Starting out and looking for advice, please!

JimPYZ

Member
This system is mostly for me at home. I’m currently living in a place with a low ceiling - timbre floors and a timbre celing. The room which the set-up will be in is roughly 6m x 10m, open living / kitchen area. The speakers will be up against the wall.

What’s most important for me is the performance. The thing is I listen to everything - reggae, r’n’b, rock’n’roll, folk, classical, hip hop, dance music (house, techno, electro, jungle, dubstep), all sorts of experimental electronic music; mostly on vinyl (on a Technics 1210), but occasionally through any other format. I like bass heavy music. I listen to a lot of reggae and house music. But I also listen to a lot of classical music and dramatic r’n’b (think Shirley Bassey or Nina Simone) so I guess I’m looking for a dynamic sound. I suppose I want a well rounded system that’s not too specialised, but I know a stereo that can do it all does not exist.
Regarding volume, I like to turn it up every now and again, although it doesn’t have to be particularly loud (whatever that means).

The hard part: I don’t have a lot of money. I don’t want to spend much more than £1000 on it, but I’m not looking for new equipment and I’m willing to take my time to search the second hand market (I love relics), build slowly, and save up if I should spend more money on something worthwhile. I also don’t mind buying something that needs a little refurbishment.

Does anyone have any thoughts? I have a few questions.

I’m not sure where or how to start. Should I buy a separate pre-amp and a power amp or an integrated amplifier? This is mostly for my vinyl, but I like to listen to the radio, so should I get a receiver? I’m looking for optimal performance, so maybe I should forget the receiver, and buy a great radio when I’m ready, or maybe I’m as well off to get a receiver. I’ve seen plenty of well rated receivers - mostly from the 70s - that are well within my price range. This brings me to my next question: I’m definitely going to buy second hand (on principle as well as for financial opportunity), but should I go for older stufff or newer stuff. The impression I’ve always gotten is that the older gear is better built and lasts longer, granted everything needs maintenance. Also, should I get a balanced set of speakers, and supplement them with a subwoofer?

Thanks a lot for reading! If any of you have anything to say, I really appreciate the input.
 

dannnielll

Well-known Member
Receivers from the 70s were great, for receivers from the 70s . The world has moved on. Now my advice will differ from many here.. but that does not make it invalid. Buy a 10 year old flagship AVR machine with lots of power, and a good make. By preference one predating HDMI ports. Why ? Because these have limited value as Audio Visual Receiver since HDMI and so are low cost. Good makes will include Sony, Yamaha, Denon , . Power? you are looking for about 80 watts per channel or a total power consumption above 400 watts. Ideally it will have a pure direct or some similar name ,which means minimal processing.. but if you want to explore, then various Dolby modes should be available. Unfortunately, this group rarely includes a vinyl preamp, as they were made when vinyl was out of fashion ,so you would need to buy a preamp if you intend vinyl.

The cost of these machines a decade ago might have been 1500. But they can be got for 5 % to 10% now. They are built like battleships so reliability is extremely high. I have purchased three over the last 18 months ,and have no worries.
That will sort out an FM receiver, an Amplifier , a DAC and with a preamp vinyl input. The only outstanding items are speakers ..and floor standing are better for a big room,

and a streamer for when you realise that vinyl is obsolete.
You should look up the streaming thread here for information, but if you can get your hands on one, the Chromecast Audio CCA, unfortunately discontinued since last year is a steal. It works with the Android world. CCAs are available via ebay, but 6 months ago they were in Currys
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
If you like the idea of an av receiver then Arcam are worth looking into, usually reported as some of the best for music and quite a few of the older ones about second hand.

However, here is an alternative. Preamp + active speakers.

Example system.

Rotel RC1070, very good preamp with a great phono stage.£195


Mackie HR824, £450, 8” active speakers with 250w in each speaker. I have these and they can kick out decent bass. Note, these are not in the best shape and are probably a little over priced so may be worth waiting for a decent pair but the mk1 is better than the mk2.


With the extra cash you can add a sub to fill in the bottom end.

BK Double Gem, £330 B Grade. Front firing sub for the wood floors.


(At a later date you could pick up another and use them as stands for the Mackies :D )

There are alternative part for these items but this gives you a starting point.
 

drummerman

Banned
Vintage Audio stuff can get very expensive if you don't know what to look out for. Not great if you have limited funds as mentioned.
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
Here’s a passive system to think about.

Kef R700 floorstanding speakers £780


Arcam AVR350, 100w per channel, you can use four channels and biamp the kefs (there may even be a way to trial ?). £225


However you will need a phono preamp. So this tops out the budget but not by much.

Rega Fono A2D, should top out around £50.

 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Consider one of these set ups.

You’ll be surprised at its versatility and excellent skills.


And one of these,


The Anthems really are superb at making music.

The ARC room correction is also very good, and simple to use.

And it makes a huge difference to the accuracy of bass notes and therefore clarity in general.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
As for used, then I’d still buy the Anthem,

And these.


And,


(Little point in buying a used sub when these are so good and inexpensive brand new).
 

dogfonos

Well-known Member
Because bass response is so important to much of the music you listen too - and you listen in a large space - I too would suggest a subwoofer. Almost all subs are active designs (for good reason) so a decent example will always outperform a decent large passive speaker. A good large active speaker will likely take you over budget so a smaller active speaker + sub is the way to go, IMO. Because of your large space and occasional high volume listening, I'd buy a sub that has at least one 12" driver or equivalent. Maybe even two such subs (or is that overkill?).

At this stage of system building, I'd give considerable thought to future sources of music such as streaming from HDD or NAS before purchasing anything. I appreciate you use a turntable but I would put money on digitally-sourced bass being cleaner and more extended than analogue produced bass (i.e. via turntable) so think about high quality digital music files.
 

drummerman

Banned
Consider one of these set ups.

You’ll be surprised at its versatility and excellent skills.


And one of these,


The Anthems really are superb at making music.

The ARC room correction is also very good, and simple to use.

And it makes a huge difference to the accuracy of bass notes and therefore clarity in general.

I haven't heard the Adam T7V or T5V other than in youtube comparisons but be careful, those cheap ribbon tweeters (and some very expensive ones too) can take your ears off. Super bright/edgy if not implemented correctly.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
I’ve heard them. And I’ve owned three different types.

Super detailed and as smooth as polished silk.
 

stevoknevo

Active Member
Consider one of these set ups.

You’ll be surprised at its versatility and excellent skills.


And one of these,


The Anthems really are superb at making music.

The ARC room correction is also very good, and simple to use.

And it makes a huge difference to the accuracy of bass notes and therefore clarity in general.
I picked a 'used' Anthem MRX 500 up from ebay last week for £270 delivered, it arrived on Monday and I'm honestly not sure it'd ever been used? Still has the protective plastic on the screen fascia and the boxes for the ARC kit had never been opened, only a couple of light rubs on the top panel even indicates it'd been out of the box.
Prior to doing the ARC config it sounded night and day better than my old Denon AVR3803, after doing it was like they'd thrown in new speakers too, totally blows the Denon out of the water! However it was all too much for my old Paradigm PDR 10, I heard it sounding a wee tiny bit unhealthy on Christmas day but the Anthem has done for it! (I've got a new rubber surround and glue ordered to hopefully repair it so testing will be limited until then)

But they're terrific value for money - I had a MRX 700 on my watch list out of curiosity but the ad gave me the heebies "what you see is what you get - no box, will package as best I can" was all it said, two pictures, no ARC kit or remote, but it went for £200! (I'm sure I read somewhere, and I may well be wrong, that the ARC kit needs to have corresponding serial numbers on the software and mic, maybe even the AVR, to function? So I paid the extra and bought the 500 as it had everything)

Maybe the extra power output of the 700 would be a better option for the OP given the size of the room? I'm very impressed with it for a comparatively small outlay though.
 

DT79

Well-known Member
I think all these suggestions have been excellent. As the OP may be starting to gather, there are many different ways to skin the cat in this game.

If it were my money and starting from scratch, I think I’d go the active route too, as they always give you maximum bang for your buck. But then the value and flexibility offered by an older AVR is undeniable. I think Paul has got it spot on by combining the two!

If you combine an AVR with actives, then make sure it has pre-outs (which it should if you’re going for an older higher-end model).

Alternatively if you go for active speakers and don’t like the idea of all that redundancy in a receiver, then older standalone processors are similarly good value for money (albeit you won’t get your radio tuner included). An Arcam AV8 or AV9, or one of the Tag McLaren’s for example would be outstanding. This one even has the optional phono stage.

I used to own one of these and it’s an outstanding pre-amp for music in its own right. Ideal with a pair of active speakers.
 
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DT79

Well-known Member

JimPYZ

Member
Thanks for all the input so far! It's really appreciated. Indeed - 'many ways to skin a cat'. The suggestions I'm hearing: AVR (Arcam or Anthem) + passive speakers; pre-amp (Arcam or Rotel) + active speakers; or AVR + active speakers. I have a few questions:

1) Is the appeal of 'receiver + active speakers' that I can build my system further and control it from one point? Is this what you mean by versatility?
2) For the same price, might I find a better stereo receiver than AV receiver?
3) For the same price, might I find a better set of passive speakers than active speakers?

For a number of reasons, I'm initially inclined to go for a stereo receiver. Firstly, because I don't watch tv or play video games. Secondly, at the moment I don't need any of the bells and whistles that come with a modern AVR. Thirdly, I'm just starting out and I could always buy a receiver with more channels, further down the line. I'll still have a good stereo receiver to drive my speakers.

I have a small budget, but it's just the first step on the journey. I'm imagining that for (close to) £1000, I'll get better quality if I buy a good, simple stereo receiver and a good set of passive floor-standing speakers (just my imagination?). Further down the line, if I want to upgrade, I can always get a receiver with more channels and I'll still have a great stereo to drive my speakers.

I should have mentioned. I have a dj mixer (korg zero 4) in another country that I am considering getting shipped over, but it's quite large, so I reckon it'd be expensive to ship so I might buy a new, simpler mixer. Considering this, maybe all I want is a great set of floor-standing active speakers. Or I could use one out for the stereo and another for an active sub, that I could use to fill in the lower frequencies.
 
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DT79

Well-known Member
Thanks for all the input so far! It's really appreciated. Indeed - 'many ways to skin a cat'. The suggestions I'm hearing: AVR (Arcam or Anthem) + passive speakers; pre-amp (Arcam or Rotel) + active speakers; or AVR + active speakers. I have a few questions:

1) Is the appeal of 'receiver + active speakers' that I can build my system further and control it from one point? Is this what you mean by versatility?
2) For the same price, might I find a better stereo receiver than AV receiver?
3) For the same price, might I find a better set of passive speakers than active speakers?

For a number of reasons, I'm initially inclined to go for a stereo receiver. Firstly, because I don't watch tv or play video games. Secondly, at the moment I don't need any of the bells and whistles that come with a modern AVR. Thirdly, I'm just starting out and I could always buy a receiver with more channels, further down the line. I'll still have a good stereo receiver to drive my speakers.

I have a small budget, but it's just the first step on the journey. I'm imagining that for (close to) £1000, I'll get better quality if I buy a good, simple stereo receiver and a good set of passive floor-standing speakers (just my imagination?). Further down the line, if I want to upgrade, I can always get a receiver with more channels and I'll still have a great stereo to drive my speakers.

I should have mentioned. I have a dj mixer (korg zero 4) in another country that I am considering getting shipped over, but it's quite large, so I reckon it'd be expensive to ship so I might buy a new, simpler mixer. Considering this, maybe all I want is a great set of floor-standing active speakers. Or I could use one out for the stereo and another for an active sub, that I could use to fill in the lower frequencies.

I think the thing about AV receivers is that they are very abundant (there probably aren’t as many stereo receivers out there) and AV receivers’ value plummets when they become outdated from a video, surround sound and AV connectivity standpoint, so you can pick up a much higher end model for much lower cost relative to what it was when it was new.

Obviously a stereo receiver will work, and you might find a great one within budget, but you probably lose digital inputs, which could be useful.

Active speakers are inherently superior to passive speakers because a) active crossovers have lower distortion and greater accuracy, and b) each driver has its own tailored power amp connected directly to it. That’s not to say that every active speaker sounds better than every passive one combined with a suitable amp, just that they almost always represent better value for money at a given price point, so it’s an obvious route to look at if starting from scratch on a limited budget.
 

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