Order of upgrade importance


#1

I’ve got what I think are the “basics” of my system somewhat right. I’ve got a decent room, with Monitor Audio Silver 300’s, PS Audio Gain Cell DAC, PS Audio S300, and a Bluesound Node 2 (with upgraded Audioquest NRG power cable) feeding the GCD via coax along with a Onkyo DS-7555 CD player (Stereophile Class B) feeding the GCD via coax as well. All music played is Tidal Hifi and I’ll probably be switching to Qobuz when it becomes available. My only power “conditioning” at the moment is a PS Audio Duet. Speaker cables are Belden 10g wire, and interconnects are RCA’s by bettercables.com Silver Serpent. Power cables are OEM, except 1 upgraded power cable running into my S300 (Audioquest NRG 3). Also, I’m experimenting with my speaker placement and am getting that refined, so I’m slowly getting there and its becoming less of a concern.

So, here’s my question…what should I consider upgrading FIRST if I were to make an investment in order of the following?

  1. Power regenerator like the upcoming Stellar?
  2. Power cables across the board (upgraded)
  3. XLR interconnects like the Kimber Hero’s
  4. Isoloation for my speakers like the Isoacoustic Gias?
  5. isolation for my equipment other than what’s OEM
  6. Nicer speaker cables other than my Belden 10g wire (though I have long runs - almost 20 feet I need so this could be very costly).
  7. Something else???

I’m just not sure what the order of priory should be. I’m guessing I should go first for something like the upcoming Stellar power conditioner first, but I’m not sure. I know I could obviously upgrade to nicer speakers but for the moment what I have is very good for me, and I also know I could upgrade to something like a directstream jr or even the M700 mono’s, but, again, I’m content with my GCD and S300 for the next several years ($$$).


#2

The best bang-for-$$ upgrade is dedicated electrical circuit(s) from your mains distribution board to your music room. It will improve everything. Then you can consider some of the other items at your leisure.


#3

Upgrade to XLR.


#4

I usually get bogged down in trying to figure this out and end up buying more music and blowing my upgrade budget. I do, however, agree with CXP on the XLR.


#5

This is the order I’d take.
The strategy being signal source to speakers.
Then power source to electronics.


#6

I agree w/ cxp & Peanut_Butter; upgrade to XLR interconnects. I use Nordost Valhalla 2 XLR cables.


#7

Interesting that the general consensus so far seems to be XLR cables first (3 votes) to dedicated electrical circuits (1 vote). Thank you all for your input…very much. Curious to hear what others think if others decide to chime in. I honestly wouldn’t have necessarily guessed this since I was thinking some type of power conditioning would render more benefits over the PS Audio Duet I have right now.

I hate to ask this since this isn’t necessarily the most appropriate thread for this question, but would XLR’s would be a sweet spot for my price range of say $300 or less?

Also, I also thought a few people might chime in on the Gaia’s! Especially in light of how clearly Paul thought they made a difference in sound - and they were quite audible at his visit to RMAF. I doubt something like that would be as audible with an XLR upgrade - at least superficially without getting into the inner-details so to speak.


#8

If you can stretch I would compare the Iconoclast Gen 2 XLRs to others you are considering.


#9

Room treatment! I also vote for the dedicated outlet.


#10

I would have to concur. XLRs first, power regeneration next.


#11

As I stated on another of your threads, ditch the full range speakers and go with monitors and multiple subs. Next do room measurement, then treat to resolve the anomalies. Finally apply DSP to provide icing on the cake.

If all your gear is already balanced, then XLR cable is a no brainer, but no need to spend more than Morgami (professional grade).


#12

My $0.02:

  1. XLR cables (try the top line “better cables” - the blue ones).
  2. Power regenerator
  3. Fiddle with speaker placement and room acoustics
  4. Add some sort of DSP/room correction capability
  5. Tweak the rest (power cables, isolation of equipment, etc.)
  6. Once your fiddling around with #5 seems to be to the point if diminishing returns, take a look at upgrading amps and sources.

1-3 strike me as foundational and you “build” from there.

Have fun.


#13

Thanks. Have you tried the bettercables blue xlrs? If so, what do you think of them and have you had a chance to compare them against other XLR cables? What amp and premap are you using?


#14

@tech-hifi - have to be careful with room treatments. Need to measure the room and don’t listen to the “acoustic experts” till you measure the room. Go at room treatment very slowly. REW software is free and USB mic is <$100 using laptop. Below is a block diagram of one approach. Laptop HDMI (output) to TOSLINK convertor to PSA DS DAC “optical” input with USB mic on the input side. I would consider convolution filtering before room treatments. That way you get to measure the room w/ CF approach, then look at room treatments. I just upgraded “streaming” to Roon Nucleus+ to implement Convolution Filtering. The down side is if you are predominately spinning vinyl or CDs. I have not used a turntable in 35 years and using the CD/SACD 1% of the time, now I see how great streaming is w/ DSP and PSA DS DAC. Measurements are important: people (experts) lie, measurements don’t.


#15

@jlm - my sentiments exactly… before I upgraded to Roon Nucleus+, I measured the room and thought about DSP engine: convolution filtering & parametric equalization. Also, if you are going to use Ethernet for streaming, get CAT7 & Talegartner connections; best Ethernet cable for shielding… each pair is individually shielded. This selection was about about shielding, not bandwidth. Going CAT7 will not increase BW and to be honest, not as important as shielding. I located the cable modem & wireless router in the great room and used Sbooster Ultra MKII linear power supply plugged into the PSA P20 power plant to power the Roon Nucleus+. The Nucleus+ is an i7 processor (NUC 717) w/ 8GB RAM & 128GB solid state drive (serious laptop with no moving parts; heat movement through convection extruded aluminum case).


#16

I would suggest thinking about your next upgrade a bit differently from most of the advice I see so far in this thread.

You have a complete system, with no obvious weakness, do you like how it plays the music? Is there something in the music presentation you are concerned about? E.g., maybe the timbres are a bit hard or unnatural; or there is not enough bass; or not enough drive; or the soundstage lacks width/depth/precision; etc … Focusing on a particular problem can help finding the upgrade that would work best for you and improve your system.

If there is no specific problem you are concerned about now, then enjoy the music! After a month - or a year, or several years - of listening you may start hearing that something is wrong and then you will be ready to upgrade.

… Or do any random upgrade now that you are curious about just for the fun of it … In that case it does not matter what you try as long as it is fun.

Just my $0.02 …

m


#17

Shielding in Ethernet is hotly debated and not established as clearly beneficial. The shield can easily introduce ground loops into the system.

I’ve tried 3 Audiophile Ethernet cables with my Ultrarendu and SGCD. 2 were god awful and made my system extremely harsh and unlistenable.

One caused an etched sound signature that was ok at first but fatiguing after time. I experimented watching movies which come over optical via the TV, plugging unplugging the Ethernet cat7/8 cables. When plugged in, the Ethernet cables changed the sound signature of the movie which was coming over a galvanically isolated source -optical. Even a cat6 BlueJeans causes a change as well but is the least damaging, more of a slightly blurring change, little muddy. All the audiophile cables increased sibilance badly.

Honestly I find it funny now how there are audiophile cables for Ethernet and we are limited to commercial switches that easily pass noise to our systems. The switch and power supplies for them should be a much higher priority.


#18

This is very good advice imo.


#19

@cxp - here, this might help with the CAT7 versus CAT6 and J45 connections. In addition, need to make sure shields are properly terminated (J45 connectors) for ground loops. I can tell you my CAT7 connections and Ethernet runs sound amazing. If I’m using Ethernet for the basis of my streaming connection, I’m making sure I get the best shielding there is for that medium. All of my CAT7 connections (10) have Telegartner J45 connectors. Sorry you have had issues w/ Ethernet, I don’t see it…

CAT7%20J45


#20

I’m going to vote with maxim too. You can’t fix something if you don’t know what you’re trying to fix.