System Building Help
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kerelybonto

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As I continue to plan -- or at least consider -- building my first good home system, I've run into some problems understanding what I really need. (Well, need in a perverted sense.) Basically I'm just looking for CD (and perhaps SACD) playback with stereo speaker and headphone output. I may want the system to handle video, too, so that may require a few more ins/outs, but not much else, I'd guess.

So it doesn't seem there's much complicated about that. I'm thinking of getting a Sony DVP-NS500V based on price and all the solid recommendations, but then what do I need to hook it up to? What're the differences and pros/cons of a receiver versus a dedicated power amplifier?

I don't care much about tuner capability, so I suppose that negates a lot of the advantage of a receiver. What kind of power amp options do I have? It seems pretty ridiculous for me to hook up a $170 source to an amp that costs quite a bit more, at least at this point. But power amps would pretty much start in that range, right? I'm also assuming I don't really need a preamp. Is that correct?

Also, I'd like some sort of basic EQ in the system somewhere, since I'm not a huge fan of flat sound. Is it possible to find an amp with enough ins/outs and EQ for a decent system at a price that won't dwarf the NS500V?

I'm open for suggestions for any of the components, especially the amp and speakers. I don't have a hard budget, and I plan on building this over time, but the $170 source probably clued you in that I don't want to be spending wads.

Thanks for any help.

kerelybonto
 
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zzz

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Power amps normally require some sort of preamp (active or passive) simply because most of the time they don't have any controls on them beside the `power` button
. It probably makes sense for you to seriously consider various integrated amps.
 
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Wodgy

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I really recommend checking out eBay for deals on older models of NAD equipment. In some cases, NAD gear from the mid-to-late 80's has better specs than their current lineup (better dynamic headroom, dual mono power supplies, etc.) and can be had for a song on eBay. For instance, here's a NAD 3130 (the successor to the legendary 3120), that went for $81:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...tem=1357541140
Seriously, that's a wonderful deal, and you'll find many more like it.

In general, any NAD integrated amp would be a good buy for you. You don't need a "receiver" since you don't need a radio. (An integrated amp is a receiver minus the radio.) If you buy an "amplifier", you'll need a preamp, but you don't need one if you buy an integrated amplifier. NAD gear from the 80's as well as their current lineup have quality bass and treble controls, which aren't quite as versatile as a full equalizer, but still satisfying.

You can view the spec sheets for all the older NAD gear at:
http://www.nadelectronics.com/Support/productInfo.html
This can help you figure out what's what on eBay.
 
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Wodgy

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As for speakers, you should really try to audition them locally. There is more variety in the sound of speakers than in decent ($500-$1000 new) components. People online will suggest PSB Alphas or Paradigm Atoms, and these are both good speakers, but you should really audition a pair to find ones that sound good to you. The newest line of Alphas, for instance, sound quite harsh and bright to me, much moreso than the older Alphas. If you save enough money on components, you may be able to afford something like the Paradigm Monitor 3's (about $350-400/pair), which I personally like a lot.
 
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yage

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Besides Paradigm and PSB, Axiom Audio (www.axiomaudio.com) makes a well regarded line of two-way monitors called the Millennia M3Ti. They sell them factory direct for $275 (new).

Some other speakers to consider are the NHT 1.5 ($289 at www.yawaonline.com) or the B&W 600 series, which you might find and buy used for half the retail price at www.audiogon.com.

Have fun auditioning stuff!
 
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dougli

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I've just finished a long hunt for a decent, economical EQ unit, and purchased a Behringer DEQ-3102 from Audio Acoustics (www.a-a-i.com). At $160 plus cables it has been an excellant bang-for-the-buck addition to my system. I did encounter some specific equipment mismatch issues, but they may not apply to your system.
 
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mkmelt

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I agree with Wodgy, buying used quality electronics makes alot of sense to get great sound on a modest budget. The NAD integrated amplifiers, receivers, and tuners from the early 80s were generally very good. The NAD 7120 and 7125 was a great receiver with 25 watts/channel and almost 6 db of headroom for close to 50 watts of dynamic power output. These are highly sought after on eBay and will bring more than $100 for a nice example. The 3120 was an integrated amplifier of the same period.

If you go back to the mid-late 70s, there were a number of really good integrated amplifiers from companies such as:

Marantz
Sansui
Kenwood
Scott

You did not state what your power requirements will be. What type of music do you listen to, and how loud do you like it to be? How big is your listening room, as this can have a big impact on power demands.

The speakers you choose will have a big impact on the overall sound of your system. It would be better if you pick a budget for the core system: speakers, integrated amplifier, and CD source. Then you will know how much money you have to work with. Ideally, no part of the system should drag down the quality of any other link in the chain.

The reason that good speakers tend to cost alot of money is that there is more hands-on labor involved in assembling a well made speaker cabinet than anything else in your system.

I'll probably get flack for saying so, but you can buy some great used speakers that would cost more than your whole budget if you were to buy equivalent quality speakers new today.

Great used loudspeakers for not alot of $:

If you like your music neutral with deep accurate bass then consider:
a)The original Large Advent speaker ($100-200/pair on eBay)
b)The Small Advent speaker ($75-$150/pair on eBay)
c) Acoustic Research AR 4x and AR 4ax speakers ($40-$100/pair on eBay)

If you like rock music, especially if you like it played loud:
a) Klipsch Heresy or Heresy II loudspeaker ($400-$500/pair on eBay)

Some speakers, like the Advents, have foam surrounds on the woofers that rot after 15-20 years, so the surrounds typically need to be replaced. Unless the woofer cone or voice coil has been damaged, the old driver will work perfectly once the foam surround has been replaced.

The vintage AR speakers have fabric surrounds that last forever, however the tweeter control on these speakers often corrode and must be replaced. Crossover Parts for the AR are readily available and not much money.

The reason these vintage speakers sound great and are still sought after today is that the speaker cabinets were very well made and the speaker drivers, especially the woofers, were very high quality. For example. the 8 inch woofer used in the AR 4 series was one of the finest 8 inch drivers ever made.

If you want to try a modern speaker, something a bit more exotic looking and sounding than your typical bookshelf speaker, Magenpan sells their entry model MMG magneplanar planar dynamic loudspeaker direct to customers for $550/pair. These speakers require a bit more amplifier power than most other speakers to be able to be played fairly loud, and the some of the deeper bass notes will not be reproduced, but they do have the advantage of eliminating any possibility of speaker cabinet resonances, by eliminating the box entirely. These speakers need to be out a few feet from the rear or side wall to sound their best. If you don't like them, they are returnable for a full refund within 60 days I believe.

Good luck with whatever you decide.
 
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kerelybonto

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Thanks for all the great replies. I'm going to start spending some time at some local hi-fi shops to get a feel for the kind of components I like.

I'd already been considering NAD amps from all the good things I've heard about them here and on other internet forums. To make sure I'm not missing anything, though, are there any other manufacturers I should be looking at for integrated amps?

I'm poking around eBay at the moment and see a lot of the equipment you guys have recommended. Hopefully some'll still be there when I decide what I want.


Thanks again.

kerelybonto
 
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markl

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I want to echo the reco for PSB speakers. No matter what model you choose, you'll be delighted. They are hands down THE price/performance leader.

markl
 
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