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Question Honest opinions appreciated on this proposed Hi-Fi separates system purchase!

OstrichAndCobraWine

Standard Member
Hello all. First post from a long time lurker on this forum who could do with some advice.

My last system was an Arcam Movie Solo 5.1, a surround set of Linn (Majik?) speakers and a Martin Logan Dynamo 12” subwoofer. In retrospect, this was expensive overkill as I never really watched any movies on it and only ever used it for listening to CD’s. Anyhow, after about 7 years of use, the Arcam developed faults turning on and off and reading disks and in the end the CD drawer jammed shut, the subwoofer developed a constant humming noise and the Linn speakers got damaged in transit when I moved for work, so I ended up giving it all away to a buddy who couldn’t afford his own kit.

Right now, I’m back to using my old budget system from the early 90’s (Kenwood KA-3020 SE amp, Pioneer PD S-703 CD player, Mission 731i speakers). Obviously this won’t cut it after the last bit of kit I had, so I’m looking to upgrade.

Budget is around GBP 3,200.00. Living room size is about 5m x 5m and is attached in an open plan fashion to a kitchen diner at the rear which is about 3m x 5m. I doubt I’ll have the room for floorstanders as one of the speakers will have to sit in a corner and there’s not enough space to have them placed any real distance away from the wall. I’m looking to listen to CD’s and to radio and would really like to replicate the expansive sound I got out of my 5.1 set up, which was mind blowing (to me, anyway…).

I’ve done some research and have come up with this as a possible configuration:

Yamaha AS1100 amp
Marantz CD6006 UK edition CD player
Focal Aria 906 standmounts (these will sit on my existing sand filled Atacama SE24 stands)
Yamaha WXAD10 streamer (for internet radio as I’m not sure what the future of DAB is)
BK Electronics XXLS400 subwoofer (probably not a purists choice, I know, but having a subwoofer worked really well on my 5.1 system when I listened to CD’s)

I’d appreciate some feedback on this set up, and indeed any thoughts on any alternatives which I might want to consider as well.

Thanks in advance for any input!
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
A nice neat alternative if you are willing to go second hand may be -

Naim uniti 2 cd/streamer/amp with sub outs


PMC Twenty 22 stand mounts


You can then add a sub if you need to.

Note, naim and pmc have a distinctive sound so whatever you go for make sure you audition.
 

OstrichAndCobraWine

Standard Member
A nice neat alternative if you are willing to go second hand may be -

Naim uniti 2 cd/streamer/amp with sub outs


PMC Twenty 22 stand mounts


You can then add a sub if you need to.

Note, naim and pmc have a distinctive sound so whatever you go for make sure you audition.
Hi Ugg10 and thanks for your reply.

I'll take a look at what you've suggested, but being honest I'm not all that keen on taking a chance on second hand equipment. Also reluctant to go for another British brand for the amp given the hassle I had with the Arcam being reliable.

Auditioning will be tricky given where I'm living right now, but I certainly hope to visit a few stores to check this equipment out in the flesh when (hopefully!) I return for Christmas in a few weeks.
 
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Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
I’m going to suggest active speakers from one of the best in the world.


And one of these.


No wasted cash on ‘hifi’ frippery; just superb music.
 

shug4476

Active Member
I would also strongly recommend going second hand. Hifi, particularly in Europe, is very much a gentleman's club with almost no price responsiveness whatever. For this reason I refuse to buy new - you are paying to protect the cartel of dealers.

Buying new is no guarantee of longevity either. If you want to buy long term, go for brands that offer very long guarantees (PMC/Bryston) and/or provide good after-sales support.
 

Hixs

Distinguished Member
To answer your question..that will be a very nice system. All very well received pieces of kit.
 

daddy999

Active Member
Hello all. First post from a long time lurker on this forum who could do with some advice.

My last system was an Arcam Movie Solo 5.1, a surround set of Linn (Majik?) speakers and a Martin Logan Dynamo 12” subwoofer. In retrospect, this was expensive overkill as I never really watched any movies on it and only ever used it for listening to CD’s. Anyhow, after about 7 years of use, the Arcam developed faults turning on and off and reading disks and in the end the CD drawer jammed shut, the subwoofer developed a constant humming noise and the Linn speakers got damaged in transit when I moved for work, so I ended up giving it all away to a buddy who couldn’t afford his own kit.

Right now, I’m back to using my old budget system from the early 90’s (Kenwood KA-3020 SE amp, Pioneer PD S-703 CD player, Mission 731i speakers). Obviously this won’t cut it after the last bit of kit I had, so I’m looking to upgrade.

Budget is around GBP 3,200.00. Living room size is about 5m x 5m and is attached in an open plan fashion to a kitchen diner at the rear which is about 3m x 5m. I doubt I’ll have the room for floorstanders as one of the speakers will have to sit in a corner and there’s not enough space to have them placed any real distance away from the wall. I’m looking to listen to CD’s and to radio and would really like to replicate the expansive sound I got out of my 5.1 set up, which was mind blowing (to me, anyway…).

I’ve done some research and have come up with this as a possible configuration:

Yamaha AS1100 amp
Marantz CD6006 UK edition CD player
Focal Aria 906 standmounts (these will sit on my existing sand filled Atacama SE24 stands)
Yamaha WXAD10 streamer (for internet radio as I’m not sure what the future of DAB is)
BK Electronics XXLS400 subwoofer (probably not a purists choice, I know, but having a subwoofer worked really well on my 5.1 system when I listened to CD’s)

I’d appreciate some feedback on this set up, and indeed any thoughts on any alternatives which I might want to consider as well.

Thanks in advance for any input!
I would suggest that looks like a well balanced system. However, on the speaker front, If you can run to it or haggle around buying the other pieces, I would listen to that amp through Monitor Audio Gold 100 (5th gen) speakers, I recently purchased the the 2100 amp, not that dissimilar to the 1100, and play through the MA’s, in a similar sized room. I personally love the sound, it’s very smooth and controlled, everything sounds just right, well to my ears it does anyway. Good luck.
 

OstrichAndCobraWine

Standard Member
I’m going to suggest active speakers from one of the best in the world.


And one of these.


No wasted cash on ‘hifi’ frippery; just superb music.
Paul7777x - thanks for the reply. A bit disappointed to see my particular configuration deemed 'frippery', as I thought I'd been quite careful in trying to select audiophile grade equipment. Ho hum.

Those speakers look quality but they're double the cost of the Focal's. Are you proposing that I don't go with a subwoofer and the Core 7's will provide an equal (or better) level of low down noise?

Also, the WXC-50 is more expensive than the streamer I've proposed. Seeing as I only need really need it for internet radio, what advantage(s) will I get from buying the more expensive kit?
 

OstrichAndCobraWine

Standard Member
I would also strongly recommend going second hand. Hifi, particularly in Europe, is very much a gentleman's club with almost no price responsiveness whatever. For this reason I refuse to buy new - you are paying to protect the cartel of dealers.

Buying new is no guarantee of longevity either. If you want to buy long term, go for brands that offer very long guarantees (PMC/Bryston) and/or provide good after-sales support.
Hi shugg4476 and thanks for your input. I see your point but psychologically I just can't bring myself to buy second hand hi-fi. Probably means I may lose out in some respects, but it's just a personal quirk!
 

OstrichAndCobraWine

Standard Member
I would suggest that looks like a well balanced system. However, on the speaker front, If you can run to it or haggle around buying the other pieces, I would listen to that amp through Monitor Audio Gold 100 (5th gen) speakers, I recently purchased the the 2100 amp, not that dissimilar to the 1100, and play through the MA’s, in a similar sized room. I personally love the sound, it’s very smooth and controlled, everything sounds just right, well to my ears it does anyway. Good luck.
Hi daddy999 and thank you for your reply. I see the price of the MA speakers you've suggested is quite a bit over what I'd be paying for the Focal's. Can't see myself being able to push the budget any higher (two words - "the wife"...) and the other pieces of equipment don't look as if they'll go down in price any time soon, so it could be a stretch to buy them. How do you find them with low frequencies? I could consider ditching the subwoofer and forking out the cash on just the MA's instead. However, and I'm not a bass junkie by any means, I just have the feeling after my last experience with the Linn/Martin Logan combo I was using for CD listening that no standmount will be able to do the job as well as a subwoofer for the low notes.
 
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Ugg10

Distinguished Member
Just to add to @Paul7777x recommendation.

These are active speakers and so have the amps built into them (in this case 150w for the tweeter and 500w for the woofer in each speaker !) so even though they are twice the price of the Focals you do not need the Yamaha AS1100. The WXC50 in this case is not just a streamer by also acts as a preamp for the active/powered speakers i.e. it allows you to connect a CD, controls volume, it also has a subwoofer outlet so integrating one of those would be easier and finally it has a good DAC and is then a pretty good wireless streamer for internet radio/Spotify (free)/tidal etc.

Hope this helps.
 

shug4476

Active Member
Hi shugg4476 and thanks for your input. I see your point but psychologically I just can't bring myself to buy second hand hi-fi. Probably means I may lose out in some respects, but it's just a personal quirk!
In which case, I would dispense with a streamer and buy a good DAC. You can feed a CD transport into this (even a very cheap one). I feed a Chromecast Audio into my Chord 2Qute for casual listening and it is very good.
 

Costello

Active Member
Just to throw another thought into the mix, if you went down the passive amp and speaker route....
These are all highly regarded units. Have you or will you have the chance to listen to them before purchase? The whole system has to work for you, with your music in your home. It's a big purchase so worth trying these out as much as possible.
I haven't heard the Focals but they seem to be an £800 speaker which you're partnering with a £1200 amp. If it works for you, great, but many would reverse those totals so you are spending more on the speakers which, arguably, shape the sound more than any other component, as well as your listening environment.
Could you consider the Yamaha AS801 - still plenty of power and features - which would free up more of your budget for even better speakers. Great deal here:

Just another thought for you but remember only you can decide what you want and like.
 

OstrichAndCobraWine

Standard Member
Just to add to @Paul7777x recommendation.

These are active speakers and so have the amps built into them (in this case 150w for the tweeter and 500w for the woofer in each speaker !) so even though they are twice the price of the Focals you do not need the Yamaha AS1100. The WXC50 in this case is not just a streamer by also acts as a preamp for the active/powered speakers i.e. it allows you to connect a CD, controls volume, it also has a subwoofer outlet so integrating one of those would be easier and finally it has a good DAC and is then a pretty good wireless streamer for internet radio/Spotify (free)/tidal etc.

Hope this helps.
@Ugg10 and @Paul7777x - both dismayed and delighted with this response. Dismayed as it shows up how little I actually know about hi-fi. But delighted as I think you've conjured up something which I think just might meet my needs with better efficiency (I'm thinking cost and space saving, particularly if the better speaker means I can do away with the need for a sub) and without compromising on performance. This is something I'll definitely be looking to audition in December when I'm back in the UK. I knew it was a good idea to come here and ask for advice before I pulled the trigger - thank you very much, again.
 

OstrichAndCobraWine

Standard Member
Just to throw another thought into the mix, if you went down the passive amp and speaker route....
These are all highly regarded units. Have you or will you have the chance to listen to them before purchase? The whole system has to work for you, with your music in your home. It's a big purchase so worth trying these out as much as possible.
I haven't heard the Focals but they seem to be an £800 speaker which you're partnering with a £1200 amp. If it works for you, great, but many would reverse those totals so you are spending more on the speakers which, arguably, shape the sound more than any other component, as well as your listening environment.
Could you consider the Yamaha AS801 - still plenty of power and features - which would free up more of your budget for even better speakers. Great deal here:

Just another thought for you but remember only you can decide what you want and like.
Hi Costello and thanks for replying. I always had a suspicion that I was perhaps a little top heavy on the amp and that I should be spending more on the speakers, and your post has perhaps confirmed that for me. The AS-801 was actually my originally planned purchase (as you say, great price, lots of features), but I think I got seduced by talk of the AS-1100's more audiophile credentials and references to it being built like a tank (the construction and reliability of my next kit is an issue I'm particularly sensitive to in light of the problems I had with the amp and sub on my last system).

I was definitely planning on trying to get to see and hear each of the items I'd suggested for purchase when I come back to UK in December. However, in view of observations like yours and those of others, I think I may need to go back to the drawing board and think again about what I'm trying to do here. A bit depressing after months of research and thinking that I'd cracked it, but I'd rather spend the time to get it right than to end up buying something which doesn't do the job for me.

On with the search......
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
On the active side of the house, you may need to search out Pro Music shops to audition as they are unlikely to be available in the usual hifi suspects (Richer, Sevenoaks, Audio T etc.).

For an active set up, building on @Paul7777x suggestions -

Assumptions - CD is the main source, Internet radio is OK, streaming from files or from services (Spotify etc.) is desirable. Like to reduced box count.

For preamp with streamer/internet radio and aux/digital inputs for CD -
Yamaha WXC50 - don't think you can go wrong with that and would have to spend a lot more in separates to get a preamp and streamer with similar performance and functionality, note small size (210mm wide) - £250 form Richersound (and others)

For CD - Marantz 6006 is probably the class leader at the £350 mark, however you can use most CDs with a digital output into the WXC50 and so if you want to keep it neat and small then the Denon DCD50 (£299) may be worth a look, get reasonable review but you can use the digital out into the WXC50 thereby using the WCX50 dac, have a play and see if there is a difference in sound. Available from richer. The Denon is also a similar size to the WXC50 (200mm wide) and available from Richersounds (and others). Or if the width is not an issue then the Cambridge CXC CD transport may be a good place t start, again using the digital input in the WXC50 at around £299 from Richersounds.

For speakers - the Core 7 are beasts with 650w per speaker and a 7" woofer. I have 8" woofers in my Active setup (Mackie HR824) and they easily overwhelm my room (10ft x 10ft) at moderate levels and have plenty of bass when needed. But with the WXC50 and CD player they may stretch the budget a bit.

Alternatives may be -
Focal Twin 6 Be at around £2600 per pair (careful looking at active speakers as they are often price individually), probably better looking than most studio monitors and can be used upright as well as flat -


Adam s2v - a little more utilitarian in design but the ribbon tweeter is a selling point.


Other to read up on would be the Dynaudio BM15 and Lyd-8 (these are next down the ladder form the Core 7), Genelec 8050 8" (interesting design but well regarded).

Also, it may sound counter intuitive to match a £250 preamp with £2500 speakers, but when you break down a passive system -

£1000 integrated amp - £300 preamp section, £700 poweramp
£2000 speakers

All you are doing is extracting the preamp into its own box and then putting the power amps in the speaker boxes.

My active system runs a £20 streamer into a £70 dac into a £75 passive preamp (£165) into £1500 speakers. My previous passive system of similar new value sounded very different and to my ears the active system is better, YMMV.

Finally, I have quoted Richersounds but obviously you can look around for best deals etc..
 
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shug4476

Active Member
I would not recommend actives unless you are absolutely certain you like the sound of both the loudspeaker itself and the amp module within.

Amplifiers have their own sonic character and the effect of an active is that you have fewer levers with which to tune the sound to your preferences. You are limited to the pre-amp and source.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Paul7777x - thanks for the reply. A bit disappointed to see my particular configuration deemed 'frippery', as I thought I'd been quite careful in trying to select audiophile grade equipment. Ho hum.

Those speakers look quality but they're double the cost of the Focal's. Are you proposing that I don't go with a subwoofer and the Core 7's will provide an equal (or better) level of low down noise?

Also, the WXC-50 is more expensive than the streamer I've proposed. Seeing as I only need really need it for internet radio, what advantage(s) will I get from buying the more expensive kit?
No, I’m not suggesting your choices are fripperish (I like that word) simply that a lot of what ‘hifi’ is, most certainly contains silly claims and inflated prices.

If you do decide on a passive speaker/ amp box approach then your choices are fine indeed.

The reason you’d need the WXC-50 is because it’s is a preamp a well as a streamer/dac. You’ll need the preamp function to drive any actives you might consider.

The 6006 is the CD player weapon of choice, so I’d stick with that.

As for a sub... good actives do go very low indeed and do so with very good definition, speeds and clarity; for music, that will likely be all you require most of the time.

Adding a sub wouldn’t be a bad idea certainly, and the BK subs cannot be beaten on price/performance.


Ps, if you do go the WXC-50 way, or buy any amp or preamp with a dac inbuilt, I’d keep the Pioneer as a transport and try the more modern dacs in them.

That could save £300 to get you closer to the price of the Core 7s, say.
 
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gibbsy

Moderator
The Marantz cd6006 has been recommended by those that have replied and it is a very good player. If you are interested in a used model I have one for sale in the classifieds.

 
Having recently gone through the "upgrade" from my many-decades-old hifi, I can empathize with feeling swamped by all the choices, especially once any AV aspects begin to be introduced.

In no particular order from various posts:
I agree with the OP, buying used is a bigger potential mine-field than buying new. Especially for gear with complex moving/mechanical parts. For those on a shorter-replacement cycle, used may be the best way to get higher-spec gear, and the constant shuffle to find the "perfect" combination should be less expensive in the short term. But for most hifi hobbyists, buying a nearly complete new system is not a frequent event and is a stressful experience... the end result is worth the effort, but not something I'd be welcoming on a monthly, or even yearly basis. I bought with zero auditions, and am extremely pleased with the result. Toole was right, buy the best spec amp, and speakers with reasonably flat/wide frequency response, that you can afford. In most average rooms, careful placement and judicious use of EQ can sweeten most systems.

One would presume that the amps/drivers/crossovers in powered speakers would be carefully matched to maximize the good points and minimize the bad. Besides, I don't think that until a hobbyist approaches becoming an big$$$ audiophile that the "sonic character" of reasonable quality semiconductor amps will be a major issue. Yes, perhaps a class D will sound a bit different than a standard AB amp, but at this price point, not the same issue as the expectations out of a 5-figure+ rig.

My cost proportion of amp/speakers/sub was roughly 20/40/40%, totaling about CDN$2,500.

No CD player as we loaded all our CDs into iTunes on our existing computer (our iMac is old enough to have the SuperDrive) and new music purchases mostly online. No parts to wear, convenient to use over wifi, as the A-S501 (and all the Yams in question) has an optical input (which we feed from an Apple TV2) and a decent DAC. The preamp end of the A-S801 is probably very similar to the A-S1100 as they are in the next family up from the A-S301/501/701 group, the amp/power supply will be the biggest differences between the 801 and 1100. Yamaha phono sections are well regarded if you have vinyl.

There is a lot of myths perpetuated in hifi/audio, and Toole and others debunk a lot of it. I bought Toole's book and it saved me WAY more than it cost, with a far better end result than if I had just relied on reviews and opinions. It provides a logical framework to make many audio decisions that often get made on subjective criteria.
Sound Reproduction: The Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Loudspeakers and Rooms, 3rd Edition (Paperback) - Routledge

Enjoy the trip!
 

daddy999

Active Member
Hi daddy999 and thank you for your reply. I see the price of the MA speakers you've suggested is quite a bit over what I'd be paying for the Focal's. Can't see myself being able to push the budget any higher (two words - "the wife"...) and the other pieces of equipment don't look as if they'll go down in price any time soon, so it could be a stretch to buy them. How do you find them with low frequencies? I could consider ditching the subwoofer and forking out the cash on just the MA's instead. However, and I'm not a bass junkie by any means, I just have the feeling after my last experience with the Linn/Martin Logan combo I was using for CD listening that no standmount will be able to do the job as well as a subwoofer for the low notes.
Hiya, the MA‘s are that bit more expensive, but I haggled at the same time as buying the amp and got the MA brand stands thrown in for free and a healthy discount of the amp. I bought from a company called Woolacotts in a Cornwall, they are not a true “hifi“ company, but they do deals, work hard for their money and we’re truly helpful, a few ”Hifi shops” should take note. if you want the contact their, let me know, he might be worth a call. Anyway, because the speakers bolt to the stands they are very solid, look great and in terms of sound, I find them really smooth, the bass is tight and controlled, not “flabby” and over taking the music, the mids, highs, and vocals are simply lush. I honestly can‘t believe how good they sound for a ”bookshelf”, I was actually looking at floorstanders, but simply fell in love with the sound of these.

in 35 years of buying Hifi, I never felt the need for a subwoofer, in any system, and if I’m honest, not saying people shouldn’t but sub’s, I simply want to hear music, not the ear splitting low frequencies that my teenage kids seem to adore. 😂 I don’t believe the MA’s leave you feeling the need for more bass, however, if that’s the case for some, perhaps the 200’s are better suited to them, but then that’s even more money!

FYI: I have them 10”s from the rear wall and don’t need to use the bass bungs which are supplied at normal, sensible or even “neighbour” annoying volumes.

I totally understand getting it past the wife, the Piano ebony colour made the wife very happy and as the shop saved me so much money, I took her away for a weekend in Brighton..........where I bought a turntable! 😂

good luck in your search.
 

OstrichAndCobraWine

Standard Member
Alrightee then...so far based upon the many views kindly offered above I'm minded to go for the Yamaha preamp/streamer coupled with a CD transport (I'm thinking Audiolab CDT6000 as my Pioneer CD will be used elsewhere and on the basis of the rave review of this particular product by theaudiophileman) and active speakers (Core 7s might be out of reach budget wise but BM15As and Focal Twin 6s look like strong possibilities). Slowly getting less attached to the idea of a sub seeing as so many of you seem to be getting along just fine without one and I think the cash might just be better put towards the speakers. Second hand is still out, audition will be preferable but difficult as I've only limited time home at Xmas (so I may need to buy blind...yikes!).

I have a concern re the actives. I keep reading that the sound can be quite harsh (and therefore unforgiving over extended listening). I also see many comments that the sweet spot for listening is limited and that the sound changes dramatically if you're not within a few feet of the speakers and if you move around a lot (this'll be an issue for my better half as she'll often be listening in the kitchen/diner to the rear of the area where this equipment will be placed).

Do any owners of actives care to offer an opinion on whether these are actual potential issues if I go this route?
 
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NottsMFC

Active Member
I recently bought my 1st ever pair of active speakers for my dining area, is a kitchen/diner also. I also sit in there when I work from home.

I absolutely love them & don't find the sound harsh in any way, had them on while working from home all day yesterday & all day so far today & certainly haven't found them fatiguing at all. Love the detail & clarity.

They still put a smile on my face when I am in the kitchen area away from the sweet spot, although the distance would be a max of 4 metres at any time.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
I’ve never heard a pair of ‘harsh’ active speakers.

They are perfectly controlled by having a dedicated power amplifier matched to each individual driver.

Therefore they sound right. The bass control at tiny and huge volumes, and everywhere in between in superb. No flab, no over/under damping and no loss of definition through less than accurate passive crossovers.

There is no sweet spot, except the one created in and by every room and modified by careful positioning (for critical listening). The same as every speaker ever made.

And, because of the impeccable behaviour of the directly controlled drivers, the sound changes much less dramatically when moving around.

And at your budget, the drivers and power amplifier are all going to be first class.

Ps, if you go for the BM15s, it’s hard to imagine you’ll need a sub.

A pair of Dynaudio 9.5 inch drivers, with that kind of power behind them are not at all shy with the bass they can hammer out.

And, even better, the dynamic expression is quite very impressive. Notes start and stop on time, every time; the ease with which good actives follow the dynamic range of good recordings is more than impressive.

I think you’ll be delighted.
 

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