Audio Advice from My AH Peeps!

John Parks

John Parks

Senior Audioholic
WARNING: WHAT FOLLOWS IS A LOT OF WRITING, RAMBLING AND, TO BE HONEST, A BUNCH OF 'MALARKY' (AS JOE BIDEN JUST MADE POPULAR AGAIN - yeah right). IF YOU ARE OF THE TL/DR SCHOOL OF THOUGHT, DON'T READ IT OR SKIP OVER TO THE END.

Good day all! So, I recently went through a divorce (not messy, just sad - thank you in advance for your condolences ;)) and I decided to liquidate all of my existing main listening area equipment (save for my Bluesound Node 2i and Hsu ULS-15 MK2). Out the door went my Yamaha A-S801, Oppo BDP-103 and KEF R500. I've already swapped the Oppo with a Pioneer UDP-LX500 and am actively looking to replace the other items. Thankfully I have a pair of Bang & Olufsen S3s in the bedroom and a plethora of headphones to tide me over for the time being so I am not music-less (which would be awful!).

I am of two minds for this next go 'round: typical 2 channel integrated amp/receiver and passive speakers OR active speakers and preamp (or integrated/receiver with pre outs). My budget at this time (I may go higher up at a [much] later date) is $800 for electronics, $1600 for speakers. Unfortunately, this cannot be exceeded in any way. And, before anyone puts it out there, I am not interested in any kind of AV receiver (with one exception - see WILDCARD below). Also, the emphasis of my system has been (and always will be) music reproduction. It just so happens that I can do video as well, so that's a bonus...

Before I talk about what I have it narrowed down to (at this point) and open up the floor to discussion, please note that I am an interior designer by trade and even though sound quality is paramount, appearance is extremely important as well. My KEF R500s were in the gloss white and looked smashing - I would like to do something similar. But different.

As always, I welcome any an all suggestions (with the two caveats - AV receivers and looks - stated above) of products that may best what I have selected and fall within my budget!

OPTION 1 - Integrated Amp/Receiver, Passive Speakers.

For an integrated, to replace my A-S801, I was looking at something a little different, like the IOTAVX SA3 for $499:
1575475930865.png

It boasts 45WPC, a DAC and other fun features. It was designed to easily add the matching amp at a later date and up the power to 100WPC (all into 8Ω). This is a new company and this product was originally designed to be under the Nakamichi moniker, but that fell through. Anyway, it is receiving rave reviews.

If I were to go the 2 channel receiver route, I would get a refurbished Yamaha R-N803 from A4L for $549:
1575476486477.png

It has pretty much the same internals as the A-S801 but adds a plethora of features - most importantly to me would be YPAO.

As far as speakers go, I have a few I like. A few are known to me (sound-wise) and a few are unknown (though I do not doubt they sound excellent). First off is the KEF R3 in Walnut, refurbished, $1599 at A4L:
1575476904949.png

I've heard these and love them. I would prefer white, but they are not in stock and I need them NOW, NOW, NOW! Next is the Elac Adante AS-61 in white, $1499 (original MSRP was $2500) from Music Direct (and others):
1575477146848.png

I have not heard these and cannot find a pair to audition, but if they improve on the Uni-Fi UB5 (which I have no doubt that they will) they should be awesome. MD also has a B-stock pair in rosewood (meh, it's okay) for $1350. A brand new speaker that has me very excited is the Focal Chora 806 for $998 ($1198 with stands) in dark wood/blue from everywhere:
1575477465727.png

I have not heard them because nobody has them, but if they improved on the Chorus line (again, I have no reason to doubt that they have) they should sound impressive. their main selling point for me? They look totally awesome! The next choice will no doubt sound killer (I had a previous model and loved it) but are ugly as sin (to me - not a reflection on you if you have them): the Ascend Sierra-2EX in piano black, $1498:
1575477754126.png

Yea, I could make them work with some neat stands like these:
1575477838855.png

This would be considered a "performance only" option. A couple more that are based only on reputation but look really nice are the Sonus Faber Venere and Canton Vento Reference 9.2 DC (the former on Ebay, latter on A4L). I know there are some Canton owners on AH. Any SF folks?

Either of these would be a "faith based" purchase...

OPTION 2 - Powered Speakers/Preamp

So, I had this wacky notion after hearing a demo, watching a few videos and reading a few reviews: why not get an amplified speaker? The designer knows exactly what amplification to use for best performance, most have bluetooth and/or streaming options (I don't really need it, but WTH). The first speaker is one I with which I am familiar via demos and I like it a lot more than its passive relative, the KEF LS50W in black/blue, $1499 at A4L:
1575479075353.png

I also really like the sound of the LSX, but it may be too wee for a main setup like I am trying to build. Then again, it may not! Change my mind. The only thing that offends my audiophile sensibilities (whether it makes a difference or not) is that the KEF actives convert everything to digital. With that "concern" in mind, I have found the Elac Navis ARB-51. I would prefer white or ebony, but I cannot find one in my price range. HOWEVER, a local Best Buy has a black, open box pair for $1200.

Sorry - I am running out of images (10 max on this site) so just use your imagination :eek: The Elac keeps everything in the analog domain. I have not heard them (may do so at BB, if I decide to pursue this option) but they are supposed to be better than a Uni-Fi on steroids.

For a preamp, I have my eye on the Parasound NewClassic 200, $749.95 at Audio Advisor:
1575479967411.png

It has everything I am looking for (sans balanced connections) and rudimentary bass management (one can change the subwoofer level with the remote). There are also many used preamps out there, such as a nice Parasound P3 on Ebay for $799. We'll see... Options welcome! You got some obscure Chinese tube preamp - let me know!

WILDCARD: Remember when I said, way back at the top, that I was not interested in any AV receiver suggestions? Well, I was at Best Buy last night and saw something similar to this:
1575480253154.png

The designer in me likes this because it matches my new Pioneer UDP-LX500. That's really it: looks. And Pioneer's version of bass management. But mostly looks.

So, my AV receiver friends, how does the Pioneer sound? Yes, I know, within the amps parameters, blah, blah - the Pioneer is Class D and I have heard some not great examples of Class D, so if anyone has experience... Also, here is a big question as I have no (zero, zip, nada, 0) experience with AV receivers: is there a way to designate more that one channel as FR or FL? In essence providing an active bi-amplification solution? That would be great... Also, my AV receiver brethren, do you know of any other company that has an amber readout? I know Yamaha of old did... Because looks. Also, the SC-LX701 at $899 busts my budget - does someone have a cheaper model in mind? It does not have to have the latest (or any, really) AV bells and whistles.

Anyway, thank you all in advance for your valuable time and consideration. If you have a better product (be it speakers, amps, etc.) that you have experience with or, simply, think I am an idiot and am going about things all wrong, by all means, let me know!

TL/DR: What, are you lazy or something? Scroll back up and at least look at the pretty pictures!
 
Last edited:
tmurnin

tmurnin

Full Audioholic
Have you checked out the Dynaudio Excite or Evoke lines? Great speakers with some fantastic finishes. Alternatively, if you’re willing to be patient, the best looking speakers on the market are from Salk Sound, and you can pretty much customize them in whatever finish you like.

Cambridge audio makes a nice integrated amp that also looks good as well
 
John Parks

John Parks

Senior Audioholic
Have you checked out the Dynaudio Excite or Evoke lines? Great speakers with some fantastic finishes. Alternatively, if you’re willing to be patient, the best looking speakers on the market are from Salk Sound, and you can pretty much customize them in whatever finish you like.

Cambridge audio makes a nice integrated amp that also looks good as well
Hi! I have not heard either of those Dynaudio lines as the only current dealer in the DFW (with proper listening rooms) is one of those appointment only, very snooty establishments. The proprietor (this was at least 20 years ago) tried to convince me that the "magic" cloth he was using to wipe down CDs improved the sound! :rolleyes: I did get to hear a pair of Special 40s at another dealer event last spring. I really liked them (especially in red!) but the choice of amplifier, an Octave Audio V 80 SE, was a very poor one. Besides, they are a bit out of my price range. I'll try to check out the Excite and/or Evoke as they are really good looking - especially in white.

I perused the Salk site recently and I like what they do with veneers (the curly maple/electric blue is awesome) but they are priced out of my immediate range. Maybe in the future...

Yes - the Cambridge Audio CX line is very nice looking! The previous models are priced to move as well.
 
B

BriReeves629

Audioholic
Here is another speaker for your wildcard list. They come in white and to me look very cool. I have not heard them, but they are getting very good reviews so have caught my attention.


 
ryanosaur

ryanosaur

Audioholic Ninja
FWIW, I've heard that the new Siearra2EX is supposed to be pretty stunning in it's capabilities, giving the BMR a pretty good race for the money. Considering my avowed fanhood of Dennis Murphy and Jim Salk... I'd of course urge you to look toward Jim's catalog. But short of that, the new Ascend Sierra2 gets a lot of attention as being one of the better 2-way standmounts out there for good, accurate SQ.
 
John Parks

John Parks

Senior Audioholic
Here is another speaker for your wildcard list. They come in white and to me look very cool. I have not heard them, but they are getting very good reviews so have caught my attention.


Forgot about those - thanks! Yeah, the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Added to the list!
 
John Parks

John Parks

Senior Audioholic
FWIW, I've heard that the new Siearra2EX is supposed to be pretty stunning in it's capabilities, giving the BMR a pretty good race for the money. Considering my avowed fanhood of Dennis Murphy and Jim Salk... I'd of course urge you to look toward Jim's catalog. But short of that, the new Ascend Sierra2 gets a lot of attention as being one of the better 2-way standmounts out there for good, accurate SQ.
Yeah, the new EX has me pretty excited. Dave F, thought he has to promote his products, is not one for hype or hyperbole. So if he says the new mid/woofer on the EX is stunning, I believe him! I just wish he would update the looks. The new(ish) Luna has magnetic grills. I asked Dave about doing the same on the Sierra models and he said, at that time, there were no plans to do so and to have a custom made would be price prohibitive (they do sell a diamond tweeter Sierra for $7K though!). Truth be told, I thought my Sierra-1 NrT sounded smoother with the grills on. The EX is still in the race!
 
KEW

KEW

Audioholic Overlord
If I were you I'd seriously look at the Cantons. I think there is white version of all their speakers.
I second the Cantons, but make sure you get ones that use the ceramic tweeter!
Canton makes a good looking speaker and the ceramic tweeter gets you a "world class" top end that is IMHO equal to my Focal Be tweeters or RAAL without the premium cost! The Canton ceramic does use a waveguide, which may or may not be your preference.
These include most of the Vento model, and more recently trickled down to a few specific the Chrono SL model.
To my ear, these speakers represent the highest value aside from the new DIY BMR (which might be worth checking out some local resources to see if they could put a custom finish you like on the flat pack!).
 
John Parks

John Parks

Senior Audioholic
I second the Cantons, but make sure you get ones that use the ceramic tweeter!
Canton makes a good looking speaker and the ceramic tweeter gets you a "world class" top end that is IMHO equal to my Focal Be tweeters or RAAL without the premium cost! The Canton ceramic does use a waveguide, which may or may not be your preference.
These include most of the Vento model, and more recently trickled down to a few specific the Chrono SL model.
To my ear, these speakers represent the highest value aside from the new DIY BMR (which might be worth checking out some local resources to see if they could put a custom finish you like on the flat pack!).
That is two votes for the Cantons! I did not realize they incorporated the ceramic tweeter into the Chrono line. This make the price of admission for that tech much lower! Hmm...
 
afterlife2

afterlife2

Audioholic Spartan
That is two votes for the Cantons! I did not realize they incorporated the ceramic tweeter into the Chrono line. This make the price of admission for that tech much lower! Hmm...
I tell you, you won't be disappointed. Kew is right on the money. They are probably the best sounding speakers I've ever heard. The clarity and bass quality is exceptional.
I'll also recommend these for budget reasons in black piano finish. These shouldn't be so good, but the tweeters are really stellar: https://www.accessories4less.com/make-a-store/item/bosa26gba/boston-acoustics-a26-6.5-2-way-bookshelf-speaker-gloss-black-each/1.html
and of course the DCM TP60 on ebay are also a steal.
 
Last edited:
KEW

KEW

Audioholic Overlord
That is two votes for the Cantons! I did not realize they incorporated the ceramic tweeter into the Chrono line. This make the price of admission for that tech much lower! Hmm...
Here is a great example (use 7" for larger room and 6" for smaller room). @snakeeyes has a 7" ceramic Chrono SL and 6" Vento.
I think the titanium drivers give it a really cool look!

Chrono SL 526.2 is the 6" at $440.
 
KEW

KEW

Audioholic Overlord
Both show as "almost sold out"! A4L will also show as "last one", but I would not wait too long if you decide to go this route!
 
John Parks

John Parks

Senior Audioholic
You guys have almost sold me! I mean, I am really close... Canton's published specs are silly, though! A low in of 33Hz for the 536.2? Is that 3 or 6db? Anechoic or in-room? Kinda vague...
 
afterlife2

afterlife2

Audioholic Spartan
You guys have almost sold me! I mean, I am really close... Canton's published specs are silly, though! A low in of 33Hz for the 536.2? Is that 3 or 6db? Anechoic or in-room? Kinda vague...
Remember what I said about the bass well it digs deep. You can always return them too, but I doubt it.
 
John Parks

John Parks

Senior Audioholic
Remember what I said about the bass well it digs deep. You can always return them too, but I doubt it.
Oh, I have no doubt they do! And yes, returning them is an option if I don't like them... Thanks!
 
S

snakeeyes

Audioholic Ninja
In my den I have the on wall 6in 516.2 as my surrounds. With the 6in 3way center 556.2 and 7in Vento 836 for mains. I’m also using a 12in ported Rythmik sub.

I have the 6in Vento 820.2 in my bedroom setup in 2.1 with a sealed Rythmik 12in sub.

But the 7in 536.2 is an amazing deal at only $479 and likely compares very close to my 7in Vento 836. The main difference looks to be a box shaped cabinet vs the rounded cabinet of the Vento.
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Our friend Matthew Poes did a review of the Yamaha R-N803 here for AV Nirvana. I have heard in in action, seems like a solid 2-channel receiver. As for the speakers, I am sure they all sound fine, and the truth is that they are all probably linear enough on and off axis that you can EQ them to taste if you have a preferred tonal balance.
 

Latest posts


newsletter
  • RBHsound.com
  • BlueJeansCable.com
  • SVS Sound Subwoofers
  • Experience the Martin Logan Montis
Top