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Streamer/DAC - Where did I go wrong ?

DeepsleepUK

Novice Member
I have upgraded to the following front-end setup (~£11,000) following guidance from dealers and forums:

Auralic Aries G1 Music Streamer > Audioquest Coffee USB > Chord MScaler > SBooster Ultra BOTW Linear PSU > Wave Stream Dual BNC > Chord Hugo TT2 DAC

My friend brought his Naim ND5 XS2 all-in-one box (£2400) to try at my house and I was amazed by it's performance (no premium cables, no LPSU, no multiple boxes). I tried my usual Tidal test tracks and my setup did not seem to have a significant price/performance improvement !

I was gutted !

Where did I go wrong ?
 

Southern soul

Active Member
Auralic Aries G1 Music Streamer > Audioquest Coffee USB > Chord MScaler > SBooster Ultra BOTW Linear PSU > Wave Stream Dual BNC > Chord Hugo TT2 DAC
[/QUOTE]

You have some great kit, as good as the little harbeths are they will not draw out the best of your components, it seems there is an imbalance in your system and the speakers play a big part of that.

The Hugo TT2 is a great DAC and if you use it for headphone use as well then i would keep it, if you are only using as a DAC and not as a pre or headphone amp then i would suggest the Qutest would be a better solution & saving you a couple of grand in the process.

Personally i wouldn't bother with high res unless like me you have a large high res collection, the Mscaler would also be another item i would relinquish, another 3k saved.

No Need for a £500 BNC either or Linear PSU, ask to borrow some USB cables from your dealer and compare which one you prefer, mucking around with cables can be expensive but doesn't need to be.

Your Amplifier is beautiful and is the one item i would keep.

I can't comment on the Auralic Aries as i only use Innuos.

Try and set out a budget to each component, i set out a £3k budget on my components so to keep things equal.

Last but not least invest in better speakers, I would suggest a good percentage of your budget go into this.
 
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mushii

Distinguished Member
You purchased by what others told you was best, not by using your ears?
Way too much snobbery in HiFi, people way too obsessed by badges and labels vs what they actually enjoy listening to. Money does not necessarily = improved sonic performance. If you like the sound of your buddies Naim, sell all your gear and buy one, and bank the difference.
 

dogfonos

Well-known Member
Where did I go wrong ?
Possibly...

You didn't demo cheaper gear prior to purchasing that very expensive front-end. Or the amp and speakers aren't up to differentiating between your kit and the Naim. Or you took advice from a 'saw-you-coming' dealer. Or the law of diminishing return kicks in at about £2400. Or any combination thereof.

Were you offered a home demo of all this gear, and a few alternatives, prior to purchase?
 

Nico72

Active Member
I guess that:
1) diminishing returns are always to be expected in hi-fi
2) the general consensus on this forum is that differences between digital sources are much more subtle than those in amplification, speakers, and room acoustics.
3) splitting the digital source over several components from different manufacturers, as opposed to a single box, may not necessarily give the best result.
4) how comes the compare against a single box solution at a fraction of the price was not done when auditioning the kit, before buying?
We are talking £11k of digital source here.
 

DeepsleepUK

Novice Member
Thank you for your responses.

I didn't expect to end up with all this kit.

I originally bought just the DAC to use with my Macbook and then it all started from there with the dealer suggesting extra bits afterwards (try this, try that, reduce RF noise etc).

I agree it is a combination of diminishing returns and foolishness on my part "Saw-you-coming".

If I knew back then that I needed a streamer/DAC then I would have auditioned such units rather than plain DACs.
 

larkone

Member
The dealer saw the gravy train of constantly up-selling you. Well what a surprise.:rolleyes:
 

dogfonos

Well-known Member
Thank you for your responses.

I didn't expect to end up with all this kit.

I originally bought just the DAC to use with my Macbook and then it all started from there with the dealer suggesting extra bits afterwards (try this, try that, reduce RF noise etc).

I agree it is a combination of diminishing returns and foolishness on my part "Saw-you-coming".

If I knew back then that I needed a streamer/DAC then I would have auditioned such units rather than plain DACs.
Where do you go from here? You've clearly assembled a very nice front end setup, albeit unnecessarily expensive for the sound quality achieved, it appears. When compared with the Naim, did your setup sound a little better, in your opinion?
 

Nico72

Active Member
What is the rest of your system? Amp and speakers? Apologies if it is in your signature, but I cannot see members’ signatures on my phone. I was just wondering if the rest of the system matches the quality of the source.
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
I have upgraded to the following front-end setup (~£11,000) following guidance from dealers and forums:

Auralic Aries G1 Music Streamer > Audioquest Coffee USB > Chord MScaler > SBooster Ultra BOTW Linear PSU > Wave Stream Dual BNC > Chord Hugo TT2 DAC

My friend brought his Naim ND5 XS2 all-in-one box (£2400) to try at my house and I was amazed by it's performance (no premium cables, no LPSU, no multiple boxes). I tried my usual Tidal test tracks and my setup did not seem to have a significant price/performance improvement !

I was gutted !

Where did I go wrong ?
You have purchased an amazingly complicated setup, incorporating a large amount of expensive snake oil. The dealers' main target is to persuade you to part with your cash and increase their earnings. Im not surprised that the much simpler setup of some decent equipment was at least as good. What surprises is me that you have admitted it - most people who spend a fortune on audio equipment are convinced that they have something fantastic even if their friends can't hear any difference.

BTW, you didn't identify the most critical component of the audio system. The one that totally dominates the performance of every system, unless pathologically imbalanced. What speakers are you using?
 

gibbsy

Moderator
There are good dealers around but you should do some research before visiting ones, forewarned is forearmed. A good dealer will certainly try to help you but they always try and sell you expensive cable and interconnects. At least you've got something to take forward.
 

DeepsleepUK

Novice Member
What is the rest of your system? Amp and speakers? Apologies if it is in your signature, but I cannot see members’ signatures on my phone. I was just wondering if the rest of the system matches the quality of the source.
My amp and speakers are McIntosh MA252 and Harbeth P3ESR
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
I am also a little befuddled how you ended up with a £3.5k DAC connected to a MacBook?
 

gibbsy

Moderator
My amp and speakers are McIntosh MA252 and Harbeth P3ESR
Not a combination I would have put together. The amp is over twice the cost of the speakers. But still £6.5k in total. Couldn't have been KEF dealers are you would have walked out with Reference 1s for another three grand.
 

Jamie

Distinguished Member
Apologies if it is in your signature, but I cannot see members’ signatures on my phone.
Off topic but I found the other day a quick twist of your phone to landscape allows signatures to be shown.

Screenshot_20200406_104647_com.brave.browser.jpg
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
Not a combination I would have put together. The amp is over twice the cost of the speakers. But still £6.5k in total. Couldn't have been KEF dealers are you would have walked out with Reference 1s for another three grand.
I'd take the Harbeth's over the KEFs, even Reference 1s ;)
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
My amp and speakers are McIntosh MA252 and Harbeth P3ESR
So you spent an absolute fortune on high end electronics, but then went with Harbeth P3ESRs :facepalm:? There is nothing wrong with the Harbeth's per se - when space and budget are limited, they are a decent mini-monitor choice. But in your case, you should have saved two thirds of your total electronics budget and invested in speakers with comparable performance characteristics. What you have is one of the most amazingly imbalanced systems I've come across here :(.
 

mr_yogi

Well-known Member
Did the dealer know what speakers and amp you have? Seems like a very unballanced system. I'm sure better speakers would reveal the differences between your system and the Naim, but as others have said if you prefer the sound of the Naim that is what is important.

Personally I've been very impressed both times I've listened to the HugoTT.
 

DeepsleepUK

Novice Member
The upgrade journey has been going on for the past 18 months with the dealer suggesting add-ons whenever I complained about any shortcoming.

I had already informed the dealer that I was looking for a pre-retirement end-game system - no more upgrades, lifting heavy boxes or bending over fiddling around with cables.

I'm not saying that I preferred the Naim sound to the Chord rather that it sounded very good for it's price point compared with mine.

The MScaler was intended to 'improve' the sound of my 16bit FLAC library but I realise that I would have been better buying 24bit Hi-res versions of the same tracks instead.

I auditioned Chord amps (TToby and SPM-1050) to try and stay with the same brand but the warmth and mid-range of the McIntosh was instantly noticeable.

As for speaker choice, I did demo B&W 804 D3 with the McIntosh which sounded really good in the demo room but my listening space at home is only 13ft x 13ft and 9ft tall and I was concerned about potential boominess so didn't try them at home.

At home, each speaker is 9ft away from my listening position.

My relatively small listening room meant I didn't consider floorstanders and monobloc amps.

The Harbeths were recommended and I was initially very satisfied but after a few months I found them to be a little bit bass light with certain genres and in particular watching DVDs and the dealer suggested connecting a subwoofer to the McIntosh to address this !

I was usually loaned kit over a weekend or during the weekdays - not the several weeks needed to fully bed in.
 
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mikeysthoughts

Well-known Member
You urgently need to upgrade your speakers and you'll get plenty of great suggestions here. If it were my money in that sized room I would go for the Arendal 1723 S floorstanders, but even the 1723 bookshelves will be a big upgrade for you over the Harbeth.
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
I auditioned Chord amps (TToby and SPM-1050) to try and stay with the same brand but the warmth and mid-range of the McIntosh was instantly noticeable.

My relatively small listening room meant I didn't consider floorstanders and monobloc amps.

The Harbeths were recommended and I was initially very satisfied but after a few months I found them to be a little bit bass light with certain genres and in particular watching DVDs and the dealer suggested connecting a subwoofer to the McIntosh to address this !
You do not need even more electronic components to drive your speakers, your current £4.5K McIntosh MA252 stereo hybrid valve amplifier is already way more powerful than anything you can possibly need in your 16m² room.

Adding a decent subwoofer would indeed address bass, but not the basic problem of having installed a series of Grade 1 locks on a cardboard door.

I suggest you open a thread in the speakers forum, and start by giving us your speaker budget and room plan / furnishings.
 

mr_yogi

Well-known Member
Find another dealer.
 

AndrewH13

Distinguished Member
The TT2 is a very good DAC/ Headphone AMP, have you tried quality headphones? It’s not actually an amp as its output stage is integrated with the DAC but it saves any amount of colourisation added by an amp. It can also drive efficient or active speakers direct without any amp, pre or power, has your dealer mentioned that? You really have two pre Amps in the system.
 

AndrewH13

Distinguished Member
PS I guess we can’t directly quote another forum, but there are many Speaker-only users on the Chord TT2 thread on Head-Fi who give advice on exactly your situation. But there are over 8,500 replies, it is the main forum for TT2 Users. Not sure if you have visited?
 

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