I Feel Overwhelmed....Please Help

Hello, all.

I have recently decided to begin upgrading to stereo components around the entry level audiophile range, and move away from home theater stuff. I need help, as I had no idea until I began recently researching modern amps, preamps, integrateds, etc, just how huge the selection there is available.

Currently, I have the following:

Harman Kardon AVR 235 A/V receiver
Front L&R channels:
50 Watts per channel
@ <0.07% THD, 20Hz–20kHz into 8 ohms

Harman Kardon FL 8385 CD Changer

Klipsch KG 5.5 Floorstanding Speakers
frequency response 34Hz-20kHz±3dB
power handling 100 watts maximum continuous (500 watts peak)
sensitivity 98dB @ 1watt/1meter
nominal impedance 8 ohms
tweeter K-85-K 1" (2.54cm) Polymer dome compression driver
high frequency horn 90°x60° Tractrix® Horn
woofer Two K-1023-K 10" (25.4cm) Injected Carbon Graphite cones
Bass reflex via front-mounted port

Grado Labs SR325 Headphones

I use the receiver strictly for stereo music playback with my HK CD changer, or I play .flac or .mp3 files via input to the receiver from my computer sound cards optical digital output.

I want to keep my Klipsch speakers for now, along with my Grado cans, which I love. OTOH, I have not been particularly happy with the two HK components. Although the sound is not totally bad, it is a tad too bright, and it is fatiguing to listen over long periods of time. My room acoustics are not ideal either, with hardwood floors and drywall throughout. The listening rooms dimensions are 14'x13', with speaker placement along and near the corners of the 13' wall. At present, I cannot afford any of the acoustic treatments I see on the various internet sites.

From what I have seen so far, I think I would favor the warm, rich, clear sound of tube components. My Klipsch speakers are highly efficient at 8 ohms, so I should not need higher power, but I don't want to lose bass response either. I have not had much experience listening to higher end audio, but I really loved the sound of a friends McIntosh receiver (late 70's vintage), and another friends 60's vintage tubed HH Scott receiver, both systems paired with matching speaker pairs of the same brands respectively. Those experiences are why I believe I should really consider tube amps.

Would someone please be so kind as to suggest components that would allow me to play CD, CD-R, and digital music files based upon what I stated above? I suppose I could do without the ability to directly play back the digital files, but a CD player is a must have. Oh yeah, my budget is up to $3000, but I want to get as much as I can for the best possible price under that ceiling. Thanks.

Sorry your forray into live auditioning wasn't quite to your expectations... Selling or stepping up a buyer is what salesman do.

In my area there is scant little 'customer friendly' audiophile outlets. Either they are incredibly arrogant & condescending to the customer or completely inflexible on price, or limit what one can preview in already setup systems. There is one outlet which is pretty good but is now just too far to visit.

Consequently, I've bought almost every piece in my system without audition beforehand. I've done a few system itterations as well during the course of the past eight years. The past five, intently. Given my own exp. I'd say doing the "Audiogone buy & try shuffle" is a worthwhile endeavor, provided good sense and a trust your gut attitude is in place up front. That and some goals of what you would like to wind up with in the end.

Personally, I'm here for the music and not a routine gear hound... moving in & out pieces just to try on for size. Which ever way you go, and there really is no wrong way...just longer and shorter ways... buying without trying first can and is an option.

For instance, the Rega Apollo which is in your price range new, could be supplanted for the Saturn, used. the Jolita amp new could also be stepped up to another level there or with another lable, if bought used. Depending upon popularity and price points, flipping the component if it's not your preff, is most viable then.

On the previewed compnents list I still have? Just two, my Sony CDP & my Thor preamp. The VSA VR 4JRs are gone... and what has replaced everything is far better... I never heard the Dodd mono blocks before buying 'em, or the Sonata IIIs or the Bel Canto DAC 3, or the Elrod pc, Halley PLC, or some of the cabling I now own, either. I am however very, very pleased with it all and to the point, am not considering my 'next' whatever purchase. Which IMO is where you are satisfied. No longer in the hunt, so to speak. that is a real relief too.

Being very honest here, what I got in my living room now is far better than what I have heard at several high end joints in my area. 90% of which was bought 'on the come' so to speak.

That Simm audio system got your attention... then it's evident that the CDP in that rig put out a fine enough signal for you? Maybe start there and move on down the line. Adding what you can as you can.

that's exactly why I said, "Slow down".

or just get an Apollo or Saturn here online along with a Jolita amp you like.... and use the Cable Co,. to try without buying, some ICs & PCs.

Some gear makers offer a 30 day in home trial with a money back guarantee! So there's another option.

Read the rags... ask the ones here who have bought loads of stuff what they think about a thing, and try to connect with those whose tastes correspond to your own.

.... and forget about prefection... as there is nothing perfect on this rock. you'll not go far wrong, if at all.

The only issue I see as a real problem for a person putting together a high end system is their own self... their ego in fact.

Buying without trying first can and does work... if you're smart and paitient. were it not for Audiogone and some other manufacturers I've met because of Audiogone, I'd never ever have been able to have in place a system on the level I own now.
"Being very honest here, what I got in my living room now is far better than what I have heard at several high end joints in my area. 90% of which was bought 'on the come' so to speak."

Amen brother ! And it isn't that tough to do !

"In my area there is scant little 'customer friendly' audiophile outlets. Either they are incredibly arrogant & condescending to the customer or completely inflexible on price, or limit what one can preview in already setup systems."

Doncha just love west central Florida for audio ?

Chap Cat;
"He had no tube gear in stock, which was a major disappointment. He advised that the amps that I would audition would smoke the tube competition in their price range."

It has been my experience that shops are either pro tube or pro SS . While some may carry both they usually lean toward only one . It will be evident in the equipment that they have setup for demo's . A good question to ask before going there for an audition . If you are required to make an appointment... be very specific about what you want to hear .

Good luck .
I agree with some of the above about giving strong consideration to going vintage. If you take your time you can build a very nice system for well under your budget. That is what I have had to do and am very happy with the results. Those that have heard my system have commented that they love my system and that they should have saved their money and gone that route. I have less than $2000 in my complete system which includes 2 TT.

Going vintage requires patience and lots of footwork, but you will be amazed what you will find if you persist.

What I have done with vintage is buy what you find that is better than what you currently have, listen to it for a while until you find something better and sell your previous gear (usually for a profit). If I took the profit into consideration, I actually probably have closer to $800 in my system, but it did take considerable time, but the hunt is part of the fun for me. I am currently very satified with where I am and don't look for gear like I used to. Now my focus is directed on building a music collection that I love.

Just a thought!
Wwwrecords has it right. You can remove most of the anxiety from this whole process by just buying used product judiciously and stair-stepping your way up. It is entirely possible to make money on these exchanges but just avoiding a loss is victory enough.
The definition of vintage will vary from person to person but I would say that any product with a proven track record that has reached the bottom of its depreciation curve qualifies nicely. With products that fit this description, you would be hard pressed to lose money. With new product you can be certain of losing.
The amplifiers I mentioned above (Rowland Model 1 and Ayre V-3) are near classics which will hold their value indefinitely while providing you with a performance level and reliability quotient you are unlikely to find in new Chinese product at anywhere near the price. I'm sure there are many others. I chose these examples because I'm familiar with them.
If you want tubes in the chain, it would be better to have them in the preamp than in the amp for numerous reasons.
You can also go for a tubed CDP although I still maintain you will be shorting yourself by passing on the OPPO 980H.
It provides a big advantage when limited funds are available.
If you bought either amp I named, and the OPPO, you would have enough money left over for a used Modwright SWL 9.0 SE.
and some good wires. The Monster stuff isn't going to play at this level.
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