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My first separates

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by dunni, Sep 13, 2005.

  1. dunni

    dunni
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    I got a bit of money recently (my Great Aunt died :( ) and the first thing I decided I'd get was a new TV. I'm going to go for the Samsung LE26R41B LCD that everyone seems to be talking about. Anyway that just made me realise that I couldn't really have such a good TV and still have the sound coming out my rubbishy old Sanyo stereo.

    I didn't know anything about AV before reading this forum but now I think I have an idea what I want. I'm planning on getting a stereo amp, bookshelf speakers and a DAC to plug my DVD player (a Pioneer DV575A ) which will be used for CDs too. The sound will be used for DVDs, CDs, Freeview, and my GameCube.

    I don't want to spend much more than £500 on all this stuff, so I was thinking about a NAD C320BEE amp and Mission 71 speakers. The DAC was a bit more tricky but I've found a couple of ebay auctions. One for a Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 2 and one for a Meridian 203, both of which I believe are fairly old but still well respected.

    Does all that make sense?

    Which DAC (if either) should I go for and what's the maximum I should bid for it?
     
  2. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Both the DACMagic and the Meridian are decent for the price,although the Meridian is quite an old product now,and may sound a bit tired by comparison(if I can remember it from several yrs back).

    There are plenty of decent amps in the lower price brackets currently,probably more so than at any time previously,but you could include Marantz in your shortlist also,as they usually sound good,and can be quite reasonably priced,esp if used.

    Speakers are a far bigger problem....you should try and get an idea of which you like first before buying,and trek around the dealers as much as you can.

    A word of advice about eBay etc....do be very careful....there's a lot of rubbish around,and be sure to buy off someone with decent feedback,from multiple sources.
    Dont pay by money orders,and always collect if you can.
     
  3. dunni

    dunni
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    Thanks for replying.

    OK, I'll go for the DAC Magic then.

    Do you mean a specific Marantz amp? Richer Sounds have a Marantz PM4400 and a Marantz PM7200. Did you mean either of them?

    I was afraid someone was going to say that. I really don't have a clue about this audio stuff so for a start I wouldn't know what to ask for. If I did try out a bunch of half decent speakers I'm fairly sure I wouldn't be able to tell the difference anyway. This is the kind of thing that puts me off getting a decent sound system, it's just too confusing and I'll only end up looking like an idiot.

    Thanks for the advice. I'm fairly ebay savvy though, it's just the audio stuff I don't have a clue about.
     
  4. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Speakers do very much come down to individual preferences at any part of the price band,with some people liking a bright sound and others the opposite etc.

    You do need to listen and get some idea of what you might like,as the differences are very obvious,and the number of choices so wide.

    The Marantz PM7200 is a very decent product at that price point,with a very good sound for the money,as well as good build quality,and has an added bonus of being swtichable to run in Class A for 25W output(as opposed to 95W in Class A/B),and will sound smoother and sweeter,albeit with lower power output.
     
  5. dunni

    dunni
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    OK, so can I just walk into Richer Sounds (or wherever), ask if they can recommend some speakers and let me hear them? I don't have a clue how these things are done.

    Right, thanks. I didn't understand the stuff about classes but I've looked it up now and I think I get it. It sounds good, I'll definitely consider that one then.
     
  6. GW43

    GW43
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  7. dunni

    dunni
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    OK, thanks for the advice. I'll work out which are my least embarassing CDs and go in this weekend.
     
  8. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Just don't walk in and let them sell you something straight off....listen,pick some good ones,walk away,and listen to some more elsewhere before choosing.
     
  9. dunni

    dunni
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    I'm not very good at this kind of thing, I tend to feel a bit guilty, but it makes sense so I'll give it a go. Thanks.
     
  10. nirmal

    nirmal
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    Hi Dunni,
    I don't want to add further confusion, but take the word of hi-fi shop salesmen with a very very large pinch of salt. I recently went to one of the more popular shops in worcester, and it was obvious that the salesman did not know what he was talking about! No facts, just opinions based purely on magazines (most of which are biased). He couldn't tell me basic specs issued by the manufacturer even! I went in to buy a pair of speakers and I ended up being told that my source was crap, my amp was crap, and that he could sell me excellent CD player and amplifier, and that if I couldn't afford it, he could reclock my current player. I shudder to think of what might have happened if I let him loose on my precious! :eek: Bottom line don't believe what they tell you!

    My advice would be :lesson: :
    1. Set your budget in stone and do not change it for anything.

    2. Divide it into 4 portions.
    portion 1 - CD player or transport/dac.
    portion 2 - intergrated amp.
    portion 3 - speakers.
    portion 4 - cables, stands, tuner etc.
    Read carefully the anti-snake oil cable campaigns on the net before shelling out big bucks for cables and stands! You may or may not be convinced, but you will have a balanced picture. Dealers make a killing in this segment!

    3. Buy a few Hi-Fi mags and shortlist suitable models from the lists on the back pages. Ignore their ratings and the contents of their reviews.

    4. Do your research on the models you shortlisted. See the lab tests, specs and subjective listening impressions. If there is a discrepancy, tread very cautiously. Forums like these are great places for user reviews and opinions, but remember these are very subjective (one mans meat is another mans poison) ;) .

    5. Fix appointments with local Hi-Fi shops to audition models you have shortlisted. Do not be swayed by the sales pitch!

    6. Audition as many as you reasonably can. It becomes surprisingly easy to pick what you like, the more you listen to.

    7. Buy what you like. Do not be influenced by the opinions of anyone else, including well wishers on the forum.

    8. If your conscience permits, you can buy on the internet, after auditioning. It works out cheaper, but it ruins the business of honest and helpful shops.

    9. Avoid spending large amounts on fancy cables and stands :nono: . You can add them later. Spend as much as you can on the components instead. You are less likely to change them on impulse in future.

    10. Please do not feel obliged to just buy whatever a particular store stocks :nono: . It is hard earned money that you will be spending, and it would be criminal not to get your moneys worth!

    Good luck as you head for the snake pits :D . I hope I haven't frightened you. Let us know what you settled on. Happy listening for years to come.



    Cheers,
    Nirmal :)
     
  11. dunni

    dunni
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    Thanks for all that great advice nirmal. You have frightened me a bit actually, but I'm fairly determined to give this a go.

    In particular I'm not sure I'd be able to pick out suitable stuff just from a list at the back of a magazine, I don't think I know enough to know what could be suitable from a short description. I'll buy a magazine or two and have a look though.

    Actually, since you mention cables that's another thing I was wondering about. I don't know what cables I need to connect the DAC, DVD player, amplifier, and TV together. Can someone give me an idea of what cables I need and what connects to what?
     
  12. nirmal

    nirmal
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    Hi Dunni,
    Shortlist components based on price and features such as connectivity, remote control, suggestions from friends etc, and then you choose by listening. CD players will be cheaper than than DAC + transport but the latter will be more flexible to upgrade in future.
    You will need a length of speaker cable to connect the amp to your speakers. You will need a pair of interconnects to connect your CD player to the amp.
    If you are using a DAC and transport, you will need a digital interconnect to connect the DAC to the transport. The terminations of the interconnects will vary with the particular model you are buying. The dealer should be able to sort you out regarding all of this. Just dont let him persuade you to buy really fancy cables. A good resource to read is http://www.audioholics.com/productreviews/avhardware/index.php read the cable articles.
    Some DAC's, especially older ones are not very jitter resistant, so you end up shelling out a lot of money upgrading your transport later. Do your research well if you are heading down that route. CD players are the safer, but not the more flexible option. I am sorry if I made it sound frightening. I just dont want others to make some of the mistakes I made in the past. It is quite enjoyable. Most shops make you feel like a king, and you leave feeling good but with a hole in your pocket.

    Cheers,
    Nirmal :)
     
  13. Triggaaar

    Triggaaar
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    I'm not sure what your dvd's stereo output is like - it can certainly be improved by a DAC, but it would be nice not to lose much budget from the amp and speakers. Note that there were several versions of the 203, with the later ones being much improved.

    Since you are considering a second hand DAC, I would also consider a second hand amp & speakers (in fact, personally, I wouldn't even consider new with your budget). I bought most of my AV kit (see sig) new, but I bought all of my stereo kit second hand (3 amps, 2 DACs, 3 pairs of speakers).

    One standard (and good) piece of advice given on these forums is to demo, as what one person likes, another may dislike - BUT, as you say, you are new to this, and would find it difficult to tell the difference between many products. You will no doubt want help from the experienced retailer, but if they tell you what they hear, it puts pressure on you to hear the same. And demos are too short for all but the most experienced listener.
    My advice would be:
    Firstly, buy second hand (DAC, amps and speakers are very good 2nd hand).
    Demo a few products to see if you particularly like/dislike a certain type of sound (you may like/dislike bright, warm etc). If you do have a strong preferrence, report back here and people will give you advice on which products will suit your preferrence, and you can either demo more, or move onto the next stage.
    Finally, £500 covers a lot of good equipement, and if you just stuck to the recommendations you'll find in this forum, there'd still be a lot to choose from. Depending on the result of your demos, you could write a list of possible amps & speakers (as you have with DACs) and look for a bargain. This way, you'd end up with great value, great kit. Then, after owning and listening for a few months, you will be in a much better position to know if you like the particular qualities of what you've bought - and if you think you'd like to have something different, you can replace 1 piece. The change will cost almost nothing, and you will learn a great deal about styles, and your preferrence.
     
  14. Triggaaar

    Triggaaar
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    Nirmal, don't forget he already has the transport (dvd player).

    I would try to avoid reading about cables until you've made some decisions on the rest of the set-up, as there has been so much written on cables. Suffice to say, that if you choose the rest, we should be able to give simple advice on what cables to get, without spending much.
     
  15. nsherin

    nsherin
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    I'm running a NAD C320BEE with a pair of Mission m70s (the baby brothers of the m71s). The result is a warm, punchy, open and dynamic sound. My sources are a NAD C521BEE CD player, Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 2 and a Pro-Ject Debut II turntable. Currently listening through my Sony MDR-CD480 headphones and listening to 'Surfing on a Rocket' from Air's 'Talkie Walkie' CD. When the track first started, I was convinced at one stage that the gong at the beginning was situated behind me! And this is using iTunes, with tracks ripped at 128kps in AAC format then playing through my SoundBlaster Audigy 2 into the amp.

    I've been down the surround/AV receiver route before and to be honest, I think you're doing the right thing if you're sticking to a budget - wish I'd upgraded my first amp (a Sony TA-FE230) to a NAD one about two years ago and had not bothered going surround! Now I know what I've been missing!

    Can't really advise on DACs - I had a Musical Fidelity X-ACT DAC for about 3 months, but it did little to improve the excellent DAC in my CDP - and surprisingly on my soundcard. However, the Meridian one seems to be well respected - of the two you're looking at, it'd be the one I'd go for!
     
  16. Triggaaar

    Triggaaar
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    lol - just read your advice Nirmal (not laughing at it, laughing at how different my advice is).

    I'd be inclined to be a little more flexible than stone. As Nirmal says, you will want an idea of how much you'll be spending on each item. And although I recommended you ignore the detail of cables for a bit, you do need some budget for them.
    I'd look for recommendations here instead. I agree that the ratings and content of the reviews should be largely ignored - which to me, leaves not much else.
    Indeed, some people do have very different tastes, but a lot just like good quality - a few demos should determine if you have a style preferrence.

    Not for me it didn't :) There were some things I didn't like (many AV amps in stereo, and tiny satellite speakers) but it's taken me a lot longer to learn which makes of stereo amp I like.
    Definitely. It's nice for us well wishers when someone agrees with us, and joins our camp, but it's what you like that matters. Knowing what you like, however is the tricky part (god I'm getting repetetive - it's gone 2am).

    Lol. If you do go new, hopefully a shop won't charge too much more than online, and you can consider the extra payment for good service. But some retailers will charge so much more you're left with little choce. Just don't buy new - problem solved.
    Indeed.
     
  17. Triggaaar

    Triggaaar
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    As for recommendations (2nd hand):
    Speakers
    Dynaudio Audience 42s (or 42Ws, depending on placement). You can get these for under £200. You can demo Dynaudios in a fair few places. I have 2 pairs and love them.
    Quad 11Ls - not sure how much, but I've heard several times, and they're good.

    Amps
    Arcam, Marantz, Rotel all worth looking at.
    There were signature ranges of the Marantz (KI on the end of no.), and I demoed the PM6010KI, which can be picked up for bargain prices. Not sure how much for a PM7200KI, but I imagine that would be nice (the next amp up). I have an Arcam A75+, and they can be had for under £200. I preferred it to the Rotel, but horses for courses. I've not tried NAD, but obviously popular.

    If you search this forum with the model numbers, you'll see varied opinion and be able to demo the ones you fancy.
     
  18. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    On the cables & stands front may I suggest the following, just “upgrade” from the supplied freebie leads with very very very cheap ICs, speaker cable & racks this to means you will need to spend £50 max on cabling & racking this will buy you :

    www.tvcables.co.uk £10 worth of Profigold 1m or Ixos 1m RCA ICs or a pair of Mark Grant 1m job in the cables power buys.

    http://www.maplin.co.uk/Module.aspx?ModuleNo=13295&doy=15m9D Van Damme Blue Series loudspeaker cable from £1.19 - £2.99 a metre so say a 5m pair will cost you £20. (also read the cable forum for many other DIY cheap speaker cable ideas)

    Then get thyself down to Ikea an purchase a £19.99 Ikea Corras bedside table :

    [​IMG]

    Then deposit the kit you have bought inside and enjoy.

    £50 Cables & stands.

    MAXIMUM !!!!!!!! :smashin:
     
  19. dunni

    dunni
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    Thanks for all that advice Triggaaar, very helpful. A couple of things though:
    I don't quite follow what you mean. How can I demo stuff if I buy second hand. It also sounds like you mean to buy the stuff before I demo it.

    I'm pretty sure nirmal meant just looking at the magazines for names of current products that might suit me, then check opinions on the web. It sounds like quite a good idea to me. It's hard to look for recommendations when you don't actually know what you're looking for.

    Thanks for the cable advice CJROSS. For the speaker cables though, is that just cable so I would have to wire the ends up myself? Also, I most likely would have gone to IKEA for a cabinet but I don't think there is one in a reasonable distance from me (I live in Witney, near Oxford). I was thinking about just getting something out of Argos.

    Thanks to nsherin for your advice too. Your posts elsewhere on this forum were actually a big part of what made me decide to just go for a stereo amp and also what made me initially consider the NAD amp.

    Another question, should I be testing out amps as well as speakers before buying? Would I actually be able to tell the difference between decent amps? And how do you know what part of the equipment is affecting the sound anyway?
     
  20. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    You can simply run the wires into the binding posts (on amp & speakers) and screw down. Or you can purchase some banana plugs and screw onto cables.

    http://www.satcure.co.uk/accs/page13.htm

    [​IMG]

    Gold 4mm Banana Plug with 7mm (0.25") cable hole at side. Knurled securing screw.
    AV00065 Black collar , AV00066 Red collar ,

    B008 Gold 4mm Banana Plug pair £2.10

    Maplins do Banana plugs also but they are double the price of the chaps above. :

    http://www.maplin.co.uk/Module.aspx?ModuleNo=44099&doy=15m9
     
  21. Triggaaar

    Triggaaar
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    Sorry to confuse. I would definitely demo something, to see if you do notcie differences, and have a prefference. You may really like/dislike certain styles. You can buy second hand from dealers as well. Like moorgate or Noteworthy Audio - they have a
    Marantz PM6010KI (Ken Ishiwata Signature) amplifier which seems to be new, reduced from £500 to £195 (can be bought a lot less 2nd hand, but £195 new is good).
    These dealers may be no where near you, but some that are will have ex dem, or items that have been traded in, and you can demo those with a view to buy.
    Only after you have tried a few things would I suggest going out on a limb and buying a 2nd hand bargain you haven't demoed. For example, I had demoed many things, but never an exposure amp. I read lots about them, and was advised of other brands they were more simillar too (they have pace rhythm and timing like Naim [PRAT], which I had demoed). I couldn't get a demo, so I bought a 2010s from this forum, and I love it. If I didn't like it, I could have sold it on, for a small loss in exchange for gaining hi fi knowledge. But it wasn't a complete gamble, as I know that there's very few stereo amps I hate, and I knew I would like PRAT, from other demoes.

    He meant use this method to get a short list for demo, rather than just buying straight from the web. It is indeed difficult. I would get your shortlist from searches on this forum - many of us have had to make the same decision.

    Good question. Yes you should be testing both. You may or may not be able to tell the difference (this applies to speakers as well). It is difficult in a short demo. Some brands will sound more different than others. For example, Naim amps (while out of your price range) have a very different sound to most other brands. When starting out, it's nice when you can hear the difference easily, as it helps build confidence, and helps you decide what you like.
    If you find a store that has speakers you are interested in, ask them to demo those speakers, with a decent amp. Then ask them to keep the amp, and change the speakers, and see if you notice a difference. Be honest with yourself. There's no shame in not being able to tell any difference at all. Take along a few tracks you know, and listen to them on both set-ups.
     
  22. dunni

    dunni
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    I see, thanks.

    And Triggaaar, thanks for clearing that up. I really like your idea of just going to one shop and demoing a few to find out what kind of sound I like then coming back here for suggestions. That sounds a bit less painful to me.
     
  23. nirmal

    nirmal
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    Hi CJROSS,
    Those suggestions of yours are great! I must make a trip down to IKEA one of these days myself. Does the Corrsas come in a cherry finish, and do they sell extra racks to fit in more components?

    Cheers,
    Nirmal :)
     
  24. Triggaaar

    Triggaaar
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    Go for the exact plugs CJ recommended (I followed the recommendation and have 30 of them), rather than using the binding posts. Being able to change things more easily will prove useful in time. They're available on ebay as well, just see where's cheapest. Note you can thread the cable into the side of them, or into the rear (which looks nicer).
     

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