What to add to my system for best sound?


I'm new here, and learning fast, but oh so much to learn. I recently bought my first real stereo (don't laugh) which consists of very basic stuff, and I'm realizing after listening to it that I have more expensive tastes than this stuff can handle. I have Axiom M50 floor standing speakers which are decent, balanced, dynamic, but lack detail. They are powered by an Onkyo receiver and cd changer. I want to add something to get the best sound out of this stuff (I'm going to get some better cables to start), but I'm very curious about the whole "tube amp" thing, and integrated amps and pre-amps.

I'm prepared to buy some used stuff to make this sound better -- especially the detail issue I mentioned -- I want the sound to draw me in more. I might even buy more speakers, and just use these Axioms somewhere else...

I can spend up to $1000 on more stuff (used stuff bought on audiogon probably), if Santa is kind to me!


My advice is always the same.What have you done with the room.The room is the biggest variable.Start to read about room acoustic treatments.Better if its a dedicated room.My room looks like a room treatment sales showroom.Tubetraps,acoustic panel absorbers,RPG skyline diffusers.If you are handy you could make all of them.Before you give up on your gear do a little experimenting with this stuff.Not that new amps and subs and cd players are out of the question,its that you need to ,"Tune the room".Good luck and pick up a copy of stereophile guide to hometheater and start to read Russ Hershelmann's articles.It may seem over whelming at first but soon you will start to hear the same buzz words and it will all come together.KG
I have to take exception to Lafish's statement on the alleged limitations of tubed amplifiers: "...good for simple music like vocal. No good for pop music." C'mon, now - this is ridiculous as a blanket assertion, and easily disproved if you drop by my house sometime.

Julie, without recommending tubes over SS or vice-versa, I would heartily endorse Kotta's sentiment that you don't yet know what your speakers are capable of, considering what you're driving them with now. No, I am not familiar with your Axioms, but they are apparently a pretty well regarded speaker in their catagory, and from your description of the rest of your system I would hazard a guess that they are the strongest link in the chain you've got at present.

I think your plan to check out a good integrated amp would make sense on your stated budget. If you want recommendations that are meaningful, you should probably tell us about your sonic and listening preferences, including your tastes in both music and playback volume, as well as the size of your listening room.
Pick up copies of The Complete Guide to High-End Audio by Robert Harley and/or Good Sound by Laura Dearborn. They'll tell you most everything you'd want to know about the subject. Once you know more, you'll be able to become a smarter buyer and reach your goals much quicker.
First thing I would do is take the money you were going to spend on higher end speaker cables and put it back in your pocket. At this stage of the game, you will get far more bang for your bucks by upgrading your source [CD player] and your amplification. In the meantime, believe it or not, I would use 12 gauge OFC wire cables for my speakers. You can get it for about 30 cents per foot and,
along with upgraded amplification and CD player, will give you a much bigger upgrade than scrimping on your other components for higher end speaker cables. If you are having a hard time deciding between tubes and solid state, you might check out the Jolida JD1501 Hybrid Integrated Amp. It uses tubes AND Solid State. For your source, again, if you like a tube sound, check out the AH! Njoe Tjoeb 4000 CD Player. At this stage of the game, I would take a look at CD/SACD players, but -- frankly -- I would hold off on SACD until your budget is higher -- maybe on your next round of upgrades. Prices of SACD players will come down, higher end SACD technology will filter down and in the meantime, you can be enjoying the heck out of your CD player. Just my opinion.

Welcome Julie,

It's been mentioned a few times already, but knowing the room set up and your musical preferences would help a lot.

The Axioms can stay for a while, you could've done a lot worse. You mention a lack of detail, that may be partially improved by using some decent speaker wire. CD Changers are notorious for providing convenience over decent sound; if you subscribe to the garbage-in garbage-out theory any problems emanating from the source will never be fixed downstream. If I was in your situation and had $1000 to spend I would allocate $350 for a good stand-alone CD player and $550 for an integrated amplifier, spend the extra $100 or so on some interconnect and speaker wire. I’d buy the stuff used right here on the ‘Gon to stretch my buck too.

You’ll get a lot of recommendations, here’s my two cents worth... I'll start with the CD player:


Nice player, HDCD compatible too. Nice feature if you own some HDCD disks. $340 asking price


I like this player lots, will mate nicely with a warm sounding integrated $425 asking price)


If your budget is a little tight you'd do well to consider a 63SE. Sure it's a bit dated but a fine player for the money. $180 asking price

There are other CD players worth considering as well, this is a good starting point. Be aware that some players are more laid back sounding, not sure you want or need that in your system since what you're looking for is more detail.

As for an integrated, again there are a few options to consider. At the ~$500 mark two that are listed here:


YBA design at a fraction of the cost. I've owned one of these in the past, very nice unit. Yes it's a bit warm sounding but if you have a slightly more detailed/forward CD player it should match nicely. $575 asking price


Depending on your musical tastes a tube integrated may make sense. One of the advantages of a tubed unit is the flexibility, you can change the tubes and dial in the sound to your tastes. Tubes look cool too. $526 asking price

Some cable ideas, bear in mind cables can be negotiated a little more aggressively:



Silver will add detail, but .5 meter may not be long enough.


Nice cable and ought to mate nicely with the CD/Integrateds mentioned above

Speaker wire… I’ll assume 8’ is enough for your set up and you can use spades (better connection than most other termination schemes), but bananas are acceptable too.



So…how would I spend your $1000 (I love spending other people’s money):

Music Hall CD-25 player $340
Audio Refinement /complete Integrated $575
Goertz MI2 speaker cable with silver spades $150
JPS Ultraconductor interconnect $70

With some negotiation you can probably get this stuff for $1000

Any one of these choices will provide a big improvement and will hold their value reasonably well. Yep, once you get into this hobby you'll be changing your system over time. Negotiate with the sellers, but be reasonable. Best, Jeff