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Help with building a 75K system around my laptop

Wharfedale EVO4.4 Speaker

hyaksha

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Folks, I have a budget of around 75k. Im trying to build a system that will mainly be used to play back audio from my laptop. I need floorstanding speakers. I've auditioned a couple of speakers and so far I really like the Wharfedale Diamond 9.6 (or perhaps would downgrade to 9.5 if the amp/dac is expensive).

So I have around 40k left to spend on a good DAC and integrated amp to go with the Wharfedale.

One additional constraint is that Im averse to ordering stuff online from outside India.

The DAC/external sound cards that I've liked so far - CA MagicDac or M-Audio Fast Track Pro.

Integrated Amps I'm considering - Norge 1000 or a NAD (depending on the price of the DAC).

Im also open to the idea of getting a cheap external sound card with a coax output and spend the money on a good AVR (say a Marantz SRxxxx) to do the DA conversion.

Anyone with experience with these things. Please enlighten me :)
 

jai1611

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Given your hesitancy to import, your options regarding a DAC become quite restricted. It might be sensible to try and find a used one.

Personally, I havent had any problems in importing DAC's. Because they have a USB in, customs people tend to leave them alone if labelled as a USB sound card (despite the thing being more than 8" long and weighing 2+ kilos!).

For amplifiers, do try the Marantz and Cambridge Audio offerings as well. My personal preference is for the Marantz but yours may be quite different. I havent heard the Wharfedale floorstanders so cant comment on the pairing.
 
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unleash_me

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You can check out the Peachtree Nova from SignalPath. Here is the designer himself. But it might cost around 75k - will have to find additional funds for speakers. But imo worth every penny!

Peachtree1.jpg


Alternatively, you can get the Beresford Caiman and pair it with your preferred NAD amp.

Happy auditions.
 
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hyaksha

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I see. If you've not had issues importing then I dont mind attempting it - All im looking for really is a USB sound card with a coax output that will deliver bit-accurate output to a receiver. I can then focus on getting a quality AVR (like the Marantz) perhaps - which I presume will do a good job of DA conversion.


Given your hesitancy to import, your options regarding a DAC become quite restricted. It might be sensible to try and find a used one.

Personally, I havent had any problems in importing DAC's. Because they have a USB in, customs people tend to leave them alone if labelled as a USB sound card (despite the thing being more than 8" long and weighing 2+ kilos!).

For amplifiers, do try the Marantz and Cambridge Audio offerings as well. My personal preference is for the Marantz but yours may be quite different. I havent heard the Wharfedale floorstanders so cant comment on the pairing.
 
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jai1611

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My experience is based on the vagaries of the Mumbai Customs dept. Things may well be different in other cities. perhaps other members can advise on how strict the customs dept is in your city.

If your main objective is two channel audio, better to get a DAC with USB input and analog output with a stereo amp. That should give better SQ than an AVR.

I see. If you've not had issues importing then I dont mind attempting it - All im looking for really is a USB sound card with a coax output that will deliver bit-accurate output to a receiver. I can then focus on getting a quality AVR (like the Marantz) perhaps - which I presume will do a good job of DA conversion.
 
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argho

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Just some suggestions.

Suggestion 1
---------------
Some CD Players have an USB input, which can be used to connect any USB storage device or iPod. The DAC in the CD player is then used to convert the digital files to analog.

Example : Denon DCD 710 AE
http://www.profx.com/brochure/denon/cd_player/DCD710AE_E2_rev2.pdf
You can store all yr music files on a USB drive and connect it to this CD player. It costs around 25K.

The matching Denon amp PMA-710AE is also around 25K I think.

That would leave you with 25K for speakers.


Suggestion 2
---------------
Buy a WD TV. Cost Rs 7K. Plays all audio file formats. Recognises playlists. Has a remote. Has Optical Digital out and HDMI out.

Either of these can be connected to a receiver which will do the Digital to Analog conversion. Say the Denon 1910. Both together will cost you 50K, which again leaves you 25K for speakers.
 
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venkatcr

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Hyaksha, at the outset I am assuming a few things:

1. That you are serious about music.
2. You have decent collect of well ripped FLAC, WAV, or WMA files of your favourite songs.
3. That you avoide MP3 like plague unless you know how/who ripped it and never less than at 320kbps.

If the majority of your collection are downloaded MP3, don't waste your 75K. Buy a pair of Audioengine A5s or A2s and that is all you will need. Put the balance in a bank and earn interest on it. Or give it to me. :)

If you are not the MP3 type, you are in a typical chicken and egg conundrum. Leaving aside the speakers, should you blow up money on a goooood DAC, or on a gooood amp? I would say, and here are my arguments.

The technology behind an integrated amp has been around for quite some time and what differentiates one product from another are the objective set for design, the parts used, and the way it is made. In this area, I would stay away from Norge. You should look for a low-mid to high-low priced amp from NAD, Cambridge Audio or Marantz. If you like a lot of deep bass, the NAD is the choice. CA has a more open sound and favours instruments and orchestral music. Marantz will be transparent and true to the recording. Any of these will give you years of good service and you can experiment with other parts of your configuration.

A DAC, on the other hand, is a relatively new entrant into the market. It is not that the technology is new; it is just that most manfacturers have woken to PC / HD based music and are trying to beat each other for a market share. The end result? You will see better products and less expensive products being introduced every day. So it makes sense to go with an acceptable DAC now, and plan to get a goood one after, say, an year. Many owners will be selling their DAC for the same reason, and it might make sense to get your hands on one such DAC.

Look for a good amp now that your ears like.

Just to give you an idea, I am showing below two Stereophile reviews of budgetary amps - one from Marantz, and another from CA. Choose wisely.

Cheers

Stereophile said:
CA 650A

The CA 650A ran exceptionally cool driving my Harbeth Compact 7 ES3 speakers. A very fine headphone output stage is included. The Azur 650A was gutsy enough to drive my AKG K701 and Audio-Technica ATH-AD700 headphones, which respectively have input impedances of 62 and 32 ohms. (Cambridge Audio doesnt recommend phones whose impedance drops below 32 ohms.) Its a blessing to listen to headphones with remote control of volume.

My colleague Robert Deutsch wrote in the February 2009 issue about sharpeners and levelers - a useful distinction (see Stereophile: Are You a Sharpener or a Leveler?). By nature, Im a leveler; but for this rag, I also have to sharpen, as does Dr.Bob (Deutsch), PhD. Sharpening means looking for small differences and then blowing them out of proportion - even at the risk of hearing things that dont matter or dont exist. In the spirit (if not the words) of Gertrude Stein: a difference thats no difference is no difference. Along with less-than-balls-out bass, I noted a tonal balance that tilted up slightly, in a curiously engaging sort of way. The amp sounded open and airy, but not at all bright. Better this than dark and closed-in! Unlike many manufacturers, Cambridge Audio actually admits to having a house sound. Matthew Bramble: - Like the partnering Azur 650A, this player has an open, detailed presentation. Theres just a suggestion of excess brilliance at high frequencies, which becomes a problem only if you partner the player with an already aggressive system." My Harbeth Compact 7 ES3 speakers arent known for being aggressive. Nor am I (heh-heh). Besides, I could engage the 650As Treble control with recordings I know to be bright or brittle - especially jazz and classical - historical recordings" (ie, anything pre-stereo).

The 650A sounded relaxed and natural, while its Cambridge Audio predecessors Ive heard might have had clarity at the expense of a little brittleness or edginess. This is Smirnoff, not Popov; refined, not raw. What I heard new from Cambridges Azur 650 amp and CD player was a shimmering quality through the midrange and treble, a lack of astringency I hadnt heard before from Cambridge gear.

There was a sweetness, a silkiness, a delicacy that belied the 650As low price. True, I didnt get the killer bass that the more expensive NAD delivered, and I thought the overall resolution stopped short of heart-stopping. There was a little less here than first met my ear, and that included harmonic richness, or structure - a point driven home when Philip OHanlon, from distributor On a Higher Note, delivered the Luxman SQ-38u tubed integrated amplifi er. The Luxman made voices come to life; the Azur 650A made recordings sound more like artifacts; less true to life. But the Luxman costs $6000 - nearly eight times as much as the Cambridge. For $777 or anywhere near it, Ive heard nothing better than the Azur 650A. When you factor in its luxurious fitnfinish, you have a category killer. Theres nothing shoddy or shabby or dingy about this amp - its hard to believe that its British. Well, its not: its made in China.

Marantz PM 5003

What do you get for $450?

A hell of a lot. The Marantz PM5003, which puts out 40Wpc into 8 ohms (or 55Wpc into 4 ohms), doesnt look like something that costs under $1000, let alone under $500. Its rugged and hefty, and its elegant looks remind me of a cross between Audio Research gear and the most expensive Creek electronics. The PM5003 was designed in Japan and is made in China (as are most Marantz products), and includes technology trickled down from two of Marantzs fl agship models: the SC-7S2 preamplifi er ($8000) and the MA-9S2 monoblock amplifi er ($16,000/pair). The PM5003 and its moving-magnet phono stage feature current-feedback circuits intended to exhibit faster rise and fall times and higher slew rates than voltage-feedback designs. According to Marantz, a current feedback amplifier is better able to track musics rapid changes, and should sound more natural. The PM5003 is constructed with discrete components, and includes input buffer circuitry to optimize the signal/noise ratio and channel separation.

A fairly intense electric jazz group is a good test of an amplifiers ability to render a coherent sonic picture with realistic pacing. The middle section of "Ice Crushing at All Speeds," from my jazz quartet Attention Screens Live at Ottos Shrunken Head (CD, Stereophile STPH020-2), features a forceful, driving rhythm from drummer Mark Flynn playing his entire kit, juxtaposed against a moaning ostinato bass line by Chris Jones that challenges Flynns rhythmic statement. It all hung together through the Marantz, just as it did on stage the night we recorded it. But, you say, how well can a 40Wpc integrated produce high-level dynamic slam with such revealing speakers as the Monitor Audio Silver RS6 and the Epos M5? At one point I was playing the Marantz for an audiophile friend, Andy Slusar, who eyed it with suspicion: "How much is this thing? How many watts? I wont be convinced until you put on some loud rock music that dynamically stresses the unit." So I cranked up "Vrooom," from King Crimsons Thrak (CD, Discipline KCCDX01), at a level exceeding 95dB. After the thundering dynamic opening had almost knocked me off my seat, I was able to follow the individual lines of Trey Gunns bass and Tony Levins Chapman stick clearly and separately, with nary a trace of compression or congestion in the fortissimo passages. Mr. Slusar: "Okay, you convinced me. The amp is remarkable."

If I buy the Marantz, how will I stand? Youll stand mighty proud. The Marantz PM5003 is a stunning achievement: an uncolored, revealing, well-built gem with more features than anyone could possibly ask for at the price. Id almost go so far as to suggest that all well heeled audiophiles buy one, just to create a benchmark in their minds for whats available for $450 from todays talented electronics designers. I plan to keep my sample around for a while, as I seek out other components to couple with it as candidates to be included in complete two-channel systems that are highly revealing and musical but that retail for a total of no more than $1000.
 
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hyaksha

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Yes, most of my music is lossless encoded (flac, monkey and the likes). So a good DAC and amp should make a difference even with my limited listening abilities.

I definitely would not mind paying 10-15k more to get a better amp.

Given this and assuming I get a CA magicdac, I guess my amp choices are the NAD 325bee or the marantz pm 7003 (both of which are in the 30k range).

Unforunately for me, I cannot audition these with the speakers and source. The speakers come from a different dealer. Couple of questions then:

1) Which of these is better suited to the Wharfedale 9.6? - Im looking for clarily esp at lower volumes.
2) Do these amps have sufficient power to drive the Wharfedale 9.6 speakers?

Thanks!
 
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venkatcr

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1) Which of these is better suited to the Wharfedale 9.6? - Im looking for clarily esp at lower volumes.
2) Do these amps have sufficient power to drive the Wharfedale 9.6 speakers?

1. For clarity at low volumes, you just have to go in for the amp with more power. In this case, since both claim to have ample dynamic power, I would say the Marantz.

2. Yes they do easily.

Cheers
 
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hyaksha

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Re: Help with building a 1L+ system around my laptop

FYI - I stretched my budget and went with the following.

CA MagicDac
CA 650A
MS Aviano 8

Auditioned this combination (and a few others) at Audio Planet in Bangalore. Palani and Chandru @ audio planet were very knowledgeable and patient through all of this.
 
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rallynut

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me thinks thats a nice setup u got urself there!what media player do u use on the laptop?congrats and enjoy.cheers
 
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mnhegde

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Congrats Hyaksha, Nice purchase. Can you post the cost of each product please?? :) Keep updating the thread .

Enjoy!!
 
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