Amp or speakers? What should I upgrade first?

amplifiers, receivers and loudspeakers
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Mr_Orange
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Amp or speakers? What should I upgrade first?

Post by Mr_Orange » 12 Feb 2019 13:13

Hello,

I currently have the setup described in my signature.
I mainly listen to rock music (90% on vinyl) and my listening/living room is small (20 m2 / 215 ft2).

Recently, I came across two potential upgrades for my system, but I can't stretch the budget (550€) to make both.
- Roksan Kandy 2 for 420€, in second hand. The seller is Hi-Fi store.
- Q Acoustics 3050i for 550€ (opened box deal) still with warranty.

My dilemma is what to change first:
1. My 30W channel amp for The Roksan 2x 125 Watts per Channel (8Ω Ohm) amp, and keep my B&W DM302 (8Ω Ohms) speakers.
I read a few reviews and articles about the Roksan K2 and seems like a good product and a step up upgrade. Besides, the store let's me listening the equipment and draw my own conclusions.
or
2. Change my B&W DM302 (8 Ohms) for the Q Acoustics 3050i (6 Ohms), and keep my Rotel RA-931 (30W).
I don't know if the amp would struggle to drive these speakers...

My goal is:
Get a warmer combination. I love the B&W DM302 but they sometimes they sound harsh in highs. I don't know if a different amp would change that (I read that K2 is a bit on the warmer side of neutral).

Before I came across the opportunity to get the 3050i I was thinking to wait until I could listen the KEF Q350 (They look amazing and the reviews are very good) and pair it with my Mordaunt Short subwoofer. But now I'm thinking if I should sell my subwoofer (because I don't see movies that often and I have dificulty to get the sub in the best audio position because of the furniture :shock: ) and get a pair of floorstand speakers (and my wife would be much happier to see the sub disapear...).
Let me remind that I'm a newbie and count on all of your expertise :D

Thanks in advance!

RM

Pauw
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Re: Amp or speakers? What should I upgrade first?

Post by Pauw » 12 Feb 2019 13:51

At a first glance I look to the weaker point in the set up as being The Project 1.3 . I am wondering if this has the potential to be a good starting point in the signal path as I personally believe that you need a good input signal before you can get a good output( others might have different views). The second point is your room. speaker position and environment can have a big effect on the sound.

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Re: Amp or speakers? Wha should I upgrade first?

Post by raphaelmabo » 12 Feb 2019 14:47

If your speakers sometimes sounds harsh in highs, this may be because of bad recordings or records in bad shape. You could try to experiment with speaker positioning or damp the room better (use more cloth, more textiles in the sound to tame down the treble). And I too embrace the idea of your turntable being the weakest link in your setup.

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Re: Amp or speakers? What should I upgrade first?

Post by Mr_Orange » 12 Feb 2019 15:29

I see the opinions going in the same direction...
With the same budget, should I go for a vintage model or something contemporary like Rega Planar 2, Pro-ject Debut Carbon or other?
Regarding the room size and furniture placement... it's the most difficult upgrade to get... (wife acceptance factor!)
But I'm considering a diy reflective wood panels project...

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Re: Amp or speakers? What should I upgrade first?

Post by rewfew » 12 Feb 2019 17:59

What might be the nature of the harshness of the treble. Distortion? Does music played digital or whatever the 10 percent is also have harshness? As maybe your cartridge is not set up, aligned well. I don't think the turntables mentioned would make any significant difference. Of note, maybe, is a review alluding to excess brightness, (exaggerated detail), they say. If this coincides with your experience. https://www.tnt-audio.com/casse/bw302e.html

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Re: Amp or speakers? What should I upgrade first?

Post by hobie1dog » 12 Feb 2019 20:39

I can't imagine giving up most of the bottom end by selling your sub, especially since you like rock music. The more power you have going to your speakers, the greater dynamics you are going to have, everything gets fuller with more power.

No audiophile can ever really ignore the importance of bass.

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Re: Amp or speakers? What should I upgrade first?

Post by Sunwire » 12 Feb 2019 21:51

Can you try the amp at home to see if it makes a difference?
I doubt it will, but might be worth a try if you need evidence to Help your decision.
30 watts should be plenty in your room.

As long as your turntable is working properly and the cartridge stylus is in good shape, it should be capable of good sound.

Have you been able to listen to the Q Acoustics 3050i? Does it give the sound you want?

I am not familiar with any of the speaker models involved, but from my experience, speaker choice makes by FAR the largest difference in any system (as long as all parts are working properly and not used outside their design parameters).
I have used $3500 speakers with a plastic "all-in-one" (CD/dual cassette/tuner/amplifier) as the power amp (probably put out no more than 10 watts) and enjoyed the sound a LOT. Using a $1000 200 watt amp with $200 speakers gave just the opposite experience.

My opinion runs counter the majority in this forum, but it is based in almost 50 years of experience.
This is a VINYL forum and most contributors are extremely biased in favor of focusing all attention on the turntable, tonearm, cartridge, and phono preamp and denigrating the importance of the rest of the system.
I think even cheap turntables can sound quite good, if they are working properly. But you won't hear all of what they are extracting from the record if you don't have good speakers.

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Re: Amp or speakers? What should I upgrade first?

Post by Jim Leach » 13 Feb 2019 02:20

Though I agree with what has been said, I think that amp may be part of your issue.

If you like “rock” music then it’s going to have some good dynamic range. Not orchestral, but good.

That amp is not one I’m familiar with directly, but it occurs to me that 30w in a Rotel is far and away from 30w in day an old tube amp. Mathematically 30 IS plenty for the room, but you need to have “headroom “ for dynamics.

125 may be more than enough but as woofers are destroyed by “too much wattage” so too are tweeters destroyed by “too little” due to voltage clipping.

If you can try out that new amp in your system, I think it’s worth doing. And if there is a 75 watt version that can save a few bucks, that might be worth trying as well.

And invest in the book “get better sound” to Help with optimizing your room. Maybe (as mentioned) you do have an odd resonance in upper frequencies in the room. My room was/is far from optimal but that book took my system to another level.

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Re: Amp or speakers? What should I upgrade first?

Post by Sunwire » 13 Feb 2019 05:50

If your current speakers sound "harsh in highs", is it only when playing them really loud? Or is it all the time?
If it's all the time, it's a speaker problem. If it's only when the volume is very high, it may be an amplifier problem.

The sensitivity of the DM302 and the Q3050i is the same, but the Q3050i will provide more bass.
If your current amplifier plays the DM302s at adequate volume, it should be able to play the Q3050is at the same volume, but you will hear more bass.

I recently installed a sound pressure level meter (SPL) app on my phone. I don't know how accurate it is, but it might be interesting for you to play with. See what level you are really listening to. The one I installed is downloadable from here:
http://keuwl.com/SPLMeter/
There are LOTS of others. I don't know which ones may be better or worse.

I just used the calculator here (http://myhometheater.homestead.com/splcalculator.html) to estimate the SPL you could achieve with 91dB/watt speakers like the ones you have (and the Q3050i, also).

With a 30W amp, you should be able to achieve around 103dB continuously, with peaks going louder. This is fairly loud. I just turned my system up until my phone app showed about 103dB.

That's louder than I usually listen, except for occasional short bursts of "cranking" it.

If you listen mainly to classical music, you may want more power. Classical is FAR more dynamic than rock music.

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Re: Amp or speakers? What should I upgrade first?

Post by raphaelmabo » 13 Feb 2019 09:20

More watts gives you more control of the sound and better definition, especially woofers needs watts. And I speak from personal experience. 30 watt is not good enough for the Q 3050i. Changing to a better turntable will make the most of your amp and speakers, which are by no means bad. Now, a Rotel 30 watt is more, just like a Nad watt is more than traditional watts. But still, big speakers with two woofers, they want more for better control and definition in the bass. A speaker with more watt can deliver more current. I'm not talking about volume.

I have two amplifiers, from the same brand: Alchemist Axiom and Alchemist Nexus. The little Axiom gives 30 watts in 8 ohm, and the bigger Nexus gives 55 watts. Not a big difference perhaps, but with my Infinity Reference 50's the Nexus gives more control of the bass. Now the Infinity Ref 50 is an easy load of 90 dB/w and with 6 ohm sensitivity. It is a three-way design with an 8" woofer in a sealed enclosure (not bass reflex). With the Nexus, bass sounds more controlled, tight, faster...

I prefer the Axiom with my ALR Jordan Entry 2M standmounts, they have a 6.5" woofer in a two-way design and 88 dB/w sensitivity. Here the Axiom works well. But with the bigger Infinitys, the Nexus works better - despite the fact that the Infinity is - on paper - an easier load for the amplifier.

So, I can't recommend going for the 3050i at this stage. They need a better - more powerful - amplifier.
Now, vale amplifiers, tube amps, can sound great with fewer watts. So what I write here, is for transistor based amps. Tube amps are different.

As for going for the Roksan, it is indeed a great amp. But your Rotel is not a bad one, it was and is a solid entry level buy.

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