Hello Antun and George,
Thanks for the advice. Happy to read the may not be my bottleneck. It’s true, the Sim Phono is good. It’s the latest version. I’m impressed with Sim . I plan on auditioning their integrated Amps.
Which alternative cartridges do you recommend to the Ortofon Blue. Should I stay MM or try an MC.
My main Music is rock, pop, and alternative, but I’m also dabbling with Jazz lately. It’s amazing the difference a great recording makes on the sound. I played Chet Baker Sings LP yesterday, and thought, “I could live with this sound and be happy, no need to upgrade”. But then I drop the needle on a U2 album and my smile fades a bit. Still enjoyable because I love the songs, but that clarity and smoothness are missing.
I have no control over mediocre recordings, so sometimes I think, what’s the use of upgrading.
Someone told me that Grado Gold cartridges would balance my system for rock and pop.
Regarding the rest of my System: Bryston B60 integrated amp, B&W 707 , Cardas 101 speaker cables
I bought the 707s last summer. The latest version. I like their sound. For such small standmounts they fill the room very well.
George, you make a great point about the . Before upgrading to the B&Ws, I had a few other pairs I’ve been using since my youth: Signet, Energy, Sound Dynamics. They’re fun, but they didn’t have the clarity and smoothness I’m searching. As soon as I hooked up the B&Ws , I relaxed with a huge smile.
Of course, the curiosity bug hits me regularly, and I wonder if I should audition other such as Harbeth, Spendor, Klipsch,...or the larger models of the B&W 700 series.
I also wonder about changing Amps. The rabbit hole of hifi.
Okay, I see now why you think your front end needs an upgrade.
Let me fisrt touch on your amplifier and loudspeakers. I think they are very well matched to each other and also to your preferred style of music. Bryston B60 is something of an oddity and rarity in this day and age as it reminds me of Electrocompaniet amplifiers from the eighties. It is an excellent amplifier. Your loudspeakers are good too and like the amplifier, lean towards neutral fidelity with no or very little coloration. If I am not mistaken, the woofer diaphragms are made from "kevlar" and B+W in general offer excellent transient response which is precisely what you need for music styles with a faster tempo.
Now let's talk a bit about what you could do to improve the sound.
I'd suggest replacing the Ortofon Blue MM for a higher quaity cartridge. My recommendation would be the Dynavector DV-10X5. This is a high output MC cartridge so it won't present a significant drag on your phono preamp in terms of gain but it will bring many strengths of MC cartridges to your system. I think this is one of the best cartridges anywhere near it's price and you would have to spend a whole lot more to improve upon it in absolutely every category. Dynavector is fast, dynamic and delicate at the same time and it will surpass your existing cartridge in every category. Just remember to make sure your turntable is in tip-top condition before you start making any changes since only then you will be able to determine how big of a performance upgrade it was.
Also, make sure the connection cable in-between the cartridge and the phono preamp is of high quality. MM and high-ouput MC cartridges are less susceptible to variances in cables but keep in mind that voltage coming out of your cartridge is still very low and is in fact very much similar to what a pick-up on an acoustic guitar would produce. Therefore, low-capacitance and low-resistance cables must be used to ensure frequency response isn't altered because at these miniscule voltage levels, cables can act as capacitors, decreasing the high frequencies in the procoss. This is the last thing you want with a nice cartridge like this.
The other thing is the Pro-Ject tonearm. I am not familiar with the Carbon model but I think it's tonearm should be sufficiently good for a cartridge of this level. It is however best to check with your Pro-Ject dealer or the factory to see if there are any possible compatibility issues. I think there will be none but it doesn't cost anything to check before you decide.
I would also look for a replacement power supply unit for your Simaudio 110LP phono preamp. One of the key differences between a 110LP and a 310LP is the power supply. The 310LP uses a linear supply with a shielded toroidal transformer while the 110LP uses a switch-mode supply. Replacing the 110LP power supply with a nice linear type from a 3rd party manufacturer would certainly decrease the noise floor and bring it more in-line with the higher-priced Simaudio models. This is not mandatory though since your 110LP is still an excellent little phono preamp that, quite frankly, gives a headache to more expensive models from some other manufacturers.
Next, it's finally time to have a look at your digital source. The NAD C516BEE is a decent player but is, IMHO, out of it's league in your system. I recommend you get a music streamer from Cambridge Audio. A model like the CXN would suit your system nicely. This is a fully-featured digital hub with a full-color display and nice set of on-board controls that can also be controlled with a tablet. Cambridge is fuss-free, software is intuitive and easy to use and the sound is really excellent. The CXN uses a pair of Wolfson DACs and some proprietary technologies for optimum sound but you will likely forget all of those and just enjoy the music. In comparative terms, I can say without hesitation Cambdrige Audio source components have always mopped the floor with anything but the really best devices, and even then the differences were nothing to argue about. I have had a Naim ND5XS in my home for a while and the Cambdrige was simply better in every way, at 40% the cost. It was also easier to use and nicer to look at. Model like the 851N would be even better, albeit 50% more expensive than the CXN, and still half the price of something like the aforementioned Naim ND5XS.
Both the CXN and the 851N have digital inputs so you would be able to use your NAD player as a CD transport by connecting the two with a coaxial S/PDIF cable. There are better options for a CD transport but you could certainly use the NAD for that. There is a general ease of use to conventional CD players as opposed to multi-format players and especially music streamers with integrated CD rippers. These are often the cheapest kind available and I am always bothered by the chunky noises they make. It just reminds me the parts inside cost as much as a 20 € DVD-ROM drive you would buy in your local PC hardware store. The NAD is certainly better than that and is straightforward in use. Needless to say, either Cambridge streamers are better at D/A conversion than the NAD so you would be improving your entire digital front end.
I am generally not fond of music streamers but the ones I have mentioned are very compelling and comprehensive indeed.
I hope this is helpful to you and please let us know when you decide.
P.S. If you want clarity, forget either Harbeth or Spendor! I am sure one of these days someone is going to kill me for saying this.