Upgrade Reccomendations

Good day all.  I am looking for some upgrade guidance.  I want to upgrade my speakers, and based on what I have been reading as a lurker on AG for a couple of years, I know there a lot of differing thoughts and opinions here which would be most appreciated.


I am in the process of upgrading my 2-channel system which has not been used much in the past 15 years due to kids, work, and life in general.  While music never left my life it was relegated to my iPhone/air pods and my car.  When the pandemic started, I found myself looking for better ways to enjoy music that would not affect the rest of the family as we all worked from home, so I went down the headphone rabbit hole.  While I absolutely love my headphone rig I realized I miss sitting and listening to speakers, so I am off on another journey, and this is where I am seeking advice.


I am very lucky that my wife asked if I would like to take one of our unused bedrooms, 11’4”x15’, and make it my dedicated listening room.  Of course, I jumped on the opportunity and am patiently working on how to maximize the music with the gear I currently have as well as upgrade possibilities.  I have my old 2-channel system gear as well as one of my headphone rigs in my new listening room currently.


I currently have 3 different audio set ups in my home, and they are the following:


  • Roon
  • Naim Uniti Atom HE
  • Focal Stellia Headphones

Work Desk

  • Roon -  Windos PC
  • Music Fidelity MX DAC
  • Focal Arche Amp
  • Focal Clear Headphones

Listening Room

  • Headphone Rig
  • Roon
  • Sonnet Hermes Streamer
  • Sonnet Morpheus DAC
  • Custom Tube Hybrid Amp - 10W into 8ohm, 5.5W into 30 ohm, 2.5W into 80ohm, 0.6W into 300ohm.  Amp has speaker taps.
  • Meze Elite, Sony MDR-Z1R, and VMF Verite Closed Headphones
  • 2-Channel
  • Sony 707ES CD Player
  • Harmon Kardon Turntable – model slips my mind at the moment
  • Sonnet Hermes Streamer
  • Sonnet Morpheus DAC
  • Forte Model Forty Four preamp
  • Meridian 605 monobloc amps
  • B&W Matrix 804 Speakers


When I had my 2-channel system set up years ago I used to bi-wire the speakers using Kimber 8TC cables, issue is I gave a set to a fiend years ago and the speakers do not sound the same using one set of speaker cables to either pair of binding posts on the B&Ws.  I purchased a pair of jumpers to use, and while the sound improved using the Meridian Amps, it is still not the same as it was when I bi-wired the speakers.  I currently have the speakers hooked up to my hybrid tube amp using the jumpers but the music sounds “thin” to me.  I like the overall sound using the tube amp over the Meridians, but I am not sure what direction to go.  In speaking with the amp maker, he said that my amp is a relatively low powered amp when it comes to powering speakers, so I'll want to look for speakers with very high efficiency to pair with it. 95dB/watt at 8+ ohms is good, and if I can find speakers that are 98dB/watt at 8+ ohms or even higher sensitivity that would be even better.


There are several routes to take, these are a few my of my options that I am considering but I am open to others as well.

  • Buy another pair of speaker cables and bi-wire my speakers again using my old 2-channel gear.
    • If I go this route, I will upgrade my pre-amp as this is a weak link in the chain IMO.
  • Upgrade my speakers so that I can use my tube amp, this is my desired path as I am really liking the warmth of tubes.
  • Purchase a new amp for my speakers and upgrade my preamp.
  • Purchase a new integrated amp and sell my Meridian amps and preamp.
  • Setting up my turntable at this time is not a priority for me.


I have very eclectic taste in music:  Grateful Dead to Nine Inch Nails, John Coltrane to Johnny Cash, Opera to Blues, you name it I will mostly listen to it.  I have found myself exploring music more now than before and listen to music that sounds good, Roon has been a game changer in my music discovery.  Listening to my ZMF headphones I cannot get enough vocals, the Sony’s are great for EDM, the Elites make jazz and classical come alive.  I am not a critical listener and I sometimes have a hard time verbalizing what I am hearing or looking for.  I just love great recorded music at all volumes.  I like warm sound, a large soundstage, and instrument separation.  I enjoy detail but am not obsessed with micro detail.  A warm engaging sound where I can get lost in the music is what I am ultimately searching for.


My budget is $5,000 for whatever upgrade route I decide to go.  I am leaning towards upgrading my speakers so I am looking for some recommendations that would work well and sound amazing with my current set up that I can audition.  I have a few nice high end audio shops in my area where I can audition new gear, some will allow me to take pieces home to listen to in my system.  I am also open to other ideas if there is a better way to improve the sound of my system.


I know there is a lot of information here and I thank you for your time and help if you managed to get this far.  Be well.





It looks like amplification is your weak link, not your loudspeakers. The B&Ws need some power and maybe a little more warmth and musicality. I’m thinking a Rogue Pharaoh II Integrated Amplifier.

Any of the Spatial Speakers would be a stunning match for your gear! M3 Sapphires are the best speakers I have owned.

I think you should first think about how you will treat the room.  That will completely alter future thoughts about speakers and amps.

First of all, congratulations on your headphone journey and acquisition of a room. I went down the headphone rabbit hole again about three years ago (see my UserID for systems). I did such amazing things to my headphone system that it actually sounded much better than my main system. The final introduction of a massively powerful 300B amp just took all of my headphones and satisfied every aspect of what they needed… the Focal Utopia for incredible midrange bloom and the Sennheiser 800s for massive power and warm natural sound. Darn, my main system sounded analytical and sterile.

About $100K later, replacing most of my components… both systems are the best most musical, detailed, wonderful systems I have heard.

From the sound of your post it sounds to me that you are still trying to keep this opportunity contained. It sounds to me that you may have audiophilia and are in the closet. Sounds to me, I could be wrong of course, maybe you want to architect this from the ground up. Just a wild guess. 

I hate headphones. You listen to music and feel nothing. 1/2 of the performance is AWOL. I have no use for them. 

As for your system, it is a potpourri of mismatched equipment. B+W speakers are not bad but, like many American speakers their performance is amplifier limited. You need a high powered class A amp to really do them justice, something like a Pass XA200.8 or Parasound JC1+ or Atma-Sphere MA2s. Everything else can be upgraded in time. Unfortunately, this can not be done with $5000. My advice would be to cool it with what you have until you can afford to do this correctly otherwise you will be spinning your wheels and wasting money for minimal improvement.

I think that changing speakers is a much bigger risk to your future happiness than upgrading the amplifiers. The first question to be answered is if you love your speakers.  If you do then you should keep them unless you can audition some others and know that you like them better rather than thinking that you will.


A pair of 2 way stand monitors might work really well, and they usually don’t cost as much as a full range pair.  Then bring in a subwoofer if you need it.  Since this is a dedicated room you’ll be able to place everything according to sound performance and completely disregard aesthetics, maybe go wild with some acoustic treatments and a fog machine :-))

Might also be a good opportunity to go with powered speakers as well since you’re rebuilding.  

The Matrix 804s were, and are, perfectly good loudspeakers. That generation of B&W's were not as power hungry as the current D series. The 605s are not great sonically. I presume you still need the hybrid tube amp for your headphone setup, so I would just look at getting a better amp for the 804s.  I'm not familiar with your preamp, but it might be worth considering replacing power and pre-amp with a good tube integrated - for example a PrimaLuna. That would allow you to get some kind of return from selling the pre and power together.

OP, It's always hard for me to tell until I try something out, but if you are moving to one of the spare bedrooms at 11 x 14, that may give you lots of options on tube amplification as you might not need that much juice/power in that room. 

The only recommendation I have is to be open to buying, trying and returning until you find the new piece you like the best in your room and for your tastes.  It's totally possible to land on a great upgrade in one swoop, yet often I find it takes a little trial and error.  

Enjoy your research and journey!

Lots of great I formation and ideas, thank you very much. I tend to be impulsive, so slowing down and taking my time can be a challenge at times. I plan on listening to some different amps and speakers to see what my ears like and slowly upgrade. I will update choices along the way. Appreciate all the insight.


Some ideas

Speakers:  big open baffles or planer speakers will not work in that small room.  You like EDM so efficient speakers are a good idea.  Klipsch Forte and a couple subs ~8000.  There are other efficient speakers but these are the smaller ones.  If you want smaller, Fritz are easy to drive, if you like it loud then you need the bigger ones.

Preamp:  Lots of choices.  Don Sachs, Suprarek, Aric are about 2500. These are tube.  Have to watch gain on efficient speakers.  Some have variable gain. There are nice passives, Hattor, Khozmo, etc. 2000 or less.  I use a custom passive buffer with Tungsol 12AU7.  

Amp:  I like Class A: Sugden A21 or higher, Pass labs, Luxman.  3000-10000.  Tubes; Dynaco, Dennis Had, Raven, Rogue 1500 to 6000.

Streamer:  Don't know about streamer.  You could update DAC.   There is the most debate and possibly least difference.  Too many to list.  2500 gets a good one.  

Room treatments: need 'em.  GIK.  2000.  Corner bass traps, first reflection, diffusion.  No hardwood floor, put a rug down if needed.

Tweeks, etc: Isolation on components.  100 worth of springs or much more if you want.  Proper positioning.  Many more to choose from.

Did I spend too much?