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post #1 of 10 Old 01-23-2013, 07:39 PM - Thread Starter
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Dear Everybody,

I am a performer and player of primarily "early music," historically-informed performances on copies of original 18th and 19th century instruments, oboe as it happens. For fun, I do improvisatory rock on historic saxes.

I am building a small, two channel system here in the US as I live at least half the year in Europe. Maybe it will seem like lo fi to you folks, but I've been amazingly happy with the JBL bookshelf speakers called Balboa 10's. I found a pair here and would now like to have a simple a system as possible with hopefully a receiver or integrated amp that will allow for some modern attachments eventually such as a digital recorder or input from my Mac laptop for streaming audio from Europe.

Don't have big bucks but could someone give me some advice? At the moment, the equipment would be placed in a room with 8 foot ceilings and about 13 feet x 18 feet. The floors are bamboo and plaster walls. I doubt that furniture would be a factor.

I have always chosen truth over beauty, meaning that I want to hear as much as possible how my friends and myself sound on our cds. Of course, this is very individual and recording environments differ, never mind what particular performers and producers chosen. Nevertheless, with the oboe traditionally being one of the most difficult instruments to record, I do not want the sound "prettyfied" or enhanced. I have had very poor luck in the past with equipment that sets it's own, various playbacks such as jazz, classical, small hall and the like. I prefer to set my own with treble and bass controls though those can vary as well.

Eventually, I want to add a modern phonograph for my 6 foot by 6 foot wall of lp's, most not available on cd, but not yet.

Can anyone give me some ideas?

Also, once and for all, do the connective cables matter and what might be necessary to the speakers which are rated 125 watts? Are honest, AWG 12s appropriate?

Thanks in advance!
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post #2 of 10 Old 01-23-2013, 10:00 PM
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I would suggest that you start with a good-sounding integrated amplifier, such as for example the NAD C326BEE. That will cost about $500 in the US.

For a turntable, I have a Music Hall MMF-2.2 and it is a very good unit for $450. You will also need a phono preamp, and the Musical Fidelity V-LPS is excellent for $198.

For speakers, I suggest the Monitor Audio BX-2 speakers. Another good choice would be the Wharfedale Diamond 10.2 speakers. They run around $500 per pair. These will be a noticeable sonic improvement from the Balboa speakers IMO.

Music Direct and Needle Doctor are good online sources for much of that equipment.

With that system you can have very good reproduction of classical music (which is what I mainly listen to). I think you will be quite pleased with the sound.

If you want a perfectionist system with absolutely pure sound that is totally true to the live instruments, I have found that you have to spend a lot more money, but to do that I have had to spend way over $10,000, so it's just a question of your desire versus your pocketbook.

For speaker cable, I suggest that you get a roll of #14 pure copper speaker wire from Monoprice, part #2748. $13 for 50 feet.

#12 wire is not needed unless you are going to run more than 30 feet of wire to a given speaker, which is unusual.
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post #3 of 10 Old 01-24-2013, 02:30 AM
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what is your budget?

i'm so laid back,i'm laid out
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post #4 of 10 Old 01-24-2013, 03:35 AM
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^second the budget question, you seem to be wanting a reference system but said you don't have "big bucks" what's that eactly lol

I second the Wharfedale Diamond 10.2's for I just got a pair and love them but I would also suggest maybe getting some higher end ($400 a piece or more) studio monitors.

As for the mac input some preamps and receivers have USB inputs that use there DAC's but there usually a lot more money. I would suggest getting a good USB dac and running it to your amp or monitors from there, something like the Schiit Modi or HTR music streamer.

I'd just get some regular 14-16awg speaker wire to start off, better to spend your money on the speakers. As for interconnects Audioquest G-snake and Sidewinder are on clearance for about the price of regular stuff at a larger store like Bestbuy. I'd also check out bluejeans cable.
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post #5 of 10 Old 01-24-2013, 11:46 AM - Thread Starter
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Way less than that! At the moment in my small condo, I need a much smaller and simpler deal though I'd like the integrated amp to have lots of inputs for things digital, like my computer to stream music from a European site, possibly some kind of memory sticks as well as the usual analog and phono sources. As I mentioned, I am perfectly fine with my little 10 inch bookshelf JBL Balboa 10's which require 125 watts at 8 ohms; this is the beginning of my system.

As to your non offer of, uh, friendship, aside from your being married, you're the wrong sex.
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post #6 of 10 Old 01-24-2013, 01:16 PM
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OK, so you have speakers you're happy with. That's a good start. It's your speakers that largely determine the sound of your system. Other components can be chosen more for price and feature set. You need an amp with enough power to drive your speakers, but that's not hard to find in your case. (That 125 watt figure is essentially meaningless, btw.)

In the US, the budget option for amplification is a receiver, not an integrated amp. (A receiver is just an integrated with a built-in tuner. Why it's more expensive without the tuner is a long story.) Receivers come in two-channel and multichannel (aka AVR)varieties, but the latter can be used in two-channel mode. AVRs generally have better connectivity options, and some are no more expensive that two-channel ones. (Again, go figure.) I could make the case that AVRs are a better buy, but they aren't for everyone, and you might be happier with a simpler, old-fashioned stereo receiver. A good basic choice might be the Onkyo TX-8255, which can be had for less than $200. You can certainly connect your Mac laptop to it, either directly or through an inexpensive USB DAC.

As for speaker wire, your intuition is correct: Any basic wire will do. The longer the run, the thicker the wire you need. Here's a good chart to consult for guidance.

And for god's sake, woman, hide your gender on audio boards.

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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post #7 of 10 Old 01-25-2013, 03:55 AM
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Just getting a receiver would be the cheapest option and you can get something fairly decent for not a lot of scratch. Check Accessories4less for a Denon, Onkyo, or Marantz AVR in the $400 range. Avoid bottom-feeding because that is where the crap is. biggrin.gif

Now. If you want to go strictly 2-channel, I'd either go with a USB DAC/Amp combo to your existing speakers OR just go with a USB DAC and Powered Studio Monitors. The latter is going to be minimum $800-900 either way.

I recommend Emotiva.

Option 1) XDA-2 for $400 and XPA-200 for $500. The XDA-2 will do USB Class 2 audio up to 24bit/192kHz and has 5 digital inputs. The XPA-200 is a 150 watt x 2 amplifier. Should be plug-n-play with a Mac but Windows requires the Class 2 Audio driver available from Emotiva. I believe it is the C-Media driver for the CM6631 chipset.

Option 2) XDA-2 for $400 and Airmotiv 5 for $400. The Airmotiv 5 are powered studio monitors with a ribbon tweeter and 5.25" woofer. Each driver have their own internal 50 watt amp ( 100 watt total ) that is crossed over at 2700 Hz. The Airmotiv speakers compare favorably against Behringer and Adam. They are 50/50 up against Genelec and, at least to me, better than Audioengine A5+.

If you are interested in Emotiva, I have a 10% off code valid from 1/15/13 to 2/15/13. They are out of the stuff I want, so I doubt I'd be using it before it expires.

HD-DVD = 94
Blu-Ray = 120 ( 24 Warner red2blu )
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post #8 of 10 Old 01-26-2013, 01:14 PM
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The Harmon-Kardon 3390 Stereo Receiver is less than $300 from Amazon.

That would be an inexpensive and quite good unit you could start with.

It has a built-in phono preamp, which eliminates the need to buy a separate one.

Add a set of speakers and go.
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post #9 of 10 Old 01-26-2013, 06:21 PM
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a good phono pre amp can be over a 100 bucks. I agree with commsysman on the Harmon Kardon. if you have a ipod touch or iphone just buy a 3.5mm jack and hook it to a available port on the back of the amp/receiver. I got jbl n28 bookshelf speakers and they sound amazing with the nad c326bee. I am sure that mcnarus choice of the onkyo would be a good choice for you also. my uncle before he died earlier this year used to be a big onkyo fan. he thought that it was a great brand and sounded good.
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post #10 of 10 Old 01-26-2013, 06:22 PM
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can the Europe site be broadcast on wifi through receiver or iphone/ipod?
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