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What Is The Playback System Upgrade Path?

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What Is The Playback System Upgrade Path?

Postby s1mp13m4n » 10 Jul 2018 03:45

Hello everyone. I have a very modest vinyl playback system. The turntable, headphones, and headphone amp are thrift store finds. My phono preamp was gifted to me. I know that some folks like to upgrade their systems a piece at a time. Where does the upgrade path start? Which items give you the most improvement for the least amount of money? If it is true that at some point you end up hitting a wall or the point of diminishing returns, where is that point?
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Re: What Is The Playback System Upgrade Path?

Postby ammarmariti » 10 Jul 2018 05:58

The point of diminishing returns is different for everyone because some people can afford more while others less. The biggest change (IMHO) from an upgrade is always the transducers; headphones or speakers. The other parts such as the phono and amp make slight changes, however the setup as a whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

I started out with headphones too, I still do listen to headphones in my office and on my computer at home. When I started to upgrade my headphones, the other shortcomings from my setup start to emerge; cartridge with IGD, the amp is a little too bright or too dark, the DAC is not transparent enough.

So I guess what I can suggest is if you want to upgrade your setup, you can start with your headphones and give them a few weeks of listen. Sometimes people stop there because it already provides satisfaction. However if you're unsure about what you want to upgrade, or why you want to upgrade, you might not need to. Sometimes upgrades improve very little that you can only hear the difference during immediate direct comparison.
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Re: What Is The Playback System Upgrade Path?

Postby Pauw » 10 Jul 2018 07:54

There are many points about upgrading but......one that always comes back and pays dividends is patience .......it is so easy to fall for "salesmanship" on this path.....think ...listen carefully ...trust your ears and take your time......upgrading is a wallet emptier ....so be careful buy well and then get it right ........if after a few months you are itching to upgrade again .....maybe you rushed ? :D
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Re: What Is The Playback System Upgrade Path?

Postby raphaelmabo » 10 Jul 2018 08:42

Hard to say without knowing your equipment, but if all are sub-standard, then I would start with turntable, cartridge, pre phono/amplifer and last with the speakers.
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Re: What Is The Playback System Upgrade Path?

Postby jy3 » 10 Jul 2018 09:09

Without knowing a budget its not possible to recommend any components. I will disagree with the post above, sorry raphaelmabo, but if you intend to use speakers and not just headphones, get them right first, they make the greatest difference IMO. Then look at your front end and amp.
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Re: What Is The Playback System Upgrade Path?

Postby Roscoe Primrose » 10 Jul 2018 14:51

As long as what you have now isn't damaging your records, more records will always give more satisfaction per dollar than any gear upgrade...

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Re: What Is The Playback System Upgrade Path?

Postby s1mp13m4n » 10 Jul 2018 15:28

Thank you all for the reply and the Help. I asked this question so I can continue to learn. I live on a fixed income so I have no plans to upgrade anything any time soon. Here is what I have:

Technics SL5 linear tracking turntable
Turntable came with an AT92E cartridge. The clam shell pack it came in was still there.
PP400 phono preamp
Fiio headphone amp
Sony MDR V6 headphones
No name knockoff manual spin washer type record cleaner
All of my vinyl is from thrift shops, antique shops, and $2 or less from Discogs.

I recently found Steve Guttenburg on YouTube. It must be nice to have a $60k home audio system. LOL I find his channel interesting even though I could never afford the gear. It is interesting to learn about and understand the mind of the audiophile. Sometimes I get the impression that for some....it is not about the sound.....but about the gear. That constant knife edge improvement to gain 0.001% better sound.....rather than be happy with what you do have. I am not knocking anything, just being goofy. :)
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Re: What Is The Playback System Upgrade Path?

Postby lenjack » 10 Jul 2018 16:06

About Guttenburg and the audiophile, some folks listen to the equipment and not the music.
Upon upgrading, speakers before amps.
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Re: What Is The Playback System Upgrade Path?

Postby Thunderbox » 10 Jul 2018 16:18

The central component to any system is the pre amp, amplifier or receiver. Every piece of equipment you have connects to this single component. No other piece plays a more important role than the amplifier. That is where I would start in making a great sounding system. Spending money on any other component before getting a decent amp is just not sensible IMHO. Many may disagree on this but I would bet good money that the majority of all those on the site have gotten a decent amp to anchor their system.
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Re: What Is The Playback System Upgrade Path?

Postby chiz » 10 Jul 2018 16:47

s1mp13m4n wrote:Sony MDR V6 headphones

For about 10 years my main headphones were Sony MDR-7506 which are a similar model.

At some point the earpads will start to disintegrate and leave little black flecks everywhere.

When this happened to mine I replaced them with Beyer DT-250 velour earpads. They fit the Sonys well and this seems to be a popular mod if you search for it.

I found them more comfortable and far more durable than the Sony earpads but as they are thicker this positions the drivers further from your ears which changes the sound slightly.

https://europe.beyerdynamic.com/edt-250v.html
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Re: What Is The Playback System Upgrade Path?

Postby lenjack » 10 Jul 2018 17:02

Disagree. Speakers easily most important determinant of sound quality. As I previously mentioned, your headphones are great ones, and do replace the earpads.
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Re: What Is The Playback System Upgrade Path?

Postby Slavikcc » 10 Jul 2018 17:34

Speaking of earpads, I just replaced them yesterday for my Beyerdynamic DT990 headphones after the foam completely disintegrated over the past number of months. In fact, the foam are double-layered than the one that came with my pair of cans, so I think it did change the sound ever so slightly.

Regarding the upgrade path, I'd look into upgrading your PP400 phono preamp as it's quite mediocre sounding and perhaps look into a p-mount cartridge upgrade as well.
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Re: What Is The Playback System Upgrade Path?

Postby analogaudio » 10 Jul 2018 18:12

s1mp13m4n wrote:Hello everyone. I have a very modest vinyl playback system. The turntable, headphones, and headphone amp are thrift store finds. My phono preamp was gifted to me. I know that some folks like to upgrade their systems a piece at a time. Where does the upgrade path start? Which items give you the most improvement for the least amount of money? If it is true that at some point you end up hitting a wall or the point of diminishing returns, where is that point?


Probably when the price of the speakers reaches a few $000. Then you need to address room acoustic issues (all rooms have them, especially in the bass) so that it is possible to hear the better speakers to best advantage without the "room roar" and "room boom" that are present in many domestic rooms.

The parts required to make good quality electronics (preamps, sources, amplifiers) are not expensive, you can pay a lot of money for a name and a pretty box if you wish but that doesn't affect the sound quality. Speakers are different, small speakers cannot reproduce adequate bass, the larger box size needed for adequate bass is expensive to make and ship, good quality drive units cost real money, the design of the crossover often requires the sustained attention for a long period of a highly skilled person, add these together and the cost of a decent (passive) speaker becomes many hundreds of US dollars, quality improves as the prices rise into the 1000s.
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Re: What Is The Playback System Upgrade Path?

Postby Thunderbox » 10 Jul 2018 19:25

lenjack wrote:Disagree. Speakers easily most important determinant of sound quality. As I previously mentioned, your headphones are great ones, and do replace the earpads.

You can't make a silk purse out of a sows ear. The lousier your front end is the more pronounced the problems will be with good speakers. Pure unadulterated physics.
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Re: What Is The Playback System Upgrade Path?

Postby jdjohn » 10 Jul 2018 21:12

simpleman, is your end-game to have an amp/receiver and speakers, or are you planning on sticking with purely headphones for listening? I see lots of suggestions of buying this before that, but I don't see that you've specified whether you even plan on having a full system. Depending on your answer, the 'discussion' can continue :D
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