Finally built my stereo system and blown away with performance - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 23 Old 04-05-2020, 04:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Finally built my stereo system and blown away with performance

Thanks to this forum for providing valuable information. After months of research, I have finally built my stereo system. The performance is simply mind blowing!! Never before did I experience this kind of immersive audio. Below are some details, my reflections and areas of further exploration.

System details

2.1 setup
Speakers: Focal Sopra 2 speakers - left and right channel
Subwoofer: HSU ULS-15 MK2
Integrated amp: NAD M32 with BluOS streaming module
Sources: All streaming including Youtube streaming of TV content, music videos, Spotify Hifi at 320 Kbps, Tidal Hifi, Amazon Prime for movies

Comments and questions

1. Performance is simply awesome. Incredible detail in mids and highs. Extremely punchy base.

2. The hardware looks great, very easy to integrate in main living spaces.

3. I had read great reviews of NAD M32 and Focal Sopra 2. I think HSU deserves more praise on the forums. It is such a great product, amazing value and strong customer service. Can benefit from more brand awareness

4. It may be surprising to many. Youtube videos and Spotify (320 kbps) are not really audiophile grade sources. I use them quite a lot. And they sound awesome. I also signed up for Tidal subscription. It sounds incrementally better but not day and night difference. As an example, listen to these on your system and see what you feel. Some of these videos are 10+ years old, where Youtube sound quality was even lower than the current max of 192 kbps
5. Youtube has so many “audiophile” videos. I wonder how that works when Youtube doesn’t have super high audio bitrates.

6. Movies sound incredibly realistic in this 2.1 setup. I don’t miss the center channel at all. Subwooffer adds so much punch and can really dig low

7. While I am highly impressed with the sound quality, it has stoked the “curious” side to look for additional improvements.

8. Frequency response – I would love to measure the performance. One of the metric being frequency response. Are there some compact home kits to measure? What other metrics are pertinent?

9. Crossover – Subwoofer is so capable that I set at 100 Hz crossover. Since the main speakers are quite capable, I have configured them to operate at 50 Hz to Full range. So, 50-100 hz range is being double-played by both speakers and sub. Is this ok or can create artificial peaks?

10. Room correction – I simply plugged in the speakers and subwoofer to the amp. Amp doesn’t have any room correction software. Are there some easy ways to tune the system? I have paid some attention to keeping the speakers far away (some constraints keep them close to the corners), seating position near an equilateral triangle.

11. Dual subwoofer – just for kicks I am exploring whether I should get another sub. Usually I like punchy sound. As of now, it is already quite punchy in the main listening area. So not sure the additional value of a 2nd sub, besides filling in non-listening areas equally with SPL. And ability to play 6 db louder – right now the system can already play far too loud for my needs.

12. Receiver power and loudness – after setting the crossover, I feel that the receiver sounds very strong. Even at -30 volume level, the system is quite strong. I guess this proves again that most of the receiver power goes to produce low frequencies. With a powerful sub, receiver consumes much less power which has the added benefit of improving headroom

13. NAD amp uses BlouOS 2i for streaming, which in turn uses Airplay2. Sometimes I notice jitter/drop during streaming over Wifi network. I wonder whether I need a modern router, faster.. Would appreciate some pointers.
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Last edited by Raj123; 04-05-2020 at 04:35 PM.
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post #2 of 23 Old 04-05-2020, 04:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raj123 View Post
8. Frequency response – I would love to measure the performance. One of the metric being frequency response. Are there some compact home kits to measure? What other metrics are pertinent?

9. Crossover – Subwoofer is so capable that I set at 100 Hz crossover. Since the main speakers are quite capable, I have configured them to operate at 50 Hz to Full range. So, 50-100 hz range is being double-played by both speakers and sub. Is this ok or can create artificial peaks?

10. Room correction – I simply plugged in the speakers and subwoofer to the amp. Amp doesn’t have any room correction software. Are there some easy ways to tune the system? I have paid some attention to keeping the speakers far away (some constraints keep them close to the corners), seating position near an equilateral triangle.

11. Dual subwoofer – just for kicks I am exploring whether I should get another sub. Usually I like punchy sound. As of now, it is already quite punchy in the main listening area. So not sure the additional value of a 2nd sub, besides filling in non-listening areas equally with SPL. And ability to play 6 db louder – right now the system can already play far too loud for my needs.
Many people on the forum use REW (freeware) and a UMIK-1 (~$100) to measure frequency response of their system at their listening positions.

One very key thing to note: A microphone is a single point measurement and is measuring the total sound (direct + reflected). It CANNOT represent what two ears and a brain hear above the bass region. Your ears and brain can interpret reflections as spaciousness, and the microphone cannot.

However, in the bass region, a microphone is very representative of what you hear. Two ears and brain make no discernment between direct and reflected bass waves (wavelengths are much longer than your ear contours or distance between ears). It is also in the modal region of your room, where room resonances can dramatically change the bass response at your listening position. Because of this, you SHOULD EQ the bass region (after optimizing sub placement, utilizing multiple subs) to get a smooth slightly downward tilting frequency response below 200Hz or so. Above this frequency, consider the measurements informational only about the total energy content in the room. EQing above this frequency will degrade the direct sound of your speakers, which your brain can distinguish from reflections. The direct sound has already presumably been optimized by the speaker designer to be neutral on-axis.

Hope this helps! It's quite a rabbit hole you're about to jump down.
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post #3 of 23 Old 04-05-2020, 04:57 PM
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As an owner of the ULS-15 MK2, I can concur that it's an excellent sub.
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Home Theatre: Marantz SR6014 | KEF Q750 Front L/R | KEF Q650c Centre | KEF Q150 Surround L/R | HSU ULS-15 MK2 Subwoofer | Sony XBR55X900E | PS4 Pro | Xbox One S | Nintendo Switch

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post #4 of 23 Old 04-05-2020, 05:01 PM
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Bass managing the speakers and subs with around an 80 Hz crossover, and eq'ing both speakers and subs below 3-500 Hz will greatly improve sound quality. Adding a second subwoofer and placing it properly by measuring with a Umik-1 mic and a free REW download, or perhaps a slightly easier Dayton Omi mic setup, will improve sound quality.

Without measurements and eq, you are almost certain to have a scary, rollercoaster response below 300Hz or so, regardless how good your speakers are. As we know, this will reduce sound quality. A relatively smooth frequency response is required for true high fidelity.

Congrats on your very nice system! Really cool that you have room to improve fidelity even more.
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post #5 of 23 Old 04-05-2020, 08:16 PM
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I would've recommended you just be happy with what you have, and never come here again. I see it's too late for that.
Congratulations, and I'm sorry.

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mods, can we have a 'dislike' button ?
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post #6 of 23 Old 04-05-2020, 08:24 PM
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Those Focals are wonderful instruments. Congratulations that you've put together a system you enjoy so much. Intoxicating isn't it? it's my learned opinion is that adding another or more good musical subs to any system is one of the most underrated improvements you can make. Cleaner more effortless bass with improved FR throughout the room....what's not to want about that?

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post #7 of 23 Old 04-05-2020, 10:01 PM
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Happy to hear that a $19k (US) speaker pair gives pleasure.
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post #8 of 23 Old 04-05-2020, 11:49 PM
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4. Youtube videos and Spotify (320 kbps) are not really audiophile grade sources. I use them quite a lot. And they sound awesome. I also signed up for Tidal subscription. It sounds incrementally better but not day and night difference.
- Do you mean they CAN be audio sources? "Not really" is confusing...

5. Youtube has so many “audiophile” videos. I wonder how that works when Youtube doesn’t have super high audio bitrates.
- Ha ha, that is a good question!

8. Frequency response – I would love to measure the performance. One of the metric being frequency response. Are there some compact home kits to measure? What other metrics are pertinent?
- Look at https://www.roomeqwizard.com
- Start another thread "how should I tune and measure my system" as that's a whole other topic
- Just understand frequency response is NOT the most important parameter. We actually hear in the time domain. I once attended a talk by a Grateful Dead sound guy. He said they were the first to take a 1/3 octave equalizer out on tour, adjusted it meticulously to flatten the response, and the system then sounded AWFUL. Why? Because the "flat" was a mix of direct and reflected sound, meaning the direct sound was messed up.

9. Crossover...artificial peaks?
- See above. If anything, crossovers should usually be spread apart. If you are running an overlap, either the room has a null...not sure that is too likely...or the phase is wrong. Have you checked the polarity between satellites and sub?

10. Room correction – I simply plugged in the speakers and subwoofer to the amp. Amp doesn’t have any room correction software. Are there some easy ways to tune the system?
- Again see above, I thought the NAD had Dirac but seems not?
- http://minidsp.com probably has a module you can plug before the M32...well, how is the connection between it and the streamer? If it's built in, then really all you can do is work on subwoofer positioning and crossover adjustment.
- It doesn't sound like you need a 2nd sub, but if measurement shows uneven response you could change to a sub with room EQ...not sure if any have Dirac built in. (Dirac and Audyssey are time-based and hence more powerful for some situations).
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post #9 of 23 Old 04-06-2020, 10:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Thank you all for the feedback. Yeah, the system does sound phenomenal

Quote:
Youtube videos and Spotify (320 kbps) are not really audiophile grade sources. I use them quite a lot.
My original intent: I use both Youtube and Spotify extensively on my 2.1 setup. They sound pretty good. This is surprising to me since they don't have audio at 1.5 mpbs which is close to CD quality. Spotify is 320 kbps and Youtube is 192 kbps max. Thus, I am pleasantly surprised Check out the Youtube links I shared earlier as few examples.

REW and RMIK-1 combo sounds interesting. I will likely try it out. Once I get the measurement, is the tuning mainly needed for subwoofer where it has things like EQ1/2, volume level, phase. For speakers, the main control on the receiver is to control their frequency range. Options include Full range, or somewhere in 40-200 Hz [10 hz step] to FullRange. Additionally move the speakers around, re-calibrate.
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post #10 of 23 Old 04-06-2020, 10:52 AM
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Finally built my stereo system and blown away with performance

You will find that eq is needed below 300 Hz or so as the room will play havoc with response in this area. Experiment with crossover between 60 and 120 Hz to find the best response and sound. Measuring will help you find the best placement for the sub, and probably illustrate why a 2nd sub is often necessary for the best quality bass.

So speakers and sub(s) will need eq. Your integrated should have the ability to set crossover. Don’t use full range since you have a sub.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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post #11 of 23 Old 04-06-2020, 11:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raj123 View Post
I have finally built my stereo system. The performance is simply mind blowing!! Never before did I experience this kind of immersive audio.
Congratulations.

Now don't go getting all OCD on us as it seems you have achieved the goal we are all after.

Geoff A. J., California
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post #12 of 23 Old 04-07-2020, 11:34 AM
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Wait...you bought $20K worth of speakers and you're listening to lossy youtube/Spotify with them?


Oh my.
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post #13 of 23 Old 04-09-2020, 02:42 PM - Thread Starter
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I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of Youtube videos and Spotify - cited few examples in original post. They sound very good. Plus it is so convenient to stream them (say Youtube), usability of a single learning based remote control, one UI, Google AI power in its fully glory to suggest related videos etc etc.

There are surely better sources in terms of sound quality. So far I haven't found night and day difference. There is certainly a place for them.
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post #14 of 23 Old 04-09-2020, 02:54 PM
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Im jealous. if you get rew and mic, you can spend days fiddling and end up with a curve/measurement that will still have you thinking what next...like me.
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post #15 of 23 Old 04-09-2020, 03:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Im jealous. if you get rew and mic, you can spend days fiddling and end up with a curve/measurement that will still have you thinking what next...like me.
Great to know you have reached that level of excellence!!

For me personally - finding new high-quality, enjoyable online content is part of the fun. New is used metaphorically, could even mean old restored content
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post #16 of 23 Old 04-09-2020, 03:42 PM
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There are surely better sources in terms of sound quality. So far I haven't found night and day difference.

That's because the night and day difference does not exist. I've done blind listening tests between 128k, 320k and lossless on my very good and expensive Genelec nearfield monitors.


The difference depends on the file you are playing back. I don't think that we have to discuss the differece between 128k and 320k here, but for some tracks the difference between 320k and lossless is immediately obvious and for others it's almost impossible to figure out.

Also 320k is not 320k. There are difference encorders and different encoder profiles, which yield different results.

I'd say 80% of the time you can figure out what is what but for the majority of the tracks you'll have to actually compare them to make out the quality level you're listening to.
I'm more worrying about RCA connections than about lossless at the moment, but the upgrade price to get rid of unbalanced analog audio connections is quite steep.
Btw when I'm listening to music on my phone (mostly on my Sennheiser IE-60) I'm listening to mp3 (lame) VBR V-6, which is equal to 130k. As soon as there is the slightest bit of background noise, this quality is perfectly fine as long as it's converted from a lossless file. If you convert from a bad codec 320k to a bad codec 192k it will sound like absolute garbage. Those streaming platforms are using AAC I think, which isn't ideal. I don't know what it sounds like since I don't use any streaming services.
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post #17 of 23 Old 04-17-2020, 05:54 PM
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Beautiful system. I am tempted by the Sopra 2 as well but when I add in an amp, etc It quickly becomes over my budget. In fact so much so I may look at the JBL M2.
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post #18 of 23 Old 04-17-2020, 06:40 PM
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What a bummer that would be if one spent $19K on speakers and didn't like them.
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post #19 of 23 Old 04-27-2020, 09:55 AM - Thread Starter
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Netflix has gained so much adoption (70 million US subscribers) that I got curious about their streaming quality.

Check this out - basically they are able to stream 5.1 Dolby digital audio stream at a max 640 kbps and it sounds pretty wonderful. It's surely a lossy compression achieving 10:1 ratio
https://www.audioholics.com/editoria...lity2019-sound

For perspective, they have improved audio streaming quality recently. Their earlier focus was to keep video quality on-par with BluRay, which they have achieved over the years.

Advances like these indicate (to me atleast) that most of the great audio and video performance can be achieved with 'practical' compression techniques. And lossy vs lossless audio can become a very academic discussion. Like with most things, there is no perfect decision - all have tradeoffs.
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post #20 of 23 Old 04-27-2020, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Raj123 View Post
Advances like these indicate (to me atleast) that most of the great audio and video performance can be achieved with 'practical' compression techniques. And lossy vs lossless audio can become a very academic discussion.
Exactly.

It's easy to get sucked into a lot of ivory-tower hair-splitting on enthusiast forums like this, rather than simply enjoying (gasp!) living in THE REAL WORLD.
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~ Are you a "geek hobbyist" obsessed with squeezing out that last 5-10% improvement? The economy will thank you...especially the Chinese one. Or are you more of a get-set-and-forget "casual user" who simply wants to increase your enjoyment of movies, TV and gaming? Relax, HT isn't rocket science, nor does it have to cost an arm and a leg---especially if you ignore the aforementioned vocal minority. And remember to smile...it's just a silly hobby, after all. :)
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post #21 of 23 Old 04-27-2020, 12:21 PM
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Exactly.

It's easy to get sucked into a lot of ivory-tower hair-splitting on enthusiast forums like this, rather than simply enjoying (gasp!) living in THE REAL WORLD.

Right, but one probably doesn't need or typically spend $20K on speakers to enjoy such lossy digital music. That's kind of the crux of my "oh my" comment.


I think the better question is if a 256kbps file sounds the same on a $1K speaker as it does a $20K speaker or where does the curve of diminishing returns start to flatten out. Note that I am not knocking the purchase as I'm 100% a proponent of buy what you like. But me personally, if I spent that much on speakers I'd surely have other sources than lossy youtube as one of my main ones because the same result could be achieved with a lot less money.
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post #22 of 23 Old 04-27-2020, 12:42 PM
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Beautiful system. I am tempted by the Sopra 2 as well but when I add in an amp, etc It quickly becomes over my budget. In fact so much so I may look at the JBL M2.

It seems to me that you can get more for your money for 1/2 the cost of the Sopra 2 if you went with Salk Sound.

But then again... I could be wrong 🤔
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post #23 of 23 Old 04-27-2020, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by _tk View Post
Right, but one probably doesn't need or typically spend $20K on speakers to enjoy such lossy digital music. That's kind of the crux of my "oh my" comment.
I think the better question is if a 256kbps file sounds the same on a $1K speaker as it does a $20K speaker or where does the curve of diminishing returns start to flatten out. Note that I am not knocking the purchase as I'm 100% a proponent of buy what you like. But me personally, if I spent that much on speakers I'd surely have other sources than lossy youtube as one of my main ones because the same result could be achieved with a lot less money.
Ah, I agree with you 100% then.

There's no way I'd ever spend $20K on a pair of speakers, even if I were making 10-20 times that amount per year. Even if I had a huge collection of redbook CDs.

But, to each his own...

~ Are you a "geek hobbyist" obsessed with squeezing out that last 5-10% improvement? The economy will thank you...especially the Chinese one. Or are you more of a get-set-and-forget "casual user" who simply wants to increase your enjoyment of movies, TV and gaming? Relax, HT isn't rocket science, nor does it have to cost an arm and a leg---especially if you ignore the aforementioned vocal minority. And remember to smile...it's just a silly hobby, after all. :)
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