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Vivek Batra

Matching Amp with Klipsch Forte III

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Hi 

 

I have upgraded from RP -8000F to Frote III. I was using Denon x4500H, not any more with me. Now I am looking for a good set of Pre/Power or Integrated amp for the Fortes. There could be no other better place than this great forum to ask for. Kindly help me specially Forte users what kind of amp would be best to produce finer details even at whispering volume levels and with utmost clarity and bit warm. Highly confused between tubes and solid state. I mostly listen to Jazz, Country, Classics like John Denver, Kenny Rogers, Michael Bolton, Eagles, U2, Frank Sinatra lot more from 50s to 60s to 70s music.

 

Thanks a lot.

 

Vivek

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4 minutes ago, tipatina said:

Are kits an option for you?

I would like to go with branded ones. Not much into DIY.

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Please take a look at the offerings of Bob Latino on Tubes4hifi.com. You will have a hard time finding better sound and component quality for the price. Horns and tubes just go together IMO. 

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I don't have F3's but do have a Bob Latino amp (ST120) and it sounds wonderful!

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Lots of recommendations for the Bob Latino tube amps above :)  Note; had a ST-60 on my Forte's and was not impressed ... had less power and definition than my Marantz 1060 (30wpc).  But, believe the ST-120 is much better.  I switched to a vintage Kenwood Basic M2 (220wpc) and it was much better ... OK; sold my Forte's and got CF-3's which require the extra power :D 

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Hello Vivek,

 

Of course, the most important thing is the music.

 

As I mentioned in one of your other threads, I suggest that you first shop for recordings, and determine which formats for consumer deliverables are relevant to the music that you like:

  • LP?
  • Downloaded hi-res PCM (e.g., 24bit/192kHz or 24bit/96kHz FLAC from HDTracks.com, or prestomusic.com/classical/formats/download, etc.)?
  • Downloaded hi-res DSD (e.g., nativedsd.com, or acousticsounds.com/superhirez, etc.)?
  • CD?
  • DVD (e.g., concert videos)?
  • DVD-Audio (i.e., older "better-than-CD-quality" audio recordings)?
  • SACD (newer hi-res recordings)?
  • Pure Audio Blu-ray (i.e., newer hi-res audio-only disc – i.e., no video)?
  • Blu-ray (e.g., concert videos)?
  • Ultra HD Blu-ray (e.g., state-of-the-art concert videos)?
  • Will you play music directly from the disc (e.g., CD, SACD, Pure Audio Blu-ray), or will you copy all music to network-attached-storage ("NAS"), and play music files from NAS?  (Copying the SACD layer of a hybrid SACD reportedly requires arcane “hacking” procedures.   Copying Blu-ray reportedly can be done with the right hardware and software.)
  • Spotify Premium, Tidal HiFi, Qobuz, etc.?  Support for MQA?
  • Other?

Here’s my earlier long ramble about whether various formats are relevant for a given genre:  https://community.klipsch.com/index.php?/topic/186021-klipsch-rf-7-iii-vs-forte-iii/&do=findComment&comment=2414963

 

If you’re not interested in video (e.g., concert videos), or surround-sound, or LPs, then your needs are simpler.  Is all of the music you like available via streaming (e.g., Spotify Premium, Tidal HiFi, Qobuz), and/or hi-res downloads (e.g., HDTracks)?   Or, are some recordings that you like only available on discs (e.g., CD or SACD or Blu-ray or LP)?   If some recordings are only available on discs, are you willing to copy the discs to NAS, or will you want to drop a disc into a tray and hit the PLAY button?

 

Once you know which recording formats must be supported, then you can decide on a compatible player.   For example:

  • A universal disc player (i.e., an appliance that plays discs including Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, Pure Audio Blu-ray, SACD, DVD-Audio, DVD, CD, etc.), or
  • “CD only” player, and/or
  • Network streamer that can play hi-res files from NAS (e.g., downloaded hi-res files), and play Spotify Premium, Tidal HiFi, Qobuz, etc.  

Are you keeping your R-115 SW subwoofer?  If so, you will want a player, or pre-amp, or integrated amp that has a configurable subwoofer crossover, and analog line-level RCA subwoofer output.

 

Once you’ve selected a player, then you can decide on an amp that is a good match for the player.   For example, does the player have good quality built-in DACs?   An external (i.e., outboard) DAC with coax and TOSLINK interfaces probably can’t play the SACD layer of a hybrid SACD disc, and might not be able to play uncompromised audio quality from a Pure Audio Blu-ray discs without downgrading the audio bit rate – assuming that you’re playing directly from the disc.   (OTOH, if you first copy such discs to NAS, you might be able to play all formats from the NAS across ethernet to a DAC – however I have no experience with this type of implementation.)  

 

Does the player have built-in volume control, in which case you might be able to connect it directly to a power amp? 

 

What interfaces does the player provide (e.g., analog, HDMI, TOSLINK, coax, etc.)?

 

A player whose built-in DACs are available to other sources (e.g., equipped with a TOSLINK and/or coax and/or HDMI input) can be useful.   (For example, for one of my hi-fi systems, I connect my HDTV via TOSLINK to an input on my Oppo UDP-205 universal player, so that I can play the audio from TV programs on my hi-fi system.  In another system, I connect a Chromecast Audio via TOSLINK to an input on my Oppo UDP-205 universal player in order to play internet radio such as kusc.org.)

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I suggest that you consider a solution that includes tone controls, so that you can fine-tune your Forte III to your room, and your preferences.   (I.e., “salt and pepper to taste” – in other words, adjust bass and treble to suit your preferences.) 

 

If an amp that you’re interested in doesn’t have tone controls, can you buy a Schiit Loki in India?  (Many modern tube integrated amps such as Primaluna, Cary Audio, Line Magnetic, Rogue Audio, and Quicksilver don’t have tone controls.  I have no experience with modern tube amps – rather, my experience is with made-in-the-USA vintage tube amps.)  I recently obtained a Schiit Loki in order to tame high frequencies when driving my Klipsch Palladium via my Oppo UDP-205 directly connected to my McIntosh MC240 power amp (i.e., no preamp).   The Loki was MUCH less expensive than buying a McIntosh preamp (just to get a treble control).  I like the fact that the Loki does not digitize the audio.

 

Which brands of players and amps have service centers in Chandigarh?   Are there technicians in Chandigarh who can work on tube amps?   I think serviceability should be a consideration when choosing electronics.

 

I’m a fan of vintage tube amps, however, to be honest they can require maintenance.   A modern tube amp would probably only need tubes replaced periodically (perhaps every few years), which the consumer can do.   A solid-state amp will likely require the least maintenance.

 

If you want a tube amp, a few designs can accommodate several different output tubes, e.g., EL34, KT88, and 6L6GC.   Each different output tube would provide different sound quality, and provide you the opportunity to “tube roll” in order to optimize the audio quality to suit your taste.

 

Perhaps if you provide more information about the following, forum members might be able to offer specific advice:

  • What recording formats are you interested in supporting?
  • What types of players are you considering (e.g., universal disc player, or “CD only” player, or network streamer, etc.)?  
  • What players and amps are sold and serviced in India?

You’ve obviously given this careful thought.  I’ll be interested in learning from your experience.

 

I hope that your new Forte III arrive safely from Hope, Arkansas, USA.   I’m looking forward to pictures of your Forte III when you have them installed.

 

Please keep us posted.

 

Robert

 

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5 hours ago, robert_kc said:

Hello Vivek,

 

Of course, the most important thing is the music.

 

As I mentioned in one of your other threads, I suggest that you first shop for recordings, and determine which formats for consumer deliverables are relevant to the music that you like:

  • LP?
  • Downloaded hi-res PCM (e.g., 24bit/192kHz or 24bit/96kHz FLAC from HDTracks.com, or prestomusic.com/classical/formats/download, etc.)?
  • Downloaded hi-res DSD (e.g., nativedsd.com, or acousticsounds.com/superhirez, etc.)?
  • CD?
  • DVD (e.g., concert videos)?
  • DVD-Audio (i.e., older "better-than-CD-quality" audio recordings)?
  • SACD (newer hi-res recordings)?
  • Pure Audio Blu-ray (i.e., newer hi-res audio-only disc – i.e., no video)?
  • Blu-ray (e.g., concert videos)?
  • Ultra HD Blu-ray (e.g., state-of-the-art concert videos)?
  • Will you play music directly from the disc (e.g., CD, SACD, Pure Audio Blu-ray), or will you copy all music to network-attached-storage ("NAS"), and play music files from NAS?  (Copying the SACD layer of a hybrid SACD reportedly requires arcane “hacking” procedures.   Copying Blu-ray reportedly can be done with the right hardware and software.)
  • Spotify Premium, Tidal HiFi, Qobuz, etc.?  Support for MQA?
  • Other?

Here’s my earlier long ramble about whether various formats are relevant for a given genre:  https://community.klipsch.com/index.php?/topic/186021-klipsch-rf-7-iii-vs-forte-iii/&do=findComment&comment=2414963

 

If you’re not interested in video (e.g., concert videos), or surround-sound, or LPs, then your needs are simpler.  Is all of the music you like available via streaming (e.g., Spotify Premium, Tidal HiFi, Qobuz), and/or hi-res downloads (e.g., HDTracks)?   Or, are some recordings that you like only available on discs (e.g., CD or SACD or Blu-ray or LP)?   If some recordings are only available on discs, are you willing to copy the discs to NAS, or will you want to drop a disc into a tray and hit the PLAY button?

 

Once you know which recording formats must be supported, then you can decide on a compatible player.   For example:

  • A universal disc player (i.e., an appliance that plays discs including Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, Pure Audio Blu-ray, SACD, DVD-Audio, DVD, CD, etc.), or
  • “CD only” player, and/or
  • Network streamer that can play hi-res files from NAS (e.g., downloaded hi-res files), and play Spotify Premium, Tidal HiFi, Qobuz, etc.  

Are you keeping your R-115 SW subwoofer?  If so, you will want a player, or pre-amp, or integrated amp that has a configurable subwoofer crossover, and analog line-level RCA subwoofer output.

 

Once you’ve selected a player, then you can decide on an amp that is a good match for the player.   For example, does the player have good quality built-in DACs?   An external (i.e., outboard) DAC with coax and TOSLINK interfaces probably can’t play the SACD layer of a hybrid SACD disc, and might not be able to play uncompromised audio quality from a Pure Audio Blu-ray discs without downgrading the audio bit rate – assuming that you’re playing directly from the disc.   (OTOH, if you first copy such discs to NAS, you might be able to play all formats from the NAS across ethernet to a DAC – however I have no experience with this type of implementation.)  

 

Does the player have built-in volume control, in which case you might be able to connect it directly to a power amp? 

 

What interfaces does the player provide (e.g., analog, HDMI, TOSLINK, coax, etc.)?

 

A player whose built-in DACs are available to other sources (e.g., equipped with a TOSLINK and/or coax and/or HDMI input) can be useful.   (For example, for one of my hi-fi systems, I connect my HDTV via TOSLINK to an input on my Oppo UDP-205 universal player, so that I can play the audio from TV programs on my hi-fi system.  In another system, I connect a Chromecast Audio via TOSLINK to an input on my Oppo UDP-205 universal player in order to play internet radio such as kusc.org.)

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I suggest that you consider a solution that includes tone controls, so that you can fine-tune your Forte III to your room, and your preferences.   (I.e., “salt and pepper to taste” – in other words, adjust bass and treble to suit your preferences.) 

 

If an amp that you’re interested in doesn’t have tone controls, can you buy a Schiit Loki in India?  (Many modern tube integrated amps such as Primaluna, Cary Audio, Line Magnetic, Rogue Audio, and Quicksilver don’t have tone controls.  I have no experience with modern tube amps – rather, my experience is with made-in-the-USA vintage tube amps.)  I recently obtained a Schiit Loki in order to tame high frequencies when driving my Klipsch Palladium via my Oppo UDP-205 directly connected to my McIntosh MC240 power amp (i.e., no preamp).   The Loki was MUCH less expensive than buying a McIntosh preamp (just to get a treble control).  I like the fact that the Loki does not digitize the audio.

 

Which brands of players and amps have service centers in Chandigarh?   Are there technicians in Chandigarh who can work on tube amps?   I think serviceability should be a consideration when choosing electronics.

 

I’m a fan of vintage tube amps, however, to be honest they can require maintenance.   A modern tube amp would probably only need tubes replaced periodically (perhaps every few years), which the consumer can do.   A solid-state amp will likely require the least maintenance.

 

If you want a tube amp, a few designs can accommodate several different output tubes, e.g., EL34, KT88, and 6L6GC.   Each different output tube would provide different sound quality, and provide you the opportunity to “tube roll” in order to optimize the audio quality to suit your taste.

 

Perhaps if you provide more information about the following, forum members might be able to offer specific advice:

  • What recording formats are you interested in supporting?
  • What types of players are you considering (e.g., universal disc player, or “CD only” player, or network streamer, etc.)?  
  • What players and amps are sold and serviced in India?

You’ve obviously given this careful thought.  I’ll be interested in learning from your experience.

 

I hope that your new Forte III arrive safely from Hope, Arkansas, USA.   I’m looking forward to pictures of your Forte III when you have them installed.

 

Please keep us posted.

 

Robert

 

Hi @robert_kc

 

Your suggestions are very useful not only to me but anyone who is watching this thread and forum. I can see from your post that you have replied very patiently considering almost all the aspects on setting up a system from scratch. I will try to answer to your questions in the same order.

 

First of all why I didn't like the Denon x4500H and RP-8000F. The biggest mistake on my part was not buying a stereo amplifier but an AVR. Bigger than this was to rely just on streaming and not HD quality music. I was expecting wonders by investing considerable amount of money and though every track I throw at the system would sound amazing that was a big mistake. I have realized now that source has a very important role to produce quality sound and not all the recordings are as good as others. Another thing was the lean and harsh sound that I didn't like either by design of RP-8000F and pairing with Denon. I have not much control over the space I have, since I do not own the house so room treatment is not an option for now. So I have limited to no options to try different placements and acoustic treatment to the room.

 

Now coming on to what's in my mind. I want to move away from online sources, but since I have no CD/Vinyl collection as of now and after spending $6K on the Fortes, I want to start with bare minimum number of equipment. This doesn't mean that I am compromising on quality of equipment but just want to buy stuff as and when my budget allows.

 

IMO, I can get going with an external DAC and Pre/Power or Integrated for now. I am hoping to plug in my Laptop to DAC for streaming,FLAC and even use the Laptop drive to play discs. I know thats not ideal but atleast I'll have soemthing to play.

 

I don't think I'll be ever interested in video formats, but I will still be interested to buy a universal disc player soon. I do not want to close the doors as well. I will be building my collection and will gradually stop relying on online streaming and may also add a turntable when things get settled.

 

I want to see if I would need a subwoofer with Fortes or not so I am looking for an amp that supports adding a sub.

 

As you have mentioned that an external DAC woudn't be able to play SACD hybrid layer (do not know what that is) as nicely as inbuilt dac of the player, this is very strange to me. What is normaly said is that an external dac is better than the internal one becuase of being a dedicated piece of equipment. Some more light on this may be? I would still prefer a pre amp instead of feed the player directly in to the power amp. I think as per my budget I would settle with an integrated amp for now. IMO, if I have just one DAC is the whole system, that feeds the pre amp or integrated amp, then I have the same sound signature from all the sources be it streaming/cd/FALC etc. Please correct me if I am wrong. I think there are still lots of things not clear to me and I might be assuming in my mind.

 

So far I have seen only Luxamn amps that have tone controls. Both Solid state and tubes. No experience with Luxman and also avaialbe only on order. Schiit is avaialbe in India and people have good review about Schiit.

 

Service is a very important factor when spending a huge money, sadly all the hifi stuff sold in India are through distributors only. They just import and sell at their own prices. Prices are much higher in India as compared to other parts of the world. Only some entry level brands might have their service centers here like Denon/Yamaha/Pionner etc. This is a big issue here. Even claiming warranty from the distributor is not an easy thing.

 

Coming on to tubes vs solid state, so far every one has suggested to pair tube amps with Klipsch so that they could sound bit mellwoer and sweet rather than just in your face. Chandigarh is a very small city for hifi stuff. No chance of getting any kind of service avaialble locally or even demo. Honestly I am bit reluctant to go with tubes becuse of the known fact that the tube amps are delicate than the solid state ones. Without comparing tubes and solid state side by side I do not want to invest. Ever since I invested in my previous stuff, I lost my peace over dissatisfaction, this I want to avoid at any cost now. I just want to be at peace for some years with minimum to no maintenace of the system. But if tubes are the answer then I will go with tube amps.

 

Hope it will help all the people in suggesting the right things to me.

 

Thanks all for your advice.

 

Regards

Vivek

 

 

 

 

 

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https://www.ebay.com/itm/Mini-EL34-Vacuum-Tube-Amplifier-HiFi-Single-ended-Class-A-Home-Stereo-Audio-Amp/261867901431?redirect=mobile#shpCntId

 

This would be a great way to try a tube amp inexpensively. Shipping from China, it looks like they ship to India. 

 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Spot-TOPPING-D50S-ES9038Q2M-2-32Bit-768Khz-DSD512-HIFI-Audio-Decoder-USB-DAC/254306854171?pageci=7dbf962b-fd86-4283-874a-eaaad5ac7af3&redirect=mobile#shpCntId

 

One of the best DACs available. Multiple inputs so you can connect your laptop (USB input), a CD player with rca digital output(coaxial input), and has a fiber optic input (works great with Chromecast Audio), and it has Bluetooth so you can stream directly from your phone. It also ships from China. Read what the experts say about this DAC:

 

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/review-and-measurements-of-new-topping-d50s-dac.7914/

 

If you decide to go solid state, many Chinese sellers on eBay have nice inexpensive SS amps based on famous circuits. Buying from China is a good way to try different types of equipment without spending too much and I'm sure you can resell to your friends with no trouble. Once you know what technologies sound best to you then you can invest more wisely. 

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Hello Vivek,

 

Most SACD discs are “hybrid SACD”, meaning that they contain 2 layers:  a Redbook CD layer, and an SACD layer.   (A very few older SACDs have only an SACD layer.)  

 

The SACD layer has copy protection features.   As a result, you cannot play the SACD layer on a PC, or copy the SACD layer.  (You can play the CD layer of a hybrid SACD on a PC, and you can copy the CD layer.)

 

Almost all disc players have copy protection features that affect playing SACDs via outboard DACs.  Moreover, there are sometimes bandwidth limitations associated with a disc player connecting an outboard DAC.  For example, following is an excerpt from the User Manual of my Oppo UDP-205 universal player:

  • Due to bandwidth limitations, high resolution audio formats such as Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD High Resolution and DTS-HD Master Audio cannot be sent through the coaxial or optical digital audio output. A reduced resolution version of the same audio track will be output instead. To listen to high resolution audio formats in their best quality, please use the HDMI connection if you have a receiver that handles HDMI audio (see page 12) or use the multi-channel analog outputs if you do not (see page 15).
     
  • Due to copyright restrictions, SACD audio cannot be sent through the coaxial or optical digital audio output. To listen to SACDs, please use the HDMI or analog audio connections.
     
  • Due to copyright restrictions and bandwidth limitations, full resolution audio from DVD-Audio discs cannot be sent through the coaxial or optical digital audio output. To listen to DVDAudio in full resolution, please use the HDMI or analog audio connections.

The important takeaway is the difference in the capabilities of an HDMI interface vs. TOSLINK and coax. 

 

My understanding (bearing in mind that I’m not an expert) is that if you want a universal disc player, and an outboard stand-alone DAC, and you want to play SACD and Blu-ray, you’ll need a DAC with an HDMI interface.    (McIntosh has a proprietary solution for their products.)  Examples of HDMI DACs that I’m aware of include the Essence Evolve II-4K, which is a HDMI v2.0a Multi-Channel Audio DAC.   And, the Bryston BDA-3 External DAC, which includes an HDMI input – but only supports stereo.  (I have no experience with these DACs, and I’m not certain of the formats they support.  And I have no experience with their sound quality.  There are undoubtedly other choices.)

 

(There are a few stereo HDMI “network receivers“ (aka “stereo AVR”) – but they are probably not what you’re looking for, considering that you didn’t like the AVR you had:  Onkyo TX-8270, Pioneer SX-S30, Denon DRA-800H, Marantz NR1200.  FWIW, Marantz solid-state amps sometimes have a reputation for a more musical sound compared with Onkyo – but I have no personal experience.)

 

OTOH, over the last few years I’ve chosen universal players with built-on “audiophile-grade” DACs (for reasons I’ll discuss below) because I enjoy modern hi-res classical recordings.

 

The relevance of hi-res audio formats (e.g., SACD, Pure Audio Blu-ray, DVD-Audio, 24bit/192kHz download), and audio/video formats (e.g., Blu-ray, Ultra HD Blu-ray) depends on the genre of music.    That’s why I suggested that “Step 1” should be to shop for recordings.

 

For the classical music that I love, all of the state-of-the-art hi-res audio, and audio/video formats are relevant, because there are modern performances of most classical compositions.   And modern performances (i.e., in the last 15 years or so) were almost always captured and mastered in hi-res (i.e., 24bit/192kHz PCM, or DSD).  Moreover, most modern classical recordings are made available to the consumer in a hi-res format.    Many of my favorite classical recordings feature audio/video and surround-sound, and are only available on a disc (i.e., not available via streaming or download).  

 

IME/IMO the experience provided by Blu-ray is vastly superior to the experience of listening to a CD.   Blu-ray audio/video is indispensable for visual art forms such as opera and ballet, and IMO very enjoyable for orchestral music - i.e., watching the conductor and musicians, and seeing the symphony hall.   Blu-ray excels at conveying the beauty of this concert hall:   https://www.musikverein.at/en/der-grosse-musikvereinssaal  (And believe it or not, there are classical musicians who are enjoyable to watch.  I suggest watching a YouTube video of Khatia Buniatishvili playing piano., and Elīna Garanča and Anna Netrebko sing.  Now imagine that in Blu-ray quality.)  

 

There have been a lot of advances since the CD became available 37 years ago.  Each audiophile must decide whether these advances are relevant to the music they love.   For me the decision is clear:  I want Blu-ray or Ultra HD Blu-ray recordings of the music I love.  My second choices are Pure Audio Blu-ray and SACD that feature surround-sound.  My third choice is hi-res (e.g., 24bit/192kHz) stereo download.   IMO a classical music lover would be foolish to buy a player that only plays the 30+ year-old Redbook CD format, given the wealth of modern hi-res recordings available (including audio/video and multi-channel recordings). 

 

I listen to an entire symphony or opera at a time, so “convenient access” and “random shuffle” aren’t important features for me.   (I don’t listen to the first movement of Beethoven Symphony 2, followed by the fourth movement of Mahler Symphony 9, followed by …)   Loading a disc into the tray once every hour or so is not an inconvenience for me.  The process of dropping a disc into the tray is simple, and reliable, and hassle-free (e.g., no apps freezing). 

 

Therefore, I require a “universal player” that will play ALL audio and audio/video formats:  Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, Pure Audio Blu-ray, SACD, 24bit/192kHz download, DVD, and CD.    The Oppo UDP-205 has top-of-the-line DACs built-in, and I’m happy with its performance.   IME/IMO, top-quality modern hi-res classical recordings played via my Oppo UDP-205 (and BDP-105 and BDP-95) sound fabulous when played via my tube amps and Klipsch speakers.

 

Because the Oppo UDP-205 is connected to an HDTV, during playback useful information is displayed on the screen, such as volume level, track #, etc.   (And when playing an opera on Blu-ray, the libretto can be displayed on the screen, which is extremely useful.)  The HDTV screen can easily be “blanked” (i.e., black) via the “Pure Audio” button on the Oppo’s remote control.   (I think of this feature like a “video mute” button.)  And the UDP-205 has a parameter for volume setting upon power-on (i.e., either a user specified fixed value, or the last value).  This feature eliminates the possibility of accidentally having the volume set extremely loud when the unit is turned on.   (This is important if you alternate between classical and pop recordings, because pop recordings are typically mastered MUCH louder than the average volume level in classical recordings.)  And there is a parameter setting for the maximum volume level.   The UDP-205’s implementation of volume control is more convenient IMO than trying to guess from the listening chair where the volume control is set on a pre-amp.   And IMO being able to see information about the recording (e.g., track #) on the HDTV screen is easier than trying to see the small display on a CD player.

 

Because I enjoy classical orchestral music, opera, and ballet Blu-ray audio/video recordings, I see no distinction between a “hi-fi system” and a “home theater system”.   The Oppo units provide capabilities that are essential to me:  analog audio connections (stereo, 2.1, 5.1, 7.1) for my vintage tube amps and subwoofers, and the Oppo units provide variable audio output.  And ultra HD video.

 

Maybe someday all classical recordings will be available via streaming and download, including hi-res video and surround-sound audio.  And maybe someday streaming and download services will provide the best available quality.   Today, Blu-ray discs, and the Oppo UDP-205, suit my needs best. 

 

However, I recognize that my tastes in music, and my audio/video requirements are unique.  Some people listen exclusively to vintage audio-only recordings.

 

For music that was recorded decades ago, the audio quality is limited by decades-old recording technology.  In some cases, a high-quality analog master tape from decades ago has been digitized at hi-res with good results, and made available as an SACD, or hi-res download.  Similarly, some older movies were recorded on large-format film, and can be digitized and delivered on Blu-ray with good results.   OTOH, early digital recordings (audio and video) might not benefit as much from re-mastering – but that’s a generalization – and I’m not an expert on mastering recordings.  My experience is that modern recordings (audio and video) generally have the best audio and video quality. 

 

If all of the music you like is available as a download in the best available audio quality (whether that’s 16bit/44.1kHz or 24bit/192kHz or DSD), then you may not need a disc player.  I suggest that you search HDTracks. com for downloads.  Some HDTracks downloads are “CD quality” (16bit/44.1kHz), and some are higher resolution (e.g., 24bit/96kHz or 24bit/192kHz).  Provenance of the recording is important – garbage-in/garbage-out - you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear – in other words a poor-quality recording can’t be magically transformed just by delivering it in a hi-res container.   (If you pour a gallon of milk into a 55-gallon drum, it’s still only a gallon of milk.)

 

Some people employ “hacking” to get around the copy protections on SACDs.  You can google this topic for details.  (As far as I’m concerned, this is a somewhat complex process that appeals to PC hobbyists.)  Reportedly the process to copy Blu-ray discs is not as complex.    Copying all disc types (CD, SACD, Blu-ray) requires an investment of time and money by the audiophile.    Some think the effort is worth it, some don’t.   (Some people like to choose individual songs, and build playlists, and don’t want to load a different disc for each 3-minute song, and value having all music on NAS.) 

 

My understanding – but I have no experience - is that once hi-res files are loaded on NAS (via download or copying discs), then an appropriate DAC can play any hi-res format.  That DAC can be stand-alone, or built into another appliance, such as a disc player, pre-amp, or integrated amp.  (Some like a stand-alone DAC for upgrade flexibility, some like all-in-one approach with a DAC built into an integrated amp or receiver, thereby minimizing the number of components, and interconnect cables, and associated integration efforts.)

 

I recognize that people enjoy the hobby of hi-fi differently.   I respect the fact that some people enjoy the process of “hacking” software, and copying discs, and building a system based on NAS storage.  However, this is not how I choose to spend my time.  To each their own.

 

As I said earlier, I suggest these steps:

  1. Shop for recordings, and determine which formats for consumer deliverables are relevant to the music that you like.  (The audio quality of your hi-fi system will be limited by the quality of the recordings, so I suggest that you focus a lot of your effort on seeking the best quality recordings for the music you like.)
     
  2. Once you know which recording formats must be supported, then you can decide on a compatible player(s).   (For example, you might want a turntable for LPs, a universal disc player, and a way to play internet radio and Spotify Premium.)  
     
  3. Once you’ve selected a player(s), then you can decide on an amp that is a good match for the player(s).   Because your Klipsch Forte III are relatively sensitive (99dB), you won’t need a lot of power.

Different audiophiles will reach different conclusions based on the music they like, their budget, and their preferences:

  1. The Oppo UDP-205 universal player is the best solution for me.  I also own BDP-105 and BDP-95, which are good products that play all disc types except Ultra HD Blu-ray.  (Unfortunately, Oppo no longer manufactures products.  If you can buy a used UDP-205, BDP-105 or BDP-95 for a reasonable price, that’s something you might consider.)
     
  2. Another audiophile who wants a universal disc player, and needs analog audio connections for stereo (i.e., 2 channel) only, might choose a Sony ES UBP-X1100ES player (or older and cheaper UBP-X1000ES).   (I have no experience with this player, but have read positive comments on another forum about its audio quality.  Given that you aren’t interested in multi-channel, the Sony ES UBP-X1100ES may be a good choice, if you want the most flexibility in choosing disc formats.   You’d need a pre-amp (or integrated amp) for a volume control, subwoofer connection, and tone controls.)
     
  3. Another audiophile might build a solution around the Essence Evolve II-4K, which is a HDMI v2.0a Multi-Channel Audio DAC.   Or, the Bryston BDA-3 External DAC, which includes an HDMI input, but is stereo only.  I don't know if there are other stand-alone DACs that support HDMI.   (I have no experience with these DACs, and I’m not certain of the formats they support.  And I have no experience with their sound quality.)
     
  4. Another audiophile who only wants to play CDs (no SACD or Blu-ray), plus stream hi-res files from NAS, and support services like Spotify Premium, might choose something like the Marantz ND8006 CD player / music streamer, and employ its variable analog audio output to directly drive a power amp.   This player also has (2) optical inputs, plus coaxial and USB type B digital inputs.  (I have no experience with this player.)
     
  5. Another audiophile who only wants to stream from NAS and services like Spotify Premium, might choose something like Bluesound Node 2i, or Bluesound Vault 2i which provides a CD ripper and 2TB of storage.  These units have a mono RCA subwoofer output.  (I have no experience with this player.)
     
  6. John Q. Public (and some audiophiles) will choose an AVR, whether stereo or multi-channel, that has HDMI inputs, and can support all formats.
     
  7. I’m certain there are many other types of solutions.  The options can be bewildering.

Regarding amps, if you get a Luxman CL-38uC pre-amp, or LX-380 integrated amp, I’ll be jealous. :)   I’ve never owned any of the Luxman tube gear.   (I collect US tube amps.)  IMO these Luxman units are very handsome, and have a good reputation.  FWIW, I also think the McIntosh C22 and C70 are very handsome pre-amps that could be paired with an MC275.   Is McIntosh gear available in India?  Any of these products would be an investment that is “heirloom quality”, and be a great complement to your Klipsch Forte III.  (Both manufacturers also offer solid-state amps.)

 

FWIW, following are links to a few of my other posts that might be relevant for someone who is new to this discussion:

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll stop rambling for now.   Tonight, I’m attending the first performance of my local symphony’s 2019/2020 season, and I need to prepare to attend dinner with family and friends, and then the concert.  I’m looking forward to it.

 

I hope this helps, rather than confuses.

 

Hopefully others will join the conversation, and share their experience.  Some people are far more knowledgeable than me about stand-alone DACs, and NAS-based solutions.

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On 10/6/2019 at 1:57 AM, robert_kc said:

Hello Vivek,

 

Most SACD discs are “hybrid SACD”, meaning that they contain 2 layers:  a Redbook CD layer, and an SACD layer.   (A very few older SACDs have only an SACD layer.)  

 

The SACD layer has copy protection features.   As a result, you cannot play the SACD layer on a PC, or copy the SACD layer.  (You can play the CD layer of a hybrid SACD on a PC, and you can copy the CD layer.)

 

Almost all disc players have copy protection features that affect playing SACDs via outboard DACs.  Moreover, there are sometimes bandwidth limitations associated with a disc player connecting an outboard DAC.  For example, following is an excerpt from the User Manual of my Oppo UDP-205 universal player:

  • Due to bandwidth limitations, high resolution audio formats such as Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD High Resolution and DTS-HD Master Audio cannot be sent through the coaxial or optical digital audio output. A reduced resolution version of the same audio track will be output instead. To listen to high resolution audio formats in their best quality, please use the HDMI connection if you have a receiver that handles HDMI audio (see page 12) or use the multi-channel analog outputs if you do not (see page 15).
     
  • Due to copyright restrictions, SACD audio cannot be sent through the coaxial or optical digital audio output. To listen to SACDs, please use the HDMI or analog audio connections.
     
  • Due to copyright restrictions and bandwidth limitations, full resolution audio from DVD-Audio discs cannot be sent through the coaxial or optical digital audio output. To listen to DVDAudio in full resolution, please use the HDMI or analog audio connections.

The important takeaway is the difference in the capabilities of an HDMI interface vs. TOSLINK and coax. 

 

My understanding (bearing in mind that I’m not an expert) is that if you want a universal disc player, and an outboard stand-alone DAC, and you want to play SACD and Blu-ray, you’ll need a DAC with an HDMI interface.    (McIntosh has a proprietary solution for their products.)  Examples of HDMI DACs that I’m aware of include the Essence Evolve II-4K, which is a HDMI v2.0a Multi-Channel Audio DAC.   And, the Bryston BDA-3 External DAC, which includes an HDMI input – but only supports stereo.  (I have no experience with these DACs, and I’m not certain of the formats they support.  And I have no experience with their sound quality.  There are undoubtedly other choices.)

 

(There are a few stereo HDMI “network receivers“ (aka “stereo AVR”) – but they are probably not what you’re looking for, considering that you didn’t like the AVR you had:  Onkyo TX-8270, Pioneer SX-S30, Denon DRA-800H, Marantz NR1200.  FWIW, Marantz solid-state amps sometimes have a reputation for a more musical sound compared with Onkyo – but I have no personal experience.)

 

OTOH, over the last few years I’ve chosen universal players with built-on “audiophile-grade” DACs (for reasons I’ll discuss below) because I enjoy modern hi-res classical recordings.

 

The relevance of hi-res audio formats (e.g., SACD, Pure Audio Blu-ray, DVD-Audio, 24bit/192kHz download), and audio/video formats (e.g., Blu-ray, Ultra HD Blu-ray) depends on the genre of music.    That’s why I suggested that “Step 1” should be to shop for recordings.

 

For the classical music that I love, all of the state-of-the-art hi-res audio, and audio/video formats are relevant, because there are modern performances of most classical compositions.   And modern performances (i.e., in the last 15 years or so) were almost always captured and mastered in hi-res (i.e., 24bit/192kHz PCM, or DSD).  Moreover, most modern classical recordings are made available to the consumer in a hi-res format.    Many of my favorite classical recordings feature audio/video and surround-sound, and are only available on a disc (i.e., not available via streaming or download).  

 

IME/IMO the experience provided by Blu-ray is vastly superior to the experience of listening to a CD.   Blu-ray audio/video is indispensable for visual art forms such as opera and ballet, and IMO very enjoyable for orchestral music - i.e., watching the conductor and musicians, and seeing the symphony hall.   Blu-ray excels at conveying the beauty of this concert hall:   https://www.musikverein.at/en/der-grosse-musikvereinssaal  (And believe it or not, there are classical musicians who are enjoyable to watch.  I suggest watching a YouTube video of Khatia Buniatishvili playing piano., and Elīna Garanča and Anna Netrebko sing.  Now imagine that in Blu-ray quality.)  

 

There have been a lot of advances since the CD became available 37 years ago.  Each audiophile must decide whether these advances are relevant to the music they love.   For me the decision is clear:  I want Blu-ray or Ultra HD Blu-ray recordings of the music I love.  My second choices are Pure Audio Blu-ray and SACD that feature surround-sound.  My third choice is hi-res (e.g., 24bit/192kHz) stereo download.   IMO a classical music lover would be foolish to buy a player that only plays the 30+ year-old Redbook CD format, given the wealth of modern hi-res recordings available (including audio/video and multi-channel recordings). 

 

I listen to an entire symphony or opera at a time, so “convenient access” and “random shuffle” aren’t important features for me.   (I don’t listen to the first movement of Beethoven Symphony 2, followed by the fourth movement of Mahler Symphony 9, followed by …)   Loading a disc into the tray once every hour or so is not an inconvenience for me.  The process of dropping a disc into the tray is simple, and reliable, and hassle-free (e.g., no apps freezing). 

 

Therefore, I require a “universal player” that will play ALL audio and audio/video formats:  Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, Pure Audio Blu-ray, SACD, 24bit/192kHz download, DVD, and CD.    The Oppo UDP-205 has top-of-the-line DACs built-in, and I’m happy with its performance.   IME/IMO, top-quality modern hi-res classical recordings played via my Oppo UDP-205 (and BDP-105 and BDP-95) sound fabulous when played via my tube amps and Klipsch speakers.

 

Because the Oppo UDP-205 is connected to an HDTV, during playback useful information is displayed on the screen, such as volume level, track #, etc.   (And when playing an opera on Blu-ray, the libretto can be displayed on the screen, which is extremely useful.)  The HDTV screen can easily be “blanked” (i.e., black) via the “Pure Audio” button on the Oppo’s remote control.   (I think of this feature like a “video mute” button.)  And the UDP-205 has a parameter for volume setting upon power-on (i.e., either a user specified fixed value, or the last value).  This feature eliminates the possibility of accidentally having the volume set extremely loud when the unit is turned on.   (This is important if you alternate between classical and pop recordings, because pop recordings are typically mastered MUCH louder than the average volume level in classical recordings.)  And there is a parameter setting for the maximum volume level.   The UDP-205’s implementation of volume control is more convenient IMO than trying to guess from the listening chair where the volume control is set on a pre-amp.   And IMO being able to see information about the recording (e.g., track #) on the HDTV screen is easier than trying to see the small display on a CD player.

 

Because I enjoy classical orchestral music, opera, and ballet Blu-ray audio/video recordings, I see no distinction between a “hi-fi system” and a “home theater system”.   The Oppo units provide capabilities that are essential to me:  analog audio connections (stereo, 2.1, 5.1, 7.1) for my vintage tube amps and subwoofers, and the Oppo units provide variable audio output.  And ultra HD video.

 

Maybe someday all classical recordings will be available via streaming and download, including hi-res video and surround-sound audio.  And maybe someday streaming and download services will provide the best available quality.   Today, Blu-ray discs, and the Oppo UDP-205, suit my needs best. 

 

However, I recognize that my tastes in music, and my audio/video requirements are unique.  Some people listen exclusively to vintage audio-only recordings.

 

For music that was recorded decades ago, the audio quality is limited by decades-old recording technology.  In some cases, a high-quality analog master tape from decades ago has been digitized at hi-res with good results, and made available as an SACD, or hi-res download.  Similarly, some older movies were recorded on large-format film, and can be digitized and delivered on Blu-ray with good results.   OTOH, early digital recordings (audio and video) might not benefit as much from re-mastering – but that’s a generalization – and I’m not an expert on mastering recordings.  My experience is that modern recordings (audio and video) generally have the best audio and video quality. 

 

If all of the music you like is available as a download in the best available audio quality (whether that’s 16bit/44.1kHz or 24bit/192kHz or DSD), then you may not need a disc player.  I suggest that you search HDTracks. com for downloads.  Some HDTracks downloads are “CD quality” (16bit/44.1kHz), and some are higher resolution (e.g., 24bit/96kHz or 24bit/192kHz).  Provenance of the recording is important – garbage-in/garbage-out - you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear – in other words a poor-quality recording can’t be magically transformed just by delivering it in a hi-res container.   (If you pour a gallon of milk into a 55-gallon drum, it’s still only a gallon of milk.)

 

Some people employ “hacking” to get around the copy protections on SACDs.  You can google this topic for details.  (As far as I’m concerned, this is a somewhat complex process that appeals to PC hobbyists.)  Reportedly the process to copy Blu-ray discs is not as complex.    Copying all disc types (CD, SACD, Blu-ray) requires an investment of time and money by the audiophile.    Some think the effort is worth it, some don’t.   (Some people like to choose individual songs, and build playlists, and don’t want to load a different disc for each 3-minute song, and value having all music on NAS.) 

 

My understanding – but I have no experience - is that once hi-res files are loaded on NAS (via download or copying discs), then an appropriate DAC can play any hi-res format.  That DAC can be stand-alone, or built into another appliance, such as a disc player, pre-amp, or integrated amp.  (Some like a stand-alone DAC for upgrade flexibility, some like all-in-one approach with a DAC built into an integrated amp or receiver, thereby minimizing the number of components, and interconnect cables, and associated integration efforts.)

 

I recognize that people enjoy the hobby of hi-fi differently.   I respect the fact that some people enjoy the process of “hacking” software, and copying discs, and building a system based on NAS storage.  However, this is not how I choose to spend my time.  To each their own.

 

As I said earlier, I suggest these steps:

  1. Shop for recordings, and determine which formats for consumer deliverables are relevant to the music that you like.  (The audio quality of your hi-fi system will be limited by the quality of the recordings, so I suggest that you focus a lot of your effort on seeking the best quality recordings for the music you like.)
     
  2. Once you know which recording formats must be supported, then you can decide on a compatible player(s).   (For example, you might want a turntable for LPs, a universal disc player, and a way to play internet radio and Spotify Premium.)  
     
  3. Once you’ve selected a player(s), then you can decide on an amp that is a good match for the player(s).   Because your Klipsch Forte III are relatively sensitive (99dB), you won’t need a lot of power.

Different audiophiles will reach different conclusions based on the music they like, their budget, and their preferences:

  1. The Oppo UDP-205 universal player is the best solution for me.  I also own BDP-105 and BDP-95, which are good products that play all disc types except Ultra HD Blu-ray.  (Unfortunately, Oppo no longer manufactures products.  If you can buy a used UDP-205, BDP-105 or BDP-95 for a reasonable price, that’s something you might consider.)
     
  2. Another audiophile who wants a universal disc player, and needs analog audio connections for stereo (i.e., 2 channel) only, might choose a Sony ES UBP-X1100ES player (or older and cheaper UBP-X1000ES).   (I have no experience with this player, but have read positive comments on another forum about its audio quality.  Given that you aren’t interested in multi-channel, the Sony ES UBP-X1100ES may be a good choice, if you want the most flexibility in choosing disc formats.   You’d need a pre-amp (or integrated amp) for a volume control, subwoofer connection, and tone controls.)
     
  3. Another audiophile might build a solution around the Essence Evolve II-4K, which is a HDMI v2.0a Multi-Channel Audio DAC.   Or, the Bryston BDA-3 External DAC, which includes an HDMI input, but is stereo only.  I don't know if there are other stand-alone DACs that support HDMI.   (I have no experience with these DACs, and I’m not certain of the formats they support.  And I have no experience with their sound quality.)
     
  4. Another audiophile who only wants to play CDs (no SACD or Blu-ray), plus stream hi-res files from NAS, and support services like Spotify Premium, might choose something like the Marantz ND8006 CD player / music streamer, and employ its variable analog audio output to directly drive a power amp.   This player also has (2) optical inputs, plus coaxial and USB type B digital inputs.  (I have no experience with this player.)
     
  5. Another audiophile who only wants to stream from NAS and services like Spotify Premium, might choose something like Bluesound Node 2i, or Bluesound Vault 2i which provides a CD ripper and 2TB of storage.  These units have a mono RCA subwoofer output.  (I have no experience with this player.)
     
  6. John Q. Public (and some audiophiles) will choose an AVR, whether stereo or multi-channel, that has HDMI inputs, and can support all formats.
     
  7. I’m certain there are many other types of solutions.  The options can be bewildering.

Regarding amps, if you get a Luxman CL-38uC pre-amp, or LX-380 integrated amp, I’ll be jealous. :)   I’ve never owned any of the Luxman tube gear.   (I collect US tube amps.)  IMO these Luxman units are very handsome, and have a good reputation.  FWIW, I also think the McIntosh C22 and C70 are very handsome pre-amps that could be paired with an MC275.   Is McIntosh gear available in India?  Any of these products would be an investment that is “heirloom quality”, and be a great complement to your Klipsch Forte III.  (Both manufacturers also offer solid-state amps.)

 

FWIW, following are links to a few of my other posts that might be relevant for someone who is new to this discussion:

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll stop rambling for now.   Tonight, I’m attending the first performance of my local symphony’s 2019/2020 season, and I need to prepare to attend dinner with family and friends, and then the concert.  I’m looking forward to it.

 

I hope this helps, rather than confuses.

 

Hopefully others will join the conversation, and share their experience.  Some people are far more knowledgeable than me about stand-alone DACs, and NAS-based solutions.

Hi @robert_kc

 

I am replying late because was bit short of time and I wanted to give a in depth read to what you have suggested. The resolution issue with coaxial and Toslink is new to me. Thanks for enlightening me. I think I need a lot more clarifications before I finalize something. 

 

I liked the idea of buying a universal disc player, as I do not want to reply on streaming any more. As you have suggested going with HDMI in between a UDP and DAC, I need to explore which DACs are available near me.

 

I still need to go through all the threads that you have shared, that's for the weekend I guess. I'll keep this post alive as I progress with my search and gaining knowledge.

 

Thanks a lot for sharing so much useful information.

 

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Hi,

 

I use a solution: McIntosh MC2125 solid state in the bass and Cary SLI50 Valves EL34 above. It's great !

 

You could get inspired and use a solid state down and a tube above.

 

😎

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The rabbit hole is a fun adventure so enjoy but if you just want to simplify and call it a day a marantz stereo receiver should satisfy everything for you or at least hold you over while you climb your way down the rabbit hole to the rest of us ...

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