Fixing a poor selection of components


If you have a moment of time and would like to offer opinions on fixing a poor initial selection of components ranked by priority of what to fix first, read on.

Initial setup:

Marantz AV88005 (AVR/Pre-amp) outputting to a MM8077 (seven channel amp) through AQ Mackenzie XLR interconnects finally outputting to a pair of Goldenear Triton one.R speakers that have built-in subs.

Speaker cables are nothing special, but better than zip cord. Power cables are stock.

Not that it matters at all for 2-channel audio, but I have the Goldenear SuperCenter reference center channel speaker and some lesser speakers for surround effects.

This was all purchased ~18 months ago at an audio store that carries a respectable selection of high end gear. The guy that helped me was polite enough, but really didn’t help me discover what I actually needed/wanted. Not really his fault as I had no real clue what I wanted either. I did stress that music was my primary concern. However, the blunder is still mine as I had yet to get serious about researching the market. Impulsive purchases rarely work out well. I thought I’d outgrown such things. What I ended up with is a somewhat respectable home theater surround system. Which means exactly diddly squat to me as I have zero interest in the remarkably bad “block buster” movies being spewed out.

I recently upgraded to a pair of M700s being provided power by a P3. Thus my current 2-channel setup is the Marantz pre outputting to the M700s and then on to the Tritons.

Music source is primarily FLAC files from CDs ripped using the Exact Audio Copy software being fed to the pre from a NAS over Ethernet. I plan on putting a computer in the mix so I can feed files directly over USB and stream via Qobuz. Whatever comp I use or build will have an APU instead of a discreet graphics card in an attempt to limit EMI.

I also have a 4K Blu-ray feeding into the Marantz, seemingly for the sole purpose of watching/listening to Return to Forever’s 2008 concert at montreux. :wink: This brings things to the kind of music I enjoy; which is just about anything from John Hartford and Dr. Watson to Dream Theater and Return to Forever to classical. Really, just about anything. Except Rap or HipHop. That’s not really music in my book.

I know I need better power cords and speaker cables. Room treatment also needs attention and I am very limited on the ability to move the speakers around. Three feet away from the wall currently is not an option. (A fix for that issue is in the works as we are looking to relocate and are actively shopping for a new home. One of the things I am looking for is a completely unfinished basement. :wink: )

Given the coming expense of moving, disposable income is limited more than otherwise. For now, I seek that one item that will allow my music come alive. That is, if a single item can do such a thing given what I am working with.

My thought is that the single thing I can add that provides the best improvement for the money is a low to mid tier DAC (~$1K range) using a quality USB cable (my Sprout100 is fed digits via an AQ Forest).

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I was just trying to answer anticipated questions. If you are so inclined to respond, I’ll appreciate it.

A picture of the current setup. The cloths hanging behind the TV are custom fitted speaker covers my wife made for me. The speakers are always covered when not in use.



I would recommend you wait to see what your new housing situation will be. The equipment you have is certainly good quality. If you want more sound quality there are many directions to go.

You could stay with a home theatre type setup with higher quality equipment, e.g. McIntosh or Bryston etc. You could go the route of a high quality preamp with a Home Theatre input and have a more pure 2 channel capability.

Thanks for the reply. I agree that I should wait it out for now. It would have happened sooner but for the housing market deciding to go totally bat guano crazy.

Overall I am happy with the current setup. The M700s were a major jump up. Every attribute/value pair I could name experienced a marked improvement. Still, it seems something is lacking. Given that the acoustics of the room are lousy and speaker placement options are constrained, I know that I can achieve significant improvements there.

My thought about a discreet DAC as a logical next step stems from knowing that my preamp has delta sigma chips (AK 4490). I am expecting that upping that game to something better would provide a significant improvement.

Perhaps it would be best to get proper speaker cables and power cords for now.

The only good thing about tumbling down this particular rabbit hole is there is no bottom to go splat on. Wait! That’s a good thing?! :money_mouth_face:

You bought an excellent Video system which is odd if you stressed audio. It’s all good stuff and I would not look at power cord upgrades any time soon.

I think where you might get a good amount of enjoyment is consider purchasing a 2 to 10 watt Tube amp and some wicked little speakers that maybe don’t have the bottom end you need day to day. A little Integrated Tube Amp, and maybe look at the speakers from Decware. I love the Turning Point model HR-1 but the model ERRx is half the price but not half the fun.

Your equipment source served you well and probably themselves better. But a fine two channel audio system most likely would not utilize any of that gear. That is not to say there is anything wrong with the gear, it just has a different purpose.

Maybe shop for a used integrated and see what the lead time is from Decware. You will want highly efficient speakers for such an amplifier. Heck, you might enjoy the speakers you have now with such an amp.

Otherwise you could begin your journey to the bottom of your bank account and consider a DAC. Cables etc. are for when you know you have the pieces you are going to stay with. (Which is funny coming from me, but still)

Just a thought. You aren’t actually suffering right now. No sir.


Get a used DS Jr. or another similar type of integrated DAC/Preamp to control volume to your M700s. I think your speakers have been very highly reviewed for 2-channel, so other than a DAC/Preamp and upgraded cables you seem to be in really good shape. I recommended the DS Jr. because you also get a built-in networking capability, so some might actually also consider it a streamer (although MConnect is very basic).

Good luck.

1 Like

And… if you don’t want to wait 20+ weeks for Decware stuff and are reasonably handy you could build a very good sounding system with tube integrated and kit speakers for less than $2500. I have the Bottlehead Stereomour II integrated tube amp (kit) and Madisound BK-16 speakers (kit) with a single streaming source (Audioengine B1) from my iPhone. It sounds fantastic and you get the satisfaction of building it yourself (and saving time/money).


I think you’re on the right path to think source quality. Until you get to silly money for digital, a better source will make everything better.

I’d bet the M700s made some of your room issues worse, to say nothing of revealing a lot more of the limitations of your source and preamp (and I don’t mean to suggest the Marantz isn’t good - it is - but it’s easily eclipsed by a dedicated 2 channel pre and DAC).

The bad news is that I think you’ll need to go used or above your desired $1k budget to get a significant improvement. One obvious suggestion is a used Stellar Gain Cell DAC, which would match well with the M700s and provide (I think!) a significant jump up from the Marantz, as well as most likely being in your budget. You could also look at something like a used Benchmark or Chord DAC.

Thank-you all for your suggestions and recommendations. They are all very much appreciated.

I feel my thinking is validated that although the Marantz is very good AVR, it seems to be the main limiting factor with a goal of a good 2 channel system. Please don’t get me wrong. I am enjoying what I have very much. This is totally a 1st world issue. I very much appreciate what I have and am thankful to be able to have it. It’s just that I’ve been bitten by the “have to make it better” bug.

Having the amps and speakers covered well enough for now, it seems logical to go with the Gain Cell DAC as this move would provide a jump up for both the preamp and DAC components in one swoop. PS Audio’s trade-in program leaves me a nice upgrade path later down the road after the dust settles. Too bad it is not listed on the private promotion page. :wink:

Or perhaps it is a good thing for me right now. I am trying to have some discipline and my wonderful wife is not making it easier for me. She keeps telling me to get what I want and get it out of my system. :wink: So I have to be completely honest with her and tell her that this will never end.

My system was originally home theater specific and using a Denon unit similar to your Marantz (your Marantz is much better) I did the SGCD which was an improvement over the Denon for 2 channel. I utilized the HT bypass feature which works great. I then purchased a locally owned DSD Sr. I was originally running that through the SGCD IMO that was a mistake. The DSD sounded better without the SGCD. Running the then M700 amps out of the DSD meant switching the amps cable back to the DENON when it was movie time. That was a pain. My ultimate solution was adding the BHK preamp and use the HT bypass feature on that. I know you are working with a budget in mind. I would wait for the move in the new home and save money for the BHK if you plan on integration with the Marantz. I’m not sure the SGCD will be a significant improvement over the Marantz.

Thanks Paul. A good point about waiting as some others have suggested. I agree that it is better to wait and go with a major jump up rather than a series of small improvements over time.

As to having a dual purpose system (pure 2 channel music vs Blu-rays), I’ve looked at some switching devices for that purpose to alleviate the need to swap cabling (which is a total pain for sure). However, I’m not in a hurry to add links to the chain. Using the HT bypass seems to solve this issue. The main desire here is for a few good concert Blu-ray disks I have. Jeff Beck at Ronnie Scott’s and the aforementioned Return to Forever top among them.

And in keeping with the idea of improving the source, I need to spend more time identifying those recordings where the audio engineer knew how to mix the track and was allowed the time to do so. Toward that end, I am reading through the various “What are you spinning” threads here.

Just sayin’….


An SGCD does seem like a good option. It has synergy with your amps and a very good built in DAC. A great value at current prices on the used market or with a trade in on new. You’ll need a streamer though. I used a rpi running Volumio with my SGCD.

I went from the SGDC to an Auralic Altair G1 as a great one box solution. Internal SSD holds all my ripped FLACs, has Qobuz/Tidal support, and a very good DAC with digital parametric EQ to tailor the sound. Plus the lightning DS app is great on an iPad.


A couple of cheap things to try in case you haven’t yet:
1). Have you tried Audyssey with the MuiltiEQ Editor app with your system? I have found significant improvement with Audyssey helping with room issues especially on the low end. The Editor app with let you control have much Audyssey you want to use and make adjustments from listening position. I have found to always do the full 8 steps of calibration for best results.
2). Have you tried the Built in HEOS in the Marantz for streaming? HEOS is a bit clunky but can sound pretty good.
3). Power cords would help and would start with the cord from wall to P3 first and P3 to 8805 as second. Pangea cords are great for the money or Shunyata Venom’s are good for opening up the soundstage.

echoing what @aangen and @kcleveland123 said regarding looking at tubes, tmraudio has a used integrated primaluna tube amp for $1781.01 (and others have mentioned tmr is willing to negotiate price). This would give the most tube magic, unless other good tube integrated amps show up on tmraudio.

You could also look at schiit audio. They have a tube preamp for a crazy-low price of $949, which could then feed your M700’s (preferrably with balanced interconnect) when listening to 2-channel audio.
You could always upgrade the dac at a later date.

I wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Dumping this system for a low watt tube amp and new speakers* is pretty radical when the clear bottleneck is the source. You just need a good DAC with a volume control. You can always insert a tube preamp into the chain later to see what gains that provides.

(*) small efficient speakers with decent bass are thin on the ground and a budget buster.


I absolutely was not suggesting dumping what he had. I was suggesting augmenting what he had. Golly.

Oh, I see. Thing is he’s pretty close to having an awesome 2 channel system with the amps / speakers he has. I would get that sorted first. If budget / space allows having a cool tube based second system to hear a different take on sound reproduction would be great. But I am thinking that’s at least another $2-3K.

I fully agree. I was just hoping to steer him away from the endless and very expensive power cord and interconnect game. I am a victim of that game. My current system has over $120k in cords. It can be a slippery slope.

I think his system is wonderful as is. But if he wanted a little audio fun a little two channel tube project, most likely just an amp might bring more smiles than cables and GASP, a DAC. The DAC in his current setup is no slouch. It’s built in, but I wouldn’t look down on it for that.



I initially ran Audyssey with the full 8 steps, but ended up making some tweaks after. Furniture in the room has changed since then and I did some manual adjustments. Agree that it is a good idea to give it another go and will do so. I have overlooked that aspect. Thanks.

I played with the HEOS a little, but have not fully explored it. Need to spend some more time with it.

I am considering getting some better power cords and speaker cables as well, but given that lengths are not certain for my future needs, that might need to take a back seat for now.

I appreciate your input.


1 Like


And to others that have suggested tube amps…

This is most definitely something I will explore in the hopefully not distant future. I am intrigued by such devices and really want the experience. I am blessed with the means to do so, but need to keep my eye on the prize of an impending move, the full expense of which is not yet currently known. Life in flux is not the best time to go nuts indulging my whims. Given that, perhaps my starting this whole topic was premature. :wink:

The reference to schiit audio is on point for me as I’ve been eyeing their Bifrost DAC.