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Seeking advice for the next step.


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Hello,

After recently purchasing a pair of used KEF IQ50's as a gift for my brother and experiencing what a relatively low-end modern speaker can do, the low-grade, constant itch for upgrades to my own system has become rather acute!

Current system:
-Technics SB-6 speakers purchased from a fellow member. When I auditioned these I was blown away but that was in a treated room, through tube amps and likely 10-20k worth of components and cables. It was also the first time I had heard a proper system so since then I've certainly gotten used to that level of quality. I've owned them for about 12 months. 
-NAD c320bee
-Rotel RB-1510 Power amp - I flip between using this and running the NAD as an integrated as I'm unsure what sounds 'best'. I picked up the Rotel for $20 so just couldn't say no to it. 
-Canare 4s11 speaker cables
-Schiit Modi+ DAC
-Chromecast Audio via optical 
- I mostly stream through Tidal 
-Marantz DV6001 using the Schiit DAC via coax for CDs. 

Something I found quite exciting about the KEF was their ability to create a visceral soundstage somewhat regardless of their placement. I could have them far too close to the wall and be standing in front of them, well above the tweeters and feel like I could step into the soundstage. They were quite dynamic and layered, and the bass - whilst not as prevalent as the Technics - was fast and responsive. They also sounded nice at lower volumes - whereas the Technics feel like they need higher volume to sound alive. The technics do sound fuller with more presence and have a bit of magic that the KEF didn't have so I didn't feel any regret when I handed them over to my brother for Christmas but they did open my ears to something different. 

Overall the Technics just sound a bit muddy and tired to my ears and unless I'm sitting smack bang in the middle of the couch I feel that I'm off center and all I can hear is the speaker I'm nearest to. Deeper notes from an acoustic guitar bloom and I just feel like the sparkle isn't there. Soundstage feels quite flat. I find myself fiddling with the treble control but once they start to brighten up they get too bright and notes from a harmonica screech. 

I listen to a bit of everything from Jazz, Country, Folk, R&B to Rock and I do use this system for Home Theatre duties though Music is the priority. Some of my favourite artists are - Townes Van Zandt, Neil Young, Angel Olsen, and New Order.
I do have space for a subwoofer but I don't crave ultra heavy or deep bass. 
Current room is a carpeted `5m x 8m though we will be moving in the middle of the year. 
Absolute maximum budget is 2k aud but if I could find something around 1-1.5k I would be very happy.  
I understand the SB-6 were never top-of-the-line and are over 40 years old now so they seem to be the first stage to upgrade. 

Thanks! 



 

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I will add that I'm a carpenter with access to a furniture making shop so I have been tempted to go the DIY route. I just don't know if the time and money spent is worthwhile compared to a used or new speaker (on sale). 

I'm pretty set on floorstanders. 

Some speakers that I have been looking at include:

Used
Monitor Audio Silver 300 6G 
Monitor Audio Silver RS8 / RS6 
Martin Logan Motion 40 

New 
Q Acoustics 3050i 
Q Acoustics 5040 
 

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Thanks for your reply! 

It might be - I'll have to demo some speakers to know for sure. I did find the IQ50 to lack a bit of body and presence that the bigger Technics have. I imagined that what I liked about the KEF's was more down to them being much newer than my vintage Technics. 

The only KEF option in my budget that I've seen are the Q550's. 

I know that ultimately the answer to which speakers I should get will come down to auditioning them but as I'm quite a neophyte to hifi I'm also seeking some guidance on whether my budget is likely to offer me a worthwhile upgrade to my vintage, lower/mid-tier Technics or if I would need to increase my budget to really hear improvements over the Technics. 

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What about this KEF ?

 

 

Given you liked the Technics SB-6,  you could go another way and get this (if still available?)

I suspect you have not been able to stitch together the components to produce a good sound for the SB-6?  So, why not go for a good all-in-one?

 

One more thing.  You did say you  do some home theatre.  Perhaps you should go for a used M10 V2 (need to increase budget!)?   Have a look at this (long) video review to understand how versatile it is.

 

 

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The KEF LS50 meta are a fantastic value proposition (and often can be found v. reasonably priced in the classifieds here on SNA). You won't hear any muddiness or "bloom", and their 45hz bottom end might just be enough if you don't crave bass pressure in your room. And you definitely will not have to fiddle with the treble controls. (But ageing comes into this, sound around above 12khz may just become difficult to hear consistently...depending on age and prior hearing habits/damage).

I note, too, that the LS50 meta are small standmount speakers against potentially a larger room (5x8m). I heard them in a similar space but at a listening distance of about 3m.

Edited by Steff
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29 minutes ago, Steff said:

The KEF LS50 meta are a fantastic value proposition (and often can be found v. reasonably priced in the classifieds here on SNA). You won't hear any muddiness or "bloom", and their 45hz bottom end might just be enough if you don't crave bass pressure in your room. And you definitely will not have to fiddle with the treble controls. (But ageing comes into this, sound around above 12khz may just become difficult to hear consistently...depending on age and prior hearing habits/damage).

I note, too, that the LS50 meta are small standmount speakers against potentially a larger room (5x8m). I heard them in a similar space but at a listening distance of about 3m.


Thanks mate! The LS50 push the dial to a modern aesthetic a hair too much for me. I do love the way the Technics look and will find it very hard to ever get rid of them entirely - they will be a hand-me-down to close friends and family as a last resort. 

I'm in my mid 30's and might be due for a hearing test but I should be able to hear upper frequencies fairly well. 

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37 minutes ago, Snoopy8 said:

What about this KEF ?

 

 

Given you liked the Technics SB-6,  you could go another way and get this (if still available?)

I suspect you have not been able to stitch together the components to produce a good sound for the SB-6?  So, why not go for a good all-in-one?

 

One more thing.  You did say you  do some home theatre.  Perhaps you should go for a used M10 V2 (need to increase budget!)?   Have a look at this (long) video review to understand how versatile it is.

 


I do love the look of those KEF's! I saw them when they were first posted. The same pair appear to have been listed on eBay for an extra $200. 

That is another one of my many questions - did I like the KEF IQ50 because of the newer technology and design or did I like them for the 'KEF' sound? 
I've been leaning towards vintage gear for the value/money ratio but the KEF's made me question that. 

I should have mentioned that Home Theatre is a distant second. One day I'll have a proper surround system for HT but music is my passion so is the priority. I will have a look at the M10 though. Thank you!

 

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1 hour ago, LucasB said:

....or did I like them for the 'KEF' sound? 

I suspect the sound...  (From an ex KEF owner, in my first real Hifi system a long time ago).

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Thanks to everyone for their replies. I guess there's no shortcuts to auditioning, buying, trying and selling what doesn't work for your taste. 

I just happened to inherit the following kit that I'm currently having a lot of fun listening to and figuring out what to keep and what to move into the smaller listening room.

B&W CM5 s2 
Rotel A12 
Cambridge Topaz CD10
Sangean WFT-1d + (likely to end up sold) 

The CM5 just do things the Technics can't and have really strengthened my desire for a new set of floorstanders. 

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Wow - I haven't had that excitement and joy from a listening session in a long time!

My girlfriend enjoys my hi fi pursuits and does have a good ear for it without ever being truly engaged but last night we were both stuck in a cycle of, "one more track then we go to bed" until it was well past our bedtime. 

It's going to be quite a feat to improve on the CM5's but I can only imagine what a similar quality 3-way floorstander could do. 

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12 minutes ago, LucasB said:

Wow - I haven't had that excitement and joy from a listening session in a long time!

 

It's been like that for me for a year now...since I upgraded everything (speakers first and foremost). Don't expect it to stop, there's so much music to discover and rediscover. The kit you inherited is great, that's a windfall.

 

N.b. Before you throw thousands of dollars at upgrades...perhaps think about some v. affordable DSP options next (either Dirac through a laptop or REW/miniDSP) - by all acounts the in-room improvements produced by DSP will outperform upgrades to your current gear. There are some v. knowledgeable members here on SNA who are generous with their advice.

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1 hour ago, Steff said:

 

It's been like that for me for a year now...since I upgraded everything (speakers first and foremost). Don't expect it to stop, there's so much music to discover and rediscover. The kit you inherited is great, that's a windfall.

 

N.b. Before you throw thousands of dollars at upgrades...perhaps think about some v. affordable DSP options next (either Dirac through a laptop or REW/miniDSP) - by all acounts the in-room improvements produced by DSP will outperform upgrades to your current gear. There are some v. knowledgeable members here on SNA who are generous with their advice.


Thanks Steff! The CM5's have left me in a bit of a pickle: I have a dog who loves to chase flies and tennis balls in the house so having expensive bookshelf speakers on stands in the living room gives me a bit of anxiety so the CM5's are almost certain to be either surrounded by a moat and drawbridge or moved into a smaller room (which is likely more suited for them anyway)

It does leave me wondering how much I should expect to pay to attain a similar level of sound as the CM5 but in a floorstanding speaker that's not going to be quite as anxiety-inducing and also offer a bit more than the 2-way CM5. 

The Q Acoustics 5040 are on sale for $1600 down from ~2400 which do get some great reviews. I may have to audition a pair shortly to get an idea of how they will compare to the CM5. 

I took a quick look at room correction options and it looks like I'll need to get out my pen and paper to try and wrap my head around it all. I'm likely to be renting for at least the next 3-4 years so room correction is almost certainly going to be a valuable tool. Thanks again. 
 

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You were blown away by the sound of your current speakers in a different system. I suggest borrowing a higher power and higher current amplifier first before switching speakers.

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32 minutes ago, LucasB said:

The Q Acoustics 5040 are on sale for $1600 down from ~2400

 

IMO that is not as significant a saving as it looks. Go to most brick and mortar stores and show genuine interest and they will drop 20-30% off their RRP anyway. It's important not to start chasing bargains, there are always more around the corner, you will not miss out. Also note that at that price bracket you're not going to get SQ miracles. AFAIK B&W are known for a certain house "sound" (treble leaning), while KEF might be considered "neutral". I suspect that your Technics can't compete with tweeter tech of this era and that's where you might have found the biggest improvements, in the mid and high Hz range?

 

I fully agree with @Ittaku of course: find a way to hear a few top end systems so that you have some kind of sonic benchmark when you purchase your own floorstanders. Clef Hifi in South Melbourne was very open to auditioning speakers w/o an expectation to buy. If you can borrow something to hear in your own space, even better.

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10 minutes ago, Ittaku said:

You were blown away by the sound of your current speakers in a different system. I suggest borrowing a higher power and higher current amplifier first before switching speakers.

 

100%.

I often find that many people tend to under power their speakers and the CM5 are a classic example. If one looks at the factory specifications, they can appear to be an easy-peasy load, but take that with a barrow load of salt ( forget the pinch ).

B&W speakers in particular can and do, sound very underwhelming when paired with garden variety 50 watt amplifiers and the OP has just discovered this.

As @Ittaku says try a higher powered amplifier before even thinking of changing speakers. I am certain you will be very agreeably surprised

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45 minutes ago, Ittaku said:

You were blown away by the sound of your current speakers in a different system. I suggest borrowing a higher power and higher current amplifier first before switching speakers.


That’s a good idea and something that I’ve not truly considered.

 

I do wonder how much my initial impression of the Technics was due to that being the first time I had heard a proper set up and if I heard it today whether I would be as underwhelmed as I feel with the Technics in my current set up. Only one way to find out!

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37 minutes ago, Steff said:

 

IMO that is not as significant a saving as it looks. Go to most brick and mortar stores and show genuine interest and they will drop 20-30% off their RRP anyway. It's important not to start chasing bargains, there are always more around the corner, you will not miss out. Also note that at that price bracket you're not going to get SQ miracles. AFAIK B&W are known for a certain house "sound" (treble leaning), while KEF might be considered "neutral". I suspect that your Technics can't compete with tweeter tech of this era and that's where you might have found the biggest improvements, in the mid and high Hz range?

 

I fully agree with @Ittaku of course: find a way to hear a few top end systems so that you have some kind of sonic benchmark when you purchase your own floorstanders. Clef Hifi in South Melbourne was very open to auditioning speakers w/o an expectation to buy. If you can borrow something to hear in your own space, even better.


Yes, since hearing a modern set of speakers I’ve found the mids and highs of the technics to be muddy. The soundstage and imaging of the CM5’s is miles ahead of the Technics in my current set up. 
 

Listening to a few tracks from the new Billie Eilish album last night through the cm5 and rotel a12 was exhilarating. Not a big fan of the music but the production is delicious.
 

Shifting to older recordings from Bob Dylan (Knockin’ on Heavens Door) revealed a narrow soundstage compared to his newer stuff (Man in the Long Black Coat) which sounded much wider and layered. The CM5 just reveal so much in the recordings than I’ve ever managed to get out of the Technics.
 

Perhaps a more powerful amp will bring out more from the Technics. 
 

That's a good point re: chasing bargains! I’m aware that I’m in a lower tier budget so know that I’ll be looking at something that I’ll likely be able to afford to upgrade in a few year’s time. 

 

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38 minutes ago, rantan said:

 

100%.

I often find that many people tend to under power their speakers and the CM5 are a classic example. If one looks at the factory specifications, they can appear to be an easy-peasy load, but take that with a barrow load of salt ( forget the pinch ).

B&W speakers in particular can and do, sound very underwhelming when paired with garden variety 50 watt amplifiers and the OP has just discovered this.

As @Ittaku says try a higher powered amplifier before even thinking of changing speakers. I am certain you will be very agreeably surprised


Just for clarity’s sake, the CM5’s sound really nice to me through both the NAD and the Rotel. I don’t feel underwhelmed with them - it’s the Technics that I’m underwhelmed with.

 

The bass from the CM5 does lack a bit of punch and power but they’re not huge speakers and they’re likely in a much bigger room than they want to be in. Perhaps I’m wrong in thinking a similar tier speaker in a 3-way would give me that extra 5-10% bottom end that I feel they lack. 
 

Perhaps they will sound even better with more power and perhaps the Technics will come alive with some extra juice too. 

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8 minutes ago, Hi-Fi Whipped said:

How far are the speakers from the wall behind them? Being rear ported the closer to the wall = more bass 

So far I’ve mostly had them > 1m away from the wall.
 

The bass isn’t necessarily weak either. It does sound very nice and nuanced. We were noticing subtle bass lines where the bass is intended to sit under the mix and creep into the song. It had a level of dynamism and nuance that’s I’ve not heard before. 
 

Honestly if the CM5’s were floorstanders and sounded just like they do now I would probably just add a sub and be happy for at least a couple of months! 😅

 

I just find it pretty stressful to have expensive bookshelf speakers on stands with a dog around the house so floorstanders appeal to me. The technics are big enough to only need a squat stand and the cabinets need replacing eventually so I’m not too worried about them taking a spill.

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Looks like you found something since you started the post, for under $2k there is a plethora of well renowned three way or similar driver speakers VAF I-66, Yamaha NS1000, Dynaudio 82, Jamo Concert 11, Focal 826, Spendor SP1 and SP100, B&W 801 vintage series and others.

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14 hours ago, Al.M said:

Looks like you found something since you started the post, for under $2k there is a plethora of well renowned three way or similar driver speakers VAF I-66, Yamaha NS1000, Dynaudio 82, Jamo Concert 11, Focal 826, Spendor SP1 and SP100, B&W 801 vintage series and others.

Thanks mate! That’s a great list for me to research. I’m only familiar with the ns1000 from that list. 
 

In all my excitement over the CM5s I realised that I hadn’t actually used the Rotel to power the Technics. The Rotel has two speaker outputs so I spent some time A/B ing the technics and cm5.

 

I was under the impression that amplifiers don’t matter anywhere near as much as speakers so I didn’t really consider that some of what I was hearing through the CM5’s was actually a the amplifier.
 

The NAD is possibly due for a bit of TLC whilst the rotel lived for 3-4 years in a 4 x 4 office in an apartment and never would have gone above 60db. It’s in mint condition.

 

Being able to A/B them has made me appreciate how much larger and denser the sound from the technics is and how much of an impact the amplifier makes. The technics are very warm and full sounding so may have been a bad match with the NAD and the Rotel is bringing a bit of life back into them.

 

I still want to see what a modern 3-way sounds like and try as many brands of amplifier and speaker as I can to build my experience. 

 

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7 minutes ago, LucasB said:

VAF I-66, Yamaha NS1000, Dynaudio 82, Jamo Concert 11, Focal 826, Spendor SP1 and SP100, B&W 801 vintage series

 

FWIW: Arguably neither of your amps can provide sufficient current for any of these to perform at their expected levels.

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12 minutes ago, Steff said:

 

FWIW: Arguably neither of your amps can provide sufficient current for any of these to perform at their expected levels.


That's the next set of research I have to dig into: whether I should find a good power amp to pair with the rotel a12 (one that I can eventually upgrade to a better separate pre amp) or whether I’m better off getting something like the Krell integrated that is in the classifieds at the moment. 

 

Perhaps it’s a matter of just getting enough power to start exploring higher demanding speakers, finding something I love and then building a system around them. 

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