Classical Upgrade Dilemma


I am new here and I have a classical upgrade dilemma. Any help would be great !

I have the following set up:

  • Focal Chorus 714S (entry level Focal floorstanding speakers)
  • Teac receiver AG-H500
  • Bluesound Node 2i for streaming, mainly lossless files on my NAS.

The Focal’s and the Teac are 16 and 20 years old, respectively. I feel that the top end of the spectra is somewhat aggressive, especially with not-so-good recordings. Also, I like to add a little bass with the tone control of the receiver. I listen to all kind of music, with a focus on classical music, usually at moderate levels. Still I get quite rapidly listening fatigue, when using my system and less so when using my headphones (Sennheiser HD560S). I also feel that I hear more details and timbre precision with the headphones. That’s said I like the sound of my system. I actually prefer it to some more expensive system that I heard, tough none were really high end. Now, I realize with my recent upgrades (the Bluesound and the Sennheiser) that I could probably get a much better sound, hence I want more !

So, my question is where to start ? I cannot do much with my 10x12 ft room. I tried to move the speakers without much improvement. Removing the grids improves slightly timbres and open up a little the sound, but the top end is still not really relaxed.

As I am kind of new to HiFi, I have been reading articles and listening to a lot of videos (Paul’s obviously) and it seems that there is no obvious answer. I cannot justify a huge budget and change everything right now, but I am ready to put 3-4k USD in total over a few years to improve the system little by little. According to Paul, I should probably start with the speakers, but Focal is thought to be a good brand and I wonder if the receiver is not the limiting factor in my particular case.

So: speaker first ? Or maybe should I start with a Sprout, or a product from Cambridge Audio (CXA61/81), Rega (Brio), Audiolab (6000N) or Schiit (Ragnarok) ? Or add a subwoofer ? Or a bit of everything ?

I am looking forward for your advices. Thanks in advance for your answers to my naïve questions. Sorry for the long text, and for my mediocre English, it is not my first language :woozy_face:.

Welcome, @Greg-Montreal !

Your English is excellent!

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Thanks for the welcome ! I made some efforts in my first message :yum:
Actually, I do write some scientific texts in English for my work, just not about sound / music. And there is always someone to correct my misspelling and other errors…

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Welcome to the forum @Greg-Montreal. This is where I started my upgrade journey. I am not familiar with the TEAC receiver but I do have the Focal 826V speakers that have the same tweeter. At the time I was running them with Rotel pre and power amplifiers. I was getting a little bit of listening fatigue with them which prompted me to find a solution. To cut a long story short, I ended up with PSAudio’s SGCD (Pre and DAC) with the M700 mono amplifiers and traded in the Rotels. It made a huge difference. I am not good at explaining differences in words; only that I was enjoying music for longer periods of time.

By the way English is not my mother tongue either.

Speakers first and then find a proper amplification mate.
Work with a local dealer to find a speaker that meets your needs. And that YOU will enjoy long term. Best of luck in your journey.

Thanks @Sohail it is very useful to hear that changing the amp improved your system. It goes with my intuition that the receiver is the limiting factor, although I think I am a bit in a lower league than you.

Also, I am not decided what I should buy if I change the amp. With PS Audio, outside of the Sprout, going with the Stellar or a combination of Pre/DAC and amp would be a bit much for me. A combination like the SGCD with the S300 is possible, but I find it risky as it would burn my entire budget. I wish they would have a complete solution at intermediate price… Also, it doesn’t help that it seems very difficult to test PS Audio material in Canada (at least in Montreal).

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Thanks @weedeewop . I thought I had it with the Focal… I think that one thing to do is to go indeed to local dealers and listen to a number of speakers to find one that would outperform mine, and then build the system around as you suggest. I was planning doing this as soon as this painful pandemic will be gone…

Good move, as yes the amp is important but the speakers, they are fundamental. Take your time, you shall be rewarded.

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