Best set-up under $20K


I´m starting to look for an upgrade.  What would you buy with a 20k budget?  (new or used)

My actual system is bw803d2 with hegel h360.
I started looking at bw802d3 with mcintosh ma8900 + streamer (?)

I mostly listen to digital (Tidal) through iphone/airplay.  

Will install it in a big room (about 6mts x 10mts); listenning & dinning room. 



I bought the Perlisten S7t speakers, with no regrets, at that price point (ish).

Without prejudice to the common sense basic tenet in this crazy hobby, that arbitrary high(er) $$ expenditure targets are no assurance of better audio performance because of (2) below :

(1) Big room = big speakers = floorstanders

(2) upstream electronics and cables = ? …an entirely variable broad arena to choose from because each brand has its own bespoke sonic signature.That’s an alchemy solution based primarily on individual biased personal taste that may be in constant tension with the overall “ system synergy” objective immediately below in (3).

(3) Of course, a strong nod towards selection governed by a plan to incorporate system synergy is the goal instead of any ad hoc individual component selection Frankenstein approach.


You have two binary choices as a new system platform selection tree:

(1) choose your speakers first,,,,, and only THEN go match up them up to best choosing the rest of your system, or; alternatively,

(2) Visa-versa ….. ergo: choose your upstream components first, BEFORE you consider the many speaker options.

Choose wisely.


The 803d3 is not worth the upgrade from the d2 imo. I heard them in the same room system. It is just a little more transparent and a little flatter but really the same speaker. The 802 is noticeably better in the bass but honestly I would just add subs if I owned the 803. The subs will be better anyway.

Some good suggestions above.

things I demoed in that price range below:

803d4 (too bright, lack of bass, the 802D4 was much better in the bass but still bright, both had amazing soundstage. The 802D4 made male vocals sound a little thin.

Revel 328be (really good, no real flaw, could use more sub bass)I bought the 228be and use subs after this demo but sold them after about 1.5 years)

Revel Salon 2 (a special speaker but pushed my budget and I was worried about how old the design was).

Wilson audio Sabrina (Not bad but could not play as loud as I like. Some oddness in the 3k range (cone break up?) good but then I heard the bigger models lol…

Sonus Faber Nova 3 (5 was not on the floor). Enjoyable speaker but leaves some resolution on the table. Looks amazing.

Klispch La Scala IV. Not sure about this one. Has potential but comes with some oddities. Needs subs for sure.

Kef Reference 3 (flat with good soundstage, really dull highs, lacked dynamic slam, just average sounding to me.


I ended up with a pair of JBL 4367 and could not be happier. They are the lazy man’s M2 (no special amps needed). They are as detailed as the B&Ws but smooth like the Revels, and dynamic like the Klispch. A special speaker for sure. Lack of soundstage depth and width is their only flaw… and they don’t reach to 20hz. They look pretty bad too lol.

Here are some nice Joseph Audio Pearl 3s that’d be a very nice upgrade, and JA speakers pair well with Hegel.

Best of luck. 


I had a pair of B&W 802D3s which I loved and did not find bright at all. For your large room, the 802s will give you great bass; however, I would suggest pairing it with the McIntosh MA9000. Those big woofers require a lot of power.

Interesting, others will answer your question properly

You made me jump about seeing what my system would cost me if everything was stolen. Covid Times Prices went way up, coming back down some it seems.

$36.0 K does it


I’m a patient bargain hunter, probably get everything for $30.0 K

Thanks for the fun.


4.0 K, TT, 2 tonearms (I could do without my 3rd arm easily enough)

1.5 K SUT for MC, 3 inputs

3.0 K Allowance for 3 cartridges (MC, MM, Mono)

3.5 K Tube Tuner/Preamp

McIntosh Mx110z Tube Preamp Phono Tuner RECAPPED | eBay

4.5 K Amp with Remote Volume ....(I just picked one for an allowance)

1.5 K SACD/CD Player

3.5 K Reel to Reel

0.5 K furman power controller

14.0 k New Pair of Klipsch La Scala Speakers (Majority of the cost naturally)


existing system






Too many variables , your speakers like I did the weak link is the Xover 

like in most speakers under $25k since I have many I know first hand, 

the dac for sure would be next since music starts there good or bad.

At least 50-60% of your budget should be spent on all manner of cables. Trust me, I know what I hear. 


(that's sarcasm, for the humour impaired)

Agree that there are too many variables. Best to demo speakers then choose a pair.  Afterwards choose electronics, source components.  

@gfguimaraes what is your server/streamer and your DAC?  What kind of music do you listen to? What sonic changes and upgrades are you after from your current audio chain? What is your cabling?

My first recommendation would be getting rid of Airplay streaming through the Hegel. My assumption is the Hegel is a really good amplifier and has plenty of power, but can't imagine the streamer is world class.

I'd add a high end streamer since you indicate that is where you listen to most of your music. Aurender, Innuous, or Lumin would be great places to start. Find the right one that fits your needs (network player, transport, storage or no storage, DAC or no DAC, CD ripper or no, etc), but I personally would wire it direct with the ethernet port. Others may disagree with that observation.

B&W Speakers are interesting for me.  The first one's I really heard a difference on were the 805 Diamond's from the early 2000's.  Since then I liked other sonic profiles better and have been able to hear more differences in electronics with other speaker brands.  ProAc, Magnepan & JM Reynaud being 3.  I like a warm seductive nature, not muddy though, & nuances of music better than purely analytical sounding system.  From what I've read and heard at shows and demo's, the MacIntosh equipment isn't as nimble as I'd like though it does have the body.  I ultimately went with a battery powered, a/c back up, amp that has current and is quiet, semi Home Made.  I have done some decent room treatment installation and modifications that have helped nicely as well.  Pre-dac-streamer is an Oppo Sonica with ModWright mod's and Jim McShane recommended tubes.  Very happy with the results. I can swap cables and components with my two systems and hear a difference each time.  

I did forget to mention in my post that system 2 is a Ps Audio Strata. 

It's pretty amazing for the cost, especially today, and I also hear the difference between cables with it.  Nice bass slam with it as well.  It does miss a little bit of staging & seduction but is hard to beat for an ALL In One and  it bested many super expensive systems at Axpona 2023 when paired with ProAc 3.8's. 

I  agree with @vthokie83 (above).  It sounds like the most immediate concern might be the lack of a dedicated, wired streamer. You should be able to get a very good streamer for well under $5K. Even a Bluesound Node, or a Holo Red (if you can get it), might be a good upgrade for less than $1K USD.  Try that and see if you aren't more satisfied with the speakers and integrated amp you already have.


Pair of used 92.5 dB sensitivity JM Lab/Focal Mezzo Utopia's and a pair of Jeff Rowland Model 12 Monoblocks(if you can find a pair!).

Speakers will be at 4 ohms Impedance and amps at 350W @ 4 ohms. 

I seriously doubt you'll be able to beat that combination. 

I use the H360 and i am keeping it.  With a room that big, I would agree that the JBL's will fill that room and then some.  But you should go listen to them first.  Nobo dy here can guess what sounds the best to you.

Given your focus on digital, I really think you need to upgrade that chain before you make any other big decisions. You are missing out on a lot using Airplay and most likely the embedded DAC as well. Start by getting a dedicated streamer, but something better than a Bluesound Node. Lot’s of fun research to be done!

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I concur on the NS5000. I choose it over Vivid, Magico, and KEF Blade. Though the Blade would have made me equally happy.

I use a CODA #16 ($9k used) but did consider the Schitt TYR and Benchmark AHB2 for them. The monos were under consideration to use my great (but very short) FrontRow speaker cables. The CODA #16 is amazing with the NS5000 with WyWire Diamond speaker cables.

One way to save some cash maybe is to use the new Schitt Moljiner 3 preamp. The M3 is a great Class A preamp and cost $1200. I now have 3 great preamps, the Benchmark LA4, Holo Serene, and the M3. All 3 are also in the affordable side of things.

The M3 is much better than the Freya+ (sold).

A used Magtech amp from Sanders Sound Systems ($4k) is another of my very high recommendations. I use it with the Magnepan LRS+ and it is stunning. I have not tried it with the NS5000 but should very good. Maybe not as Class A sweet as the CODA #16. The only amp that was as good on the LRS+ was the CODA #16.


@vthokie83 “…My first recommendation would be getting rid of Airplay streaming…”


Absolutely. Airplay is simply a terrible transmission medium.

A real component streamer will be required before starting to upgrade something else. I don’t recommend a streamer bundled with something else.

I agree with upgrading the streaming end of things.  One thing to put out there--I recently purchased a Bluesound Node X and have been extremely happy with it in my heritage McIntosh system (2125 amp, C28 pre amp, Mc XR 5 speakers).  It is a more resolving DAC than the last generation Node.  See a couple of Steve Huff reviews on the node X.  A final thought would be that after carrying this Mac system to different homes over 40 years, is how crucial is the room itself and speaker placement. The sound is far superior in my current room with my older Mac speakers pulled out from the wall, than/ earlier smaller rooms with speakers in the corners.  I prefer the sound in my current room/system to much higher end speakers (Wilson Sabrina, Sonus Faber Nova III)  in the dealer showrooms.   Have fun....

Legacy focus xds will easily fill up a large room 96db efficiency and pair well with hegel


The speakers have true subwoofers built in

They also throw a huge soundstage


Next look at a 432evo standard music server this server will get a far better sound out of the hegels dac

Dave and Troy


Hegel legacy and 432evo dealers

I love the Focus XD also, but pairing with an external integrated amp is not straightforward. The subs internal to the XDs must be powered by the internal 750 watt amp, and that amp has no input trim. It's unlikely that the gain on the integrated is exactly the same as the XD internal amp.

The Legacy And Wavelet external crossover is a popular solution, but at $8k, it's a budget buster in this case.

The Focus SE is a good option when there's a desire to use an external amplifier with minimum fuss. Where there's no external amplifier, the XDs can be entirely powered via the internal amp.

Aesthetix Calypso Sig, Ayre VX-5 Twenty, Lumin U1 Mini, Line Magnetic LM 502ca & Graham LS5/9. All connected with several sets of Audience AU24 XLR, speaker lines & digital cables w/Transparent PCs. All purchased pre-owned & all in excellent condition - perfect in my med size room. All tubes NOS Amperex, Telefunken & RCA. Just over the $20K mark total investment.

I agree with others: add a dedicated streamer and a high quality external DAC .  Breath new life yes it will. 

Keep the Hegel and get a pair Harbeth SHL5 XD, or 40.2’s, or 40.3 XD at a discount.  Get a good player - such as the Bryston BDP-3 and with a Schitt Yggdrasil DAC or any number of others that will cost more). 

Or… keep the Hegel and get the Legacy Audio Signature XD, or Focus XD with a good player and DAC (suggested above).

Or… keep the Hegel and get the Klipsch Cornwall IV, or Forte IV speakers with a good player and DAC (suggested above).

Any of these will sound superb.  The Harbeths will have a warm rich sound a lot like the Quad ESL 57’s (about the best there is with proper set up and room), which is why I suggest them.

The Legacy’s a bit more neutral sound, with superb soundstage and bass as well as mids and highs.  Very dynamic with great detail resolution, which is natural (not hyped like the B&W’s).

The Klipsch also has great soundstage, mids, bass and highs with a live sound that will fill the room.  But, are pretty sensitive to placement.  They are very efficient, and can be driven with tube amps, if you want to consider some of those - probably best with tube amps.

Those would prolly be my top 3 in that budget range - some quite a bit less. 



I have a  hegel H360, very nice but I wanted to upgrade the dac after the h30 came out with full MQA decoding so bought a project pre box s2 digital. I have no doubt there's better, but it's cheap and has a low power version of the latest sabre chipset. Speakers are personal. Consider listening to a pair of Dali Epicon 8, the design is getting long in the tooth, it boogies with the hegel and dealers should deal.

I also vote for the JBL 4367s, they are an all-around amazing speaker.  I had cornwalls before these and the JBLs are better and more refined in every aspect, in my opinion.  I have an Ayon Triton Tube amp I'm using with them and it is a match in heaven.  My experiences with Class D amps was it sounded too flat & harsh if you pushed them very loud.  A typical class AB amp sounded good but these JBLs are very neutral and detailed and I felt they were too "thin" sounding for my liking until I got the Class A 125W/ch tube amp. I am mostly a rocker; classic rock, hard rock and heavy metal and I'm yet to find a speaker that plays Metallica like it's meant to be played until picking up the 4367s.  Good luck!


Did you play with the treble switches before chasing amps? But I can see class D being a no go on these (I use a MC462).


I run subs with my 4367 (but I do with all my speakers) and I have the UHF at -0.5db  I also listen to hard rock/metal (pop and audiophile stuff too). I think what makes them so good with old average recorded music is the great dynamics. Even 80s music with poor dynamics seem to find dynamics when played through the 4367.

The speaker is so detailed in the upper frequencies it does almost sound bright. But in direct comparison with the Revel 228be the 4367 was a touch more down in the treble which surprised me. The 590s, (my surrounds) are much brighter.  




By the way - I have the Hegel H590 integated amp.  I got it to drive my Harbeth 40.2’s because Harbeth uses the Hegel amps to demo their speakers at shows.  It does a great job at controlling the Harbeths, which many amps struggle with - it adds clarity and resolution.  

You can bypass the internal DAC to use an external DAC.  I use the Schitt Yggdasil , which is superb.  I assume you can do the same with the H360.  Which is why I suggested to stay with it for now.  You can upgrade later if you need to.

Do yourself a favor, and don’t even think about it, seek out a pair of pre-owned Revel Salon 2 speakers, and thank me later. Revel caught lighting-in-a-bottle years ago when they first introduced the Revel Salon 2s, and it took years for the other brands just to catch up. The Salon 2s will amaze you.  So, no need to be concerned about the age of their technology. The Salon 2s are a true end-game caliber speaker, and still one of the best values on the planet!!! Now, Salon 2s need lots of power and current, but not necessarily insane power, in order to drive them properly. I would say, at least 300wpc into 8 ohms will do the trick. Start there, and figure out the rest of the system with as high a quality cabling and other components that you can afford, and you’ve got yourself a world-class sounding rig!!!

I love all these amp and speaker recommendations.  It's like recommending a paint job on a ship with a big crack in the hull.  

+100 on the posters suggesting the digital chain drastically needs an upgrade before any other gear should be considered.  Airplay is far from optimized.  A good wired streamer and DAC is absolutely the next step.  It would be challenging to determine what else to do until the source is better optimized. 

Tidal is supposed to be rolling out non-MQA high resolution and so make sure your new digital rig is capable.  

Have you guys A/B-ed air play? I have with tidal connect through a streamer both hardwired and Wi-Fi, air play through the same streamer (both tidal and Apple Music over air play). Also A/B-ed to an optimized Mac and honestly they are all real hard to tell apart with standard 44.1 16 bit files. Yes there are slight differences but meh use what ever is convenient. I think more of it comes down to how the individual steamer and DAC handle the interactions. 

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I absolutely love having large, sensitive speakers. Check out Pure Audio Project speakers (mine are Trio15 Horn1, 96 dB), driven by a terrific 2A3 tube amp from Whammerdyne. Also a tube preamp, octal-pin based. And the crossover is easily tweaked to your preference, if you wish.


You need a biggish room for this system and you will need to buy used to get it for around $20K but it will be astonishingly good.

1) Magnepan 20.7  $9K used

2) PS Audio BHK 300 Mono Blocks $6.5K used

3) PS AUdio BHK Signature Preamp - $3K used.  For an upgrade ARC Ref 6SE around $9K used.

4) Gustard R26 DAC with OCK-2 Master Clock - around $2 K new


TEAC Ud-701n DAC,Pre,Streamer

ATC SCM50 ASL (active)

Puritan 156

Focus Fidelity Room Correction software 

Save your money.....this rocks:

30 hz transparent....plays LOUD....super inexpensive......Costs what a great power cord costs.  Will blow your mind.

Here’s a highly resolving system that will sound like the musicians are in the room with you. Comes in just a hair under $20,000.

Int. Amp: McIntosh ma8900 used - $6,500

Streamer: Teac NT-505 X new - $2,300

Speakers: Martin Logan Summit X used - $5,000

IC cables: Teo Audio Balanced XLR new - $3,000

Speaker cables: take your pick from Nordost, MIT, Shunyata, etc. used - $3,000


The Summit’s will require quite a bit of breathing room (i.e. 4 feet from the back wall and at least 3 feet from a side wall). But the sound will be sublime!

Good luck with your project!


If the best set up is for the music and sound, check out Wavetouch audio system. WT is closest to the original and live music in the world. And it is only real natural sound system regardless of cost. $20k is not enough for whole system but close. And cables can be bought later. Listen to WT live recordings. 

Prelude to a Kiss (Ella Fitzgerald, Stuff Smith) Live recording

Johnny Hodges - Satin Doll, Live recording

Chantal Chamberland - Beautiful Life, Live recording