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  1. #1
    AR Newbie Registered Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2004

    Just moved to US (VA), need some speakers and an amplifier

    I realize I am one of the mulititude of newbees leeching on this forum to get me started on a system. I have now been browsing and searching the site for a couple of days picking up hints, but I need some direct input now.

    I've been living in Europe up to now and made do with a cheap system built from NAD and Dali components. It's done it's job as a casual system. Now I find myself in the US with a bigger paycheck and working quite a bit at home. Finally I can both afford a good system and have the time to listen to it. I guess some of you will not agree with me that a stereo in the background is really listening, but to me it still does beat using my laptop speakers for the background music anyway. And I will do some real listening whenever I have a chance.

    Now to the fun part: I find myself greener to the field than in a long time. The brands have changed and the focus has changed compared to what I'm used to. I went to a "speciality" store (I think, can't remember the name) around here. They asked we what kind of receiver I wanted, I answered NO and they were flabbergasted. Seems the americans have done away with amplifiers and only play with receivers these days. This seems to go against all I've learned before, where even an integrated amplifier was a shame and surround almost taboo in learned circles.

    I'd appreciate any input you have. I would prefer specific suggestions for packages because although the bring everything home and test it theory sounds nice, I simply don't have the time to do that, and would like to hit a home run on the first try.

    * Budget: $2000 but a good salesman might push me to $2500 for exceptional value. This package covers amplifier and stereo speakers. I want floorstanding speakers (I don't even have a bookshelf yet)
    * Room: Apartment building, small living room, bad soundproofing. So what I'd like is a system that has it's peak at lover volumes. The room is approx 12x17', but as you can see here , the layout is horrible with an open kitchen and sunroom with lots of glass thrown into the bargain. The sunroom is set up as the office, and it is here I will do my casual listening. I expect to move the speakers to the sliding doors to get the best effect. For serious purposes the speakers will be against the left wall of the living room.
    * System: I've got a horrible TV and DVD that came with the aparment. I've temporarily brought my CD collection on a Creative Nomad Jukebox Zen Xtra. So the first stage of the sound is not superb, but I've got decent mp3 quality 196+kbps vbr mp3 and will be bringing my CD's and purchasing a good player later. For now I want to get a good amp and speaker set to cover the basics. I've also got a buch of LP's that may be recessitated in the distant future. If I can find an amplifier that also works on 220V I'd prefer that as I don't know exactly how long I'll stay.
    *Music preferences: I listen to several different kinds of music, but the bulk of it is 70's prog with the likes of Genesis, Pink Floyd, Yes, Van der Graaf, King Crimson etc. leading the pack. But I also have classical, jazz, blues, rock etc. I'm completely not into home theatre, but might start experimenting with sorround music in the future. At that time I expect to upgrade the whole package though. I also do not typically listen to your typical thump-thump music such as heavy metal, rap etc., but for those rare occasions, the system should handle it.
    * Sound preferences: I find I like high definition, almost dry sound. I find great pleasure in listening to setups that reveal all the detail in the music, such as a finger moving on the string of a guitar. Apart from that I'd like a well balanced system that does not over emphasize the treble as the recordings of for instance early Genesis are quite well endowed in that area already.
    My greatest revelation so far has been to listen to the Roger Waters album "Amused To Death" on a high end system demonstration (Electrocompaniet prototype). I had to check that they had not gotten a pre-release of a DVD-A version of the disc. The music, spoken voices and song vere just perfectly clear, revealing details I had never imagined before.

    So to sum up I need a good value, high-end stereo setup with minimum fuss. Who can help me?
    Any related help, such as which stores in the Arlington, VA area to visit for professional help and good deals also much appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    St. Louis, MO, USA
    For what you are looking for in your budget the British amps would be your best bet. Brands like Arcam, Creek or Roksan. My preference in speakers is Dynaudio but they start about $700. a pair. I believe B&W, although no comparison, start lower than that. Acoustic Energy also offers a nice speaker for a good price. The U.S. made amps are generally very high quality and offer outstanding performance but wouldn't be in your budget. As far as where to go, when you find a brand you might want to audition go to their website and check for a dealer in your area. I would suggest staying away from electronics chain stores. They won't have what you are looking for.

  3. #3
    RGA is offline
    Forum Regular
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Most high end stores carry few recievers and mostly quality integrated or separate amplifiers. NAD still makes a variety of integrateds which are there main forte.

    I will recommend my own speakers Audio Note AN K Spe for several reasons:

    Positioning - The speakers are quite room friendly, they can be placed close to a wall or in a corner. Not right up against a wall but within 10-15cm.

    High Sensitivity and High Effiicincy - The speaker is 90db sensitive but never dips below 5ohm making them very tube amp friendly or low watt friendly.

    Dynamics and Cohesion - The all Vifa driver and similar balance of drivers sound like music coming from a single driver not a woofer and a tweeter...neat trick that most don't manage.

    They are standmounts and require a stand...but if you think about it most floorstanders are standmounts - the only difference is they are supplying a lot of extra cheap wood to serve as a stand instead of good quality high mass metal. Large powerful speakers can overpower smaller rooms and create a lot of bass most have to be pulled well out from a wall which hurts Electrostatic and planar designse(they take up the whole bloody room). Though if they're light you can put em away when not in use. Still none have the dynamic realism for rock/dance etc.

    Now here's the problem the AN K starts at $1950US and their top AN E goes for over $20K US. But they'll come down. Go find this speaker in your state and any other speaker that dealer carries and compare. I would buy a used amplifier for the remaining amount an use your current source as cd player and put that off for a while.

    Other speakers I can suggest but I would try and get the best speakers you can possibly find. The AN speakers are internally upgradeable as is with all of their gear. Complete systems range from 3,000 to roughly $600,000US.

    Amplifiers from Arcam, Roksan, Sugden, Audio Refinement can be found new and used for fairly reasonable prices. Another option is if you would like to try tubes to look for Antique Sound Labs AQ1003DT or a company call Cayin...The latter is fairly new and makes some very cheap integrated tube amplifiers with what appears to be top notch parts quality. An integrated from them is around $500.00 - but is an order online type deal so you'd have to buy before you can listen(I prefer paying more for ASL because you can easily find dealers and they offer a superior 5 year warranty. The AQ1003DT is quite nice and comes with a remote and a subwoofer output as well as a built in bias meter. 30 watts all class A for under $1k.

    Unfortunately this all has a retail cost of $2950.00. However, you can work deals to get them down...and Audio Note has a new well touted floorstander for under 1k - I have not heard it but they don't seem to make any dreck (The follow ups are interesting as well).

    The ASL Tube amp

    There are many other good set-ups from speakers like B&W, Mission, Linn and ampls like Creek, Arcam Roksan etc.

    I'm basically hitting the top of your price range ceiling - give it a go and hear for yourself what you give up going with the usual suspects. A bit more for something that will last 20 years is not much in the big scheme of things.

  4. #4
    Forum Regular
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    If you like the NAD sound then NAD has the more expensive silverline series, very very good. Integrated amp NAD 372, pre-power separated are also available. C162 and C272 are the pre/power combo from nad which is really a good buy.

    NAD S100/S300 pre-power conbo is their silverline top of the line combo, very neutral and detailed. Worth a listen.

    Dynaudio and B&W would be my choice for you too. Remember Dynaudio are difficult speakers to drive and need very good amplification.

    Both are detailed and good for their money.

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