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Looking for new system under $2000

 

Eric J.
Unregistered guest
Interesting forum, some excellent advice!

I'm looking to upgrade (from 15 yr. old Kenwood w/Infinity speakers). I've >700 cds and finally thought I should pick up something decent to listen to them on. I'm currently leaning towards the NAD C542 cd player ($500), NAD C352 or C320BEE integrated amp ($600 or $400), and JM Lab Chorus 714S floor-standing 2 1/2 way speakers ($795). The NAD and JM Lab would seem to be a good fit for each other, both companies seem to have excellent reps, these particular products both have a rep for natural, "what is on the disc is what you hear" sound. Only care about 2-channel sound. Was told by one knowledgeable audio dealer that if going for the better cd player/lesser amp or better amp/lesser cd player, to definitely go with with the better cd player for best sound for the dollar. Agree/disagree?

Am interested in experiences/opinions on:

1) NAD C352 vs. C320BEE: differences in sound quality, is the 352 worth the extra $200? I think the conservative 50 wpc of the 320 is plenty of power for my apartment, don't need the 80 wpc of the 352, more interested in QUALITY of sound differences.

2) Sound quality of the C542 for the dollar. Definite step up and worth it over the C521BEE?

3) Especially interested in the best speakers for under $1000/pair. I've heard the JM Lab 707 bookshelves with some of my cds and was very impressed (am waiting on the dealer to get the 714S in). I listen to mostly classic rock, some contemporary rock, and a lot of symphonic and piano classical. I don't often crank it very high nor do I need a over-heavy bass. I want a faithful reproduction of the music; that "the artists are in the room with me" immediacy would be fantastic.

4) Any advice on speaker cables (only need ~15 ft.) and interconnects would be greatly appreciated. Would not be looking to spend more than $100-150 total for these, assuming they would do justice to the above components. Copper wire seems to be the way to go. Advice on brands and models of interconnects and cable, banana vs. spade, bi-wiring etc to get the best sound for the system at my price point?

I've not made a final decision yet, so of course am willing to consider other manufacturers (NOT Sony, Yamaha or other mega-volume types) and am interested in any helpful advice. This is a big move up and purchase for me, so I'd love the help!
 

Eric J.
Unregistered guest
FYI, I've seen the differences in the specs in the NAD catalog, notice the C542 has digital out that C521BEE does not have. Will this make a major difference in sound quality when recording from cd to mini-disc by using optical cable?
 

Bronze Member
Username: Tevo

Chicago, IL USA

Post Number: 91
Registered: Feb-05
1. Only way to tell if the $200 is worth it to you is to listen to both. If $200 means being able to afford more music or other important things, personally, I would save and go for the 320BEE.

2. I think the 542 is a notable improvement over the 521BEE. There is also a $200 difference here. The sound had improved presence, more openness, coherence and solidity in the bass.

3. That's a big ballpark to play in. While I would never buy any component sound unheard, to me this is especially so with loudspeakers. There are many brands/models in this price range that can no doubt satisfy in this system. I recommend: FIELD TRIPs to dealers and especially dealers who allow at-home auditions. :-)

4. Home Depot extension cord or CAT-5 cable if you are handy. :-)
I was pleased with Kimber Kable and River Cable. Kimber's moderately priced models sound very nice and amongst the "high-end" cable companies, Ray Kimber doesn't fluff you (as much) as the others. With the NAD, I found spades can be problematic on their binding posts. I had banana plugs at the amp end and spades at the speaker end.
I found no sonic improvement with bi-wiring. Some very well-respected component makers (NAIM and Audio Analogue, for two) even recommend against it.

C521BEE does have digital out. It's coaxial.
The C542 has Coax and TOSLINK (optical).

That's my 0.02 USD. For what it's worth. Happy shopping & happy listening. Cheers.
 

edster922
Unregistered guest
> I listen to mostly classic rock, some contemporary rock, and a lot of symphonic and piano classical. I don't often crank it very high nor do I need a over-heavy bass. I want a faithful reproduction of the music; that "the artists are in the room with me" immediacy would be fantastic.

Those are pretty much my musical tastes and requirements too, and I've been extremely happy with my Ascend CMT-340s and I do tend to crank them near reference levels so you should be more than fine at moderate levels. They are quite a bit UNDER your budget though, about $570 shipped a pair online only---if you don't like them you can ship them back for a full refund minus return shipping which is around $25.

I disagree with the sales rep, I'd much rather put more money in the amp than the CD player. A good experiment for you would be to go to someplace like Target which has a very liberal return policy and buy a Toshiba 3960 DVD/CD player and see how you like it. This is the base model that referenceaudiomods.com uses to convert up to audiophile quality with the addition of certain components and which they say has one of the best (least-modified) sound output of any of the mass market players.

I've heard a $1200 CD player before and while it was better than a Sony entry level I didn't think it justified spending 10 times as much money. You might disagree, in which case you can easily return the Toshiba. Personally I'd spend the savings on good speaker stands and a quality subwoofer like a Hsu STF-2 which would fill out the low end perfectly without ever being boomy.

As for speaker cable, disregard the sales propaganda, any 12 gauge cable will do just fine, this is absolutely the least important part of your decision.
 

edster922
Unregistered guest
PS. Nothing beats an in-home audition when it comes to speakers. Receivers, amps and CD players are a little different but speakers really do sound very, very different depending on room accoustics and placement.
 

edster922
Unregistered guest
PS. Nothing beats an in-home audition when it comes to buying speakers esp. using YOUR components rather than the store's. Receivers, amps and CD players are a little different but speakers really do sound very, very different depending on room accoustics and placement. So if you can find a dealer who'd let you take home some floor models, that'd be ideal.
 

mauimusicman
Unregistered guest
Eric, your sales rep is correct: Always upgrade the source first. Then upgrade by following the signal path towards the speakers. Source, pre-amp, amp, speakers. It's really the ONLY method that makes sense. I can explain if you like. As far as cables go, there certianly IS a difference. Only a fool would argue that. I have found Signal Cable to be a very good sounding product at affordable prices. Can't comment on the JM labs, but rather than listening to your BEST cd's, try listening to some that just make ya wanna HURL on your old system. If they still make ya wanna puke, keep looking for speakers. Why should your audio system only allow you to enjoy just the best recordings? What sense does that make? Good luck
 

edster922
Unregistered guest
Erik,

there's a thread here on speaker cables with 257 posts...I'd recommend reading that.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 12
Registered: Feb-05
Oh my, I find myself agreeing with Maui. This is a development. I would hope however that we can refrain from using words like "fool" when describing others ideas. I definately agree with Maui's flow for upgrading. And from experience I can tell you that there is a huge difference in sound from various speaker cables and interconnects. That's not to say that you have to spend alot of money on them but you should do your research and then audition them. You should think of your cabling as another component. Besides room treatment, cabling (that is the synergy between your equipment and cabling) is the most overlokked element of a system.
 

edster922
Unregistered guest
> And from experience I can tell you that there is a huge difference in sound from various speaker cables and interconnects.

I don't dispute that your experience with cables and interconnects might have been different than mine.

However, with a $2K budget I would place fancy cables squarely last in priority. The amp/receiver and speakers (including stands) and subwoofer would be the main priorities, followed by the DVD/CD player. Anyone who'd cut corners on those 3 items in order to pay for fancy cables would IMO be shooting themselves in the foot in a major way.
 

Anonymous
 
I wish I could do a blind test and see how many could actually pick out the better sound based on cables all else being equal.
 

Eric J.
Unregistered guest
Thanks for the advice all, interested to hear what others have to say.

Interesting, I've heard it both ways: that the speakers are the most important part of the system, and that the source is the most important...
 

Bronze Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 13
Registered: Feb-05
I hope nobody misunderstood. I don't equate good cables with expensive cables. In This sense I agree with edster. Putting together a good system for 2000.00 requires using good judgement around what to spend your bucks on. I have an NAD C542 CD player and an NAD C162 pre amp with a Hafler 9505 power amp that I paid 600.00 for used. The Hafler and NAD products work well together. I have tried all sorts of speaker cable yet my favorite is still the Ultracap THX 12 gauge by Liberty Cable at 2.00 per foot. I use it to biwire my speakers. You can definately do better but not for less than 10 to 20 times more money. My interconnects are Northwest Audio Labs homebrew cable by the Jim Ott the proprietor of the store at 45.00 per 1 meter pair (25.00 when purchasing equipment). See I do not equate good with expensive. I listened to cables by several companies at up to 150.00 per 1 meter pair and they were not nearly as transparent. I have also heard interconnects and speaker cable that outperforms mine (at several times the price) by Analysis Plus and several other brands, but again its about making sense for your system proportionally.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Ellison

Post Number: 14
Registered: Mar-05
I suggest Nad320BEE(Musical & involving) Nad521Cdp(smooth sound with musical detail) MS914Floorstander (Weighty presentation and detailed base. Realistic mid also)
Must have Assesories: IsoBearing, quietline, cd stop light, Good interconnect and cables.
 

Silver Member
Username: Tdbdrummer

Post Number: 107
Registered: Feb-05
I'll tell you what to get. A Carver Power Amp that puts out an honest 700wpc, and 6 pairs of Advent AS2's wired in parallel-series. Under $1000. Great sound. Try it!
 

Silver Member
Username: Stealth_c

Dublin, CA USA

Post Number: 106
Registered: Jan-05
Marantz also makes some resonably priced components you might be interested in. As for wiring, I would get at least 12AWG wire. Anything more than that is up to your taste only.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Cornelius

Post Number: 98
Registered: Jun-04
Hey Maui, I was thinking of trying the Signal Cables. Have you tried them? I was thinking of a pair of Double run speaker cables for my McIntosh/Ohm set up at home.
 

mauimusicman
Unregistered guest
Cornelius.......yes I have. The interconnects are amazing for the $$. Speaker wire was less impressive, but still a good value. My speakers are highly revealing of interconnects. Hey, for $49.00 give em a try. They have a 30 day money back offer. All you would be out is the shipping. Roy from GMA swears the Audio Magic Scorceror's are the best he's heard.....a bit pricey though.

Edster: You'd be suprised what a difference interconnect cables can make. Easily as much as changing out a piece of electronics.
 

mauimusicman
Unregistered guest
Cornileus.......Do you leave your CDP on 24/7/365? If not, try it for a few days. You might not stop grinning. Digital devices generate very little heat so they take forever (like DAYS) to warm up. Give it a shot.....see if you hear a difference. In my system, the digital "hardness" or "grain" I associate with cdp's pretty much vanished completely. Good luck.
 

Anonymous
 
My speakers are highly revealing of interconnects....Edster: You'd be suprised what a difference interconnect cables can make. Easily as much as changing out a piece of electronics.

LOL! Kinda overstating the case, there, arentcha Magnum PI?

And the color red makes sports cars go faster.
 

Silver Member
Username: Cornelius

Post Number: 101
Registered: Jun-04
Hey Maui, I'll give the Signals a try - price is right.

Thanks for the CDP tip, I'll try it. BTW, sixmoons is going to review a pair of Callistos soon, it'll be interesting to see what they say.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Johnnyness

Austin, TX

Post Number: 32
Registered: Dec-03
I too have the Signal Cables speaker wire and interconnects from dvd to projector. Its far better than anything else I tried.

Back to the original theme: NAD and JM Labs.... I have the NAD T762 with JM Labs Cobalt 826s and I absolutely love it. I have friends who are more audiophile than I, with more expensive setups than mine, yet they all rave over my system and my setup.
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