Help me uprgrade my: NAD amp / B&W speakers / Denon universal player [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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09-22-2009, 09:43 AM
Hello everyone -

Long-time lurker here --I'd forgotten my original username, but this forum has been incredibly helpful with my Q's in the past, so I figured I'd come to you again.

I've been happy with my home setup for the past 3-4 years, but I'm itching to upgrade. Can anyone recommend like components that would a step-up from what I currently have, namely for the amp? Ideally I'm spending $500-600 or less for each item, preferably purchasing used, but I could go higher if it makes sense.

B&W 601's s3
NAD C320BEE integrated amp
Denon DVD5900 Universal player (for all disc formats)
Channel Islands VDA-1 DAC (for Airport streaming)
Rega P3 turntable (don't need to upgrade)
Kimber speaker cable and interconnects

Some thoughts that may help: 1) This is a NYC apartment setup so levels are typically medium, occasionally loud, and bookshelf speakers are necessary; 2) Listening is roughly 40% CD/SACD, 35% iTunes streaming (via Airport), 25% vinyl; 3) All genres but plenty of jazz.

Thanks everyone!


09-22-2009, 09:59 AM
Hello Clapton,
So here's my thoughts:

--> Checkout the B&W 685, it's gott great reviews.
- Or check out Lot's of good deals on the 800's series now. But a bit out of your price range.

-- For the amp, I'd check out used stuff. Lot's of people are upgrading and you can get some good deal's on separates.

Best Regards,

09-22-2009, 12:21 PM
I would change the amp and try and get a decent tube amplifier. A used Sugden A48b would easily be had under your budget and would be nice upgrade. I'm not a fan of the 320Bee. You could upgrade it in stages but I think that is an area to be replaced so I agree with your assessment. After that I would look at the speakers and look to something like the Audio Note AX two or something from Omega loudspeakers, Both will run over your budget however. The B&W's are alright for now.

Since you don't play super loud I would look at a tube amplifier from Grant Fidelity who are relatively new to the scene and have prices that are very reasonable (and I mean very reasonable!). Antique Sound Labs and Jolida are others that on the used market would be easily attained. And before anyone says - yes they have enough power to drive B&W.

If you're truly impressed by the B&W's then you could look for a Matrix 805 or CDM 2SE as IMO these were the two best standmounts they made that might fall in your budget *The matrix might not but the 2SE will." I prefer the music reproduction of the 2SE to the 1SE and 1NT and 705.

You could also check out Tannoy - they've been making solid strides at the budget end of the spectrum and generally are tube and low power amp friendly.

09-22-2009, 01:18 PM
I'd suggest a different route to keep costs down. To begin with, that NAD is a rather underrated amp, and although it looks plain it has some great qualities, not the least of which is the ability to spelunk down to a 2 ohm load without clipping. More to the point, it's an integrated, and changing it out for a significant audible difference would be expensive and probably require separates.

Since Clapton listens mostly to music on CD, I would suggest starting there. The DVD5900 is an excellent disk player (I had the 3800 during my short affair with DVI and liked it a lot, so I can only imagine the 5900 being even better). That said, I do not have the same confidence that a DVD player can sound as good as a dedicated CD player. My first suggestion, therefore, is to try plugging the DVD's digital output into the DAC instead of the airport - this only requires a quick swap and could be an improvement over the DVD5900's internal DAC, although it could also sound worse. It's a no-cost option to try and could be informative.

If that sounds worse, then a CDP upgrade may be in order, but that can also get expensive, and may not be the best next step, so I'll leave that out for now.

So if we're looking for the most audible upgrades, the next place would be the speakers. I'm not that familiar with B&W, but there are many, many other brands and models out there. Moreover, the opportunities to audition different speakers is probably greater as there are quite a few bookshelves available for sale on the used market, they don't really have too many moving parts that can be damaged by shipping, and since most are box-shaped, they should be easy enough to pack & ship.

Next, I would look to upgrade the cartridge. The P3 is a nice table, but in my experience, changing cartridges can dramatically change the sound of an analog system. As a component that also wears out, it's quite possible that a new cart will do wonders. Likewise, it's easy to ship and relatively painless to swap out. On the budget side, Grado makes some very nice cartridges, and their support and assistance in selecting one has been very good for me. Clapton didn't mention what he uses for a phonopre, but something inexpensive like the Bellari may be another upgrade worth considering (and it's got a tube, too).

The DAC is actually a very nice unit and I auditioned the newer VDA-2 in my home for a while and liked it a lot. Channel Islands is another one of those small mom & pop shops that builds superior products and unfortunately doesn't market or package them in the most attractive cases, but they are very good sounding. That said, if he's going to use both the airport and the digital out from the player, he'll need one that has selectable inputs, and the VDA-1 doesn't have that (although curiously enough it does have two inputs, but only one output - go figure). The VDA-2 is a good choice, but at $600 there's better to be had (like the Cambridge one, which will sound more open & airy).

Anyhow, these are some of the areas I would consider, if cost was a concern. A Sugden tube amp would also be a very nice upgrade, but at a higher price-point, of course.

Mr Peabody
09-22-2009, 05:24 PM
I agree it might be a challenge to get a "noticeable" upgrade from the NAD in the budget given. You may get a change in sound but I'm not sure necessarily an improvement.

You can sometimes find a used Krell 300i for $1k or less which would be an improvement. More powerful and clean. There are also nice tube amps by Manley or VTL. To get a significant improvement I think you will be looking at about $1k used. New there are some pretty good integrated amps but will they sound like it was worth the extra $1k?

I will throw this out for you to consider. You can get a lot of hi fi through for that same $1k. I have not heard any myself. They have a preamp with a lot of features including crossover/sub out and phono stage built in at only $399.00. A cd player for $399.00. The amps vary in price. It may be worth a try. Also instead of replacing the B&W, may just add a sub later up the road. Several here have Emo amps and like them a lot.

I also agree it is worth trying something different for CD playback. A better source can do wonders.