improving my sound. [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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12-05-2004, 07:13 PM
ok. i am looking to make my setup sound a bit better for as little money as possible because i dont have much to spend. i would say somewhere around $300CAD or so. i know its not much to work with so im not expecting much. here is what i currently have.

Paradigm Atom bookshelf speakers
Paradigm PDR-10 sub
an old Yamaha RX-530 stereo receiver
an even older Yamaha CDX-410U cd player
my speakers are connected with some good old cheap radioshack speaker wire (cant remember what gauge. i think 14.) and my sub is connected using the line level inputs from me receiver's outputs because it doesnt have an output for a sub.

so, what to do. i was thinking of getting a better cd player because your sound is only as good as your source. the other option would be a newer stereo receiver, probably used so i could get more bang for my buck (one preferrably with an output for a sub), but im not sure i could find much for $300, even used.

what do you guys think i should do?


12-05-2004, 10:11 PM
The best thing you could do at this point is make sure you have good cables connecting the equipment and speakers are positioned correctly. Otherwise, upgrading to a DD receiver with an optical input may help the overall sound, and also maybe adding a sub to the mix. The yamaha equipment you have IS good stuff though, and the spkrs are as well. It should sound pretty darn good already. Interconnect cables are even more inportant than the source.

12-05-2004, 11:55 PM
Save your money - I would wait until you have some dollars to play with to make a noticable upgrade - Something like the Audio Note AX Two($700.00Cdn) or Dynaudio speakers(though you'll need a more powerful amp for these) will tkae you up a significant level. Screwing around with cd players is fine - but frankly the 300 disc changers from Sony compete with most $1k single disc players I've heard. Subtle differences. The cables are a last resort fix.

12-06-2004, 02:16 AM
I am a recent convert to a good source first. I just purchased a Sony Dvp-NS975V which is significantly better than the DvD player I was previously using..Although a few more dollars than your stated budget. Mind you, your system is an entry level so pretty much anything you upgrade will improve the sound. But until you know for sure your getting the most out of any recording how do you know you are getting the most out of any of your other equipment.
I was considering a speaker upgrade, but after hooking this baby up I'm not really sure I would notice an improvement in speakers unless I was to spend thousands of dollars and replace receiver/amp to go with much higher priced speakers.
There comes a point of diminishing returns and you haven't reached it. My advice
1. get the best source you can afford
2. Best receiver/amp you can afford
3. Then worry about the speakers.
4. cables, wire etc.
By going this route you will notice a progressive improvement on sound with each upgrade.

12-06-2004, 04:57 AM
Along the same lines of RGA's post, I'd save up more money before making what would be a very minor upgrade right now.

To keep yourself occupied in the meantime I'd get a Radio Shack sound level meter and a copy of Rives Audio Test CD2. Get your levels right and do some experimenting with speaker placement.

If the money's just absolutely burning a hole in your pocket, maybe some acoustic treatments to deal with your first reflection points.

While it's true that your system is often only as good as it's source, in this digital age the culprit all too often is lousy recordings. While we can't fix that, we can try to make them sound their best by carefully purchasing components that color, yes color, the sound the way we like. Your room's acoustics have a big impact on the way your system sounds and by addressing them you'll gain more enjoyment than you would from cables.


12-06-2004, 05:20 AM
Jace, I think you should upgrade your speakers first, before you do anything else. And most of the experienced/reputable people on this webforum (and others) will probably give you the same advice.

The Atoms are class leaders in my opinion, very good sound for the dollar, but like anything else, they have their limitations too. Sounds to me like you've out grown them, and are ready to take the next step.

If I were you I'd consider a few options. Sell the atoms on ebay or shouldn't be hard to get $125 CAD for them or more. With the $300 you already have you could probably buy something along the lines of Paradigm Mini Monitors, Energy C-3's or something along those lines. This is a huge jump up in sound quality IMO. You might even consider Axiom speakers...Lately, I've been doing a 180 degree turn on the Axiom M3ti's I bought a year ago...they'll need a good subwoofer, but are very competent in the midrange once you figure out how to place them well enough.

Or, better a decent pair of used speakers. That $300-$400 will go twice as far on ebay or, or local hi-fi shops that sell used stuff. And best part is, in a year or so, you can turn around and sell those used again for probably 90% of what you paid for.

Keep in mind, your system is fairly competetent right now. Speakers have the greatest impact on overall system sound, far greater than your choice of source player, cables, and a good chunk more than your amp/pre amp. With the speakers you have now, such upgrades would probably improve your sound, but you wouldn't notice the difference they make.

One other option you may be interested in. The BR-1 speaker kit at is a fantastic value. I spent a day with a friend of mine who built these in an afternoon comparing them to a few $500-$600 CDN speakers we had between us, the Paradigm Mini Monitors and B&W DM601's were among them. The BR-1's were considerabley better (though not quite as boomy at 40-50Hz range, you may or may not care...use your sub) For $140 USD plus shipping you can assemble these in an afternoon and have speakers that are probably better than 99% of commercial speakers in your budget. Don't believe me, head over to Parts Express web forums and ask around, or ask around here...I'm not exaggerating. The downside to these is they look rather bland, though not a whole lot different than your Atoms, and you might have a bit harder time selling them to people that have never heard of them...

It will require some soldering skills on your part, but isn't all that hard, and could open the door to future projects.

I also tend to side with RGA, though I'm not a huge fan of the sound offered in the AX line, I do like most Dynaudios. You may like the sound the Audio Note deliver, they aren't bad, just not what I'd normally expect from them, or a speaker at that price point. My point is the more you can save/spend on speakers, the better the improvement to your system at this point. You don't want to be caught in a situation where your gear is too good for your speakers.

Good luck, let us know what you decide to do, and don't limit yourself to the speakers I've mentioned here.

12-06-2004, 05:52 AM
ya. i was looking at the BR1's just as something to do and ive heard a lot of good things about them. i might look into getting a pair for a change anyway. as for soldering, no problem, its what i do.

also, when i said i was thinking of getting a new cd player, i was thinking a single disk player still, i can only listen to one cd at a time anyway so why bother with those one million and one cd changers! although, i am starting to lean away from getting a new one just yet.

anyway, i will look into my options and what you all have mentioned here and ill let you guys know which way i decide to go. i am thinking that i might see what i can do with what i have and saving up a bit more before going out and buying. apparently my local store has a used set of KEF speakers sitting around that they are selling for $500. not sure which ones though. ill have to find out.


12-06-2004, 05:59 AM
I agree with RGA - you should wait until you have some big bucks to spend. I actually like the setup you have now! The Paradigms are very nice speakers and you have a sub to fill in the bottom end. But with some funds, you could certainly improve on them.

The first thing I'd do to improve the sound is to work with speaker positioning. Try some different height stands for your Atoms. Try toe-ing them in or out, crossing them over in front of you, raising the tweeter above and below your ear level while seated, moving the speaker closer or further, etc, etc. You might be surprised to hear that your system works quite nicely and makes you rethink spending money... not that a more expensive system possibly wouldn't give you an overall improvement. But I'd strongly recommend you don't fall into the audiophile party line that suggests you "upgrade" your CD player first because it's the "source". CDP's aren't the problem with most systems. Look to your speakers and room acoustics first. If you want to work on your source, remember that it's NOT the CDP, it's the CD.

12-06-2004, 06:29 AM
thats the way im leaning at the moment, thanx to all of your advice. unfortunately, the room i have my stuff set up in is very bad for acoustics, but im gonna see what i can do with positioning and stuff.


12-06-2004, 09:24 AM
unfortunately, the room i have my stuff set up in is very bad for acoustics

Then I stand by my advice to spend the money on acoustic treatments rather than components or cabling.


12-06-2004, 10:10 AM
Bill's got an excellent point. Room acoustics are the 2nd most important factor in a system, just behind speakers IMO...The best part about room treatments is that you don't necessarily HAVE to spend much, if any money at all to address most of the problems above the lower bass frequencies.

While frequencies above 500Hz can usually be compensated for with plants, wall hangings, rearranging furniture slightly, and are really subject only to reflections, the lower frequencies, especially below 100Hz are highly subject to your room acoustics.

Granted, in any given room, it holds that a better speaker will still sound better than an inferior design, it will still very much suffer from whatever drawbacks your room has.

I can't imagine why anyone would spend a pile of money on cables, but leave their room less than optimized.

Perhaps you could draw us, or tell us about your room, and what exactly makes it "very bad for acoustics"...I'd almost recommend in a new thread so as to attract others to assist you...lots of knowledgeable people here at

12-06-2004, 10:30 AM
i wish i could optimize my listening space, but it is just not an option right now. i rent the room that i am in while i go to school so i dont have liberty to do anything fancy to it. at this stage of the game, my listening space keeps moving around from house to house and room to room so there would be little point to optimizing a room that i wont have my equipment in for very long. it is something that i am considering for when i have a more permanent location though.


12-06-2004, 11:12 AM

If you are considering used speakers, first determine what yours will sell for and add that to your budget. You will see an improvement from speakers and speaker placement.

When you have more money in the future you can look to upgrade the source or receiver. I do not think that you will gain any noticeble improvement through wires and interconnects, unless yours are very poor quality.

12-06-2004, 01:08 PM
well thank you all for your helpfull suggestions. this has really helped me out. at this point, the plan is to save up some more cash for some bigger upgrades down the road and for now to maximize the sound quality of what i have through the best positioning possible etc.


12-06-2004, 05:30 PM
Good call to just focus on optimizing what you currently own until you've saved up enough to make a more substantive upgrade. All too often on this board, I read about how people try to improve their systems by throwing money at it and buying one new upgrade after another, yet they never did anything to make their existing setup perform at its best to begin with. Until you figure out how to make something sound at its best in your room, then just switching out equipment will not give you the return on investment that you're looking for.

Repositioning the speakers and working on the room acoustics can be simple ways of maximizing the investment that you've already made. Since you already own a subwoofer, there's plenty that you could change by simply repositioning it and working with the crossover settings (assuming that you have a premain out and main in on your receiver, and have the subwoofer connected that way).

In my room, I made some improvements by getting a box of acoustic ceiling panels at a building materials store (about $16 for a box of eight panels) and positioning them along the frontwall and backwall. You can get change the room acoustics even more by using actual acoustic foam from companies such as Auralex (compared to packing foam, this stuff is more effective AND it's fire resistant). My gallery is linked below. Go to post #3 if you want to read my initial impressions of this fairly simple room treatment.

12-06-2004, 06:29 PM
well, speaker positioning is something i enjoy. im always tweaking away to get the best sound out of my stuff for the room its in. its a never ending process!

as for how my sub is connected. it is connected through my speaker (line level) outputs to the sub because i dont have a preout for a sub on my receiver. in light of that, i have the crossover on the sub that i am constantly tweaking. as for the sounds of my main, i use the direct setting that yamaha provides that bipasses all the treble/bass etc. adjustments. this seems to be the best sounding way of setting everything up that i have used so far anyway.