please let me know if there’s any other info I can provide or questions I can answer. 


indyvw
Reminds me of Stereophile back in the day, this one guy goes on and on listing all the gear he owned, all the model numbers and everything, and then in the middle he says, "then with my second wife, what's her name..." 

Seriously, this is way easier than you think. mahgister is our house expert on this. I'm with him: keep what you have, make it sound better.

Reading most of the post and scanning the rest it looks like you've fallen into the same pit that catches a lot, thinking its all amps and speakers, not realizing its equally power cords, interconnects, speaker cables, fuses, connections, all the little things. I would bet for example that $300 of Total Contact will improve what you have more than $3000 of "components".


I don’t see you going wrong with that Outlaw RR2160. It seems to have all the features that you are looking for at great price. 
Millercarbon, I totally get where you are coming from and I agree that all the accessory items play a significant role in the sound too. I will work on upgrading these items proportionately no doubt. That being said, I have to figure out some type of preamp/ amp combo or integrated to use because the Sonos Amp doesn’t have the connectivity options I need. It’s great for what it is and it served it’s purpose but I want something more purpose built that has the functionality I’m looking for. I actually have a friend that wants to buy it for their much simpler desk top set up so that will work out for both of us. Once I find a proper replacement I won’t be on path of endless upgrading though. I will definitely start tweaking the room and connections, etc. at that point. 
And yes, yogiboy, the Outlaw RR2160 seems like the ideal fit on paper. It definitely covers what I want connectivity-wise and seems to have garnered widespread favorability from much of the online community. Given its price I felt like it may be hard to beat. But again that’s why I posted on here to see what suggestions I got from everyone. 
Thanks to you both and to anyone else that has an opinion they’d like to share. 
My son has the Yamaha S 801 paired with Harbeth C7's and it sounds great. He uses a Rega Fono preamp, but the one in the Yamaha is not bad.
Well my thoughts are to spend more of your $2600 budget towards the TT. If wanting new maybe consider the Outlaw or the Yamaha for having the required inputs. Invest in a higher quality TT/arm/cartridge at the $1500 range. 

What about a late model integrated on the used market?
I think you should add the Peachtree Decco125 Sky to your list as it’s very portable and ticks pretty much all your boxes.  It’s got a phono input, analog input, preamp out, an internal DAC with optical and USB inputs, and puts out 125Wpc that should adequately drive your KEFs.  There’s a nice one available now on eBay for $800 but I think is available new for $899, which would leave you a bunch left over for a TT, DSP, etc.  There are some good reviews out there that can give you more info.  Best of luck. 
The most important thing is to get an amp that can drive your speakers. Based on my experience with the LS50s, they sound best with some power behind them.  I would suggest a class A/B amp with 150+ wpc into 8 ohms.  At the price that you're looking, an integrated will give you the most bang for your buck.  Parasound and Musical Fidelity both make high current/power integrated amps in $2-3K range that can be found for less used.      

-Parasound Hint6 - 160wpc, phono stage, $3k new
-Musical Fidelity M5si - 150wpc, phono stage, $2k new
-Musical Fidelity M6si - 220wpc, phono stage, $3k new

Any of the above should give you outstanding performance with the LS50s, and they will drive pretty much any speaker you decide to try in the future.  In addition, they are sold by online retailers like Music Direct and Audio Advisor that have generous return policies and a good selection of demo/open box gear at discounted prices.  I've seen all three of the above models at demo prices fairly frequently.  They also pop up here on Audiogon.

Good luck, and let us know what you choose!
Scott

 




Second on the Parasound Hint you could even get the older model at a substantial saving. It sounded terrific with my Maggie 1.7 system and seems to incorporate most of what you need.
I have the Marantz pm8005 integrated now the 8006. I demoed with both ls50 and rs300 from kef. It drive it well, cleanly at very good volumes. I got with rs300s which were as good as ls50 with more bass as a 3 way. Been very happy. Good power at 75 reset 8 ohms AND current whic is really what you need to think about not wrms. Made in Japanese Reference  factory, 3 yr warranty, operates direct mode bypassing preamp or with to be,  balance controls, preamp out for sub and to use pre or power only, good phono amp and headphone amp. Only limit is no Dac. Available online for $1k.  Btw, have heard Outlaw and it's very good for the money. Not as refined as Marantz but good. HINT is nice too but quite a but more. 



Ericsch, thanks for your input on the Yamaha. That one definitely is at the top of my list to consider. Seems like a nice unit. 
Mesch, I definitely would be open to looking for something used on the various markets. That could open some doors for slightly nicer options and still be in budget. I like buying new items just because of the safety involved with having warranty coverage or the ability to return things but if I found the right piece at a good price I would be cool going used. I may consider allocating more money towards the TT setup too. I gave most of the vinyl that we had to my ex wife but I still have around 30-40 albums or so that I couldn’t part with. I’ve missed having a TT available. Soon enough though. 
Soix, I definitely will look into Peachtree too. I listened to a couple of their offerings at that AXPONA show I went to a few years ago and was pretty impressed. I like the overall aesthetics of the Peachtree gear too. Do you or does anyone else have personal listening experience with the Peachtree integrateds? If so, how did they compare to other things you’ve heard in their price range?
Smrex13, I really like the Parasound Hint6 idea as it has everything I would want and I’m sure sounds great for its price range. Definitely would be a step up compared to the options I mentioned in my original post. The only thing that would prevent me from going that route is the cost. It’s a bit over budget for me. If I could find a great deal on a used one that would be under $2k that would be a no-brainer. The MF M5si and M6si are also interesting pieces that again are a bit over budget but used may be an option. How do you think they compare to the Hint6?  Do you have any experience listening to them by chance?

joekapahulu, I’ll look at the Marantz again. I really like the look and it checks off a lot of boxes for what I want. It’s definitely a nice piece of gear.  I think the main reason I kind of dismissed it originally was due to the power output being lower than some of the other options out there. It’s basically the same way I felt about the Spout 100. Many nice features and great overall build but perhaps not as much power/current as I’d like.  But I’ll definitely consider it again given your input from personal experience. 
Thanks to everyone. I’m happy to hear more opinions as well. This is definitely helpful. 


Well, it’s been almost two weeks and I have an update that I would like everyones input on. I decided I’d like to stay under $1500 for the integrated so I can spend a bit more on a TT here in a couple months. That being said, I just happen to have a connection that would allow me to buy the Yamaha A-S1100 at a substantial discount with the cost being slightly over half price. If I go that route I would just have to add an external DAC for the digital inputs I need. I would be able to stay right around $1500-$1600  total for both of those new.  The Outlaw RR2160 and a couple other options I’ve looked at/ mentioned would be significantly less expensive, however, I think I would be hard pressed to better the sound quality of the A-S1100 with an outboard DAC at the $1500 price point and I would expect that combo to easily outperform the Outlaw and others in that similar range.  Thoughts on this?
At that price point the Rogue Sphinx V2 is also very interesting in that it offers very good sonics and a phono input, and it has the benefit of being able to swap its input tube to tailor the sound to your personal taste (a very attractive option IMO) and adds a bit of that tube nuance and magic into the picture.

That said, after reading reviews of the A-S2100, and assuming given their similar architecture the 1100 possesses many of the same sonic traits, I think the 1100 could be a fabulous match with your LS50s. Its robust bass and fleshed-out mids along with refined treble and excellent soundstaging properties would seem to mesh perfectly with the character and strengths of the KEFs. Plus, it looks Bomb. Hard to see you not being thrilled going that direction. Best of luck in whatever you choose.
Yes I believe the A-S1100 with outboard DAC would be a better fit than either the Yammy A-s801 or the Outlaw receiver. Likely higher quality phonostage and greater flexibility on the digital side. 
Hey soix, I appreciate the reply. Man the Rogue Audio Sphinx is appealing. That’s probably the main competitor at the $1500 price point as it has a lot of things I like. And thanks for the confirmation mesch. The Yamaha A-S1100 was honestly never really even a consideration because of the $2500 cost. However, a discount of almost 50% is a game changer.  At $1300 it’s difficult to pass up or at least very strongly consider. Like you I absolutely love the way it looks and the overall build quality is impressive, as is the design both internal and external. Having the pre out/main in connections is also very handy if I want to use a DSP.  The only thing missing is the digital inputs but honestly most of the integrated amps I’ve liked have been analog based or have had compromises on the digital side anyway. That’s what made me think I’d be better off going with a separate DAC and letting the integrated focus on the analog side. The icing on the cake is that if I decide to sell the A-S1100 in the future to upgrade I doubt I’ll lose any money on it. Especially with how I take care of my equipment. 
Yes the pre out/amp in ability is nice. Allows flexibility for upgrade path, use of a different amp/speaker combination, and as a diagnostic tool. The Yammy seems a great deal at the price offered you and I agree will to reduce loss if resold.   
Take a look at the new marantz pm7000n.
You get built in streamer/dac with AK 4490 dac chips and native tidal support plus a ton of other features for $1k new. The HEOS interface that runs on phone or tablet to control the streaming works well.
I’m probably going to pick one up for my office system.
Yeah mesch that’s pretty much my take as well. On another note, my connection for the Yamaha gear suggested I may want to look at the Aventage RX-A3080 as a possible alternative. His reasoning was that it would incorporate the digital connectivity I want (including WiFi, BT and Airplay), it has a phono input, offers room correction and puts out pretty substantial power when driving two channels only. The DAC chips used are pretty good and it obviously has a ton of options I could utilize in the future. My response and my feelings about it are that the 3080 is a damn nice A/V receiver and if I was doing a home theater set up it would be a no brainer. But I’ve done all that before as I mentioned in my first post and it’s just not the direction I’m heading in now. I just want to keep things simple and focus on good two channel sound. Given my goal for this system I think the A-S1100 is a much better fit. The 3080 has so much hardware inside in order to do what it needs to, but a lot of it would just be wasted in my application. And obviously there are compromises with having all that hardware and functionality crammed in one case. I imagine the 1100 has noticeably better sound quality for all or most of the inputs/outputs and it certainly looks way cooler. Adding an external DAC should raise the digital quality level above the receiver too and the total additional cost is probably like $350-$450 over the 3080 cost. I think the 1100/DAC is easily worth it but I’m curious what you guys think as well. Thanks.
Noted kren,  I’ll take a look for sure. Thanks
That said, agree Yam 2100 probably a different class level then that marantz if you don't mind spending the additional $$.  Another one I'm considering is Hegel H90.

Good luck -
@indyvw I just listed a great Yamaha AVENTAGE receiver if you want to check it out: https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lisa0fa9-yamaha-aventage-rx-a3000-receivers