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PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2018 12:08 pm 
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Location: Homestead, PA, US
I guess there are two kinds of us. Those who can just walk into a store and routinely write a check, and others who have to save & maybe dream. If you are an audiophile who has sound that's state of the art or even within shouting distance of it; what cheaper equipment did you own on your way up the ladder that got you not that far from where your sound quality is at now ? Also what did the equipment do particularly well, (and not so well) ? Using percentages (60% etc.) how close did its overall sound quality come to what you are using now, and what are you using? I feel bad for the guy who has to scrimp and save and sacrifice, not only for himself, but for his family for a whole year to buy something that something else much cheaper would have matched or even beaten for sound quality.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2018 5:48 pm 
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Location: etobicoke, ON, CA
I found that older Pre-Pros get the absolute best value for the money. The Anthem AVM 30 was particularly amazing. They routinely go for 300 to 400 and brought me 70% of the way there.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2018 7:03 pm 
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Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2012 3:27 pm
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Location: Los Gatos, CA, US
I can't really give you specific recommendations for entry level equipment.
The one piece of advice I can give you is to try using tube equipment, especially for your preamp.
I found it more difficult, and more expensive, to find a solid state preamp that could keep up with the tube preamps I've owned, sonically speaking.

My two cents worth.

Good luck in your search!


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2018 8:52 pm 
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Location: Portland, OR, US
The two suggestions already given are fantastic and you should certainly explore them thoroughly to see if they are consonant with your listening preferences.

I would add vintage Naim gear, that from the 1980s, to the list. Truly high fidelity gear that can be had for pennies on the dollar. All Naim kit, with the exception of the CD players can still be serviced today. The fly in the ointment is that you would have to commit to all of the ancillaries. So Naim speaker cables, interconnect, power cords, etc. The brighter side of that is that the ancillaries are relatively cheap in the context of today’s better systems. Have a look at some nice chrome bumper, or Olive, Naim gear, it may keep you off of the merry go round.

Vintage Naim gear is particularly good at pace and rhythm, as well as having very solid and complete singers and instruments. It is let down by lacking an airy and spacious soundstage. If you like what it does well, nothing else will do, and if you do not, it just belongs on the great pile of has beens. Just another eccentric marque with very little currency. Rather polarizing kit, but clearly worthy of your consideration.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 6:30 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 13, 2017 6:21 pm
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Location: RICHMOND, VA, US
"Ni"? As in Knights Who Say Ni??

Potentially a good topic, seriously, because I always have great respect for guys who will report that cheaper gear outperforms more expensive gear. Rationally, I think most or all of us know this can happen but so few ever seem to document or even claim it. In many forums they get shouted down by fanboys who celebrate the most esoteric & expensive gear only. A status thing as much as anything else.

What comes to my mind, off the cuff? Cambridge Audio CXA60 and various Azur models have really impressed me with their clarity and agility, though they are not shrinking violets in the treble dept and that could be an issue for some depending on speaker pairing and program material. They are also aesthetically appealing imho. Solid build too, what's not to like?

The other surprise for me in the past year has been chip amps. Specifically the FXAUDIO FX502SPRO TPA3250 -- a completely unassuming little box which puts many more expensive amps to shame. And in the under $30 class (!) the Lepai LP-2020TI -- so long as you don't ask too much of it, it's remarkably capable. Just looked them up and the price has gone up. Market behavior I expect.

Anyway, a great time to be alive and enjoying music. Class D has come an incredibly long way in ten years.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2018 7:51 am 
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When typing the caption in, the screen seemed to accept NIRVANA which it cut off to NI when my post came on. Not to go off subject again but "If" you wanted to look up the word nirvana with a reverse facing encyclopedia it would be one of the very middle volumes. Even though N is the 14th letter of the alphabet there are so many words that begin with S and T that it falls in the middle, probably thanks to the relatively limited words starting with the letters of X and Z. The letter J was the very last letter to come into our alphabet. You would think that it would have come after the letter X. Looking up why that is, might be my next project.

Speaking of Project, their turntables must be counted among the best values on the market, although they may not qualify as something that can run with the really esoteric stuff. I am not sure about this, but I always though that maybe there is a chance that it doesn't't cost a fortune to build a state of the art amp, cdp etc. and maybe just maybe that opens up at least the possibility that something could be lurking out there that is really cheap but whose sosounquality comes trailing clouds of glory. I know that in my mods of equipment, there are all sorts of things that make nice degrees of improvement that cost nothing (but fiddling time) like repositioning the transformer, there is electromagnetic interaction going on in there. Or uncrossing some wires so they are not touching each other etc.
NI would not be pronounced "knee" as in the Monty Python Movie unless you are French or Italian. The Ministry Of Silly Walks skit is a classic. It can be viewed on YouTube by punching in Ministry Of Silly Walks Monty Python.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2018 3:41 am 
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Location: Kelowna, BC, CA
I'm using an Exposure 2010S2 integrated which is often available used for under $1k. Very happy with it and it gets me 90% of the way there of the high priced spread.

Don't forget the importance of cabling synergy. I'm using Audio Sensibility interconnects and speaker cables which seem to work quite well with my equipment.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2018 11:06 pm 
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Location: RICHMOND, VA, US
Daresay 1) the $1000 amp can get you 99% of the way toward the $10,000 amp and
2) the whole matter can't be quantified anyway. Which sort of contradicts #1 :wink:


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2018 6:19 am 
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If the Exposure integrated amp really gets within 10% of the best, (you Don't mention what its 90% of), I think I would be making a search for a good used one. In my modding & tweaking I notice than when you make an improvement, the improvement almost always is across the board. In all performance area's. The easiest way to discern what degree of improvement something makes is simply to listen to the soundstage and how much bigger and more open it is. If it sounds like its 20 % more open, you have probably made a 20% improvement in your sound.
Of course stuff like moving your speakers further away from the back wall doesn't improve anything much more than soundstaging, but with most other stuff, as I said the improvement is usually "across the board" improvement. Putting a % on how much bigger & more open the sound is; that's certainly much easier that estimating the improvement percent of purity for instance. I estimate that my sound goes up a few grades each year, which I estimate to be about 50%, with 7% being subtle but clearly audible.When you put on an LP or CD and your system is really way up there, you start to wonder if the most advanced, sophisticated thing in your system isn't the silver or black round thing that you're holding in your hand. It's truly amazing the level of sound quality that they are able to lay down.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2018 7:46 am 
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After reading some user comments about the Exposure integrated, I think I will be on the lookout for a nice condition used one. As far as improvement to sound quality percentages; here are just a few of my estimates. Remember, we are talking General estimates, not exact science here.

Cleaning the bare wires of your speaker cables with something good that removes contaminants well.......5%

Cleaning your rca inputs with something good after having not cleaned them for 2 or 3 years....20%,(greatly depends on your environment).

Popping in a CD laser lens cleaner after 3 months of no lens cleaning......10%


Greening the edges of a CD.....7%

Cleaning the prongs of your AC cord with something good after years of neglect......4%

Putting good footers under your speakers.....18 to 25%, ( depending on which ones ).

Using a great power conditioner with a thick beefy AC cord.The best one I've tried.....20%

Using a great isolation platform under your source.The best one I've tried......between 20 to 25%

Using good footers or isolation platform under your amplifiers.The best ones I've tried.....12%.

Going to near state of the art interconnects,(the best I've tried), and speaker cable, from something ordinary.......35% and that's each. Interconnect, that much and speaker cable, an additional that much.

These are just estimates but even if the percentages are not right down to the last % point, they give an idea of the relative improvements between certain things.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2018 3:06 pm 
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Location: Portland, OR, US
+1 for Exposure, old or new. Though I prefer the older John Farlowe designed gear, which is now firmly in the vintage camp. The brilliant Tony Brady took over from Farlowe at Exposure and designs some great gear free of the eccentricities of the older kit.

Previous to his time at Exposure, Brady was the chief designer at the British marque Onix, not to be confused with the more recent Asian brand of the same name. The British built Onix gear, though somewhat long in the tooth at this juncture, is absolutely marvelous as well. The OA-21 is a particular high water mark of the line.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2018 8:42 am 
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What a lot of cheapo's do is buy a passive preamp for $150 and they're all set, and the dual volume knobs give them more control flexibility than integrated amps without even a balance control. Passive preamp have no gain or even an AC plug usually. Their only purpose is to lessen the signal (volume down) from your source to your power amp. If you connect your CD player or tape deck etc. directly to your power amp ( a good thing to try but be careful), what will most likely happen is some cd's will be too loud while a very few others won't have enough volume. Your sound will be transparent as hell though. A passive preamp lessens the volume so that your source material won't be too loud and overload your amp and speakers. The one in 50 or so CD's that are not loud enough will stay that way since it has no gain. Solution: more efficient speakers or a second system.

When I look inside my passive there is no real circuitry, only a few wires running from the volume control to the Rca jacks.With the amount of circuitry inside integrated amplifiers that the signal has to go through, it gives passive preamps a real potential edge in transparency. Some people say passives lack dynamics etc.and that they still somehow prefer the sound with an active amplifier. I am not sure since I have never AB'd them, and if I did all that would prove is the results between my particular passive preamp and integrated amps. They are worth a try though, especially if you are considering an integrated amplifier stripped of a phono stage, balance adjustment.and what have you anyway.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2018 11:10 am 
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Location: Portland, OR, US
The preamp in the Exposure 2010 and 2010 S2 integrated amps is passive. The more expensive Exposure integrated uses an active preamp section


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2018 12:23 pm 
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Location: Homestead, PA, US
A lot of integrated amps enable one to use it as a separate preamp or as a separate power amplifier. At least a few of the ones I used, have power amps that are really something special. I think one integrated I have has a damping spec of 300. That would be a good idea for another post. Which integrateds, which have seperateable preamp/ power amps have maybe a world class one or the other section for not much money?
Acurus integrateds were known for having passive preamps. Theye are not that well regarded in retrospect by many, but they were decent. However like the Exposure, they cost many times more than a good passive preamp. I got mine on ebay for about $80.There really is not much to them; which is the whole idea in the first place.


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