Want to improve vinyl detail - Upgrade Advice

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by sterd71, Mar 1, 2013.

  1. sterd71

    sterd71
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    Hi,


    I currently use my setup for both AV and music.

    Music sources are vinyl, CD and FLAC’s streamed via a squeezebox.

    I’m happy with the AV and CD/FLAC sound quality but I feel the vinyl could be improved upon.

    I’m not new to vinyl having continuously owned a turntable since the 80’s but I feel that the vinyl playback doesn’t have as big a sound stage as what it could have, and that the music is somewhat flat and lacking detail.

    Currently setup:

    Pro-ject Debut Esprit TT
    Pro-ject speedbox
    Ortofon 530MKII stylus
    Artcessories USB Phono2
    Onkyo txsr-308 amp (set in direct mode for music)
    Sony ss-cmd373 bookshelf speakers

    Budget wise I’m happy to spend around £500-£600 per component, I’m thinking my old Sony speakers are probably first in line, followed by either a dedicated stereo amp and/or a better phono stage but any suggestions would be appreciated.


    Thanks
    Steve
     
  2. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard
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    I'm curious about some of the older turntables you've used? Keep in mind once you've scratched the detail out of the vinyl, there is not way to put it back in. If you ever used old heavy turntables with imprecise stylus, then it could be the records. Though I have records that are decades old and they still sound fine.

    Also, make sure you are not confusing volume with sound stage. I found my CD Player was about 12dB louder than my turntable. Since I mostly listen to vinyl, it made the CD unbearably loud, and it was also probably over-driving my input stages. I put 12dB attenuators in-line with the CD and brought the level down, and now it sounds fine.

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/hi-fi-systems-separates/1561542-what-its-worth-lp-vs-cd-spl.html

    In my view, it is certainly not the Turntable that is letting your down - Assuming -

    1.) the tracking weight is set correctly
    2.) the anti-skate is set correctly
    3.) the turntable is DEAD LEVEL

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/hi-f...-what-difference-word-makes-spirit-level.html

    4.) Stylus is clear and free from crud.

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/hi-fi-systems-separates/928129-magic-eraser-stylus-cleaner.html

    This may also be of interest to you -

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/hi-f...83453-wash-your-vinyl-records-easy-cheap.html

    As to your equipment, I would definitely say the amp and speakers are the weak links. In Onkyo AV amps, typically nothing below the 600 series is recommended. The current 600 series Onkyo is the TX-NR616 which retails for about £599, and currently available for about £330. Typically we recommend AV Receivers in the minimum £500 to £600 range. Though keep in mind, they can be frequently found for less that than, especially just before new models are about to be released. For myself, I prefer to maximize my money by sticking with Stereo.

    In AV Receivers, Yamaha, Denon, and Marantz are generally consider more musical than Onkyo AV amps, but that is very much subject to opinion.

    The speakers, base on a quick search I did, seem to have been part of a mini/micro-system, and while they are probably fine, they won't win any prizes. Don't get me wrong, Sony makes very good speakers for the money, the problem is, it's not very much money.

    Given the prices I found, the ARTcessories USB Phono 2 is probably fine. But given that it is USB DAC and Phono Stage in one unit, the approx £75 to £100 is a bit lean. Most would pay about £200 for the DAC and another £100 to £150 for the Phono Stage.

    So, now we need to set priorities.

    In my opinion, your Turntable far out-classes the rest of your equipment, so assuming it is setup correctly, I can't see fault there.

    A good Turntable Equalization Pre-Amp is going to be roughly £100. Since you have MM (moving magnet) type of cartridge, that's all your really need. While there are more expensive Phono Pre-Amp, this is about as much as most people need -

    Superfi - PROJECT PHONO BOX MM TURNTABLE PRE-AMPLIFIER

    However, how far you want to go on this is up to you -

    Superfi - PROJECT PHONO BOX III USB VARIABLE TURNTABLE PRE-AMPLIFIER

    Superfi - PROJECT PHONO BOX S TURNTABLE PRE-AMPLIFIER

    Next would be the Speakers. But, if you are using this system for Surround Sound, then you need to brand and series match the Front with the Center speakers.

    If we assume ~£100 for the Phono Pre-Amp, that leaves about £500 for a pair of speakers.

    Are there any restrictions on the speakers, because I'm going to recommend Floorstanding. Keeping in mind, if you are using surround sound you will have to eventually buy the matching Center speaker -

    Right now, the Wharfedale Diamond 10 series speakers are on Close-Out, and are at deep discounts, but inventory is shrinking fast. One of the best deals, if you can find them, are the Diamond 10.4 with TWO 5" bass drivers; a modest size floorstanding speaker selling for roughly £250/pair (up to £300, depending on the source).

    At £499/pr, consider the Dali Zensor 5 floorstanding.

    I think there are a pair of newer Diamond 100 series floorstanding for about £499pr; Model 155 (2x 6.5" bass).

    In the same line, if you insist on bookshelf, the Diamond 122 are about £279/pr.

    Though perhaps still available the older Diamond 10.2 bookshelf for about £200/pr.

    The Monitor Audio BX2 are about £250/pr.

    The Monitor Audio BX5 floorstanding at £499/pr.

    The matching Center speakers will generally run about £100 to £200 each.

    If you are not using Surround Sound, then I would recommend you eventually get a Stereo amp.

    So, in short, in order of priority -

    1.) New Phono Pre-Amp
    2.) New Speakers
    3.) New Amp

    As I said, the turntable is well above the rest of your equipment, so assuming it is setup properly, the problem has to be the other components not doing it justice.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
  3. sounddog

    sounddog
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    Mostly I agree with Steve / blue wizard...

    Having said that I would look at speakers as the first port of call. Speakers tend to be a very personal choice so try to get to a dealer and listen to as many as possible in your price range. To those already mentioned I would also demo Bowers and Wilkins and KEF.

    Next I would look at a new stereo amplifier. Look at things like Cambridge Audio; Rotel and Arcam.

    Finally then look at a phono stage. The Musical Fidelity V-Link would be my own choice but Cambridge Audio and Pro-ject also make good device.

    Eloise
     
  4. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard
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    Since we are talking about the sound quality of the Turntable, I put the Phono Stage first. I found the existing DAC/Phono Stage for £73. Typically, a Phono Stage is about £100 and a good basic DAC is about £200. If we were talking about sound quality in general, the Yes speakers first, and Amp second. But since the original question was specifically about the Turntable, I went with an improved Phono Stage first. Also, the Phono stage is the lowest cost upgrade.

    The existing speakers and amp are just OK. There is nothing wrong with them, but they are very basic and on the lower end of the scale.

    Speakers will make the biggest difference. A better amps will provide some improvement, but changes in amps tends to be subtle.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
  5. coruja

    coruja
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    I have to agree with both!

    Decent enough TT, a very very nice cartridge - a nude fine line stylus, I don't know about the main amp, speakers, or the phono-stage.

    But looking at the speakers - they look a bit duff to say the least, looks like ones that come with midi systems and is possibly letting the whole system down.

    The phono-stage really for converting vinyl to digital files and seems to be good for that. I am not sure if it would be as good as a dedicated phono-stage. May be that's the next upgrade. if you saying you'd invest up to £600 on each component, you would be able to get hold of one which you would keep you happy through many iterations of the rest of the vinyl set-up.
     
  6. sounddog

    sounddog
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    My reasoning for not upgrading the phono amp first is that when looking at amplifiers for the £5-600 range (or a little more) you could consider things like the Rega Brio-R and Creek Evolution 50a both of which have good quality phono pre-amp built in. Rather than a "per component" budget, working out a total budget may be a good idea.
     
  7. coruja

    coruja
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    I think this is the most sensible option - a system should be more than the sum of its parts!
     
  8. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard
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    SOUNDDOG -

    Excellent point. If you buy a replacement amp that has a good PHONO stage then you solve two problems at once.

    At £500 to £600 per component, there are certainly some nice bits of equipment available, but I also agree, rather than say £x per component, give us a full working budget and the list of equipment that budget needs to buy.

    Then consider your wants and needs, your preferences, priorities, and circumstances. They more information we have about those aspects, the better we can help.

    For example, you would not need a £500 PHONO stage, so that throws the balance of the budget off. It seems you need PHONO (internal or external), Amp, and Speakers. So, less on PHONO and more on Amp and Speakers.

    RE: The Amp - do you insist on Surround Sound or would a Stereo work for you? If your preference is Music, then get a Stereo and a DAC so you can watch movies with the system. If your primary preference is Surround Sound, then we need to bump the budget a bit on the AVR Amp.

    RE: Speakers - Are you set on bookshelf? Can you handle modest Floorstanding? What are the dimensions of your room?

    So, set an overall Budget. Determine what the budget needs to buy you. Consider your priorities, preferences, and circumstances. Then we can divide up the budget appropriately, and focus on recommendations.

    The Onkyo TX-SR308 is obviously a Surround Sound amp, so you must have more than a pair of Sony speakers. We would need to know all the speakers and what Subwoofer you have. If you insist on Surround Sound, then perhaps we can limit the speaker upgrade to just the Front Three speakers (Left/Center/Right). Though likely you will also need a Subwoofer upgrade as well, though that can be delayed for a while if necessary.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2013

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