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System advice needed - best value system

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  • System advice needed - best value system

    Hello everyone. This is my first post and please excuse a blatant request for advice!

    I have inherited a Gerard 301 SME from my father who bought it new but is now changing to a more compact way of listening to music. He always had it paired with a pair Quad amps and pre amp and a set of B&O speakers (I think 3800's) and I recall it being a fabulous sounding system. He's a classical musician and it suited him anyway. the deck and arm are just serviced and in perfect order.

    I have more diverse taste in music and anyway the Quads and B&O's are long gone. Having looked at reviews etc it seems like the Harbeth speakers are a good long term investment and I wanted to know if anybody had any advice on amps etc? My budget is not huge. I'd love to find an amp for less than £1500 and a CD for about half or less than that again.

    Thanks in advance to anybody who has anything to offer.

    Tom

  • #2
    More info required

    Which model Harbeth speakers?

    What are the approximate dimensions of your listening room?

    Given the turntable, you'll need an amplifier with a phono input.
    What cartridge is installed on the SME? High output (moving magnet/iron) or low output (moving coil)?

    Do you want to be able to play SACD discs, or just CDs?
    Do you need an input for a portable music player?

    Comment


    • #3
      Choices

      My old friend Hi Fi dave will come along in a minute I think, but lots of good stuff is available in your budget and I don't mean to risk shilling any particular brand.

      For after sales care and consistency, have a look at UK made Croft amps as well as ubiquitous Quad and Rega models. That'll give you a starting point I think, as all these brands give you a consistent high quality sound up and down their ranges in my experience - and ALL my listening to these brands since 2009 has been 95% via Harbeths!

      Comment


      • #4
        A check-list for a new system

        I think your budget is not a problem at all. However, I also think it is time to think first about what you want to listen to as a source. These days more and more people are moving into streaming from services like Spotify, Qobuzz or Tidal. I am finding the new Google Chromecast Audio a very convenient way to do this. It can also be used for internet radio services like TuneIn.

        In my experience internet radio now often gives better sound quality than FM. The Chromecast Audio has both analogue and digital optical output, so for best result you may want to have an amplifier with a digital optical input. As for playing optical discs, I think you may want to consider a Bluray player, because these will play CD's just as well as a cd player, and allow you to watch opera Blurays (or movies, of course). Connect the optical output of the player to your stereo, and you can enjoy great stereo movie sound.

        Avoid the cheapest Bluray players as these will not have a separate optical audio output. Do you intend to use the Garrard? If so, that complicates matters a bit, because you would need an analogue phono input. If you can avoid the vinyl, there are some good suggestions for a minimalist system here: http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/s...st-signal-path
        As for the power amp, it is unlikely that good amps wil have a sonic signature. In fact, that is the definition of a good amplifier.

        However, there are still three things to look out for. The first is input matching. Louder sounds better in the demo room, so increasingly amplifiers have over sensitive inputs, resulting in a clipped/distorted signal. The second problem is amplifiers that have a frequency response that varies with the speaker's impedance at various frequencies. Valve amplifiers in particular can be quite terrible.

        Finally, you need power, a lot of power, for remotely life like dynamics, and more so, of course, if the room is larger. Don't settle for anything less than about 100 watts rms per channel at 8 Ohms for the smaller Harbeth models, and quite a bit more for the bigger ones. There is a lot of information here on these matters, and reading HUG may save you much money. It may also persuade you to spend less on electronics and more on the speakers (provided the room is big enough for a larger model).

        Comment


        • #5
          Plenty enough budget

          Tom, perhaps you could clarify:

          1. You still intend to use the Garrard 301? Presumably you also inherited a record collection or have your own. I very much hope so.

          2. Do you require a power amplifier and pre-amplifier, or would you prefer an integrated?
          3. What model Harbeth are you interested in?

          4. This is not really a forum for buying and selling, but I bought a Tascam CD200 based on advice given on the HUG and it cost me £180 new. I don't use it any more as I scan my CDs, but I found it more than adequate.

          5. Are you planning to include a streaming source? Alan's system for the Bristol Show cost him about £200 incl. tablet) from Sainsbury's.

          What area of the UK are you in?

          Rest assured your budget it more than adequate.

          Comment


          • #6
            Common sense, kindly advice

            Hi Tom,

            Firstly, also as a relative newcomer, let me say a big welcome to the Harbeth User Group and the wealth of experience and HUGELY sensible and kindly advice that I found within.

            Let me say that I spent 35 years wasting my time with constant and never ending costly ‘upgrades’ to my CD and amplification with a particular ‘cult’ UK brand and had goodness knows how many of their little black boxes. If I complained that it didn’t sound so good, then it was always put down to me, or that I hadn’t got a particular cable hanging properly (!) or that the equipment table had gone ‘out of tune’. Then I went through some tough times with my business and the system had to go (although I still clung on to their little all in one streaming device to play music). Although the situation was unfortunate, it did me a very big favour and allowed me to get off the silly merry go round and start to see through the fog.

            As times got a bit better, I made the decision to finally listen to a pair of Harbeth speakers (I was aware of the company) and was very lucky to also find a dealer who had ‘been there, seen that, got the T shirt’ and wasn’t afraid to talk common sense!! So, what I can tell you is that I bought Harbeth’s least expensive speaker, the little P3ESR, and it is the single best audio purchase I have ever made - they are simply stunning to listen through. I have paired them up with a CD player and integrated amp from another, much cheaper (or should that be better value), UK company and these are the most satisfying and enjoyable times I have ever experienced listening to my music. No magic needed to for fabulous sound, just turn on and play.

            So, get yourself to a Harbeth dealer (I can recommend mine if you live in he southern part of the UK) and have a listen. Then decide how you wish to listen to music (i.e turntable, CD player, file downloads etc) and purchase competently made electronics with great service back-up according to your particular needs. Just make sure you have good available power from the amplification - mine is 72 watts per channel and I personally see this as a minimum to really enjoy the Harbeths.

            Happy listening,

            Mike.

            Comment


            • #7
              Easily in-budget

              Hi Tom.

              I can confirm that a pair of Harbeth speakers will give you many years of listening pleasure.

              Depending on where you are in the UK, you are welcome here to make comparisons with various suitable amps, using the range of Harbeth speakers. Easily doable with your budget. You can bring along your turntable.

              Comment


              • #8
                Suggestion

                Amp

                http://www.amazon.co.uk/Yamaha-A-S70...s=yamaha+as701


                Cd Player

                http://www.amazon.co.uk/Onkyo-C-7030...rds=onkyo+7030

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thanks for help!

                  Thanks for all the replies and I'm sorry that my post has generated more question than answers!

                  I definitely mean to keep and use the 301 if for nothing more than sentimental reasons. Amazing considering its age it looks as good as new. I will probably end up replacing the cartridge as I don't believe my father has for many years.

                  I'll also be using CD's and it would be great to have the ability to use streamed music from my iPhone which I find fabulous if only for discovering music that you might have missed. I would love to get the CD's onto a single Hard Disk at some point.

                  My tastes are diverse classical sixties jazz, to modern day pop and everything in between - my vinyl collection is mostly from the 70's and earlier Rock music.

                  The room in question is 9 x 6 metres and about 3 high. Wooden floor and not over furnished quite a lot of window if that's relevant.

                  Having looked at the Harbeth products it struck me that the SuperHL5 plus were the right choice but I'd be happy to know that something smaller would work and the P3ESR, as Mike mentions above, look like a great little package. This is not a listening room but a relatively under used sitting room and they need to be discreet.

                  Thanks for the links to the Yamaha and Onkyo units. Those are obviously both much less than I was thinking of spending but if they suit the speakers then brilliant. I had also heard that the Pioneer amps were good value.

                  Huge thanks again with all the kind help and look forward to any further clues.

                  Tom

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Quad perhaps?

                    Well, I PM'd Tom and also suggested the Yamaha A-S70 as well as it has a phono input and has digital inputs so Tom can stream from a phone via Airplay or Chromecast for a few extra $.

                    As long as he is not resident in the Outer Hebrides, a trip to Dave would be a very sensible idea and tea and biscuits will be provided, I have no doubt.

                    For a bit more refinement, elegance and sophistication, the Quad Artera package looks interesting and I was wondering if Dave has used it yet.

                    The Artera does not have a phono input, so an MM stage will be needed (no more than £300). However, it does have a usb input (not on the Yamaha) that can be used with my favourite recent device, the Auralic Aries Mini (£375), that besides acting as a usb or network streamer, also has internal space for a 2.5" hard disk, so for another £40 Tom could use it as a store/server as requested in his last post no. 9.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Chasing ones own tail - expensively

                      Originally posted by MikeM View Post
                      Hi Tom,

                      Firstly, also as a relative newcomer, let me say a big welcome to the Harbeth User Group and the wealth of experience and HUGELY sensible and kindly advice that I found within.

                      Let me say that I spent 35 years wasting my time with constant and never ending costly ‘upgrades’ to my CD and amplification with a particular ‘cult’ UK brand and had goodness knows how many of their little black boxes. If I complained that it didn’t sound so good, then it was always put down to me, or that I hadn’t got a particular cable hanging properly (!) or that the equipment table had gone ‘out of tune’. Then I went through some tough times with my business and the system had to go (although I still clung on to their little all in one streaming device to play music). Although the situation was unfortunate, it did me a very big favour and allowed me to get off the silly merry go round and start to see through the fog.

                      As times got a bit better, I made the decision to finally listen to a pair of Harbeth speakers (I was aware of the company) and was very lucky to also find a dealer who had ‘been there, seen that, got the T shirt’ and wasn’t afraid to talk common sense!! So, what I can tell you is that I bought Harbeth’s least expensive speaker, the little P3ESR, and it is the single best audio purchase I have ever made - they are simply stunning to listen through. I have paired them up with a CD player and integrated amp from another, much cheaper (or should that be better value), UK company and these are the most satisfying and enjoyable times I have ever experienced listening to my music. No magic needed to for fabulous sound, just turn on and play.

                      So, get yourself to a Harbeth dealer (I can recommend mine if you live in he southern part of the UK) and have a listen. Then decide how you wish to listen to music (i.e turntable, CD player, file downloads etc) and purchase competently made electronics with great service back-up according to your particular needs. Just make sure you have good available power from the amplification - mine is 72 watts per channel and I personally see this as a minimum to really enjoy the Harbeths.

                      Happy listening,

                      Mike.
                      I have been demoed (at the insistence of the dealer, just because it was there) a multi boxed CD/amp set up of a few 10's of $1000, along with a pair of very nice looking 20 grandish Italian loudspeakers and all I remember was a sound that was grating after the first ten seconds, the answer to this was to 'smooth' the sound with yet more (even more) expensive boxes.....absolutely insane.

                      EDIT: grating sound probably a mix of speaker performance, clipping of inputs or power? That brash sound is immediately impressive but once you recognize fatigue it is the best weapon to find a system you can live and be happy with.
                      Getting to know my C7ES3

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Location, where?

                        Originally posted by ssfas View Post
                        Well, I PM'd Tom and also suggested the Yamaha A-S70 as well as it has a phono input and has digital inputs so Tom can stream from a phone via Airplay or Chromecast for a few extra $.

                        As long as he is not resident in the Outer Hebrides, a trip to Dave would be a very sensible idea and tea and biscuits will be provided, I have no doubt.

                        For a bit more refinement, elegance and sophistication, the Quad Artera package looks interesting and I was wondering if Dave has used it yet.

                        The Artera does not have a phono input, so an MM stage will be needed (no more than £300). However, it does have a usb input (not on the Yamaha) that can be used with my favourite recent device, the Auralic Aries Mini (£375), that besides acting as a usb or network streamer, also has internal space for a 2.5" hard disk, so for another £40 Tom could use it as a store/server as requested in his last post no. 9.
                        Where do I find Dave? I'm in the midlands but in London often.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Further clues - Pioneer value

                          Originally posted by tomgc61 View Post
                          I definitely mean to keep and use the 301 if for nothing more than sentimental reasons. Amazing considering its age it looks as good as new. I will probably end up replacing the cartridge as I don't believe my father has for many years.
                          Suggestion for phono cartridge: http://www.shure.co.uk/products/dj_phono/m97xe
                          Review here: http://www.shure.de/dms/shure/review...E%20review.pdf

                          Originally posted by tomgc61 View Post
                          I'll also be using CD's and it would be great to have the ability to use streamed music from my iPhone which I find fabulous if only for discovering music that you might have missed.
                          Pioneer PD-30 CD player with i-device input: http://www.pioneer-audiovisual.eu/eu/node/192

                          Originally posted by tomgc61 View Post
                          Having looked at the Harbeth products it struck me that the SuperHL5 plus were the right choice but I'd be happy to know that something smaller would work and the P3ESR, as Mike mentions above, look like a great little package. This is not a listening room but a relatively under used sitting room and they need to be discreet.

                          I had also heard that the Pioneer amps were good value.
                          Pioneer A-30 amplifier: http://www.pioneer-audiovisual.eu/eu/def/products/30

                          Mr. Shaw, Harbeth's designer and owner, has expressed a favorable opinion of Pioneer products: http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/s...8820#post28820
                          Also, see my comments on the A-30 amplifier: http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/s...7593#post37593

                          You need not spend a fortune for an amplifier and CD player, as the two Pioneer units can be acquired for a total of £600, or less.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            A shared secret!

                            Originally posted by acroyear View Post
                            I have been demoed (at the insistence of the dealer, just because it was there) a multi boxed CD/amp set up of a few 10's of $1000, along with a pair of very nice looking 20 grandish Italian loudspeakers and all I remember was a sound that was grating after the first ten seconds, the answer to this was to 'smooth' the sound with yet more (even more) expensive boxes.....absolutely insane.
                            I hope that you at least did not suffer the consequences as I have done in the past by purchasing said 'magic' boxes. For someone who is regarded by his peer group as an intelligent and diligent person, I would be ashamed and embarrassed if my stupidity all these years ever got out to my friends. At least here on HUG you can reach sanctuary without any finger pointing at one's foolhardiness. I suspect many of us here, truth be told, have been through the same as me!!

                            Kind regards,

                            Mike.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Suggestions

                              Since we now have more information about the size of your room, and the Harbeths that you have in mind, we can be more specific. I think that in such a relatively spacious room a larger speaker such as the SHL5+ is a good idea. I have a set of P3ESR's in my study, and they are just perfect there. However, I recently also tried them in our similarly largish living room: they sounded fine, but they could obviously not quite fill the room. So yes, unless you have the budget for the M40.2 and can live with their size, the SHL5+ should be perfect.

                              However, in a room of that size I would like to have a powerful amplifier. Something like the 2x140 watts of the Quad 606-2, 707, 909, QSP would be a minimum in my view. And that introduces the vexed question of affordable beefy power amplifiers. If you were living in the USA I would have said Emotiva is your brand, but on this side of the Atlantic things are harder.

                              A few here (including myself) are using refurbished QUAD 606-2 or later power amplifers, for a quality on a budget solution. Even more powerful amplifiers can be found in e.g. the range of Yamaha pro audio amplifiers.

                              In your case the snag is that you want a pre amplifier with a phono input, so you need at least one analogue input, preferably phono level, but line level plus outboard phono pre amp would also work. An interesting alternative would be a DSpeaker Antimode Dual core 2.0 unit, that will serve as a dsp room equalization unit and as a basic pre amplifier (but Alan could not quite make it to work completely silently).

                              For an integrated solution I can think of the Rotel RA 1570, with phono in, plus a number of digital inpits of various kinds. Output is 2x120 watt. There is a matching cd player.

                              Comment

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