Does an upgrade make sense?

I may be coming down with the upgrade bug, and I’m open to suggestions. I’m quite happy with what I have—excellent imaging, musicality, dynamics. Maybe I could use a little more depth (left right is fine and speakers truly disappear), and maybe a touch more dynamics.

Almost everything I listen to is Qobuz streaming or hi res and flac files from a NAS (hard drive). My system:

Cambridge 851 Streamer/DAC

Bel Canto Pre5

Bel Canto Ref 500 monoblocks

Dali Mentor 6 floorstanders

Everything sits on maple plinths, Gaia iiis, or pucks.

Cabling is mid range Morrows. I previously had Kimber KS1116s but sold them as the Morrows sounded just as good, on the current set up.

What do I need to get more of everything? Speakers? DAC, Streamer? Amp?


Given that you’re mostly happy with the sound now and what you’re looking for, I’d absolutely add a couple subs. Your speakers only go down to 36Hz (-3dB) so you’ll definitely get a better/deeper bass foundation, but you’ll also get an even more expended 3D soundstage and more solid and dynamic imaging within it. The improvements on offer here are not small. I recommend a pair of SVS SB1000 Pro subs because they’re small (about 13” square), will get you down to an honest 20Hz (-3dB), include software so you can dial in the subs from your listening chair with your phone (which is really nice), and a pair only costs as little as $1149 depending on finish. Plus they offer a completely risk-free, 45-day trial (including shipping both ways) so if they don’t work out for some reason just return them, so why not??? You can pay more and get more, but you may well find these are all you need for a significant performance boost on many levels. This one’s a no brainer to me.

Hope this helps, and best of luck.

I will second the suggestion of dual subwoofers. I did this and it was a great improvement and really opened up and extended the lower frequencies. I don't like SVS subwoofers (long story) but REL and Rythmik are solid choices for audio. It can be tricky adjusting subs to your room, but when it's done well it's hard to listen without them.

In general, it looks like your system is fairly well balanced. But the streamer / DAC seems likely to be holding the rest of your equipment back a bit. @soix brings up one good possibility.

One of the great things about high end audio, is there is no limit to improvement. Typically I get to a level I am happy with and enjoy until the bug strikes, and then I slowly upgrade to the next level. Sounds like you may be there.

Typically the sequence is speakers, preamp, amp, sources. If you do this… do lots of auditioning before purchase. Invest no less than 2x.

But if I were you, I think you can get lots more out of what you have by upgrading your streamer and DAC to the next level first. This could bring you a good boost and enjoyment before rolling up your sleeves and upgrading the rest. You would enjoy more dynamics, detail, impact. I would recommend looking for a separate streamer and DAC.

To get a feel for what to invest, I would look at the cost of your amps and preamp and plan to spend about 2x what the average cost of those functions. So, if they were around $2K, then look to invest $4K in a DAC… then $4K in a streamer.

This sets you up to later do the speakers… which should be done with lots of research, as changing those will likely change the sound of your system significantly. Lots of auditioning before purchase.

I can't tell from looking at your system's photos, but you might want to re-address your set up to make sure you have optimized your system's potential. It looks like your speakers are on the 'long wall' and it looks like your speakers are a bit closer to the wall behind them. If possible in your room, set up on the short wall firing down the length of the room will give you a fuller sound, more pleasing to most folks. As presently set up now another foot out from the wall could give you a bit more sense of 'air' and depth (you have to adjust your listening chair as well). 

But if all that is moot, and you decide to go with some subs, consider whether or not you will use the subs with a crossover, or if you will drive your mains full range with the subs just additive in the lowest range. FWIW I hate crossovers.

Thanks all. Good ideas to chew on. The speakers are actually out further from the wall than in the pics.  About 30 inches from the rear of the cabinet to the wall. The room is a huge finished basement, roughly 36’ square. So there really is no short wall available. My lil oration is I can’t move my chair back any further so the speakers can’t come out any further.  But I’ll think about a total redo of the room. 

Subs are a good suggestion too. I’ve had a single sub in the past when using an AVR as a preamp. I don’t feel a lack of bass but I understand what they can do to free up my speakers.  But I don’t like crossovers either. 

in terms of streamer and DAC, if I were to go separated, DAC first?


Yes. I would go DAC first. That is going to have a bigger impact on the tonal balance. The streamer on level of detail and noise level. Of course they are interrelated. But DAC definitely.

+1 for DAC first.  Then Roon ... I love it and it takes your streaming experience and music discovery to a whole other level.

I may be coming down with the upgrade bug, and I’m open to suggestions. I’m quite happy with what I have—excellent imaging, musicality, dynamics.

Listen to yourself first....😊


I recommend no upgrading before optimizing mechanical and electrical and especially acoustical embeddings...

Dac upgrade if you are happy with your actual dac will be a marginal upgrade compared to what i suggested...

Audiophile experience is more about the embeddings controls than about upgrading a component if you are happy with your actual synergy...

Dont upgrade by changing a piece ; improve all the system/room ... Electrical noise floor decrease controls, vibrations controls for components and acoustical better controls of the speakers room relation ..

Instead of nourishing the upgrading virus disease and the gear purchase spree i will encourage learning about mechanical electrical and acoustical control FIRST and LAST ... 😊

There will be always someone after the enumeration of your piece component to point to some lack that can be compensate by buying a new gear component, preferably the gear the adviser like 😁... If you are happy it is an error to go after an upgrade advice... learn about acoustics, vibration controls and electrical noise floor... Dont buy anything BEFORE ...


Because you will end with more upgrading tentations and less taste for the hard  knowledge to gain  about the fundamentals which are not in the manual user of a new piece of gear at all... 😁😊

It is my advice for all...

I don’t feel a lack of bass but I understand what they can do to free up my speakers.  But I don’t like crossovers either. 

Understood, but subs will do much more than just add bass, and as I mentioned earlier your entire soundstage will expand in all directions and imaging will also improve significantly obviously as will overall dynamics — all of which you were looking to improve as I recall.  It’s one of those things that once you hear your system with a couple dialed-in subs you won’t wanna listen without them anymore because everything shrinks down and becomes less dynamic.  Last, the SVS subs can be run with speaker-level inputs so no crossover involved if that’s your preference, but you can try it both ways to see which you ultimately prefer.  Anyway, just wanted to fill in a little more info in case it’s helpful. 

Subs are rarely a bad idea, and are usually well received.  

It looks like you've picked most of the low hanging fruit, but assuming your speakers are well designed with good quality drivers, but built to a price point, it's very possible the crossover components are ripe for an upgrade.  Upgrading the caps and cheap cast resistors to non-inductive wire wound types can be fairly easy, fairly cheap, and fairly audible.  It won't change the overall character of the speaker, but could definitely improve clarity (and things associated with soundstage, etc.)


Assuming you've done what you can, or are willing, to address room acoustic then I also would say a DAC should be your next consideration. And I'd look at spending as much as you can, I don't think a <$1000 DAC is going to make much difference but maybe some used options. 

FWIW, drill down your set up first. You can't really judge the contributions for a proposed DAC until you have that right (unless you want to build your entire system around a DAC, which sounds dumb to me). Re set up, ultimately what I would do if I had a room that size would be to drive the mains full range and set up two subs placed to smooth out the bass (usually where you are sitting) caused by nulls. If I wanted to fill the room with sound on the cheap, I'd just set up an old fashioned Hafler  system (using 2 separate satellites and a attenuator, and if you are semi anal about your main systems sound a seperate amp) There are so many trade offs.............:-)

 we have been selling dali loudspeakers for over 20 years 


personally we would recommend upgrading to the newer Dali Rubicons


the mentor series was a good product but lacked the magic of the more expensive helicons and the newer rubicons sounded even better then the older series

the rubicons are far better in every way.

the rest of your system is comprised of solid components.

Dave and Troy

audio Intellect NJ.

Dali dealers

LOL all good advice and pulling me in so many directions. I’m thinking I’d update speakers before bringing in subs. Have thought of the Rubicons—I got the Mentors because I couldn’t afford the Epicons at the time. I also see that my DAC is long in the tooth. I’ve done a lot around vibration control and have upgraded power cables. Bottom line— I’m thinking DAC or speakers. More bang for the buck with a new DAC I think. I’d want balanced outputs. What do you recommend $3000 or so, used is fine.

Today I think even one of those Bowers & Wilkins DB3D can be perhaps one of the most successful additions to nearly any system with monitor speakers, because it's extremely tight, fast and powerful. I do consider this model the most coherent with nearly any monitor speakers. You are adding to your 1kw another 1kw into the game. Not sure about budget, but one of them would already change game for starters. 

Luv your belz they're real deal.

I suggest you look to find a company who rents Herman Miller panels in your area. Try setting up a few of them to isolate your listening space. I'm a custom furniture maker and am focusing on bespoke audio cabinets and attractive isolation panels. If this approach makes sense, feel free to reach out to me. My firm ( will be formally launching online before the end of the year.

Like your clothes, you can change every single part of your system from source to speakers and everything in between.  It helps to know what exactly it is that currently dissatisfies you.  If you don’t like the way your shirt looks on you in the mirror, changing your socks, while potentially an improvement in itself, won’t solve anything 

  And then there is system synergy.  Adding a really fabulous sport coat may show up the inadequacy of the cargo pants.  Getting a killer DAC , for example, that is leagues above the the rest of the system will be bound to trigger the desire to bring everything else up to snuff.  This may be a rabbit hole.  Now plunging into that hole can be fun, obsessive, expensive, frustrating, sometimes all at the same time.  We all need hobbies, but be aware of the pitfalls before you leap.

  It helps to know the end point.  You sound content but bored with your present system.  It is ok to want to make a change, but have an idea of why before you leap

Exactly... Well said in one sentence...

It helps to know the end point.  You sound content but bored with your present system.  It is ok to want to make a change, but have an idea of why before you leap

It is useless and illusory to make an upgrade if we dont know exactly why and how...

And even in this case we must learn how to minimally embed our system before...


A 36'x36' square room is your biggest issue to tackle. Not sure what the solution is but this will always be a tough room to get maximum audio quality in. Definitely work on any acoustic treatment recommendations first before moving on to equipment upgrades. Seeking the help of an acoustic professional would be your best investment at this point IMO. 

Maybe I could use a little more depth (left right is fine and speakers truly disappear), and maybe a touch more dynamics.

@mahgister @mahler123 These are a couple specific things the OP said he’s looking to improve.

He said that he is happy first...and he called it the upgrade BUG...😁

I may be coming down with the upgrade bug, and I’m open to suggestions. I’m quite happy with what I have—excellent imaging, musicality, dynamics.

Then he added MAYBE...

Maybe I could use a little more depth (left right is fine and speakers truly disappear), and maybe a touch more dynamics.

The word choice "Maybe" reflected an uncertainty from someone who throw a fishline dreaming an upgrade from a satisfying situation anyway...

That explain my advices of caution and my advice about SYNERGY and the triple EMBEDDINGS controls as more fundamental that any unnecessary or marginal upgrade because they must be investigated BEFORE any upgrade race when the customer does not even know about the necessity of an upgrade himself ...

Upgrade is if not a disease symptom an error which come to the detriment of learning about these acoustical, mechanical and electrical embeddings BEFORE upgrading ... especially when it seems not so necessary for the person to begin with as his choice of words indicate clearly..

@mahgister @mahler123 These are a couple specific things the OP said he’s looking to improve.


"I’m quite happy with what I have"

NOOOOOO, buy more content, a better coffee maker, wine cooler, better wine, other worthless life improving gizmos!

If you visit a friend, and come home every time thinking, his system is much better than mine, well, then you’ve got work to do. Let's be clear, different is not better.

I’m going to ask for consideration of another perspective re subs. I lived with two subs for more than 20 years (double Dahlquist DQ1Ws with DQ10’s). The subs added a lot in terms of dynamic range and weight, but always compromised the imaging, especially in terms of depth. The complexity of the setup was also leading to issues, with more things to go wrong. When I changed my speakers (to ATC’s, I found I never missed the lowest frequencies as the image and sound was more coherent.

 I would suggest your streaming setup is the area most profitably improved. Finding a used Aurender N10 if you want a single box or else an Aurender N150 combined with one of the Yggdrasils would be nice.

Leave it alone and enjoy the music. You'll be miles ahead of 90% of the people on this forum.

Redo the room. If the ceiling is low (hope it's not), use GIK diffusor/absorption. 36' long by 25 wide. Study up on ideal wall construction. Stop fighting this if you will be in the home for a while. Bring in a EQUI-TECH balanced power wall unit and run a couple of dedicated lines. Accomplish this and you can begin to consider components. Believe me, quiet power gives something no component can deliver.

It is the reason why i never go on with sub after one trial to do so...

It is way more complex that it is presented by sellers and costly if we want to do it right...

I use another road...

I improved my small active box speakers with a rear porthole with a bundle of TUNED (different lenght and diameter) of straws put inside it...

I go from 80 hertz in specs to 50... With no downside and a very clear punch bass.. No boominess..

Each speakers is an Helmholtz resonators then we can take advantage of this...No sellers of speakers will sell them with this advice or with tubes going outside of them like a decapitated bouquet of flowers ... 😊

With some rearrangement of furnishing etc in the room you may be able to create more of a long side and a short side. Place speakers so they fire along the long side of the room. Let the speakers breathe - have space on all sides, and work with exact toe-in and positioning. Next, consider a turntable and phono preamp. If you do need subs, consider four of them, just for the lowest bass, with less crossover problems (e g Audiokinesis Swarm). Personally I gave up on subs after some years with a Velodyne DD18, replacing two REL Strata, and others. I like better bass but not the solid-state and equalized type of sound.

You already know this but the sound stage depth will be limited by how far your speakers are from the wall.  Since you can't move them further away from the front wall  I suggest removing the TV and filling the space with a diffuser.  This will effectively "move the wall back" a bit.  Also, swapping the glass front pictures with something non-reflective will also help.  IMO this is the best upgrade you can make at this point.  Adding better/more expensive gear will have the benefits compromised by the room not being optimized.


I totally agree with the addition of a pair of subs.  Bass traps really help in a two channel system.  My soundstage became much cleaner after adding mine.  Good luck and cheers.

Chord DAC's are quite good and there are a few at various prices that should be fine for your budget range. 

Since you can't move them further away from the front wall  I suggest removing the TV and filling the space with a diffuser.  This will effectively "move the wall back" a bit.

If this isn’t possible you should at least throw a blanket over the TV when listening that’ll also help quite a bit and very simple/easy to do. 

Ha! Me too! But I may have the cure for you. Change the way you listen; change something in the room, change the positioning of your equipment. Change before you buy anything. Read "Get Better Sound" and see if there’s anything in there that might trigger an idea. Call the author; he answers the phone.

I got this epiphany from my auto mechanic (side story at end). But the fact is if you listen differently, at a new time or without glasses and reading material or iphone/ipad present, you might hear differently and hear more. Same for other minor changes.

Its a human factor that the familiar becomes mundane. We must work to appreciate what’s in front of us (not going down the marriage tunnel).

Side story: I was speaking with my auto mechanic and he told me that most of the upgrades he does really never fully satisfy the customer prone to upgrading; just makes them want more. After a month they want another 5% and spend big chasing it.

His advice was don’t drive your car as much or drive differently. I was unable to drive my car for a month because of an injury. When I got back in I was surprised at how fast it felt, the handling better than I remember. This also works if I change the way I drive; no radio, windows down, no AC (at night). It just feels different; more engaging, less mundane / less familiar.

All of the above intended kindly, please forgive my humor if you don’t agree.

Lol. For critical listening I have thrown blankets over the tv. Very slight difference but it makes me feel like I’m doing something. 

+1 @socalml528 

I have an original 1917 Victrola sitting on top of one of my speakers.

Any time I feel as though my rig is not performing up to par, I check temps with an infrared gun.  Visually inspect.  Turn it all off.

Go away and come back next day and put a 78 on the 'ol Victrola.  Damn this thing plays loud.  Listen to a side, goes by quick.  Having warmed up the rig for an hour or so.  I play something I'm very fond of. OMG this rig sounds fabulous!!

Go down to Goodwill or some other "store" of the same ilk and purchase a POS cassette "boom-box"  the smaller and cheaper the better, get a cassette to go with it.  Maybe some nice shrill bag-pipe music is in order here.  Listen to it for a nice little session.  You get the drift.

You'll forget about upgrading.  The mind is a very strange place to live. You're welcome.




If you like the DALI house sound, it's very possible that upgrading your speakers may scratch your upgrade itch. I have the Epicon 6's and love them. Even so, I use a pair of Rythmik 12" sealed subs to get the very low end. It makes a difference, and I fully agree with @soix regarding the improvements in soundstage and imaging. But echoing others, the point of diminishing returns is a deeply personal one. 

+1 @socalml528 as well... just listening with eyes closed vs. open, light levels, etc., make a huge difference; by removing some senses from the listening experience, you improve the sense of hearing.

just listening with eyes closed vs. open, light levels, etc., make a huge difference

@sfgak +1. A long time ago I saw a Wilson Audio demo with BAT electronics at a show where David Wilson played a Sting song with full band live in concert, and he turned the lights down and it made a huge difference and was pretty incredible — and I didn’t even like Wilson speakers back then (it was some Watt Puppy version BTW). As soon as I got home I ordered the CD and I still never listen to that song with the lights on ever because it’s just a totally different experience. I find live recordings in general benefit more from low lighting than studio recordings, at least in my experience. BTW, if anyone’s interested in the track I’m talking about it’s “Fragile” from Sting’s Still be Love in the World CD released in 2001. In my system the entire stage and performers like four feet above my speakers and crowd noise like individual whistles and screams come from all around and way outside the speakers, and it really produces the feeling and experience of being in a stadium at a live concert. Really fun. FWIW.

@soix Yeah, I forget which live jazz album I was listening to, but I got really annoyed at the table to the left of me making too much noise during the performance -- jostling and whispering... A great reminder of a great soundstage...

Here is a path that will tie you up for a bit. The New Cambridge Audio CXN V2 is Roon Ready.  explore upgrading to that and firing up a Roon trial and running the core on a PC or desktop you might have on the network.  At this point you are not testing SQ but all the other features ROON environment provides, like blending your Local files with Qobuz offerings and all the other meta data features.    Then if that is all good then get a real audio quality host of the Roon core like a SGC ST i5.  Then you can compare the SQ of Roon to what the CXN V2 can do with Roon out of the loop. 

All the above 😉, add getting ears cleaned!  Listening late at night in dark environment, clearing the mind of distractions/thoughts.  Listening as a skill vs. a passive activity.  Trying a new artist or genre of music.  All good things to try.

Hey, I love the idea of two subs. Sealed box only. I’m not really worried about how low they go but more on where they will be in the room. I’m thinking 2 REL T9i because they are small but use the Speakon connections ( wired into your amps dmspeaker output. If your amps a class D do not connect the black wire to the speaker terminal. Attach it to a screw on the chassis instead. I see you have a 65” piece of glass in the middle. Just so you know the REL subs have a LFE input for home theater too. Dali speakers are usually not that heavy. So on the days you really want to enjoy the musi pull your speakers out into the room. You will be amazed at the sound. Last but definitely not least you need to treat the room. It will probably be the biggest sound impact for your money. Even free standing absorbers or diffusers at the first reflection points will really deepen the sound stage. I hope this helps. 

Another vote for looking at getting a better DAC and then maybe a Subwoofer or two. I have one SVS SB 2000Pro one the wall behind my listening position. My speakers are 8’ in front of me and the subwoofer is about 7’ behind and it blends in so well that I will not be adding a second to the system.  I got lucky, because most rooms need at least a pair to get smooth even bass.

All the best.

Within your budget ($3,000), you’ll have a lot of choices in the used market.

Since you appear to only stream your music, you probably don’t need a DSD-capable DAC.

There are a lot of used high end DACs on the market that only go to 24bit/192kHz as their owners upgrade to DSD. So there are some great bargains to be had from companies such as EMM Labs, Bricasti, dCS, Theta Digital, etc.

If you do want a DSD-capable DAC, then a Denafrips Venus II mated to the Denafrips Iris DDC, is a killer DAC combination.

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I would start with noise/jitter management.

Something like a Puritan 156 for the electrical noise.

At least one audio ethernet switch (I use 3) 

Adding an ethernet filter like the Network Acoustics, or using an ethernet cable with a filter like the SOtM.

I have found using a DDC to use an input other than USB diminishes digital noise.

Then you can upgrade your gear and appreciate the benefits.

Yep, some RELs will make a big difference in both the bottom end and size of sound stage.  

+1 to Puritan 156 which made signifact improvement on my system at reasonable cost.


The next step is to try nice subwoofers like Rel.


i enjoy pair of Rel 31s but it is not cheap.



Thanks all. First thing I’m going to do is look into a Puritan 156. And tweaking my room set up. I have a solid, dead center image and excellent side to side sound staging as is — can I get more depth? I need to hear my system without the tv and components between the speakers. Lots of work lies ahead. Thanks again for all the advice. 


I agree with moving on to separates from your Cambridge 851.

Have 700 hours on my Puritan 156 with Puritan Ultimate power cable. A purchase that is well worth the cost.

Curious what you have under your electronics? I have Black Ravioli Pads and Big Pads, and Stack Audio Auva EQ.

Streaming by wifi or ethernet cable? Power cables?