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Which is the weakest link in my setup -- or: what to buy next? Speakers? Amp? CD player?

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I posted here before, as some of you will realize. Despite having been a dissatisfied owner of the RP 160M, I nevertheless see much potential in the Klipsch sound. I was mulling over the idea of replacing the speakers with either RP 8000, Heresy IV or, as of a few days now, Forte III. But then it occurred to me that I don't actually know which would be the most cost-effective way to improve my setup. It is as follows: 

 

  • RP 160M
  • Yamaha R-N602 stereo receiver 
  • SVS SB-2000 subwoofer (12 inches)
  • Room type and dimensions: bedroom (w/ king-sized bed; treated walls); ~13.5 x 13.5 x 9.5 ft
  • Source material: Apple Music for non-classical, Digital Concert Hall and Primephonic for classical, locally stored FLAC files (all genres)
  • Preferred musical genres: classical, jazz, classic rock, electronica (in that order)

 

I stopped using Primephonic, despite having paid for a year's subscription, because its interface doesn't highlight its lossless material. Revisiting it made me realize that my setup, though still well short of what I'd like to hear, isn't bad. I use Apple Music frequently because it's convenient (not a fan of Tidal because of its dearth of its lossless material and its exorbitant price point).

 

Of course, I'm experiencing what has poked so many holes in your pockets: that itch to buy better hardware. The budget is ~$2,000, give or take another grand, depending on the perceived value of the upgrade. As a newcomer to the hobby, however, I don't quite know what my weak links might be.  

 

Possible upgrades:

  1. Speakers, which is a bit of a crapshoot, because I can't audition any of speakers I'm interested in (Heresy, Forte -- already sampled the RP 8000). 
  2. A decent CD player? A Yamaha CD player called CD-S1000 is going for $500 at a local store ( I don't own a CD collection, but building one isn't very expensive). How much of an upgrade would it be over my current source material? Can't sample the Yamaha CD player in my room, I'm afraid. 
  3. Better amplifier! But which? No clue.

 

 

Thanks again for being so welcoming and helpful -- and apologies for posting a new thread. I'm overwhelmed!

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1 hour ago, Man in the Box said:

A decent CD player? A Yamaha CD player called CD-S1000 is going for $500 at a local store

I have owned my CD-S1000 for about 3.5 years and could not be more pleased.  Built like a bank vault and weighs in at a hefty 33.1 pounds and possesses the smoothest CD tray mechanism I have ever used.  The sound is very neutral and has a fast punchy rhythm to it.  A perfect compliment to my A-S1000 integrated amp.  I think $500.00 is a very nice price.

 

Bill

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11 hours ago, willland said:

I have owned my CD-S1000 for about 3.5 years and could not be more pleased.  Built like a bank vault and weighs in at a hefty 33.1 pounds and possesses the smoothest CD tray mechanism I have ever used.  The sound is very neutral and has a fast punchy rhythm to it.  A perfect compliment to my A-S1000 integrated amp.  I think $500.00 is a very nice price.

 

Bill

Thank you, Bill. Do you own CDs and a CD player because you prefer the experience or because you believe they sound better than, say, streaming lossless files? 

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1 hour ago, Man in the Box said:

Thank you, Bill. Do you own CDs and a CD player because you prefer the experience or because you believe they sound better than, say, streaming lossless files? 

I own CD's/SACD's and CD players because I like the medium.  I like placing a CD in the tray like LP lovers enjoy lowering the tonearm needle onto a record.

As far as preference, no definitive preference.  Of course like many do I like the convenience of streaming music files, Spotify, Pandora, etc.

I am sure many will agree here when I say that a very well recorded CD with high dynamic range will run with the best same recording in a lossless file.  For example, as mentioned(by me) in another thread, any CD from Steely Dan applies to this concept.  In addition to master musicians, Becker(RIP) and Fagen  are perfectionists in sound production.

 

You could play a lossless file that has poor dynamic range vs the same CD pressing with HDR and the CD will smash the lossless file with definition and dynamics.  In other words, it is sometimes just a crap shoot.

 

Bill

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If you are looking for a new speaker with the sound that made Klipsch famous the world over go with the Heritage line. You will discover a whole new world with your music library going with the Heresy IV or forte III. With money permitting the forte III would be the first choice over the Heresy IV IMHO. But if at all possible you really need to listen to any speakers that you are considering to purchase.

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     In my experience, unless something else in the chain is severely deficient (not the case for you), speakers are almost always the weakest link.  Despite all the fuss you hear about amps and CD players, almost all of them do an excellent job of reproducing an audio signal.  They are nearly perfect in that regard, even the cheap ones.  The same cannot be said for speakers.  There is a world of difference between good speakers and poor ones.

   I think Alexander is spot on.  A set of Heresys or Fortes would be a big upgrade from what you have now.  You can probably get away with the Heresys since you have a sub, but bigger is always better.  You might also look around Craiglist, etc. for some used larger Heritage models (LaScala, Cornwall).  You may get the most for your money there.

 

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1 hour ago, Tarheel TJ said:

     In my experience, unless something else in the chain is severely deficient (not the case for you), speakers are almost always the weakest link.  Despite all the fuss you hear about amps and CD players, almost all of them do an excellent job of reproducing an audio signal.  They are nearly perfect in that regard, even the cheap ones.  The same cannot be said for speakers.  There is a world of difference between good speakers and poor ones.

   I think Alexander is spot on.  A set of Heresys or Fortes would be a big upgrade from what you have now.  You can probably get away with the Heresys since you have a sub, but bigger is always better.  You might also look around Craiglist, etc. for some used larger Heritage models (LaScala, Cornwall).  You may get the most for your money there.

 

That's an interesting perspective that I haven't come across elsewhere. Why do audiophiles upgrade their gear, then? To squeeze out a bit more out of speakers they've invested in? 

 

It's paradoxical, when it comes to choosing between the Heresy and the Forte: if the Forte would replace both my RP 160 and the my subwoofer, it would become cheaper than the Heresy. Smaller footprint in my small room, too.

 

1 hour ago, Alexander said:

 

If you are looking for a new speaker with the sound that made Klipsch famous the world over go with the Heritage line. You will discover a whole new world with your music library going with the Heresy IV or forte III. With money permitting the forte III would be the first choice over the Heresy IV IMHO. But if at all possible you really need to listen to any speakers that you are considering to purchase.

I would love to get a sense of what that's like. But unfortunately, in my location I'm unable to audition them. I can get them delivered, however. So it'd be a gamble. My reasoning is that if they do more of what I already appreciate in the RP 160 and the 8000 (which I sampled and I really liked), why wouldn't I like the Heresy or the Forte also?

 

Another question for you, Tarheel and whoever has experience with the heritage line: is it true that the Forte is qualitatively better than the Heresy? I assumed that it's simply a bigger Heresy; but reviews I've seen claim otherwise. 

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1 hour ago, willland said:

I own CD's/SACD's and CD players because I like the medium.  I like placing a CD in the tray like LP lovers enjoy lowering the tonearm needle onto a record.

As far as preference, no definitive preference.  Of course like many do I like the convenience of streaming music files, Spotify, Pandora, etc.

I am sure many will agree here when I say that a very well recorded CD with high dynamic range will run with the best same recording in a lossless file.  For example, as mentioned(by me) in another thread, any CD from Steely Dan applies to this concept.  In addition to master musicians, Becker(RIP) and Fagen  are perfectionists in sound production.

 

You could play a lossless file that has poor dynamic range vs the same CD pressing with HDR and the CD will smash the lossless file with definition and dynamics.  In other words, it is sometimes just a crap shoot.

 

Bill

I see. In that case, I'd rather put the $500 toward another piece of hardware that would make a bigger difference. A Heresy or a Forte, maybe. 

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Simply put, the better the speaker the more reveling of any changes done up stream.

 

With that said – as your speakers get better it can start to expose how bad some recordings might be and is through no fault of the speaker.

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15 hours ago, Man in the Box said:
  •  
  • Room type and dimensions: bedroom (w/ king-sized bed; treated walls); ~13.5 x 13.5 x 9.5 ft


Looks like the room/setup is your weakest link.

 

What does treated walls mean..? Type and location of treatments can cause good or bad effects.

 

If your willing post some pictures of the room and setup so that people can offer you more informed suggestions.


miketn

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If you don't have CD source material, than I wouldn't recommend getting a CD player. If, however, that changes and you want to explore other sources (e.g. CD's or LP's), then by all means have at it. FLAC files (someone will correct me if I'm wrong), as source files aren't going to be inferior to a CD. Personally, I'd recommend a speaker upgrade, which should be a relatively big difference or ROI. Forte III would be a great choice, or if you are concerned about budget, you could look at the used lines --- e.g. read the forum about the food chain. I have Forte III and Chorus. Really hard to listen to Forte III ahead of time in some locations - I bought without listening to, and I couldn't be happier with the purchase. Finally, retail prices aren't necessarily what you always pay. Check around, get quotes, look at B-stock as an option.

 

Good luck!

 

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1 hour ago, Man in the Box said:

Why do audiophiles upgrade their gear, then?

An interesting question that I've asked myself many times.  Sort of like the military "amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics", audio amateurs I find talk about electronics, but real audio reproduction experts talk about room acoustics and loudspeakers (and sometimes source music quality as a distant third).  In the order specified--room acoustics, loudspeakers, music tracks--the rest of the signal chain takes a poor backseat to these considerations.  Amplifiers are far too much focused upon, I believe.  I can't tell you how much I've witnessed people spending many thousands of dollars on electronics, but their loudspeakers leave everything to be desired (except perhaps that they're "small" or "look nice").  

 

In your room, you're going to have issues with nearfield reflections, even from opposite walls, and that square floor plan.  I find it very difficult to get small square floor plans to sound good (as Mike mentioned just above).  You may have to move some things around to make the best of the architecture (the room), and even then you may still not be terribly impressed, no matter what sound system you put in the room.  You may have to go as far as introducing movable reflective barriers to change the acoustic shape of the room.

 

I know this isn't what you want to hear, but it is probably something that will eventually save you a lot of money trying to overcome--unsuccessfully.

 

 

Chris

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2 hours ago, Man in the Box said:

I see. In that case, I'd rather put the $500 toward another piece of hardware that would make a bigger difference.

True but the better the gear and speakers the more revealing they are, whether good CD recording or bad lossless file, or vise versa.

 

Bill

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In your situation I would get some used Oppo CD player that also has an ethernet input for online streaming Hi-Res and is also MQA compatible. The Oppo's play pretty much everything.

 

After that a speaker upgrade. Many have posted plenty of good ideas - Heresy, Cornwall, maybe the RP8000 you were looking at. I wouldn't go too big in your room. Not because it won't be an improvement or won't sound good. It's just that you won't be getting what you paid for. You won't be able to get anywhere near the performance out of, say Khorns, in your room, that you should be or that they are capable of.

 

As far as online streaming - you mentioned not using Tidal "because of it's dearth of lossless material". I'm afraid I don't understand. Tidal has a tremendous library of lossless material in all music genre, including master quality and master authenticated files. It's actually become difficult not to find something. Finding it however, can still be an issue depending on how Tidal cataloged it and what search parameters you used. It is getting better, but not yet what I'd like to see. Supposedly Roon helps overcome this, but that's another subscription.

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Better amplification would make you like the sound of the RP160M's better. That being said: Nothing will "embiggen" your sound more than bigger, better speakers. Spend that 2k on the newest Heresies or Fortes you can find. 

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  • RP 160M
  • Yamaha R-N602 stereo receiver 
  • SVS SB-2000 subwoofer (12 inches)

I find it very difficult to comprehend you not being able to get very satisfying sound out of this setup in a bedroom.  Nothing at all wrong with your gear or speakers.  The RP-160Ms as well as the newer RP-600Ms have been reviewed by many "professionals" as well as non professionals and the consensus appears to be overwhelmingly positive.  About the only "negative" I can find is that they are a bit on the "big bulky" side for bookshelf speakers.

 

My personal opinion, with a little acoustic treatment and maybe more experimentation with your volume levels, crossover(LPF, HPF), phase, there is no reason your setup can't be as impressive as what I get out of my living room rig.

Living Room(2.1 System)

Klipsch RB-75(cherry) Bookshelves, Klipsch RSW-10d(cherry) Subwoofer

Yamaha A-S1000 Integrated Amp(90w/ch), Yamaha CD-S1000 CD/SACD Player

 

Bill

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On 5/22/2020 at 6:44 PM, Chris A said:

An interesting question that I've asked myself many times.  Sort of like the military "amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics", audio amateurs I find talk about electronics, but real audio reproduction experts talk about room acoustics and loudspeakers (and sometimes source music quality as a distant third).  In the order specified--room acoustics, loudspeakers, music tracks--the rest of the signal chain takes a poor backseat to these considerations.  Amplifiers are far too much focused upon, I believe.  I can't tell you how much I've witnessed people spending many thousands of dollars on electronics, but their loudspeakers leave everything to be desired (except perhaps that they're "small" or "look nice").  

 

In your room, you're going to have issues with nearfield reflections, even from opposite walls, and that square floor plan.  I find it very difficult to get small square floor plans to sound good (as Mike mentioned just above).  You may have to move some things around to make the best of the architecture (the room), and even then you may still not be terribly impressed, no matter what sound system you put in the room.  You may have to go as far as introducing movable reflective barriers to change the acoustic shape of the room.

 

I know this isn't what you want to hear, but it is probably something that will eventually save you a lot of money trying to overcome--unsuccessfully.

 


Thank you, Chris. You’re right; shape of the room I’m in is an issue. But I can’t do anything about it, as things stand. Nor can I move the furniture around because I’m absolutely squeezing every inch of space with my furniture set. I’m absolutely out of room to maneuver. 

On 5/22/2020 at 6:08 PM, mikebse2a3 said:


Looks like the room/setup is your weakest link.

 

What does treated walls mean..? Type and location of treatments can cause good or bad effects.

 

If your willing post some pictures of the room and setup so that people can offer you more informed suggestions.


miketn

Same as the above response. I’m afraid there isn’t much I can do about the room. I have foam panels with a jagged surface across the open walls, as well as bass traps in the top corners. The bass is much cleaner now and certain high frequencies aren’t shrill anymore. I can add a diffusing panel on the wall across from the speakers. Should I?

On 5/22/2020 at 6:27 PM, Sam S. said:

If you don't have CD source material, than I wouldn't recommend getting a CD player. If, however, that changes and you want to explore other sources (e.g. CD's or LP's), then by all means have at it. FLAC files (someone will correct me if I'm wrong), as source files aren't going to be inferior to a CD. Personally, I'd recommend a speaker upgrade, which should be a relatively big difference or ROI. Forte III would be a great choice, or if you are concerned about budget, you could look at the used lines --- e.g. read the forum about the food chain. I have Forte III and Chorus. Really hard to listen to Forte III ahead of time in some locations - I bought without listening to, and I couldn't be happier with the purchase. Finally, retail prices aren't necessarily what you always pay. Check around, get quotes, look at B-stock as an option.

 

Good luck!

 

Thank you, Sam. I don’t frankly don’t have space for a large CD collection, too. Your post made me look into how I can listening to my FLAC files now conveniently. I’m experimenting with Plex on my smart TV. I occurred to me to buy a NAS, and build a high res digital library to stream via Plex. I’ll search through these forums for any posts on NAS units in audio systems when I get the time.

 

 One option I’m considering is doing what you did and buying the Forte or the Heresy without listening to them. But it’s an expensive gamble though. Most online sources that will deliver will charge high price for shipping. I can’t imagine hating them. But the truth is that I just don’t know

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I would work on the room acoustics. If you do not, then you will never know how good your current equipment really is. The RP160Ms are great IMO, and I had them for my front channels until I got my K402MEHs up and running. Now the RP160Ms are my surrounds, and for my wife's dance loft. A well treated room with good equipment can very well sound better than a untreated room with much more expensive equipment. The room is the first thing to upgrade IMO.

Sent from my SM-T830 using Tapatalk

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In general, the things that change signals from one type to another, electrical to mechanical (speakers, phono cartridges) or digital to analog make the most difference. 

 

What is your complaint about the system? 

 

Your square room will be a thorn in your sound perpetually.  How have you treated it?  Where is the subwoofer placed?  Without seeing it and based on your square room, I'd put it between the speakers and about 2 feet either side of the center of the wall in an attempt minimize room resonances.  I might also try placing the 160s on either side of a corner, again to randomize resonances and not close to 4.75 feet off the floor.   

 

If you are looking for quality, mp3 based (streaming) media isn't it.  You want hi-res DVD-Audio, LPs or CD/SACD.  I have not tried lossless streaming, what is the source for the lossless encoding?  I do a lot of streaming, but only for background/casual listening, like working on the car. 

 

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