New 2 channel system - $2500 budget - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 29 Old 09-02-2013, 11:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello,

I'm starting with a clean slate, here's what I'd like:

-Spacious, immersive sound (is a surround system necessary?)
-Effortless bass down to 25-30hz
-Excellent room correction and some form of dynamic volume to permit engaging late night low-volume listening
-Non-fatiguing tonal balance (can't stand bright/screechy noises)

Source equipment:
-HDMI or optical from Apple TV and Boxee Box, will be streaming lossless audio files from my laptop and phone

Room dimensions/layout:
-15' x 20', enclosed by three walls, opens into an eat in kitchen on the fourth side

Looking to get:

Speakers (in order of preference):
-Magnepan MMG - $600/pair direct
-Martin Logan Motion 12 - $800/pair Newegg
-Boston Acoustics A360 - $400/pair
-Infinity P362 - $200-400/pair
or should I get similarly priced bookshelves instead? If so, which ones?

Receiver (~$500 unit with Audyssey MultEQ XT from here):
-Denon X2000
-Onkyo 809
-Marantz 6006
-Denon 3311
or other - what will drive the MMGs well?

Subwoofer:
Polk PSW-505 (~$200 on Amazon)
or other? (SVS, HSU etc - good place to order online?)
-Is it better to get two PSW-505s or a single unit that costs twice as much?

Total ~$1100-1500, although I can stretch to $2500 if I will get significantly better sound quality. Will appreciate any help/feedback. Thanks!
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post #2 of 29 Old 09-02-2013, 12:08 PM
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Quote:
-Spacious, immersive sound (is a surround system necessary?)
You'll have to be your own judge on that.
Quote:
-Effortless bass down to 25-30hz
Subwoofer is mandatory, preferably two of them.
Quote:
-Excellent room correction and some form of dynamic volume to permit engaging late night low-volume listening
AVR also mandatory.
Quote:
-Non-fatiguing tonal balance (can't stand bright/screechy noises)
Again, you'll have to be your own judge on that. One man's bright is another man's laid back. Do not buy speakers without hearing them in your own room. It's the only way you'll know.
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Speakers (in order of preference):
-Magnepan MMG - $600/pair direct
-Martin Logan Motion 12 - $800/pair Newegg
-Boston Acoustics A360 - $400/pair
-Infinity P362 - $200-400/pair
or should I get similarly priced bookshelves instead? If so, which ones?
Have you listened to these? Or are you just going by what stupid people say on the Internets?

I'd be thinking bookshelves plus subwoofer(s), not towers.
Quote:
Subwoofer:
Polk PSW-505 (~$200 on Amazon)
or other? (SVS, HSU etc - good place to order online?)
-Is it better to get two PSW-505s or a single unit that costs twice as much?
It's better to get two that each cost twice as much. smile.gif

Seriously, between bookshelf speakers, AVR, and subwoofer(s), I'd probably spend the most on the subs.

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

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post #3 of 29 Old 09-02-2013, 01:59 PM
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Seriously, between bookshelf speakers, AVR, and subwoofer(s), I'd probably spend the most on the subs.

I recommend starting the spending on the subwoofer(s) at the price of the AVR or the L&R speakers, whichever is more.

The only universal justification I can see for spending big bucks on AVRs is to get better a automated system optimization system, but its hard for me to figure out where to stop spending money on (a) better sub(s).
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post #4 of 29 Old 09-02-2013, 02:28 PM
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Subs are very important for your requirements, but don't skimp on bookshelves either. Most of the information in music is in the mid range. Bass and treble are icing on the cake. If mid range sucks the best sub or tweeter in the world won't repair the sound.
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post #5 of 29 Old 09-02-2013, 02:53 PM
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You can get a great AVR for $200 to $500. I use the Pioneer VSX522 in my bedroom system and it does anything I need. It was less than $200. You can buy a great Blu Ray player for $90 that has internet connectivity. Spend the rest on Speakers. They are what really matters. Personally I would prefer to have one good subwoofer rather than two also rans. SVS and Hsu both have entry level 12" models at $500. You could get one or two depending on the bookshelf speakers you choose. Those would be solid performers with good sound quality.

I have little advice for you on bookshelves. The only bookshelves I've owned that I liked were the B&W 805 and those would blow your budget. I had a pair of Pinnacle bookshelves in my service department years ago and they weren't really impressive. OK for background music but I wouldn't put them in my home stereo. Otherwise all of my speakers have had woofers in them. I have a personal preference for letting the main speakers deal with the non LFE bass and just let the sub handle LFE and give the main speakers just a little bit of support. Others favor giving the subs a more prominent role. I use just one sub for that reason but I understand the value of using more than one. It's good if you can do it but don't go under $500 for a sub or you will end up with something that is probably unsatisfactory over the long haul. Good luck. Let us know what you did.
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post #6 of 29 Old 09-02-2013, 03:03 PM
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Here's a thought for you. I have a pair of the Towers as my main speakers and they are really quite amazing for their price. EMP is the internet direct arm of RBH Sound in Utah. These are Chinese made speakers, designed by RBH and sold internet direct with no middle man markups. They are certainly high value. As you can see from the link, there are bookshelf speakers as well. I haven't seen them or heard them but I have intimate experience with the towers and I certainly recommend them. They well ship them to you at their expense. If you don't like them and don't want to keep them, they will take them back without a fuss but you have to pay the return shipping. That gives you a chance to listen to them in your own room with fairly little risk. Just a thought. The bookshelves would leave room for two subs in the budget. Perhaps the towers would too.
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post #7 of 29 Old 09-02-2013, 07:18 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Have you listened to these? Or are you just going by what stupid people say on the Internets?

The latter, admittedly. I'm fairly keen on Magnepan since I've never used a flat panel speaker before and am intrigued - is there a good argument against going with the MMG, or even the MMG W, since I'm leaning towards spending more on quality subs? The risk free trial seems great.

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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

The only universal justification I can see for spending big bucks on AVRs is to get better a automated system optimization system, but its hard for me to figure out where to stop spending money on (a) better sub(s).

Indeed. But I've heard that some receivers can cut off when driving 4ohm speakers at high volumes due to excessive current draw. Onkyo seems to explicitly mention which of its receivers are '4 ohm stable'. So that's what I'm factoring in. I wonder if this would be sufficient to drive Magnepans?

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Originally Posted by FMW View Post

Here's a thought for you. I have a pair of the Towers as my main speakers and they are really quite amazing for their price. EMP is the internet direct arm of RBH Sound in Utah.

The bookshelves (E5Bi) seem to be $225/pair though they're out of stock. Not to sound daft, but I'd like to spend more on speakers!

As for subs, these two options seem interesting (~$1000):
http://www.svsound.com/dual-subwoofers/dual-pb-1000
http://www.hsuresearch.com/products/uls-15.html

Hence the system would be:
-Magnepan MMG ($600)
-Denon AVR-X1000 ($330)
-One of the above subwoofer options ($1000)

Total: ~$2000
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post #8 of 29 Old 09-02-2013, 09:24 PM
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For a $2k two channel system, the speakers I would get is this easy to assemble madisound kit, it has great off axis response. It has excellent performance measurements, I think it would be much better than any finished speaker in its price range. It is very easy to assemble, you do not need any uncommon tools and you don't need to be a carpenter, it is not a big project. The bang for the buck regarding sound quality won't be matched, largely because you save on labor. Any receiver could drive those. A great two channel receiver is the Harman Kardon 3490, it has a solid amp and will drive nearly any speaker. There is a lot to like about surround sound receivers though, even for two channel applications. For the subs, I would go with a couple of these Hsu VTF2 mk4s, a pair will set you back a bit les than $1200 shipped. The sound quality will be very high and the headroom will be endless. You also have lots of ways to configure the bass sound to your taste. You could also use the subs as speaker stands. That two channel setup would sound terrific.
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post #9 of 29 Old 09-03-2013, 02:07 AM
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For a $2k two channel system, the speakers I would get is this easy to assemble madisound kit, it has great off axis response. It has excellent performance measurements,

Can you point me at measurements that are not highly smoothed, and from an independent source?
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post #10 of 29 Old 09-03-2013, 03:12 AM
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Can you point me at measurements that are not highly smoothed, and from an independent source?

I don't know of any independent measurements of those speakers. Usually its Zaph doing the independent measurements of other speakers and drivers. Given the expertise of the designer and the weight he gives to objective verification, I would be very surprised if these were mediocre speakers in any way.
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post #11 of 29 Old 09-03-2013, 06:13 AM
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Can you point me at measurements that are not highly smoothed, and from an independent source?

I don't know of any independent measurements of those speakers. Usually its Zaph doing the independent measurements of other speakers and drivers. Given the expertise of the designer and the weight he gives to objective verification, I would be very surprised if these were mediocre speakers in any way.

That's not really the question at hand. I'm interested in knowing whether they are exceptionally good. If you add a finished cabinet (just black to be competitive with Pioneer Andrew Jones or Infinity Primus) the Zaph speakers are getting a bit salty. That's fine if they are really good, but they have competition.
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post #12 of 29 Old 09-03-2013, 06:38 AM
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Originally Posted by sohels View Post


The bookshelves (E5Bi) seem to be $225/pair though they're out of stock. Not to sound daft, but I'd like to spend more on speakers!

Do you equate price with sound quality?
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post #13 of 29 Old 09-03-2013, 07:16 AM
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Have you listened to these? Or are you just going by what stupid people say on the Internets?

The latter, admittedly. I'm fairly keen on Magnepan since I've never used a flat panel speaker before and am intrigued - is there a good argument against going with the MMG, or even the MMG W, since I'm leaning towards spending more on quality subs? The risk free trial seems great.

Flat panel speakers are somewhat atypical. Noteworthy characteristics include placement problems, because you should have a lot of volume behind them as they shoot massive amounts of sound out their backs, and somewhat limited dynamic range. IOW, they aren't the loudest things in the world by far.

Magnepan is a good company but its the old "I canna not change the laws of physics captain" thing.
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post #14 of 29 Old 09-03-2013, 07:40 AM
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

That's not really the question at hand. I'm interested in knowing whether they are exceptionally good. If you add a finished cabinet (just black to be competitive with Pioneer Andrew Jones or Infinity Primus) the Zaph speakers are getting a bit salty. That's fine if they are really good, but they have competition.

I have the Primus p362 and have spent some time with the Pioneer tower. Both are good for the price, but I'd definitely be willing to give the Zaph speakers a chance. The Pioneers is just too tame for my ears, on the other hand the Primus are punchier but they are a bit fatiguing after awhile. If you have been to Zaphs page, you can see he knows what he is doing. He knows his drivers and crossovers as well.
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post #15 of 29 Old 09-03-2013, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by shadyJ View Post

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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

That's not really the question at hand. I'm interested in knowing whether they are exceptionally good. If you add a finished cabinet (just black to be competitive with Pioneer Andrew Jones or Infinity Primus) the Zaph speakers are getting a bit salty. That's fine if they are really good, but they have competition.

I have the Primus p362 and have spent some time with the Pioneer tower. Both are good for the price, but I'd definitely be willing to give the Zaph speakers a chance. The Pioneers is just too tame for my ears, on the other hand the Primus are punchier but they are a bit fatiguing after awhile. If you have been to Zaphs page, you can see he knows what he is doing. He knows his drivers and crossovers as well.

Ever work with the guys who work with drivers for JBL? They actually design the drivers that their systems use.
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post #16 of 29 Old 09-03-2013, 08:14 PM
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I think a big difference is that, although the Pioneer and Infinity are definitely striving for technically good performance, they were chiefly designed to make a nice profit. Corners have to be cut with those designs. They do benefit from much much larger bulk purchase on parts, of course. However, with a kit you do save on quite a bit on labor costs. I also think that something like the Madisound kit is more on the hobbyist end, and they don't expect to make a big profit per unit on something like that. It isn't uncommon to see the Pioneers and Infinitys get some huge discounts when on sale, so their parts expense can't be that high, I'm guessing not nearly as high as the Zaph kit. My guess is the Zaph kit maybe a better value. I ought to get some to compare to my other speakers, many of which are considered high value, inexpensive speakers; Infinity, Behringer, Hsu, etc.
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post #17 of 29 Old 09-04-2013, 05:13 AM
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I think a big difference is that, although the Pioneer and Infinity are definitely striving for technically good performance, they were chiefly designed to make a nice profit.

In business there are only two kinds of people - those who are striving to make profits and those who are lying to you. In business there are two kinds of profits - gross profit and net profit. If you don't have gross profit you aren't running a business you are running a charity. Nothing wrong with charities, but few people can afford to be the deep pockets behind one. If someone is selling speakers on the internet, I can say without impugning their character in the slightest that one of their goals is to at least have some gross profit and maybe even a little net profit. I strongly suspect that the ongoing churn in internet speaker suppliers relates at least partially to people discovering that the net profits they anticipated weren't there. Even if you are independently wealthy making a profit boosts your ego of which at least a little bit is required to offset the emotional costs of running a business that serves the public.
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Corners have to be cut with those designs.

Every rational design has a goal, and having a goal means that there are places you don't go. It isn't about cutting corners, it is about not spending time and money on unimportant or less important things. It may be as simple as the fact that a retail speaker driver returns a cost benefit for better cosmetics, while a driver that lives its life outside of the public eye can skimp on appearance with no real cost.
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They do benefit from much much larger bulk purchase on parts, of course.

As a rule JBL custom designs and builds every driver that you find in their products. They either build those drivers in a contract shop but mostly they make them in a factory of their own. There have been cases where they bought drivers that were designed and built outside of their organization, but in many cases they ended up buying those businesses. I'm trying to recollect the last driver manufacturer that they bought that I know of - it was a well-known French company that was famous for making inexpensive high performance plastic-domed tweeters. Those drivers used to be found in a lot of systems, but Harman diverted their entire output into their factories, which BTW made them and their performance/cost advantages unavailable to everybody else. Other manufacturers cloned them subject to any patents that may have been in force.

That's not the same as bulk purchases at all. There is a big difference in terms of the control that a designer and builder of drivers have, as opposed to someone who buys off-the-shelf drivers. There are also two levels of purchases of off-the-shelf drivers, the ones in which a standard driver is purchased, and the ones in which there are negotiated changes to the driver to further optimize it for a given application.

A speaker designer who buys off-the-shelf drivers is pretty low on the food chain, not that good systems can't be built that way. But, their cost-effectiveness suffers from the long supply chain with middle men and all that. There are also technical compromises. A system designer might want a little more or less Xmax or changes to the design of the cone or the like. If you build with off-the-shelf drivers you eat what you are served. If you own a driver factory that is building equipment specifically for your use, you can specify what you want, exactly. Many middle men are not part of your supply chain.

Economies of scale are not a myth!
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post #18 of 29 Old 09-04-2013, 08:01 AM
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Economies of scale are not a myth!

What a great post Arnyk. ..I've saved that one (the whole post of course).

I find myself telling people this all the time, though not quite as thoughtfully. ..That you may be very very happy with the speakers you buy from internet-direct companies - which is the goal of course. But it's wrong to assume that because they are ID, they have some guaranteed price advantage at a given level of fidelity and build quality. Economies of scale definitely factor into the equation, and often in ways that aren't considered (e.g., as you described: in-house sourced drivers vs. off-the-shelf)
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post #19 of 29 Old 09-04-2013, 08:49 AM
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Economies of scale are not a myth!

What a great post Arnyk. ..I've saved that one (the whole post of course).

I find myself telling people this all the time, though not quite as thoughtfully. ..That you may be very very happy with the speakers you buy from internet-direct companies - which is the goal of course. But it's wrong to assume that because they are ID, they have some guaranteed price advantage at a given level of fidelity and build quality. Economies of scale definitely factor into the equation, and often in ways that aren't considered (e.g., as you described: in-house sourced drivers vs. off-the-shelf)

I should further mention that anybody who wants to can build their own drivers. If you successfully and reliably recone drivers, you are doing about 90 percent of the work. You don''t need spectacular volumes or a huge manufacturing plant. The various components of a speaker driver are now available individually. Of course this does not guarantee a cost advantage because when you buy something as individual components, it usually costs far more than a mass-produced assembled device. Consider the cost of an automobile made up out of off-the-shelf components.
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post #20 of 29 Old 09-05-2013, 07:32 PM - Thread Starter
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For a $2k two channel system, the speakers I would get is this easy to assemble madisound kit

Thanks, but DIY is not really my thing, I'd rather just pay for labor and good workmanship. Is there a good reason why getting two VTF-2s is better than getting one ULS-15? The latter seems to be authoritative down to ~15hz and comes with the following (marketing?) blurb: "The ULS is our lowest distortion, most musical and spouse friendly subwoofer."

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Flat panel speakers are somewhat atypical. Noteworthy characteristics include placement problems, because you should have a lot of volume behind them as they shoot massive amounts of sound out their backs, and somewhat limited dynamic range. IOW, they aren't the loudest things in the world by far.

Limited dynamic range would be problematic, I'll try and audition these shortly (I'm currently based in Westport, CT). Is there another <$1000 speaker that you do recommend?
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post #21 of 29 Old 09-06-2013, 01:22 AM
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Thanks, but DIY is not really my thing, I'd rather just pay for labor and good workmanship. Is there a good reason why getting two VTF-2s is better than getting one ULS-15? The latter seems to be authoritative down to ~15hz and comes with the following (marketing?) blurb: "The ULS is our lowest distortion, most musical and spouse friendly subwoofer."

The ULS 15 isn't really anymore powerful than the VTF2 at low frequencies, although it does have an advantage in upper frequencies. Two VTF2s will give you more even bass throughout the room and also offer greater dynamics. A single ULS will be a bit sharper and cleaner though. You can compare their output and frequency response performance on their website, just look at their CEA measurements on the product pages. I think you would be happy with either. By the way, there is a B-stock ULS available at the moment.

A inexpensive speaker that is highly regarded which you might look at is the Philharmonitor.
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post #22 of 29 Old 09-23-2013, 05:25 PM
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Hello,

I'm starting with a clean slate, here's what I'd like:

-Spacious, immersive sound (is a surround system necessary?)
-Effortless bass down to 25-30hz
-Excellent room correction and some form of dynamic volume to permit engaging late night low-volume listening
-Non-fatiguing tonal balance (can't stand bright/screechy noises)

Source equipment:
-HDMI or optical from Apple TV and Boxee Box, will be streaming lossless audio files from my laptop and phone

Room dimensions/layout:
-15' x 20', enclosed by three walls, opens into an eat in kitchen on the fourth side

Looking to get:

Speakers (in order of preference):
-Magnepan MMG - $600/pair direct
-Martin Logan Motion 12 - $800/pair Newegg
-Boston Acoustics A360 - $400/pair
-Infinity P362 - $200-400/pair
or should I get similarly priced bookshelves instead? If so, which ones?

Receiver (~$500 unit with Audyssey MultEQ XT from here):
-Denon X2000
-Onkyo 809
-Marantz 6006
-Denon 3311
or other - what will drive the MMGs well?

Subwoofer:
Polk PSW-505 (~$200 on Amazon)
or other? (SVS, HSU etc - good place to order online?)
-Is it better to get two PSW-505s or a single unit that costs twice as much?

Total ~$1100-1500, although I can stretch to $2500 if I will get significantly better sound quality. Will appreciate any help/feedback. Thanks!


If you want to go down to 25hz, a sub is absolutely neccesary. For 2,1 music and HT, I suggest going with the Marantz 6005PM that just came out and adding a Monarchy DIP upsmapler between your transport and the Marantz 6005PM.
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post #23 of 29 Old 09-23-2013, 05:30 PM
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I would recommend going with the Marantz PM6005 as your stereo intergrated amp and picking up a Monarchy DIP upsampler to put it between your transport and your Marantz.

The Monarchy DIP upsampler will upsample all your source files to 96/24 and it works wonderfully.
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post #24 of 29 Old 09-23-2013, 09:38 PM
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Thanks, but DIY is not really my thing, I'd rather just pay for labor and good workmanship. Is there a good reason why getting two VTF-2s is better than getting one ULS-15? The latter seems to be authoritative down to ~15hz and comes with the following (marketing?) blurb: "The ULS is our lowest distortion, most musical and spouse friendly subwoofer."
Limited dynamic range would be problematic, I'll try and audition these shortly (I'm currently based in Westport, CT). Is there another <$1000 speaker that you do recommend?

I don't know anything about the subs you are referring to but one advantage to multiple subs is that you can place them in your room to get the best, even bass response in the listening position.
That's a highly simplified explanation but it is basically true.
If you're interested, google Floyd Toole. He's written many white papers etc., about speakers and at least one excellent one on subs and placement.
He's one of those really smart guys that is able to communicate in a simple, straightforward manner for dummies like me.

 

It ain't ignorance causes so much trouble; it's folks knowing so much that ain't so

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post #25 of 29 Old 09-24-2013, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by NAIM101 View Post

I would recommend going with the Marantz PM6005 as your stereo intergrated amp and picking up a Monarchy DIP upsampler to put it between your transport and your Marantz.

The Monarchy DIP upsampler will upsample all your source files to 96/24 and it works wonderfully.

An ideal upsampler won't and can't change the sound quality of music that it upsamples. All it does is make the music occupy more samples.

Most modern upsamplers approach that ideal pretty closely. Are you saying that the Monarchy DIP upsampler has substandard performance?
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post #26 of 29 Old 09-24-2013, 05:27 PM
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Originally Posted by NAIM101 View Post

That upsampler dosent "upsample" from a the original source, it dumps the initial sample rates, and re-samples.

confused.gif Is that truly what you think an upsampler does? Wow, I sincerely hope that at this point you are just trolling because I just can't imagine being that kind of wrong.
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post #27 of 29 Old 09-24-2013, 05:32 PM
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That particular upsampler reduces jitter as well as boost signal upto 5 times while dumping the old sampling rate and re-sampling it. To top it off all of its wiring is done with Teflon. Its a good value and will be a good addition to the set-up. If you don't hear a difference which I highly highly doubt, you can return it within 30 days.
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post #28 of 29 Old 09-24-2013, 06:37 PM
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post #29 of 29 Old 09-25-2013, 03:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NAIM101 View Post

That particular upsampler reduces jitter

So you have proof that all TV sets and BD players produce audio signals with audible jitter?

Otherwise, this device purports to reduce jitter that it not there.
Quote:
as well as boost signal upto 5

How does one boost a digital signal? It is either there or it is not there. I can't recall ever having problems with a digital signal being too low, unless there was a severe problem with the cabling or some such.
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times while dumping the old sampling rate and re-sampling it.

What was wrong with the old sample rate?
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To top it off all of its wiring is done with Teflon.

How does the few inches of wire in a component like a resampler affect sound quality?

Here's a picture of the inside of a similar device:



As can be seen almost all of the wiring is on the circuit cards which are generally not Teflon but instead are glass fiber reinforced polyester (FRP). Why is the few inches of possibly teflon coated jumper wires more important than all of the circuitry on the FRP boards?
Quote:
Its a good value and will be a good addition to the set-up.

It doesn't seem to make sense. If these problems are so severe, why are we buying TV sets, BD players, and AVRs that always have them built-in?
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If you don't hear a difference which I highly highly doubt, you can return it within 30 days.

I suspect that based on sighted evaluations, there is a difference. However, do a proper level-matched, time-synched, quick-switched DBT and they always seem to disappear. Got any contrary evidence?
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