Opinions on my first dive into Higher End Audio Gear

Discussion in 'Equipment Reviews & Opinions' started by cptdavious, Feb 6, 2018.

  1. cptdavious

    cptdavious New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Hello Everyone...this is my first post on these forums. I truly appreciate all the information you share, and hope you can help me out.

    I am a technical person I have always been into music, and electronics but higher end audio is something new for me. I don't have much listening experience on higher end gear, and dont really have places near me to test things out. For this reason I am basing much of my opinion on reviews (official) and real world opinions. I know everyone's opinion is subjective, however there is generally common ground with quality gear. I am hoping you guys can help me out with my initial "plunge" ...

    Here is my situation:
    1. I have a budget of about 1000$ - I want to start slow and cheap so I can learn what I like without wasting money.
    2. I prefer to go separates because I like to customize, and would like to start with basic quality components (preamp, power amp), then tack on later
    3. I prefer USA made, or boutique made. In other words no China factory stuff. I am really into the Schiit stuff, based on the value for the money and reviews.
    4. I already have speakers, turntable, and Mani phono pre-amp all hooked up to an old Realistic SS receiver Ive had for years. I am looking to do some core upgrades for now.
    5. I would like a DAC to mess with high res audio. But I dont need one initially (see point 2)
    6. All of the above is flexible to some degree :)
    Option 1:
    Based on all of this, and based on a few months of obsessive research I set my heart on Schiit Vidar, and Saga combo. Just simple affordable quality components. It fits.

    Option 2:
    Lately I have been thinking to go vintage (cheap) on the power amp (adcom 535/545/555, or hafler 120/200) to save some money initially then add a Saga or maybe even the Freya. I understand the maintenance required for old gear, but accept it (I am pretty technical). This option could leave room for a Schiit entry DAC. I figure it would sound great, get me started, and I can upgrade down the road when my budget frees up again.

    Option 3:
    Here is the monkey wrench ... In my local ads I found a Rogue Audio Cronus (55wpc non Magnum) for 800$. I am going to check it out, and I may be able to work the price. This integrated amp has solid reviews, and I bet it sounds great. This will be for a small room, so I am sure it will be powerful enough. It is not a separate but I could always use it as a preamp in the future. I also figure for 800$ i could always get at least 75% of my money back out of it if I wanted to dump it. I am a little skeptical about no tone controls, and the different sound tubes will bring. I admire that on the Freya/Saga I can switch off the tubes, and would love if the Rogue had this. I like that the Rogue can be upgraded to magnum version. This seems to be a good deal for my first plunge, but wonder if I am better off with a Freya based system.

    Anyway that's my situation. I would love to hear your opinions.
     

     

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  2. PRESSON100

    PRESSON100 Member

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    If you are technical, I would recommend you build the honeybadger amplifier that is described in detail on the DIY site. With the budget you have, that would allow you to have enough left over for a Tandberg 3008 preamp. That would be a top notch system. You can sometimes pick up the 3008 for 350$.
     
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  3. cptdavious

    cptdavious New Member

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    3
    Very interesting...I am going to look more into the honeybadger. I would see it being more of a long term project though.

    Any opinions on the Rogue Cronus vs going the Schiit route?
     
  4. PRESSON100

    PRESSON100 Member

    Messages:
    58
    If you are going to join the high end, in general, most of us use separates. Not to say an integrated cannot sound great, but usually, I prefer separates.
     
  5. Jailtime

    Jailtime Standin' on a corner Subscriber

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    11,378
    Location:
    Velva ND
    I really liked the Cronus Magnum I heard. It was on the short list of integrated amps I wanted, with nearly the same criteria that you have.

    I went with a Schiit Freya preamp and Quicksilver amplifiers, so I'll let you know what I think of the Freya once it gets here. If I remember. :D
     
  6. Tiver

    Tiver Enjoy the music Subscriber

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    674
    Location:
    Honeoye Falls, NY
    If you want to start slow and cheap to avoid wasting money, never buy anything for more than you can sell it for (at least hope to). That will certainly help to keep things slow. You should be able to have a good experience for $1K. There will likely always be something for a few dollars more.

    I am looking at the Mav DAC2. I see they have a little integrated that matches (matches the DAC1 as well). Looks interesting and it's not a pile of cash. It is Chinese.

    I don't know what speakers you are using, but not all gear will perform optimally with all other gear. Power hungry speakers can shine with the proper power, but will sorely disappoint if the amp can't put out. And some music is good for the music, but lacks dynamics in the recording. This music is great to listen to, but isn't great for evaluating gear IMO.


    If you can get into any kind of listening space to experience more gear, it will help you identify a sonic signature you favor. This is easiest when you have some go-to music you use for evaluation of gear. If you can identify such, you can then read reviewers comments with more relevance to what you seek.
     

     

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  7. cptdavious

    cptdavious New Member

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    Thanks everyone for the advice (build your own, quicksilver amps, avoid wasting money). The seller backed out on the Cronus, and I still haven't purchased anything, but have been doing a ton of window shopping and research. One thing I realized is that just because I buy something, dosnt mean I have to keep it forever. To Tiver's point, as long as I can get most of my money back out, I get the gear that meets the current budget, then move on later down the road.

    I will let you know what I end up doing.
     
  8. Silentnet

    Silentnet AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    745
    Location:
    Charleston, SC
    What speakers?

    Look in to the Emotiva PT-100 -- solid/clean pre-amp and phono section, excellent intigrated DAC that can easily be bypassed if/when you want to try others.

    I've been very happy with it, along with an Adcom GFA-555, which I know you were considering already.
     
  9. mkane

    mkane AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    6,142
    Location:
    103 miles N. of S.F.
    DIY all the way. Amps, pre amp, phono pre & speakers
     
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  10. The Fuxtor

    The Fuxtor AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Location:
    Calgary, Alberta
    Go for the Shiit Vidar!! I have the Saga and its very good, but paired with a Vidar i bet is a nice combo, and further up the road if you decide you like the pairing, you could mono block a pair for further upgrade!!
     
  11. trinhsman

    trinhsman AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    If the Rogue is right, it’s a no brainer IMHO.
     

     

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  12. sqlsavior

    sqlsavior AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Regarding option #2: I liked my Hafler DH-220 more than my Adcom 535. It was smoother, and easier on my ears. May have been just those particular examples.

    Question: Do you like your Mani better than your Realistic phono stage? Just curious.

    You seem intent on getting a preamp/poweramp combo as your next purchase. An alternative would be to just get a chip amp for now, if you decide on another direction next. Just an idea.

    Or get a Hafler power amp, and construct a DIY passive preamp using magnetic attenuation: http://www.intactaudio.com/atten.html

    I'll stop rambling now, just one more name drop: Magnepan
     
  13. david1111

    david1111 Active Member

    Messages:
    156
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    Hi, i'm new here and it's probably way too late to post on this, but here goes. I have only gotten back into audio early last year. I also already had good speakers, TT & cartridge, as well, and I've been trying to do it inexpensively, like yourself. Very similar situation.
    After exhaustive (but entertaining) research, I decided on an Adcom GFA 555ii, a YS-Audio Symphonies tube pre, and an MF A3-24/192 Dac. The Adcom is very under-rated. Like Krell and many others, it has no coupling capacitors muddying the signal path, but instead uses DC servos to limit any DC from the source.
    It has a very clean, full sound and great bass. Although the 555 is a good amp, the 555ii is the one to get. It's not as available and costs a few hundred more but it's the same Nelson Pass design with some very good upgrades done by another very talented EE. Download the owner's manual and read the improvements page. I paid 500 in Canada, it should be less in the US. It'll drive any speakers that you end up getting. It's rated at 200/325 wpc, but they usually put out 260/380+ wpc.
    The YS-Audio Symphonies preamp needs the tubes rolled to make it fantastic. I use 3 Gold Lion Premium ECC83 / B759. It's made in the orient, but all the important signal path bits are hand wired, point to point, with high-quality pots. I paid 400. you would get it for 300.
    The MF A3-24 dac is amazing. I felt like tossing my vinyl. I paid 500.
    All this is used stuff of course. My CD transport is a basic Denon 5-disc changer, but the vintage components make it sound incredible. The sound-stage is wide, deep, and high, and the detail is very good. The highs are only harsh on bad recording/mastering, and the violins are sweet and the cellos vibrate hauntingly. Female vocals and rock are excellent as well. (Actually room-filling). I didn't know that red book CDs could sound so good.
    Btw, all my cabling is from Blue Jeans Cable. Their ICs have the lowest capacitance that I've been able to find. (12 pf / foot). Excellent prices too.
    Anyway, that's what I did, and it turned out well. I hope it assists you, or someone else, in putting together a system with the particular sound that you like.
    Good luck, and happy listening whatever you do.
    PS - You have to ensure that the coupling capacitors on a tube preamp are of a good-quality, and not worn out, if the SS amp has no coupling caps in it's circuits.
    Cheers.
    Dave
     
  14. Silentnet

    Silentnet AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    745
    Location:
    Charleston, SC
    The amusing thing is, Pass says the original 555 is the one to get, not the II, but I've read both as far as recommendations go.
     
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  15. david1111

    david1111 Active Member

    Messages:
    156
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    Yes, I've read the same thing too. Even before I bought it. It only takes a minute to find the 555ii manual. They clearly outline all of the upgrades, and, i'm no EE, but it didn't seem like any off the mods would have taken anything away from the purity of the signal path. But it definitely seemed like most of them would have added something to the capabilities of the amp. I don't know for sure. Check it out if you have time. They're both very good amps. I also have a GFP 555ii preamp, and a lot of people say that Adcom pre's suck, but mine sounds pretty good. And when I've compared the phono stage to my GSP Reflex M (which everyone seems to love for the price), it competes very well. It doesn't really sound worse, it's just different. Wider sound-stage, but not as deep or lush. (lush?)
    Nice system you've got, btw. I've heard a lot of good things about MLs.
     
  16. Pigboat659G

    Pigboat659G Member

    Messages:
    85
    Again, newbie way late on post. Starting on a dime is way fun. Big scores are at goodwill.examples,
    Klipsch Quartets $49.99, Klipsch RF-7 $200, Realistic STA-90 $14.99:banana: 9.5/10,


    amps; Adcon gfa 535x2, 535Iix2, 555x3, 5300,6000 Sansui ua-517, SAE3100,Sonance 2021t,
    pre; Adcom gtp500,gtp6000, NIKKO Beta-II,t/t Sony lx350 Pearl car. DAC Maverick Audio TubeMagicD-1
    Speakers, Klipsch Quartet, rf82,rf3, rc3, Wharfdale Sapphire sp-89
    Plus:
    Teac EQA-20 (WOW MAN the lights) not in listening path, just trippy
    Panasonic Audio Timer TE972 YEH more lights.

    Add it up $2500. System on a Dime Thank You Goodwill
     

     

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  17. 59volvo

    59volvo Well-Known Member

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    tpa3216 amps - see this thread
    [​IMG]
     
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  18. Eric n Kc

    Eric n Kc AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Hey
    I like my Freya preamp. I'm tempted to go with the Vidar amp. Ijust got too many irons in the fire at the moment. (Conrad Johnson pv5 rebuild/upgrade) and a tube amp build to named later.
    But the Freya pre is a solid performer but you'll need to replace the factory tubes. Just my .02. Eric
     
  19. Poultrygeist

    Poultrygeist Lunatic Member

    # 3 limits you as most high end gear comes from China.
     
  20. trinhsman

    trinhsman AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,193
    Location:
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    I beg to differ, respectfully. Audible Illusions, Pass Labs, VPI, Rogue Audio, Von Schweikert, and many more high end are made in the US.
     

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