My System Journey

Member 769353

Previously davidf
I thought I'd start a thread for my own system, as that's what this forum section is for, and I'm a music and movie enthusiast first and foremost. Also, a may help a few people when making their own choices.

Over the years, my system has seen small changes- we'll start from 2004 with a Yamaha RXV1800 AV receiver. My speaker package at the time was a Miller & Kreisel LCR651s with S55s tripole surrounds, which seemed perfect for the receiver, and it was a lovely, balanced system. I craved more though, and moved up to the Miller & Kreisel S150 LCR with the S55s. Great sounding system, but I knew the S150s weren't sounding as good as they should do - they sounded a little laid back and not as energetic as they should do. I knew this was down to the receiver not being able to cope with them properly (I was asking a little too much of it), so decided to go with a Pioneer SCLX82, which due to its Class D amplification, dealt with more demanding speakers better than Class A/B types. My system then went through a number of (relatively small) changes receiver wise right through to the Pioneer SCLX86, which would bring us up to about 2011/2012.

Things were fine for quite a while as I experimented with different speaker packages - the Miller & Kreisel S150 system was replaced with an MK Sound S150 system, just to update to the newer model. After Plenty of time with S150s, I decided to see what a normal hi-fi speaker package could do, and see if I could replicate the characteristics of the S150 with more conventional speakers. Initially, a KEF Q300 system was installed (Q300 all round), which was instantly far better for music, and whilst equivalent in many ways for movies, wasn't quite as good as the S150s as their construction wasn't quite as good - but we are comparing £480/pair speakers to £2000/pair speakers. The Q300s for the money were surprisingly good, but their limited budget meant they were drawing a little attention to themselves because of the cabinet. That made me want to explore further. The next step was to take things up a notch, which would be the KEF R300 package, which brought far better build quality than the Q300 and S150s to the table, as well as a three-way design, which could match the S150s for detail, but just sounded slightly on the laid back side, which I expected. I tended to find myself adding 1dB to the HF using the tone control of the Pioneer to bring a little sparkle to the party, and bring them closer in tonal balance to the S159s. Despite being a little laid back compared to what I was used to, I decided to move the system into pre/power territory, and drive them better.

I wanted to stay with Class D amplification for its grip and control, so although I was going to go with the Rotel RMB1565, I decided to go the whole hog and go for the RMB1575, which would give me 500wpc into 4ohms. My initial processor of choice was the Onkyo 5507, as it pretty much did everything I would ever need. Whilst the upgrade was noticeable and made more of the R300 package, something didn't quite sit right. I realised what it was when I turned off the room EQ. The whole sound fell apart and didn't sound good for music at all. Onkyos have improved since then, but I ended up changing to an Audiolab 8200AP, which I found sounded better for both music and movies, despite not having any on board room EQ. It was much simpler too, which was nice.

The 8200AP doesn't have any tone controls, which I was used to using on the Pioneer, and felt the combination with the KEF R300s was a little smooth for my liking - I wanted the immediacy of the S150s. Knowing the tonal differences between the R Series and the LS50s, I moved in that direction, and pretty much got what I was looking for. Better detail, smoother but more informative treble, and music that just sounded amazing. When we took on the then new Ken Kreisel brand, I instantly changed, knowing how good his older designs sounded. Heaven. Movies sounded so much better, and the Quattros performance with regards to music over older M&K designs was drastically improved, making the Quattro range a great all round speaker. I'd still highly recommend these for anyone looking for a movie speaker first and foremost, but great with music too. After living with my 5.2 system for quite a while now (using two DXD12012 subs), I dabbled with using an Antimode Dual Core sub EQ unit, which did improved things, but when it was time to take it back to the store, I didn't find myself in any desperate need to order one, as the system still sounded great without it.

During this time, I have tried several other processors, but none really made me want to change from the 8200AP. I had bought a miniDSP processor with the intention of adding room EQ to the Audiolab, but instead of taking that route, I decided to change the processor after hearing the Classe Sigma SSP. Adding room EQ to what I had would just get more out of it, but the sound quality of the signal itself would remain the same. I wanted a real, quality improvement. When we swapped out the Classe Delta pre/power that was on the Blades in store for the cheaper Sigma versions, whilst not as good as Delta, they still sounded amazing. Impressive control of the Blades, and transparent in the system, drawing no attention to themselves. I knew this would be my next pre/processor. I couldn't afford it though, so something had to give, which would end up being my speaker package. I needed to make some space anyway as I was running out of room with the growing vinyl collection, so the two big subs just had to go, sadly. Whilst deciding which speakers to go for, I dug out a couple of pairs of Jim Rogers JR149 speakers I had lying around to use in a 3.0 arrangement. These are relatively small speakers from the 70s, with driver sizes pretty similar to the ATC SCM7s - sealed design too. The Classe turned my system upside down! Music, plugged directly into the Classe via USB from an Innuos Zen Mini server sounded stunning with tons of detail with no harshness at all. A little cliched, but I was hearing stuff in tracks I've never heard before, and some of these are my demo tracks! Everything was just a joy to listen to, and found myself listening to much more music than I was before. It's just a shame I don't have room to set my turntable up...

Despite the age of the speakers, they sounding amazing, and work really well close to a wall. What I've witnessed has really changed system design for me. The emphasis of my system is currently on the pre/processor rather than the speakers (as it usually is in most people's systems), and I'm getting a far better sounding system this way than having a mega expensive speaker package. So my intention was to go back to the KEF LS50s all round, as these previously sounded great with the Audiolab, so should sound stunning with the Classe due to their potential. It looks like my old Miller & Kreisel MX70 isn't repairable, so I may go for an SVS SB2000 until I can afford a Bowers & Wilkins DB1 (after they've upgraded the drive unit material to that used in the new 800 D3 series). Great sounding sub, and still a pretty small box. So I've been waiting for KEF to release the new colour LS50s (red, grey and Matt black), so I can have matt black speakers all round, which will come with the blue UniQ driver. It's just a shame I can't fit some slightly larger speakers in.

It has been surprising just how good films are sounding. Yes, they're lacking sub bass because I don't have a sub, but the difference made to music, with space and air around instruments, and better "in the room" presence has also carried over to movies. Like music, I'm finding that I want to rewatch certain films to hear the difference it will make to them, as everything just sounds so much more lifelike. One film I was watching, someone cocked a gun and a shell casing fell onto the floor - it really sounded like it was in the room! I had to play it back as I was so impressed with its realism, and this was just a DVD with a Dolby Digital soundtrack! I'm lacking all out SPL for big blockbuster movies, but I don't really crave that anyway, and it is surprising how I'm not really missing the rear speakers! The soundstage still sounds three dimensional if the film has been well mastered. As my system has been like this for about 5/6 weeks, it has tought me a lot about what is important in the system, and it shows how you don't have to cram as many speakers as possible into your room to enjoy a film. Earlier in the week I watched both series of Spaced on DVD, and was stunned at how much better they sounded over previous viewings.

Whilst the Classe doesn't have any onboard auto setup, it does have PEQ, which I will play about with at some point in the future to remove any nasty peaks when I've got over just how good this processor is, and want to extract a little more out of it.

My LS50s turned up today, and they're now set up and running in. One reason for going for these is that I can lay them on their side without affecting their output, which allows me to lower my projector screen to a much more pleasing height. I did get a quick blast of music in before the neighbours got home. Angus & Julia Stone's Draw Your Swords sounded wonderful, as it should do. No Doubt's Hella Good and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' In Motion from the Social Network soundtrack sounded great too, two tracks that would fool anyone listening to these blindfolded into thinking that they were listening to floorstanders, or much larger speakers. I watched Jaws earlier, and in the absence of a sub, the plentiful bass of the LS50s had no problems reproducing the menace of John Williams' soundtrack. And this is despite them being mounted on a couple of £9 AV stands from Ikea! I wouldn't normally, but they just suited what I needed perfectly. I was a little worried they wouldn't be substantial enough to allow the KEFs to sound good, but the Auralex Mopads must be doing a fairly decent job, and they allow me to direct them up a little too.

I'll post a little more when I've lived with them for a few weeks and watched and listened to some familiar material on them. After my October Horror Fest and Back To The Future event, tomorrow will see the start of my Friday The 13th Weekend - I'm looking forward to hearing Harry Manfredini's classical score, dominated by angry violins.

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status42

Active Member
those KEF LS50 look fantastic with the blue drivers really nice how about adding Some R50's to the mix?
 

Member 769353

Previously davidf
I could quite easily have gone the Atmos route when changing my processor, but I really wanted to improve the signal quality rather than just adding more speakers. I'd prefer to have a high quality system that's equal with regards to music and movies with less speakers than a mediocre system and a room full of speakers that are compromised musically due to the electronics. If I have gone the Atmos route, I think the speaker of choice would've been the R300s with a Yamaha CXA5100.
 

Phil1975

Distinguished Member
Also more paragraphs David, that was a hard read lol
 

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