Advice for someone getting back into Hifi

stitch123

Active Member
Hi everyone,

Recently I have made a few posts asking for recommendations etc, however I haven’t given much context and I think it might be helpful if I do.

I have some very fond memories from about 25 years ago (ish) where my best friend and I were really into music and hi-fi and would take frequent trips to various hi-fi retailers in Brighton (Richer Sounds, The Power Plant (if any one remembers that place)) where we would demo loads of stuff.

My memory of which kit I had is a bit fuzzy but I do remember my friend having a Rotel Pre and Power amp combination and a pair of Eltax Symphony (8?) speakers which I remember vividly playing far too loud in his little bedroom. Around that time my science teacher at school was really into Hifi and he sold me a pair of Tannoy Mercury M20s which I remember loving and had for years, paired with what I think I remember as a Cambridge Audio amp (this would have been mid 90s). I also had an Ariston CD player (from Richer Sounds) which I can vividly recall upgrading to a Rega Planet pretty much based on it looking cool. The Cambridge Audio was soon replaced with an AVR in the form of something by Marantz. My friends and I would spend hours listening to Talkingheads, Joy Division, Underworld, Apollo 440, Radiohead etc and music was a massive part of our lives. Then college happened - I moved away and sold all the gear. I then joined the army and moved around a lot over the years so small bluetooth speakers etc became the norm for me.

More recently (2012 ish) I decided to try and get back into some ‘proper’ listening again. I decided to home demo some hi-fi, and by home demo I mean a mixture of buying random bits of kit from eBay, and shops with good return policies. I wanted to try and relive my youth so I picked up at Arcam Alpha 7 and a Cyrus 3i (I had always wanted these as a teenager but couldn’t afford it), I also borrowed a Marantz PM6005 and a NAD D3020 from Sevenoaks. Someone from this forum leant me some sort of switch so I could connect my speakers up to two amps at a time so I could A/B test. My speakers were Dali Zensors 1. After days and days of my friends, my wife and I trying to blind test these things we really couldn’t concern much audible difference (especially with the challenge of volume matching). We think there may have been very slight differences in terms of ‘brightness’ with he Cyrus, but I could never point it out in a blind test. Therefore I kept the NAD pretty much due to its form factor, and the digital connections were helpful for the TV. I soon upgraded the Zensor 1s to Zensor 5s, which I was happy with until kids came along, the floor standers had to go and I bought a pair of Q acoustics BT3 and a Q acoustics sub. I was quite happy with this combination and it sounded good. I didn’t need the NAD due to the speakers being powered, so that got sold.

We then moved house and the BT3s got sold and replaced with a soundbar since we didn’t really listen to much music with the kids and work etc, and rooms were slowly filled with echo devices, and later on a few Sonos devices. This worked well and the Sonos Ones paired sound surprisingly good.

We have just moved house again, to a bigger property, and now I have an office room (albeit its a spare room so have a bed in it) to myself. I have been using the Sonos Ones as my desk speaker, however the lack of inputs for my PC is frustrating meaning every time I want to watch a recorded video conference, or lecture, or Youtube, or Netflix etc I have to use headphones. Ive been okay with that for a while but it is getting tiresome, so I figured I may as well get new hifi gear and to start to rekindle my love for listening to music.

Recently I have had at home some Presonus E5s. I admit they sound pretty good, however I wasn’t taken by the looks, they are a bit big for my desk, and I couldn’t get round the power hum, especially when connected to my laptop. As my laptop is connected to the monitor by USBC (which is for display and power) whenever that was plugged in the white noise was ridiculously loud. I tried chancing from RCA to TRS etc but same problem. I also found the Sonos Ones better sounding at lower volumes (probably due to the DSP). I made the decision to send them back.

This morning I have picked up some Monitor Audio BR1 (as these seem to have a decent size woofer) and are only 18cm deep (20 cm is really my limit). They also look really pretty compared to a studio monitor on my desk and are 'wife friendly'. I had planned this purchase and picked up a SMSL AD18 from Amazon, mostly due to the decent returns policy, because I could get it quick to listen to the BR1s as I was so excited and I had planned to keep the amp on the desk.

I have set it all up and I am massively disappointed. Listening to Radiohead In Rainbows, via my iPad (jack to aux in), and A/Bing that with the same iPad to the Sonos vis Spotify connect, when I listen to the BR1s it sounds as if someone has thrown a bag over Thom Yorkes head and he is trying to sing through it. Switching back to the Sonos his voice is so much more detailed and clearer. I’ve checked, and double checked that the speakers are wired correctly. The speakers are currently flat on the desk so some stands are going to be ordered. They are about 1m from the back wall. I am wondering what my next step is from here. I have decided that I can probably get away with a hifi rack at the end of the desk and so can go full size components for the amp, but I am not sure how much of a difference this will really make as the improvements needs to be significant. Or is it more likely the BR1s, I appreciate this is a really old speaker by now and perhaps something from the newer range, or maybe going to a Dali Spektor 1 would bring benefits in clarity in Them Yorkes voice. I have about £200 - £250 I can throw at this at the moment, and I am okay going second hand, but Im not sure where to start.

Any help would be much appreciated.
 

AmericanAudio

Active Member
AVForums Sponsor
You are actually comparing different sources which could be your issue.

With Sonos and Spotify connect once you have pushed the connection from your phone to sonos the link is created directly between Sonos and Spotify, your iPad has nothing to do with the sound from that point on, just control. It is all still in a digital domain until the speaker.

With the iPad, headphone out, aux in, amp, MA Speakers you are analogue from the point of the headphone socket out (actually deeper inside the ipad, but this is easier to describe) and there fore much more susceptible to interference and cable / component quality.

I would suggest trying either an external DAC connected to your iPad and maybe some different cables.

Oooooo, sudden thought, what volume are you running the ipad at? Try different volumes. You could be under or over driving the aux input of the amp too.
 

stitch123

Active Member
You are actually comparing different sources which could be your issue.

With Sonos and Spotify connect once you have pushed the connection from your phone to sonos the link is created directly between Sonos and Spotify, your iPad has nothing to do with the sound from that point on, just control. It is all still in a digital domain until the speaker.

With the iPad, headphone out, aux in, amp, MA Speakers you are analogue from the point of the headphone socket out (actually deeper inside the ipad, but this is easier to describe) and there fore much more susceptible to interference and cable / component quality.

I would suggest trying either an external DAC connected to your iPad and maybe some different cables.

Oooooo, sudden thought, what volume are you running the ipad at? Try different volumes. You could be under or over driving the aux input of the amp too.
Thanks. I have similar results when I connect my PC to the amp via optical and run through Spotify, in comparison with Spotify connect and Sonos. Although I do not know much about this I would be surprised if the differences are that significant. I wonder if it comes more down to Sonos DSP. Perhaps I don’t even really understand what I am hearing, maybe the MAs have more midrange and thus that diminishes vocals somewhat.
 

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