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.
I have made my purchase! After spending ALL of my free time over the last week perusing the internet for information and reviews, reading Stereophile and The Absolute Sound, I have purchased the following through Underwood HiFi:

JoLida JD302BRC Int Amp, new, stock
JoLida JD100 CDP, with level one mod
Wireworld Equinox 5² Interconnects
Wireworld Oasis 5² Speaker Cables

Reasons I decided on this system:

1. I just really wanted to try out a tubed amp.

I was very impressed by Wally Liederman. After describing my budget, and what components I was replacing and keeping, I told him I was leaning toward the JoLida JD1502RC Hybrid, or the JD502BRC, paired with the JD100 CDP. I told him how much I liked the sound of the vintage Scott amps when I was younger. I told him that I had listened to the SimAudio, Creek and PS Audio amps, and although impressed with their clarity, detail and soundstage, it was not the sound I was looking for. He could have led me to any of a good number of other amps that he carries, but he immediately recommended that I instead seriously consider the JoLida JD302BRC. He said he was very familiar with my Klipsch speakers model, and that this pairing would be much better than the other two, as it would better limit the brightness of the horn tweeter, and the fifty watt power output would be more than enough. He said the CD player would also be a fine match.

I also inquired about modding the two pieces. After the pricing was done including the level one modding, it was just outside my budget, and would not allow me to purchase a new rack for the new system. I said lets just go with modding the amp. He immediately recommended that I instead have the CDP modded if one or the other. It would be advantageous in that I should want the best possible source signal as the highest priority. If necessary, I could tube roll later with the amp. This made great sense to me.

2. I wanted to buy new for my first system.

Because of the initial cash outlay, having the piece of mind that comes with that 2 year warranty was a major factor.

3. I wanted modern components.

I strongly considered going the vintage H.H. Scott route, and it would have likely saved a good amount of money. However, I just balked at having something that old for my first foray above mid-fi, even if it did still play well or was rebuilt. Anyway, I still may purchase a Scott amp just for the pleasure of owning it in the not too distant future.

4. Highest quality at it's price point.

I had a very hard time finding negative reviews of this amp or CDP. It seemed every review basically said the same thing, "Is it the best sounding amp? No. Is it the best bang for the buck above the mid-fi level for new components? Yes." The CDP was also very well liked by reviewers and owner comments that I read.

I also read many positive comments on Wally Leiderman and Underwood HiFi.

I should have it here in a week or two.
Walter knows what he is talking about.....one of the good guys. I bought my Dodd preamp from Walter and couldn't be happier with the service . Glad to hear that you are finally going to get your system that you craved after.......however , I think you jump the gun.......a little early but I get that way sometimes myself. Warranty is always a good thing and Walter's generous when you decide to trade-in for new toys.
I will send you something to read tonight (on the way from work now).

Enjoy new toys and tell us if the Santa was good to you this year.........or not.

Congrats Chaps on your new system. How long till you take delivery? I had a 1301 hybrid for a short time and spent extensive time listening to a friends 502. I think you will enjoy it.

Post your thoughts and impressions when you have listened for a while.


congratulations! There's no right or wrong here really. Just faster and slower.

Many tend to agree it all starts up front with the signal producer or source. Walter's dead on there. I was worried for a while.

The 'no' rack situation is too bad... but it's just for a bit. I hope you do your homework there too. it's a real aspect/portion of a system that truly does impact the sound. it took me a long time to come around on that topic too. There used to be a whole lot of "yeah, sure!" in me about so many things audio which just didn't seem to be real additive items... like wires, power conditioning, isolation and yeah, racks too.

One note you'll find here and elswhere when perusing various topics.... "Everything makes a difference."

...and it does. One of the very best moves I made to my system was adding a substantial component rack and sure wish I had done it sooner once I heard the after effects.

Until it's time for investing in a rack, there's plenty of short money solutions for isolation.... and that spinning tube CDP should have some nice footers gotten for it. there's tons of 'em out there but I'm sort of liking a cuople types.... Bright Star nodes, and Herbies Audio labs iso cups... his tube rings BTW really do work well and aid imaging... all the above items are like from $5 - $30 ea. and can be bought as you go .... herbie's also offers a 90 day in home trial of all his products. Cheap... lot's of time for audition... and a money back guarantee.... I'd call that a slam dunk for solid inexpensive gains in performance.

I'm glad you got with Walter in the end and you're on your way! Add another few weeks to the projected waiting time for the gear to run in as well, though I'd say it'll all be ready or very close to it in 150 - 300 hrs... perhaps less but I'd not get my hopes up.

I just want to thank all you fine folks that advised me over the past week. I look forward to sharing my viewpoints in the future, and also look forward to reading yours.

I know many of you recommended taking it slow, and that was good advice. The problem I had was that I had little chance of actually auditioning any HS amps in my region. Since I already liked that sound, I just felt I had to try it out. If I don't like it, then I will learn from it and sell it to someone else who might enjoy it.

I really believe I have made a good choice based on my circumstances.

BTW, I came in at $800 under budget, so I do indeed still have enough left to look at racks. I am a pretty fair woodworker, and have the tools. I may look for a good plan and just build one, or study others and come up with my own plan.