Best improvement for $

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DFpritchard

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Best improvement for $
« on: 11 Sep 2019, 05:18 pm »
Probably an old and impossible topic but I would appreciate hearing some opinions.  System is Salk Song3s which I have had for a year now and love, Parasound Halo integrated, Emotive ERC-3 transport and built-in DAC. Recently bought the soundtrack to Bohemian Rhapsody, OK movie with great music.  The CD is almost unlistenable.  Dry, flat, no air or space.  Could be a lousy CD, derived as it is from several sources.  Also listened to downloads from the same soundtrack with Schiit Lyr + Bifrost with Sennheiser HD-800.  Much better sound quality but headphones don't move much air and, to my ears, are less involving because of it.

Suggestions on where to focus improvement dollars: new CD/SACD; upgrade the integrated; upgrade with standalone DAC.  Song3s are not going to be replaced.  Wires, cables have already been dealt with.

All opinions welcome; there is no 'right' answer.  Thanks.

abd1

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Re: Best improvement for $
« Reply #1 on: 11 Sep 2019, 05:28 pm »
I'd probably upgrade to a standalone DAC. I'm not familiar with the DAC in the Parasound or the Emotiva, but I know Jim has shown using the Exogal Comet Plus DAC and I've owned that DAC and I have Song3's and it sounds great. You can usually find a great deal on them used (should be around $1100-1300) if you're patient. I eventually upgraded to the PS Audio Directstream Jr, which I also recommend. I would say the performance between the 2 being very similar, but the PS Audio has the built in streamer and maybe a touch more detail. I'd happily use either of these DACs. You can't go wrong with either one.

mresseguie

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Re: Best improvement for $
« Reply #2 on: 11 Sep 2019, 05:43 pm »
Hi,

I've been in your shoes before, and found that the two biggest changes to my experience came from upgrading <first> to a 6SN7 tube preamp - a Don Sachs Model 2. [Of course, there are other manufacturers of excellent tube pres.] The second biggest improvement came from buying a NOS (non-oversampling) DAC. I own two NOS DACs now and love the music they are able to deliver. The first one I bought was a dB Audio Labs Tranquility SE DAC. I wrote about it on AC. My second NOS DAC is made in England by a company named SW1X Audio (catchy name, huh?). My unit is the DAC III STD NOS DAC. It's their level 3 TDA1541 'standard' tube model. It is utterly fantastic8)  I'll eventually write a review of it, but a combination of my being pretty busy and lacking adequate audiophile vocabulary to describe its sound leave me unable to do it justice.

I suspect you'll be best served by buying a stand alone DAC first in order to get an idea of how the DAC in the CD player is holding you back.

Your declaring a budget will be a big help to those who wish to respond.

Enjoy your upgrade journey!

Michael

Early B.

Re: Best improvement for $
« Reply #3 on: 11 Sep 2019, 05:56 pm »
A used DAC in the $500 range will take your system up a couple of notches.

nyc_paramedic

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Re: Best improvement for $
« Reply #4 on: 11 Sep 2019, 08:45 pm »
Do you have any room treatments?

N

DFpritchard

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Re: Best improvement for $
« Reply #5 on: 11 Sep 2019, 11:47 pm »
1. As to budget, $2000 for CD/SACD or DAC, $3-4,000 for 'better' integrated.
2. No room treatments but other redbook CDs sound very good and some are stunning.  Could be the Bohemian Rhapsody sound track is a truly lousy recording, but I'd still like to upgrade something.  You know how that goes...

Thanks for the input.  Another example of what a good community Salk has attracted.

DEP14

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Re: Best improvement for $
« Reply #6 on: 12 Sep 2019, 12:47 am »
Salk Streamer + Solid Dac + Tidal and or Quboz...

Hi Res Streaming.


nyc_paramedic

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Re: Best improvement for $
« Reply #7 on: 12 Sep 2019, 12:57 am »
1. As to budget, $2000 for CD/SACD or DAC, $3-4,000 for 'better' integrated.
2. No room treatments but other redbook CDs sound very good and some are stunning.  Could be the Bohemian Rhapsody sound track is a truly lousy recording, but I'd still like to upgrade something.  You know how that goes...

Thanks for the input.  Another example of what a good community Salk has attracted.

The best "upgrade" I've ever made was treating my room properly. First reflection points: side walls and ceiling. Jim has mentioned this more than a few times here.

"...but I'd still like to upgrade something.  You know how that goes..." Not any more. I got rid of that monkey after I learned how to treat a room properly.

S Clark

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Re: Best improvement for $
« Reply #8 on: 12 Sep 2019, 01:13 am »
Yep, room treatments.  Bass traps, absorption, diffusion
Although, better source material is right there with it.  Hard to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. 

rikkitik

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Re: Best improvement for $
« Reply #9 on: 12 Sep 2019, 01:40 am »
 Though it would probably be easy to upgrade the room, or the DAC, why not just invest in a good copy of the original recordings, and the actual Live Aid DVD. I wouldn't suspect that the soundtrack had much attention payed to the overall sonic quality. And, if that is the case, a better DAC will only expose more sonic "warts".
 Improving the room is never a bad idea, but even Queen GH Platinum is ~$14, try improving the media maybe?

DFpritchard

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Re: Best improvement for $
« Reply #10 on: 12 Sep 2019, 01:55 am »
Re: silk purse out of a sow's ear.  Hard but not impossible.  Arthur Dehon Little boiled a pot full of sows ears and spun the resultant goop into material that he then wove into a purse.  He made two of them.  One is in the Smithsonian, the other was in the board room of his consulting company ADL in Cambridge, MA.

Hadn't even considered room treatments.  Thanks for the suggestion.  It's a tough room with differing heights and surfaces.  Worth looking into.

JLM

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Re: Best improvement for $
« Reply #11 on: 12 Sep 2019, 10:57 am »
First off, what sonic attributes are you trying to improve (beyond finding a better recording of Bohemian Rhapsody)? 


In general:

Contact GIK (they have a circle here at Audio Circle) for advice and be ready to forward room details to them.  They sell very effective treatments (use ten of their 244 panels).  Of course for ultimate system performance, a "good" room (proper proportions and decent size) is needed.

I also owned an Emotiva DC-1 DAC.  It wasn't bad but today's top of the line affordable DAC's, like the $500 Topping DX7s or Sabaj D5 will bring your sound up a couple of notches too (would seem to be the weak link in your current system).  With the fast pace of technology improvements in recent years can't recommend spending serious money on DACs.

timind

Re: Best improvement for $
« Reply #12 on: 12 Sep 2019, 12:47 pm »
2. No room treatments but other redbook CDs sound very good and some are stunning.  Could be the Bohemian Rhapsody sound track is a truly lousy recording, but I'd still like to upgrade something.  You know how that goes...

Thanks for the input.  Another example of what a good community Salk has attracted.

Well now you're getting somewhere. If you have cds which sound fantastic, and some that sound lousy, your system is doing what it's supposed to do; revealing what's on the source material.

That said, if you haven't addressed the room, that should be your next step. For advice on that subject, I suggest you start a thread in the Acoustic Circle. Describe your room, equipment, and goals. Good luck.

ric

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Re: Best improvement for $
« Reply #13 on: 12 Sep 2019, 01:48 pm »
For myself, being satisfied with my speakers and amp (no DAC, just an older Rega Apollo cdp) I set about improving the small stuff: speaker wires--try the Schroeder Method of doubling up (any cables both IC and speaker) look it up, big improvement.
Misc. tweaks: Bybee Quantum Signal Enhancers work, High Fidelity Cables MC-0.5's just plug into an outlet--blew my mind. I now make my own to save bucks. DIY Shakti Hallowgraphs--a must if you ever want to alter your soundstage perceptions. Iso-Acoustics: IMO they can do no wrong--improvements across the board. These are a must for any system and under speakers if you want to maximize.
Finally, I replaced some cheap xover parts with Jupiter Aluminum (the copper was not cost effective) HUGE improvement, sound quality, texture, bass etc.
Good luck!

mcgsxr

Re: Best improvement for $
« Reply #14 on: 12 Sep 2019, 02:02 pm »
Agree that room treatment exploration is a great next step.

I ended up approaching that from a DIY perspective and enjoy the benefits of taming first reflections, and some of the bass trapping I needed.

Ace Deprave

Re: Best improvement for $
« Reply #15 on: 12 Sep 2019, 02:03 pm »
Another vote for room treatments. I have GIK Art Panels, I get lots of compliments about them from people who have no idea that they are room treatments:



Corner bass traps are helpful too:


rikkitik

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Re: Best improvement for $
« Reply #16 on: 12 Sep 2019, 10:31 pm »
 Compliments on the Acoustic Art panels! Was planning on something very similar with multi-panel pictures.

I.Greyhound Fan

Re: Best improvement for $
« Reply #17 on: 13 Sep 2019, 02:55 am »
If you like to listen to a lot of CD's then I suggest a new DAC like the Schiit Yggdrasil,  Chord Qutest or Hugo if you want a headphone amp and DAC all in one.  These are the same DAC, but the Hugo has a headphone amp.  There are plenty of other great sounding DAC's, this is just a suggestion.

I also agree with room treatments if it appears the room is the problem.  Although, looking at your room, you may want to try moving the speakers in and putting the subs on the outside if you haven't already tried it.

JLM

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Re: Best improvement for $
« Reply #18 on: 13 Sep 2019, 11:19 am »
Yes, the subs.  Recommend reading Floyd Toole's "Sound Reproduction" 3rd edition to learn about speakers, rooms, and how they interact.  It's the seminal work for lay folks.  He and others will recommend 3 or 4 subs, placed near the corners to even out the huge inherent in-room bass peaks/dips.   

First priority: room shape (non-square/cubic, 1:1.62:2.62 ratios ideal).

Second priority: room size (bigger the better).

Third priority: multiple subs.

Fourth priority: proper setup (near/mid-field).

Fifth priority: speakers.

Sixth priority:  room treatment.

etc....

Photon46

Re: Best improvement for $
« Reply #19 on: 13 Sep 2019, 11:28 am »
It's hard to tell what your exact speaker placement is (how far from rear and side walls, etc.) Have you experimented with moving the speakers further away from the rear and side walls to see if that improves the deficiencies you mentioned?