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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Currently I'm playing music through two Polk R300's powered by an old Sony STR-DE425. I managed to get the Polk R300's during a sale for $49 each, when normally they are priced around $199. With that being said, I'm looking to improve my music experience and I am having a bit of a struggle with deciding which avenue to take. If I stick with the Polk R300's, after much research, I'm on the fence between investing in a Marantz PM6004 Integrated Amplifier as well as a Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 or place my investment with two Emotiva Products. I looked into a product like Teac AH01, however, I really believe the audio quality in the former scenario would be noticeably better.


Scenario 1: Polk R300's ($798)

Amplifer: Marantz PM6004

DAC: Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100


Scenario 2: Polk R300's ($598)

Amplifer: Emotiva UPA-200

DAC: Emotiva XDA-2


Scenario 3: Polk R300's ($798) (Mix & Match)

Amplifer: Marantz PM6004

DAC: Emotiva XDA-2


Scenario 4: Audioengine A5+ ($620ish)

Amplifer: Class AB Built In

DAC: Audioengine D1


I'm completely open to advice. As much as I really like the simplicity of the Audioengine solution, I'm starting to think it is more of a big fish in a small pond scenario. Even though the build quality may be there, there really isn't a future upgrade path. I could effectively spend $20 dollars less and have a much better sound experience. With that being said, I really cannot say whether or not the Polk R300's are better speakers, however, so long as they are at least comparable for the time being, if and when I do want to upgrade speakers, I have that option.


Now that the brain dump is over, I'd love to hear some thoughts. If someone could also explicitly touch upon the quality of the R300's vs. A5+, I would very much appreciate it.
 

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The biggest increase in sound quality is going to be through new speakers. Those Polks are pretty basic and I don't think spending $700 on an Amp and Pre-Amp is going to make them sound any better. I would upgrade your speakers first, and then upgrade your electronics later on.


Some good options in your price range: HTD Level Three Towers, Arx A5, EMP E55Ti, Polk RTi10 (Polk Ebay Store), and Focal Chorus 717. I think this would be a huge difference in sound for you. Those Polks would benefit a lot from a more powerful amp, but the rest are pretty easy to drive so your current Sony would be fine for the time being.


I think the A5+ would probably sound better than the R300s, but with less bass. Also, as you mentioned you don't have a lot of upgrade options with active speakers short of replacing everything.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you very much for your information.


The Sony claims to be rated for 100 watts per channel, however, it was a HTIB set. My understanding is that those numbers aren't exactly "true". I wasn't necessary expecting to replace speakers first, and if I were to do that, I'd still be stuck using the Sony without a DAC, and that would irritate me.


On the flip side of that, if you're saying that upgrading to an Amp and DAC (the XDA-2 & XPA-200 seem to be what I'm favoring at the moment as the XPA-200 doesn't have moving parts like fans and supports XLR) won't yield any/much benefit over the Sony, I'm stuck with a Chicken and Egg scenario.


The R300's do seem very basic and are very inexpensive. I have been eyeing the Polk RTi9's, however, I cannot rationalize spending $1500 on top of the $700 all at once, and I'm really not one to purchase "temporary/for the time being" components. I suppose I now see why the Audioengine A5+, KEF X300A and Emotiva Powered Speakers are priced the way they are.


I'm not completely back at the drawing board, however, I do have some decisions to make. Thank you again for the info.
 

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I think the biggest upgrade you can make at this point is new speakers. Another option to consider is going with a stereo receiver like the Harman Kardon HK3490. You can get one for $300 and it has a very good amp section. It also has digital inputs so you wouldn't need a separate DAC. Pair this with something like the Polk RTi10 for $650/pair at the Polk Ebay Store, and you have a night and day upgrade. http://www.ebay.com/itm/RTi10-CHERRY-Tower-Speaker-Polk-Audio-NEW-PAIR-/360661005820?pt=Speakers_Subwoofers&hash=item53f91235fc


The HK3490 also has preouts so you can get a nice Emotiva amp down the road, those RTi speakers really benefit from a healthy amount of power.
 

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The Sony HTIB is garbage. The power supply and amplifiers suck. It probably can't put out more than 10 watts before distortion becomes noticeable (with good speakers).


The suggestion of the HK 3490 seems like a very wise one for you; It has very good sound quality and power for its price and a lot of great features, such as a DAC, phono preamp, and subwoofer outputs.


It is currently only $317 at Amazon, which is an absolute steal for the quality and features you are getting with it. It is hard to improve on its sound quality at twice that price.


I would also suggest that you consider buying a pair of Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 speakers to use with it. They are excellent, and cost $349 per pair.


You might want to go to the Stereophile website and read the comprehensive review of those speakers. They are a tremendous value at that price. They are SO much better than any of the speakers mentioned here so far that there is no comparison.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaMaN841  /t/1497514/audioengine-5-or-polk-r300#post_23899806


Currently I'm playing music through two Polk R300's powered by an old Sony STR-DE425. I managed to get the Polk R300's during a sale for $49 each, when normally they are priced around $199. With that being said, I'm looking to improve my music experience and I am having a bit of a struggle with deciding which avenue to take.

As others have pointed out the weakest links in your system are the speakers and the AVR.


The AVR lacks most modern refinements. No HDMI inputs, no automated system tuning facility, limited bass management, and appears to dats back to about year 2000, which is 13 calendar years but dozens more years in AVR years. It may be ready for retirement.


The speakers are nice enough little speakers as far as they go, but from a bass standpoint they are seriously lacking. I see 2-way booksshelf speakers with a 6 1/2 woofer plunked into a tower box being sold as a tower. More box than drivers. The bass dynamic range limitations of the solo 6 1/2 woofer in each of those large boxes can't be overcome by just a larger box.


The first good news part of the story is that the old Sony AVR does appear to be compatible with an active subwoofer which could make a big difference in sound quality. In your current price range a Bic Acoustech 200 or a Bic America F12 would fit. Other makes models to look at include the Polk PSW 505. The thing about subs is that they are very hard to spend too much money on, and will integrate well with just about any reasonably good small speaker.


If you want to move out of the econo sub range, look at SVS, Hsu, Rhythmic, etc. Money spent on a good sub is a good investment. Buying better electronics won't obsolete it and the price performance of subs is improving slowly, so there is unlikely to be some new product that will change everything next week.

Quote:
If I stick with the Polk R300's, after much research, I'm on the fence between investing in a Marantz PM6004 Integrated Amplifier as well as a Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 or place my investment with two Emotiva Products. I looked into a product like Teac AH01, however, I really believe the audio quality in the former scenario would be noticeably better.

Frankly I see no coherence in those alternatives. Integrated amps and DACs are sucker plays - methodologies for spending the big bucks with no adequate corresponding sound quality improvements. Your bang for the buck winner is a modern AVR, something from Denon or Onkyo. Separates only make sense if you are spending the big bucks, maybe in the 5-6 digit range. Integrated amps make no sense at all, most of them as well as 2 channel receivers are AVRs with useful features ripped out to make them appeal to old-time purists.It turns out that if you take a 5.1 or 7.1 AVR and tell it there are only 2 or 3 speakers, it does all the right things, and you still have built in room for future expansion. Subwoofers and to a degree center channel speakers can be very worthwhile upgrades.


Finally, the two biggest areas of sound quality improvements are speakers and room acoustics/speaker placement/etc. I haven't said a lot about room acoustics but it is the one thing that probably limits the sound quality of even your current system the most. There are lots of threads here about room acoustics, and they bear careful study.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I'm seeing a pattern that the speakers I was planning to make use of are nothing short of terrible. With that being said, I'm completely willing to upgrade my speakers during this overhaul as well as adjust / increase my budget.


Transmaniacon - I'm assuming you suggested the Harman Kardon HK3490 obviously because it is decent, however, also to reduce cost. How does that compare with the XDA-2 and XPA-200? You made a point that it has the ability to upgrade to the XPA-200 down the road. As I pointed out, I really dislike temporary upgrades. I'd rather get the correct equipment once, and I'm okay with the investment considering it treats me well over the years.


commsysman - I'm glad you agree that the Sony is garbage. That's why I'd like to upgrade. I like the thumbs up for the HK3490, however, as I pointed out above, I'd rather do it correctly the first time and not have to think about it again. As for the Wharfedale Diamond 10.1; they compare to the Polk RTi10 for half the price? I'm not against Bookshelf Speakers vs. Floorstanding, however, my concern is that now I'm going to run into the same issue with the Audioengine A5+ where even the current Polk R300's will have more bass. Also with the Wharfedale, do they need stands, or can I place them on the shelf on opposite sides of the equipment? Simply because I'm curious, the Wharfedale Diamond 10.2 seem to be the big brother version for $100 more. Worthwhile?


arnyk - I believe I bought the Sony sometime in the early 90's so I could have 5.1 with my Component JVC TV
What a memory. The repurpose of it now has absolutely nothing to do with video. I'm using it simply for 2 channel audio, and once again, it's not good, hence my reason for wanting to upgrade. It's happily being retired. I do see your point that the R300's are simply a Bookshelf in a glorified enclosure. I'm really uninterested in adding a subwoofer to this setup. As an aside, I have an SVS Cylinder Subwoofer connected with my Home Theatre, and it's absolutely ground breaking. I see your point that Integrated Amps and DAC's will eventually reach a diminishing returns curve, however, is spending $598 really that outrageous for a Stereo Setup (minus speakers of course)?


Thank you for all of the feedback. Seems like I really need to reconsider my starting points, which is exactly to say that I'm no longer upgrading but rather building a Stereo Setup. For me, the final elephant in the room is how much better will the HK3490 or Emotiva Setup with Wharfedale's compared to the Audioengine A5+.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaMaN841  /t/1497514/audioengine-5-or-polk-r300#post_23902960



Thank you for all of the feedback. Seems like I really need to reconsider my starting points, which is exactly to say that I'm no longer upgrading but rather building a Stereo Setup. For me, the final elephant in the room is how much better will the HK3490 or Emotiva Setup with Wharfedale's compared to the Audioengine A5+.

For me the choice between the HK3490 and Emotiva XDA-2 and XPA-200 options is easy: Neither on the grounds that they lack f the valuable hallmark of a good modern audio system - an automated system optimization facility. From the viewpoint of integration with any future video upgrades they no are better than your ca. 1990s Sony - no HDMI support! You may plan to never hook a LCD to this system, but can you say the same for a BD player or PC? Also, where are these products from the standpoint of integration with internet sources for music? Nowhere!


Now check out what you obtain from a litle more than half the ca. $1100 Emotiva money instead invested in an Denon or Onkyo AVR from www.cables4less.com

http://www.accessories4less.com/make-a-store/item/ONKTXNR818/Onkyo-TX-NR818-7.2-Ch-THX-Certified-Network-A/V-Receiver/1.html


The Audioengine speakers being powered speakers are not very compatible with most AVRs.


For objective information about performance and value, why not compare these two Stereophile reviews?

http://www.stereophile.com/content/wharfedale-diamond-101-loudspeaker-measurements


versus

http://www.stereophile.com/content/infinity-primus-p162-loudspeaker-measurements


Note that the P162 (now updated to P163) starts rolling off at 70 Hz while the Wharfdales start their rolloff well above 100 Hz. The P163s lack the nasty red dip with their grilles on which speaks to over all attention to detail in the design. From the standpoint of integration with subwoofers the > 100Hz roll off in the Wharafdales is not nearly as comfortable as the 70 Hz roll-off in the Infinities.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I suppose to put things into perspective, I should offer a little more information. This Stereo System is for my Office, which is solely for the purpose of listening to audio while I work. I plan to connect an Apple Airport Express (Optical Out) to the DAC / HK3490 to play uncompressed music over AirPlay. This satisfies local music, networked music and streamed music, etc. If for whatever reason I am connecting a device that doesn't support Optical Out, I can use USB to the DAC (PC or Mac w/o Optical Out). If for whatever reason I gave you the impression that I was connecting any video to this, I apologize. It's simply not a requirement for this project, nor would I really want to watch anything in Stereo Mode when I could go in the other room and utilize Surround Sound with that SVS Subwoofer I mentioned earlier. As for the $1100, I'm not sure where that number came from. The two components from Emotiva would be $598 or $698, depending upon the amp selection.


As for the speakers, I was merely pointing out the fact that the Audioengine A5+ solution would be a one time buy and sound much better than what I currently have. To that end, I was then considering how much better, if any, the Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 or 10.2's would be. Then decide if the increase cost (~$500) is justifiable.


I'm extremely new to understanding the physics of speakers, so please forgive my ignorance. Does that graph indicate that the Infiniti Speakers are better than the Wharfedales in all aspects or only when used with a Subwoofer?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaMaN841  /t/1497514/audioengine-5-or-polk-r300#post_23903939



I'm extremely new to understanding the physics of speakers, so please forgive my ignorance. Does that graph indicate that the Infiniti Speakers are better than the Wharfedales in all aspects or only when used with a Subwoofer?

I see a strong win for the Infinties subwoofer or no. With a subwoofer you are still better off with a speaker that can go down to meet the subwoofer at 80 Hz, which is questionable for the Wharfedales with their rolloff starting around ca. 140 Hz. Without a subwoofer, you are obviously better off with L&R speakers that go as low as possible which again favors the Infinities.


The Infinity P163 are well known to me as I have several pairs of them and their predecessors in service. The inifinity pricing is not that far from that of the AuduioEngine A2s and gets closer depending on whether you can find them on sale at Amazon or Frys. I'd favor them in an office decor as they are very inconspicuous.


Since this is an office system, I looked at the size of the speakers, and while the Infinities are about 3" taller, that still seems tolerable.


While we are talking size, the Onkyo-TX-NR818 is about the same size as the XPA-2, but the big plus that no preamp is needed with it. The absence of a preamp means fewer cables and the like. It has its own internet radio:


"Connects to your etwork using a standard LAN

cable, the TX-NR818 makes streaming audio and internet

radio easy. You can also play formats including MP3, AAC,

Apple Lossless, FLAC, and WMA Lossless stored on your

PC through your Onkyo home cinema system. The receiver

offers easy access to internet radio channels from Last.fm

and vTuner, plus cloud-based music streaming from AUPEO!

and Simfy*. Wireless networking is enabled with an optional

UWF-1 Wireless LAN Adapter"


Having these features built-in may further simplify your office system. No extra charge.



The TX NR818 has top-of-the-line Audyssey Multieq XT32 for best possible matching to your office's acoustics.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Understood. After more research, I continued looking at reviews between the Diamond 10.1 and 10.2, and it seems as though the P163 seem to be more comparable to the 10.2. I wonder if we saw the graphs for the 10.2's if we'd see more comparable numbers. Unfortunately, a lot of people prefer the 10.1's to the 10.2 in terms of everything besides bass.


I appreciate the vouch for P163's. It's definitely helping me decide which route to follow. What I really want to avoid are the situations I've fallen into. I purchased Pioneer SP-BS21-LR for $49 with perfect reviews and those were terrible. I then purchased the Polk R300's due to amazing reviews for $99 for the pair and every day I listen to them they just become increasingly more muddy (probably because of all the quality speakers I've been paroozing as of late).


My concern now is that the Infinity P163's seem to be $99 each and I'm worried that in a few months someone is going to tell me that I need to once again upgrade my speakers. Numbers do not lie, and for that I appreciate the references. The A2's and A2+'s are really nice, however, I'm looking for something that even surpasses the quality of the A5+. Otherwise I'm going to end up settling for the A5+ (and would probably immensely enjoy it, but that's neither here nor there).
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
An addendum to my last reply. Looking at this from a price perspective, given the Diamond 10.2 cost $449, instead of comparing them to the P163 which costs $200, which you've already concluded as better on paper, I could compare them to the P363 which costs $400 for the pair. I'm going to take a stab in the dark here and assume the P363 is the top dog in this scenario and still a $50 savings from the Diamond 10.2?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaMaN841  /t/1497514/audioengine-5-or-polk-r300#post_23904169


An addendum to my last reply. Looking at this from a price perspective, given the Diamond 10.2 cost $449, instead of comparing them to the P163 which costs $200, which you've already concluded as better on paper, I could compare them to the P363 which costs $400 for the pair. I'm going to take a stab in the dark here and assume the P363 is the top dog in this scenario and still a $50 savings from the Diamond 10.2?

If you watch the prices at Amazon, P363s go down to $199 each including shipping every once in a while, which is how I obtained mine. A week ago Frys was selling them in-store for an unbelievable $107 each.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by glangford  /t/1497514/audioengine-5-or-polk-r300#post_23905389


today 99 bucks each.


http://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Primus-Two-way-Bookshelf-Satellite/dp/B0045NCB32

Wow. I paid much more than that for mine.


In the interest of full disclosure, the obvious competition for the Primus line is Pioneer's "Famous Designer" line. They meet head on some place around the Primus p143, p153 and P253.. By all accounts they are very good price performers, and there are Stereophile reviews of them too, that look pretty good.

http://www.avsforum.com/t/1278774/pioneers-speaker-genius-hits-low-price-point#post_19237760
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaMaN841  /t/1497514/audioengine-5-or-polk-r300#post_23904100


Understood. After more research, I continued looking at reviews between the Diamond 10.1 and 10.2, and it seems as though the P163 seem to be more comparable to the 10.2. I wonder if we saw the graphs for the 10.2's if we'd see more comparable numbers. Unfortunately, a lot of people prefer the 10.1's to the 10.2 in terms of everything besides bass.


I appreciate the vouch for P163's. It's definitely helping me decide which route to follow. What I really want to avoid are the situations I've fallen into. I purchased Pioneer SP-BS21-LR for $49 with perfect reviews and those were terrible. I then purchased the Polk R300's due to amazing reviews for $99 for the pair and every day I listen to them they just become increasingly more muddy (probably because of all the quality speakers I've been paroozing as of late).

One of the reasons why I have so much respect for the laws of physics is that they say that small drivers and bass = mud unless the efficiency is lower than most people even speaker manufacgturers want to go. Those speakers are begging for subwoofers and would no doubt be greatly enhanced by one. But the laws of psychoacoustics also say that you want subwoofers to not go much above 80 Hz and some speakers are just too small to get down there and hook up with the sub(s).
Quote:
My concern now is that the Infinity P163's seem to be $99 each and I'm worried that in a few months someone is going to tell me that I need to once again upgrade my speakers. Numbers do not lie, and for that I appreciate the references. The A2's and A2+'s are really nice, however, I'm looking for something that even surpasses the quality of the A5+. Otherwise I'm going to end up settling for the A5+ (and would probably immensely enjoy it, but that's neither here nor there).

All other things being equal the passive P163s will meet or beat the powered A5s. The next notches up from the P163s are the P363 towers or Behringer B2031P bookshelves . Frankly the B2031P is more of a match for the P363 than the P163 with the advantage that the B2031Ps are bookshelves. I can see P363 towers being a placement problem in an office. While the B2031P are a better format, they are a bit large for some. But they are also one heck of speaker for the few bucks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
If I follow the path for the P363's, they would replace the R300's, so I have no problem fitting towers. I think that's the path I'd like to follow. They also seem like a good choice / package for a Home Theatre solution too.
 

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I think you can do better than the P163s for the money...


The Arx A1b is a fantastic speaker at $300/pair. It has a ribbon tweeter and very good extension for a bookshelf. The Infinity's are good speakers, but they are a little too bright for me. For music listening I prefer something more laid back.


If you wanted to step up to something good, this would be my choice: http://www.theaudioinsider.com/product_info.php?p=swan-d2-1se%2B-stand-monitor&products_id=69&osCsid=9225125aba74f92bd3e257a215d878bf


I personally think spending $700 for that 818 is not worth it. If getting it wouldn't keep you from getting nice speakers, then go for it, but there is only so much EQ can do with middle of the road speakers. I think the HK3490 is a fantastic option for $300. You get a great capable amp section, pre-outs for expandability with a discrete amp, a built in DAC and bass management. For a stereo system it's hard to beat that value. Paired with those Swan bookshelves and later on a nice sealed sub, and you have a fantastic music system.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Transmaniacon  /t/1497514/audioengine-5-or-polk-r300#post_23909151


I think you can do better than the P163s for the money...


The Arx A1b is a fantastic speaker at $300/pair.

How does that compute? The P163s are $99.95 a pair with free shipping. That would be 199.90 out the door. They ship from close to my home here in the midwest, or other ship points for other places.

http://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Primus-Two-way-Bookshelf-Satellite/dp/B0045NCB32


I find that the price you quoted is exclusive of shipping,which is usually significant for speakers. The ARX apparently ship only from California which means relatively high costs and delays.


Next, there are technical tests for P16X speakers at Stereophile

http://www.stereophile.com/standloudspeakers/1007inf/


and Soundstage (the prestigious Canadian National Research Council Labs)

http://www.soundstagenetwork.com/measurements/speakers/infinity_primus_p162/


but I can find none for the ARX A1B . Can you point some out? Without that sort of information, we're looking at dueling opinions.
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The Infinity's are good speakers, but they are a little too bright for me. For music listening I prefer something more laid back

Well, that's you and we really know nothing about your preferences versus speakers that are accurate.
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I think the HK3490 is a fantastic option for $300. You get a great capable amp section, pre-outs for expand ability with a discrete amp, a built in DAC and bass management.

You are using the above information to knock a standard AVR. Are you implying that AVRs lack DACs, discrete amps, or bass management? No Way! Your comments seem to be misleading at this point.


Fact is that the HK3940 is only a fraction of a modern AVR.
 

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There is a lot of great information posted in the Owner's Thread


I don't think shipping location is all that big of a deal...



I am not knocking a standard AVR, I just have a hard time telling someone to spend almost all their budget on an AVR. And don't twist my words around, "pre-outs for expandability with a discrete amp" means he can go and add an Emotiva 2-channel amp down the road for example, not that AVRs don't come with amps... I am making the case that this particular stereo receiver has a lot of the features of nicer AVRs, at a much more appropriate price tag for his budget. I know Audyssey MultEQ XT32 is a nice feature, but I think its a stretch.
 
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