The way forward and the law of diminishing return.

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listenermark

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The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« on: 14 Sep 2021, 07:53 pm »

I re-discovered this hobby during the pandemic lock down.  After cycling thru some budget gear (and making some rookie mistakes) I have arrived at a modest system that sounds good to my ears.  While I am pleased with the current sound I know that better can be had.

Do you have a guiding principal/philosophy when it comes to upgrades?  I am not looking for specific gear recommendations, but rather your general philosophy for building a system.  What advice would you give a newbie who wants to improve their system?  What are the things to avoid? What mistakes have you made in the past?  The only personal rule I have discovered (so far) is to avoid sideways moves (i.e. swapping out very similar gear in hope of some new magical synergy.)

My room is 14x17 with vaulted ceilings. My gear is an Emotiva integrated amp (50 wpc), Schiit Modius dac, GR Research XLS encores, and two 10” Klipsch  subs.  I listen to all genres, but favor contemporary electronic artists.  Typical listening volume is 70-85 db.

Thanks
  -m

SteveFord

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Re: The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« Reply #1 on: 14 Sep 2021, 08:05 pm »
I think you would need to identify what things you feel are lacking.
What do you find wrong or sub-par with the sound you're getting?
My philosophy is what is missing, what is the weakest link and take it from there.

toocool4

Re: The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« Reply #2 on: 14 Sep 2021, 08:19 pm »
Never trust a review or anyone else’s say so, always listen before you buy and if you can listen in your own room with the rest of your gear is even better. Let your ears be the judge as they know what you like.

About price when upgrading always go 3 x or greater than what you have now, else it’s just often a sideways move to something a bit different.

Tyson

Re: The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« Reply #3 on: 14 Sep 2021, 09:02 pm »
Buy the very best speakers you can afford and then build the rest of the system around them.

And invest in good quality room treatments..

WGH

Re: The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« Reply #4 on: 14 Sep 2021, 09:36 pm »
What advice would you give a newbie who wants to improve their system? .....What mistakes have you made in the past?

I never knew what I wanted until I started going to audio shows. Your GR Research XLS encores will respond well to any changes in electronics.
The second best way I improved my system was to start/join an audio club. It's quite an education hearing how different systems sound, we also loan equipment to each other. If there are no clubs in your area then asking about auditions here in AC works, as an example I have seen many requests for people wanting to hear Salk speakers. Pick a brand and ask if there is anyone in your area wanting to show it off.

Mistakes? None come to mind. I took my time and listened to my system for years before making any changes.

SET Man

Re: The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« Reply #5 on: 14 Sep 2021, 10:20 pm »
Hey!

    Over the years I've noticed a few things, here are what come to mind right now...

1. Price tags mean nothing.
   
    I've heard some expensive stuffs at shows and even in some real home setting here around NYC that sound awful. And have been surprised by some less expensive stuffs that sound musical and let me enjoy the music. So, more expensive doesn't always mean better.

2. More is not always better.
   
   More power, bigger speakers and etc don't always add up to better sound. It is more about quality than quantity, how loud you listen and your room size. Your speaker and your room interaction is the most critical to me.

3. Measurement don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing!

    Seriously! Lately I've noticed many people mostly younger people or newbies get caught up in spec and measurement... I think we can partly thanks YouTube for this. Don't get me wrong, to me measurements and specs are important especially when designing something to make sure that it works as it should and won't blow up. Also, you can use it to give you idea if it will work well with other component. But it will not tell you if the component will sound good to your ears. I'll take amp with 1% THD that sound like music to me over one with 0.00001% that sound bad and mechanical to me anytime! Actually, as you can see with my screen name here, yes I'm using SET amps and they are not know for low distortion for sure.

4. Go out and listen for yourself.

    I know it is hard to do these days. Audio magazines and I see the popularity of people watching YouTube for audio reviews are great for you to see what is out there. But if it is possible listen to things before you buy it. Also if you know any other fellow audiophiles in your area get in touch and you can talk and exchange your idea and etc.

5. Newer doesn't always mean better.

    Don't over look used equipment. You can save lots of money buying good well cared equipment and if you ended up don't like it just resell it and likely you won't lose any money. To me there are not much improvement or major breakthrough the past 25 year or so in things like amp and pre amp, some are still compete well with today's newer model. By the way, my Welborne Lab SET amps will turn 22 years old this December and I still like them.

6. And the most important thing of all... TRUST YOUR OWN EARS!
   
    What sound good to me could sound awful to you. It is "your" system to play your music so buy what sound right to you.

  That's all from me for now.

Buddy

Early B.

Re: The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« Reply #6 on: 14 Sep 2021, 10:36 pm »
First of all, I applaud you for asking all the right questions...it took me 10 years to realize that I needed to build my system upon a philosophical foundation.

The most important rule is to buy POWER!!!!  The quality of every component is rooted in its power supply. Audiophiles love separates for this reason -- they generally sound better. POWER also refers to everything related to the propagation of the electrical signal, i.e., power conditioners, power cords, ICs, etc. All of it matters.   

Support the small niche designers such as you have via GR Research. Far more bang for buck, ability to communicate directly with the designer, and you usually receive exceptional customer service.

The only way you're gonna know what you like is through experimentation in your own system. Take advantage of swapping out gear as much as possible over many years. Eventually, you'll figure out what you want. There's no shortcut.

 

Tyson

Re: The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« Reply #7 on: 14 Sep 2021, 10:43 pm »
I am a big fan of Danny's designs.  I'd keep those Encores, sell the Klipsch Subs and then use the $$ to build a pair of Servo OB subs, and use those Servo OB subs as stands for the Encores. 

And, like I said before - invest in room treatments.  You can't hear other improvements to the system as well if your room is occluding the sound from your speakers. 

Early B.

Re: The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« Reply #8 on: 14 Sep 2021, 10:58 pm »
....sell the Klipsch Subs and then use the $$ to build a pair of Servo OB subs, and use those Servo OB subs as stands for the Encores. 

Absolutely!!  Every other audio component will get swapped out, but the OB subs will remain for a lifetime of enjoyment.

G.Michael

Re: The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« Reply #9 on: 15 Sep 2021, 04:32 am »
Quote
I am not looking for specific gear recommendations, but rather your general philosophy for building a system. What advice would you give a newbie who wants to improve their system? 

Wow, good topic! :thumb: :thumb:

Room Acoustics:
--I've done it with acoustical treatments strategically placed on the walls. especially in the corners.  I've done this in the dedicated tv/stereo room, previously a spare BR, and my wife doesn't get annoyed by the setup.  Otherwise the layout is conventional: Wall-mounted tv above the equipment rack with speakers on each side (though a lot of acoustical treatments in those front corners).

--I have a friend who has combined interior design with acoustical treatments in his living room using mostly conventional furnishings, specifically the choice and positioning of furniture, choice of drapes, and choice of wall hangings.  There are a couple telltale signs, like the stack of large pillows in the corner next to his tv/equipment rack.  But those pillows are color-coordinated with the rest of the room, and they fit visually.  Also, his equipment rack is not techie.  It looks to be a long narrow antique hardwood table with one shelf across the bottom.  TV on top.  Turntable on top.  Other equipment on the shelf below.  Most every piece of equipment is supported by Isoacoustics pucks or iso-stands.  Some equipment is stacked, e.g., disc transport on top of a DAC (separated by an Isoacoustics piece).  So much of what he does runs counter to audiophile convention, and his system sounds GREAT and the room looks GREAT.  One more point: This is done in an "open concept" layout (no walls between LR and DR and Kitchen).  Somehow the great majority of sound energy that travels into the LR and DR dissipates there and doesn't reflect back into the LR. 

Clean Electricity: Seems essential for a low-noise system.  And, in my experience, easier to solve than are acoustic problems. 


Letitroll98

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Re: The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« Reply #10 on: 15 Sep 2021, 11:32 am »
This post will do nothing but second what has been said already, but sometimes re-enforcing helps bring the correct advice above the internet noise.

Buy Better Speakers has already been mentioned and you've already done it, you'd have to spend a lot to better the GR's you have now.  But to your query, my philosophy has always been speakers make the most difference, period.

More Power.  Yes, you want quality amplification, but more power hides a lot of sins.  And what is more power depends on the environment and speakers.  I assume you know these things, 83db 1 watt at 3' speakers in a large room may need 500 watts to make the same jump as moving from 5 to 10 watts with 108db efficiency in a small room, so I'll leave it as More Power.

The Room is the Elephant.  Most of us are forced to treat imperfect rooms.  Pick the best available in your situation, and attack it's flaws.  Measurement is your ally here, your ears will lie to you.  If you're buying or building a residence and can choose a perfect Fibonacci dimensioned space god bless, for the other 98% of us we gotta work with what we got.

Source Components and Cables aren't less important, and sometimes they're more important than other factors, but they're more subtle and nuanced.  The efficacy of these depend on the first three, they only can become more important when you resolve speakers, power, and room.  Only then can that new turntable or DAC change your life.

Craig B

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Re: The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« Reply #11 on: 15 Sep 2021, 12:42 pm »
Just as you must trust your own ears, you're also the only person qualified to make value judgments on how much to spend on anything. Everyone else's circumstances and preferences are going to be different from yours.

JLM

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Re: The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« Reply #12 on: 15 Sep 2021, 02:45 pm »
Although the room is of secondary importance to loudspeakers it can handicap everything else.  The biggest mistake I made was early on, going with too big of loudspeakers that would overpower any room I'd ever be able to afford.  Now I'm one of those lucky guys who has a Fibonacci shaped room (8ft x 13ft x 21ft)  in the basement that is well insulated and dedicated to me.  An insulated/dedicated room allows me to listen to what and when I want at lower levels.  And I always recommend Floyd Toole's book "Sound Reproduction".  Toole is a well respected acoustician.

Audition loudspeakers carefully.  Take your time.  Bring a good range of your favorite music including poorly recorded guilty pleasures to make sure the loudspeakers don't make portions of your library unlistenable.  And take notes, which will force you to concentrate.  Limit yourself to 3 or 4 loudspeakers per day and try to find facilities that mimic your room.  This may take months/years and weekend trips. 

Power amps exist only to serve your chosen loudspeakers.  In modern systems preamps are optional.  My system consist of a laptop for control, a streamer/DAC, a pair of mono-blocks with matching power supplies, commissioned loudspeakers, three subwoofers (ala Toole), and ten GIK 244 absorption panels in the mid-field setup.  The room was free (part of a house we were building), the key being design more than materials.  My system is moderate cost compared to many here at AC, roughly $6500 plus laptop, but a very nice system could be done for under $2000.

Vince in TX

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Re: The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« Reply #13 on: 15 Sep 2021, 03:29 pm »
I am a big fan of Danny's designs.  I'd keep those Encores, sell the Klipsch Subs and then use the $$ to build a pair of Servo OB subs, and use those Servo OB subs as stands for the Encores. 

And, like I said before - invest in room treatments.  You can't hear other improvements to the system as well if your room is occluding the sound from your speakers.

Absolutely this.   I can't tell you how much I am enjoying my servo subs.   You would have to hear them.   I had a pair of SVS SB-2000 subs performing LFE duty while I built my OB Duals.   It took a few months.   Now that they are integrated and broken in (to some degree) the sound is absolutely intoxifying.

I've also been treating the room bit by bit, and every incremental change just makes things sound better and better.   GR Research Power cables, speaker cables, and my Odyssey Kismet amp are still in planning or in transit.   Danny's kits are worth every penny, for sure.

Tyson

Re: The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« Reply #14 on: 15 Sep 2021, 04:52 pm »
Absolutely this.   I can't tell you how much I am enjoying my servo subs.   You would have to hear them.   I had a pair of SVS SB-2000 subs performing LFE duty while I built my OB Duals.   It took a few months.   Now that they are integrated and broken in (to some degree) the sound is absolutely intoxifying.

I've also been treating the room bit by bit, and every incremental change just makes things sound better and better.   GR Research Power cables, speaker cables, and my Odyssey Kismet amp are still in planning or in transit.   Danny's kits are worth every penny, for sure.

Yeah, the Servo OB subs are game changers.  You really have to hear them in order to understand how incredibly great they are.

CSI

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Re: The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« Reply #15 on: 15 Sep 2021, 05:18 pm »
Buy a preamp with tubes in the input stage. Mine (PS Audio) came with 12AU7's but I rolled in 7DJ8's early on and love it. The point is, you can make substantial changes in the sound by just swapping a couple of tubes. Not a heavy extra investment for a lot of sonic flexibility.

timind

Re: The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« Reply #16 on: 15 Sep 2021, 05:30 pm »
Before upgrading any gear, be sure your room and speaker setup are ideal for audio. If you haven't done this, you'll be amazed at the difference proper speaker placement and room treatments can make. You may find the sound is too good to mess with. If you do decide to upgrade from there though, you'll hear each change much better. Welcome to AudioCircle and enjoy the ride.

I.Greyhound Fan

Re: The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« Reply #17 on: 15 Sep 2021, 06:35 pm »
Great topic and I can't argue  about anything that others have posted.  Here is my 2 cents worth.  Looking at your gear, you have excellent speakers.  If the subs are working to your liking I would replace those last.  I would replace the Emotiva with something higher end.  Maybe a separate SS amp or class D amp and a tube preamp. There are also plenty of nice Integrated amps available now. I would shoot for something with at least 100wpc for greater dynamics.  Without knowing your budget or what you have access to locally to listen too it is hard to make a recommendation.  I would also consider a DAC upgrade.  If you like Schiit gear, consider the Gungnir multibit with the Unison usb or Yggdrasil.  The  Bifrost 2 is cheaper and supposedly gives you 90% of the original Yggy whatever that means.  DAC's sound different and  as they go up in price you get more detail, depth, resolution, quieter background, transparency and musicality.  I have owned many higher end DAC's and done DAC shootouts and they all sound different.  Certainly consider going used unless you prefer to buy new with a good return policy.

As far as subs, I would replace those last.  OB designs are great but I also like  Rythmik servo controlled subs.  My son just bought one and I have a friend that runs dual Rythmiks with his Magnepans.  They sound great.  They have their budget servo subs at around $550 ( a giant killer supposedly)or the F12 which is around $1K.  I encourage you to read about them.  There a plenty of YouTube video's comparing SVS and Rythmik subs

You have nice gear, especially the speakers.  To me, your electronics and subs are the weakest links. But I think that you will get the greatest improvement by upgrading the electronics first.  I would certainly take a look at AVAHiFi gear.  Stellar sound at reasonable prices. They are nothing fancy  to look at but sound great.  The are plenty of other great companies who make great sounding gear.

By the way, what model Klipsch subs do you have?

mcmusicman

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Re: The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« Reply #18 on: Yesterday at 02:45 am »
My .02 FWIW.....we all have different approaches.

1. Edit....I confused OP's speaker range.  On the subs, using room correction & setting the low pass at a few Hz above the low range is important for good integration. Correct settings and asymmetric placement with the correct delay can be a game changer.

2. If you are streaming, a DAC can leave things a little too clinical. Adding tubes in your preamp or line stage will give some gain, a nice bloom and richer sound. 

3. I'm a separates guy and I want my amp to do one thing, amplify neutrally. Buying new then trading up means lost money overall.  I saved up for the amplifier I wanted and will not have to buy again for 15 years. Develop friends in this community, some of us have extra amps lying around and will be happy to lend you one to experiment and listen with regarding power combinations. I know I can do this if you are near NC. If you can not afford what you want, do not discount the used market. Top Shelf used is better than compromising on quality to buy new.

4. Treat your room....If it is bright, lots of hardwood and full walls then use diffusion before you buy absorption. A nice rug is your friend. Less is more...go slowly.

5. Practice critical listening...find a dealer or friend that will let you listen to some different material in their better room so you can get a feel for Width, Depth, Holography, Forward Presentation, Cohesion, transparency, Air etc.  Ask questions and listen, then go home and listen to the same material so you can see what you want to change the most.

6. The source is huge.  For instance, the difference between Spotify & Qobuz High-Res is like a hamburger and a steak.  Nothing will improve a poor source. 

Good Luck and enjoy the ride :)

JLM

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Re: The way forward and the law of diminishing return.
« Reply #19 on: Yesterday at 02:11 pm »
Suggest Buchardt A500 active loudspeakers.  F3 = 25 Hz, includes everything a digital system needs in two monitors and small hub and includes room correction DSP, equalization, and controlled directivity design.  Highly advanced and well respected.  Just add a smartphone, tablet, or laptop for control.  Currently $4400 shipped, just add stands.  No need to worry about synergy between components, wires, racks, or aesthetics.