Beginner looking to improve sound quality.

B

Brettkw

Audiophyte
Hi all.

A beginner looking for some help if possible please.

I have been onto a couple of audio shops and the equipment they use sound amazing and quite overwhelming if I'm honest! So have decided that I now want to upgrade my current system, now from what little knowledge I have, I do understand that what these shops usually show, can cost tens of thousands which I certainly don't have!

I would like to see if I can get some sound improvement over my current set up (or is it even worth it for my budget?). I have set my self an overall budget of about $6-8kAU (to be paid over the next 3-4 months) and for my first upgrade I have a current budget of $2kAU.

I am currently running

Project Essential 2 USB Turntable (20% listening)
Onkyo C-7030 CD Player (20% listening)
Onkyo tx-nr737 AMP (streaming Spotify via Bluetooth 60% listening) AMP is running direct sound from all sources.
Yamaha NS-555 Speakers
All connected via budget wiring from my local hardware shop.
System is located in my lounge which is about 194 Sqft or 18 Sqmtrs

Thank you

Brett
 
NINaudio

NINaudio

Audioholic Samurai
The biggest sound quality gains are usually to be made in upgrading your speakers. I'd put probably 6k of your budget into better speakers and a quality subwoofer. If you're only interested in 2 channel, you should be able to get fantastic speakers at that price point. What are some brands that are available to you in Australia?
 
ski2xblack

ski2xblack

Audioholic Field Marshall
Beware of advice that relies on "synergy" or blindly recommends tube gear. This is a wholly reductive endeavor, and should be done out of a love of music, not an excuse for a protracted shopping adventure with no end in sight.

Speakers and local acoustics are by far the most significant factors, so if you're after audible improvements, focus your efforts and budget there. Tell us more about your lounge and listening habits (and what is available in the market down under), as that will help us make appropriate recommendations.
 
Pogre

Pogre

Audioholic Overlord
Some pics of your room and setup might help. There's another area a lot of folks overlook, but is probably the most important is speaker placement. Room acoustics have a huge effect on what you hear and we've seen some rough layouts. Also do not underestimate good subwoofage. A good sub or 2 can go a long way toward great sound from top to bottom.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
Agree with the others (well, not so much Knottscott's advice), start with the basics of maximizing what you have in your own space. Listening at the shops can simply be different, the room itself and setup has a great influence. Sharing what particular speakers you liked during your shopping trips might be helpful, tho. Personally I'd start with a sub and then perhaps speakers as your electronics are generally fine. Chasing vinyl unless you have a significant collection already isn't something I'd do.
 
ryanosaur

ryanosaur

Audioholic Warlord
Agree with my friends here: Speakers are the single biggest aspect of SQ. They, and how they interact with your listening area, will have the biggest influence.
Good electronics should be very neutral when driven withing their ideal operating Spec, and for Processors or AVRs, if listening in Pure or Direct, identifying differences in SQ should be very difficult. It becomes more a function of how room correction or EQ is applied by those electronics. :)
Please don't fall for the audio dealer that is hoping to sell you and Amp because it pairs well with Shiraz and a $7000 pair of B&Ws. *shakes head disapprovingly.

Considering where you are and how this could play out... it may well be worth looking at the Arendal 1723 line, recently reviewed here on AH... their cost includes Shipping and Customs. These look to be some seriously legit gear and may well be worth a deeper look from you as an outside the box option.

Please do share some photos of your room, and let us know what is readily available to you where you are.
 
Pogre

Pogre

Audioholic Overlord
Agree with the others (well, not so much Knottscott's advice), start with the basics of maximizing what you have in your own space. Listening at the shops can simply be different, the room itself and setup has a great influence. Sharing what particular speakers you liked during your shopping trips might be helpful, tho. Personally I'd start with a sub and then perhaps speakers as your electronics are generally fine. Chasing vinyl unless you have a significant collection already isn't something I'd do.
Ugh, you made go and read almost that whole post... lol.

Yeah, amplification should be close to the bottom of the list. Speakers, subs and room acoustics are where it's at. Once you have good speakers sufficient power to drive them is the main consideration as with solid state clean watts are clean watts provided the amplifier is competently made, and most of the big manufacturers have it down by now. Amplification is a very mature science with the same goal in mind, transparency.

PS, also interconnects are interconnects. The more expensive ones with magical claims should be avoided unless you just like the aesthetics or watching money disappear from your account for no good reason. Fancy cables and interconnects making magical pseudo scientific claims are the worst scam in the industry. They're a bunch of snake oil peddlers!
 
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-Jim-

-Jim-

Senior Audioholic
I'll add my self to the chorus here. Speaker placement is "free" so start there, but a decent Sub would be where I'd put my money first.

Your listening sources won't really help you get to the highest quality sound most of the time "with streaming Spotify via Bluetooth 60% listening". Don't get me wrong, I listen to Spotify on some very decent Bluetooth headphones while making Dinner 4 or 5 days a week (so I don't drive my family crazy) but other digital sources (I'm with lovingthehd here) could get you to where you want to go.
 
Auditor55

Auditor55

Audioholic General
Hi all.

A beginner looking for some help if possible please.

I have been onto a couple of audio shops and the equipment they use sound amazing and quite overwhelming if I'm honest! So have decided that I now want to upgrade my current system, now from what little knowledge I have, I do understand that what these shops usually show, can cost tens of thousands which I certainly don't have!

I would like to see if I can get some sound improvement over my current set up (or is it even worth it for my budget?). I have set my self an overall budget of about $6-8kAU (to be paid over the next 3-4 months) and for my first upgrade I have a current budget of $2kAU.

I am currently running

Project Essential 2 USB Turntable (20% listening)
Onkyo C-7030 CD Player (20% listening)
Onkyo tx-nr737 AMP (streaming Spotify via Bluetooth 60% listening) AMP is running direct sound from all sources.
Yamaha NS-555 Speakers
All connected via budget wiring from my local hardware shop.
System is located in my lounge which is about 194 Sqft or 18 Sqmtrs

Thank you

Brett
Speakers, if you're doing two channel.
 
B

Brettkw

Audiophyte
Thank you all for you input, I really appreciate it. From the sounds of it I am now looking for a new set of speakers/sub.

I had been thinking of a new set of bookshelf/sub setup, as you can see in image 5 the lower part of the speaker is blocked by the plinth leading to the dining room and I was wondering if that could affect sound and my wife has always disliked the bulkiness of the floor standing speakers (not that its a real deal breaker for better sound).

Speakers I had been considering

KEF Q350 Bookshelf Speakers With Grills (Pair)
Bowers & Wilkins 607 S2 Anniversary Edition Bookshelf Speakers
Q Acoustics 3030i Speakers


As for sound, my system just feel like it's lacking all round clarity especially with vocals where is sound too deep and dull (its sounds like it has too much bass and not clear).

This is where I struggle because I personally like dance music (mainly House music e.g
) which is streamed through Spotify and I like it loud and pumping!

But when we have friends and family over, we are listening to artists such as Amy Winehouse, David Bowie, Phil Collins and Dire Straights, not necessarily at low volumes either (especially after a few drinks and we are dancing the night away!)

I am sorry I don't remember what model speakers I heard as they had 4 different pairs in a row and when I looked at a 30k price tag I slid away and was too nervous to ask lol!

I have also been recently thinking of investing in a dedicated streamer and running Tidal as the family like to scroll through and listen to music. I was thinking of this as i believe that running a dedicated streamer and using apps like tidal improve the sound as they stream a higher bit rates?
 

Attachments

mtrycrafts

mtrycrafts

Audioholic Slumlord
OP, this part of @KNOTSCOTT
The room and it's interaction with your speakers have a huge impact on how they'll perform. [b/]
is about what affects your sound quality and your speakers as mentioned by another.
You are spoiled by that local demo where the room was set up properly most likely with better speakers.
From your pictures I think you will have a hard time with all that solid surfaces.
 
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ski2xblack

ski2xblack

Audioholic Field Marshall
That's a challenging layout and room.

A speaker upgrade may be premature if you haven't determined if the lack of clarity on vocals is inherent to the speakers or the result of interaction with local acoustics. When time allows, pull them out away from all nearby walls and give a listen nearfield (no eq or processing). If they don't exhibit clarity of vocals in that situation, they wont when there's more room response and off axis listening involved, and it's time to consider an upgrade.

Even if they sound great nearfield, it's no guarantee they'll work in their present locations. Pretty much every area in the room will be off axis and necessarily involve more reflected sound than direct sound. This could very well be the cause of the lack of vocal clarity. That may demand speakers with very broad, even dispersion patterns, so the reflected sound doesn't diverge from the on axis ssound. An example of such speakers would be those from Dennis Murphy/Philharmonic, e.g. the BMR monitors. (Given the practical limitations of your room, that may be an inordinately expensive solution.)

I think a decent sub should come before the speaker upgrade. High passing your main speakers may ameliorate any boundary reinfocement that the right speaker will get from proximity to that plinth. That, too, is not doing any acoustic favors. Those yammies are pretty bass heavy, and when compounded by boundary reinforcement, is probably not the best recipe for vocal clarity.
 
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ski2xblack

ski2xblack

Audioholic Field Marshall
What's behind the camera in image 4? Any chance to relocate the a/v rig to a different wall, where you could space out the speakers for some semblance of stereo immersion? If so, you might be able to pull off a 3.1 setup. (The center channel does the bulk of vocals, so might cure one of your issues.)
 
Kingnoob

Kingnoob

Audioholic Field Marshall
Thank you all for you input, I really appreciate it. From the sounds of it I am now looking for a new set of speakers/sub.

I had been thinking of a new set of bookshelf/sub setup, as you can see in image 5 the lower part of the speaker is blocked by the plinth leading to the dining room and I was wondering if that could affect sound and my wife has always disliked the bulkiness of the floor standing speakers (not that its a real deal breaker for better sound).

Speakers I had been considering

KEF Q350 Bookshelf Speakers With Grills (Pair)
Bowers & Wilkins 607 S2 Anniversary Edition Bookshelf Speakers
Q Acoustics 3030i Speakers


As for sound, my system just feel like it's lacking all round clarity especially with vocals where is sound too deep and dull (its sounds like it has too much bass and not clear).

This is where I struggle because I personally like dance music (mainly House music e.g
) which is streamed through Spotify and I like it loud and pumping!

But when we have friends and family over, we are listening to artists such as Amy Winehouse, David Bowie, Phil Collins and Dire Straights, not necessarily at low volumes either (especially after a few drinks and we are dancing the night away!)

I am sorry I don't remember what model speakers I heard as they had 4 different pairs in a row and when I looked at a 30k price tag I slid away and was too nervous to ask lol!

I have also been recently thinking of investing in a dedicated streamer and running Tidal as the family like to scroll through and listen to music. I was thinking of this as i believe that running a dedicated streamer and using apps like tidal improve the sound as they stream a higher bit rates?
Your asking a lot for those speakers to be so far away from listening position, I’d add a larger subwoofer and try and either turn the volume up to make up for the long distance or move closer to the main listening position.
There may be nothing wrong with your towers they could just be set up incorrectly, they probably don’t sound that bad otherwise.
 
B

Brettkw

Audiophyte
Thank you again for all your replies it seems I have a lot to learn and as one of you have mentioned I am proposing try to attain something that may be impossible with building a new audio room!!!!

I have today attached a sub (Velodyne Impact 10 BVE) https://www.whathifi.com/au/velodyne/impact-10/review which I took from my home theatre set up.

It makes a huge difference in sound…for the better, however this is only after tweeking the bass and tone settings as I cannot get the sub to work using direct sound through the amp.

I cannot believe how much difference a sub makes I always thought (incorrectly) that you wouldn’t use a sub if you had towers!
As I have stolen this sub of my home theatre system I will need a new one either for my music system or home theatre setup.

so my question is, are all subs the same or do you pick different sub for music vs home theatre?
 
ryanosaur

ryanosaur

Audioholic Warlord
Thank you again for all your replies it seems I have a lot to learn and as one of you have mentioned I am proposing try to attain something that may be impossible with building a new audio room!!!!

I have today attached a sub (Velodyne Impact 10 BVE) https://www.whathifi.com/au/velodyne/impact-10/review which I took from my home theatre set up.

It makes a huge difference in sound…for the better, however this is only after tweeking the bass and tone settings as I cannot get the sub to work using direct sound through the amp.

I cannot believe how much difference a sub makes I always thought (incorrectly) that you wouldn’t use a sub if you had towers!
As I have stolen this sub of my home theatre system I will need a new one either for my music system or home theatre setup.

so my question is, are all subs the same or do you pick different sub for music vs home theatre?
Ha!
Subwoofers can make a very significant contribution to the overall sound quality. Perhaps the easiest consideration is that by crossing the Sub to the Speakers around 80Hz, you take the most demanding and energy intensive part of the audio signal away from the Speakers and put it through the Subwoofer. This allows the Sub, specifically designed and powered for lower frequency reproduction, to carry that load while freeing the Speakers (usually smaller drivers) to more efficiently work above that crossover.
Most will agree that the benefit is more clarity in the Mids and Highs.

These days, it is a myth that there are Music Subs and HT Subs. There are many very good quality Subwoofers on the market. The biggest question is what is your usage and listening habits?
For Pipe Organ, you would benefit from a good ported Sub that can get down to 16Hz. Pianos go as low as ~27Hz. Bass is usually 40Hz, but can be as low as 30Hz... Electronica can reach down below 20 Hz.
So if you are looking for loud and low frequencies, a ported Sub with low tuning is highly recommended. If you aren't chasing the bottom end of the Pipe Organ and you don't listen to electronica, a smaller sub can work quite well for you.
You also need to take your room size into account with low frequencies. Very large rooms will have an effect on the low frequencies, making them feel less potent than in a smaller closed room. If you are in a smaller room like that, you could easily look at smaller subs and even Sealed Subs if you aren't chasing really low bass.

Hope that helps!
 
Pogre

Pogre

Audioholic Overlord
Thank you again for all your replies it seems I have a lot to learn and as one of you have mentioned I am proposing try to attain something that may be impossible with building a new audio room!!!!

I have today attached a sub (Velodyne Impact 10 BVE) https://www.whathifi.com/au/velodyne/impact-10/review which I took from my home theatre set up.

It makes a huge difference in sound…for the better, however this is only after tweeking the bass and tone settings as I cannot get the sub to work using direct sound through the amp.

I cannot believe how much difference a sub makes I always thought (incorrectly) that you wouldn’t use a sub if you had towers!
As I have stolen this sub of my home theatre system I will need a new one either for my music system or home theatre setup.

so my question is, are all subs the same or do you pick different sub for music vs home theatre?
That's why I always throw this line out there!
Also do not underestimate good subwoofage. A good sub or 2 can go a long way toward great sound from top to bottom.
Once you get it dialed in it has a way of improving the entire performance, huh?

You do want a decent quality subwoofer. They are not all created equal. Monoprice has been knocking it out of the park lately with their sub lineup and in fact may be becoming the new value leader for quality subwoofage.

We do in general recommend going with a ported sub, especially for home theater, but if size is a major factor you can get away with a sealed sub for a music only application. Smaller size is the only advantage with a sealed sub, tho you may read differently elsewhere. It is the experience of almost everyone here that a well built ported sub is just as good for music as sealed - with better deep bass performance. I always choose ported over sealed.

That said your room size will determine what size to get. How big is your theater room, and how big is your listening room? Honestly you might even consider upgrading/updating the Velodyne while you're at it.
 
Pogre

Pogre

Audioholic Overlord
Ha!
Subwoofers can make a very significant contribution to the overall sound quality. Perhaps the easiest consideration is that by crossing the Sub to the Speakers around 80Hz, you take the most demanding and energy intensive part of the audio signal away from the Speakers and put it through the Subwoofer. This allows the Sub, specifically designed and powered for lower frequency reproduction, to carry that load while freeing the Speakers (usually smaller drivers) to more efficiently work above that crossover.
Most will agree that the benefit is more clarity in the Mids and Highs.

These days, it is a myth that there are Music Subs and HT Subs. There are many very good quality Subwoofers on the market. The biggest question is what is your usage and listening habits?
For Pipe Organ, you would benefit from a good ported Sub that can get down to 16Hz. Pianos go as low as ~27Hz. Bass is usually 40Hz, but can be as low as 30Hz... Electronica can reach down below 20 Hz.
So if you are looking for loud and low frequencies, a ported Sub with low tuning is highly recommended. If you aren't chasing the bottom end of the Pipe Organ and you don't listen to electronica, a smaller sub can work quite well for you.
You also need to take your room size into account with low frequencies. Very large rooms will have an effect on the low frequencies, making them feel less potent than in a smaller closed room. If you are in a smaller room like that, you could easily look at smaller subs and even Sealed Subs if you aren't chasing really low bass.

Hope that helps!
I swear it's like we're one mind, replying at the same time with the same ideas.


You complete me.

:p :p
 
P

PENG

Audioholic Slumlord
so my question is, are all subs the same or do you pick different sub for music vs home theatre?
Tough question to answer! I would say in general it is more forgiving for HT use because a) your main focus would be distracted by the video side of things aside from the movie itself and b) if you have a decent Room EQ system that comes with the AVR, most subs made by the big names including the Velodyne can do well.

For music, people don't want to use AVRs (I think in many cases they probably should if SQ is more important and is on a tight budget, but..). If they use a two channel integrated amp, receivers and/or separates, and don't want to spend extra on a separate Room EQ solutions, then yes they would have to spend lots of time to "dial in" the sub and choose a sub that suits their room better than others.

Some people believe sealed subs may be better than ported ones for music but I think that would depend, though in your room I do think a sealed type may be better. For one thing, all else being equal, sealed subs are significantly smaller and lighter so you may have more flexibility for placement.

So far, based on inputs from others, for better sound quality you should focus on the following in order of priority:

Subwoofer, speakers, source contents (as HD mentioned, other digital sources..), and then electronics.

For good sounding speakers that have good on/off axis measurements, I think the following are tough to beat:

- BMR monitors
- KEF R series, I would save up and a void the much more tempting Q series
- If you don't sit further than 10 feet, even the KEF LS50 (and its variations, such as the meta, active/wireless versions) can sound very good.

Philharmonic Audio
KEF R3 Bookshelf Speakers (apollohifi.com.au)

I don't know how much it would cost for you to import the BMR monitor but it is highly recommended. If you want to save money you can buy the kit and assemble it yourself. It took me and my friend a lot of time so it would have cost us a fortune if we paid ourselves $100/hour. So if you go that route, make you have tons of time. We build our own cabinet and crossovers, if you buy the full kit including the cabinet it wouldn't be as bad.

Philharmonic Audio BMR Speaker Kit - Meniscus Audio
(2) BMR DIY kit cabinet news | Audioholics Home Theater Forums

If you are interested in the DIY route, may be @Swerd can help.
 
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