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  1. #1
    Ajani
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    What compromises would you accept?

    Let's assume you were building a 2 channel HiFi with a normal (middle class) audiophile budget, so essentially anywhere from $1,500 to $15,000 for the whole setup (source, amplification, speakers and cables), what compromises would you accept?

    For example, sacrificing deep bass for more refined midrange and treble that a monitor would offer over a similarly priced tower... Or trading a flat frequency response for a more 'engaging' presentation... Or sacrificing the ability to crank up the volume for a more refined presentation at low volumes, etc...


    More and more I'm starting to realize that I'm willing to compromise anything (in HiFi) as long as it is not obvious... So as long as the musical presentation is convincing as a whole... So ideally I'd like a system that while not the best in any specific area (dynamic range, detail, soundstage, etc...) doesn't appear weak in any area.... So unless you compare it directly against another product, you wouldn't really notice anything was missing... I think my preference has to do with what drove me in to audiophilia in the first place: hearing music on my walkman or mini-system and thinking that something sounds wrong - crank up the volume and the music gets harsh or strained, lack of clean deep bass, overly bright treble, veiled midrange, etc....

    So back to the question: What compromises would you accept?

  2. #2
    ISCET CET, FCC CTT, USITT Dual-500's Avatar
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    I'm not sure if it's playing the game correctly but here goes:

    I would say size and overall footprint of the gear - meaning larger enclosures. In other words all things equal, the larger enclosures tend to have some advantages at the cost of the overall footprint into the environment.

    That's a trade-off I'm willing to make.

  3. #3
    RGA
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    Ajani

    The problem is your budget is quite a large range. At $1500 you are forced into a whole lot of compromises that you are not forced into at $15000.

    At $15,000 I can have an Audio Note AN E/Spe HE, Oto Phono SE, and a DAC 2.1 sig to go along with whatever CD player I currently have and some cables. That IMO is about as good a system as I have heard without feeling that there is a problem - it lies by omission IME so that you don't get the sense there is something lacking until you hear the next CD player or amp in direct comparison. (although at this price it would leave out the turntable rig).

    At $1500 you would likely have to be in the solid state amplification range and smaller no bass standmounts. Although you could accept that and add a sub later.

    And to me if it doesn't engage me I don't care what the measurements and graphs and THD numbers are - if it doesn't engage me then to me it's rubbish. The whole point of it is to be able to play all day every day at low medium and high levels and I am personally not a fan of sacrificing bass for better midrange.

    Bass is critical and it needs to be "integrated and completely coherent" with the midrange and treble. The ideal is often said to be a single point in space - a single driver. But they usually don't have the bass or the dynamics and when they do they cost $10 grand+ which is a bit much for most of us.

    The problem with sacrificing bass is that at some point you want more bass. And subs IME don't really sound that good with monitors for music replay. If you like it great - but I don't generally unless it's for home theater.

    Big standmounts can have enough bass to satisfy for most music in reasonable sized room which then means you don't have to accept the weaknesses in ever three way+ design I've ever heard.

    It also depends on the music you listen to with regards to the bass depth and type of bass you require. Most music may live in the midrange but bass lays an important foundation and without it the system tends to be very much lacking. I would take a B&W 600 series floorstander over a 700 or 800 series standmount. They have better tweeters but you pay a lot more and you lose the fuller scale presentation and "drive" and without that you've got nothing. Even if there is a bit of colouration and bit of a hot treble - it will be better on anything with a pulse. So unless the trade for the better treble is just so immense (and it's not in my example) then it's not worth spending more to better one area at the expense of 2-3 others.

  4. #4
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dual-500
    I'm not sure if it's playing the game correctly but here goes:

    I would say size and overall footprint of the gear - meaning larger enclosures. In other words all things equal, the larger enclosures tend to have some advantages at the cost of the overall footprint into the environment.

    That's a trade-off I'm willing to make.
    Ideally I was thinking of sonic compromises, but yes aesthetics (size and looks) are valid compromises as well... I have no issue with large components in my system, but I see no reason to have ugly ones... There are just too many products that both sound and look good, for me to accept an eyesore in my living room...
    Last edited by Ajani; 04-04-2011 at 07:53 AM.

  5. #5
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    Ajani

    The problem is your budget is quite a large range. At $1500 you are forced into a whole lot of compromises that you are not forced into at $15000.

    At $15,000 I can have an Audio Note AN E/Spe HE, Oto Phono SE, and a DAC 2.1 sig to go along with whatever CD player I currently have and some cables. That IMO is about as good a system as I have heard without feeling that there is a problem - it lies by omission IME so that you don't get the sense there is something lacking until you hear the next CD player or amp in direct comparison. (although at this price it would leave out the turntable rig).

    At $1500 you would likely have to be in the solid state amplification range and smaller no bass standmounts. Although you could accept that and add a sub later.

    And to me if it doesn't engage me I don't care what the measurements and graphs and THD numbers are - if it doesn't engage me then to me it's rubbish. The whole point of it is to be able to play all day every day at low medium and high levels and I am personally not a fan of sacrificing bass for better midrange.

    Bass is critical and it needs to be "integrated and completely coherent" with the midrange and treble. The ideal is often said to be a single point in space - a single driver. But they usually don't have the bass or the dynamics and when they do they cost $10 grand+ which is a bit much for most of us.

    The problem with sacrificing bass is that at some point you want more bass. And subs IME don't really sound that good with monitors for music replay. If you like it great - but I don't generally unless it's for home theater.

    Big standmounts can have enough bass to satisfy for most music in reasonable sized room which then means you don't have to accept the weaknesses in ever three way+ design I've ever heard.

    It also depends on the music you listen to with regards to the bass depth and type of bass you require. Most music may live in the midrange but bass lays an important foundation and without it the system tends to be very much lacking. I would take a B&W 600 series floorstander over a 700 or 800 series standmount. They have better tweeters but you pay a lot more and you lose the fuller scale presentation and "drive" and without that you've got nothing. Even if there is a bit of colouration and bit of a hot treble - it will be better on anything with a pulse. So unless the trade for the better treble is just so immense (and it's not in my example) then it's not worth spending more to better one area at the expense of 2-3 others.
    I pretty much agree with your views on this issue...

    The budget is wide, mainly to allow an audiophile to pick their own price point... so if they find $1.5K too limiting then then they can choose anything up the $15K... But yes a lot more compromises need to be made at the bottom of the price range than at the top...

    IMO, a system at $15K should have an excellent balance and no obvious sonic compromises (so only by comparison should you realize that better is available)... However I can think of many HiFi products that would be used in a $15K setup that have obvious compromises such as weak bass and overly bright treble....

    As for flat frequency response; I won't accept a product that doesn't get my toes tapping, but has great measurements... But I also won't accept a product with really obvious peaks and valleys in the freq response, as those things would really annoy me in the long run.... (note: by obvious I mean that I can easily hear those deviations, rather than they appear on a graph but I don't notice them when I turn on the music)...

  6. #6
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani
    Let's assume you were building a 2 channel HiFi with a normal (middle class) audiophile budget, so essentially anywhere from $1,500 to $15,000 for the whole setup (source, amplification, speakers and cables), what compromises would you accept?
    ...
    The type of music you listen to, how loud you listen to it, and the room that you listen in are the biggest factors, IMO.

    If you listen to chamber music, (I'm guilty! ), and/or maybe jazz or vocals, bass doesn't need to be loud, nor macro dynamics all that impressive. Mid-range is paramount, but extended treble is also important for accurate instrument timbres.

    For large scale choral and orchestral music and , (I'm guilty again), resolution is essential to separate voices and instruments from each other. Additionally one must add more macro- and micro-dynamics and loudness for crescendos, and deeper bass, to the chamber music attributes, above.

    It's a totally different matter if you listen to Trance at disco levels, in which case loudness and punchy dynamics, (PRaT), are vital but extended highs might actually be disadvantageous, (unless you filter your music through the vinyl medium and/or mellow tubes). Really deep bass, (vs. loud bass), is unimportant.

    ... So you choose your equipment accordingly.

    IMO, my current stereo system is well-selected in a $5-8 k range for the wide range of classical music that I mostly listen too in a mid-size rooms; see below for the details.

  7. #7
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    I was a total bass head until living with my current system that I acquired from my neighbor for a while.

    I have been able to sacrifice deep pounding bass for glorious midrange. I have a sub blended in but not over powering any.

    I have also learned to appreciate using my Pre in Passive mode, sacrificing the gain but being able to produce nice sound at lower levels.

    I still put the SS-Stratos and Dynaudios in play every once in a while but the Hybrid-Counterpoint and Clearfields are in play most of the time.

    I have recently been thinking of what I will have to do when the time comes to give up my big house and downsize. I will go for small but detailed and lively more so than large and loud.

  8. #8
    Man of the People Forums Moderator bobsticks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyfi
    I have recently been thinking of what I will have to do when the time comes to give up my big house and downsize. I will go for small but detailed and lively more so than large and loud.
    I was thinking along these lines as well. Ultimately, PRaT, detail, and imagiung are more important than being able to squeeze out those last few SPLs before ears start to bleed, IMO...
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  9. #9
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  10. #10
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    The type of music you listen to, how loud you listen to it, and the room that you listen in are the biggest factors, IMO..
    Agreed... 'Unfortunately' for me I listen to a very wide range of music so sacrificing bass or treble extension for a silky midrange would ruin many of my favourite recordings...

    Also, while I don't listen at really loud levels; I do want a system capable of going comfortably beyond my normal listening volume. It doesn't need to be able to achieve frat party levels, but loud enough that I won't be wanting for volume range on even my softest recordings...

    Luckily for me my room size isn't large, so 50 watts on an average sensitivity speaker (87db) would be able to produce headache inducing volumes...

    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    If you listen to chamber music, (I'm guilty! ), and/or maybe jazz or vocals, bass doesn't need to be loud, nor macro dynamics all that impressive. Mid-range is paramount, but extended treble is also important for accurate instrument timbres.

    For large scale choral and orchestral music and , (I'm guilty again), resolution is essential to separate voices and instruments from each other. Additionally one must add more macro- and micro-dynamics and loudness for crescendos, and deeper bass, to the chamber music attributes, above.

    It's a totally different matter if you listen to Trance at disco levels, in which case loudness and punchy dynamics, (PRaT), are vital but extended highs might actually be disadvantageous, (unless you filter your music through the vinyl medium and/or mellow tubes). Really deep bass, (vs. loud bass), is unimportant.

    ... So you choose your equipment accordingly.

    IMO, my current stereo system is well-selected in a $5-8 k range for the wide range of classical music that I mostly listen too in a mid-size rooms; see below for the details.
    Yep... I think the compromises you make should be based on your own preferences.... It's why some persons will rave over a specific product and others will question the sanity of those persons...

  11. #11
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    My current rig is comprised of sacrifices. It is a good middle of the road Jack of all trades, but master of none.

    Im still about 3 or 4 years out from a dedicated two channel system again, but I still think about how I will approach it this time.

    Id sacrifice digital playback and route money towards vinyl playback and (gasp!) tape playback. And that is not to say it would be a vintage system either (except tape decks). Vinyl and tape is what I listen to at home. If I spent a bunch on transport and DAC for CD it would go unused. Wifi iTouch or iPad is all the digital playback I need. Middle of the road DAC is all I need for that.

    Id also sacrifice aesthetics on speakers. Id probably go the DIY route, which can result in some wonky looking speakers. And, anyone who has been around DIY long enough knows, youre not actually saving any money. But it's more fun and Im a decent woodworker.
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  12. #12
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Well, I'm kind of the oddball in that the compromise that I will not accept is going back to a dedicated two-channel rig. I've accumulated enough essential multichannel SACDs and DVD-As that my main audio system will always be at least a 5.1 setup. There are simply aspects of audio reproduction that a great 5.1 mix can do that no two-channel setup can do, period, no matter how many investments or upgrades you make across the entire chain.

    So, what compromises would I/have I gone with? Well, I've gone with standmounted speakers all the way. In my experience, it's a big budgetary jump to find a really good set of floorstanding speakers. It would be nice to have full range speakers all the way around, but that's where the budgetary compromise kicks in. And there are many advantages to going with a subwoofer, especially the added placement flexibility and equalization options.

    With a budget of up to $15k (and believe me, that's NOT a "middle class" budget!), I would simply optimize around a set of outstanding standmount speakers, and invest in a processor with critical time alignment performance, particularly in the subwoofer channel (my current receiver does not have this available in the sub channel, while my SACD player does -- I can hear an audible improvement in the bass coherency after adjusting the time alignment).

    Going further down the line with further budget reductions, I would drop the amplification a step and maybe even forego the dedicated processor and simply use a receiver to handle the processing/switching functions, while using an outboard amp.
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  13. #13
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woochifer
    Well, I'm kind of the oddball in that the compromise that I will not accept is going back to a dedicated two-channel rig. I've accumulated enough essential multichannel SACDs and DVD-As that my main audio system will always be at least a 5.1 setup. There are simply aspects of audio reproduction that a great 5.1 mix can do that no two-channel setup can do, period, no matter how many investments or upgrades you make across the entire chain.

    So, what compromises would I/have I gone with? Well, I've gone with standmounted speakers all the way. In my experience, it's a big budgetary jump to find a really good set of floorstanding speakers. It would be nice to have full range speakers all the way around, but that's where the budgetary compromise kicks in. And there are many advantages to going with a subwoofer, especially the added placement flexibility and equalization options.

    With a budget of up to $15k (and believe me, that's NOT a "middle class" budget!), I would simply optimize around a set of outstanding standmount speakers, and invest in a processor with critical time alignment performance, particularly in the subwoofer channel (my current receiver does not have this available in the sub channel, while my SACD player does -- I can hear an audible improvement in the bass coherency after adjusting the time alignment).

    Going further down the line with further budget reductions, I would drop the amplification a step and maybe even forego the dedicated processor and simply use a receiver to handle the processing/switching functions, while using an outboard amp.
    Interesting viewpoint... I tend to forget about Multi-Channel audio... I suppose if enough of the music I listen to was available in MC, I might be tempted to try it...

    As for $15K not being middle class, I'd have to disagree... It is the top of the range and beyond what many (most) would want to spend, but it is possible without being rich... Keep in mind a few things (1) Not everyone has kids (and possibly a wife) to support, so that would free up a large chunk of spending money (2) Instead of driving a new Camry or Accord some persons are content with a really old Civic (3) You don't have to spend all $15K at once; most audiophiles build their systems over time - so you might start with an expensive pair of speakers and eventually get appropriate quality source and amplification to match... So yeah $15K is very expensive, but it is still possible with a middle class income...

  14. #14
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    I'd give up some resolution for some fun toe tapping pace

    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani
    Let's assume you were building a 2 channel HiFi with a normal (middle class) audiophile budget, so essentially anywhere from $1,500 to $15,000 for the whole setup (source, amplification, speakers and cables), what compromises would you accept?

    For example, sacrificing deep bass for more refined midrange and treble that a monitor would offer over a similarly priced tower... Or trading a flat frequency response for a more 'engaging' presentation... Or sacrificing the ability to crank up the volume for a more refined presentation at low volumes, etc...


    More and more I'm starting to realize that I'm willing to compromise anything (in HiFi) as long as it is not obvious... So as long as the musical presentation is convincing as a whole... So ideally I'd like a system that while not the best in any specific area (dynamic range, detail, soundstage, etc...) doesn't appear weak in any area.... So unless you compare it directly against another product, you wouldn't really notice anything was missing... I think my preference has to do with what drove me in to audiophilia in the first place: hearing music on my walkman or mini-system and thinking that something sounds wrong - crank up the volume and the music gets harsh or strained, lack of clean deep bass, overly bright treble, veiled midrange, etc....

    So back to the question: What compromises would you accept?
    I've had the good fortune to be able get very familiar with the Naim Dac and other Naim equipment. I love the resolution and pace but I still prefer the Lektor tube CDP because of the texture and tonality and relaxed presentation the Lektor is able to provide.

    I have a Rega Brio 3 integrated and while I don't have the Apollo CDP I've heard that combination and I love the synergy these 2 Rega products produce. Nope, the Rega is not as resolving as the Naim but my feet/toes sure get to tapping when listening to music from Nelly McKay in a Rega configuration. Toe tapping does not happen for me when I listen to Naim.

    So, for me, musical sway/pace,texture, tonality is more important than absolute resolution. My Belles Soloist Amp & Pre, with the Stello DAC and Stello transport give me the sway, pace and tonality that I enjoy but of course I always think that config need more body or texture but I might have recently found the answer for that.

  15. #15
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeRoy
    I've had the good fortune to be able get very familiar with the Naim Dac and other Naim equipment. I love the resolution and pace but I still prefer the Lektor tube CDP because of the texture and tonality and relaxed presentation the Lektor is able to provide.

    I have a Rega Brio 3 integrated and while I don't have the Apollo CDP I've heard that combination and I love the synergy these 2 Rega products produce. Nope, the Rega is not as resolving as the Naim but my feet/toes sure get to tapping when listening to music from Nelly McKay in a Rega configuration. Toe tapping does not happen for me when I listen to Naim.

    So, for me, musical sway/pace,texture, tonality is more important than absolute resolution. My Belles Soloist Amp & Pre, with the Stello DAC and Stello transport give me the sway, pace and tonality that I enjoy but of course I always think that config need more body or texture but I might have recently found the answer for that.
    No toe tapping for Naim? Wow... That's the first I've ever heard that... I thought that was supposed to be the whole appeal of Naim... I also thought Naim and Rega are supposed to have great synergy...

  16. #16
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    Hi Ajani

    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani
    No toe tapping for Naim? Wow... That's the first I've ever heard that... I thought that was supposed to be the whole appeal of Naim... I also thought Naim and Rega are supposed to have great synergy...
    Naim does have great pace, control, and resolution which I do in fact find quite appealing but no toe tapping for me with Naim gear. I don't think I've heard Rega/Naim paired together so I don't know how that combo presents to the listener. Yes, I agree Naim+Naim or Rega+ Rega are synergistic combinations.

  17. #17
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    For best value buy used. New equipment suggestions: integrated amp: AR VSi60, $4,000; phono: Fosgate, $2,500; Cartridge: Benz Micro, $700; turntable: VPI Classic, 2750. That leaves $5,000 for speakers. Many great buys on used speakers (and, in my experience, good speakers last many decades). New speakers: Audio Note J.

  18. #18
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by tube fan
    For best value buy used. New equipment suggestions: integrated amp: AR VSi60, $4,000; phono: Fosgate, $2,500; Cartridge: Benz Micro, $700; turntable: VPI Classic, 2750. That leaves $5,000 for speakers. Many great buys on used speakers (and, in my experience, good speakers last many decades). New speakers: Audio Note J.
    So your compromise would be to buy used instead of new?

  19. #19
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    Cool

    My friend bought a HARMON KARDON receiver (stereo) open box, and hooked it up to a
    pair of Axioms(M80'S).
    hooked up a Yamaha changer and the whole thing sounded quite good.
    You can get ridiculously good gear at cheap prices these days. My EMOTIVA
    amp is on a par with much higher priced gear, sounds fantastic.
    In other words, plan right and you don't have to compromise at all, no matter what the budget.
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  20. #20
    Forum Regular pixelthis's Avatar
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    Cool

    ITS THE OLD law of diminishing returns that I keep bringing up, not that much diff between
    a 1500 dollar system and a 15,000 SYSTEM, and thats mostly tactile.
    THE fancy cabinet, the speaker cabinet from an endangered species, etc.
    If you can live without the frills, you can still get the "thrills".
    LG 42", integra 6.9, B&W 602s2, CC6 center, dm305rears, b&w
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  21. #21
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani
    Let's assume you were building a 2 channel HiFi with a normal (middle class) audiophile budget, so essentially anywhere from $1,500 to $15,000 for the whole setup (source, amplification, speakers and cables), what compromises would you accept?
    Sins of omission such as frequency extremes and output capability. Get the midrange right first. No receivers.

    rw

  22. #22
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    I will always sacrifice the ability to play loud but the trade off must that I hear all of the spit in Miles' trumpet at low volume.

    I hope the 2a3 amp I just ordered will give me that and then some.

  23. #23
    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    I can easily sacrifice the lowest bass. Partly due to the difficulty of acheiving low bass in a smaller space. Of course there is greater expense to reach the lowest lows. I will also accept a smaller soundstage again due to room size.
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  24. #24
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    At the bottom of the stated budget range, I'd give up quite a bit...especially power and deep bass. I'd even tolerate some brightness or earthiness. I'd just try to get the midrange right, which is actually no small challenge on $1500. I'd definitely go with vintage gear with that budget.

    I'd even venture to say the compromises would be evident in a decent $15,000 system, unless we're talking about getting everything for bargain prices on the used market. I'd still be willing to give up some power. I'd no longer tolerate brightness or roughness around the edges, though. Let's say I bought the following:

    Audio Research VSi60 - $4,000
    Rega Saturn - $2,500
    Rega P5 with TTPSU and Exact cartridge - $2,500
    PS Audio GCPH - $1,000
    ProAc Response D2 speakers - $3,000

    I've spent $13,000 at that point and I've still got only 50 watts of amplifier power. But I'm a happy camper.

  25. #25
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    Ajani

    The problem is your budget is quite a large range. At $1500 you are forced into a whole lot of compromises that you are not forced into at $15000.

    At $15,000 I can have an Audio Note AN E/Spe HE, Oto Phono SE, and a DAC 2.1 sig to go along with whatever CD player.............
    AN gear? That's too much of compromise for me... JK.
    I have yet to experience first hand on how AN attracts some audiophiles so no further comments.

    $15K is ALOT of money, but aint enough in my opinion when buying new. Compromise buying new gear, and get some kick ass used components.
    Also, $15K isn't enough for room reconstruction. So compromise room aesthetics and get some ugly acoustical treatment panels and diffusors.

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