Experience from my home HiFi equipment upgrade
Just recently I’ve upgraded my audio gears from Denon brand mini system to the full width Marantz CD5004 player and PM6004 integrated amplifier. Budget was at constraints, but after reading a lot of reviews I’ve decided to buy these babies with very promo prices since those are not latest and greatest from the Marantz portfolio. However, it doesn’t mean worst in fact.
I am still using Beresford Caiman Gatorized 7520SEG digital to analogue converter (out of sale now) made by Stanley Beresford which was highly modified by Grado Fan GFMod company to sound like 3 to 4 times more expensive device – and it does really! Even the volume control potentiometer was replaced by the high grade ALPS – commonly used in expensive devices. Mine uses high grade Wolfson WM8716 cheapset with special Gator board. If you interested in this techno talk, read about it in the link presented.
As the main source, I am using Macbook Pro connected over the optical TOSLINK cable and Audirvana Plus software, the sound is warm with very deep and wide soundstage. I use it also to take the digital signal out of my CD player working in that case only as transport device time to time. Than I can get the same sound signature from both ripped CD’s and those played over the CD player without using my computer. Bliss.
What I can say about Marantz to be honest? Well, not expensive devices, but if you read reviews you will see there are highly recommended and even compared to much more expensive gear – in fact they use a lot of solutions from the higher grade equipment range.
What I can recommend for DIY is to not waste money for the very expensive speaker wires or power cables, but instead, buy yourself good quality pure copper speaker wires with at least 2.5mm2 gauge and good quality banana plugs (24k gold with two screws tube wire handling) and make them on your own diligently. I have QED Classic Strand 79 wires. Make sure that banana plugs are done with copper – using magnet for instance. I have Vitalco plugs similar to these. After the wires are tidily put into the banana plug tubes you can use heatshrink tubes to isolate them from the air and corrosion in the future. One word about the speaker wires – if you can get the information about the electrical parameters of the wire take a look at the resistance per meter, capacitance and inductance comparing different cables. Less is always better, but it may increase the price. Don’t worry about any fancy design and things like that in my humble opinion. For QED Classic Strand 79 the parameters are as follows: loop resistance (that’s there and back again) is 0.016 Ohms/m therefore its 16 Ohms/km. If comparing with another cable make sure you are not looking at the single run resistance figure which would be around 8 Ohms/km (the same for other params). Parallel capacitance is 58pF/m and loop inductance is 0.66uH/m.
The same for the power cables. I used LAPP Kabel OLFLEX 110CY wire with 3×2.5mm conductors shielded and Shurter IEC/Bals schuko-type plugs. This makes pretty “heavy” good quality, shielded power cable without breaking the bank. For the power plug check if the screws inside are non magnetic ones (using magnet) and if you are connecting the PE wire with shielding make sure to leave so called safety loop for this wire – make it longer with the other ones in case when you pull off the cable from the plug, hot wires should be disconnected first! One comment maybe after I have finished that power cable – it is rather heavy and pushing the connector on the equipment down little bit, at least on Marantz, so some kind of cable holder to lift them up would be nice – however, so far working just fine.
If you have small monitor speakers like me (Dali Zensor 1’s) – lifting them up on heavy stands is a must (tweeter should be on your eyes high around). You’ll get much deeper and wider soundstage and using spikes you will extend the stereo imaging even better with better bass response. Also toe in them little bit to yours listening position – I’ve found it useful, but it needs experimenting on your room of course and depends on your listening taste. For small monitors sometimes it is better also to put them close to the rear wall – again experiment. You may also try Vandersteen method using odd numbers to calculate your room intersection points for the loudspeakers as a base for the experimentation.
For stands, I have grey Sound Organisation Z522 stands with spikes on floor protection metal rings. Fortunately, my stands can be also filled with sand in the future (I didn’t know it!) to dump down the resonance and vibrations even better. If you’re going to use sand make sure if it has very small particles, dried and than free from organic elements (you may use an oven).
Talking about the interconnects I have also not so much expensive ones, but solid build and very good shielding is a must. For RCA’s I bought Profigold PROA4201 and for the optical connection OxyPure OXYA5601 cable. In case of optical cables try to get the glass one, not polymere made. Lifatec is also good cable for Mac use, but I’ve got mine with very good price that’s why decided to stick with it for a while – even using the mini plug adapter.
For the headphones go and listen for yourself or borrow ones to do it at your home at best. I have Grado’s SR80i now, if you are interested in it. Maybe I will upgrade to SR325i’s in the future (top model from the Prestige series) since I like the Grado sound signature versus the price and kinda old school radio amateur look.
At the end of the story – few words about the music quality. This is quite true today, that more and more recordings nowadays suffer from so called “loudness war” disease which is VERY, VERY bad! If you build quite good stereo system and have good, revealing and non-coloring headphones it will be a real pain to listen to these recordings – believe me! So, if you wanna enjoy the music first of all do not listen to MP3, but to lossless CD quality or High Resolution files. Look for the record labels with good sound and mastering reputations like ECM for instance – if you like jazz and modern classics. If not, watch out who mastered the content on the CD are you gonna buy and research on this forum for under the Music subsection or go straight for the high resolution music with quality better than CD to: highresaudio.com, qobuz.com or gubemusic.com.
That is all about my audio story so far. As you can see, before you buy, do research and read reviews – not always more expensive means anything or is always better in my humble opinion. It is truism, isn’t it? Sure, it is not High End, but sounds pretty darn good. Anyway, enjoy the music!
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