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  1. #1
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    Hello from Newbie - Need Advice - Building my first hi-fi stereo system

    Hi All,

    I'm looking at building a stereo system for myself. I live in Toronto, Canada and the system will go in a living room (12x 10) rectangular. Plan on using it for listening to Rock, Jazz, some classical and a variety of other music. Budget is around 5K. Music source is primarily MP3s right now, but the plan is to replace my MP3 collection with higher quality (flac or something better)

    So far, I'm thinking a pair of floor standing speakers, an integrated and a dac. I tested the following set up and was very impressed:

    B&W CM9 speakers (demos)
    Music Fidelity M3 integrated
    Music Fidelity M1 DAC

    I'm getting this entire package for just over $5000+tax, which seems like a pretty good deal. I also tested out Triangle speakers (don't remember the model, they were around $2500) + Exposure 2010 integrated.

    Anyone have feedback on the B&W set up above? Any other recommendations in this price range?

    Thanks
    Last edited by ahsanh; 12-23-2010 at 07:30 PM.

  2. #2
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    You have a decent budget which gives you a lot of options. Listen to as much as possible before buying. I like what I have heard in Musical Fidelity. I've heard several B&W and I'm personally just sort of luke warm.

    In your country give Sim Audio a listen and Totem speakers. I like Paradigm as well but seem to be dependent on what drives them to sound their best. Bryston is good too. I think you will find either of these brands a bit more neutral than MF but that isn't always more enjoyable.

    Arcam offers excellent digital playback and integrated amps. As well as Naim, whose amps are a bit stronger in my opinion.

    Going the other direction you might even check out some tube gear which would most likely surpass the MF in warmth and musicality depending on what it was. I'm not really up on tube integrated that would compete with MF, maybe some Shanling. Manley and VTL are very good on the American side as well as BAT which I believe have an integrated. Shanling has DAC's as well. My favorite tube gear is Conrad Johnson but to my knowledge no current integrated and the separates would blow your budget.

    I don't know if this helped but your system's sound is personal to you, we all have different tastes, so it's best to take in what you can before settling on something.

  3. #3
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    In a similar price range to the Musical Fidelity integrated I might want to look at the PrimaLuna ProLogue Two.

  4. #4
    RGA
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    In your size room I would not buy those particular speakers.

    If you are new to all of this you need to consider that the room plays a big part of the sound (as does what is in your room and what the room is made out of).

    There are many things to consider. How much bass you want, do you think you will upgrade in the future, what features you will want (connecting computer/laptop/mp3/home theater/ etc)

    Since you already say that you will be using an MP3 as your main source then a USB DAC of some sort will make the most sense. I would recommend such a device from Ayre Acoustics if they're in your area. The QB 9 is terrific but it will eat half your budget (they ask $2500 so you coan probably get it for $2100 if you negotiate). http://www.stereophile.com/content/a...s-qb-9-usb-dac

    I am not a fan of Musical Fidelity and have yet to hear anything from them that makes me salivate. Usually I find considerably better or at least as good for less elsewhere.

    I would look at a used amplifier. Amplifiers last many decades without problems and the values typically drop like a stone. You can buy 5 year old amps that were selling for $2,000 for $300 - $400 so why waste money there? In a lot of cases amplifiers change the chassis but are basically exactly the same internally.

    So you would have around $2000 to buy loudspeakers. Speakers are a tough choice because most of them have some sort of weakness and it will depend on your taste to some degree as to what you can live with. Some speakers like the B&W floorstanders can rock and play loud but they also sound directional and you can hear the individual drivers. In a short audition they can be impressive but long listening can be tiresome (especially any of the ones using Kevlar drivers).

    In a 12 X 9 room you don't have much to work with and in general you want something that won't over power the room. A standmount speaker such as the Audio Note K/Spe or the AZ Three floorstander would work because you can place them very close to the corners of the room. Perhaps something like the QM 10 from Guru Pro Audio might work http://www.soundstageav.com/onhifi/20080801.htm but it might be tough to find.

    PMC Loudspeakers makes smaller standmounts that I have found can really hit quite a lot harder than average http://www.dagogo.com/View-Article.asp?hArticle=824

    The advantage of the PMC speakers is that they tend to like to be positioned in the typical nearfield triangle placement making them well suited to a small room. They make smaller speakers but I don't know how much they cost. They're also easier to find in Eastern Canada as they share distribution with Bryston. The entry level is the DBi and apparently it can also be placed very near the walls and even comes with a wall bracket. Plus PMC has finally gotten away from metal tweeters which may very well reduce or eliminate my greatest complaint about their older models.

    What you can also do with many of the PMC speakers is actually buy the pro-monitor versions that are used in recording studios. You may be surprised that you would not pay much more and they have their own power amplifier built right in. So rather than having to spend on an amplifier you could buy a preamp (where you can usually get much better sound for even cheaper on the used market - my Rotel RC 1082 could be had relatively cheap and is a lot better than your average budget preamp and better than Rotel usually puts out. It could then be connected to the power amps on the speakers so you could really save some chas here and you would have Active pro-monitors). But you'd have to see if you like the sound. http://www.pmc-speakers.com/product.php?mode=view&pid=8

    Back to the amp and dac - Sim Audio (Canadian) also makes a good DAC and is less expensive than the Ayre. My dealer here sells both and the Ayre is the better unit but it costs a fair bit more. Still, if MP3 is the source I would probably spend less on the DAC and go with the Sim Audio and buy the bigger PMC or Audio Note K speakers. The K is easier to drive so it doesn't need much more than 5 watts per channel to play loud. This would leave future upgrades to amps easier because you don't really need to worry about power.

    I generally prefer the sound of Sim Audio to most SS amplifiers in this price range and a fair bit more than Musical Fidelity. http://www.simaudio.com/moon100D.htm

  5. #5
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by ahsanh
    Hi All,

    I'm looking at building a stereo system for myself. I live in Toronto, Canada and the system will go in a living room (12x 10) rectangular. Plan on using it for listening to Rock, Jazz, some classical and a variety of other music. Budget is around 5K. Music source is primarily MP3s right now, but the plan is to replace my MP3 collection with higher quality (flac or something better)

    So far, I'm thinking a pair of floor standing speakers, an integrated and a dac. I tested the following set up and was very impressed:

    B&W CM9 speakers (demos)
    Music Fidelity M3 integrated
    Music Fidelity M1 DAC

    I'm getting this entire package for just over $5000+tax, which seems like a pretty good deal. I also tested out Triangle speakers (don't remember the model, they were around $2500) + Exposure 2010 integrated.

    Anyone have feedback on the B&W set up above? Any other recommendations in this price range?

    Thanks
    Since you liked that setup then unless you hear a setup you like better, it should be a good option...

    However, I would suggest also listening to the Musical Fidelity Combo with some smaller speakers (CM7, new CM8, CM5, CM1 and some non-B&W speakers) considering you have a relatively small room size... I suspect the CM9s will be too much in a 12x10 room.

    Also if you haven't done so already, make sure to give speakers an extended audition: I loved the CM1s the first time I heard them, but later auditions made me realize that I found the sound to be too bright...

  6. #6
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    Yeah, I'm listening to the PL2 right now...

    Quote Originally Posted by 02audionoob
    In a similar price range to the Musical Fidelity integrated I might want to look at the PrimaLuna ProLogue Two.
    ...doing a live Grateful Dead DVD in my livingroom (much to my wife's dismay), but I never regretted getting this amp - been quite bulletproof, a bit on the warm side (compared to my Rotel amp/pre) but very good w/ piano as well as most intruments.

    I agree - MF never did it for me either... not sure I heard any improvements over Rotel. I am, however, going back a ways, but my dealer never bothered to pick up the line. Not that there was anything wrong with it, simply redundant when one carries Rotel, Classe, Bryston, etc.

  7. #7
    Silence of the spam Site Moderator Geoffcin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ahsanh
    Hi All,

    I'm looking at building a stereo system for myself. I live in Toronto, Canada and the system will go in a living room (12x 10) rectangular. Plan on using it for listening to Rock, Jazz, some classical and a variety of other music. Budget is around 5K. Music source is primarily MP3s right now, but the plan is to replace my MP3 collection with higher quality (flac or something better)

    So far, I'm thinking a pair of floor standing speakers, an integrated and a dac. I tested the following set up and was very impressed:

    B&W CM9 speakers (demos)
    Music Fidelity M3 integrated
    Music Fidelity M1 DAC

    I'm getting this entire package for just over $5000+tax, which seems like a pretty good deal. I also tested out Triangle speakers (don't remember the model, they were around $2500) + Exposure 2010 integrated.

    Anyone have feedback on the B&W set up above? Any other recommendations in this price range?

    Thanks
    I have no doubt that you were impressed with that setup. Musical Fidelity builds excellent gear, and those B&W speakers are quite the bomb. Have you had a chance to listen to any other combos yet besides the Triangles? $5k is some serious coin, and you have a lot of choices at this level. You really owe it to yourself to spend at least a couple weekends trying out gear.

    In your price range I would recommend that you audition a set of Magnepan 1.7. You can hear them locally at http://www.audioexcellence.ca/

    I would also second the advice and give Totem speakers a listen. Actually there's a lot of Canadian made speakers that I would consider; Paradigm, PSB, Reference 3A, even Mirage, and Axiom with their excellent M80 are worth a listen.

    Start with finding a speaker you really enjoy first and you will never go wrong!

    Good luck, and have fun!
    Last edited by Geoffcin; 12-24-2010 at 05:45 PM.
    Audio;
    Ming Da MC34-AB 75wpc
    PS Audio Classic 250. 500wpc into 4 ohms.
    PS Audio 4.5 preamp,
    Marantz 6170 TT Shure M97e cart.
    Arcam Alpha 9 CD.- 24 bit dCS Ring DAC.
    Magnepan 3.6r speakers Oak/black,

  8. #8
    music whore Happy Camper's Avatar
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    Go used. Buyer's market and many are having to relieve inventories to save their marriages.

    Get as good a front end as you can afford and it will take you through several speakers before you get that "eggsuckinweasel" grin on your face so don't invest with the thought of a final set. You will also have to consider treatments to deaden the reflective energy the room will hold. Maybe consider some nearfield monitors w/8"sub.

    Another thought is going with a high end headphone as a different tool in the box.

    Just idle thoughts to ponder "while it snows to beat the band" outside.

    Welcome to our community and happy holiday (merry Christmas).
    d HC b

  9. #9
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Happy Camper
    Go used. Buyer's market and many are having to relieve inventories to save their marriages.

    Get as good a front end as you can afford and it will take you through several speakers before you get that "eggsuckinweasel" grin on your face so don't invest with the thought of a final set. You will also have to consider treatments to deaden the reflective energy the room will hold. Maybe consider some nearfield monitors w/8"sub.

    Another thought is going with a high end headphone as a different tool in the box.

    Just idle thoughts to ponder "while it snows to beat the band" outside.

    Welcome to our community and happy holiday (merry Christmas).
    This is excellent advice. RGA also touched on this notion. Since you are new to the high end game, it's almost a certainty that as your tastes develop you will want to change gear. Perhaps you are financially capable, and expendable cash is not an issue in which case, yes...buy new and trade in the future.

    However, if you value your money, buying new should only be for those with much experience who are quite certain about what they want. As RGA mentioned, most gear drops in value tremendously making a new purchase a loser should you need to sell. On the other hand, as a buyer the used market is flush with amazing deals. Audiophiles are an obsessive bunch and take care of their gear probably better than their wives.

    Aside from that, I would also tell you to not be hasty. Research and auditioning are the keys to satisfaction, so do lots of both. If it takes 6 - 8 months, so be it. You are in a great position to have a slammin system as your budget is great.

    As to your question, I have no practical experience with Musical Fidelity, sorry. Good luck and keep in touch.

  10. #10
    Forum Regular YBArcam's Avatar
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    When you say Exposure 2010, is that the exact model? After the 2010 came the 2010s and then the 2010s2. A 2010 would be quite an old model, which would mean you are already looking at used gear.

    I'm running my 2010s2 right now into a pair of Tannoy DC6 speakers, and it sounds amazing - better than I had expected. If you can, give Tannoy/Exposure a shot. The DC6 is a small monitor, and I think I'm finding that when playing hard rock (early Aerosmith, say) it's reaching the limits of what it's good at. But rock and soft rock sound incredible. I think the floorstanding version of this speaker might be a better model for harder rock, as most floorstanders probably are.

    What I'm also finding is that speaker stands are very important. Placing a speaker on a desk or substandard stand will greatly impact the sound. I've also found with the DC6 that speaker cables make a big difference. I just went from a cheap set of Monster cables to a much more expensive bi-wire cable. I don't know if the improved sound is just because it's a better quality cable, or whether bi-wiring is the key. The point though is that if the set up isn't right then it probably won't sound right. Don't get frustrated and change speakers or amps or CD players before you get the set up right - this is something that took me about a year to learn, and I went through more speakers and amps than I probably needed to. Once the set up is optimized then you will find out what each component is capable of.

    I'm not saying run out and buy an expensive cable, though you'll certainly want good speaker stands if you buy a monitor. Try to have the retailer either lend you a few cables, or try some out in the store on the same gear you are buying.
    Naim Nait 5i
    Naim CD5X
    Wharfedale Evo2-10
    Linn LP12
    Cambridge Audio 650P, and 550T
    LFD and Nordost cables

  11. #11
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    A better IMO and far less expensive option would be the Zu Omens driven by the Dayens Ampino - Dayens has a US distributor in Atlanta



    http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/dayens/ampino.html

  12. #12
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    My iDecco and Strada Reference speakers plus my mac provide solid sound via digital sources. WAY under $5,000.

    How does this digital system compare to my main system: AR SP-8, ARD-70, Fosgate Phono Preamp, VPI Scoutmaster with Benz Ruby 3, Fulton J speakers (or Dunlavy SC-IV)? It's not close. You need to spend about $15,000 to get a great analogue system. But I've had most of my analogue system for 30+ years. You should consider long term satisfaction IMO.

  13. #13
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    Thanks everyone - sounds like I still need to do a lot of research and auditioning and also take a look at the used market. I've had a chance to listen to a few more systems since this post and have already changed my view on sound preference. The B&W set up above is also available with some demo gear (1570 + 1575, but I think i'm going to sacrifice quality if I go with multichannel) - thoughts? The other thing I discovered was the MF DAC probably won't serve my purposes as they haven't spent a lot of time on the USB input (limited to 44K) which is going to be primary source for me.

    I've also spent some time at a few other stores and narrowed down a few more following choices over the B&W + MF - speakers were much more musical than the B&Ws, which I definately liked more:

    1. Focal 826w ($3200)+NAD M3 ($2500) + Cambridge DAC Magic ($400)
    - This is my personal favourite thus far - a little pricier (looking at 6000+tax, no price negotiation yet), but I think i should be able to swing it
    - There's also an option to downgrade to the 826v - lower quality drivers. Any thoughts on whether its worth the extra $900

    2. Totem Hawks + Naim 5i + Arcam dac
    - lower priced option ($4700+tax)
    - haven't had a chance to fully test drive these, going back to the store tomorrow to spend some time listening to a few tunes

    That's where I'm at. Going to check out a few more stores later this week. I should also explore the used option - any suggestions on what to look at?

    Looking at a few stores in the area, following is available - just a first glance, still need to look around:

    Integrated
    Krell KAV 300i ($1250) or Krell KAV 400i ($2000)
    Bryston B60 ($2100) - only 60 wpc though

    Could also do Pre-amp + Power Amp combos:

    Power Amps - Bryston 2B SSt ($1500)

    Pre Amps - Bryston BP DA ($1950)

  14. #14
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    Rega integrateds seem to generally be priced rather low on Audiogon from time to time. Speaking of Rega, their new DAC priced at $995 seems to be a sure winner.

  15. #15
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    Hi ahsanh. I've been following this tread closely and thought now would be a good time to contribute some info. My first recommendation would be for you to go listen to, if possible, to the Naim Uniti. Paring the Uniti with a pair of Usher Be-718 (the first iteration of this speaker and as I understand it there is one more pair left with the distributor, The Sound Organisation out of Dallas,TX).
    Here is review link for the Naim:
    http://www.naimaudio.com/reviews-and-awards/5/1

    The other recommendation would be for consideration of a Creek Integrated with Creek CDP, and a pair of Epos M12i speakers or Rega Brio 3 or Rega Mira, then add the Apollo CDP and/or the Rega DAC. However, I do think it's a little trickier to match speakers with the Rega but I must say the Canton speakers are a synergistic with the Rega.

    Okay, there it is-- my 2 cents. Good luck shopping and with your final selections.

    LeRoy

  16. #16
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    Spent a ton of time listening to ELAC 247s + Exposure 3010s + Moon 100D DAC and this is definately the best I've heard in my price range thus far. I'm getting the whole set up for around 6K (includes about $1k in cables and power bar), planning on pulling the trigger tomorrow.

  17. #17
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by ahsanh
    Spent a ton of time listening to ELAC 247s + Exposure 3010s + Moon 100D DAC and this is definately the best I've heard in my price range thus far. I'm getting the whole set up for around 6K (includes about $1k in cables and power bar), planning on pulling the trigger tomorrow.
    I have not heard this system together but whoever set it up probably has a good idea of what they're doing. The Elac's for me have leaned a little bright but with a stright shooter midband and solid bass. The newer Elac's sounded better to me than the older ones and adding an Exposure amp (one of the lesser known but better sounding SS amps) with a smoother balance will temper the treble. The Moon Stuff always sounds better than you would expect at their prices and they tend to tame down some of the treble of many a speaker. I have not heard any of the three long enough to make any comments other than generalities but Art Dudley liked the Exposure on two very different loudspeakers and that's generally a nice sign that it isn't getting in the way. Art does mention to buy the line only version as the Phono stage isn't very good. So you might be able to save some money there.

  18. #18
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    I lived in Montreal in 1969......

    and anything that plugged into the wall cost 3X what it cost in the USA. Still true?

    The Active Powered Mackie HR824 Mk 2 costs $650 each [or less] in the USA, so for $1300 you might have loudspeakers AND amplifiers. This leaves you with $3700 for the rest? The Mackies output can be set for how close they are to a wall or corner, and their frequency response is FLAT to as low as 37Hz. Go to the Mackie site.

    PS- Thest are recording studio monitors so there are NO grill cloths.

  19. #19
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ahsanh
    Spent a ton of time listening to ELAC 247s + Exposure 3010s + Moon 100D DAC and this is definately the best I've heard in my price range thus far. I'm getting the whole set up for around 6K (includes about $1k in cables and power bar), planning on pulling the trigger tomorrow.

    Wow, how exciting, I think this sounds like a great chain.


    Quote Originally Posted by ahsanh
    2. Totem Hawks + Naim 5i + Arcam dac
    - lower priced option ($4700+tax)
    This combo sounds great. I have heard the Naim 5i and 5 and they are great amps. How was it?

  20. #20
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mash
    and anything that plugged into the wall cost 3X what it cost in the USA. Still true?
    Most things cost about the same. The Canadian dollar is near par with the U.S. dollar. Gas is more expensive here because the government taxes heavily on it. In my town it's $1.12 per litre. The U.S. is the only country left I think that still uses the Gallon
    The conversion factor for most people when quickly computing is 3.785 litres to a US Gallon. So $1.12 X 3.785 = $4.239 per gallon.

    In British Columbia pretty much everything we buy carries a 12% HST (sales tax) for virtually all goods and services with some exceptions. Things like Blu Ray and DVD's are probably the same as in the States. The English Patient blu Ray was $4.99 as well as Trainspotting. Many of the james bond Movies were $6.99 (Blu Ray) - a whole pile sell for under $10. Generally things seem pretty close. You can usually tell if things are cheaper in the States if the Bellis Fair mall in Washington state is being flooded with Canucks. In the late 80s early 1990s you could save a LOT of money. I remember on my 16th birthday when I was starting out int he hobby and trying to get better audio, My parents bought me a Pioneer 3 head tape deck CTS-709 which was the same as their Elite model. (underrated deck too). Anyway, it was $219 in the States and in Canada it was going for $699. Exact same unit. So your 3 times the price in some cases lasted right through to the 1990's.

    Got to pay for that medical care somehow. On the flip side with my dad going through Cancer a while back - if we lived in the States we'd be on the street penniless. So it's nice that the rich folks in Canada are fine with paying a larger share and helping out the middle and lower financial classes. Even though some of their money is no doubt wasted on people who abuse the system. I suppse they don't mind if they can already buy 5 houses and three Ferraris what's the big deal if they pay $300,000 in tax and $50,000 of it leaks to the abusers and wasteful lefty government(well our righty government but lefty compare to the U.S. (though our prime Minister is in the "Earth is only 6000 year old" nuttery camp). At least $250K of it gets to where it's suppose to get. And while they pay more it means less of the suburban areas look like giant toilent bowls. Poor areas tend to generate less taxes so communities spend less on upkeep. If I am a rich guy living in a town I want the WHOLE town to look beautiful not just my house and my front lawn.

    Living in Whenzhou China with an advertised 28,000 millionaires and 1880 Billionaires and where no one pays taxes I could never understand why anyone with any money would want to live there. Sure they lived in their gated property but the entire city was a disastrous disgusting smely stink hole. Sure they own 12 cars and live in a giant place but as soon as you get off the property it's a complete toilet - and their air quality was horrendous everywhere. This seems to be happening in many U.S cities from video footage of placed like Michigan that looks like it went through a world war. Wenzou is modelled on "pure" capitalism. I still can't believe I survived that place for the school year. Felt like 10 http://books.google.ca/books?id=1Dqj...page&q&f=false

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