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Weakest links in my mother's current audio setup? Looking to give a nice birthday gift for her.

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

I'm planning ahead and figured I'll ask many questions now in preparation for my mother's coming birthday.

 

Here is to the best of my ability my mother's current audio setup:

 

Pioneer Stereo Receiver SX-650

Her labtop with Foobar2000 setup as her online streaming media player and CD Player

Soundblaster X-Fi HD SB1240 (linked to the labtop by USB and the Turntable is connected by it's line/phono in and the line out to the receiver's Aux/Mic in as when I put it into the Phono in slot the sound was distorted)

A ion turntable TTUSB10 with a Shure M97xE Stylus

Two small speakers (8 ohms) but I don't know what company or model they are and thus could very well be the weakest link and I've considered replacing them for her many times.

 

Thus not counting the two small speakers would her current receiver need an upgrade as that is what everything is linked to and I don't want it to be her bottleneck or is another part that needs to be replaced/added moreso.

post #2 of 12

Speakers will usually make the biggest difference, so I'd go there first. You could maybe also get an amp like the Emotiva Mini-X, but then you'd need to figure out a preamp. 

post #3 of 12

Speakers first. Seems you already have that established, but... worth reiterating.

 

I would defer upgrading the receiver, it is certainly not the weakest link. It may be the strongest! Assuming its not giving any irritating problems indicative of failure, receivers from that era are perfectly capable devices.

 

As an aside, that turntable has selectable output - either phono level or line level. You likely had it set to line when you set it up, which is why it would sound distorted through the phono in, and ok through the line in. I would guess that the receiver has a better phono stage than the table, so it may be worth flipping the switch to phono level and trying again through the phono in. Also note that if you do intend to keep using the line level output, your cable runs sound a little more complicated than necessary - both tape inputs on the receiver are line level, you can use these as the equivalent of two additional 'aux ins' for simplicity's sake. 

 

What is the primary function of the turntable? Does she do a lot of listening through it, or is it just for the sake of digitizing nostalgia? If she's listening seriously on the table at all, that's your next upgrade path, IMO. Even the budget offerings from Pro-ject, Sota, Rega will be a step up.

No clue what your budget is, but if that's stretching it, keep an eye out for trustworthy used deals, or closeouts, etc. 

 

If she's not serious about analog, well, then just double your speaker budget ;) 

post #4 of 12
Agreed. There are those (Linnies?) who would say source is everything, and they wouldn't be entirely wrong. But in your situation, if you don't even know what kind of speakers they are, start there. Sounds like the Pioneer is her best piece and the last, not the first, to address. Snag her some PSB Alphas or something and go from there. And ditto the above guy (or gal) on her turntable thingie's output. Phono's phono. Other things ain't. And remember, if it sounds good to her (and you), that's what matters.
Edited by dc23 - 12/17/13 at 3:00pm
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

She is currently using the ION TTUSB10 turntable to digital her records to MP3s so she can listen to them on the go plus to have a back up should something happen to her records.  I know MP3s are not an ideal solution (Flac is better) but my mom travels alot and likes the option of listening to her records from her Ipod.  Thus she primearly uses it for digitization and once in a while general listening second.

 

I actually got her the Soundblaster X-Fi HD SB1240 on sale for $30 as I read it would greatly help her when digitization of the records vs the turntable's USB. I later discovered how it helped her labtop sound better by chance (Music/audio newbie here).  Would the SB1240 help make better sounding digitization records vs ION's turntable USB? 

 

Currently the ION has it's cables connected to the SB1240's Line In / Phono In, the labtop is connected by USB to the SB1240, the SB1240 and the receiver is connected by the SB1240's line out to the Receiver's Aux/Mic in, the Receiver's Phono in is empty at this time, and of course the two speakers and the Receiver are connected.  No sub woofer (I don't think the Receiver has that option but if it does I'll get and sub woofer for her at some point but first new speakers).

 

When I connected the SB1240 into the receiver's Phono in the sound was distorted however the sound was from the labtop playing a new CD in Foobar2000 so perhaps if the record player was the source thur the SB1240 would it still sound distorted?

I'm trying to find the ideal setup for her including how each part should be attached to suit her needs.

 

The receiver I think is working but how fine is questionable.  The speakers at times are uneven but fiddling with the receiver's volume dial seems to get it on track and stays there once hit.  Overall it doesn't seem to be a problem and might actually be the speakers themselves or the wire that links them (thus new speaker RCA wire would fix that if that is the problem).

 

Thank you to everybody who has posted thus far.

As it stands I guess is new speakers first (still like as many people's input as possible).

What speakers would best suit this reciever and it's current setup and very importantly where to buy and what are good deals/prices to look for?

post #6 of 12

Okay, I think I better understand your audio chain now. If you feel like tinkering a bit, I would still guess that the phono pre in the receiver is better than the one in the turntable. You could try switching the turntable's output to 'phono' mode, connecting it to the receiver's phono input, and then connecting one of the tape outputs to your Soundblaster's line in. I doubt it'll make a world of difference with that turntable, but it's worth trying - it could essentially be a 'free' upgrade.

 

I'm also not terribly surprised that the Soundblaster sounds better than the turntable's USB output. The table is made to a budget, to just be a sort of plug and play digitizing solution. The AD stage is bound to be functional rather than quality.

 

The volume knob on the receiver may need cleaning. If it gets annoying, you can always try to clean that with some spray contact cleaner or deoxit. 

 

As for speaker recommendations, we will need at a minimum a budget, and size constraints. If you're looking to stick with bookshelf speakers on the affordable end of things, the recommendation for PSB Alphas was a good one, I'd also throw in the Klipsch bookshelf models, and since I personally seem to favor the sound of a passive radiator, I'll also throw in the offerings from Definitive Technology. These would likely be my go-tos if I had to sell off my Audience bookshelves.

post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 

Ok I linked the turntable's rca to the receiver's Phono input, I found that the gain dial on the turntable was set to the max (+) so I turned it down to the lowest (-) (should I set it back to high?), using the first receiver's tape monitor's outputs (rec) I linked it to the SB1240 line in connection, and I will need to buy a new RCA Male to Male wire and link the SB1240 to my receiver's Tape Monitor's input (play) in order for the labtop (using Foobar2000 for CD Playing and online streaming such as Sirius and similar) to access the speakers connected to the receiver.

 

I discovered that the speakers were a part of my mother's old Audiovox DVD Home theater 5.1 player.

 

Using "Spin It Again" and it's "Level Wizard" I found that the record player isn't as load as it was before as I can hear sound but it doesn't get near the level threshold anymore.  I assume that means that using the turntable must have some sort of amplifier linked to it's USB and whatever DAC it used.  Now that the computer is using the SB1240 USB and other differences in the connection from the Turntable's RCA to the Labtop there isn't any amplification in the sound.  The sound however does sound better and less noise.

 

This leads me to consider the following for my mother:

 

#1 First update the speakers to one of the recommended speakers above.  For the current setup should my mother get a better budget Turntable which of the above recommended speakers would not cause any bottleneck (just want to find out if I can afford now or how much I must money I should start to save up for my mother).

 

#2 I'm considering also getting at the same time or shortly after the speakers a amplifier or preamp (have to learn the difference on what they do to know which if not both would help my mother), or whatever for my mother to help heighten the volume of the turntable to help maximize my mother's sound for her digitization recordings.

 

#3 After the first two then the weakest part of her setup I guess would then be my mother's turntable itself thus upgrade that to one of the above recommended turntables for her.

 

#4 Finally should I get my mother a $200 or above CD Player, upgrade the DAC, get a better software then Foobar2000 (such as from what I read a software called JPlay or perhaps another software), or an better disk reader for the labtop.  Maybe for the labtop all three (better DAC, software, and disk reader).  She has alot of records and TONS of CDs (but currently no Super Audio CDs (SACD) ) in her home.

 

Thank you everybody for your current inputs and every future inputs will be welcomed.

post #8 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by AngelJD View Post
 

Ok I linked the turntable's rca to the receiver's Phono input, I found that the gain dial on the turntable was set to the max (+) so I turned it down to the lowest (-) (should I set it back to high?), using the first receiver's tape monitor's outputs (rec) I linked it to the SB1240 line in connection, and I will need to buy a new RCA Male to Male wire and link the SB1240 to my receiver's Tape Monitor's input (play) in order for the labtop (using Foobar2000 for CD Playing and online streaming such as Sirius and similar) to access the speakers connected to the receiver.

 

I discovered that the speakers were a part of my mother's old Audiovox DVD Home theater 5.1 player.

 

Using "Spin It Again" and it's "Level Wizard" I found that the record player isn't as load as it was before as I can hear sound but it doesn't get near the level threshold anymore.  I assume that means that using the turntable must have some sort of amplifier linked to it's USB and whatever DAC it used.  Now that the computer is using the SB1240 USB and other differences in the connection from the Turntable's RCA to the Labtop there isn't any amplification in the sound.  The sound however does sound better and less noise.

 

This leads me to consider the following for my mother:

 

#1 First update the speakers to one of the recommended speakers above.  For the current setup should my mother get a better budget Turntable which of the above recommended speakers would not cause any bottleneck (just want to find out if I can afford now or how much I must money I should start to save up for my mother).

 

#2 I'm considering also getting at the same time or shortly after the speakers a amplifier or preamp (have to learn the difference on what they do to know which if not both would help my mother), or whatever for my mother to help heighten the volume of the turntable to help maximize my mother's sound for her digitization recordings.

 

#3 After the first two then the weakest part of her setup I guess would then be my mother's turntable itself thus upgrade that to one of the above recommended turntables for her.

 

#4 Finally should I get my mother a $200 or above CD Player, upgrade the DAC, get a better software then Foobar2000 (such as from what I read a software called JPlay or perhaps another software), or an better disk reader for the labtop.  Maybe for the labtop all three (better DAC, software, and disk reader).  She has alot of records and TONS of CDs (but currently no Super Audio CDs (SACD) ) in her home.

 

Thank you everybody for your current inputs and every future inputs will be welcomed.


#1 Speakers first. Definitely speakers. What is your budget for speakers?

 

#2 You already have both an amplifier and a preamp! That's what receiver is.

 

#3 I would agree.

 

#4 If you buy a CD player, it already has a DAC in it. You could definitely get a better DAC for the computer though, and Foobar2000 is perfectly fine. However, since she has "TONS" of CD's, I would probably just get a nice dedicated CD player, and run it to the receiver for amplification. Others will probably chime in, but that's what I would do.

post #9 of 12

+1 speakers first. funny tho how when turning to headphones, you would think headphones first, but people often recommend high-end dac/amps for cheap headphones.

post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 

After some research and based on the above posts I'm thinking of getting her some new Bookshelf Speakers or possibly Floorstanding Speakers for $450 for the pair (willing to throw in some more bucks but only if a world of difference happens).  Both Klipsch and Definitive Technology seems to be very favorable among many people on various websites.

 

My mother is (like my brother) a giant Broadway musical fan and has many albums and also listens to: movie scores, holiday music when the holidays come, Irish Tenors, and some lite pop.

 

What speakers within or close to my budget would suit her type of music the best?

post #11 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by AngelJD View Post
 

After some research and based on the above posts I'm thinking of getting her some new Bookshelf Speakers or possibly Floorstanding Speakers for $450 for the pair (willing to throw in some more bucks but only if a world of difference happens).  Both Klipsch and Definitive Technology seems to be very favorable among many people on various websites.

 

My mother is (like my brother) a giant Broadway musical fan and has many albums and also listens to: movie scores, holiday music when the holidays come, Irish Tenors, and some lite pop.

 

What speakers within or close to my budget would suit her type of music the best?

There's many, many options for you.

 

Here are some options off the top of my head:

 

Monitor Audio RX-1

KEF Q300

B&W 685/686 (Probably going get some flak for recommending this one)

 

 

Take a look on this forum, they specialize in speakers :)

 

http://www.avsforum.com/f/173/2-channel-audio

post #12 of 12
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