Advice on upgrading a current modest setup, budget ~ £2,000

coruja

Novice Member
Hello,

I'm moving to warmer climes towards September and would like to upgrade my current setup to something that I will enjoy for quite a while. No doubt I could find equipment in S.Asia but it would probably cost twice as much, plus my earnings &etc will also be reduced. The budget is small as I need to save some money to buy a house &etc!

Right now I have:
TT: Pro-ject Genie III (with the cartridge it came with, an Ortofon OM3e)
Phono amp: Cambridge Audio 540P
Tuner: Cambridge Audio 640T v2
CD: Cambridge Audio 340C
Amp: Teac AR-610
Speakers: Celestion F30

I am thinking of upgrading to a pre amp (or intergrated amp)/power amp combination and some new speakers. Also, possibly the TT, but I could probably get better performance purely though a better cartridge.

I have weakness for British made (or at least designed) kit, a mixture of potentail nostalgia and patriotism I suppse. I am looking at Rotel, Roksan, Audiolab, Arcam and Naim as the next stage up and I don't mind buying second hand.

What I really need is some guidance as to what combinations would work best and possibly what portion of the budget should be spent on each area.

I play only jazz on the TT, but on CD listen to pop, indie rock, hiphop, drum&bass, electronica, western and indian classical and folk music from all over the world.

Thanks in advance for any advice offered...
 
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coruja

Novice Member
Hello karkus30, yes I've been thinking that I may have been a bit vague here.

So to give a bit more detail, I think, currently, my weak link is the Teac amp and would like to upgrade this with something better sounding and reliable and I think at the back of mind I am always thinking that I may have to stick with the final set-up for a very long time.

For example, I am considering a Cambridge Audio 540A v2 with a Audiolab 8000P power amp (total cost ~ £530) - here I am assuming that all the oomph will be provided by the Audiolab when teamed the CA intergrated amp? The reason I am going for th CA amp is that I really prefer simple layouts and ideally no lcd displays. However, the Audiolab stuff seems to get mixed reviews.

Then again, Superfi is offering Roksan Kandy K2 amp + power amp at 1/2 price for £1,245 - is that preferable or overkill? Or should I forget the amp/power amp thing and budget for a very good intergrated amp?

I have no idea whether Naim should be considered and I am at a loss as to what speakers to buy in relation to the type of music I would be listening to and how much of the budget should be going towards them.

Also I feel my CD player may also be letting the side down, but how much should I spend on it considering the balance of my set-up/proposed set-up?

I am aware I am asking for quite a bit of advice, it seems to be all a fine balancing act between cost, performance and longevity. It's sort of an intellectual challenge for the experts here!

Any advice would be relly appreciated.
 
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BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
What exactly are you trying to improve ?
Certainly answer this question.

But, also, I'm not sure what it is you want us to advice you on. Are you asking us to set a list of priorities? Are you intend on replacing the whole system, or just high priority bits and pieces?

I would say top priorities are Amp and Speakers. The Teac has decent power, but it is a fairly low cost amp. The Speakers are nice, but again low cost, more money would certainly buy better quality.

Teac -
Teac AR-610 Stereo Amplifier | DV247

Celestion -

CELESTION

Celestion F30 Floorstanding Speakers

The CD Player is adequate for now, as are the tuner and Phono stage. Though once you upgrade to one of the fine quality amps you mentioned, you are certainly going to want a better CD player.

The turntable is very good, but almost universally, it is recommended that you get a better cartridge. Something in the £75 to £150 range.

But again, what is it you need to replace?

Consider this -

Rotel RX-06SE, 70w/ch = £600
Rotel RCD-06SE CD player = £480

Cambridge Audio 650A. 75w/ch = £350
Cambridge Audio 650C, CD player = £330
Cambridge 740C upsampling CD = £500

New Grado Prestige Gold cartridge = £140
Or other similar cartridges.

Monitor Audio Silver RX6 = £750/pr
Monitor Audio Silver RX8 = £1000/pr

Kef IQ90 = £1000/pr

Mordaunt Short Aviano 8 = £750/pr Hifix.co.uk, £599 RicherSounds.com

Wharfedale Diamond 10.7 = £680/pr

Dali Ikon 6 = £1000/pr

Dali Concept 8 = £635/pr

That is just a cross section to establish that you can indeed get a very nice stereo system within your budget.

The Rotel amp and CD, the Grado Phono cartridge, and the MA RX6 speakers totals £1970, and I don't think anyone would say that this is not a good system.

If you want speakers a little warmer than the Monitor Audio, the B&W are worth a look -

B&W 684 = £685/pr
B&W 683 = £880/pr

I personally think if you move up to Arcam or Naim, you are going to be paying massive amounts. Certainly the quality is justified in general, but within your budget, I think looking at those premium amps is going to cut you short.

The equivalent Arcam FMJ A28 is going to run about £895 with 75w/ch. Nice amp, but it is going to cut your budget short. Also, no tone controls on the Arcam.

Now, I'm not trying to sell you these specific products. I'm just trying to establish that with a combination of what you have and your budget, you can indeed get a very fine stereo system within your budget.

In my view, first priorities are amp and speakers, second CD player, third the phono cartridge.

But, as you can see from above, you can have it all in very good quality within your budget.

I think Rotel is certainly at the sweet spot between what you pay and what you get. If we can start there, then it is just a matter of finding speakers that sound good to you, and B&W, Monitor Audio, and Dali are good places to start.

Steve/bluewizard
 

coruja

Novice Member
Thanks BlueWizard, this is exactly what I was trying to get at, a list of priorities and suitable items of kit. Sorry it was so difficult for me to articulate.

There are so many items out there and what I wanted was somewhere to start off from - items that members here think are good for the price range - and then start to listen to some setups with those components.

I agree with you on the Rotel amp, it seems to be in the direction I should be heading.

I mentioned Arcam because a couple of years ago I bought an A & R Cambridge A60 on ebay for a friend for under £100 and wired it up to the the present setup and the difference was huge - this from an amp built in around 1983. Haven't really got over it!

Another simple question, do you think a decent integrated amp would perform better than an pre/power amp combination for the same/similar price? There seems to be a lot disussion about separating the sensitive pre amp components from the power amp to achieve a better sound but at my price range would it make that much of a difference?
 

karkus30

Banned
OK junk the amp and speakers. Proritise the speakers first regardless of cost.
I'm very biased with speakers as I have heard so many and few if any real do what I want. many sound very clinical and hifi -ish, however I like to simply enjoy music even if that means a bit of colouration to the sound.

3 speaker companies to explore are Kudos, NEAT and Totem. All give authoritive bass and great timing. In a nutshell they sound musical and can really rock out when asked.

Amplifiers, well again I am a bit biased here as well. I'm a Naim fan (not all of the newer stuff) and would recommend something secondhand such as a pre-power or the later Nait 5i. LFD Zero are brilliant but had to find secondhand, Densen Beat are fun and if you want something much more open and very sweet then try a Sonneteer.
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Thanks BlueWizard, this is exactly what I was trying to get at, a list of priorities and suitable items of kit. Sorry it was so difficult for me to articulate.

...

Another simple question, do you think a decent integrated amp would perform better than an pre/power amp combination for the same/similar price?...
At the same price the Pre/Power setup would be inferior. To duplicate an Integrated Amp in a Pre/Power setup take considerably more money.

Using Rotel as an example -

Rotel RA-06SE, 70w/ch = £599

The exact equivalents in the Rotel RC-06 Pre and RB-06 Power don't seem to be available, so that only leaves the -

Pre-amp -
Rotel RC-1550 = £495

Power -
Rotel RB-1510, 65w/ch = £342
Rotel RB-1562, 100w/ch = £532

You can see even with a lower power amp, the price is almost £238 more expensive.

Looking at the specs on the RC-06 pre, it doesn't seem to have as many features as the integrated equivalent, though the RB-06 power seem virtually identical at 70w/ch. However, neither is available anywhere that I could find.

So, £835 pre/power vs £599 integrated.

The more appealing solution in a pre/power setup up would be the 100w amp, which would bring the total to £1027. On your budget, best stick with the Integrated RA-06SE.

Steve/bluewizard
 

coruja

Novice Member
...3 speaker companies to explore are Kudos, NEAT and Totem. All give authoritive bass and great timing. In a nutshell they sound musical and can really rock out when asked....

Amplifiers, well again I am a bit biased here as well. I'm a Naim fan (not all of the newer stuff) and would recommend something secondhand such as a pre-power or the later Nait 5i. LFD Zero are brilliant but had to find secondhand, Densen Beat are fun and if you want something much more open and very sweet then try a Sonneteer.
Thanks for the advice. I can't afford the speaker makes you mention, but the information on Naim and other amps is greatly appreciated.

I am thinking more along buying new B&W speakers, and second-hand Naim or new Rotel amp as BlueWizard suggested and an Ortofon Red or Blue cart. Still not sure about a CD player yet. Is there a good, affordable ( in my case < £500 ) CD players with minimal lcd display & whatnot?

You guys have been very helpful.

Finally, talking of speakers; for their price, build quality and high-end components XTZ got a lot of attention on this forum a while back, did any of you guys get to hear them?
 
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Mr_Sukebe

Active Member
Just a thought, if you're going to the far east, have a look at the price of kit in Singapore and Hong Kong, particularly their s/h prices. Some very good kit going cheap out there.
 

coruja

Novice Member
I'm still on this, all your advice was not wasted - I will be listening to a few CD players, amps and speakers within my budget range (as identified above) & that are available @ SuperFi this Saturday.

However, here's another thought, I've had my cd player - CA 340C - for about 4 or 5 years and I was wondering, as its transport is reputedly good, whether to just buy a DACMagic for £230 rather than a brand new CD player & save about £250? The DAC is supposed to share much of its components with the CA 840C (@ £800).

BTW, Mr_Sukebe I am heading to a fairly obscure island in S.Asia and I think even if I could initially afford those high-end Chinese HiFi, the transport & tax would not make it worthwhile. Saying that, I really doubt that I would have time or money to do this once I relocate as I would be looking for a job & a house, so no funds for such 'frivolities'. But thanks for opening up my eyes to the exotic and esoteric Chinese HiFi - Sheng Ya, Shangling & etc, really interesting kit.
 

Mr_Sukebe

Active Member
I've read that the DACmagic is based more closely on the 740c CD player. I'm guessing that some over-enthusiastic owner of said DAC was being a little too positive about how good it was.
 

leedswillprevai

Novice Member
Just some suggestions from someone that should be asleep!

I think in terms of amps, there are lots of good ones out there but I would firstly want to establish whether you are going new or second hand.

If you are going second hand, I would be looking at the NAD C352 which is a seriously good amplifier which can be bought relatively cheaply.

On the other hand if you want brand new, then I would look at the Roksan Kandy K2 amp.

I would also if I were you be looking towards ripping many of my cd's into a lossless format and when you have done so, bypass your onboard soundcard on your pc, with a quality external dac. I would be looking at the Beresford Caiman and or the Dac Magic both of which are superb in my opinion.

Now in terms of speakers, there are many excellent options, ranging from the very cheap but fantastic value of the Acoustic Energy Neo 3 which is a seriously good floorstander and is only marred by it's less than aesthetic looks. However beyond that I would also be looking at the Monitor Audio RS6 and or it's newest birth the RX6. As Steve has noted, Dali also make some high quality floorstanders. I won't mention B&W because I have never really been enamoured with what I have heard from them, but this should give you a few options to mull over. Also I would mention Mordaunt Short Mezzo 6's which are probably a second hand purchase now.
 

coruja

Novice Member
Thanks leeds...for the advice, always appreciated.

I think in terms of amps, there are lots of good ones out there but I would firstly want to establish whether you are going new or second hand.
I don't mind second hand, but I would aim for a Arcam/Naim in this case, although these are still outside my budget if I'm looking for 75+ wpc.

I actually like the look of the NAD C355BEE and will be listening to it hopefully on Saturday.

Sadly a new Roksan Kandy is out of my range although I would love a British make and it would be a nice touch as I will eventually settle in a city called Kandy!

I would also if I were you be looking towards ripping many of my cd's into a lossless format and when you have done so, bypass your onboard soundcard on your pc, with a quality external dac. I would be looking at the Beresford Caiman and or the Dac Magic both of which are superb in my opinion.
I don't listen to much digitally stored music so that wasn't the main reason I mentioned the DACMagic - I more thinking along the line of using it as a way of upgrading my basic CD player rather than having to buy a new one, using it just as transport.

I have the CA 740c in mind - this is £500 and has two digital inputs to make use of its DAC if I wanted. However, thinking it about it my old CA 340c was ~ £150 and a DACMagic would be £230 = £380, whereas for an extra £120 I could get a newer machine with access to its DAC if needed.

As for speakers, yes BlueWizard gave me a lot of information on these and I hope to listen to the B&Ws & Kefs soon, and Dali's & MAs later.
 
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IWC Dopplel

Well-known Member
I thought I would say what I would do, rather than what you should do ;)

This way you can see what I like and why, then you have possibly a few more ideas.

First off I would buy a pair of second hand Sonus Faber Concerto's, probably around the £500 mark, maybe £600. I would look for a nice condition early pair that are bi-wire and bi-ampable, they have better units than the later 'home' Concerto's.

Then I would buy a DACMagic, not the best but for £230, it's a no brainer and you can use elsewhere when you upgrade.

Next would be amps, I have rekindled my enthusiasm for Naim and with your budget I would look on PinkFish for an Olive cased Naim 72/140 (£750ish) or possbly add a Hicap (£350-400 in Olive case) if you like the older then you could venture into a 32.5/Hicap/250 (£1200ish).

As you progress and want to upgrade that's easy, move on to a 250 power amp, then even 135's.

The good news with older Naim is you won't lose.

Leave a little money for cables and connections with Naim you will benefit from Naim NACA5 cable.

You'll have to leave upgrading the turntable until later, but find an enthusiast and take something British and old over there and you might find you have a very desireable bit of kit. (Eg Thorens, Systemdeck, etc)

Okay, so why would I spend my money the way I did ?

Sonus Fabers have superb voicing and natural dynamics. They have body and weight as well as superb resolution (A lot of speakers in comparison sound lean and flat with poor tonal accuracy). Plus they move from good to great the better they are fed. Plus good bass for a small cabinet, and they look luvley :smashin:

Naims, especially the earlier models present good musicality for the money. They get most of the music right, most of the time. They can be a little 'dry' and sometimes tend towards a little edginess, but often as you upgrade you realise they have not toned down problems elsewhere. They do timing, rythem and foot tapping aplomb and you can get in to the music easily.

My Naim 135's drive my Extremas well and sound tonally rich, with awesome dynamics and weight. At the same time they are extremely resolving but not in an analytical way, in a more access to the detail and structure of the performance way. They have ZERO edginess or hardness

I hope this helps, oh and I am biased with my views. As I am very intolerant of anything that robs dynamics, I don't like 'lean and analytical' sounding equipment. I have NEVER heard a live sax that sounds overly detailed edgy and lean ! It has body, weight and tonal density and moves air

I have NEVER heard a snare drum sound bland and undynamic, rimshots should sound clear and dynamic.

I would try to listen to a Naim vs Roksan Vs Arcam as these you might find in one shop. You probably won't be able to afford the Naim new but you might be able to see what the likely differences are in the approach.

Roksan and Naim are more similar.
 
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coruja

Novice Member
Sonus Fabers have superb voicing and natural dynamics.... and they look luvley :smashin:
Oh yes they do, if Marcello Mastroianni ever had a hi-fi setup I'm sure he'd have these! http://www.tnt-audio.com/gif/concerti.jpg

Thank you very much for the advice; really valuable regarding the Naims and the turntables. I'm running the risk of boring people to tears here, but unfortunately I don't see very much of an upgrade path in the near future. Just as I have finally settled in to a career path and finally sorted out my finances to be able to think of buying and experimenting with hi-fi I have to upsticks and relocate in about 6 months & start from absolute scratch: house, job & etc. So what I get now will have to do for quite a while.

I have been looking in to the second hand market as well and I'm leaning towards Roksan now that I've heard one: Kandy Mk3. Heard some older Arcam but nothing of Naim.

Also got to listen to the Rotel RA06 SE and the NAD C355BEE and of the two I like the Rotel.

So far I'm more settled on the CD player, CA 740C as I think it's a versatile beast - what with the two DAC inputs & etc.

Speakers - I think the budget stretches to B&W 684 & my wife is quite taken with them, which makes thing easier.

The amp is still in the air!

Will be going to Richers in the next couple of weeks to try out a couple of other things.

dan1979 thanks for that tip.
 
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coruja

Novice Member
Hi I haven't heard that particular amp, but just wondering what did you prefer about it to the NAD?
Well I can't explain these things as per true audiophiles - going on about 'soundstages' and 'pushing out its corners' &etc.

All I noticed was that the NAD had a similar feel to the music as my current Teac AR-610, similar but much better quality. A nice amount of bass present, you'd need to turn it down for some types of music I feel.

The Rotel sounded a lot different to my Teac. Again a better quality of sound like the NAD, but I think on a purely subjective level, the preference was for the Rotel, it made me enjoy the music more. But even as I write this, I'm pretty sure I'd want to listen to them again before handing over any cash.

In terms of looks, I much prefer the moody and stubbornly anti-chic presence of the NAD really - the Rotel is slimmer and almost dainty.

So, I'm leaning towards a new Rotel or a second-hand Roksan Kandy. I have seen a few older second-hand Densen Beats up for sale - and I really like the look - but as I'm still waiting for my finances to clear, I'm not cheeky enough to just rock up and ask for a demo.
 
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coruja

Novice Member
Posting to keep all of you helped me on this on the outcome of your advice.

Finally got a second-hand Roksan Kandy K2 on ebay for £600 + postage. A real bargain as it is almost mint, rarely used. (The only problem it has is that the volume is not working from the fairly mad Kandy remote - I can hear a 'motor' noise near the volume control an the thing doesn't move, something stuck I think. But it is not a £300 inconvenience!)

It sounds fantastic. Clear and precise and very....well i finally understand what you guys mean by 'musical'.

BlueWizard/Steve does your advice on the speakers still stand with regards to this amp? I will most likely to hassle the SuperFi guys for a listen of B&W 684s (which have crept up in price) and Acoustic Energy as discussions on these have made me curious.

BTW , the amp hasn't got tone/balance controls(!), I know what you feel about that.

I have kept to my budget, so I should be really looking to spend around £600 for the speakers?

I doubt I can buy anything in the coming month - finances come & they are diverted as readily - but I am enjoying changing the set-up a piece at a time and really appreciating the differences. (I have been using a Denon DM37 I had bought for my father-in-law as my amp for the past two weeks and I have to say it out performed my big & stupid Teac AR-610. )

I suspect the amp & speakers will be most striking change, with the CD & cartridge adding more subtle changes.
 
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BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Roksan are excellent amps, and as to the tone controls, 98% of the time I don't use them, but it is nice to have them that other 2%.

Still, its a nice amp, so don't worry about the tone controls.

As to speakers, from the limited information I have on Roksan, I'm not away of any limitations on them. So, you can pretty much get any speakers you want.

Steve/bluewizard
 

coruja

Novice Member
Finally got around to upgrading the TT cart - I don't seem to be upgrading the components in the sequence suggested in the above discussions but this is proving to be immensely entertaining and educational nonetheless.

Went from the Ortofon OM3E to Ortofon 2M Blue - and it is huge difference in the quality of sound. I listen almost exclusively to hard-bop jazz on my TT, and never any groups larger than quintets and almost immediately I noticed there is more texture to the instrumental notes - for example it's not a 'tenor saxaphone sound' anymore, there is a really subtle sound/texture that you instinctively understand as a sound made by breath blown through.

The prices for the carts are roughly £35 and £155 - so, four times as much and it's an absolutely worthwhile upgrade. However, I doubt its worthwhile to upgrade the cart any further with the Pro-ject Genie mk 3.

So, Amp & Cart done, next will be speakers...And the costs so far:
Amp £635 (£600 + £35 postage) + Cart £155 = £790

Leaving around £1200 for speakers, CDP & possible new speaker cable.
 
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