Dragging system into 21st century - help required!

musketman

Standard Member
Hello people. My first time posting here, tho' I've been lurking for a while. I have an ageing system pieced together 25 years ago and have come to realise I need to add some kind of streaming capacity, as well as possibly updating a component or two. But where to go from here? I confess I'm struggling a bit. First time I've dipped my toe in these waters for decades!

Current system:
Arcam 7SE CD player (will keep if poss)
Denon PMA 350 amp (no optical input!)
Denon TU-260L tuner
Wharfedale Diamond 4 bookshelf speakers

My budget is £350/€400 so a bit tight right now. My options are:
1. Chromecast Audio plugged into the RCAs of my old amp, if that would help me produce a decent sound? (streaming from Apple Music). Another option would be something like the Zen Blue bluetooth unit if Bluetooth doesn't affect sound quality too much, though from what I've read wifi streaming would give better results.
If I went with the Chromecast, I'd have enough money to replace the amp (and maybe speakers). Am I right in thinking that this would be a real step up given that my existing amp is something like 30 years old? Things must have come on in the last three decades, even if it's just the inclusion of an optical input.
2. Rather than the Chromecast (or equivalent) plus new amp option, I could get a streamer. Secondhand is fine - I don't need the absolute latest kit. For budgetary reasons I won't be able to get a streamer AND a new amp, alas.

I listening to mostly classical and lots of opera. Not completely hung up on lossless or whatever (ease of use more important) but I would love something that sounds rich and warm while still being detailed and lively. If that makes sense.

Any advice very gratefully received. Thank you so much in advance.

PS English but living in France, just in case that has an impact on sourcing components.
 
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Helix Hifi

Well-known Member
Welcome to the forum. To be honest I’m not sure Chromcast is still in business, if so used is your best option.

Not familiar with Chromcast either. Your best best option is probably the Yamaha WX-AD10. It’s cheap. No digital inputs, only analog outputs.

Then you connect it the same way as an old fashioned CD player, and you’re off.

Obviously you need to download the Spotify app etc on your iPhone etc.

I wouldn’t call any streamer “warm” sounding, this greatly depends more on the speakers, amplifiers.

However Node2i is soft, dynamic sounding streamer. Fairly neutral/warm sound. The DAC chip can vary from streamer to streamer.

It’s not an enormous difference, but there can be.

As example I have amplifier with build in DAC. It sounds tad sweeter then the DAC build in the Node2i. Node2i has both analog outputs, digital inputs.

But in your case the Yamaha is the best option, or the other alternatives you mentioned.
 

vacant

Member
There's one Yamaha RN303D left on Amazon for £349. I have one, very happy with it
 

Helix Hifi

Well-known Member
I forgot about amplifier with build in streaming. In this case the amplifier above is an excellent option.

You also have the NAD D3020 V2 amplifier. Perhaps tad more expensive, but an excellent option nevertheless.

I am pretty sure you well hear an enormous difference against your old amplifier.

The Yamaha streamer is cheaper though. It might be wise to change the amplifier, speakers at later stage.
 

dogfonos

Well-known Member
Whilst I'm not familiar with the Denon PMA350 amp, it did have a decent reputation, especially in "Mark2" and "SE" guise. Considering your limited budget, I'd be tempted to keep it if it's functioning properly. Unsure about the Wharfedale Diamond 4 speakers though - never heard them and can't find any reviews. Speakers (and room) usually have the biggest impact on a system's sound quality so the Wharfedales may be the weak point?

Google's Chromecast Audio (CCA) would be ideal for someone dipping their toes into the murky waters of wifi streaming but, as Helix Hifi says, it's no longer readily available and pre-owned prices are simply ridiculous. The Yamaha WXAD-10 is probably your best bet for wifi streaming although cheaper alternatives exist and may well be just as capable but there are few reliable reviews of the cheaper streamers.

I use a CCA and a Roberts Radio RS1 and prefer the RS1 but those who are more streaming-savy and into Apple or Google brands may well prefer the CCA. IMO, it's the software that makes or breaks music streamers so best check out user reviews prior to purchase.
 

Helix Hifi

Well-known Member
Amazon product From my understanding this is only Bluetooth streaming amplifier.
 

Helix Hifi

Well-known Member
Amazon product I don’t own it myself, but apparently it’s well recognized unit.
 

musketman

Standard Member
Thank you so much. Lots of food for thought here, especially the NAD and Yamaha amps/receivers. I had no idea such a thing existed.

Is the difference between Bluetooth and wifi streaming going to be noticeable to someone with a 'modest' system like me? Otherwise Chromecast remains an option - secondhand units cost about €70 here. I can't quite shake off the feeling that I need to update amp or speakers or both, though. I've tried connecting my iPhone through the Aux plugs of my amp and the sounds is very quiet and pretty poor, and there's no optical or coaxial input. If it's true that speakers have the greatest impact on overall sound than that's also an area that needs more research. Hmmm ...
 
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Flobs

Active Member
The question is what have you got or going to get as sources.
I use optical to simple DAC from computer, TV, PS3 using a 4 optical in to 1 out (I found that expensive at 69 euros (£50?) but well worth while) to a simple DAC that didn't cost more than £20 (29 euros).
If you are looking to using DSP? then there's suggestions above however I'm sure you would be happy with optical and/or coaxial options using a DAC that handle 192kBs/sec. For that just 1 RCA imput would be needed on your amp and for less that £100 upto 4 new sources.
I'm not a fan of Bluetooth, might as well listen to the radio. Also I haven't kept up with tech so haven't a clue where to start. :)
 

3rdignis

Active Member

 

Helix Hifi

Well-known Member
Bluetooth sounds okey. It shrinks the soundstage vs streaming.
 

Flobs

Active Member

TheHighFlyingBirds

Distinguished Member
Amazon product I don’t own it myself, but apparently it’s well recognized unit.

Thats just a usb dac/headphone amp, so no streaming capabilities. You would need the zen blue (bluetooth streamer) or zen one (multi input dac and bluetooth streaming) or the zen stream (bluetooth/wifi streamer but no dac). But yes, the zen dac is a nice piece of kit.
 

Helix Hifi

Well-known Member

Helix Hifi

Well-known Member
Not familiar with any Zen units. They are very confusing if you ask me.
 

Helix Hifi

Well-known Member

TheHighFlyingBirds

Distinguished Member
Not familiar with any Zen units. They are very confusing if you ask me.
They are good bits of kit, well built, good performance and good price. Yeah, there are a few different models now which can be confusing, but easy enough to read up on, but having a few models allows for choice to suit needs.
 

Kapkirk

Active Member
Here's what I would do for £300.
Your speakers ARE definitely the weakest link, so keep your amp (fine for now)
Buy the excellent speakers in the link here which are on offer at half price: Amazon product

THEN get the excellent Zen Blue bluetooth DAC and plug that into your amp.
Amazon product

stream via bluetooth via your phone /tablet
Get a dedicated network streamer later then a new amp, or amp with streamer built in.
 

musketman

Standard Member
Here's what I would do for £300.
Your speakers ARE definitely the weakest link, so keep your amp (fine for now)
Buy the excellent speakers in the link here which are on offer at half price: Amazon product

THEN get the excellent Zen Blue bluetooth DAC and plug that into your amp.
Amazon product

stream via bluetooth via your phone /tablet
Get a dedicated network streamer later then a new amp, or amp with streamer built in.

Thanks. It's becoming clearer that I need to rethink the speakers, yes. Just need to find a pair that are small enough to suit the room setting and deliver suitable punch.

So you don't see a problem with Bluetooth vs hifi streaming? No loss of detail or soundstage?
 

Kapkirk

Active Member
Streaming is usually the better option if you can find a streaming device like the little yamaha WXAD10 instead of the Zen Blue, and you can stream Zen blue at APT X or better, the sound would be comparable or almost undistinguishable between the two, only if the Zen Blue streamed at it lowest bluetooth setting of SBC quality you'd find the yamaha network streamer better. I do believe the Zen Blue streams at APTX but it depends on your phone or tablet to which protocol it would use with the ZEN, even for bluetooth it sound pretty darn good though and I doubt most people could tell the difference because of the excellent DAC built in.

Those speakers at £160 are a steal, you will not find anything that competes with them for less than £300 let alone £160. Here is a review by a very sensible guy he gives the pro's and con's in a very measured way, have a listen to his views.
There are plenty of other reviews on them across the net highly praising them.
 

musketman

Standard Member
Thanks. Apple products don't support APT X but all accounts, so I'm definitely leaning more towards wifi streaming.

Just one question: if I plugged the Yamaha WXAD10 (or Zen, or Chromecast) into my existing amp, which input would I use? CD? That could be complicated. Would AUX or tape inputs work equally well. Sorry, I'm so rusty when it comes to all of this!
 

Going Grey Now

Active Member
Although I don’t feel able to offer advice on the speaker front (I own and have previously owned, legacy british made speakers from the 1970s/90s), on the streamer front, could I suggest that you have a look at something based on a Raspberry Pi, which you can then either delete from your list of possibilities or include it for further consideration?
Two options, really.
First, go completely ‘DIY’, starting from a basic Rpi, adding the components needed (e.g. DAC module, case, etc). This approach needs either a degree of ‘computer type fiddling/tweaking’ (but nothing too serious) or a willingness to learn and have a go. This is the route I followed (I am not an IT or computer expert) and now have a rather excellent streamer for not much (i.e. sensible) money. It may sound a bit overwhelming but it’s really not!
Second option; look at something like the Allo Boss player (also sold by Audiophonics in France - I only know AP by name, I have not previously purchased from them). Allo have taken a RPi 4, combined it with their Allo BOSS DAC (I have previously owned an earlier version of this) and put it inside a rather nice case. It comes with preloaded software. Price about €220 I believe.
I won’t touch bluetooth for streaming. I’m just not interested. Although I have a separate DAC, it carries out the same function as the ALLO BOSS - connection to the amp is via twin RCA.
Although my streamer gives me several options (including internet radio stations), my use is principally limited to streaming FLAC files (which I converted from my own CDs).
Hope some of this might help. If it doesn’t, then I do hope i haven’t confused the situation.
Good luck.
 

Going Grey Now

Active Member
And just to add that the RPi is controlled by something like an IPad, phone or tablet. The control aspect is via wifi (normally).
 

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