Spending a month's salary

I don't have much experience as an audiophile. Based on my research, the bulk of spend should be on fine speakers. I have $20k to invest in either a superior AMP, DAC or pair of speakers. What to do?

My room is on the smaller side, listening position is about 7-8ft from the speakers. I suppose bookshelf speakers are appropriate. Right side speaker is very close to side wall <1ft. Left side is open to 6-8ft. Back wall is about 10 ft from listening position. Speakers sit about 3ft from front wall.

My current setup:

Revel 106 speakers

Parasound P6 pre and A21+ amp

Node 130 streamer w/ upgraded Teddy PS

AQ cable loom.

I prefer bookshelfs given my room. Separates are ideal, though I would like to consider an all in one like a Boulder 866.

Which component is most important. I'm not looking to have an unbalanced system. Eg. $15k speakers and a $500 DAC.

Appreciate any insight.




Before you pivot toward equipment have you taken measurements of your room? The room contributes a LOT toward what you are hearing and might be the best upgrade you could make. Looking at your gear I think the weakest link is the DAC inside your NODE. I would keep the NODE and everything else but look at maybe auditioning a new DAC. I have a NODE and when I upgraded to a Sony Signature DAC that has a DSD remastering engine it was a big improvement. BUT the room should be measured and dialed in first. Here is a recent measurement of my room as an example. Notice that the measurements are good even before the use of DSP, room treatments were key to get it the way I wanted:

Split the $ three ways…better dac, speakers / stands ( Soundachor grade ) and asymmetrical room treatments….

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@tee_dee I’d definitely be looking at better speakers and a better DAC and quality streamer/server solution. I don’t see you listing any vinyl rig there, so I’ll assume you are intending this to be a purely digital setup. If so, I’ll strongly recommend the following, which would fall under your budget.

T+A DAC 200 - I’ve posted about this a lot in the forums and continue to testify that I think it’s the best DAC under $15K. A really great video review of it was just posted here: https://youtu.be/VKqMzj75FwU, and there has been a bit of chatter about it on the forums. Best of all, it as a great preamp and analog stage so you can hook it up direct to your A21+ and I’ll bet the preamp will outdo your P6.

Aurender N200 - In my opinion, the best value for your money towards a digital source. Again, lots of chatter on the forums on this, just search for it.

Scansonic MB-2.5B - These are compact floorstanders that do well in smaller rooms because of their small footprint and the fact that they are bottom ported, but they will also scale to medium to large rooms without hesitation. They are a trickle down of the engineering and design of much costlier Raidho speakers, and both are owned by the same parent company. They play much bigger than many floorstanders double their size, and they won’t take any more room than a bookshelf on a stand. In my opinion, though the real walnut veneer option runs $1K more, it looks way more premium in real life vs the white or black satin finish. 

With any remaining funds, should you really want to spend the full $20K, I would look into a quality power distributor or conditioner, room treatments, or cabling.

I am a dealer for T+A, Aurender and Scansonic and would be happy to answer questions if you want to PM me, but a number of folks on the forum can likely share their thoughts as well.



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@tee_dee  I'll just throw this in as food for thought. Look at a used Hegel H590 for a terrific integrated amp with a world class DAC. Money raised by selling the Parasound equipment means not a huge whole in your budget. Then in the used market again for a pair of Acoustic Zen Crescendo Mark ll speakers. You should be able to do the whole system with some money left over. It just a thought, but will give you a great sounding system.

Thanks for the replies. 

@vonhelmholtz $20 is the budget. I haven’t accounted for any cash raised from selling my current set up. 

I’m happy with the amp but I know that balancing the level of components is important.  It wouldn’t be wise to buy $20k speakers and power it with a low/mid range amp and pre. 

I stream so no vinyl here. 

First of all (please don’t take offense) refer to your speakers as "standmounts" not "bookshelfs" its not 1983! Have you demoed the Boulder 866? The mentioned Hegel could be a sideways move when compared to your current Parasound separates. Have you considered the newer Parasound JC 5 power amp? Keep your P6 preamp then upgrade your DAC/Speakers.

I have a $6K DAC and do most of my listening on a $200 balanced one.  

There's that. 

You are correct in concentrating on speakers you like, that you can afford to drive. The room is just as important for perceived SQ.


Thanks, I probably should have asked if this is an installment, or for the full system.

DAC/preamp combination makes sense. Suggestions above allow you to avoid the extra expense of needing a Roon server. Next, or concurrently speakers.  Many consider the speakers to be a first purchase around which you build your system. If time isn’t an issue, the used market for the above equipment makes sense. Then sell equipment and evaluate your needs.

Audition, audition, audition as much as you can.  If you are close to Chicago, they got the show coming up in April.  You are looking for something for your ears that you like.  You have mentioned a smaller room, so where you are listening, see if they can do a similar set up to what you have, as to a room size.  I have had places move speakers and stand mounts are an easy move.  If they wine about doing this, go somewhere else.  It can be a good indicator that they are or aren't worth dealing with.  As mentioned, hi-fi mixed with mid-fi you may not get to where you are wanting to go.  The speakers have to match the amp.  Some brands to consider and look that I have really liked in stand mount are:  Harbeth, Sonus Faber, various LS35A manufacturers.  Another consideration would be a pair of Meridian speakers, these are speaker and amp as one.  While not a true stand mount, they have a similar floor profile.  Still love my old reliable JBL's.  To me everything has a signature sound and from there match to an amp/components, as mentioned by @vonhelmholtz  

Another point to make.  I used to sell and found myself missing what I had.  While very happy with the new, there is still a signature that makes each great design especially wonderful.  I have become an accumulator.  My wife hates it but, oh well.  You might find you really miss what you had. 

Lastly, there are some that grow a system around an amp and find speakers to match.  For example, smaller rooms are great for a low wattage SET amp with high efficiency speakers, such as Zu.  You have much work and fun ahead of you. 

Your question is which first… definitely speakers.

@hoosierinohio …”audition…”



You want speakers that really appeal to your emotions.

In the long run speakers typically will be between 30 - 35% of system… but no set rule. Most of us do this over a long time. once you have speakers you want to break them in and know what they sound like before upgrading the rest of your system. So, get a few hundred hours under your belt before considering the rest.


All electronic components are equally important. If carefully chosen then Streamer = DAC = Preamp = amp in cost. Don’t think the streamer does not make a Hugh difference… it does. 

So, your interconnects are great until all else is done… and you are recovering from the major purchases. Choosing wires are best done after everything is broken in and you completely understand what your system sounds like.

Be not in a hurry. I remember early in my audiophile days, wondering around listening to speakers for weeks, they all sounded fine. Then a tear rolled down my cheek on one set of speakers… I had them for about ten years. Great choice for me.


Juan, I watched the T+A DAC 200 video. First, one of my favorite YouTube reviewers that I trust. Second, owning the Holo DAC May KTE and absolutely loving the Holo, I was stunned to hear that the T+A was much better. You told me this in private communications, so what was different was the excitement conveyed in the video.  Of course, there is always some give and take in doing comparisons as well as system synergy and personal taste.

+1 on the auditions recommendations. $20K is nothing to sneeze at and you want to spend it wisely. Seek out a local high end dealer, if possible, and try to catch some audio shows if you can. 

Take your time. Don't make the mistake of rushing into this as you'll spend more time stuck with something that doesn't sound right to your ears in your room, trying to reverse engineer a mistake that'll be nigh impossible to remedy as there's so many variables involved.

That, and you'll end up coming back to taking advice from a forum who know nothing of your room, taste and ears. We all mean well but nothing supplants your own experience as your tastes and ears will evolve the more you listen.

All the best,

netting 20K a month puts you somewhere in the 36th percentile of all of the active  audiogon users...

Oh, sorry what was the question?

I have speakers to meet you requerements  , You can come tomorrow and listen in Brooklyn in my show room 

No doubt that this is a lot money to spend.

The title is a bit of sarcasm. Some have the cash to make rash decisions. This hobby can get one in deep trouble. 

This board is a great resource. I don’t have a local hifi shop to visit. Thanks for all the suggestions. 


@vonhelmholtz AnaDioLog posted a follow up video review comparing the DAC 200 and Holo May in more depth. Unfortunately, while the DAC 200 offers six different DAC filters for the users to choose from, he decided to go with the most basic NOS filter. As a result, user comments are polarized between the two DACs. T+A put a heck of a lot of effort in the two “Bezier” upsampling filters and is a contributing characteristic to both its quality and cost. The fact that these are ignored in the reviews in my opinion undercuts the capability of the DAC, and I lost a bit of respect in the reviewer for not even considering or mentioning them. With them enabled, I think the DAC performance steps up even further by a significant margin. 

Having owned a Audiostore and 40 years in Audio ,here my recommendation For synergy .

Your source makes or breaks your system , and your speakers equally important 

buy the excellent Marten Oscar duo standmounts , and maybe a Svs SB-4000 powered sub with great app, for digital  if youhave the funds the T+A 200 dac, if-not 

the Denafrips Terminator-2 dac  a excellent duo just look up the reviews !!

If you get larger speakers, you will  NEED anproper amp

those small tick turd amps will do nothing and you,will clip them, even at medium volume. 
it may sound fine, but turning the knob will stress the amp, most likely fry a tweeter or mid. 
had low powered receivers, clip, clip. 

min 250-300 rms WPC. 

plus, WHEN you upgrade speakers, your all set with power./ current is better than watts, for some speakers. 


if I had 15-20 thousand dollars….re.wow


a good solid amp 300 WPC. At 8ohm

9500 nice speaker pair, 

flagship Rotel CD player, 

6k on a digital audio converter?? Your buying hype and a name. 

grab a top tier CD player or UDP PLAYER. 

good cables, nice solid 8-10ga wire. 
you won’t hear a difference from a transport to a 6K dac or a top of the line Rotel or bryston CD player. 

speakers, amp, disc player, cables


you may hear extended bass on speaker in corner, put a couple pillows behind, or a bass trap. 

What is wrong with what you have? Parasound and revel are two nice brands...

Spend 3-4k on room treatment, get advice from gik, a pair of Fritz and a Luxman integrated

First off you never mention what type of sound you like and what type of music.  So all the recommendations here IMO mean nothing until I understand what you prefer.  I understand the room treatment thing but again what size is your room.  We have a Listening Room with brick walls and practically no room treatment.  I would bet that we achieve better sound than most people making recommendations here.  Source is important, speakers and then the amplifier.  You cannot get there by most recommendations mentioned here IMO again.  We have more speakers, and components in our Listening Room than most people posting here have heard in their lifetime.  There is so much that goes into sound.  But unless I understand what you like, I cannot recommend anything to you.  We manufacture our own line of audio components that can be build to your ears.  So help us understand what you like. You can spend $20K and get poor sound also.


Happy Listening.


So, your recommendation is to buy an airline ticket and figure out what sound op is looking for before arriving at your establishment?

BTW.. I suspect that your description of your listening options is accurate.

Speakers will make the biggest change in the sound of your system short of room treatments, but those aren't as exciting as a new pair of speakers.

@kota1       I'm all for room tuning if you are not lucky enough to have a dedicated room.  But why do you have a target curve that deviates almost 20dB from flat?  Are you a bass lover?  Just interested.

Don’t underestimate the Parasound gear. Especially the P6. Acoustical room treatments are my/your best audio friend. A better DAC would perhaps help balance out your current system.

Upgraded speakers matched to the room. Upgraded amp matched to the speakers. Leave 10-15% of the budget for new cables.

I think this is a put on. You have a decent system for your space so what do you REALLY want to improve?? Musicality or detail (which is a bottomless rabbit hole)? You dont have a dedicated listening room so could spend $100k and not get a 20% improvement. Try a sub.

HiFi Rose 150b Streamer/DAC + Harbeths. 
Then, take the family on a $10k vacation.


I have the node 130 with the Teddy Pardo LPS and I also have the Boulder 866 with the optional DAC. It is a fantastic integrated and the DAC inside is the same as their high end stand alone DAC. It is very good. I think you would be very happy with it. It drives my Rockport Avior ii 4 ohm speakers with ease. Good luck !



That chart is for my front L and R speakers, of the 4 default target curves available in ARC this one sounded subjectively better. You might notice the floor to ceiling bass traps in the front corners of my room if you look at my profile system. What you can’t see is the bass traps on the ceiling (auralex geofusors back filled with polyfil) or in the back of the room (auralex bamboo pyramids back filled with polyfil). The measurements for my subs and other speakers are posted in my profile. The end result is the bass hits low and very tight.

Keep the wires. Keep the node and the Pardo (that’s what I have😁) keep the preamp and amp.  Get a better DAC and USB cable.  I have the Denifrips Pontus ll and am blown away by it.  I can’t imagine what the Venus ll or Terminator ll sound like. The rest I’d put into speakers and your room. There are a lot of “bookshelf “ speakers in the $15,000 range out there and you ears will tell you when you have the right one.

All the best.


@tee_dee i have a Boulder 866.  I love it. Great sound, power, and flexibility (mine has the DAC).  But if my budget were 20k, I think I’d go with something a bit cheaper for the integrated amp with built-in DAC.  I haven’t heard them, but the Hegel 590 or 390, and the Krell 300i leap to mind.  This is unless you plan to use the 866 as a foundational element of a system that you’ll build over time, which is what I did, but at a budget above 20k, spread over several years.

Seems like your flexing/bragging ? Why say 'a months salary' and instead just say you want to spend $20k.


So, your recommendation is to buy an airline ticket and figure out what sound op is looking for before arriving at your establishment?

BTW.. I suspect that your description of your listening options is accurate.


If you want to come by to hear things you are more than welcome.  I was saying that anyone in th3 NYC area or visiting should schedule some time to come by.  We encourage people to bring their own gear also.

You need to know what type of sound you like.  Tube, SS, and then you can back into what you like by trying different components.  I have a friend who completely hates any noise.  He knows what tubes do and loves the sound but if any noise, they are gone.  So buying a tubed component that is quiet, is usually compromised especially if you like NOS tubes.  We can eliminate the noise but it gets pretty hard to do on his 99db speakers.

So everyone is welcome to come by.


Happy Listening. 



IMO, Travel. Audition until a pair of speakers knocks you over. Buy them. Compromise on the rest. I did that with Magnepan, 50 years ago. 70% of the budget, and a good decision. YMMV

Good, reliable electronics need not cost the earth. For example, used Bryston, even 20 years old, will still give you a pleasant and satisfying sound, with 90% of the clarity provided by the latest and highest end. IMO


I'll add my vote to splitting your funds between speakers, DAC and room treatments. Assuming you haven't already invested in room treatments, this make make a big improvement for the dollars invested. 

The DAC in the Node is not up to the level of your other gear, and with better speakers it will be even more obvious. There are some great sounding DACs available for a few thousand including some already mentioned. I'm a fan of the Denafrips DACs, but it's worth auditioning other options if you can since there are distinct differences in the way they sound. 

The Node is a decent streamer, particularly with an LPS. I think you'd have to spend a fair amount more to get an appreciable improvement and the money is probably better spent on speakers, DAC and room treatments. 

Speakers always make the most difference in any system. The best bookshelf I have heard is the Fine Audio F1-8. 

What is it that you feel is missing or you believe could be better? What do you believe are the shortcomings of your system? Have you heard something else that has set you on this path?

Axpona is coming up April 14 to 16 here in Chicagoland, might be a good option to see a lot of the equipment you are considering.....maybe worth a cheap flight and a hotel room, if you have the time.

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🤣🤣🤣Aside from real estate, I have 16 years worth of salary in the bank 🤣🤣🤣 and I recommend you stick with what you’ve got and add some headphones until you acquire a better room and more experience.