Months of research but can't decide on upgrade path...Help!

Discussion in 'Power Amps' started by Salamero, Oct 18, 2020.

  1. Salamero

    Salamero Rando

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    Hi everyone, I'm a new guy in this forum! For the last 8 or so months I've been looking to upgrade/improve upon my current living room 2.0 setup. I currently have a pair of Paradigm Studio 60s v5 (92 db sensitivity) being driven (bi-amping) by a Pioneer Elite VSX–72TX AV receiver (130W x 7 ch Class-D). The Pioneer is very musical (I listen with tone controls bi-passed/pure direct) but I find that things can get a little bright at times (some of that is the Paradigms) and there's a spot in the midrange that gets muddied or pushed to the back (particularly certain string instruments) in certain songs that I know well. I like how it sounds regardless but when I first auditioned the Paradigms at the dealer, they were hooked up to a Cambridge audio amplifier and they sounded substantially better than they do in my setup (I know room acoustics are part of that but I've heard the same midrange issue with different speakers in a different room). I am mostly streaming music to it through a chromecast audio puck into the Pioneer's Burr-Brown DAC. I listen to classic, hard, indie, & alternative, some pop, R&B, classical, acoustic and electronic music. I am also trying to upgrade my hardware within a budget of Up to $1700. I compiled a long list of my initial contenders for power amps, integrateds and integrated with streaming (I would really appreciate input from this forum if you have experience with any of these components/setups) that I am considering (I broke each down into three different price categories/colors).

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1i49ja_B4qwxacQC7Cih2P4jlWRUaeoti/view

    Honestly I'm a little exhausted, it just seems like there's too many options plus the local dealers in my area where I can audition have mostly stupid expensive equipment and I wonder at what point it is all diminishing returns to a certain degree. When I listen to my system right now, it's clearly enjoyable but it has those issues I mentioned. When I look at the reviews of something like the Marantz PM7000N, which has overwhelmingly positive reviews in terms of features, functionality and sound– all for a $1000, 60 watt amp, DAC, preamp/network streamer... I can't help but ask myself if that's all I need? Then I worry if 60W is "enough", Because honestly I don't know any better. My setup is all I know with the exception of when I went to audition my speakers against Focals and PSBs running through Cambridge audio equipment in a well constructed auditioning room. I know I can pick up the differences in speakers and setups in general but then I read all these reviews about wonderful things like imaging, separation, soundstage , dynamics/speed, and holographic effects, and I am like f****, I don't think I hear that in my setup unless they are just hyperbole used to describe what I'm already hearing? I don't know. Right now I'm leaning towards these options:

    Schiit Vidar ($699) + CCA ($0)=($699)
    Marantz PM7000N ($999)
    NAD C 368 BluOS-2i DAC Amplifier ($1100 Open Box)
    Yamaha S-A801 ($899) + Bluesound Node 2i ($449 on sale)=$1399
    Cambridge Audio CXA-81 ($999 refurbed) + Cambridge Audio CXN (V2) ($749 refurbed)= $1748
    2x Schiit Aegir Amps (2x$799) + Topping D50s ($249) + CAA ($0)= $1850 ....THEN maybe next year get the Freya+ ($899)
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2020
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  2. k4rstar

    k4rstar Done his time

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    your speakers are 3.5 way towers of middling sensitivity, you should stick to relatively high powered amps (50~60 watts+) which are stable into a 4ohm load.

    the fault of recessed midrange you mentioned is likely just an issue with your speakers which crossover at 2.5khz into an aluminum dome tweeter and unlikely to be solved by switching amps.

    you should try different speakers, ideally by hearing as much gear as you can for free. you live in Florida where I am sure there are other audiophiles you can befriend and listen to their systems

    compiling a list of things you're thinking of buying to solve an issue with your system that only you have heard and then asking internet strangers which one you should buy is not a good path to success. at best, you will get positive responses from people who have heard 1 or 2 things on your list and their findings are only valid in the system they heard them in. i.e. of no use to you

    if you want something better than your receiver for not much money I recommend used Adcom electronics. good luck
     
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  3. Salamero

    Salamero Rando

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    They are 2.5 way and the crossover is at 2khz.
     
  4. k4rstar

    k4rstar Done his time

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    crossover points as stated by the manufacturer: 500hz, 2kHz
    two crossover points, three frequency bands, we say 3 way. 2 woofers in parallel, we add a .5
    in this case, you can also count the number of different looking drivers on the face of the speaker :)
    but this is not really important

    https://www.stereophile.com/content/paradigm-reference-studio-60-v5-loudspeaker-measurements

    shows the mating occurs at 2.5kHz, but this is also not really important.
     
  5. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    I am inclined to agree with @k4rstar that your main issues could very well be with your speakers. However I can understand you may be reluctant to move away from them immediately.

    If you’re is set on trying to improve your electronics, I recommend to buy used (from reputable sellers) so that you can try things and see if they take you where you want to go and to determine what sounds best to your ears, on your system. Rather than agonizing over the perfect decision (hint: there isn’t one) get in there and start trying stuff. Buying used, you can simply resell if it doesn’t work out as expected with minimal/no loss.

    However if you insist on going new, this is what I would personally get:
    • Saga+
    • Vidar
    • Modi Multibit
    • Pi2AES + RaspberryPi 3B (streamer) and stock power supply
    • Some Bluejeans cables to hook it all together
    Or if you want an all in one:
    • Hegel H90 (should be discounted because it was just replaced with the H95).
    Whatever you do, get off the CCA, that thing is fine for cheap convenience, but it will hold your system back. What streaming service do you use?
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2020
  6. murphythecat

    murphythecat Self Imposed Exile

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    Id start the journey into comparing as many speakers as you can to your paradigm.
     
  7. mokobigbro

    mokobigbro Acquaintance

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    I'd probably check what is masking your mids as far as acoustics. If your 2.5khz is recessed at your listening room but not at the showroom, there maybe a reflection that's making you lose that 2.5khz of direct sound from the speaker.
     
  8. Salamero

    Salamero Rando

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    I see what you mean. I had read that review years back but I do not look at those measurements closely. Looks like there's also a conspicuous dip between 1khz & 1.5khz. I was really hoping it wasn't my speakers. I've been trying to improve the acoustics in my listening area but it's not the greatest. I'm adding some acoustic panels to the walls nearest speakers but I haven't tried to figure out the resonant frequencies in that space.

    I thought they were 2.5 way because you had one tweeter handling everything above the first crossover, the two subwoofers handling everything below the second crossover and the midrange driver handling everything below the first and second crossover freqs instead of only everything in between the two crossover frequencies.
     
  9. Salamero

    Salamero Rando

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    Hi rlow, I'm definitely not against buying used. Lately I have been looking through Craigslist, AudioMart, Ebay, & Audiogon for deals. I agree that's a good way to figure out what I like and don't like.

    I had been looking at the Hegel H90 but the fact that it didn't have Chromecast built-in (supports mainly airplay, I don't have Apple products) may be reluctant to get it. Right now I'm mail using Amazon music HD. The CCA & the on board DAC on my system both cap out at 24/96.
     
  10. Salamero

    Salamero Rando

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    So I actually started doing that this last weekend. There was a pair of Vandersteer 1ci's being sold by a guy nearby on Craigslist for 175 bucks and I got them! Setting them up to A/B against my Paradigms.
     
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  11. Salamero

    Salamero Rando

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    k4star, I live in a smaller town and none of the people I work with or are friends with are into audio gear, at least not 2 channel setups. It would be awesome if I knew other people that were into this and had equipment that I can listen to.
     
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  12. Salamero

    Salamero Rando

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    So since I last posted on this thread I upgraded to a pair of Focal Aria 936 floor standing speakers and that fixed ALLl the issues I had with my Paradigms. After a month and a half I am extremely happy with how they sound regardless of volume level and type of music. I was not expecting such a dramatic improvement in sound quality! I am still curious about upgrading to a "more capable" amplifier/integrated amp designed for a two channel setup. From looking at the Stereophile measurements the Focal's dip as low as 2.7 ohms and stayed below 4 oms from 100 Hz until around 1 kHz which is where a lot of the magic in the music I listen to happens. So the question is, right now at the levels I listened to I do not experience any issues with distortion or perceived lack of power/headroom when I listen to music (listen @-7 db on my receiver with the max being +8db and usually stay between 35% and 60% volume levels on my Chromecast audio). Should I consider getting a two channel amp to drive those speakers and leave my receiver as the preamp? The reason I ask this is because my receiver seems to have a pretty nice and linear response in the 20 Hz- 20 kHz range from measurements I've seen as well as low noise floor so is it just a waste of money or could I possibly hear a difference if I got something like a Schiit Vidar? And yes I know the only way to know is to get it and try it out in my system but I still would like to hear what people think! I mean otherwise what's the point of this forum?!:D
     

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