What to add to enhance old analog setup? - AVS Forum
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Old 01-30-2013, 11:31 PM - Thread Starter
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I need lots of advice. Here is the long setup:. I have very limited funds right now but am trying to fix up my old analog sustem. First step is probably to replace my ancient Sony CD player with a dedicated laptop that can hold all my CDs in a lossless format(Itunes). My regular laptop in in another room and is not always on so need dedicated one for stereo. Thought about Ipod classic but then have to buy a digital dock and a DAC. I don't currently download music, but envision doing so as more becomes available at higher resolution.

My stereo setup, also ancient, consists of Adcom GTP400 tuner/pre-amp, Adcom GFA-535 amp, Monitor Audio Silver 3i speakers. All were purchased in late 80s/early 90s. Mock if you must but it has met my needs very well. I play a mix of classic rock, acoustic folk, jazz, classical and generally at moderate sound levels. Think everything from John Hyatt to Delbert MClinton to Clapton to Jean-Luc Ponty To Bach. If I understand the info I've picked up, the speakers may be a bit weak in bass [45Hz-25Khz, sensitivity 88dB, 8 Ohms, 80 watts, front ported, 5.5" C-Cam mid-bass driver, 1" gold tweeter. ]The amp is listed at 60 watts but reviews at the time said it is more like 80 watts.

Obviously, the primary problem is to get digital signals to analog setup.My first idea was just to add a DAC. Based on reading all over the web, I was leaning toward a Micromega Mydac or a Peachtree Dacit. Currently only need to hook up the computer, but may want to add tv or dvd player at a later date. There is nowhere local to listen. Then I started to think that maybe an even cheaper Dac plus subwoofer might make more sense. Have no idea what to look for or how to hook that to the old Adcom which doesn't have output specifically for a subwoofer.

Elsewhere on this site someone suggested that an Apple Airport Express with better speakers would be a better choice than a basic freestanding DAC. I am now completely confused. I actually think my speakers sound pretty good and they are a good size and quite lovely.

I currently have about $550 ($675 if don't need the laptop) to spend and that has to include any fancy cables or upgraded power supplies. I am willing to buy used but am leery of buying from private sellers on Ebay.

Apologies for the long message and any advice greatly appreciated.
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Old 01-31-2013, 05:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcksnssn View Post

I need lots of advice. Here is the long setup:. I have very limited funds right now but am trying to fix up my old analog sustem. First step is probably to replace my ancient Sony CD player with a dedicated laptop that can hold all my CDs in a lossless format(Itunes). My regular laptop in in another room and is not always on so need dedicated one for stereo. Thought about Ipod classic but then have to buy a digital dock and a DAC. I don't currently download music, but envision doing so as more becomes available at higher resolution.

My stereo setup, also ancient, consists of Adcom GTP400 tuner/pre-amp, Adcom GFA-535 amp, Monitor Audio Silver 3i speakers. All were purchased in late 80s/early 90s. Mock if you must but it has met my needs very well. I play a mix of classic rock, acoustic folk, jazz, classical and generally at moderate sound levels. Think everything from John Hyatt to Delbert MClinton to Clapton to Jean-Luc Ponty To Bach. If I understand the info I've picked up, the speakers may be a bit weak in bass [45Hz-25Khz, sensitivity 88dB, 8 Ohms, 80 watts, front ported, 5.5" C-Cam mid-bass driver, 1" gold tweeter. ]The amp is listed at 60 watts but reviews at the time said it is more like 80 watts.

Obviously, the primary problem is to get digital signals to analog setup

Just because its a computer doesn't mean that its analog audio outputs are sonic trash. An inexpensive cable connects the headphone jack of a laptop to the line inputs of a classic stereo system, and you have something that will play tunes. If the sound quality of this approach is lacking, then your next step is a USB audio interface, and a very good one technically speaking is the Behringer UCA 202 which you can find on the web for under $40.

The larger issue relates to upgrading a system based on these speakers. It is very difficult to obtain any technical information about these speakers at all so thanks for the technical information that you have provided. This means that good bass dynamic range is mission impossible for them. The logical upgrade would be a good subwoofer, but subwoofer upgrades can get messy unless your system is based on an AVR.

An AVR provides almost every solution you might hope for in one package. Since they are so common virtually every kind of digital player is going to work with them. The AVR provides good bass management and may even include an effective automated system tuning facility such as Audyssey, MCACC or YPAO. The power output of just about any AVR is a good match for your speakers and in the same range as you are currently obtaining from your fine old Adcom setup. Your upgrade budget would probably be roughly evenly split between the AVR and the powered subwoofer. Modest subwoofers such as the Polk PSW 505 would be a big upgrade given the limited low end dynamic range of your current speakers.
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Old 01-31-2013, 11:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Addition to my earlier reply, which has not posted yet. Assume it will before this does. Sorry, for split, should not try to do this stuff on my iphone. Takes forever to type- am I showing my age?

Anyway, I could sell everything I have and start over, but suspect that all of it together would only bring a few hundred dollars and not sure that is enough to get anything of decent quality. I've listened to many compact systems in my time and those at the lower price ranges tend to sound tinny or fall apart. Plus, I hate to admit, I have a sentimental attachment to my 5,000 pound Adcoms and pretty speakers. I know it's nuts, but all the reviews online sure indicate that lots of people buy equipment because it looks "cool". I know that when I bought the speakers in about 1990 I could definitely hear the difference between these and cheaper ones and even much more expensive ones, so assume I at least used to have a bit of an ear but - again- limited funds. Years of ballet classes with live music and high school band gave me some idea what to listen for, but have not clue what most of those reviewers are talking about.

I can return the laptop (a Lenovo still in its box, bought because it was cheapest decent quality could find at $200). I have no idea what quality of analog out it has but suspect it has a pretty cheap soundcard at that price. All I need it for is to hold the music. Wish I had not recycled my old desktop a few months ago, could have set it up in cabinet and been done with it!

I thought about a household server hooked to our modem/router, but that would still require something to retrieve the music and the idea is to NOT have to haul my laptop out of my office every time I want to listen to music. I could replace the laptop with an Ipod classic, but know that the analog output on my iphone is rather lacking in oomph. At least it is with my headphones. Fine for running errands and listening to lectures, not for really listening to music. I can set my CD player back up (an old Sony 5 disc player), but seems silly if everything is burned onto hard disk.

I know they make music servers that can hold all your digital stuff, but they cost lots more than I have or can raise quickly. And as far as I can tell there is nothing that could just hook a freestanding hard drive up to that will work. My local Guitar Center and other music stores say that a $150 DAC will suit my needs just fine, but theirs are really designed for recording so they suggested looking online. Are they right or do you really get anything with added expense (please, no flame war, remember I am Newbie to all this and probably can't hear tiny differences)

Feel free to tell me I am clueless, as I am. But I can learn if can find good sources for info. The magazines are interesting,but even if I win the lottery, I am not interested in a $15,000 DAC, so they are off limited use. I am willing to call and talk with people at Sounds Direct, Crutchfields, etc. if that would help, but know they have a perfectly reasonable agenda to sell me stuff.

Thanks for your help.
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Old 01-31-2013, 01:51 PM
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I think a useful first step here would be to buy/acquire a headphone jack to phonos cable and connect your laptop (and/or iphone) to the Adcom GTP400 and see how it sounds.
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Old 01-31-2013, 03:05 PM
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I'm gonna second the AVR-and-subwoofer suggestion. The AVR will give you plenty of digital connections, should you need them in the future, plus all the functionality you could ever want. You won't need the Adcom amp anymore, though you might want to keep the pre/tuner if the tuner section is better than what's in the AVR (which is likely to be the case). So you mostly get to keep your legacy system, but bring it up to modern standards.

A key question is, what kinds of audio outputs are possible on the laptop? HDMI? Optical? USB? AVRs will accommodate the first two. Not sure about USB. You might need the Behringer that Arny mentioned. You won't need any better DAC than that, however.

Oh, and you know not to spend money of wires, right?

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

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Old 01-31-2013, 04:28 PM
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I'm gonna second:
"buy/acquire a headphone jack to phonos cable and connect your laptop (and/or iphone) to the Adcom GTP400 and see how it sounds."
with the following comment:
I don't think a laptop makes a good music server. I'm thinking iphone or android smartphone instead.
This will be a cheap starting point, based on what has previously met your needs.
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Old 01-31-2013, 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by homecinemaquest View Post

I'm gonna second:
"buy/acquire a headphone jack to phonos cable and connect your laptop (and/or iphone) to the Adcom GTP400 and see how it sounds."
with the following comment:
I don't think a laptop makes a good music server. I'm thinking iphone or android smartphone instead.
This will be a cheap starting point, based on what has previously met your needs.

The big difference I see between a laptop and a smartphone is the amount of local storage.

Even cheap laptops have 320 GB of storage, while smartphones generally top out around 32 GB. I'd put basic converter quality close to a dead heat - suprisingly good in either case.
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