please help me choosing first HiFi [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


View Full Version : please help me choosing first HiFi

09-23-2015, 03:42 AM
Hello everyone

first time poster here, not a big expert, just music lover. Please I need your help to select a good (understood pretty difficult to use the word “best”) system for my budget. My apology for the long thread.

My source: mainly cd (around 2.000)
Music: classic, chamber, opera, piano solo, jazz + radio and some podcast.
Like detailed, spatial, clear and natural sound, but not cold.
Budget: 2.000 EURO (2.000USD/ 1500 GBP), stretchable at most to 2.500 euro (2.800 usd/ 1.800 gbp)

I have been reading for some weeks now, and few days ago I started to listen as well. Basically I am torn between two main alternatives:

“Alternative 1”- a good integrated entry system, like the Cambridge MINX XI, which is Ampli+DAC+network streamer. Has a good price, good quality. This would give me everything, and leave budget for the speakers, and be the simplest and cleanest solution. I read many reviews and the internal Dac is supposed to be very good.

“Alternative 2” - increase a bit in quality, stretch the budget, get a good ampli-dac+cd, and add a cheap web radio which will be sent to the good Dac into the amplifier. First thinking: Cambridge new CX series: ampli culd be the CX A60 and the cd player the CXC, a player with NO dac inside. I would miss the chance to send some podcast from my pc/mac to the stereo. I would gain flexibility to change some component or add a new one in the future. As far as I have read, the network streamers currently on the market produce good sound but software somehow has still to catch-up, so i might buy this in the future, and now buy just a web radio receiver. Nevertheless, I saw network streamers like Pioneer N30 do not cost too much.

I should try to listen to these two alternatives and assign a price to the difference in quality I am supposed to hear (not sure yet!) But I am still confused about few fundamental issues.
Let's start:
1- “invest more of your budget into the speakers” VS “rubbish in rubbish out, so split equally your budget among the components”. I heard both of them. What follows in the first case is to use a basic cd player/dvd player, send the digital signal to my good Dac and enjoy. In the second case instead I should also invest in a good cd player or blu ray should I use the same for movies as well.
2- pairing ampli with speakers. I am still confused on how to undestad if an ampli and speakers are potentially a good match. I know, I should listen, but in theory I hear “that ampli cannot express the best out of those speakers” or “those speakers are an overkill with that ampli” or “you need a better ampli for that speakers” or instead “with that ampli you should use a better speaker set”. In theory, I understood I should look not at WATT, but at somethink related to electrical power/ampere, but dont know much. So if I choose speakers first, I dont know how to choose the best ampli for that speakers.

As far as the speakers: so far I heard just TOTEM (canadian producer) MITE model. I was blown away, seriously. I couldn't imagine speakers so small would produce that clarity, that definition of space. Cannot think a bigger speaker to sound better. But I'd like to hear something more before. I was set to listen B&W 685 s2, as I had read good things, but perhaps the Mite are a bit superior. Other I'd like to listen: Sonus Faber Venere 2.0, Focal 906 and some Monitor Audio.

To sum all this up, my questions for you experts are the following:
1- what would you suggest for me in terms of alternative1 vs alternative2?
2- should I buy a quality cd player or a basic cheapest blu ray reader ?
3- should I look to buy bigger floorstander spearkers? or with the budget is better to stick to bookshelves? Do you have alternatives to the speakers I mentioned?

Thanks really a lot in advance

09-23-2015, 05:00 AM
Welcome to AR Forums, Lorcar.

Your preference for music, i.e. leaning to classical, is significant. IMO, it indicates a bias toward more a quality sound than is necessarily the case for a rock lover, (no disrespect to them).

The alternatives you mention are pretty standard for an audio neophyte. What sources are best suited to my play my music preferences? Should I emphasis speakers or up-stream components? I will address these issues at a high level; other AR Forums members will likely expand on various points.

My opinion is that by far the most versatile source, especially for a classical lover, is a computer. Either Windows or Apple Mac will fit the bill; (perhaps Linux too). (N.B.) A computer can replace a CD player: the best alternative for you CD collection is to rip it to lossless computer files and play your music back using a computer music player such as J River or Foobar2000, (I use the latter). An Internet connected computer will satisfy you wish to find and play podcasts; given the Internet radio it might satisfy you need for radio reception too.

I don't recommend a network streamer, e.g. Pioneer N-30. They don't have the flexibility of a computer and they definitely don't have the user interface that J River or Foobar can provide -- and player's user interface is especially important for a classical music listener.

To get good sound from a computer an external DAC is necessary, although the computer's standard analog audio outputs might do on and interim basis.

You will also need an amplifier of course. Most practical for a beginner, you might get an integrated amp; some integrateds have a built-in DAC. If you listen exclusively to digital sources, a DAC with volume control, (or a streamer though that's not what I recommend), plus a power amp might do.

As for speakers versus upstream components, for beginner/entry-level systems, some budget bias towards the speakers is good -- but not too much: balance is always important even in an entry level system.

A pair of smaller bookshelf/monitor speakers plus a subwoofer is a good alternative to floorstanding speakers. In smallish room, just the bookshelf speakers by themselves might be sufficient.

09-23-2015, 10:04 AM
There are a lot of choices. I would opt for an integrated amp and consider one with a built in DAC.

There are some nice integrated amps-

Peach Tree makes some very nice sounding integrated amps with DAC's. They have a nice detailed and transparent sound and need pairing with a speaker with a slightly warmer sound,

Amplifier DACs with Tube | Peachtree Audio (

The Marantz 7005 and 8005- They would be a good match with B&W speakers

Cambridge Audio


Musical Fidelity


Plenty of options for speakers too. I like the B&W sound. But I also like the Sonus Faber Venere's but I have only heard the 3.0's and 3.5's. They are more laid back than B&W's.

I am a big fan of PSB speakers. They typically have leaned on the warmer side of neutral and are very smooth sounding. They would pair well with Peach Tree and Nuprime amps if the Nuprime are anything like the older Nuforce Model 9se amps.

Paradigm speakers are another option. They have a nice detailed sound.

09-28-2015, 11:03 PM

yes I had digested this kind reply, thank you. Probably forgot to mention that ripping 2000cd was out of my intentions. I need something that simplifies my life. And I am still buying cd and will buy in the future. And I want to switch on just one piece of equipment, not pc + hifi.
therefore I am set on integrated amp with good Dac + cd reader+ speakers

09-29-2015, 04:18 AM

yes I had digested this kind reply, thank you. Probably forgot to mention that ripping 2000cd was out of my intentions. I need something that simplifies my life. And I am still buying cd and will buy in the future. And I want to switch on just one piece of equipment, not pc + hifi.
therefore I am set on integrated amp with good Dac + cd reader+ speakers


You aren't alone: there are still lots of folks who like to play actual discs. Ripping is not an overnight project but is likely to go on for months for those who undertake it.

You choice of the Cambridge CXA60 amp is a sensible one; Cambridge Audio products are generally very good. Going for the CXC CD transport makes perfect sense according to you preference for disc play and the fact the the CXA60 has a built-in DAC.

Speaking of disc playing, there are still lots of folks who prefer LP vinyl recordings. However for a person who is inclined to classical music, the choice of music on vinyl is very limited compared with the 10s of thousands of CDs available.

10-02-2015, 10:16 AM
I was very resistant to computer music but since I found HQ player and now BugHead which makes CD's, JRiver and HQ player sound mid fi, I rarely play CD's and vinyl any more. Although I play more vinyl than CD's now. I have over 500gb's of music now on my hard drive.

JoeE SP9
10-03-2015, 05:08 AM
Thanks for the heads up about Bughead. I'm going to give it a try.

10-03-2015, 07:27 PM
JoeE SP9, If you need help setting up bughead, let me know. It is processor and ram intensive. You will need a decent I5 and 8 gigs of ram. You can probably run it in basic settings with a fast I3 and 8gigs. I was going to try it on my I3 computer and see how it runs. I recently got a new Dell with an I7 and 8gigs.

Sorry, I did not mean to hijack this thread.


10-26-2015, 05:01 PM
Wish I could help but I'm strictly vintage! Love the old '70s Pioneer and Marantz! Been playing vinyl since I was 5 or 6 and I'm 55! Can't change this old dog!!!

Sent from my Nexus 10 using Tapatalk

10-29-2015, 04:09 PM
My first posting here I'm on AVS, Regarding the newbie & setting up a system. I've gone through a lot of gear over the past 35 yrs. & now delight in picking up some of the
old quality stuff. I'm going to recc that since you like cd's as I do, maybe an old California Audio labs Icon or a Music Hall 25 to start with & then if that doesn't do it your not out a ton of $$ you get say an Arcam ir DAC which will probably satisfy most folks & put it together in pieces. I'm gonna get some flac for this but I've been listening to the Crown class "D" Amp it's under $200 & sounds good & powerfull. I hope some of these tid bits will interest you?