First HiFi system - questions

Hi all,

I'm putting together my first (real) hifi system and had some questions about power and interconnects. I've been reading for some time now, and have used the search function for all of my unvoiced questions. :) Some of the systems that I read about on this forum are simply incredible - which leaves me with a question or two. I don't want to pay more for a power cord than I did for my amp, pre-amp, and CD player combined. :)

Here's what I'm going to be running: (I got a *killer* deal on the amp, pre, cd, and speakers - so this played a huge role in the decision making process)
Onkyo P-3000R (pre)
Onkyo M-5000R (amp)
Onkyo C-7000R (cd player)
Yamaha PF-800 w/ Denon DL-110 (turntable - an oldie but a goodie IMHO)
Paradigm 75f (speakers)

I'm still undecided on what I want to do for power and interconnects for this system. Elsewhere in my house (home theater, TVs, etc) I run Panamax power conditioners and Tributaries cables (digital and analog). I was thinking of sticking with Tributaries for this new system (power cables, analog and digital ICs, and speaker wires), and maybe trying Furman (elite, not ref) for a conditioner. I had even considered trying Trib's power conditioner. I don't have a dedicated circuit for this setup at this point - but I should by the end of the summer, after we renovate the basement. I've read where some people will plug their amps directly into the wall, some use backup batteries (for their clean sine wave output), some say a power conditioner will limit the capabilities of the amp, etc, etc...

Re: connection of the ref CD player to the pre-amp, should I use the DACs in the pre, or the player? They are the same Burr-Brown PCM1795, according to the spec sheets. If I connected the player via Toslink, or even the funky AES/EBU, perhaps there is less room for loss if the DA conversion happen inside the pre?

Also, for an older TT such as mine, would it benefit me to upgrade the RCA lines coming out of this thing to something a little beefier? They are permanently attached, so it would be a solder job. 

I'd love to get some feedback on how some of the forum veterans would outfit the remainder of a system such as mine. It's not an AR/Pass system with SS cords - haha... but I'm really excited for what this little setup will bring to the ol' man-cave. :)


- justin
Regarding power to your equipment, I would consider running more than one dedicated line. At least one for analog and one for digital. I would also try running the amp without power conditioning prior to purchasing one.  

I would try comparing the DAC in the pre to that in the CD player and decide which serves best. 

I would not change out tonearm cable on TT.

You will need 2 pairs of ICs, one digital cable, and a pair of speaker cables. I suggest you buy used cables at a value ~10% of the cost of the two components to be connected. Not familiar with your equipment so can't make specific recommendation. Would consider using the same ICs between CD player - pre and pre - amp. 
Good advice from mesch. I have a few comments...

Nice looking vintage TT, but don't bother replacing the cable.
Definitely compare the performance of the CDP vs. Dac. But, typically a DAC in a preamp will have a small power supply and may not be as isolated from noise or interference as a standalone CDP/DAC. I confirmed that your CD has a large toroidal transformer.

For cables there are a number of online dealers offering a return policy, such as Signal Cable, Morrow, Cullen, Music Direct, and Audio Advisor.

Justin,  Nice job, it looks like a great starter Hi-Fi system!  I say starter not in any negative way - only that with all things audiophiledom, the journey is part of the fun.  Changing gear, upgrades big and small, all add to the enjoyment of the passion for the appreciation of fine sound.

So, you have some good components, and you need to string them together.  You also have some questions about the digital options.  Here are my two cents.

I'll start with the digital.  As the others have said, have a listen to see which DAC sounds better.  This is a great place to begin and will be a good experiment.  However, your preamp has a feature that your CD player does not have: digital inputs.  A CD player is just part of the way one can listen to digital audio.  Even if you have a monster CD collection, listing to CDs only will dramatically limit your access to digital music.  I urge you to give a streaming option a try.  Tidal is the favorite among the audiophile crowd because they offer a version of their music streaming service that gives you full CD quality streaming as well as a smaller library of high resolution digital streaming.  It's amazing.  So, to that end, you will need to connect a device of some sort to your preamp to stream in that feed.  The Bluesound Node is a nice match to your system in terms of price, quality, and function.  The cost new is $500, and it will connect to your home's internet, and then to your digital input on your preamp.  It has a built in DAC as well, and you can see if it is better to use the preamp's dac or the one in the bluesound.  At any rate, both the CD player and the streamer can be connected to your preamp, either by analog or digital input.  I would absolutely put the streamer in your budget, even if that means you use more basic power cables, or god forbid, the stock ones!  The streamer is going to increase your digital music enjoyment and give you access to some high res audio as well via Tidal.

Now to cables.  Controversial subject!  Some say it's a load of crap, some say it is the biggest night and day difference in the world.  With a starter hifi system, I would get starter cables, but I would look above tributaries, as I regard these as very low end cables.  I think signal cables (speaker and interconnect) are far more important than power cables.

For power cables, I would suggest the entry level offerings by Pangea (from audio advisor), Audioquest, or Shunyata.  Pangea cables can be had for $40-$100 each, Audioquest entry level are similar in price, and Shunyata's entry level is the venom line, which are $100 for a source component and $175 for a power amp.  If budget is tight, I would go Pangea and forget about the rest.  This way you get something better than the junk that comes with the components, but nothing crazy expensive.

For signal cables, I would look at the well established brands with some great track record and well regarded entry level offerings.  The first that comes to mind is Kimber.  Check out their PBJ interconnect.  You'll need one run between the amp and preamp.  If you decide to use the analog output in the CD player, you'll need another run for that as well.  about $95/pr.

I used Audioquest Type 4 speaker cable in my early systems with great results.  Far better than the basic crap out there - basic entry level hifi cable.  Big brands like Nordost, Kimber, and Cardas have similarly priced offerings.  These are 4 of the best speaker cable companies out there with a ton of options from a couple hundred bucks all the way to insane prices.  If you go with Kimber PBJ interconnect, the Kimber 8vs speaker cables would be a nice speaker cable to consider.  Music Direct has a nice selection and good prices.

You will need a digital cable or two depending on how you wire up the system. Kimber makes a $75 digital coaxial cable to connect the CD player to the preamp.  This cable will also work for the Bluesound Node to the preamp.  This would mean you would be using the DAC in the preamp for all digital sources.  So which cables you buy depend on what dac you use.  The PBJ interconnect can take the place of these digital cables if you decide to use the built in DACs in the CD player and the streamer.

A cable budget may look like this:

Pangea Power cables new $200 for 4 components (amp, preamp, CD, streamer)
1 pair of Speaker cables $250
3 pairs of Kimber PBJ RCA Interconnect for 3 components $285

You can always look on Audiogon and Usedcable for better prices on cables as the 2nd hand market of course is going to have the deals. If the budget is not there, I would hold off on the power cables.

As for the turntable, this will be your weakest link.  I agree with the others, and I would not mess with that cable.  If you end up going full steam in to analog and start collection vinyl, you may consider an upgrade in the future on the table.  That said, I am sure you will get some enjoyment out of that right out of the gates.

As for a power conditioner, I would also start way low on this.  Many people like a power amp plugged directly Into a power outlet so as not to constrain dynamics.  Power conditioners have a range of styles and options, and they get expensive quickly.  For your system, I think signal cables and a streamer should have more importance than a power conditioner.  I used a Furman PST-8 ($150 or so) in an earlier incarnation of my system for a good length of time.

Good luck!

BLE Design cables on eBay. Cheap and waaaay better than Pangea. #noaffiliation